Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

AND it's Canadian!

I'm not really much into wrestling anymore - the days of watching Bret Hart and the Ultimate Warrior with my Grandpa are long done.

That said, I found this during a few minutes of random link-hopping on Youtube and it actually caught my breath in my throat.

So take a look, it's 12 seconds.




Bonus points:

Find the allegory for Broadcaster's attitude toward the Canadian TV industry.

Better yet, maybe it represents the CRTC's attitude toward Broadcasters... or Canadians.

Hrmm... I'm having one of those days aren't I?

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crunch Tiiiiime!

I just realized that today is Tuesday.

How crazy is that? I meant to go into this whole big post on Monday and then got sucked into the shadow-less land of 'writing for my applications'.

Yes, we're into serious crunch time for my NSI app - I've been firing off emails to my producer, new drafts of the script, the bible, all sorts of supplementary documentation... man, I never realized just how much was going into this thing.

Don't even get me started on my CFC app, I've been punching away at that one in my spare time but it's still gonna be a race to the finish there.

My Mentalist spec that I was putting together for the CFC app... well, yeah, that's just not going to happen. I've got a lot there but there's no way I'll be submitting a first-draft-and-a-polish... believe me, I didn't make it in the first couple times 'cause they felt my work wasn't strong enough; there's no way I'm going to chance it with a script that's just not ready (yes, lets consider that a hard-learned lesson).

On the bright side, it does give me something to tinker with once all this madness is over... so that's good.

I'm still waiting on my letters of recommendation; still finding all sorts of little threads to bind up and tie together as the clock ticks down.

In other news...

The Exchange for Change session that happened on Saturday was as close to a slam dunk as I can call for a first run at the net.

Both Elize and Karen had obviously put a ton of thought and work into putting the event together and there was lots of brilliance on offer from minute one.

Here are a few choice notes I took from the event:

Web-Series and Transmedia:
- Some of the biggest problems they've faced:
-> Legitimacy, getting people to 'get it' ("that's on the 'internet' right?" *tumbleweed*)
-> Getting past the 'Gatekeepers' - people in charge of content acquisitions (the new 'broadcasters')
-> Having an audience find you/bringing them to you - standing out from the 'noise'

Tips:
-> Think 'possible revenue streams' from day one.
-> On the web, volume is everything. Don't make one video, make 25 then go
-> Building community is key
-> Write to what you have access to/readily available

Short Films:
- Some of the challenges they face:
-> No such thing as a 'small' film - still have as many hoops to jump through as feature.
-> Extreme limitations, time/money - telling a full and compelling story
-> What you want compared to what you get - 'fireplace w/ roaring fire' becomes 'candle'

Tips:
-> Always have a backup plan - sometimes cast/crew have to leave for paying jobs
-> Find the story you need to tell. Don't just 'make something'
-> Let other people contribute, sometimes they make it better
-> Work on an Assistant Director team on set to learn how the process works

Story Co-ordinators:
- Challenges they face in their job:
-> Attention to detail is a must - One spelling mistake can easily snowball into a big problem.
-> Your biggest responsibility is lunch. Seriously. Do not screw it up. You will pay with your job.
-> Figuring out your relationship with the room - is it 'safe' to offer suggestions? Or do you keep quiet and keep typing?

Tips:
-> Before you speak out in the room ask yourself "Is this worth saying?" - You have very limited 'coin' to play with. Get it wrong and you could end up being ignored down the line.
-> Look for innocuous ways to 'do more' - names for fake cereal boxes, businesses, etc.
-> Watch out for 'good intentions'. When in doubt, ask. If you don't and you get burned it will be ugly.
-> Should you ever get the chance to pitch, make sure you have a solid beginning/middle/end to it. Don't just go 'I don't know what happens next'.

Adaptation:
- Problems they run into:
-> Finding the movie within - not just as simple as taking the book and running with it.
-> How to tell the story in a way that you forget that you already know how it ends.
-> Often have to change the ending of the book - No third act or often not 'cinematic'.

Tips:
-> Always ask yourself: What will I be seeing on screen?
-> When adapting, be ruthless in what you use. Not every 'great moment' is going to fit into the movie.
-> 1st draft is often too faithful to the source material - feels 'mushy', not a movie.
-> It's not always fair to the book to be faithful to it.

Showrunners:
- Common problems or misconceptions:
-> You have to be able to forsee and solve the problem that's 8 weeks down the line
-> You're responsible to share what's going on in your head with 100's of people but still keep an open mind and be open to change.
-> Surprisingly 'showrunning' is a lot of 'management' and sharing of power than 'being in control'.

Tips:
-> It's about 'how can you get the A-Game out of the person in front of you? Giving them the space they need to 'be excellent'.
-> Keep your vision strong but flexible. Making TV is a collaborative process.
-> You are designing a system or a mechanism that new stories will come from.
-> If you have an idea that you believe in, fight for it 3 times - if still no, let it go. Don't make it personal.

Anyways, if you were there with me you know that this is only scratching the surface of what was discussed... I was scribbling the entire time, trying to fit it all in.

Absolutely brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Next time one of these comes up I'll make sure to trumpet it out for you.

But you gotta show up to get the good stuff.

And nothing beats sneaking in a few minutes of one-on-one Q&A time with them after the show (very, very cool).

A big thanks to Elize and Karen and everyone who volunteered to speak - it truly was a fantastic day and I'm glad I made it out there.

Cheers all!
Brandon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Where You Better Be This Saturday

If you're an aspiring or emerging TV, Web or Film writer and you happen to live in or be in the GTA this Saturday (April 24th) at 10am, you had better get off your butt and scootch on down to the Lillian H. Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library.

Why, you ask?

Because though you may not know them, Elize Morgan (writer/CFC grad/CRUSHING IT scribe) and Karen Walton (Ginger Snaps, Queer As Folk, and the upcoming Pornographer's Poem), have gone and done you a solid.

They've teamed up to put together EXCHANGE FOR CHANGE - perhaps the most wicked concept I've heard in a long time.

Here's the summary:

"New or pro, come down & show your support for 6 talks about great storytelling, with multiple-award winning, local pro Writers, Producers & Directors of traditional film, television & digital media content ...who are donating their time for a good cause - the fight against world poverty."

That's right, it's a 'Pay-What-You-Can' ALL-DAY workshop with some amazing TV, Web and Film writers, producers and directors.

If you're not there, or hopping on a bus to come down there, then you're seriously, seriously missing out.

Here's the list of what you're getting for your donation:
_____________________________________
SCHEDULE & OUR GENEROUS GUESTS
(we’re still adding guest-speakers so check back on the Event Page for updates!)

9:30 - 10:00
Doors Open/each session is first-come first seated each session

10:00-11:00
CROSS-PLATFORM CREATORS: TRANS/ONLINE MEDIA STORYTELLING
Dialogue with:

Scott Albert (Team Leader, Job Review with a Vampire)

Christopher Guest (Team Leader, Job Review with a Vampire)

Chris Bolton (Creator/Showrunner/Wr/Dir/Star, Rent-A-Goalie)

NEW!! Garner Haines (webisodic creator)

Recommended for everyone curious online creation as well as pro traditional film & television makers

11:15 – 12:15
SHORT-FORM PRODUCTION: WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE IT WELL
Dialogue with:

Kerry Young (CFC Shorts & BravoFACT Producer, Chili & Cheese: A Condimental Rift, Cursing Hanley, Green)

Kelly Harms (co-wr/dir Cursing Hanley, Green, The OUtlaws of Missouri)

Judith Klassen (wr; Do Not Bend, & star/wr of Judecast!)

NEW!! Pierre Bonhomme (pr; Do Not Bend)

Recommended for aspiring creators on short-form online content, filmmakers, & film students

1:00 - 2:00
IN THE WRITERS ROOM: TV STORY COORDINATORS & STAFF WRITING
Dialogue with:

Andrew De Angelis (18 to Life)

Alex Levine (Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG:1; Story Editor: The Border)

Filip Vukcevic (Wingin’ It)

Recommended for new & experienced writers aspiring to work in dramatic television

2:15 - 3:00
THE ART OF ADAPTATION: FROM BIO PICS TO BOOKS/Film & TV
Dialogue with

Semi Chellas
(TV - Creator, Executive Prd, Writer; The Eleventh Hour, wr; Of Murder and Memory, wr; Being Erica, Filmmaker, performer, screenwriter; Three Stories From the End of Everything, Picture Claire - & 5 pending adapts of award-winning novels

Karen Walton
(tv/writer; The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story, film/wr: The Pornographer’s Poem, My Present Age, Ginger Snaps)

Recommended for producers, writers & directors working from existing material, in film or television

3:15 – 4:15
CREATING & RUNNING ORIGINAL TELEVISION SERIES

Graeme Manson
(wr/pdr; Rent a Goalie, wr: The Bridge, The Crazy Canucks, Lucky Girl; film/wr; Cube, Rupert’s Land)

Denis McGrath
(wr/prd Across the River to Motor City, The Border, wr; The Republic of Doyle, SGU Stargate Universe, Rent-A-Goalie, Blood Ties)

Peter Mohan
(Exec Prod/Creator/wr; Blood Ties, co-Exec Prod/wr; The Bridge, wr Mutant X, Lost Girl etc etc etc etc),

Recommended for new writers & producers, writers & directors interested in creating great television
________________________________

If that doesn't whet your appetite -- especially considering the low, low price of 'whatever you can scrounge together' -- then I don't know what to tell you.

Hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How I Write Dialogue

Dialogue is one of those things that can be incredibly tricky - you've gotta have things for people to say but you've also gotta get out specific tidbits of information to keep your story moving forward and develop little things like 'subtext' and 'tension'.

So, how does one do that?

Well, here's what works for me:

My first and only 'rule' of writing dialogue is that you have to have a good strong mix of no fear and no shame.

'Cause you're going to need both.

I had my fear/shame matrix shattered in one rather scary/crazy/fun summer of being a door-to-door salesman in a suburb of Toronto called Scarborough (and yeah... you learn quick).

Personally, I believe that I'm not going to learn about writing good dialogue in a book. I'm going to learn that writer's version of what good dialogue is.

Which, well, if they're really successful is great - but still, I'm only learning what worked for them. But it won't be my voice.

The best advice I ever got about writing dialogue was that I should go and listen to the type of person I'm trying to write about in real life.

Ie. if I want to write about bikers, go chill in a biker bar and just listen to how bikers talk.

(Note: I have yet to try this one out)

But the idea behind it is valid. Want to learn how geeks speak? What sort of geek? Is he a techie? Is she a gamer? Are they table-top roleplayers? Or comic book fanboys?

This is where the 'no fear/no shame' rule comes into play: Ask to hang out with them.
There are tons of groups of people hanging out all the time. Get involved.

I've been to LARP games and game conventions and spent all sorts of time in comic shops.

Granted I have a leg up because I'm already a gamer/rp'er/comic geek... but they're all different characters to learn and distill.

When I wanted to learn about construction workers and how they get along, I tagged along with my dad to his work. I'll help him pull some nails out of 2x4s and listen to him and his crew banter.

I'm looking for structure and cadence, what words do they emphasize or slur or mispronounce?

Sometimes it's nice to sit in a mall sometimes with a notebook and just chill out and listen to people as they walk by. You'd be surprised on some of the stuff you can pick up.

Yes, this is also known as 'eavesdropping'... but it's kind of par for the course when you're a writer. :P

I'm there to learn what people say - or goes unsaid - or is said with a dagger-eyed look. Where tension bubbles up or releases, how quickly conflict arises and is brushed away because people decide it's not worth the fight.

Or that it is.

To me, the best way to get better at dialogue is to truly listen to how other people talk and react and feel, and then pass it through my own internal filter.

'Cause all of this is just raw material. I'll rarely ever use exactly what someone says in a script. My job is not to make my dialogue 'real' my job is to make it 'sound' real.

I've gotta take all that I've learned and process it and make it my own. I've gotta use everything I know about drama and comedy and tension and exposition to create (cough up) whatever puzzle piece I need at any given moment.

Which is something I can do because I now have something to compare it to. I know that someone would sound like 'this' -- or at least my character would sound like 'this' -- so I can hold it up to what I've learned and compare the results.

I can sneak in things like subtext and tension because I've watched how people do it in real life. How they skip around words or look away or hide their intentions with distractions. I can make my dialogue sing because I now know what I want to say and how best to say it.

Is this the only way to do it? Hell no.

But like I said, it works for me.

Hope that helps!

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spec Bibles = Fun

Today I finished the 2.0 draft of my spec bible and I have to say I'm a bit surprised by how it turned out.

In a good way, I mean.

'Cause it's amazing how much a show can change as the concept comes into focus.

Looking back on my 1st draft of it, there's so much of it that seems vestigial now.

Like pruning a bansai tree, the second draft of my show bible has been a study in patience and connection - finding ways to dig deeper and help the organic shape hidden within find its way out.

So what changed?

Some small things, some big things - I lost one character as, well, they just weren't that necessary to the stories I realized I want to tell.

I focused my logline - which, in retrospect, is pretty pathetic - and changed several characters histories. Some far more than others but the ones that were changed the most were almost rewritten entirely.

It's a weird thing having an interesting character only to realize they're not who you need so you then have to go back in, hollow them out and rebuild them.

Kinda creepy too if you think about it too long.

Moving on.

I have to give a thanks to good buddy Peter who sort of kicked me in the rear by asking me - in his very serious 'developer monkey voice' no less - "What's the story engine of your show?"

Well... Uh...

Not that I didn't have an answer - I had one, but upon closer scrutiny I came to realize it probably wasn't as strong as I'd thought it was.

So I thought about it a tad and I think I've finally hit upon something that's much better.

Just have to hope my producer agrees with me.

In other news, we're officially getting into 'crunch time' in application land and things are starting to come together now... thankfully.

Of course, to look at the check-lists before me they still look woe-fully under-checked... but I think (hope) that's all the lil' easy stuff. The scripts and the bibles and such are all the important bits, right?

Right?

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That Moment of 'Wow'

I just had a sit-down with my producer to go over my half-hour spec pilot... and to say that I'm ecstatic is an understatement.

You see, way back when I pitched the first producer my concept for the show, he was into it... but he didn't get excited.

This new producer, we connected within 30 seconds and it's been like that ever since.

Well, okay not quite.

You see after the pitch there was a span of time where the question hung in the air:

"But can you pull it off?"

And, well, I was honest -- I'd never considered myself a 'Comedy' writer... but I really loved this concept.

I knew I could be quirky and even a touch odd -- I found that out through my Chuck spec -- but I'd never tried to BE funny, as in 'I'm writing a Comedy' funny.

So, I challenged myself. I came up with a solid story, one that I found interesting and funny and I went from there.

This last weekend, at the Toronto Screenwriter's Conference, Mr. Sheldon Bull told us that "A Comedy is a Drama, but funny -- Write it it as a Drama first".

Though I'd written the script before the conference (that-was-the-whole-28-pages-in-one-day thing) Mr. Bull's advice solidified in me what I had done RIGHT in my script... why it worked.

That's what I had done.

I wrote it as this dark drama first and then found ways to flip the beats, make it funny then make the characters sing.

And now I have this script that is getting a whole lot of love, that I'm incredibly proud of and I think actually encapsulates the show I want to see on the air.

Pretty damn cool.

Out of everything that's happened lately, the realization that other people find my writing funny has been the biggest surprise.

A sort of awakening for this whole other side of me.

I've always shied away from doing Comedy because I thought I wasn't any good at it, I stuck to Drama and just tried to tell good stories... if Comedy got in there in the moment, then cool but I never forced it.

I've never really considered myself 'funny'.

Yet because my only goal was to make myself laugh I think, somehow, it translated onto the page... the heart behind it, you know?

Now, I wouldn't dare call myself a 'Comedy' writer yet -- I don't deserve it. (Ask me that after I've pumped out a season or two's worth of funny scripts...)

But I feel good, I feel like this is a whole new path to explore... and I'm truly loving it.

Right now I'm working on springboards for the rest of the season, showing where the legs of this thing are... and I'm genuinely excited.

Better yet, my producer is excited.

And I'm not gonna argue with that.

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Conference Call: My Review Of The Toronto Screenwriting Conference

So, this last weekend (April 10-11) I attended the Toronto Screenwriting Conference... and man, what a trip that was.

Both days were mental feasts.

And my brain is still rubbing its belly, sinking into the couch cushions in the aftermath of it all.

Conference-wise, some speakers were good, others blew my socks clear off.

Sheldon Bull was one such speaker.

I'd never really watched Coach or Newhart -- and have only a passing awareness of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch -- but man, this guy truly knows his stuff.

He comes into the room, such a vibrant and genial personality, and then just gets right to it: "I've been doing this for 25 years and this is what worked for me".

And then he explains his approach while making it make sense in the context of current shows, a formula that some of the best comedic writers on TV weren't even aware they're using (until he put it down on paper).

He walks us through an episode of Big Bang Theory (Sheldon wants to get Stan Lee's autograph) and shows us, beat for beat, how it matches up perfectly.

It makes sense and it instantly illustrates his point.

What the hell? I'm learning?!

Brilliant.

At the beginning of his session the event organizer/host Mr. Glenn Cockburn (of the Meridian Artists agency) said to us that Mr. Bull was one person they knew they had to get, that they really wooed to come and be here.

And now I completely understand why.

Simply put: I could've spent the rest of the day just listening to him speak.

Of all the speakers, I really felt that Mr. Bull hit the ground running - he got right to the point and didn't dumb it down.

He took a temperature of the room off the top, found that most of the room was professionals and emerging writers and off he went.

Thank you, sir.

The Q&A Sessions were captivating in a whole other way: frank, revealing and often funny - it was heartening to see some fellow Canadians (Tim Long, Chuck Tatham) who made it big come back and share their adventures with us.

I found myself really into Mr. Tatham's Q&A session as, unlike Mr. Long's and most of the others, he actually seemed like the process was work and had struggle involved.

One of the things that I found somewhat weird was to listen to a Q&A like Mr. Long's -- and, to an extent Mr. Reese's with Zombieland -- and hear how the process (working on The Simpsons) was actually sort of a breeze.

Well, at least the way he told it.

Now, I'm sure it's not as simple as all that, but man... I watched a lot of pro writers in the audience squirm when Mr. Long talked about leaving work at 6pm-ish, having 3 writer-rooms full of people and tons and tons of time to re-work jokes and scripts.

I haven't been on staff yet but I've talked to enough staff writers to figure that things are significantly more hectic on our side of the Great Lakes.

Mr. Tatham's Q&A session, on the other hand, was full of deadpan moments of strife and tales of long nights -- relating to us candidly about what it was like to work on some of the shows he's been a part of (Arrested Development!)... and how his struggles ultimately made him a better writer.

His honesty and humility about it all, to me, made for an utterly compelling 90 minutes and I felt it was - bar none - the strongest Q&A of the conference.

How was the conference as a whole?

Well, as I think about the weekend and how everything stacked up I do find myself asking one particular question:

"Would I attend next year?"

And you know... I think I would.

The session with Mr. Bull ended up being worth the price of admission and, to be honest, I did learn a ton about the business and the craft.

Not so much about the nature of the business or the craft as a writer in CANADA (though Mr. Cooper did offer a few insights)... but hey, I guess that's the less-sexy elephant in the room.

LA = rich, pretty land of bounty where writers drive Ferraris.

Canada... not so much -- and, well... you can't really blame'em.

All that, I guess, is a round-about way of saying that the conference itself was not without its flaws.

If I were to attend again next year there are some improvements I'd like to see:

1) 75 mins -- which is what it often ended up to be after all the milling around and shuffling around of rooms was worked out -- is nowhere long enough for me or the speakers; as evidenced by how much (and how often) we were told speakers would have to skip over planned talking points due to time constraints.

I get that we're not going to have like 3 hours with these people, but let's give everyone a SOLID 2 hours. One speaker was just starting to warm up as their time ran out... and that's a damn shame.

Which leads me to my 2nd point.

2) Put it all on one floor. Somehow. I'm not sure if there was more than one classroom per floor but it's just dumb to make people shuffle between 3 different levels and waste precious time getting re-settled and relaxed.

3) Start earlier, end later. It's a conference filled with some amazing speakers - let's squeeze this sucker dry. I know it's not easy, but hey, if you make things more efficient in the inner-workings you can start half-hour earlier, end half-hour later and still fit in lots more content.

Especially if you do #4

4) Offer food options. Every floor seemed to have a Tim Horton's station that was just laying dormant -- and I heard people complain about this.

Why make people go all the way out of the building? Wasted time and wasted potential income -- maybe you can work out some sort of deal with the school to have it open and running, split the profits...?

I dunno. But it seems like a big oversight -- I know I spent about $20 a day on food, easily.

Food that I bought elsewhere, with money that could've been yours (at least in part).

That's a solid 'tsk tsk' right there.

Anyways, in conclusion:

As a first outing for this conference I would say that I've come away from it feeling quite positive about the experience.

The price IS a bit steep but given what was on offer I do feel that I got my money's worth.

In fact, hell, charge $30 more per ticket, make it an even $400 and offer everyone lunch and snacks next time.

Food's not THAT expensive and you had a ton of volunteers this year.

You could've used a few to serve some grub, made yourself some extra coin and kept the ball rolling more efficiently.

Anyways, yeah... just my 2 cents.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pale Blue Dot

Take 6 minutes, watch this and let's put things into perspective.



With props to Gizmodo for posting this (where I found it).

EDIT: Video fixed!

Cheers,
Brandon

Sunday, April 11, 2010

David Simon's Open Letter to New Orleans Re: Treme

I stumbled upon this on the web today and I figured I'd share:

http://www.nola.com/treme-hbo/index.ssf/2010/04/hbos_treme_creator_david_simon.html

I've yet to see Treme myself but I must admit that I'm quite intrigued by what I've read.

Even more so after reading Mr. Simon's touching letter.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, April 09, 2010

The sweet, sweet smell of AWESOME

That first draft of my half-hour spec pilot?

Doooooone!

Like, hot, sweaty, steaming, fresh-from-the-oven done.

I did the heavy lifting yesterday, pulled 28 frickin' pages out of my sick, sorry butt... got a great vomit draft on the table and spent most of today making it all make sense.

Luckily that was possible because I got some fantastic overnight notes from some good friends -- folks, never, ever take for granted the boon offered to you by people who're willing to read your stuff on the fly and shoot you back notes overnight.

So, to Steph, Rich and Dave: Thank You!

The official first draft is bad-freaking-ass and I couldn't have done it without ya.

(Believe me, I'm pretty sure my brain had calcified by the time I send that sucker out.)

Today, taking all the threads and re-weaving them and making them... better -- that turned out to be an utter joy. It wasn't easy, but I could feel the progress being made.

Like a vine sprouting from that rough mess on the page and slowly forming into He-Man riding Battlecat into the warzone.

Or something like that.

Anyways, I'd just like to hang a lantern on a couple points I've picked up from this whole experience:

1) I can pull a decent 28 pages out of my butt in a day if I have to. (from outline... otherwise, well, that'd just be scary)

2) I have some wicked, wicked friends.

Now I get to start on the second draft of my show bible.

Good times!

Cheers all,
Brandon

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Do That Thing You Do

Today I began draft #1 of my little half-hour comedy that could.

Well, will.

Hopefully.

It's a different beast entirely, like trying to ride a bucking Bozo the clown for 8 seconds while still appearing edgy and hip and all them other buzzwords.

Good times.

It is good though... like doing pinky-curls with a 10-pound dumb bell; exercising muscles that I forgot I had a use for.

I mean that in the actual 'trying to be funny' sense.

Now, I'm naturally a bit of a dork -- and sometimes I can even play it off like 'I meant to do that' but I'll be the first to admit that I've got no business doing stand-up at Yuk-Yuks.

Still...

I cranked out 5 pages (out of 30) in my limited amount of time today and looking back on it, I can only describe the experience as 'heartening'.

Will they find my characters interesting and likable? Will my story be 'cool' and 'fresh'?

Will anyone laugh at how this all plays out?

Hell, I dunno.

But I did when I wrote it... so cool beans there.

And that pretty much sums up my goal for the next while: Make myself laugh.

If I go out there trying to be the next 'The Office' or 'Better Off Ted' I'm gonna fail horribly, I know that -- hell, they had full-on writing rooms to churn out that golden thread.

So I'mma just gonna do my thing.

Tell it how I see it and hope for the best.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, April 05, 2010

Shed A Tear

That one ^$!@'n Scene

I've been futzing with my outline for my half-hour comedy series lately, trying to get this silly thing to add up.

Everything's been going great so far, hit some really strong bits that I'm proud of, some really funny scenes that actually make me laugh. Which is good. Laughter is always good.

Well, mostly.

Of course, in fun writer-ly fashion I've gone and painted myself into a corner; created myself a wicked little plot twist... but now I've gotta figure out how my main character gets their way out of it.

I've been racking my brain over it - 'cause I want it to be brilliant and amazing and funny and still match up with the theme of the episode... but so far, that's just not happening.

Thus, I've put in a temp scene -- a little placeholder that's 'okay' but nowhere near the amazing-ness I want to get across. A part of me is thinking that I should just go on and start the first draft since it's only one scene that's holding me back (I've got everything else after it planned out pretty well). This goes double considering the inherently-rough nature of the first draft.

But I dunno... another part of me thinks I should wait it out, put all the pieces in place first.

It's a tough decision but considering the tight time line I'm on, it's not one I can spend a lot of brain-cycles considering.

What do my fellow writer-ly types do when breaking down a story and that one naggine piece just isn't there yet? Do you wait until the whole thing is done? Or do you push forward hoping to find the best part of the climax during the scripting process?

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Workshop (The Final Chapter)

And so last night was my final night at the Writer's Foundation Certificate workshop.

This time the premise was pretty simple:

A full night of pitching our stories.

Those of us who'd been brave enough to sign our names up the week before were drawn out of an envelope one by one to pitch our concepts to the room and receive feedback on how to make them better.

Ultimately our goal was to keep our pitches to 3 mins or less... a couple did, I wasn't one of them.

One of the good things about pitching to a room of strangers in this sort of environment is that you don't have to pitch exactly what you would normally pitch -- you can tweak things; try new approaches, different possible story takes or arcs or whatever.

It's a chance to try something new and see if it'll fly -- so that's what I ended up doing.

Most of the new things were just story beats I was considering and a couple small character changes. It went okay, some of it fell flat but the good news is that the one major story beat I didn't change got a fantastic reaction (laughter! Oh, precious laughter!).

That's definitely good to know. Put a little check mark there.

Of course, because I'd changed a few things from my original pitch on the fly, some of the points at the end of my pitch didn't quite add up -- yeah, I hadn't thought that part through.

And that's where I got tripped up pretty bad, trying to verbally engineer apple/orange hybrids on the fly.

Fun.

So, yeah, I'll have to keep that in mind for future reference. Possibly write it out in full then add sub categories or something depending on how I want to change things up.

Mr. Chubb told us that we should always have at least 1 extra pitch ready to go and that the best writers often have 3 or more that they can jump into at the drop of the hat.

I'm not entirely sure my mind is that compartmentalized just yet, but yeah, it's good to have goals.

As things wound down and we prepped to leave I was handed a questionnaire asking me what I thought about my experience there... and honestly, I wasn't sure what to put down.

Truth is, Mr. Chubb's an excellent speaker and he knows his shit cold. He can break it down for you any which way you want and you'll understand it. I love that and I wish I'd had teachers in school that were like him.

But in the end this was a film course for people who want to write film.

I did learn a lot of neat information from it, but there were also a few things I wanted to cover that we didn't really get to, or sort of glossed over -- a rather timely one on the nature of writing Comedy being one notable example. It's a bit frustrating but understandable due to the format.

Overall I wouldn't say it was a waste of time or anything, it's a great foundation course -- especially if you're looking to get started as a film writer and have $200 kicking around.

But, speaking personally, I didn't find that it offered much that directly related to me as an aspiring TV writer.

That said, I've now gone and dropped almost double that amount of cash to attend the Toronto Screenwriter's Conference that's coming up next weekend. Hopefully I'll be able to glean some story or craft insight from the professional TV folk in attendance.

Right now my plan for that is a simple one: Show up early, stay late, pay attention.

We'll see how that plays out.

Cheers!
Brandon

PS: Incidentally, I never got a 'certificate' after the completion of the program. Maybe it gets mailed to me or something... I dunno.