Sunday, November 07, 2010

DTRs and Breaks.

This blog is going on temporary hiatus. Check back in 4-6 months for [what will hopefully be] exciting updates on my life and career!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Theories and the Reality.

I hate the way people in Jersey drive. It's not just the massive amount of people on the road. There's zero consideration for anyone else. Cutting people off and braking, drifting over from an exit only lane without a turn signal, ridiculously bright lights on fancy cars. I have mixed feelings about driving as it is, and being in Jersey doesn't highlight the good qualities.

Tomorrow I pack it up and head back to Michigan. Another ten hour drive. I don't think I anticipated doing this so much. Next time I'm flying.

I try to go over to see my niece and nephew as often as I can. I have to say, I think I want a big family, but trying to manage a toddler and a newborn with both parents at home seems like a challenge. The difficult thing, my sister explained to me, is that at this stage, both of your children need all of your attention all of the time. Perhaps the only time my sister can get to herself is if both children manage to nap at the same time.

I've mentioned to her before about how I plan to continue writing when I have a family, and her response was, "Don't overestimate the free time you'll have." And even if I do get the time--will I have the energy? Last year working at a school, I had zero energy for writing after wrangling 23 2nd graders all day long.

I know there are ways to manage, schedules you can get into and routines you can form that will get you at least a few minutes a day to write when you're also raising a family. But other times I wonder if I'm selfless enough to be able to make that compromise. While a family is something I theoretically think I want, I've been mostly on my own for the last five years, pursuing something I know I want.

For now I'll enjoy being an aunt, spoiling my niece and nephew, babysitting for a few hours, and then returning them to their parents at the end of the day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

TV again and Nieces.

Hello, I'm adorable.

That's my niece would say if she could talk. I know newborn babies are usually ugly, but she is decidedly not. And yes, I am biased.

Since we're now a good six weeks into the fall season, I thought I'd reflect back on my insane week of TV premieres. I watched a lot of TV that first week to get a good sample--here's what remained.


What I watched: Lone Star, The Event, Castle
What I still watch: Castle

Well, I really didn't have much of a choice with Lone Star. I think The Event will go the way of FlashForward. It's safe for the rest of this season, but I think it'll slowly continue to fade. On the other hand, even though I ditched it after the pilot, the previews have gotten more interesting and occasionally I consider catching up to see if it's improved at all. Then I remember the pilot and how most episodes are probably following the same format--little character development and a giant plot tease. If it really does end up becoming the next Lost [or even making it to a second season], I'm ok with playing catch up.


What I watched: Glee, Detroit 1-8-7, Running Wilde
What I still watch: Glee, Detroit 1-8-7

Running Wilde, another show that I did not make past the pilot. I'd rather watch reruns of Arrested Development.

Detroit 1-8-7 is the only true freshman show I'm picking up. Other than the two that got canceled. Maybe because so many of the new shows are cop/lawyer/US marshall shows. How many of those do you really want to watch? In truth, I probably wouldn't have even watched Detroit 1-8-7 if it was set in our fair city. I like it for reasons beyond that, especially the characters they've created, but I wouldn't have gone looking for a new cop show just because I like cop shows. The other freshman law enforcement shows--Chase, Outlaw, Blue Bloods, The Defenders, The Whole Truth, Law & Order:LA, to name a few--couldn't compel me to turn them on. Geez, guys, so many. Do you really think America wants to watch that many cop/law shows?

Glee I watch with my flatmate. Glee has me all confused about my feelings. On one hand, the story telling has improved vastly. This season they've actually started digging into the lives of their characters. And they've stopped threatening Glee Club every episode. That was my number one complaint last season--every episode the story was the same--Glee Club was going to be shut down. And, as an audience, we aren't stupid. We know it's not going to be. So stop giving us the same tired plot. This season the stories are new [if sometimes... odd. What was up with the Britney episode?] but the song integration sucks. At least half the songs are song just standing around in the classroom [in fact, ALL of them might have been sung there in the duet episode]. The beauty of musicals is that people break out in choreographed song and dance all over the place and it's treated as completely normal. If a good third of your show is going to be taken up by songs, make them actual performances. Otherwise you're just slowing down your story. One friend recently confessed that she's started fast forwarding through the songs. Yeah, because they're boring!

I forgot about The Good Wife for two weeks. Then when I tried to watch it on CBS' website the audio was messed up. That, combined with my guilt over how much TV I watch anyway, gives it a pass.


What I watched: Undercovers, Top Chef: Just Desserts
What I still watch: Top Chef: Just Desserts

Undercovers played it safe, both in plot and character relationships, and it was boring. It wasn't edgy enough to be the next Alias, and it's not fun enough to get me to keep watching.

Top Chef: Just Desserts is just brilliant.


What I watched: Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Bones, The League, Big Bang Theory, My Generation
What I still watch: Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Bones, The League

As these are all veterans for me, they were automatic go's [Big Bang Theory I tried and decided to forgo. Also it's nearly embarrassing how much TV I watch on Thursday nights]. My Generation was the only true freshman show, and that got canceled. I watched the first two episodes, and I might have stuck with it. Showrunner Noah Hawley did an interesting interview about blurring the lines of scripted TV and reality in My Generation, like including footage of one of his characters being on the Bachelor [I wish I could find the interview, but I can't], and I respect what he was attempting with My Generation. I'd like to see something that pushes the boundaries of entertainment work out. Except--since I've been thinking about it more--three of the four love stories they were building up would have involved infidelity. I mean, personally, that's not really the kind of love story I am inclined to root for. Didn't a lot of people cite that as the reason that Lone Star failed too? Too much moral ambiguity? People like innocent love stories.

[On a side, this is why I think Lone Star would have worked. Bob was such a poor morally deluded man, there was something very sweet and innocent about the way that he wanted to preserve his double life in order to do the best he could by both women. Maybe for Bob it worked because you had to realize a childhood of being raised by a con artist dad messes you up. For the characters on My Generation it didn't work because they had just gotten married without love and their boredom and lack of fulfillment in their marriage is what spurred them towards other options. Definitely not so innocent.]

And when it comes to comedy, 30 Rock is queen, Community is my favourite court jester, and The Office is that awkward but funny uncle who never knows when it's time to leave.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I'm an aunt twice over!

My sister [finally] had her second baby last night, this time a girl. [And this time, instead of a 36 hour labor, it lasted 2 hours. Nice.] We're going to go see her in just a few hours!

And yes, I've already bought her something.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Returns and Hobbitses.

Today I went back to the school where I worked last year. I hadn't seen any of my coworkers since I left last spring, so I met them for lunch. [I also stopped by to see the students. My Favourite Student offered me an invisible contract to come back and teach 3rd grade. I told him I'd have my lawyers look it over.]

The inevitable question came up--so what are you doing? [This came right after "Where are you?" with the answer of Michigan surprising some.] I realized very quickly there was no glamorous way to answer, "Nothing." I am literally doing nothing. I'm not even looking for a job right now. Granted, these two week "vacation" back to Jersey put a pretty definitely stop on any job searching.

If it was more than a passing conversation with the former coworker, I'd go into more detail, the probability that I'd be looking for a non film job soon, how I've been able to write obscene amounts since unemployed, my concerns with juggling a film career, a life, writing, and eventually, a family. However, I felt most conversations boiled down to one sentiment--Yes, remember when I worked here? Now I'm a bum.

I don't mind. Maybe because I watched a Scottish movie last night and am more persuaded than ever that what I really need to do right now is live in the UK. Also, I'd like to learn Italian.

The New Zealand actors union has lifted their ban on working for The Hobbit. Smooth move, but you might've waited too long. New Line is using the union's blacklist as leverage to say it's looking at different locations. Nikki Finke thinks Peter Jackson is too personally and professionally invested in New Zealand to make the move, but one Kiwi said on Scott Myers' blog that "it's nationwide panic."

Way to go, guys. You not only made a decision unpopular with your members, but you've also managed to upset an entire country.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trees and Nerds.

I finally caught up with the rest of the world. I finally saw The Social Network.

It was great. And it was great for a whole bunch of reasons, the actors, the directing, the writing [yes, I have a celebrity writer crush on Aaron Sorkin]. I didn't have a problem with the portrayal of women. Maybe that's because it's a true story, and if there weren't really any women involved, then there weren't any women involved. [I've noticed something about people who objectify women anyway. Usually they just have a problem with objectifying everyone. Everyone is reduced to what they can offer instead of being recognized and treated as real multi-faceted people--male and female alike.] Besides, Erica Albright was spunky and I liked her.

I think my favourite part of the movie, though, was this surprising mystery element. The film jumps between three different storylines--what happened and the two lawsuits that followed. And the entire time, as accustations were made and explanations were offered, I was trying to figure out what really happened, if Mark really stole Facebook or not. If I was on a jury, what would I conclude? It was like a who-dun-it. It was excellent mastery of story that completely engaged me.

If you haven't seen it, I completely and highly recommend it. I wish I had seen it before Aaron Sorkin's lecture. I'm going to see if I can get my hands on a copy of the script.

My dad put this sheet of metal around the trunk of our tree in the backyard. It's to prevent the squirrels from building nests in the tree and taking over our backyard. I feel kinda bad for the squirrels though. Can you imagine one day you're out at work, winning bread for your family, and you come back to find a sheet of metal preventing you from every returning to your comfy bed? Eviction without notice. I'm not sure if I'm cool with that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Scripts and Rockstars.

The other day I managed to procure a copy of Gravity, a script by Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron, and Rodrigo Garcia that's trying to find a lead actress. I don't read enough scripts. Reading scripts helps set a standard for your own writing, for pacing, conflict, structure, beautiful but concise prose. The deterrent is that usually scripts come via my computer, and it's really no fun reading 90+ pages on a computer screen. However my alma mater has a fantastic script library that I'm going to be spending more time in.

Gravity was a great read. It has high stakes and fantastic constant tension. Anything that could go wrong, did. For that lesson along, Gravity's a fantastic read. Murphy's Law should be a constant in every script. There was no good place to take a break from reading. Something was always happening, and it was always bad.

Gravity is having difficulty finding a female lead, Dr. Stone. Stone is the main character and spends at least half the script as the only character. And while I'm usually all about casting unknowns, I think Gravity would work best with a star attached. Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman were approached but declined. Sandra Bullock's name has been floating around. But it's been difficulty to get a commitment. I think its because Dr. Stone isn't necessarily an actor's character. The great moments in the script aren't great character moments, they're great life or death suspense moments. It's a screenplay/directing Oscar nom, not an acting nom.

But it's a fantastic script. And a excellent standard to match before I assume I'm ready.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Distractions and Research.

Since the breaking of CBS' script order for Dear Girls Above Me, I've tried to get some reactions from the screenwriters or industry people I follow. When The Bitter Script Reader rolled his eyes at the screams of sexism, I asked him to read my blog post about it and respond to the concerns I had. [I told him I wasn't pandering, but I was. Whenever you ask someone to read your blog, you're pandering.] Anyway, he did read and respond, and here is an excerpt--

If DGAM was instead about a man writing letters to every woman he meets about all the various ways they are inferior THEN it would be sexist. Instead his ire is directed at two such individuals (and idiots of either gender tend to run in packs) who just happen to live above him. It's not Charlie vs. womankind - it's Charlie vs. the co-occupants of his dwelling, who just happen to be women.

If it is a show where EVERY female character in every setting is equally vapid, then those railing against it might have a charge. At this point, we don't know enough to make that call. But it wouldn't be the first time that a sitcom used an execptionally dumb set of characters (both men and women) for the purposes of humor...

It's just the way I see it. Shouldn't we at least wait until a pilot script is written before we tag it as sexist?

Amanda the Aspiring Writer's response was similar--let's wait and see. And to that I say--

Fair enough.

Fair enough, Amanda. Fair enough, Bitter Script Reader. I see your points.
And I don't really think McDowell is sexist--but I believe even less that we need this TV show. As Emily Blake said--"Oh, terrific. Girls everywhere get new role models."

I'm still not thrilled about this pilot. I still am unimpressed by the source material [which I think is my main issue--I don't find it funny. Not because of it's portrayals, but because I just don't think it's funny]. I still thinking making a TV show out of a Twitter account is pretty ridiculous. I still think that, if taken to series, DGAM is going to have a difficult time finding an audience. And I still feel bad for TV writers trying to sell TV ideas.

As for my ideas, I spent an hour researching World War II espionage the other day until to decide to set my story in the Cold War instead. Also I realized how suspicious it might appear to the people in the very public and diverse setting I was in that I was reading summaries of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Cold War it is.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nightmares and Hell.

I drove the 10 hours from Michigan to my parents' house yesterday. It was beautiful yesterday, and I made it in record time. I didn't tell anyone I was coming. It's nice to surprise people.

Unfortunately, all I dreamed about for the first half of the night was that I was driving through endless speed traps and past a plethora of police cars. Nothing like driving 600 miles only to dream about more driving when you finally get to sleep.

Deadline Hollywood broke a story about yet another Twitter to TV deal, "a comedy series based on Charlie McDowell's feed and Web site Dear Girls Above Me, about a single man who gains insight into the female mind by eavesdropping on his upstairs neighbors." This is CBS' third Twitter-based script order according to DH, along with Shh... Don't Tell Steve and $#*! My Dad Says. Dear Girls Above Me has gotten a script order to be cowritten by McDowell.

I hope this dies in development hell.

Look, I have no problem with web-based content being picked up for more traditional media, blogs turned to books, YouTube stars getting spots on talk shows, Twitters turned to TV shows [ok, that does sorta bug me]--if the content is any good. The $#*! My Dad Says feed is kinda funny. But I haven't bothered to watch the sitcom, so... Distribution is completely changing, and I'm not anti-progress. I think it's completely fair to "discover" talent online. And I wish McDowell continued success. But I do have some problems--

1. Just because you're internet popular doesn't mean you're Hollywood popular. McDowell may have a respectable following. I know if I ever broke a hundred followers I'd be thrilled, and he's near 35,000. Fine, I respect that. I respect that he's got a decent corner in the 140-characters of humor market. But if you make a TV show based on his Twitter feed and put it on network television--how are those 35,000 followers going to fair against competitors' programming? With Monday night football or The Big Bang Theory or Glee? How are you going to go from 35,000 to millions?

2. It's still a different format. A good writer is a good writer, true. I think all writing helps you improve your story craft. But the skills that go into making a Twitter feed funny are completely different than the ones that go into making a TV show funny. Networks do recognize that, I believe, which is why McDowell is only co-authoring the pilot and $#*! was mentored by sitcom veterans. However, just because something is funny in one format doesn't mean that it will translate effectively into another format.

3. Dear Girls Above Me isn't funny. I thought I'd check it out before I rail against it. It's not not funny. It's just not--anything special. And, I hate to be the humorless feminist in the room, but what a terrible portrayal of women. They are ignorant, self centered, and completely brainless. They're flat, one dimensional characters. Sometimes that works--Sue Sylvester from Glee was wonderful before they gave her the sister angle. But the way the Girls Above are depicted makes me cringe. Or, as one commenter at DH hypothesized, McDowell's going to inadvertently and unknowingly meet one of the Girls Above and fall in love with one of them. And that would just be tacky.

I don't think this is sexism on the part of the network because it works both ways. Shhh... Don't Tell Steve is about an idiot boy roommate. [I'd like to say people just being stupid isn't funny anyway, but the Jackass 3D box office proves me otherwise]. It still bothers me, and I think it's because men are continually drawn as fleshed out, full grown characters, but female characters regularly get slighted. Women are repeatedly depicted in TV and film not as characters but as plot points, foils, and objects of desire and ridicule. They do not exist except for how they are viewed and perceived by men. And that kind of characterization--not the one dimensionality--I strongly protest.

[EDIT: Elizabeth Banks posted this on her Twitter. I don't know where it came from, but it's fascinating. Not completely accurate, maybe--I'd argue some characters they don't list as being well developed as excellent examples of great characterization--but fascinating still. Female Character Flowchart.]

4. An audience? How many women do you think are going to be tuning into this show?

5. Really, CBS? All the material you get pitched and spec-ed and bombarded with and this is what you order? Now I just feel bad for all the talented television writers who just got screwed.

Speaking of people I feel pity for, as much as I love the Yankees, I feel kinda bad for the Rangers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall and Road Trips.

Yesterday I was working on plots for the contest I mentioned a couple days ago. Even though you only have to write the first 15 pages, for those 15 pages to be killer you really need to know your whole story. Since Best Friend D. is a history nerd, I decided I'd float a few ideas past her.

Within two seconds she had pitched me the most beautifully twisted premise.

It's so unfair. But, I am blessed to be her friend and steal all her ideas from her since she has no designs on a story career. My dad also has this talent. I'll be pitching a story at the dinner table, and my dad will say, "What about..." It nearly sends me into a sulk. I mean, I'm the one who has a useless degree in story telling. I should be getting more mileage out of it.

Professional writers say that ideas are cheap and easily come by. I find them elusive and ethereal. However, I'm trying to be less aggravated by other people's genius and more inspired by it. Sometimes the best twist on a nearly perfect plot comes from a fresh perspective. Now I just have to learn how to have all those perspectives myself. This must be how writers go crazy.

My sister's about to pop with her second baby any day now. I've been waiting for the call to come home for the new little niece/nephew, but I'm thinking about forgoing the phone call and just heading home now. This is completely anxiety-inducing. I can't imagine being the pregnant one who has to deal with the waiting. I almost went today, but I had to spend time and money becoming a little bit more of a Michigander by surrendering my New Jersey driver's license to the DMV. Today would have been a perfect road trip day too. The weather was perfect and the leaves are beautiful [fall is my favourite]. I'm actually looking forward to the drive through Pennsylvania for once.

Also 30 Rock is live tonight and I didn't want to risk missing it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Motels and Surrender.

Specs versus pilots continues. Kyle Killen, writer of Mel Gibson pic The Beaver and showrunner of the late Lone Star, said that when hiring writers he prefers to see a pilot but has also hired candidates off of outstanding specs. And on the topic of TV shows, New York Magazine recently ran an article, This Platform Is Not Yet Rated, discussing the difficulties in tracking ratings with the rise of online and DVR viewing. Neilsen is making some changes to their tracking system, but not until next year. The second page of the article has a couple interesting charts breaking down audiences of various shows by which platform they consume content on.

As far as last night's TV--Glee, I like your stories so much better this season. They're actually different from episode to episode. I don't think the existence of the glee club has been threatened in two entire weeks! But--song integration has really gone down hill. Every single song was set in the classroom as students perform for other students. The beauty of musicals is that they're set in a world where spontaneous eruptions into song and dance are not only tolerated as normal but encouraged and choreographed. Get it out of the classroom--make the song performances just as interesting as the stories are becoming.

I also watched Detroit 1-8-7 last night--which everyone should--and I was excited to see a location we had shot at when I was working in July. They had changed the name, but you could still see the real name in a window reflection for a quick shot. It was pretty cool. Probably because that location was so sketchy. Detroit 1-8-7 kinda makes me want to be a detective, but maybe that's just because I'm about to open up my career options.

I moved back to Michigan with the hope of breaking into the budding industry here. It has not been so easy. I worked on one film in July, but unfortunately the important contacts I made all went back home to LA at the end of the month. Which is too bad, because getting jobs is all about contacts, and I know I'd be working if I was in LA. HW Guy was telling me the other day about how the Key PA from our July shoot was considering moving to LA for a while and how if I could get out there, he would take the two of us on every shoot as his 2nd and 2nd 2nd. We'd be the dream AD team. And that people would actually like the AD team for a change [ADs are usually obnoxious. In fact, I told HW Guy so. I told him I thought 1st ADs were all supposed to be tools and that I was surprised when he wasn't].

But the truth is I haven't been working here in Michigan. I have had two other jobs lined up since then, and they've both fallen through due to poor communication and, frankly speaking, unprofessionalism. And now winter's coming and productions are not. I'm thinking about shifting my focus, taking a low stress non industry job for the winter, and keeping up my high productivity on my writing. I don't want to, mostly because I'm kinda a proud person and there were people who didn't think I could get film jobs here and I don't want them to be right. But I need to get a job, if only because I'm turning into a writer recluse and feel pretty boring.

I am being insanely productive on the writing side. I finished the first draft of Places yesterday. It took me two weeks to write that draft. Granted, draft one of any script isn't the hardest. Usually it writes itself or it falters and flails and I give up. It's rewriting that takes more stamina. But if I can get a first draft banged out in two weeks, I should be able to get a pilot done from brainstorming to reader-ready in six to eight weeks. I wouldn't be able to do that if I was working 12+ hour days, 6 days a week on a set. Maybe it's worth it to take a non film job for the next six months if it means that I'll really be LA ready at the end of my year in Michigan.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Candy and Characters.

E. generously supplies our apartment with candy. It's wonderful, except that it sits right in front of my on our dining room table where I do my work. It's vaguely reminiscent of the opening pages of The Princess Bride [most amazing book ever] where the Duchess de Guiche tries to bring down Annette the scullery maid [the most beautiful woman in the world the year Buttercup was born] by filling their palace with chocolate. And it works. I try to ignore the mounds of candy before me. It's an excercise in self control.

Also, if you've never read The Princess Bride, put everything else on hold until you do.

In the never ending battle of TV specs versus pilot, Bones creator Hart Hanson has extended the tie, saying that when he's looking to staff, he wants to see both a spec and original material. A point for both teams, and maybe it's time I pull that spec off the bookshelf.

Except I'm knee deep in two pilots as it is. I have maybe two full days' work left on the first draft of Places. I know already that I have a lot of work left to do on it, mostly stemming from the characters. One doesn't get enough interaction with the rest of the crew, one just isn't likeable at all [which is weird--since I sorta based the character on a friend... Oh, and don't everyone get paranoid, geez], and overall, they just aren't distinctive enough. I believe that characters need to be more than people; they need to be personalities. And they need to shine in ways that make us compulsively drawn to watch them. This doesn't mean that characters have to be over the top. They just have to be able to pull an audience in, and I don't think my slate of characters can do that yet.

And then I have a pilot out to friendly readers. It's been out for a while, and I haven't heard anything yet back, which inspires this terrible dread, mostly a fear that it was so boring that everyone read the first five pages, got distracted, and never returned. I think I'll be miserable if I found out I bored people.

I'd be miserable, and then I'd try to fix it.

In the meantime, I'm mulling over this contest from the Writer's Store. I haven't done a contest in forever, but I'd love to dabble in the spy genre. Also, what better way to procrastinate writing the Western I have percolating than by writing 15 pages of material that is unsellable and unuseable except for this contest? Perfect, I think.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recovery and Subtext.

I had a great weekend [minus that really really horrible and embarrassing football game]. But it was not relaxing. Today it was a struggle to get back into productivity mode. But I did it! [I am very proud of work done on Mondays.] I wrote my 8 page quota in Places, a segment of another project, and had a lengthy phone call with my mother concerning my next trip home, relationships, and leftovers.

I watch less television than I could. That's what I would say if anyone ever asked me if I watch a lot of TV. Maybe, but less than I could. It's all research, anyway. I mean, it mostly is. Scott Myers' mantra is "Read scripts. Watch movies. Write pages." One thing I've been picking up on recently is the lack of subtext in television.

I feel like when I'm working on a film script, the biggest pitfall I want to avoid is to have my dialog be too on the nose. Characters shouldn't say exactly what they feel or mean because as people we don't do that very often. However, when I'm watching TV, that seems to be all they're ever doing. There are usually two extremes--either burying their emotions completely or just coming out with them. Scenes with subtext shine at a low percentage.

For instance, on Bones this season, nearly every single character has asked Brennan if she's
ok with Booth dating Hannah. Or Daisy and Sweets have real conversations about their relationship status instead of having scenes with subtext. On Grey's Anatomy last week [and this was the first time I ever watched Grey's], no one felt any inhibitions about stating their opinion on whether or not Cristina Yang was ready to work in the OR again. In Sex and the City, the girls go out for drinks or lunch for complete disclosure at least three times an episode. In Modern Family, Jay and Gloria fight about what's really bothering them as it is, not disguised as something else.

Does television get away with more on the nose dialog? Usually honest dialog comes up in scenes of strong conflict, which makes sense. Yeah, the stakes were there in Glee when Terri was trying to conceal her fake pregnancy from Will, but things got really good when he actually found out that she was lying. You can have characters dance around an issue to make it engaging, but when they start getting raw is when the emotional stakes jump to a different level.

Also, there seem to be way more confident characters in television. How many times an episode do Lorelei and Rory Gilmore rehash their problems and advise each other towards a solution? How many plans did the boys in The League come up with to get Rafi out? How many episodes of the
Undercovers will it take for the main characters to talk their way into a balance between being partners and being married? A character may be hesitant to broach a problem with the character they have it with, but they always have a friend who they can hash it out with, and the audience is always privy to that council.

Sometimes it's strange to write those on the nose scenes. But at the same time, they feel right. Because my heart doesn't pound when I'm dodging an issue with someone. It starts thumping right before I get terrifyingly honest with someone. And TV is drama, so it's going to capture those moments right as your emotions are exploding out of you, making a terrible mess of whatever you've been trying to be polite about.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Nine and 140.

Cell phones are a big problem in TV and movies. One, it just wrecks suspense when one character can get a hold of another immediately to warn them of impending doom, danger, or apocalypse. Two, having two characters just hanging out talking is boring enough--having them hanging out talking in different places, where they can't really interact with each other or their environment organically is beyond boring. Why don't you just go watch a play?

Not that I am saying anything bad about plays. They are just fundamentally different from TV and movies and can support dialog heavy scenes in a way that TV and media cannot.

One of the things I had to do for The Garden was separate the characters from their cell phones. It wasn't terribly difficult to do, but then it proposed an entirely new problem--

People don't know phone numbers anymore.

Even though my character had lost his cell phone, he still needed to call a friend. And then this was when I realized, I myself know about three phone numbers. Two of those are my parents' cell phones. I don't know my parents' house number, I don't know my sister's number, I don't know my best friends' phone numbers. So cell phones provide infinite frustration. Either they create excessive accessibility or they completely cut us off from contacting anyone.

I mostly stalk showrunners and bump industry news, but if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at AmyRButler.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Planning and Babies.

You win, outlines.

I started writing Places one week ago, last Thursday. I'm now on page 39. The first day I moved from prewriting to real writing, I wrote 8 pages, and that became the standard. Every time I sit down to work on this pilot I have to write at least 8 pages. I skipped some days, but when I did work--it worked.

Tuesday I went hiking, and I didn't write. I try not to skip writing on weekdays, because when you skip it's harder to get back into the routine. And it's like the one productive thing I do. But I skipped Tuesday, and Wednesday I did not want to write. Not for any of my projects. I dragged my feet and procrastinated and watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie [which, PS., I liked]. Finally, at 9 PM, I knew I couldn't fight it anymore. I thought, this is going to be lame. Maybe I'll get four pages out, and then I'm going home to watch Top Chef: Just Desserts.

I swear, I don't think 8 pages has ever come easier. In under an hour and a half, I was on page 39. And I've noticed--it wasn't just yesterday. These pages have been a breeze. And I know it's because I have an outline. I'm just more efficient. There's just not as much staring into space.

Man, I hate outlining. Now I'm bitter. But a little contrite.

While I was at the coffee shop plinking away at the keyboard, the girl next to me was telling her friend how she had just seen The Social Network and she really liked it but now she's worried about people stealing her brilliant ideas. I think you're ok, girl.

My sister is having her second baby in the next week and a half. I didn't see my first nephew until he was two months old, so as soon as I get the call that she's gone into labor, I'm throwing a suitcase in my car and flooring it back to Jersey. The upside of being unemployed.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Cold Air and Asthma.

Today I went hiking. Some people love getting out in the spring when the weather turns warm. Spring weather just makes me want to take a nap. But when fall comes around I love getting out and hiking and going to cider mills and gallivanting about. Maybe I'm acting on my last chance to get out before winter comes.

I did this last year too, the day before I started working at the school. I went to a state park in New York. I was thinking about that as I started today, and I realized that it was exactly a year ago today that I went hiking in New York. Maybe I have a weird internal hiking clock.

I'm not a very hardcore hiker. I passed only one other group of people while I was out there [because it was a midweek October day]. They had windbreakers and backpacks and hiking boots. I'm more like, Woohoo, I've got my Converses and my messanger bag! And here's my water bottle and my OREOS!

I think this is the witch's house that Hansel and Gretel tried to eat--

And a snake!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Comedy and Error.

My mom and oldest younger brother came out to visit me a few weeks ago. They got to see my new apartment, go to the football opener against UConn, and eat our way through as much of Ann Arbor as we could fit into our stomachs. At the end of Sunday night, exhausted from our gallivanting and carousing, we went to this tiny hole in the wall ice cream place. I've gone on and hosted many a weekend visit, and by the last night, you kinda run out of things to say. So, as we sat there spoon-licking our ice cream, I did the only thing that came to mind. 
I made fun of our basketball team.

It's not that our basketball team is bad [though I think they probably are], it was just that there was a poster on the wall next to us. It had not only last year's schedule printed on it but also a picture of every single team member. These guys clearly were not used to standing still in front of a camera. They were easy targets. One of my favourite things to do is make my mom laugh, and luckily for me, she's pretty easily amused. I got at least fifteen minutes of material from that out dated poster, and yes, I do plan on repeating the routine.

There's a scene in Walk the Line where Reese Witherspoon as June Carter is talking about growing up in an all around talented family and finding her place there. She says, "My sister Anita's the one who really has the pipes... That's how come I learned to be funny. So I'd have something to offer." I don't try to write comedy. Whatever grace God gave to me when He gave me a sense of humor doesn't translate well to the page. But as I've been tracking the trends in television, box office, and online content, I've become more and more convinced that comedy is the future of the writing business.

Broadcast television--I'm convinced that it's just hard to find an audience for a drama. Television is not interactive entertainment. The viewer is completely passive [except when they're fast forwarding through commercials]. We don't come to television looking to be challenged--we come for entertainment and amusement. If you're going to relax after a long day, are you going to choose an hour long serialized emotional drama? Or a light-hearted comedy with a built-in laugh track? What gets easier than having someone else clue you in to when you're supposed to laugh? I personally follow way more comedies than dramas. And clearly it's not as finely split as serialized dramas versus sitcom comedies. There are plenty of successful episodic dramas such as Law and Order:Spinoff and CSI:Everywhere, as well as single camera comedies like The Office or Modern Family. And drama does a whole lot better on cable than on network television, ie Dexter, Mad Men, and Boardwalk Empire.

Perhaps this seems too subjective. How about this--there's no freshman break out show. Solid shows, yes, but there's no Glee or Modern Family [comedy breakouts from last year]. But the first two shows canceled--Lone Star and My Generation. Two serialized dramas. And the rumors floating around of what's on the chopping block next--dramas. There's been no talk of canceling any comedies, even those with disappointing ratings. 

But television is old news. New media is where it's at. Scott Smith over at Screenwriting from Iowa recently posted about new opportunities for writers penning advertisements as content. The writer's strike made an important point that online content and other new media does require an author [and therefore payment], opening up new possibilities ranging from web exclusives, such as The Office has on both their website and Hulu, to character Twitter accounts, like the promoting stunt Community performed before their premiere. Kurt Sutter has been promoting an iPhone app for Sons of Anarchy that will include a great amount of new content. I don't know who's writing all this extra material. I don't know if it comes from the writer's room or if they hire extra staff to create this content. But television is a whole lot more than a weekly half hour episode.

And then, as Scott describes, there's "branding entertainment." Advertisers, trying to adapt to a business model of new media and DVR, are creating content themselves. It's the step beyond product placement. He gives an excellent example of a five minute clip Orbit gum created. I watched it--

And promptly forwarded it to my friend.

1. Because it had Jason Bateman and Will Arnett in it. Automatic go. 2. Because it was funny.

There is so much stuff out on the internet. I believe that, if you're going to put content on the internet, the best way to get it seen is to affiliate it with an already established brand [which is why television based extra content is successful] or get it to go viral. And here's the honest truth--drama doesn't go viral. 

I've wanted to be one of the 2.6 million people trying to take advantage of the "democratic" nature of the internet. I've thought about developing a web series. Making another short. But I always run into the problem that whatever I brainstorm--it's drama. And comedy rules internet success.

Shawna at Shouting into the Wind is about to plunge into web series, and Scott Meyer at Go Into the Story recently wrote an update about web series. Internet content is going to be increasingly important to writers. 

Also, this my new favourite band, Mumford & Sons, an English folk band. But don't let that deter you--they're awesome. Check out their songs. Collect 'em all.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Writing and Routines.

Guys, I was excellently productive yesterday. I wrote 8 and 1/2 pages for Places. And it wasn't all bad. I mean, it is most definitely rough and most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, but I have 8 and 1/2 pages down. And E. kinda snickered at one of the jokes, and it's not even a comedy! It was a good day.

I have a job next week, which I'm both excited and bummed about. I've gotten into a real routine here, being unemployed. I get up, check my email and stuff, write a blog post [I used to exercise during this time. I considering blogging the day's warm up for my fingers. Also I hate exercising], and then I move onto the day's writing project. Sometimes I watch TV. For research. Ok, I'm not Josh James. I'm not up at 5:30 and at my desk [which is the dining room table. I'm sure E. will appreciate when I finally make up my mind about which desk chair I want] by 6:00. That sounds worse than exercising. But during this past month or so I've finished a draft on The Garden, nailed down a TV pilot and sent it to readers, and plotted and started another pilot. I will never be that productive while working. I don't think I wrote a word when I was working on that feature in July.

Writing usually makes me very nervous. HW Guy thinks it's endearing. I think it's neurotic. It is, sometimes, stressful. But I cannot wait until this is something that I get to do for a living, and I'm determined to make it happen.

There are trade offs. I've been noticing more... writerly behaviors. I am typically a very social person, but writing requires being alone for several hours a day. There was one day last week where E. left early for work and didn't get back until I was in bed. Between a short phone call and a trip to the coffee shop, I think that day I had a grand total of ninety seconds of human interaction. Sometimes E. will get home while I'm thinking through a story, and I'm sure it appears that I'm distant and quiet while really I'm just still working. I'll find myself chatting up strangers at the RedBox. I'll fake distress at the self scanner in the grocery so an associate will come help me. I'll hug random people. [Ok, I made those last two up. And the RedBox one--she started talking to me first.] I'm just saying, this lifestyle. It changes you. I just hope it's changing me into a better writer.

I want to work--I need to work. But this past month reminded me of how every other career I ever planned for myself was always to support me while I was writing, whether it was nursing, education, or publishing, it was always just a day job until I could be a full time writer. And I discarded each one of those, because I didn't really want to be a nurse or a teacher or a publisher. I wanted to write. And I love working in the film industry, it's tons of fun and I can't imagine what else I would do, but at the end of the day, if I had to choose, all I want to do is write.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Laps and Short Cuts.

Yesterday after school, a whole gaggle of elementary ed kids came over to the park next door to my apartment for soccer practice. Though somewhat noisy, I appreciate these kids a whole lot more than the teenagers who come loiter in our parking lot and who never say anything distinguishable but manage to shout at each other for forty-five minutes straight. Anyway. I was in the kitchen getting something to drink, and I glanced over at the park. I immediately felt a surge of sympathy because these super cute mini soccer players were in the middle of running laps [being a slow, asthmatic runner myself, I think those laps contributed to my eventual renouncing of involvement in all sports]. Except, as I watched, these kids started cutting corners. Really blatantly too. Running in front of the goal instead of behind, making the field an oval, all sorts of not so sneaky tricks.

This reminded me of my writing life and how I've stopped trying to get out of laps.

See, I hate prewriting. It feels very inorganic to me. And it's boring. And, it sounds like a waste of time. Isn't it fun when you dedicate a couple of hours to writing and all you end up with are pages like this--

I feel like I'm always prewriting or outlining or restructuring. Not writing. Even HW Guy once said, "Wow, it sounds like you prewrite a lot." I don't. I hate it. I think I just end up doing it more slowly than everyone else, so I'm doing the same [or less] amount of than everyone else but it just takes me longer.

Here's the thing, though, the truth that I'm trying to swallow--it works. When I wrote my first screenplay, I had a page long summary scrawled out on yellow legal pad paper and that was it. I flew through that first draft. And I still adore that story. You should never take your first screenwriting experience as the rule for the rest of your writing life. I think that very rarely will any other script flow with the intensity and ease and life that you're first screenplay does. The rest of the time, greater degrees of planning should be involved to help you get through a first draft, let alone make it something readable and enjoyable.

Now that I'm working on a new TV pilot [tentatively and terribly named
Places], structure is aggressively important, more so than in a feature. How many acts do you have? How much screen time does each story line get within an act? How are you going to structure the story so that each act ends on a climatic note? And then, you start getting nit-picky. What's the best way to introduce all the characters? Is this the best setting for this scene? Will this conflict play out too on the nose? What's the overarching theme and how does it play into each of the story lines?

It's not a lot of fun. When I heard Aaron Sorkin speak, this was the time he referred to as being full of pacing and wall climbing. But I'd rather struggle with questions here instead of in the draft. If I'm stuck on an outline, how much more lost would I be in the script? I feel like I saved myself a lot of work not only in the first draft but also in the rewriting stages. I worked structure, pacing, and plotting issues out in my outline instead of my script, draft 17. I even refined character relationships and nailed down something resembling a theme.

I still don't enjoy prewriting. I still try to move on as soon as possible. But I also try to pace myself. If an idea can't translate into an outline, how is it going to translate into a script? But a story ain't a screenplay until there are words on the page.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Write Well Everywhere You Go.

I had really productive plans for this morning. I was going to mount some shelves with E. my flatmate, do laundry, and make awesome delicious pancakes with butterscotch chips and walnuts and bananas! Well, now it's 1:00, and I'm just finishing my pancakes. I did do everything I wanted, I was just sidetracked by my computer going on strike. See, I hate deleting files off my computer. And, well, it's sort of cluttered in here. And I ran out of space. I couldn't even save files anymore. I have an external hard drive that has a complete back up copy of my computer. Still, I don't like deleting anything. But I spent some time combing through my folders, carefully deleting things I knew I'd never need again, just so I could have a little space to save the current draft of The Garden.

Scott Smith from Screenwriting from Iowa gave me a shout out on his blog, which was very nice. I like the screenwriting community outside of LA, and Scott is very encouraging to the writers who write outside of Hollywood. He referenced my "Spec Scripts and Powerball," giving his own input on the spec script market. I've been thinking more about this fairly well propagated theory that the spec market is dead, that hoping to sell a spec is a more vain wish than hoping to win the lottery. But really, I've decided, it's not analogous. Winning the lottery depends solely on luck, whereas there are numerous factors involved in selling a spec script, chiefly of those, how good your script is. It doesn't matter how brilliant your lottery ticket is--you have the same chance as anyone else of winning. But if you have a terrific script, your odds are terrifically better than everyone else's.

And so it all comes back to the same thing--write a great script.

I've been watching Detroit 187 while writing this post. And it's been hard to multitask. If you haven't seen this show, you need to start. Not only is it a great procedural, but the characters are wonderful. Here's the thing--The Event's been taking the criticism of being a weird hybrid of Lost and 24 and turning it into a promotional tactic. You think a show that's a cross between Lost and 24 would be great, right? I DVRed The Event. I meant to watch the second episode. But I haven't. Because quite frankly, there's not much character there. But on Detroit 187--a procedural show--there's a moment from last night's show with Fitch and Sanchez that'll make your heart bleed. That's good writing.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stunning Upset.

You know what baffles me? Why does microwave popcorn have two nutritional facts columns? One for popped and one for unpopped? Who eats popcorn unpopped?

You know what also baffles me? How a TV show is already in danger of being canceled, after just one week. If you'd like to see a critically acclaimed, under rated TV show by an award winning writer, if you'd like to help promote good scripted television drama over crappy reality TV concepts, tune into Fox tonight at 9 pm for Lone Star.

Spec Scripts and Powerball.

On Friday night, I did what all the cool real people do and went to a lecture at my alma mater. The speaker was Daniel Pipski, an alumnus who works in development and writes on the side. [His wife is also a writer, which all seems very Sylvia Plath to me. Except most writers are better adjusted than she ever was.] Pipski's most recent project was Ben Affleck's The Town, which was #1 at the box office its opening weekend and has been getting great reviews. So this guy is legit. Here is some advice he shared--

Ensemble pieces don't sell. I try to fight this one all the time. I like ensemble movies. But when the guy who buys screenplays and gets them made says he's not buying, you gotta listen.

Nobody reads query letters. I can't get any consensus on this. Richard Walter's book definitely recommends writing query letters. And it's not like he's disconnected from the business. The only way I've been able to reconcile this so far is that Pipski's a development guy and Walter was talking mostly about agents. Maybe agents are the only ones who still read query letters. But development guys do not.

Don't write TV specs, only pilots. Pipski said he's never seen House, but he's read so many specs that he thinks it's a pretty great show. People reading your TV script want to hear your voice and see that you have ideas. The idea of specs, to me, is at the same time brilliant and really really odd. It's great if the spec really reads like an episode of the show--I personally feel like that really demonstrates a writer's skill. But it's weird because you never show your spec to the show you wrote for. And does CSI really care if you can mimic a perfect Bones spec? Would they even be able to appreciate that aspect of it? What if they don't watch Bones? Pipski's basic point was that a writer's creativity and craft shine better through a pilot not a spec, and original material is what people are going to ask to read. I would say you should at least have one really brilliant spec in your arsenal. One, because I've heard enough people say you should have a spec. Two, for contests and fellowships that only allow specs.

Write a movie that people will see. Pipski is in the process of making a well-funded company successful. The man behind the money like art. Pipski likes a company that's not going to lose money. He's looking for scripts that'll make money at the box office, that he can sell overseas, that will be packed on a weekend night. He used to make art movies. He has a long list of award movies he helped make. But award movies lose money. Now he's interested in making movies that people go see. Which is completely legit. As writers, we can get a little caught up in the art of the story. Which is fine--if you're not interested in making money off your work. As soon as you print your script out, brad it up, and hand it over, it's not about art, it's about business. Pipski's wife once pitched him an idea she was working on. His response-- "It sounds great, honey, but do you want to write this script or one that will put our kids through college?"

The spec market is dead. If you follow Scott Meyer's blog, he announced three spec sales last week. Which could be considered an explosion in spec sales. The most recent spec sold is a script called "Family Getaway," and it's the 33rd spec sale this year. I don't even want to speculate about how many scripts flood Hollywood each year, but being one of the 33 that was purchased this year is probably akin to winning the Powerball.

At this point, I had to ask--if the spec market is dead and art movies are vanishing, how do you make a career as a writer?

Write one brilliant screenplay. It always comes back to this, which is at once the most inspiring and frustrating thing a person can say. All the odds, all the luck, the gate-keepers and nay-sayers, they don't mean anything when you have a terrific script. Hollywood wants great scripts. That's where their business starts. And Pipski talked about projects he loves that he's been champion for years. Writing a fantastic script will get you noticed and get you in. [Sadly, your script won't always get made, but that's another issue.] Which is all very empowering--Yeah, all I have to do is write a brilliant script! Not fifteen, not one in every genre, just one really awesome script! And then you take a step beyond that--Wait, how do I do that? What if I think it's brilliant but it's not? What if I don't think it's brilliant but it is but I keep it forever, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting? Once I've got a brilliant script, then how do I get it sold? I feel like there are steps missing between write a brilliant script and cash a check. But you don't even get started on that road unless you have one truly amazing mind-blowing script.

I love hearing professionals talk about the business and craft of movie making. You can read all the books you want, discuss your trial and errors with your peers, commiserate with other semi-working writers. But to hear from a Hollywood player who buys scripts--that's an insider scoop you don't normally get in the middle of the Midwest.

Also, J.K. Rowling's Epic Fail

Sunday, September 26, 2010

D is for Date Night. Disillusionment and Disaster.

The other day my dear friend K. informed me that she had started reading my blog. Another one of my lovable friends perked up, interested in suddenly getting a deep scoop on my life. I turned to K. and said, "It's mostly about writing and working in film. I don't really talk about my personal life, do I?" She said, "Well, you sorta do."

I haven't in a while, so I thought I'd expound on my personal life unnecessarily.

Man, this was not a kind weekend for your poor fearless single girl from the wrong part of town [I don't really live in the wrong part of town. That just seemed like the best way to end the sentence. I kept trying to think of a better ending, and this is what I kept coming up with]. To be honest, I'm always AMAZED at how many people are in relationships. The odds of getting two people to like each other enough to out-of-hand sight-unseen rule out being with anyone else is mind boggling enough -- but you also have to get them to that point at the same time.

For the first time, I've started thinking about being a little more intentional in my dating life. For the past several years, I've been way more
laissez-faire about it. Whatever happens happens. It worked pretty well. But I'm definitely thinking about changing my approach. Maybe it's the fact that my 25th birthday is approaching, and I'm way weirded out by that. In my personal life plan, the "get settled down" part should happen in the next five years. If I look back on the last five years of my life, that suddenly doesn't seem like a lot of time. [On the flip side of this, sometimes I worry about the way some people seem to decide to marry a person just because they've gotten to that point in their life time line when they think they want to be married. Just because you're with someone and you're thinking "Man, I'm getting old. Maybe I should get married" doesn't mean that you should. I'm not crazy like that].

In my new, more thoughtful approach to dating, I've come up with three obstacles that need to be overcome--

1. Meeting new people. This is way harder than it sounds. Especially after you're out of school in "the real world." I was talking with a friend from the film I shot in July about his friendship with another girl from the set. He said, "Look, I just like to keep things professional." [Also, we were no longer working on that set, obviously. Months afterward.] I told him, in all my world weary wisdom, that now we're real people working real jobs, work is where we're going to meet people, so you can't rule out someone just on the basis that you worked with them once or might again. He said, "That sounds like something Hollywood Guy told you." He did not. But he agrees with me.

2. These people not being weird. Or, not even not weird. Just meeting someone and thinking you could spend lots of fun time with them. I gauge my interest in a guy by the end of the first date--what did I want as I was walking away? Did I secretly want to spend more time with him or did I want to go do something else? Back when I was in Jersey I went on this one date, and as I left the restaurant I called Firefighter Friend to see if he could hang out that night. Seemed pretty clear that I was not interested in a second date. But, I never heard from the guy I went out with, which leads me to...

3. Having equivalent feelings for each other at the same time. Timing's like the wicked step-mother of relationships. That's all.

To me, these are the three major hurdles to a relationship. And this weekend, I attempted to jump over each of them and instead ran straight into every single one. I wasn't at all upset. Dating is all about taking risks. And luckily your investment level in a person is pretty low until you run into obstacle #3. And honestly, for the most part I like being single. I know that some day I want to settle down, but for now it's a good thing. I do what I want. I go out with who I want, I don't have to deal with any awful nit-picky fights because both of us were grumpy at the same time, I don't have to try to make my life plan match someone else's. The other day I asked my friend if she wanted to do something later that night. She said, "Sounds good, but let me just check with my boyfriend." It seems like such a strange concept to me now, checking in with someone else before you make plans for yourself--even just for the night. But being single takes stamina, and all you couple-y people should appreciate the leisure track that you're on.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday night.

Here we go. The star night of premiere week. Here's what I have to say. Plots discussed in detail, so if you're like my darling best friend D. who is using 30 Rock quotes to threaten my life if I spoil the episode for her, come back when you've caught up.


Community did a little Twitter promotion right before the premiere. It was clever and led perfectly into the first second of the show. Whether it actually attracted new viewers or reminded people who forgot about the premiere, I find doubtful. If you were aware enough to pick up on the promotion, you definitely were aware enough to know there was a premiere later that night.

Community is hilarious. It wasn't the best episode of Community ever, but I love how self-reflective it is. How many times did Abed talk about how he wished the year was starting off with a bang, like a paintball war. Which is one of the most popular episodes of Community from season one.

At first I didn't like how the group was fighting for most of the episodes -- but if you're going to do an episode like that, it's best to do it once and get it out of the way. Glee is an example of how that's a tired threat. When every other week the group is threatened with disbandment, it becomes boring. And the exchange between Starburns and Jeff near the end of the episode, which motivates Jeff to reconcile, reinforces how the study group has gone beyond a group of strangers to a family. Jeff isn't in the group in order to get Britta -- or any girl -- anymore. He's in it because he really cares about these people. It was sweet.

I don't know how I feel about Senor Cheng in the study group. His character is so much more interesting when he has power over the study group. Not when he's pandering to get in it. Then he's just pathetic. I did like his Gollum-esque split personality monologue though -- maybe it means that his plan to get into the study group is all just a rouse to take it down from within. THAT would be interesting.


Excellent permiere. I loved the twist on the usual case format, how they ended up having the remains of one child but not one that fit the missing persons report and yet they managed to solve both crimes. That's cause they're amazing.

But let's be honest -- we don't watch Bones for the murder cases. Angela and Hodgins--we knew that was coming. And that, I think, is an excellent plotline for them to follow this year. Can you imagine Angela, free spiritied cool girl Angela, dealing with pregnancy and impending motherhood? It's going to be excellent.

I'm glad Wendell is back, but I have to wonder about the other interns. Will Daisy come back to work from time to time? Will we get new interns? Or is boyishly handsome Wendell going to replace boyishly awkward Zack? [Wendell is *not* the squintern that I have in my spec. Which is partially why I hope some of the others are coming back.]

Booth and Brennan. Unlike many Bones fans, I am excited about adding Booth's new love interest Hannah to the mix. Someone said it, and rightly so I think, that it's now Brennan's turn to pine over Booth. I think that the writers manage to create some excellent moments out of Brennan and Booth's suppressed feelings and that Hannah will allow even more opportunities for those. Also, I am delighted that Brennan seems to have regressed in her social skills since leaving DC. Her awkwardness in the early seasons was hilarious, but as she spent more time with Booth she definitely normalized to some extent. I'm glad to see more of her socially unaware tendencies resurfancing in this episode. Because that's who she is.

I'm just glad it looks like Sweets is going to cut his hair and get rid of the scruff. Maybe we'll let him keep the hat.

30 ROCK--

Potentially the best premiere of the week. But I'm not going to give my votes out yet. One thing I love about 30 Rock is how the writers manage to get so much mileage out of each plotline. With the Jenna/Pete story, for example, at first Pete was disappointed Jenna was a producer. Then he was delighted because she could do all the heartless things he couldn't. Then he was scared that she was going to have him fired because they had one extraneous producer. Then she surprised them all by abdicating for the greater good. Or Jack and Avery's power struggle. The one-up-manship, the attacks and retreats, and the eventual reveal of the master plan. Superb writing like this keeps the story going at a pace that engages and retains the viewer.

Oh Carol and Liz. I hope you get married.

30 Rock also does an excellent job of carrying its jokes from episode to episode. Pete's strained relationship with his children pops up subtly every couple episodes. As does Liz's fear of dying alone in her apartment.

But where is Kenneth? I forgot he was fired! He had better come back from CBS ASAP. Because he is the funniest character on this show.


I hope one day to have a marriage as perfect as Jenny and Kevin's.


Well, awkward Micheal Scott is definitely back. Sometimes watching The Office makes me feel weird. Like I'm really not sure if I can laugh--if I want to laugh--at it because it's just so awkward. Awkard has ALWAYS been The Office's MO.

Excellent opening. Everyone was so--them.

I thought Andy and Erin got back together at the end of last season. But clearly I was wrong. This has potential.

Pam and Jim, was that a real fight? Because, it's sweet that Pam can tell when Jim's mad by his subtle cues, but guess what, none of the rest of us could.

I like The Office. But this is Steve Carell's last season. It will most likely be my last season too.

I like Kelly's pink power suit.


I don't understand, guys. I DVR'ed it and watched it. It was funny. But I just don't find it as engaging as Community, and the writing is definitely not as sophisiticated as 30 Rock. It's funny but why is it winning?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Countdown and Celebration.

Ok, I know I've been talking television all week, and we're about to start the most anticipated night of premieres yet [good thoughts tonight to the inventors of the DVR. Do you remember taping shows on VHS? I DO!]. But I think it's fitting, since it's all about television this week, to tell y'all that I've finally got a piece showcase ready. My hour long TV pilot will be going out to dedicated readers as of tonight. This is the first time that I've shown a piece that I am not workshopping. This is the first piece that I've felt is solid enough for some serious feedback. It'll probably get ripped to shreds, but I am ok with that.

So I can, with pride, reassure my devoted parents that I really AM--not just saying that I am--getting writing done while I'm not working. I know you believe me anyway. But now I've got the pages to prove it.

Wednesday Night.

I love premiere week. It's like your first week of college classes, when you're deciding if you liked the classes you registered for or if you want to switch over to SciFi and Horror Film or Frauds and Myths in Archeology [that was an actual class I took. They taught us all the un-true things in archeology. Kinda a different approach]. Thursday night is like your star class, your most anticipated, the one you're most excited about.

But first let's talk about Wednesday [again, spoilers included].


The best part of this show is the acting, Gugu Mbatha-Raw especially. I struggled with the tone. It didn't quite have the charming cheese of Chuck or the grittiness of Alias, leaving it somewhere in the middle. And in the middle is not always a place you want to be because it often reads boring. I also didn't feel like the Blooms recruitment was justified strongly enough. There was a throw away scene with Carlton Shaw where he says that the Blooms don't suspect the real nature of their reinstatement. Unfortunately, neither does the audience. And why did they take the offer? Where they just bored in their marriage and their normal lives? Because I hate when TV shows and movies do that. Like marriages without spy missions and life endangerment are lacking something. That excitement validates a relationship. I can see how the Blooms, in their earlier lives, had qualities that attracted them to each other that probably faded over time as they switched career paths into catering. I can see how they might miss each other's bravery and ingenuity and daring. But I still find it irritating when, especially after just five years, a couple rejoins the CIA just because they need a little shake up in their married lives.

Undercovers gets a week two from me, but I'm worried that it'll be one of those shows that I don't find compelling enough that I make a point of watching and that it will eventually just slip off my radar. Especially with the explosion of spy and CIA pilots that have recently been purchased and ordered by various networks.


This was not premiere week for this Top Chef spin-off. It's first episode aired last week, and I jumped on this bandwagon faster than a kid grabbing for mellocreme pumpkins at Halloween. I love baking shows. And there is SO MUCH DRAMA. Oh man, there was more interpersonal conflict in last night's episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts than maybe any other hour of television I've watched this week. It was INSANE. It's wonderful, it's like you get a world class baking competition and an episode of the Real Housewives of Hell's Kitchen all in one.

Seth went freakin CRAZY.

And the wrong person got sent home. But you can't send the person who had TWO emotional meltdowns in one week home. That just looks cruel.

Even if it's fair.


Modern Family. Are you funny? Yes. Did you manage to beautifully and poignantly work in themes of family and identity into each storyline? Yes. Did you win an Emmy for Best Comedy? Yes.

Mmm, are you REALLY the best comedy?

Modern family is hilarious. And I will most definitely continue to watch it. But NBC Thursday night is where the award-winning comedy is for me.


It has been so long since I've watched a traditional three-camera laugh-track sitcom. It feels old. I know there are shows that still use it, right? How I Met Your Mother? The Big Bang Theory? Two and a Half Men? I think...

Better With You felt like a cross over between What I Like About You and Modern Family. It was funny, but the acting felt awkward and forced at times. And the humor definitely came from jokes and one liners, not from characters and scenarios. The characters and situations drove the plot, but it was what the characters SAID that created the humor. Look, I'm not saying one kind of comedy is better than the other. I'm just saying that if I gave you a logline of Better With You it wouldn't read inherently comedic whereas if I gave you a logline for a 30 Rock episode, the comedy stands out immediately. The humor of Better With You was definitely more organic and character driven than Running Wilde, but I'm not sure this is a enough of a stand out show in a season when we have so many wonderful comedies.

I am just so excited about Thursday night television. I am going to catch Bones, Community, 30 Rock, The Office, and The League, while also at some point relinquishing the remote to E. the Flatmate for Grey's Anatomy. Might DVR a few other shows, The Big Bang Theory, Outsourced, and %*&^ My Dad Says. It's William Shatner, guys.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday Night.

First of all, before we get any further, let me just say that if you have an opportunity to go see CATFISH in theatres, you need to. It's an exceptional movie. And it's a Cinderella story for the indie filmmakers. But really, it's wonderful. It deserves to be a hit.

Ok, let's talk Tuesday television --

[So, if you haven't watched all your shows from last night yet, you'll probably not want to read my following reviews because I talk about plot and characters and all that.]


Glee. Glee, Glee, Glee. You delightfully surprised me. If you have been on the fence about this show, which I have for most of its run, you will find the premiere to be surprisingly fresh. Of course, there is the tired plot line of -- Glee is in danger of not having enough members! -- but for once I feel like the stakes are real. The writers are introducing problems that don't get solved before the end of the show. Glee is still one member short. [Which is too bad, because I was really hoping Sunshine would stay around. She has got a killer voice.] Power dynamics are shifting. Finn is off the football team with little hope of being reinstated. Quinn is back to her life as a head Cheerio. And Artie and Tina -- aww, so sad! Finally I feel like both Glee Club and the kids in it are risking and losing and NOT getting everything resolved neatly in the last act. A show where the stakes feel fake is a show with no real drama. And for once -- there was no love interest for Mr. Shu.

I do wish the songs were a little more integrated into the plot, but at least I didn't throw anything at the TV when they did "Billionaire" [cannot stand that song anymore]. And let's be honest -- IS there a more unlikeable character than Rachel?


Will Arnett. David Cross. Keri Russell. Cute little girl with interesting facial expressions. Oh how I want to like you. But at the end of the pilot, my flatmate and I looked at each other. "Eh" was the consensus.

What was it that failed to resonate? I think part of it was, sadly, it just didn't seem that funny. There were funny moments, but it felt like comedy I would write. Forced. Humor seemed not to stem from characters but rather from weird scenarios the writers could throw in. I'm not saying there weren't funny parts. But in Running Wilde humor comes from Will Arnett investing in a tiny pony and giving himself a humanitarian award where as in an excellent show like Arrested Development, humor comes from the things the characters say and do that come from just being who they are.

Running Wilde, I'm sorry that you'll be uselessly and detrimentally compared to Arrested Development for most of your run. That's the blessing and curse of hiring Will Arnett.

Worth a second shot, if only because I desperately want to like it.

DETROIT 1-8-7:

I have ulterior motives for wanting this show to do well, it's true. And I have to admit that I was a little distracted when I was watching it [it's a cop show. Procedurals give you an excuse to multitask]. But they have definitely reeled me in for a second episode next week.

First of all, who doesn't like a good who-done-it? And like I said yesterday, L&O has left a hole. Detroit 187's pilot followed Detective Washington on his first day as a homicide detective, an excellent entrance into the homicide world. And I think they did a great job keeping true to their cop format but drawing in little things about the characters, their work lives and their home lives. You can tell they've put a lot of thought into developing their characters and their relationships. Washington and Fitch have a great awkward relationship going as the green detective and the stern veteran. And you just have to feel for Fitch's crush on Sanchez. Especially now that she's got Mr. February John Stone riding with her.

But the thing that really brought me in was the last 30 seconds. These writers showed that they aren't afraid to take risks and raise the stakes and leave us in a cliff hanger. Way to go, procedurals!


I forgot to DVR this and it's not on Hulu yet [EDIT: Because it premieres NEXT week], so instead I'll offer you...


Lonestar was the scaping goat of Monday night. I myself opted not to DVR it though I was mildly interested [I don't know why. Was I afraid we were going to run out of room on our DVR?]. I wish I had because, though the ratings were bad and the trades were calling it DOA, the people who saw it had only excellent things to say about it. So I watched it on Hulu instead of my excellent television to see how I swung in the controversy around it.

Lonestar deserves a shot, people.

This was an hour of good television. You have a likeable character [in MY opinion, though people will disagree with me] caught in a terrible situation that is mostly the fault of the emotional manipulating of his father where he is really trying to do the best he can and follow his heart. This kid is morally CONFUSED yes, but you can still see him trying to do the right thing, which doesn't make him completely reprehensible.

At first I was annoyed that his dad let him out of the con that easily. And then confused and disappointed by the last minute where he takes his girlfriend to Vegas to marry her. Then I realized why I had a problem -- I wanted to story where a reforming con man must struggle with his oppressive, manipulative, and blackmailing father to establish himself as a legitimate businessman with a sacred marriage.

This is not the story the writers are telling.

Instead, they're telling a story about a morally confused man who's trying to do the right thing by one part of his life while following his heart at the other end, reimplicating himself in the con. So now the con isn't externally forced upon him by his dead. He's WILLINGLY returning to his double life and moral ambiguity, all the time thinking that he's going to be able to do right by everyone. And honestly, that's way more interesting than the story I thought I wanted them to tell.

The sad thing is, you hardly ever increase your ratings. If a show has poor ratings in the beginning, the predictable thing is that it will continue to decline. The bad press hasn't helped either -- can you imagine how nervous the people who greenlit the show are with all the devastating headlines? No matter how engaging Lonestar turns out to be, I think it's been bludgeoned beyond resuscitation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Change of season.

Let's talk about TELEVISION!

I'm more excited about the new season this fall than I usually am. Maybe it's because I've been learning more about television writing and have been doing a better job of virtually stalking showrunners. That's what my secret Twitter account is for.

Most shows are premiering this week. Here are some that I'm excited for this season--


8:00PM Boardwalk Empire - Unfortunately, I don't get HBO, so I have to be excited but frustrated about this one. Who has HBO that wants to invite me over to watch this? Do you also have Showtime?

8:00PM Chuck
- Maybe. I DVRed it. I've heard good things about it, but we're already several seasons in. Do I have the stamina to go back and watch all those old episodes? To me I think it's only worth it if I can get a spec out of it.

9:00PM The Event - I want to want to want to want to like this. It feels a lot like Flashforward though, which didn't quite make it. I think it, like Flashforward, lacked some of the character development that made Lost stand out. I will continue to give it chances, but if it doesn't pick up more, I'm probably not going to stick through the season.

10:00PM Castle - I've never watched Castle before, but this is only its third season so I can jump in pretty easily. I enjoyed last night's premiere, and it has become obvious to me that if I want to get anywhere near the Bones' writers room [which, it's probably too late in the series for that] I need to write a Castle script. Staff writers can't read specs of their own show for legal reasons, so you have to find shows that are in similar veins to spec.

8:00PM Glee - I just don't know about Glee. My flatmate is crazy about it, and I think it's funny enough, but I just saw on IMDB that Gwyneth Paltrow is negotiating for a guest role as a substitute teacher and - wait for it - a love interest for Mr. Shu. Seriously, this guy has more love interests than Hugh Hefner. It's a tired plot line, and it just doesn't make him look good -- move on!

8:00PM The Good Wife - Amanda the Aspiring Writer said this is a good show to spec this year. I'm going to check it out, see if I like it enough to spec, and then go from there. It's nice to have a show so focused on a woman trying to figure out her career and familial identity. I know little about it, but I'm hoping it's good.

10:00PM Detroit 1-8-7 - The only straight up cop procedural that I will be watching. There is an overabundance this year of police and medical procedurals, and I am beyond sick of it. I almost made a list of all of them, but then I decided not to waste my life. But I am excited about Detroit 187. I think it fills a niche the original Law & Order is leaving, while bringing something different to the table. And it's shot here in Detroit, so I am really rooting for it to succeed. Also I want to work on it, so it needs to keep going.


8:0oPM Undercovers - I loved Alias. And I love JJ Abrams. I love pretending that I can still be a spy with a quick career change. So I will be pulling for this show with tooth and nail. Here's the thing - I compare all spy shows to Alias, and it had one kick-a pilot. So if Undercovers supplies anything less than superb fare, I'm afraid I'll be disappointed from the outset.

10:00PM Top Chef: Just Desserts - It's Top Chef. But just about desserts. Duh.

[Oh Thursdays. Why oh why can't we all just agree to spread out Thursday's schedule a little? It would be oh so nice.]

8:00PM BONES - I love Bones. It's so great. And I'm actually excited about the regression in Brennan and Booth's relationship. I always liked it best when she was awkward and their love was communicated so subtly because they couldn't express themselves. I have good feelings for this season. My one concern is that it's gotten a little silly and gimmicky recently. For instance, I heard they're diving into the Jersey guido subculture this season. Hm. Still my favourite show, and my flatmate consented to watch all the seasons with me from the beginning because she's never seen it.

8:00PM Community - One of the best written half hours of comedy on television today. If you don't already watch Community, you need to have started yesterday. Also excited about the switch up from Spanish class to Anthropology class with Professor Betty White!

8:30PM 30 Rock - Last season Liz Lemon met a dreamboat pilot...
"What are you, a doorman?"
"Yes, I'm a doorman -- to the SKY."
Played by Matt Damon. I would like to see more of these two together. Especially since I'm pretty sure I am Liz Lemon.

9:00PM The Office - This is Steve Carell's last season. Guys, I love The Office, but they should have known to end it with Pam and Jim's wedding. Let's hope that they take the hint when Micheal Scott leaves Dunder Mifflin.

10:30PM The League - This show is funny. Also, I'm taking notes from Jenny about how to be a cool wife. Thanks, show, for depicting a cool wife instead of a nagging self absorbed train wreck of a woman.

I'm sure there are a couple more shows that I think I'm forgetting, but this is enough to start off with, right? To me, this is a daunting amount of television, ridiculous really, and I'm secretly hoping I don't like most of the new shows so I can cut them out. Thursdays are pretty wiped out, though.

But the more I've been thinking about my eventual move to LA, the more I've been imaging a life in television writing. And while I hear various advice on whether you should focus on pilots or specs, I basically want to have as many scripts as I can when I move out there. I want to have a freakin arsenal of brad-bound paperweights.

I want to win an Emmy.

And that's how I justify it.