Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"He's a pair of Lizard-skin boots now"

It's official, "V" has some of the most painful, hackneyed dialogue I've seen on TV in a long time.

Like, really, really bad.

I watched the 'great return' tonight in a constant state of groaning and rolling my eyes.

I know that when you're dealing with TV you're on a deadline and it's a train that's only moving forward... but come on... is there no one out there doing a dialogue pass?

Ay-yi-yi.

It's been a long time since a prime-time TV show's made me look away from the screen in embarrassment.

I'm sorry, I hate to slag on this show, I really want to like it... but it's just too painful -- from the V who literally told our heroine how to kill him to the utterly wince-inducing mother/son "I'm a big boy now" talk.

Add in the dull-as-all-hell money-grubbing mercenary-for-hire plot and the execrable "Welcome to the war" line and I'm pretty much ready to stick a fork in this one.

Those poor, poor actors.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, March 29, 2010

Double the Flavour, Double the Fun!

Well, no use hiding it anymore:

April's gonna suck... in an awesome sort of way.

Basically, I've got one month to finish 2 applications and wrap all the individual stuff I've been working on into a couple nice shiny packages.

Yeah, I'm applying to the CFC Primetime Television Program and the NSI Totally TV program at the same time.

In short: I like pain.

Or, at least, very very little sleep (I can feel my wife sending me dirty looks already).

The good news is that the stuff I've got ready is really good and it's getting good reactions from those who've been reading it.

Just gotta keep that vibe up.

For those who've been following my bloggy-adventures for a while, you'll know that this isn't my first crack at the CFC can... actually this'll be swing number 3.

My first swing was a wicked hit down the left side but got crushed by the Green Monster at the last moment.

My second swing went wide off into foul territory - I swung hard, but it stunk up the joint.

This time, well, all I can to is dust off my shoes, straighten my hat and dig deep.

The NSI application came about because I had a really wicked idea for a show that I just couldn't get out of my head. At first I wasn't going to apply at all, I was just going to go at the CFC but then I figured, hell... let's giv'r.

In the 3 or so years since I've come out as a writer it's been a constant battle to increase my knowledge of the craft, network in the business and still pump out decent work. (and work 9-5, and have a life, and... :P)

That said, the script writing's been getting a bit easier lately and I'm starting to catch my own flaws now (which, yeah, is nice) so I figured it's time to really challenge myself.

Even if I don't get into either program, the fact that I managed to put together 2 full, valid and (hopefully) excellent applications will be a win for me.

I'll be happy.

That said, I really, really want off the farm team... you know?

...

There comes a time when you gotta stick your heels into the dirt, grit your teeth and say "screw it, here I come, full bore".

So that's the goal this time around.

Swing hard, with everything I got and aim for the upper deck.

Pretty simple, right?

May 2nd for NSI. May 12th for the CFC.

It's gonna be a long April.

Cheers!
Brandon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Workshop (Part 4)

Last night was pretty much as close to a turn-around as I could've hoped for.

Though there ended up being more questions this time around, a portion of that was because I decided that I would just put myself out there and ask the questions I wanted to ask.

Why pay $200 to sit in the class and feel grumpy?

I tried to keep it brief, but yeah, I know there was at least one person that was grumbling about it. (Yes, I heard them...)

What can I say? Maybe I'm the villain this time around. Mr. Chubb said his piece, asked if we had any questions... and I did.

So I asked.

Anyways, last night we covered Dialogue and touched on Comedy.

Among the night's feast of tips and insights:

He highly recommended that all writers, dramatic or otherwise, take some time to take an Acting class or two. That all dialogue should be spoken out loud, preferably by someone who isn't you, before being fully committed to the page.

Also, when listening to your characters, a writer should question whether you've gotten the truth out of the character or just the facade. Is what they're saying to you what they're really feeling? Or just a smokescreen?

He encouraged us to always dig deeper, trying to see what's really beneath the thoughts and feelings our characters are expressing.

The idea being that once you really know where those lines are coming from, why they're being said -- or being said THAT way -- that's when you get to start playing with layers, when you can start to feed in subtext; make the scene not really about what's going on in front of them at all.

There was a ton of other stuff covered, he recommended some good books to read about screenwriting -- but encouraged us not to get caught in the trap of reading about screenplays; that we should be writing them.

Next week is the final session, and it's pretty much going to be a pitch-fest. A bunch of us threw our names in a hat with the idea that some of us will be standing up there next week trying to sell our concepts in 3 minutes or less. It's going to be interesting since I've had a little bit of pitching experience as of late.

Hopefully it goes well -- I'm definitely down with learning more about the fine art of pitching... 'cause well, I've got a lot to learn.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Great Pitch

Becomes a discussion.

I know that because, well, that's just what happened to me.

Like, oh, 2-3 hours ago.

Remember back when I had some secret news I couldn't quite talk about?

Well, it was this:

Back at the beginning of the month, I'd had my first-ever pitch session.

It went really well and I was hella-excited about it... but I didn't want to talk about it.

I didn't want to jinx it.

However, several weeks of unanswered emails and phone calls later, it would appear that it's going nowhere.

And time's ticking... for another thing I don't want to jinx.

So my good friend Peter hooked me up with a friend of a friend. Someone who's hungry to get out there and get into scripted TV.

Today I sat down for coffee with said friend and conversed about what we were both looking for, what we were trying to do.

We seemed to get along quite well and the atmosphere was chill... so by the time they asked about my pitch, I was totally at ease.

Rather than trying to rustle up some one-liner or hook or try to be funny or smart... I just talked. Talked about my concept, what inspired me, why I want to do it.

I got passionate.

And you know what?

The moment the pitch left my lips, their eyes lit up.

There was more conversation -- ideas bounced back and forth, both of us getting interested and excited.

What didn't work was discussed too -- but rather than sinking the ship, it opened up new avenues to explore.

What would work BETTER.

Together we chatted and sipped coffee and the idea, the concept came into a clearer focus.

I left the meeting feeling even more excited for my project than when I entered and felt like I'd met someone who really understood it.

Yes, it was a good pitch.

And hey, at the very least -- even if nothing comes from this meeting -- I know that I've got a great concept and I'm on the right track.

How 'bout that?!

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Digital 4 Lyfe... or Something

I found this online today:

According to the Calgary Herald:

"For the first time ever, Canadians are spending more time online than they are watching television, according to a new report."

I dunno, but maybe it's something for people to be thinking about -- especially in the light of the recent CRTC semi-decision.

Something to mull.

I know that, personally, unless it's PVR'd I don't watch TV anymore.

I mean that as in sitting on the couch, remote in hand, aimlessly flicking through my 900+ channels.

That just doesn't happen.

1 - My PVR is always full

2 - Finding anything that I actually want to watch on either the Rogers guide, Rogers On Demand or the Rogers Search (yes, it's got a -- very, very broken -- Search feature) is an utter chore.

3 - I'm on the web 6+ hours a day anyway. Why leave my computer to sit in front of a TV? My computer chair is comfy, my monitor's as good as my TV at comparable distance, and I can multitask if I choose to.

Now, yes, this is a heartbreaking personal revelation for someone who wants to be a TV writer.

But it's something that's evolved organically.

It's not like I went 'screw TV!' and fled to the web.

No, like so many things in life, I ended up on the path of least resistance.

I found options that were easier, that suited my needs and allowed me to do whatever I wanted.

Yes, even legally.

I can go to watch.ctv.ca, load up a show, resize the window and edit documents while watching the tiny box off to my left. I can move that window, re-size it or close it at will. I can click through a library and find whatever I want to watch in 3-5 seconds, tops.

Heck, I'm even fine with the commercials.

And the thing is, that's only one site. CBC has... well, a frustrating setup but if you bookmark things it's easy to get back to some of their better stuff.

Global's got a site too.

Add in TED.com, Youtube and a few others and, well, that's time folks.

Simply put: The simple convenience of sitting down on the couch and flipping through channels really isn't all that convenient anymore.

Or, well, less convenient than the next best options (PVR & Web).

That said, you want to know the times I'm most likely to watch TV? It's when I'm relaxing with my wife.

Sometimes we'll chill on the couch, flick through what's on the PVR and be not in the mood for any of it.

Then, in that brief span of time, that's when you can grab me.

That's when we'll trek through the 'Guide' or the (slow as all hell) 'Rogers on Demand'.

Usually we give up and watch a DVD... 'cause, heck, loading a DVD tray is easier than finding something interesting on that hot mess.

What a shame.

Yes, the problem at hand is absolutely freaking complex.

Making TV for the web seems like a money pit at this point (unless you're Joss Whedon or Will Farrell) and making TV in Canada... well, the broadcasters who do it still think it's a lodestone around their neck.

So... I'm not sure what the answers are just yet.

But when I figure it out, I'll meet you at the bank.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, March 22, 2010

Breaking Ground

Starting a new spec script is an arduous process for me -- from picking the show to finding the story, there's a whole mental game that I have to play in order to drag myself up and over the finish line.

On the bright side, this's spec script #3 and things are starting to fall into place a little bit easier now.

The games are still there, it's just that I'm more aware of the rules now; more able to sense where and when my resolve's going to flag; more able to push myself that lil' bit further.

See, I can't just let myself pick a show and write a script -- even if I like it and know it well.

No, I have to get medieval on it.

I go back and watch every episode of the season I want to place it in.

I write down every act out and summarize every episode.

And that's just the warm up swing.

Once I've got a sense of the episodes that I like the most -- the ones that resonate strongest -- I pick 3 and I break them down fully.

In a spreadsheet: scene by scene, what happens, what's revealed and by whom.

Who shows up when? How often and with whom?

How long is each scene (to the second)? Where does it takes place?

I scour it all, looking for overlap or underlap or ... lap...?

I include lines of dialogue that best reveal the characters -- especially witty dialogue (which I break down later) -- and make copious notes scene by scene.

Where are things revealed or hinted at? What was the best joke and why?

Yeah, sometimes I think I'm taking it a bit too far.

The good news is that this process -- these games -- have, so far, resulted in the two scripts you see off there on the side bar.

Both my Battlestar and Chuck specs were conceived in such a fashion and though the process was long and painful, I'm still quite proud of them.

Almost everyone who's read them and commented has complimented me about how well they mirror their respective shows, how close the characters sound and how real their interactions are.

That's no lucky feat. Or 'brilliant talent'...

It's just hard work.

And it pays off.

Of course, every process is refined and such over time -- the process that created my Battlestar spec was indeed the alpha version of the process that created my Chuck spec...

This time's been no different.

In the past this lil' game of mine has taken up to a week... tho' I always figured that if I pushed myself (to a mind-numbed, drooling shell of a man), I could probably get it done in a day or two.

Well, that's pretty much what happened on Sunday.

(Tho' I did pause later in the evening to watch Americans lay the smack down on their old Healthcare system -- good job, folks!).

I finished over half the process in about 12 hours of steady, hunched-over-the-laptop, eyes-on-the-PVR action... and man, was that an experience.

Never before have I felt my mind so utterly and completely spent.

By the end of it, I was struggling to find the keys, let alone form cohesive sentences.

When I slept, it was a dreamless, formless abyss. There was no light or sound where I went, simply darkness and warmth -- I doubt the shriveled gray lump in my head could've handled much more.

That said, now that I'm recovered from last night's brain-binge I've spent the day with all sorts of ideas bouncing around in my skull. Some have coalesced, others have faded back to shadow but the long and short of it is simply this:

I've finally found my story.

Well, at least the seed of it.

It'll take some priming and massaging to get my mind ready for the planting of said seed, but I think I've got a good start now.

I know which direction I'm heading in.

Anyways, yeah, it's work and it's hard but what can I say?

I kind of love it.

Now if you'll excuse me for a moment, I've got some gardening to do.

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Workshop (Part 3)

Simply put: I feel like this was a session that could've gone better. Yes we covered some interesting things, and shared some good insights... but man... I feel grumpy about this one.

Nothing so much against Mr. Chubb... I think Session 3 was just an example of what happens when you put a bunch of writers of very different skill levels together in a room.

There were, well, some easy questions that slowed things to a crawl.

Then again, things that I would consider 'easy' were not necessarily so for those that asked them.

And then asked for elaboration upon.

Yeah, that ate up a good chunk of time.

Not to mention that we spent a good 15+ mins going over stuff we didn't get to last week. And then a good 10 or so on lingering questions from week one.

Plus 40+ mins watching film clips (to illustrate world-building, etc) at the end of the class.

Argh.

I'm already feeling 'odd-man-out' 'cause, well, I'm not a film writer (or at least aspiring to be one) but now I'm actually sort of feeling like I'm wasting my time.

Showing up for 2 and a half hours to get 40-ish mins of really good stuff.

I think the hard lesson learned here is that I'm no longer a Newb. At least, not in that sense.

I'm Green -- looking to get out there and actually apply what I've been learning over the last couple years; Prove my worth, test my mettle and all that.

In the future I think I'll stray more towards Intermediate level -- preferrably TV-oriented -- courses. If Mr. Chubb ever comes out with something like that, hell yeah, sign me up.

I'm really impressed with his insights and his knowledge of the actual CRAFT of writing story... I just wish I felt like I was able to tap into it more.

Then again, that'd probably cost more than $200.

So, yeah... a lot of unintentional lessons learned from this course... but hey, they're great lessons to learn -- and for only $200, in some ways it was kind of a steal.

I'm still going to show up, finish the course and learn what I can... I just think I'm more mentally prepared with realistic expectations.

Before I was disappointed but now I think I'll just try to really appreciate that which I do learn.

Filling in the cracks, so to speak.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This Is My 'Structure' Hammer

Tonight's Workshop Class #3 and, according to the brochure, I'm gonna be learning about building my story all proper-like.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Part 3 of 5 – Building Your Story

Wednesday, March 17th

How to build on a great story or scene.

How to give texture to the story.

This may be the difference between whether you will elicit emotion and engagement in your audience or not.

Creating atmosphere, tone and rhythm.

Discover:
- Scene writing and developing story structure
- Writing sub-text, crisis and climax
- How to create a page turner
- Suspense and other dramatic tools

So far I'm rather enjoying these classes -- I like how, essentially, they're 2-and-a-half-hour discussions. Mr. Chubb doesn't try and motor through things, or fight to keep everything on a rigid schedule -- he runs a very relaxed and approachable room.

He starts a topic and will talk about it, digressing to or expanding upon topics as necessary (usually when asked questions by us).

The only sort of downside to this approach is that sometimes we don't get to some of the things that I was actually looking forward to getting to.

To his credit, last session he made an effort to cover things that didn't get covered last time... but, of course, that ends up eating into the time we have for this session.

It can be a bit frustrating... but hey, every style has it's weakness.

Anyways, I'm all for learning more about structure and sub-text... adding more layers to my writing and writing wicked climaxes.

So, yeah, consider me stoked for tonight.

Class starts in about an hour... more to come after the fact.

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chucking It

Sometimes the most important skill to possess as a writer is to know when to throw in the towel.

I sat down today with the idea of updating my Chuck spec, to place it more solidly in the 3rd season and help it not seem dated in the light of recent seasonal events.

A good eight hours later... I've decided it's not worth it.

There's 'updating' and then there's 'throwing-out-everything-you-loved-about-the-story-to-make-it-fit'.

So I've decided that, quite frankly, this script can't really be updated... not if I want to tell the same story.

And yes, it's entirely my own fault for gambling in such a way.

I could've just kept it firmly in season 2 (I wrote it as occurring early in the 3rd season) instead of taking a crap-shot at where it'd all end up.

But I did.

And such is the nature of the gamble.

In a lot of ways it's perfectly fine... I still think it's a fantastic story and I love how it turned out... it's just not Season 3.

You may not be watching Chuck this season but if you are you may have noticed that it's done that long, slow waltz down emo alley... and the further we get into it, the more my script sticks out like a sore thumb.

My episode is light and fun and, well the show really isn't light and fun anymore.

Not in the way it used to be.

So rather than 'updating' I decided, instead, to go back and just make it the best gawd-damn 'Chuck' story I can.

Forget about seasons or who's supposed to be there or who never came back (I miss you Anna!).

I went and I did my best to cap off what I consider to be some damn-good Chuck TV.

Even now, looking over the end product... I'm still proud of it.

And that's good enough.

I've done all I can.

Time to move on.

(which I am)

So, in that vein of moving on, I've decided to post it up here on the blog.

Over there on the side bar.

Feel free to download and read it at your leisure -- if you like it or hate it, I'm all ears.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, March 15, 2010

Right Turn, Clyde


This' my second stab at writing a TV bible -- and first shot at making a bible for a comedy series. The first shot was the bible I wrote for Savage Knights many, many moons ago.

It taught me a thing or two about a thing or two (namely, too much back story = baaad) but now that I'm bellying up to this here drawing board I'm finding out the hard way just how tough Comedy can be.

As someone with far more insight on the subject once said:

"Dying is easy, comedy is hard".

True enough.

On the bright side, I'm actually having a lot of fun playing with my characters; trying to figure out what's what and who's who while teasing comedic moments out of it all.

It's an entirely new and exciting frontier for yours truly.

Sort of like the Wild West... with whoopie cushions and dust devils that quack.

Okay, nothing like that. Forget I brought it up.

Of course the ultimate testbed comes in the form of a simple question:

Is it funny?

And to that I can handily say: Not yet.

But I'm getting there.

In other news, Pipeline is really starting to get some steam behind it. I've been getting fantastic reviews for the second draft and I think maybe one more polish and it'll be ready to be sent out into the world all proper-like.

And yes, this' one baby I'm actually excited to send out into the blizzard.

I've nurtured and bottle-fed and burped it until it could stand on its own... and now it's out in the backyard bench-pressing them rusted-out ol' pickups.

*sniff*

They grow up so fast.

So yeah, that's where things are at the moment -- things're definitely clipping along... and I'm glad as all hell for it.

'bout damn time ;)

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Workshop (Part Two)

Last night's class was all about creating 'compelling characters'.

It was a class that I've been looking forward to ever since I saw the original ad for the workshop.

Part 2 of 5 – Compelling Characters
Wednesday, March 10th
By understanding each character you will be able to develop your story. The central character must be complex and unique. Other characters must be memorable and provocative.
Discover:
- How to create compelling characters that stay with the audience
- Character sketches, traits and other tools
- Empathy and emotion
- Secondary characters that challenge

That -- along with Week 3's Structure session -- was what ultimately made me decide to shoot my credit card data into a tight spiral across the intertubes.

What can I say? I'm always trying to learn about characters and structure.

So, last night was the big session...

Did it live up to the hype?

In a lot of ways, yes. Yes it did.

There are a few gripes that I have about the night in general, but overall I was actually quite impressed with his insights toward character creation.

Some of it was rather enlightening.

His advice on avoiding the use of the 'royal we' in scripts made a lot of sense. (It excludes everyone -- crew, producers, actors, etc -- except the audience... which is a big no-no in a collaborative medium).

And finding your main character is easy if you look for the person who's going to go through the biggest arc, change the most or be at the center of the story.

Hell, his thoughts on character sketches and personal motivation were definitely worth the price of admission.

But as time passed one thing became abundantly clear: this course really isn't going to be much help for series TV writers.

Uh... like me.

Characters don't really change in TV. Certainly not in the kinds of ways we see in film. TV characters change over seasons, not hours... and sometimes not even then. Certainly not if you're on a successful procedural -- You're the same character from act one of the pilot until the moment you get killed or walk off the show.

Which leads me to what I think is my only real criticism of the program thus far.

It's billed as a 'Writer's Foundation Certificate' that exists "To offer screenwriter's and storytellers the basic elements of screenwriting".

And it really is a 'screenwriting' course - as in 'writing for the screen'. Some of the stuff will translate, some will not.

Nothing wrong with that.

It's not like it's useless knowledge (not by any means).

But a part of me was hoping I'd still be able to sneak in more TV-related questions. To get some answers on crafting scenes that play well on TV where you're revealing plot more than character.

It's kind of hard to do though, especially when you ask a question that ends up diverting him off topic and eating up time for the other 20-ish people in the room who're there to learn about film.

That said, Mr. Chubb's been very accommodating so far... but as time ticks on and as the only TV-guy in the room, it's getting harder and harder to ask the questions I want to ask.

Time's always ticking down...

Oh well, c'est la vie.

I think the plan from this far out is to just go in with an open mind take a bunch of notes and worry about making the connections later. I'll ask the questions myself and see if I can glean the answers I want out of the notes I've been given.

Even now, only 2 sessions in, I feel like I've gained some valuable perspective... I just wish there was something a bit more in it for us TV-folk.

Well... okay, me.

That said, maybe I should try and scrape together $369 and hit up The Toronto Screenwriting Conference as it appears that there'll be quite a few TV-folk in attendance.

Then again, maybe I should just get started on my next spec script...

Ugh, decisions, decisions.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Workshop Notes (Part One)

Okay, so, yesterday didn't happen. Apologies for that.

Side note: CTV doesn't have The Bridge on it's website. Been trying to catch the pilot of that for a couple days now with no luck.

(Apparently my PVR decided to rebel and not tape it... Grrr)

C'mon CTV... what the hell?

Anyways, tonight's the night where we get into making 'Compelling Characters'... I'm looking forward to it.

Here's what I scribbled down from Night One:

What Happens? Image Vs. Event (don't rely on image)

Why are you telling the story?
- Come from an event or a character w/ stories built up around them

Try out ideas on random people; Pitch, etc.

Verbal pitch: No more than 3 mins - more, start to annoy people.
- Know your pitch - 1/2/4 sentences
- Once you get interest: Listen!
- Keep answers short -- less than 1 min answers
- Make them want more

Write a One-Pager: 1 Paragraph each: Beginning, Middle, End. Prose only.

Treatment (Film):
-- Prose telling of story
-- 25 pages, double spaced
-- No technical details (Directing cues, shots, etc)
-- Looks like a short story
-- No complicated words/ideas --> Keep it very easy to read
-- They want to read it in 30 mins or less. Definitely less.
-- No Dialogue

Questions a distributor will ask you (that you should know answers to):
-- Why are you telling me this story?
--- What is the story good for?
--- Why is this story the one to tell?
--- What makes it special/better than the others?
-- Who is this story for?
-- What is the best feature of this story?

Themes - Know why you're telling the story
- Best Market: under 20 (big market)

Ginger Snaps - Made for teen women
-- Metaphor/Theme: Growing up is like becoming a werewolf

1st/2nd/3rd Drafts
- 1st Draft - Events
- 2nd Draft - Characters
- 3rd Draft - Re-order Events/Establish theme (?)

All serious screenplays should have some comedy

It's about a balance of elements
- Look at dinner scene w/ Ginger and family
- This is a bread and butter dramatic scene
- Still has biting, excellent comedy
- You are never writing 'just drama' (not anymore)

First 1/4 of your screenplay you better be introducing a likeable main character.

What makes a good story?
- Distillation
- Allow audience to get intimate w/ characters

-------

Anyways, this is far from everything that was covered -- there are large swaths of time where I completely forgot to write things down.

Like I said earlier, Mr. Chubb is an excellent speaker who makes the time fly by.

Most of this wasn't really new to me, but there's some great perspective in here.

Tonight's going to be a big decider for me -- I'm hoping I really get some cool insights on character creation.

Namely on building engaging story arcs that aren't just 'horrible thing happens/react/horrible thing happens/react' ad nauseum.

Personally, I also want to learn how to construct and deconstruct really good character scenes -- kind of like the Doctor Who episode 'Midnight' where they're trapped in the shuttle.

Brilliant, brilliant episode.

Found a clip of it on Youtube. Watch and enjoy.



Oh, and it gets better.

Way better.



All while never leaving that one room.

Anyways, yeah... maybe I'll bring that up tonight.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Workshop (Part One)

So, yes, I realize I completely neglected to give a post-first-night-update on the status of my 'Writer's Fundamentals' workshop.

It was not on purpose, just sort of forgotten about in the light of other, bigger things.

And yes, I know, using the word 'forgotten' when talking about a workshop doesn't exactly sell it all that well... but that's how things played out.

Not that the first night was BAD -- Mr. Chubb is an excellent speaker and he's got some fantastic insights into the business.

It just... well...

I didn't realize just how 'Fundamental' the Fundamentals were going to be.

Which, on the bright side, sort of helped me realize how far I've come in the last few years.

Most of that can be attributed to my ongoing -- daily -- writing seminar with Ink Canada; a place where I'm constantly learning something new about or gaining insight into the business and the craft.

Truth be told, the first session was... an intro.

There were lots of nervous questions about how we copyright our ideas and what to do if people steal them -- and Mr. Chubb was very patient in explaining the process while being careful to specify that it really doesn't happen that often.

He went on to explain that they're not buying your idea -- ideas are a dime a dozen -- it's YOUR execution of the idea that they're after; Whatever it is that you're bringing to the table that'll make your movie stand out from the other 136 epic-war-and-love-triangle movies that are kicking around.

And that's sort of how the night progressed.

Going into the program I had a bit of an idea that it'd be focusing mostly on Film but once I got there I think I was the only TV person in the room.

Needless to say, there wasn't much talk of TV unless I specifically brought it up in my questions.

I think that's going to end up being a continuing trend over the next 4 weeks.

Oh well.

Near the end of the session we watched the first act of Ginger Snaps (again, one of my favourite flicks) and discussed all the things that made that first act great; How they manage to introduce the characters, the world, the threat, the relationships AND make the leads sympathetic in just under 15 minutes.

That whole bit was a great deal of fun but it ended up feeling rushed because we were mostly out of time -- like we were just sort of hitting our stride as the clock wore down its final seconds.

Kind of a shame.

That said, Mr. Chubb did make the time fly by and he did offer some fresh perspective on concepts I was already familiar with.

Overall, I wasn't displeased with my first session I just sort of wished there was more to it.

But then again, that's why it's called a 'Foundations' course.

This Wednesday we're supposed to be tackling 'Compelling Characters' and that's something I'm definitely looking forward to.

We'll see how that goes.

Tomorrow I'll see about writing up my notes from that session, if I can make any sense of them :P

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Today...

... was a GOOD day.

Very good, in fact.

No news to report just yet. Nothing confirm-able or anything like that.

Not yet.

But it's good.

I'm smiling.

So... yeah...

More to come.

In other news:

My good friend Elize has quite a big project on her hands. I've been following her journey here and I gotta say, my hat is entirely off to her.

6 Countries. 2000 Kilometers. 1 Month... by bike. All to raise awareness for microfinancing and help end world poverty.

Now, ending world poverty... not an easy task. True enough.

But I gotta give credit where credit's due.

If you're gonna do it, might as well swing for the fences.

Good for her (and people in the developing world).



She wants to raise $1 per Kilometer -- a total of $2000, if this is something you think you can get behind you can donate to the cause here.

I think it's absolutely brilliant and I wish her all the best.

And here I thought biking from Toronto to Niagara Falls was hard...

Man...

My best advice, Elize?

Cushioned bike shorts.

Oh yes.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Iron's Hot, Where's The Hammer?

Let's be blunt here:

Canadian National Pride is at an all-time high.

We're WINNERS.

For the first time in a long time, as a country, we're holding our heads high.

Can you feel it?

Maybe it's just me but I've been out there talking to strangers again and it's palpable.

Whether it's Vindication or Validation, I'm not sure.

But Canadians are PROUD again.

Like, vocally.

So, my message to my fellow Canadian creatives and business-types is simply this:

Get out there and bang the drum.

Show'em Canadian stories. Show'em what we've got in the pipeline (heh)!

Show'em we've got more coming, just you wait!

Then preview and hint and leak and promote the fuck out of it.

The goal is simple: Keep that attention, then harness it and focus it.

CTV, you did a great job with the Olympics (hell of a lot better than NBC), you earned those eyeballs. Even got to keep a whole bunch of them.

You promoted Hiccups and Dan For Mayor while almost the entire damned country was watching and you got great returns. People showed up en masse to check out what you've got up your sleeve.

The proof is there: Canadians WANT Canadian content. We want to be entertained by Canadians who know what Canadians like. Who get our sense of humour.

Who are us.

Yes, I really believe there's an unanswered hunger out there. And I find it completely unacceptable that it hasn't been sated.

So here's what I wanna see -- laugh at me or whatever but I'll put it out there unashamed:

I wanna see Brett Butt and Mark Farrell on TV and radio pimping their shows like crazy. Promo pieces in magazines and the newspaper.

I wanna see pictures of the cast and crew of Being Erica or Republic Of Doyle or 18 To Life beaming with pride.

Actors too. Where's Heartland's Amber Marshall? Why isn't she singing the national anthem at hockey games or showing up on CP24 Breakfast or The Hour or something?

She's a fresh face and she's got a growing following. Why isn't she everywhere?

I want to see CTV and CBC and Global generating buzz for upcoming shows. Do that thing where you preview 5 mins of a Canadian show on broadcast TV in prime time. Or leak it online ahead of time.

I wanna see interviews with famous Canadian musicians who're guest-starring or who've written songs for (or are premiering new songs on) upcoming episodes of shows.

Promoting it all weeks ahead of time. Building buzz for something cool they get to do on the show, or for fans to be the first to hear a new song on that ep.

Remember the buzz that How I Met Your Mother had 'cause they brought in Britney Spears? Hell, I'd contend that she helped to save the show -- even if only in the capacity that she drew people's eyeballs to the screen long enough for people to realize 'holy crap, this show is great'.

Why not get Nelly Furtado on Flashpoint? Or Avril on Being Erica? Sure, there's not a scandal backing them like Britney had, but it's something. I know it's an old trick, but maybe we can dust it off and add a Canadian spin to it. Freshen it up. Cross-promote and then bang the drum as loud as we can.

We've got some of the best writers and actors and directors and crew in North America, why are we not utilizing them?

Why are people like Michael Roy of Telefilm shitting all over Canadian actors instead of pushing them to the forefront and proudly backing them to the bank?

Why aren't Canadian shows teaming with Canadian Musicians and Canadian Fashion labels and Canadian Tech companies and Canadian Food brands to build each other up, together?

Where's the website for Heartland that says 'Hey, like Amy Fleming's blouse? It's made by Canadian fashion label 'so and so' and you can buy it here!' or download the song from the show here then listen to others by the artist here; Or click here to get a special coupon for a free Mr. Sub sandwich? Or horse-shoeing... I dunno.

But it'd be a start.

Frankly I think it's bullshit that this stuff isn't already being tapped and up and running. These are viable economic streams that 'business men' should be actively pursuing. Maybe they're not huge streams right now, but that's what brand building is all about.

Build EVERYONE up at the same time.

Build an industry that helps itself and is self-sustaining.

Cross-pollinate and everyone wins. Musicans, actors, brands, producers... Canadians.

Sure, it takes time. And it's hard. And people are fickle. And we're not all the same race/culture/language/blah, blah.

That's life in Canada.

But every success builds on the last one.

It's hard but it gets easier with time.

Jam that shovel into the ground and keep digging.

Then again, hey, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. It's entirely possible that my ideas are crap, they've all been tried and failed horribly. Maybe they've been doomed to the big box of Fail in the corner, never to be tried again.

I dunno, but I certainly haven't heard much about stuff like this going on.

So maybe it's worth a shot?

We've got their attention, let's keep the plates spinning.

I'm open to good ideas.

Whatcha say?

Cheers,
Brandon

EDIT: Props to Amber Marshall who, apparently, has her own clothing line!

Not sure if it's all made in Canada or what, but hey, she's got a good idea and is making it happen. Why CBC missed the train here, I dunno. But it's a damned shame.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Now THAT's a party!

Okay, so a whole lot to update on here...

Yesterday ended up a total blur... now that the olympics is done it would appear that the world is now is some sort of desperate 'catch up' mode.

So... let's catch up.

Team Canada won Gold!

And the USA made us work our asses off to get it.

Thank you, Team USA!

THAT's the kind of sports I love to see.

The US was hungry for that win, they truly pushed themselves and made Team Canada sweat in the process.

Excellent.

In short: Those were some well-earned cheers.

And that party down at Yonge and Dundas square? Proof positive of their hard work.

My hat's off to both teams!

Here's a video I shot of the party down at Yonge and Dundas Square on my cell phone -- it's blurry as all hell (yay old tech!) but the audio'll give you a clue of what it was like there.



This next one is much prettier, tho' it somehow manages to miss out on the craziness and chaos of the night.



In other news, my second draft of Pipeline is DONE! Finally. It's a beautiful thing and, hopefully, much better than the 1st draft. I changed a bunch of things, including a major plot point that I thought might kill the script if it was axed.

Turns out: nope. In some ways it actually made it better... a part of me still misses the old direction, but I think this rings more true and makes it less 'TV'.

'TV' as in one of those wonderful life co-incidences that always just seem to happen on TV shows. The ones that make you roll your eyes and go 'sure bud, only on TV'.

So yeah, I'm going to send that off to some readers now and get some feedback. I've decided that I'm going to use it in correlation with that 'Writer's Foundation Certificate' program (that starts tomorrow!) to see if I can't help polish it like a fine diamond.

I'm also getting started on a new spec... so that's going to be fun.

Also knee-deep in working on a super-secret ultra-awesome Ink Canada project which should see light of day the end of March.

Yep, things are definitely hopping now.

Hopefully it all comes together in time!

Cheers,
Brandon