Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Strike it up

I've had a lot on my mind these days, been thinking about the strike down in the States and what it means for me as someone trying to get into the business. The more I learn about what it's like to be a professional TV/Film writer - how writers are often treated in the industry - the more I wonder why that is. I mean I've heard horror stories but beyond that, talking to other writers, listening to them talk to one another... it's less 'scary' and treads more into the territory of 'infuriating'. Truly, to be a writer, you must have Gonads (literal or figurative) made of a brass-like substance.

What's getting to me is how I'm reading about the strike, how the Corporations behind it are so cavalier in insisting that we should be gelded and branded for their personal stables. It sounds to me like they're saying "You shut up and make us money, or else".

That just sticks in my craw.

I've come into writing at a later stage of my life - done few things before I figured out what I really wanted to do with my time on this Earth - and I've learned that everyone deserves respect until they prove to you that they don't. The AMPTP, from what I've read - their press releases, their general attitude - has been a consistent slap in the face for no other reason than to keep what's not rightfully theirs. Even worse, it would appear to me that they're intentionally dragging out the strike, trying to make it hurt wherever they can.

But hey, that's just what I see.

I was banging around today on the computer, taking a break from the script (which is coming along, thankfully) when I came up with something that explains what I - and I think alot of people - are feeling right now. Maybe it's not my place to say so but in a real sense they're fighting for my future too so I'm going to chance it.

This is sung to the tune of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab"

SCABS

They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no
Can’t cutt’em no slack, can’t wait to come back but No, No, No
They can waste their time, we want less than a dime,
They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no

We’d rather work, be getting paid
Eight cents will show the way
Cause it’s stupid,
Stupid that you can’t see it
And you stand there saying “No, I won’t pay!”

We don’t wanna bust your ass
Just give what’s ours and show some class

They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no
Can’t cutt’em no slack, can’t wait to come back but No, No, No
They can waste their time, we want less than a dime,
They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no

Big Wigs just want to walk again
We say, you just go ahead
You’re gonna, You’re gonna ruin it all
Work with us guys, why not use your brain?
See folks, the Emperor’s not dressed,
No joke, we’re still not impressed

They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no
Can’t cutt’em no slack, can’t wait to come back but No, No, No

Guys, let’s try not to fight today
We just ooh we just want fair pay
Gonna keep picketing the street
Until those Producers make our day

Don’t think we haven’t tried
It’s just that we won’t be denied

They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no
Can’t cutt’em no slack, can’t wait to come back but No, No, No
They can waste their time, we want less than a dime,
They try and make us go and be Scabs, we say no, no, no

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, December 17, 2007

Beat Sheet Boogaloo

So, I've been off doing that whole pre-Christmas-party-and/or-preparation thing which has led me down the path of writing very late at night or early in the morning. It would seem that my body is getting quite finicky these days and I'm finding that my internal clock is doing its best impersonation of my mom's VCR.

I've been trying to break into some sort of pattern that will allow me to work out this beast of a challenge but my body seems to be fighting me tooth and nail. Probably doesn't help that I've got a million and one things on my mind either.

On the bright side I've got some decent progress on my beat sheet and I've decided to post the Teaser and the 1st Act while I work the second and third - I'm not really sure how long a Beat Sheet is supposed to be so I made it as long as I felt it needed to be - hopefully that's cool and I'm not breaking some secret writer template.

I've been busting my synapses trying to think of cool things so hopefully you'll all be able to follow it and see where I'm going.

Cheers!
Brandon

Beat Sheet - Battlestar Galactica - "Reign"

Teaser

Cylons invade New Caprica, Galactica and Fleet jump away.

Follow Galactica and Fleet

They all jump into frame.

INT. CIC – GALACTICA

Adama is there, skeleton crew in shock.

Adama orders update on fleet.

Introduce a shell-shocked Mr. Loomis – Civillian trainee/replacement for Mr. Gaeta – rest of crew isn’t much better. Many new faces.

Reveal that Galactica’s been trying to replenish ranks from Civilian volunteers

A Ship Captain calls in to talk to Adama, he’s in a panic.

Adama tries to calm him with little success.

Call ends. Mr. Loomis looks down at his screen, eyes wide, holding his earpiece.

“Um, Sir, we’ve got more incoming calls… sir”
“From who?”
“All of them”

END TEASER

ACT 1

INT. LEE’S ROOM – PEGASUS

Lee is drinking, flashback to sexy night with Starbuck

Dualla Enters

Dualla comforts Lee, offers advice, says Lee is working his team too hard, can’t take his stress out on others.

“Let us help.”

Lee is not responsive, continues his drink.

Dualla Leaves, unhappy.

Dualla walks through the halls of Pegasus, we see that Pegasus is becoming a Dump.

INT. ADAMA’S ROOM - GALACTICA

Adama’s reading reports, looks exhausted.

He starts dozing.

Snaps himself to attention

Wipes his eyes

Shakes it off

Adama re-focuses, goes back to reading.

HILLTOP – NEW CAPRICA - NIGHT

Adama and Roslin lie on hilltop, watching fireworks.

They laugh, talk to each other.

A mysterious red flash in the darkness.

A moment comes, he pauses, unsure.

She smiles warmly.

They lean in to kiss.

Rosilyn pulls back, eyes wide.

“You left me to DIE!”

He rolls away, afraid.

Cylon Centurions storm them.

They tear Adama away from Rosilyn.

Cylons shoot Rosilyn in the head.

INT. ADAMA’S ROOM - GALACTICA

Adama snaps awake.

Adama washes his face, looks in mirror.

In mirror we see brief flash of his wife.

She says one word:

“Coward”.

He grunts, looks away, dries face.

Phone rings.

It’s Helo, says people are gathered.

Adama leaves, walks through empty halls.

Adama hears/sees ghosts of his crew echoing around him.

Introduce Captain Figgis, Retired – dutifully cleaning the ship.

PEGASUS –INT – CIC

Lee is working his pilots hard.

Frustrated, he shouts at his pilots as they screw up again.

They’re tired.

Dualla asks why he isn’t over with his Father.

Lee responds that this is more important.

He slams his fist down as the run fails again.

CIC silences.

INT. PRESS ROOM - GALACTICA

Adama holds press conference, press and Civilians are gathered.

Begins press conference – notable: few people in uniform attending.

Wife is in crowd.

She walks right in front of him as he speaks.

“Running. Always Running. That’s what you do. That’s who you are. Ran from your family, ran from your marriage. Now you run from your enemy.”

Adama keeps talking, uninterrupted, somehow able to make the disconnect.

“They killed your world, your people and you Ran. They found you again and guess what you did? Big shock, you ran!”

This gets to Adama.

He pauses, mid-sentence.

The crowd looks on, unsure.

Adama continues.

Says a plan is being formed, will rescue them – all of them.

Cuts meeting short.

A small faction stands up, decries this.

They say the others are dead, should leave them behind, continue to Earth.

They make a huge scene and are forcibly removed.

There are very few guards and it’s an actual struggle to get them out.

Rest of the crowd is shaken.

We see one man – MR. KARNS

He nods to another man who nods to a woman and so on.

We see a conspiracy afoot.

Mr. Karns walks toward the door, his shirt flaps away and we see a flashing bomb strapped to his chest.

One of the nodding men points at Mr. Karns and yells “BOMB”

Mr. Karns fumbles for the detonator but is subdued.

He grimaces as he’s held to the ground.

Those in the know smile as Adama follows the Guards and Mr. Karns out of the room.

“Mission Accomplished.”

END ACT 1

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And the Winner is...

... not Journeyman, apparently. I've been told that, so far, it hasn't been picked up again and that with the strike going on its future looks dim. I'm kinda sad about that because though the show wasn't the absolute best on TV I couldn't help but be drawn into the story of Dan Vasser and his family.

One of the things I'd grown to admire about the show - outside of Jack, his well-meaning but clueless older brother - was the way the characters reacted to and dealt with problems. See, Dan's a Reporter; A regular, flawed guy living his life the way most of us do: day to day, just trying to keep it together. The show establishes early on that things were tough for him before he was being thrown through time, forced to figure out what the hell's going on.

For me, as much as the show was a nod to Quantum Leap ('putting things right that once went wrong'), the most compelling parts were Dan and (his wife) Katie's struggle to keep their life and family together. I loved that no matter how these problems played out, these were Adults forced to make Adult decisions with neither side offering a clear delineation between 'Good' and 'Bad'. Dan was often made to go with his gut knowing that his gut had a history of leading him down some very dark roads in the past. That made for some great TV, folks.

It seemed to me that the show worked best when it was about what happens to a guy and his family when he uncontrollably starts travelling through time; when it was about their struggle to be 'normal' knowing that at any minute he could disappear without a trace. How do you raise a kid and have a job and hold an increasingly troubled marriage together like that?

But they played it true, every time. The writers made damn sure that every action had its repercussions - each one stemming from a choice that Dan made somewhere down the line in that or other past episodes. And it was watching him make those choices, choices that he believed were right even when everyone else said otherwise, that kept me tuning in.

Anyways, from what I hear, the axe hasn't fallen just yet but I'll hold out hope that this show will get a second season - there's tons left to be explained and I really want to see where it all ends up.

In other news, I've decided what I'm going write for my spec script! I've had an idea buzzing around in my head for a while now, a story I'd been considering ever since I saw the end of season 3. It's a Battlestar Galactica story set in the time period between Season 2 and 3 when the Cylons storm New Caprica and force Galactica, Pegasus and the rest of the fleet to jump away.

Here's what I have so far:

Battlestar Galactica - "Reign"

Picking up where the climactic Season 2 finale left off, Galactica and the fleet complete their jump away from the invading Cylon force. Now, millions of kilometers from New Caprica and with no communication from the planet, the survivors find themselves facing the harsh probability that they are all that's left of the Human race. With morale at an all-time low and Galactica poorly defended, a well-organized faction of civilians rises up to demand that the fleet continue it's journey to Earth, leaving the others to their fate. As tensions mount and the civilians make a play for control of Galactica itself, a haunted Adama must defend his ship and hold the fleet together long enough to attempt a rescue mission that could mean the death of them all.

So... that's what I've got for now. I've been working on my (first ever) beat sheet and have the whole 1st act planned out so far. Just starting the 2nd now. I'll post it once I get it to a more stable place but for now I'm pretty excited to see how it all plays out!

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stepping Up.

There's a lot about this business that I don't know, that I'm not going to learn, unless I get knee-deep in it - or go back to school.

I've been agonizing over the idea for a while now: Is this something I need? Is it something I can afford? Truthfully, the answers are Yes and No, respectively. I need to learn about this business, I need to learn how to give what I Love a solid backbone, how to make it a job that I can actually expect to get paid for. Can I afford to? Well, let's not ask that question.

It was the CFC's Prime Time Program that caught my eye. I've heard that it was the Best, I've heard it was very competitive but man, I wasn't quite aware that they only took 8 people in all of Canada. 20 weeks of full-time, neck-deep-in-the-thick-of-it kind of work? That's HARD CORE. It would mean that I'd have to take a six-month sabbatical from work (assuming they'd allow it) and kiss my social life goodbye.

Would it be worth it? Hell. Yes.

So, I've decided that I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and try my best - learn what I need to do to get to the level where I can apply and not embarrass myself.

Talk about having to step up your game.

I've been reading through the package and apparently I have until January 28th to apply for the next round. That's not a hell of a lot of time but I've decided I'm going to shoot for it anyways because 1) it's going to give me a solid Goal to work towards and 2) even if I don't get in, well, I'm sure I'll be a damn-sight better off than when I started this (can't hurt, right?).

So. January 28th, 2008. That leaves me with... 48 Days if I count weekends and holidays. Realistically, I've got 40 days (chances are I won't be getting much work done while I'm at home with the 'rents) to get this all together. Ouch.

Okay, so...

My Goal: To get into the CFC Prime Time Television Program by completing the application requirements for the January 28th, 2008 deadline.

Checklist (Provided by CFC):
- Application Form
- Checklist of Required Materials
- Proof of Citizenship
- Letter of Intent
- Curriculum Vitae
- Letters of Reference
- Top 10 TV List
- Spec Script for existing TV Series
- One paragraph synopsis of your spec script and one paragraph synopsis of secondary spec script for an existing series which will be developed during the course of the program.
- Writing Sample: original Dramatic Screenplay (Short film, MOW, feature, one hour or half hour.)
- One Paragraph synopsis of writing sample.
- One Paragraph synopsis of two original television series ideas, which will be developed during the course of the program.

As of right now I have:
- Application Form
- Checklist of Required Materials
- Proof of Citizenship
- Writing Sample (my pilot script)
- One paragraph synopsis of writing sample.

My Biggest Obstacle: I've never written a spec script before.

Letters of intent, CV's, all of that stuff - I can do that, I've DONE that (not very often or recently, mind you) but I've never written a spec script for an existing TV show before. Everything I've written has been for me, my own stories, my own set up. I've never had to write other people's characters before or follow their structure - kind of a must if you want to work in TV.

So here comes the first real step to this challenge. If I can get past this, the rest - well, it won't be easy but it'll be easier. I gotta write me a spec script. My FIRST-EVER spec script.

Double Ouch.

It's going to be one hell of a process. First of all, I have to pick a show that I know well enough to even attempt to write a script for it. Off the top of my head these are shows that I'm currently watching where I could see myself writing a decent spec:

Heroes
Doctor Who
Journeyman
Battlestar Galactica
Farscape (re-runs)

Whoa. Talk about a one-sided list! Yes, that's pretty much all I've been watching as of late. I've got a bit of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy bent to my viewing habits these days, not sure why. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't been watching much in the way of Can Con these days.

Anyway, it is what it is at this point. If anyone wants to take some time to plug some cool Canadian shows that I'm completely missing out on, please, feel free.

I'm going to sleep on it for now, think about these shows and see if any cool story ideas come to me.

Yes, I realize that I've just bitten off more than a mouthful here, that I'm walking myself into a world of hurt. But, you know, like my grandpa always says: "That's how you learn".

Back tomorrow with more (and hopefully a decent story idea).

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, December 07, 2007

This just in: Universe takes pity on young writer


Well, It looks like the universe works in mysterious ways... about an hour and change after my last post I recieved this from Ms. Meek:

Hey Brandon,

Thanks for submitting your proposal for Savage Knights. It’s an interesting world you’ve created but does feel a bit more in Space territory than for a broad conventional audience. I have passed on your submission to the new head of development at Space – Fraser Robinson. Feel free to follow up with him.

Take care,
Kathleen

Sooo... Not General Audience material - I guess that makes sense. But Space. Space could be a good fit. Guess we'll have to see what comes of it.

Please excuse me while I breathe a short sigh of relief.

My gawd, I'm glad all's well that ends well and all... but damn if I wasn't getting close to starching my shorts.

Cheers,
Brandon

Still no word...

The waiting game is probably the hardest one to play, especially when you've got a large stake in it.

It's now been about a month and a half since I submitted my show bible for Savage Knights to Ms. Meek and the CTV Writer Only Drama Development program. Alas, there is still no word back. I'm not really sure how long the process is supposed to take but being as I was told to expect word by the end of November I can't help but wonder what's up. I sent off a quick email yesterday asking for any sort of news and have yet to recieve a response (to that or another email I sent a week or so ago). It's a weird thing when you go from having somewhat regular, timely responses (before I sent off my package) to what seems like radio silence afterwards. It's times like this where my imagination kicks in and that might not be a good thing - I'm very imaginative, in this case, perhaps to my detriment.

Being new to this whole thing I don't have the ability to compare it to what would 'normally' happen, I don't know HOW these things are supposed to play out. All I can do is cross my fingers and hope for the best knowing that I've essentially handed over the heart and soul of my show - characters, plotlines, backstory, everything - to a complete stranger who is no longer returning my emails.

Crap... my imagination is kicking in again...

Well, on the bright side, I'm not entirely dumb. I've got that property registered with every Writer's Guild in North America (excessive, I know...) and have more than a dozen people who've literally watched the progress of this work unfold. But it's the not knowing, the painful lack of communication one way or another that's getting under my skin.

I ended up having a brief conversation with Mr. McGrath when I was at Simon's going away (yeah... 'going away') party and one thing he told me, that I didn't quite get at the time, was 'don't give up your baby until you've got the clout to make it happen yourself'. I get it now.

I don't have any children but let me tell you, I feel like I've just let my kid run away from home. And, honestly, I'm not so much worried that they'll 'take' my idea - I mean, I don't think that would really happen in this day and age (hopefully). I'm worried about finding bits and pieces of its savaged carcass showing up in 'new' and upcoming programs.

Anyways, let's change gears before I drive myself batty.

In other, better, news I've been writing away and have 2 new 1st drafts for my show. Officially, they're the 1st and 2nd episodes after the pilot and the 3rd ep is about half way done. I've also been working on a Horror feature - I finished the treatment a while back, pitched it at I CAN pitch (a pitching workshop) a couple weeks ago to great response. Though I haven't heard any word back from that I've officially started the 1st draft of that script. Money? Ain't seen none of that yet but at least I'm getting it out of me and onto paper.

Looks like I'm building up a stockpile over here :P

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, December 03, 2007

"They think they're the predators and we're the Gazelles."

Mr. Henshaw has a wonderful post on his blog talking about our need to stand united in the time of the strike. It's a great piece but what really got to me was the above quote.
The following is something I actually wrote in response to Jim's post but I realized that it would also make a pretty decent entry on my own blog so I've copied it here and expanded it a bit.

Now, the predator/prey analogy that's been used may have some footing to it but only if we allow ourselves to believe that we exist to be eaten. Remember, without 'prey' the Predators starve to death (and rather quickly I might add...)

If there's one thing I've realized in my short time on this Earth it's that the only reason people ever treat me poorly is because I allow them to; Especially those with 'power' over me. They play off my fear that I have so much to lose - and maybe I do, in the smaller scheme of things. But you know what? I'm still breathing, I'm still writing and the last person who ever talked to me like that is now out of business (not my doing).

Funny how people in general don't want to work with those who make them feel like shit. It's its own sort of natural selection, really.

I think Seth McFarlane sums it up beautifully in his recent WGA speech. You can see that here:



They may not always like us but they most definitely need us.

And, if you really think that you're helpless as 'prey' I urge you to take a look at this as well:



Strike or no Strike we should stick together, be strong and be proud of the gift we've been given: The ability to communicate the things dancing in our heads, to translate them - articulately - from dreams into words and SHARE them with others who've never even met us, no matter who or where they are.

That's pretty damn powerful if you ask me.
Cheers!
Brandon