The craft of writing
for games, TV and movies,
by a working writer
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog
... with forays into
games, life and
Saturday, June 26, 2004
HAZY SHADE OF WINTER
It is a chill 50 degrees F here in Cape Town. It is the first bite of Winter, chill and windy. It feels exactly like the onset of Winter in LA. In Montreal this would still be Fall, but in a Mediterranean climate this is as cold as it really gets. You're not dressed for it and the apartment is neither heated nor insulated. So you throw on a sweater and, for a moment, shiver.
Winter in LA always feels a little harsher than it does in Montreal. In Montreal you're behind double glazed windows and you can crank up the heat. It is no betrayal for it to be cold in Montreal. But in LA, it somehow feels like a betrayl.
The idea is to get into a scene as late as possible and out of it as soon as possible.
Sometimes it's hard to figure out where that is. Then you need to use brute force. Write the whole scene from the moment people walk in the door. Include ALL the shoe leather.
Then cut out the bits that aren't interesting!
What makes a good writer?
Two things: one, the drive to actually write pages, without which you are just a talker; and
two, the ability to tell a compelling story.
Having a sense for how a story is supposed to go into your audience's brains is, I think, what it's all about.
This seems obvious but we've been looking through a lot of writing samples so we can hire some freelance South African writers. In the absence of people having proper spec tv scripts (West Wings, CSIs, etc.) here in SA, we asked people to write one act off an outline we'd written for ep 14, figuring, if it's not worth your while to write ten pages in order to get a writing gig, it probably takes you too long to write ten pages, and we can't use you anyway.
And some of the samples sort of look like the show, but there's no story telling going on -- even though we already give the people the outline. The guy we hired managed to solve some of the story problems inherent in the outline. We're actually using some of his ideas in a rewrite. I think that's a good sign...
AH THAT'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT
As reported in today's Times
"I was fine when I was the only queen on the block and I'm fine now," said Florent Morellet, owner of Florent and a leading community advocate. "If you live in New York it is because you like change, and you had better embrace it or get out."
Thursday, June 24, 2004
STILL NOT SLEEPING
I'm having a hell of a time sleeping still. I never used to wake up in the middle of the night. Now I get exhausted around 8 pm and lie down to sleep. But a few hours later I'm awake, lying in bed, and can't get back to sleep. So begins a round of sleeping and waking. I can sometimes get some work done when I'm awake in the middle of the night but I don't really have the energy for it and I suspect it doesn't help me get to sleep. I get wired when I write.
I'm struggling with my own episode. It's always easier to rewrite than to write, even if you're throwing out the earlier version of the scene entirely. At least there's not the hostility of the blank page. You know where not to go with the scene. A part of you is there saying, not that way, this way. But with the blank page, you have to figure out how to get into the scene. Getting into the scene is the hardest, I think. I think I spend half the time trying to figure out how to get into a scene, and the other half actually writing it.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
I was really bored by Kill Bill Volume 2
. Uma Thurman grossly overacting. Lots of silly kung fu situations -- extravagant fights punctuating tedious set pieces where people explain what they're going to do, or what they've done. I would have walked out except that various people liked the movie and I thought maybe there'd be something to learn from it.
I didn't think there was.
I don't need to see Uma Thurman tortured, buried alive, etc. I don't find her endlessly fascinating as Quentin Tarantino does. I was just bored.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
CRAFTY WRITER'S TOOL: WRITING IT SMALL
I'm coming to the realization that no matter how small you write a scene, there's a director who will open it up. If you are trying to write to a budget, and you realize that you can shoot the whole thing from one angle, the director will want all the angles. If you want to stay small you have to write so it CAN'T be opened up. Two characters in an elevator. If you write a scene for some detective's office (two hander in a room), someone will move it out to the bullpen (two hander, 48 extras, set dressing). If you write a sonic grenade, some director will put all the glass shattering, 'cause it would be cool.
So it's not just about not writing the glass shattering or writing for the office only. You have to have a scene that won't be opened up...
I see that now that the secret's out about Rance (see the Museum of Hoaxes on the Net), Keith Thomas has created a new blog about someone who is supposedly out to kill a sperm whale that ate his family. Yuh right. It's flamebait for whale lovers, of course. Silly.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
GAMBLING WITH THE FUTURE
Here's a pretty cool piece
about the rigorous standards for slot machines in Nevada, as compared with voting machines everywhere.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
CAN NOT SLEEP
I have never had such a long series of nights in which I Can Not Get To Sleep.
Tonight I think the espresso truffle cake biscuit at Beluga was at fault, but I haven't had that every night. Beluga is this excellent fusion restaurant that happens to be downstairs from the writer's office. It is not so expensive as excellent fusion restaurants go, and we have cash in our pockets from our per diems, and the restaurant is right downstairs from the writer's office so really, why go somewhere else?
And there is the espresso truffle cake biscuit.
But I think it is all excitement over the show. I don't want to say "stress" because I'm not stressed. I think we're doing good work. Everyone's happy with us. People say nice things to us about the work we're doing, all unbidden. I have enough time to do the writing I need to do. It's not stress.
It's just, gee whizz, I'm responsible for the stories we're telling on this show. It's not my show, not my vision, but it's up to me to make sure the three of us come up with stories that the showrunner likes, that the network likes, that the audience will like, and that we like.
It's something. Because we are in production, because we are participating in production meetings, it feels so much more real than it might if we were writing the episodes in a vacuum, say, before production began.
Now if I could just get to sleep...
Friday, June 04, 2004
A PRETTY DAMN GOOD GIG
Today I bought Successful Television Writing
as an e-book download from Amazon.Com -- how cool is that? Anyway, I'm reading the introduction. The writers grew up on The Dick Van Dyke Show
. They wanted to be Rob Petrie. He got to sit around all day, crack jokes with some very funny guys, and then go home to Mary Tyler Moore. And, say the writers, being a tv writer is like that. You hang around all day with some very funny people. (I do!) You shoot the breeze, and then write some stuff up. (We do!) And you get paid a whack of money. (Not complaining!)
What these guys didn't realize was that where you have an episode where, say, Rob is seeing flying saucers because he's pulling a week of all nighters because the script isn't working -- well, Rob is pulling a week of all nighters because the script isn't working.
It all sounds pretty familiar!
Anyway, looks to be a good book.
I am missing my family, so much in fact that I sort of forget just how nifty a gig this is. I'm getting paid to sit around in Cape Town, drink coffee, and think up and type up science ficiton. How great is that?
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
an interesting analysis of how Friends
, with its long story arcs, is more a soap with jokes than sitcom as we used to know them.
Sitcoms continue to plunge in audience share, I suspect because dramas are funnier and funnier. Felicity's
first season was laugh out loud funny, I thought; while nothing on Everybody Loves Raymond
makes me laugh. Nothing. Ever.