Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022


Friday, July 07, 2006

The good people at Syracuse University Press were kind enough to send me a review copy of Starting Your Television Writing Career.

The book consists of: 51 pages of overview of how you write a good spec script and what you do with it (in other words, how you start your TV writing career); 49 pages of a comedy outline and script; 90 pages of a drama outline and script; and 27 pages of interviews with established TV writers.

I found the overview frustrating. Granted I'm not the best audience for this book, because it's written for nonprofessionals who want to get into the business, and I've written my own book. But I have read TV writing books that taught me stuff, particularly the brief but superb pamphlet the WGA has on its site, Writing for Episodic TV. The overview says more or less the same things I say in my book; which means I agree with what it says. The problem is it says them briefly instead of in depth; generally instead of specifically. It felt like it was written by someone who sat in on meetings with experienced writers and then wrote down -- quickly -- what they said.

This may not be true. The authors each have one television credit on the IMDb, and run the Warner Bros TV Workshop. Which is not to say that they are professional TV writers. But pro or not, who can say in 57 pages what you need to know to write TV? You can say more or less what you need to do, but you can't really explain yourself, or say how to do what you need to do. They say what some of the things you shouldn't do in a spec script are, but they don't really get into how you come up with a great one.

The interviews were similarly more directed at end results than processes. Not, "How do you come up with...?" and "How do you deal with...?" but "What was your first sample script and how did you get someone to read it?" I found them less compelling than the yards of interviews the WGA has up on its site. Because the interviewers there are pro writers asking on behalf of other pro writers, the interviewers contain more meat. More anecdote, too, but you can comb through them, as I did when I was writing my book.

I would also have found it more interesting if each interviewee had been answering different questions.

The bulk of the book, though, is the scripts. And I gotta ask: what's the point of putting one comedy script and one drama script into a book? You need to read dozens of TV scripts, not one each of drama and comedy. And there are dozens to read on the Net -- see my right sidebar, "Links to downloadable scripts." You have to read scripts from current hit shows so you can watch the shows. Who cares about "The George Lopez Show"?

So, in all, I was disappointed. I'm so sorry, Syracuse University Press. I really wanted to like this book.

One interesting point though: I did notice that this book uses some different terminology than I've heard. For example, it says a typical scene will have three or four "story beats." That's a different use of the word "beat" than I've run across. What I would consider a beat, usually you'd have one in a scene, or two in a long scene. The book defines "act break" as "the place in the script where the action reaches its highest point." I've only heard "act break" used as a synonym for "act out," a term the book leaves undefined. And I'd never heard of a "clam," which apparently refers to an overused trendy phrase (e.g. "Talk to the hand"). It may be helpful to know these usages, so it might be worth checking out the glossary.

Also, they mention Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee, which I'd forgotten about. It's a video store in North Hollywood that has tons of recordings of shows (though it's a little more haphazard than the Museum of Television and Radio). You can rent tapes from them by mail.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.