This just rocks (get it?). Click the image below and enjoy.
Writing While Working Full Time – February 27th, 2014
In this town, where everyone is working on a script, I will often hear someone bemoan, “how am I supposed to write when I have a full time job?” Personally, I wish I could smack that person but I’ll usually reply, “short of finding yourself a personal Jiminy Cricket…
…you just have to do it. Find something specific that works for you and do it” I, as a full time manager of 25+ employees, had to figure out what works for me — I need to set definite, achievable goals, I need a schedule, and a deadline really helps. Therefore, let me share my plan for finishing a one-hour television spec for the Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition.
Week One (Now – March 2)
- Logline Due – Must be able to articulate the plot, interpersonal conflicts and emotional territory of the episode in 3-5 sentences. I can work on this whenever I have 5 spare minutes.
- Breakdown Episodes 1-5 – My spec is based on a soon-to-be sophomore show with a shortened season. I will reverse engineer the first season’s episodes to get a sense of the show’s structure and the characters’ voices. I’ll breakdown 1-2 episodes a night, 2-3 on a Saturday/Sunday. Time permitting, I’ll race down to the Writers Guild Foundation library and read as many show scripts as possible (oh, how I wish they were open later, and on weekends).
Week Two (March 3-9)
- Breakdown Episodes 6-13 – Finish out the rest of the season.
- Outline v1 Due – Probably 1-2 pages, mostly bullet points. 15 minutes stolen here or there will help me get this rolling. Recording notes while driving helps. Really, this is 75% ruminating, 25% writing.
Week Three (March 10-16)
- Outline v2 Due – I’ll take index cards and tape them up to the wall. The wall will be subdivided into acts so I can gauge the breaks. I know I have to distribute the cards evenly across acts. I also know that each act break has to be gripping, it has to end on a question/cliffhanger. I’ll generate cards from my previous outline but I’ll also keep a stack in my pocket and jot down ideas as they come throughout the day.
Week Four (March 17-23)
- Write – Every day, after work, for 2-4 hours. For me, I have to come home and take a nap. Then I shower, eat and head out to someplace public with my writing mix and great noise-cancelling headphones. On weekends I’ll write for 6-8 hours each day. I estimate that I can write around 5 good pages/day. If I finish my 5 pages, I usually stop writing unless I’m possessed by my muse. Regardless, I stop when I reach my time limit. Why? So I’m not burnt out for the next day. In one week I’ll get about 35 pages written.
Week Five (March 24-30)
- Keep Writing – Should be able to easily write another 25 pages (the easier 2nd week is intentional).
- First Draft Due – That Sunday I will print the first draft. It’ll be ugly but if I stuck to the plan I’ll have 60 pages and the structure will be solid.
Week Six (March31-April 6)
- Take Two Days Off – It helps me regain perspective and it allows me to rest those creative muscles. I’ll exercise, eat healthy, catch up on other shows, read.
- Tear Apart My First Draft – I always do this with a pencil and a printed script. I figure three days of reading and notes in the margins. I might also watch an episode to refresh my understanding of the show’s tone.
- Start Rewriting – If warranted, I’ll start moving scenes and rethinking action. But if my outline served me well, I’ll be concentrating on dialog, character and tone. I’ll try to give the whole script a pass but I’ll really concentrate on the Teaser and Act One.
Week Seven (April 7-13)
- Second Draft Due – This week I’ll be concentrating on Acts Two and Three, but I’ll still be reviewing the script from start to finish.
Week Eight (April 14-20)
- Third Draft Due – This week I’ll focus on Act Four (the show is a teaser plus four acts). Once that’s done, I’ll start a polish by reading my script from the last page to the first; it helps freshen the script for my tired eyes.
Week Nine (April 21-27)
- Fourth Draft Due – Last chance to be awesome.
Week Ten (April 28-30)
- Submit Teleplay – Followed by a good meal and a strong drink.
And that’s how I get the job done.
Screwed by Heroes – February 24th, 2014
I’m sure most of you were ecstatic, or at the very least you were left scratching your head, when you saw this during the Winter Olympics.
Me, I cursed like a sailor. I trashed the room like The Incredible Hulk. Why? Because my long gestating first pilot swims in the same genetic pool as Heroes.
So, do I shelve my idea or just give it a twist so it’s clearly at the other end of the genre spectrum from this reboot?
Questions About The Top Cow Talent Hunt – February 11th, 2014
“Last year there were 800 entries. This year there were 600.”
Why the drop in entries? Was it a drop in artists, writers or both? Also…
- Last year, how many writers submitted vs artists?
- This year, how many writers submitted vs artists?
- This year, in regards to script submissions, what was the break down per artifact?
I’m curious if the numbers are 50/50 along the artist/writer divide? Did the number of entries drop this year because of a new requirement? Also, I’m gonna venture a guess that more people wrote about The Witchblade than any other artifact but you never know. It’s a big universe.
Lastly, I had a great time writing my script, I think it’s incredibly strong and I look forward to the results. Also, I just started developing my own comic book series. Yeah, I think I’m hooked on writing comics.
Wish me luck.
WB Will Not Read My Script – February 7th, 2014
I have to abandon my Orphan Black spec. Why? Because Warner Brothers refuses to read it.
Allow me to elaborate. The one big reason why I’m writing a spec script instead of a pilot, which has more value in the market, is to have the fresh, requisite sample when I apply to contests and fellowships run by the Austin Film Festival, NBC/Universal, ABC/Disney, CBS, Final Draft, The NHMC and Warner Brothers. So what’s the problem? WB has one unique requirement: they only accept specs from their approved list of television shows. Guess what. Orphan Black isn’t on that list.
So I’m faced with two options: write my Orphan Black script and forget applying to the WB Writers Workshop or pick another show to spec from the WB approved list. Is it worth having one less potential opportunity just so I can keep writing the spec I started or would it be better to to start something new and have a greater field of possibilities? Considering that Warner Brothers is a television powerhouse, I have to apply to their program. I have to pick another show to spec.
So now I have to choose a new show from their list. Those that both interest me and intersect with my personal branding are…
I’m giving myself one week to decide. In that time I’ll read some scripts, watch some shows and come up with at least 2 log lines per title. Wish me luck.
My Best of 2013 (It’s Late Because I Read 1,100 Comics) – January 31st, 2014
As I was writing, traveling and working throughout Christmas / the start of the new year, I’m very late to this conversation. After reading tons of lists about the best movies, books, games and comics (including one long, well written list), let me offer a few thoughts of my own.
Favorite Movie – Gravity
But honestly, I haven’t seen a lot of the must see movies. I haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Her, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Blue Jasmin, Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, All is Lost… basically I haven’t seen anything good.
Favorite Album – Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
Favorite Book – Life by Keith Richards
Honestly, it was way overrated but I think it was the only book I finished. I started more than a handful but… now I feel terrible about myself. Maybe that’s why I’ve started 3 books this year: American Gods, Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs, and The Empty Chair.
Favorite Comic – Hawkeye (and I haven’t even read the “pizza dog” issue yet)
HOLY S**T, I read over 1,100 comics last year (that’s why I only finished one book in 2013). I still haven’t read Saga, Mind MGMT, or East of West, but I really enjoyed Avengers, Nightwing, Bandette, Batman Beyond 2.0, Animal Man (more appreciated than liked), Batman, The Bunker, Captain Marvel (really loved some of the art), Daredevil, Prophet (so weird but awesome) and then there were all the Top Cow comics I read for the Talent Hunt. Of them, I’d say I dug Artifacts and the Magdalena stories most.
Favorite Game – The Last of Us
Hands down the best game of the year. I played the Hell out of Borderlands 2 but nothing lingers like The Last of Us.
Favorite Television Show – Breaking Bad
Favorite Home Away From Home – Austin
I was there twice this year, I know where I like to stay, I have favorite places to eat, drink, shop, get groceries. Now, if only I could meet a lady Austin-ite…
3 Thoughts for Sundance Filmmakers – January 27th, 2014
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post but with good reason. First, I’ve been working day and night putting the finishing touches on my comic book script for the Top Cow Talent Hunt. I’m terribly proud but we all know that doesn’t mean much unless I get one of the writing spots. I can’t say a lot at the moment… aw, f**k it. Here’s one hint. My comic is about this artifact:
The other reason it took an age to write a blog post is because I went to Sundance this year. In 4.5 days I managed to to catch 17 movies (those in bold were my favorites).
- The Green Prince
- Dinosaur 13
- Camp X-Ray
- God’s Pocket
- Animation Spotlight
- The Guest
- Ping Pong Summer
- Whitey: The United States v. James J. Bulger
- To Be Takei
- Land Ho!
- Life After Beth
- Life Itself
- Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
- The Sleepwalker
- No No: A Dockumentary
*Note: that’s also the order in which I watched them.
Now, instead of getting into a “this film is better than that film” post, let me offer some thoughts about all the films I saw.
One, no matter what the subject, or when it’s set, your film must speak to today’s audience. If you’re making a film for Sundance 1994, you won’t find a receptive audience unless you jump in a TARDIS and zip back twenty years. I’m not saying that your film has to be “ripped from the headlines” but you should be addressing some faction of today’s audience directly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie for old people or LARPers or revolutionaries, address an audience that’s here in a theater, now.
Two, hook us with your characters. If you can’t hook us with your characters, you’d better have an amazing, mind bending idea and at least three other things that’ll draw us in. I’m talking about amazing cinematography and nudity and “big” name stars, plus your movie had truly better be “something we’ve never seen before” and not just “something I (the filmmaker) have never seen before” — that just tells me that you haven’t done your homework. Note: even if you have all of the above, you’ll still have an uphill battle. Do yourself a favor and make those characters great.
Three, cut 10-20 minutes out of your film. Every film I saw could stand to lose at least 10 minutes. Those that could lose more were usually overstuffed by the filmmaker. At some point in the edit, consider your theme, find a way to balance disparate element or throw them out. Remember, this won’t be the only film you make. This won’t be your only creative endeavor. Resist the urge to stuff it with everything you have to say.
And with that, I’m going to say “adios“. I’m not gonna get into the many discussions about indie film that permeated Sundance. Let others argue if there are too many indies being made or if indies have become too inaccessible and self-indulgent.
Me, I gotta move on to my spec TV script becuase I’ve got a lot of episodes of this show to reverse engineer:
Until the next update.
Looking Ahead to 2014 – January 1st, 2014
Continuing off of my last post, I have a lot of writing planned for 2014. First, I have to finish a spec comic book for Top Cow and their Talent Hunt. Yeah, I know, I must love contests or be a glutton for punishment… or both.
Wait, you’re wondering why I’m writing a comic book if I’m concentrating on television writing, right? To me, they aren’t that different. First, thanks to Ben Blacker introducing comics into his television writing podcast, I got back into comics big time. Second, both involve serialized storytelling. Third, I really do love the same kind of books as I do TV shows (e.g., I watch Nikita, I read Black Widow comics).
After finishing my comic book, I have to quickly knock out a new TV spec. I know what you’re about to say but I’m doing this so I have something new for all the 2014 fellowships and contests. At this point I’m pretty sure I’ll spec one of the following shows:
Then it’s time to write that TV pilot I’ve been telling some of you about.
And finally I’ll round out the year by starting my first feature script in a long time.
Phew, I’m exhausted just reading that list, and I’m not mentioning all the other more typical topics for these kinds of posts like health, travel, financial independence, and romantic entanglements (fingers crossed).
A Look Back at 2013 – December 31st, 2013
This year, something amazing happened to the writer in me: he figured out who he wants to be and it all started with finishing my Nikita spec.
Upon finishing, I felt good about my spec but I didn’t put much stock in that feeling. I’ve written/shot/created so many things that I’ve been so proud of in the past but I could never get anyone that mattered (tastemakers, gatekeepers and buyers) to care. I no longer trusted my instincts.
But this little script turned that around. It got me to the semi-finals of a lot of contests, most importantly the NBC writing fellowship and the Austin Film Festival. Actually, this was the second time I made the semis at AFF but, typical me, I thought the first time was a fluke. Now that I had a second success with another TV spec (the first was for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), I could suss out a pattern. I figured out which facet of my writing might actually have commercial appeal. Better yet, I genuinely loved both shows and the genres/mediums (“mediums”? I’ll explain that tomorrow) I would be mining.
Going to Austin was another huge accomplishment. I met a ton of awesome peers and, for once, didn’t feel like a charlatan.
I actually feel good about what I’m writing, and I like feeling good about myself.
Neko Case Rounds Out The Year – December 31st, 2013
You know I love Neko Case. You should know that I really loved her latest album, in particular, this song, which is so deceptively, sweetly simple that it was my obvious closer for this series of posts.
Adios 2013 and happy new year.