Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Worth The Price Of Admission

Hey all!

Just wanted to pop on here early and point out that today is the last day to get your Early Bird rate for the Toronto Screenwriting Conference.  Normally tickets for the two-day event are $369 but until 5pm today you can grab yours for $279.  Good stuff.

Now, just to be clear here, I'm not being paid to shill for the conference - heck, I can't even make it out this year due to prior commitments - I'm letting you know because I've gone to the last 2 years of this now 3 year-old Conference and it was absolutely worth every penny.  No matter what level of writer you are, there's goodness here for you.  Plus, if you're willing to get your feet wet, this is a top-notch place to do some networking.

Anyways, I won't push this button too hard or fast, I'll just close by saying that I'd already have my ticket if I could make it out.  Historically, it's been a great time and I think, with the current roster of speakers, it's going to be one hell of a show.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Approaching the Horizon

So it's not all said and done, pretty close though.  Had a moderately productive weekend and, basically, have been trying to balance the various hats I've been wearing as of late.

I finally got the scenes between the Doctor and Josie down to a place where I can say that I'm 'happy' with them.  I tried to balance her child-like innocence with the bravery she obviously has while trying not to make it come off as too cliché.

I know that might sound weird but I always cringe whenever I see a 'brave little kid' on TV.  I'm not sure why, but it never really speaks to me (which may be why I originally avoided putting Josie in the room with the Doctor in the first place).

Anyways, yes, hopefully it plays out honestly and organically -- as much as you can get in a sci-fi show where time travelers are being chased by a giant dragon.

Okay, maybe I do think about things too much.

But yes, progress.

In other news:

If you get a chance, tomorrow night Marvin Kaye, Chris Sheasgreen and Mark McKinney, the magicians behind  'Less Than Kind' will be the special guests of a Writers Talking TV event here in Toronto.  If you get a chance, come on out and listen to these folks because they are wise in the ways of TV-things.

I'm really looking forward to it and I think it's going to be a fantastic time.  The link to the event details and such are right here.  Hope to see you there!

Other than that, I'm just... yeah, trying not to get horribly distracted by my twitter feed and the absolute bullshit that's going on in the political arena.  Keeping that anger in check for now... but man, I am one unimpressed Canadian at this moment.  (A moment that seems to be growing ad infinitum...)

Anyways, that's all for now.  Hopefully good news to come soon.

Cheers all!
Brandon

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bring On The Weekend!

Still knee-deep in re-writing, tying up loose ends, catching new ones as they're made.

Which is definitely one of the bigger things to keep an eye out for while in second-draft mode.

It's really easy, while in the thick of things, to snip things that don't necessarily need to be snipped and 'fix' things that don't need to be fixed.

I caught myself doing this just yesterday - there I was in the middle of re-writing a whole scene and I stopped myself and asked 'why am I re-writing this scene?  There wasn't anything wrong with it in the first place.'

I mean, don't get me wrong, it's nice to be riding that ol' wave of inspiration while it's there, but sometimes that wonderful wave can dash me off the rocks if I'm not careful -- and create a whole new mess of work for myself.

There are few better feelings than to figure out a stronger way to write a scene; something that says what I wanted to say but faster or smoother or cleaner.

But sometimes, in the joy of the moment, it's easy to forget the context of how that original piece fit into the next one.  If I keep trucking along and don't catch it, I've just left one hell of a hanging thread (that I might not even catch until much later).

So yes, as much as I love the rewriting process, it's also balanced with the idea that I'm really trying to not make any more unnecessary for myself.  Rewriting new scenes and such is cool and can be fun, but if I really feel the need to experiment like that, I'll try to save my draft and work on another version.

Anyways, things are coming along nicely - if I get a good couple of days in this weekend, I might actually be able to wrap this up.  *fingers crossed*

Have a great weekend!
Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 'Meat and Potato' Scenes

Another one of the tricks of writing a spec script is knowing what the 'meat and potato' scenes of the show in question are.

These are the go-to scenes, things that happen every episode or bits that are so integral to the show that to NOT have them is going to start sending red flags to anyone who knows it.

It's like writing a CSI: Miami without without the dramatic shade pull and the bad pun that leads into the YEEEEAAAAAAH! of the opening credits.

Or the integral 'Barney' moment in every How I Met Your Mother.  It doesn't matter what he does, it'll always be some sort of outlandish plan/exclamation or dare.  A script without Barney being somehow Legen-- wait for it-- dary! is pretty much unheard of.

Well, in the case of Doctor Who the basic rule is that the Doctor should almost NEVER be left alone.  It can happen from time to time, but the Doctor works best when he's explaining the wonders of the universe to some poor mook who's in way over their head (sometimes that's even his own companions).

In the case of my current script, my original mook was Josie's father, William.  It was a great idea, in theory.  The man is in completely in over his head and he seemed like the perfect wall for the Doctor to babble at.  Except for the fact that it made two problems with my script.

1) He should be looking for his daughter.  He already lost his son down here - and believes he's dead - why would he be hanging around with this strange, babbling man?

2) The Doctor made William look stupid.  William is so uneducated that there's no way that he can reasonably respond to pretty much anything the Doctor says... except to nod along and look confused.

So, yeah.  What I thought would work in my head actually didn't work out in practice.

Though it did lead to the great note that it should be Josie in the room with the Doctor. (Thanks Deb and Priscilla).

It's a really good solution that, well, it does create ripples, but they're far more manageable.

The best thing about having Josie in the room is that she's a curious little girl.  You don't expect her to ask anything more than the kinds of questions a child would ask.  Better yet, maybe she can also use her child-like insights to help the Doctor in his quest (not sure if I'll actually do this yet...).

So I went to work on these scenes exclusively this morning, trying to see how it all would play out -- and so far, it's a great pairing.  So great that I wondered why I hadn't thought of this myself.  Which leads me to ripple effects.

The biggest ripple of this, so far, was that there are still 3 other people searching the catacombs for Josie (with a dragon stalking them).  To have them still out there looking for the little girl while the audience knows that she's safe and sound is okay for a short (short!) while, but the others need to find a new focus and fast.

What have I done so far?  Well, I managed to get them together into a group, which will help, and I set the dragon after them -- though, again, the ol' dragon chase is a card I can't play too often so I'm probably going to have to revisit this as well.

Other than that, there are also a couple of scenes that were integral to the plot that have to be reworked now that Josie's not in them, but I'm thinking that that's a bridge I'll cross once I get there (hopefully between now and then I'll find another, cooler, way to make the same general thing happen).

Right now it's all about trying to craft some really cool Doctor/Josie moments.

And the ripples?

Well, with any luck, they'll sort themselves out as I move forward.

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, February 20, 2012

And We're OFF!

So, Friday ended up being one of those special sorts of days where not a whole lot got accomplished.  On the bright side, Saturday was a fair shake better.

I sent off my completed vomit draft to my writing group for some quick feedback and man did that ever pay off in spades.

Remember how I managed to come up about 10 pages short (actually, looking at it again, it's more like 8)?  Yeah, it turns out that I omitted a whole major scene.  I'm not sure how I missed that but, essentially, one of the characters (Josie) goes missing for 13 pages.  I apparently glossed over the entire part where the Doctor and his team go looking for the little girl who got lost in the catacombs.

Yeah... not my finest moment, but, on the bright side, a quick fix this morning easily puts me in the 58 page range.  Excuse me whilst I smack my forehead while uttering 'duh' sounds.

The group also gave me some fantastic notes about my Dragon (not mean enough), my team (too freaking callous) and my Father character (too weak).

See, what I'd tried to do in the vomit draft was make it so that by the end of the episode, you really felt for the Dragon, that there was a sense that there were monsters down there but they didn't necessarily have scales.

Apparently I was far too effective in this.  See, about 3/4 through the script I've got a scene where these locals are being charged by the Dragon.  They're pretty much dead meat -- so in order to save their lives, one of the team starts smashing the Dragon's eggs to draw the Dragon's attention.  This works as advertised -- except for the fact that I set it up too well that this Dragon was the last of its kind.  The response I ended up eliciting from the reader was 'holy crap!  Stop it, you jerk!'.  I'd built up so much sympathy for the Dragon that this action was, well, pretty damned callous.

So now I'm working on my 2nd Draft, making changes which should help make the story stronger as well.

Some of the changes are minor - as in changing some dialogue to be less revealing; others are rather huge - like swapping a whole character out of a scene.

But the mantra here is 'stronger, better, faster' and so, as long as these changes contribute to that, then yeah, I'm more than happy to spill the sweat required to make it happen.

One of the bigger problems for me has been to try and decide if the script should have Act Breaks or not.  As I've mentioned before, the British version is very much like a cable script - 50-odd minutes straight-on through.  The BBC America version ended up having a teaser and 5 act breaks.  The version I've written so far has no act breaks, just straight-on-through story... What I think I'll end up doing is, once this is done, I'll go back through and make an 'Act Break' version.  It's actually not that hard to do, the raw materials for it were built into the Outline... and, maybe it'll be something worth hanging onto.  (An interesting exercise at the very least).

Anyways, this week I'm hitting full-on 2nd draft mode on this script so, with a bit of luck, I'll manage to finish up this draft by Sunday.  Fingers are officially crossed.

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Okay, so, what next?



Sooo... the vomit draft is done, our teeth are brushed and we're all minty fresh once more.

Great.

Now what?

If you're anything like me - or, in the case of this writing, are me - then you've probably already snuck a few sideways longing glances at that script you promised not to touch for a week (that way you'd come back to with with the requisite 'fresh eyes').

You may have also, perhaps, snuck onto your laptop at 4 in the morning -- just to fix a particular spelling mistake that you remember not being all that happy with.  And by 'spelling mistake' I mean 'scene'.

Yes, sometimes, despite our best efforts, it's not so easy to just put our scripts down and forget about them.

Sometimes we have to do what I call a 'conscience pass' -- what it's supposed to amount to is a quick read-through looking for things like grammar and spelling.  Often what it amounts to is seeing how many 'things' you can 'fix' in a set amount of time.  Okay, a conscience pass basically amounts to giving yourself a second - brief - swing at bat to catch as many things that you can on a single read through.

Then, conscience appeased, you're able to put the script down for the required time necessary to get some perspective on the bloody thing.

Personally, I've found the best way to do this is to work on something else entirely.  Which, with only my webseries left on the table for the moment, seems to leave me with an easy choice.

The webseries itself is coming along swimmingly - we've just finished the most recent draft of the 6th and final episode... and now we're moving on to punch-ups and such.  With a bit of luck we'll be getting together next week to put the final-ish touches on this baby.   Then?  Pre-production.  I hope.

More to come!
Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, February 13, 2012

Purge Complete!

What was that?  Oh... oh... oh!

Yes folks, the purge is done.  It was one of the longest first draft processes I've had in a while, but this weekend of bitter coldness ended up being an incredible boon for getting the writing out of me.

It's not perfect and I already know about 3 or 4 things that I want to change here... but the first, hardest part, is done.

Now comes the re-writing, the re-writing, the mild-to-moderate self-loathing and the re-writing.

I think the biggest obstacle this time around was mostly just finding a solid stretch of time where I could sit down and get into a groove.  Once I'm in the zone, the stuff just flows out of me... I can knock the pages out like I'm a Little Mac wannabe.  But therein lies the rub otherwise: finding those times where I'm not already doing a couple other things at once.

Despite my best efforts, this draft ended up about 10 pages light (I'm sitting at 50 right now, aiming for 60), though I think that's a pretty easy fix once I go back and do a dialogue pass.  A lot of the dialogue right now is pretty slim, just enough to get across the point I wanted to make in the scene; Enough for me to be able to go back and add banter and fun bits.  There are a few small moments that I could feel starting to blossom as I wrote it so I made a few notes and, hopefully, I'll be able to tease them out a bit more in the next pass or so.

Other than that, right now I'm just chilling out a tad, letting the script settle a bit, letting my mind clear of it so that when I start the next pass I'll have some semi-fresh eyes.

But, yes, for now: breathe. (and mouthwash.  Lots and lots of mouthwash).

Next Phase: The Re-Writing Process - Taking it to draft #2.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tip-Type-Typing away!

Slow but steady, progress!  Doctor Who is coming along, my next iteration of the Pipeline pitch bible -- which manages, somehow, to mix the best parts of the last and most current versions along with some newer, more exciting thought processes -- is off to Chris for perusal.

My gawd... could I be hitting some small patch of stability?  Quick, knock on... well, particle board (close enough, right?).

On the bright side, Saturday and Sunday look to be utterly, bitterly cold... which means I may just have all the excuse I need to hunker down with my laptop and start firing off pages like a madman.  We'll see how that plays out.

I know I've had a few folks mention that they'd like to see what I've put together so far... so, while I can't go putting up large swaths of this thing, here's what I've put together for my first page:

_____________

INT. CATACOMBS

Through the darkness he sprints, young JONATHAN AMES - a 15 year-old kid dressed in rags; a bulky gunny sack slung over one shoulder, an old-style flashlight in his other hand - the fading light bobbing and shaking, revealing rough-hewn stone walls as he scrambles forward; contents clicking and clacking together inside the sack as he runs for his life.

Behind him something ROARS, the walls shaking with its rage.  Jonathan looks over his shoulder, shines the light backward - terrified, he abandons the sack and pushes himself to run faster. (The sack hits the ground sounding like a bag of giant marbles.)

Turning corners at random now, running blind from fear, he slams face first into a dead-end and stumbles backward, falling to the ground, dazed.

From the ground looking up, a shadow falls across the cavern as the dying flashlight winks out. Jonathan SCREAMS in the darkness.

CUE TITLES

EXT. DUSTY CORNFIELD - DAY

A bright yellow sun beams down from a cloudless sky. It’s hot here, hot and dry - a desert in the making.

The TARDIS - a blue, 1960s-style, British police box - appears in the dusty, ruined remnants of a cornfield.

DOCTOR (O.C.)
Just you wait!

THE DOCTOR bursts out through the front doors, excited. A waif-ish, thin man with mid-length, dark hair he’s dressed in a dark green greatcoat, crisp white shirt, crimson bowtie, black suspenders and slacks. He speaks with a hurried, British accent.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
I’m telling you, seas - shimmering SEAS - of living
crystal.  And the best massages in the known
galaxy, well, until that Sontaran soprano incident in
forty-sixteen, but I--

He stops, looks up to the sky, feels the sun beating down on him. AMY POND and RORY POND, married, also British-ish accents, step out of the TARDIS into the bright, hot, daylight and immediately shield their eyes.

The Doctor looks around, sees sand and wilted, mummified corn stalks. He walks in a circle, head down, thinking. He licks his finger, sticks it in the air.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
No. That’s not right -- singular sun, simple gravity,
light magnetic field. Wrong planet, obviously --
wrong planet, wrong time. But--

He spins, without looking, pointing to the exact location of a small, gleaming object just on the horizon.

DOCTOR (CONT’D)
What is that?

__________________

Now, of course, more of that to come.  Still have work to do, but I'm feeling good.  All progress is good progress, right?

Cheers all!
Brandon

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

At The Speed Of Light... or not


So, 5 pages a day seems to be a good, safe, healthy, operational tactic for the time being. It's nothing phenomenal, but it seems maintainable. We'll see how that goes.

Once I can get this silly vomit draft done then we can start talking about fun things like clean-up and re-writing with purpose and re-discovering 'what-the-hell-you-were-thinking-in-the-first-place'.

You know, the good stuff.

Tonight I've got another chat with Chris, hopefully this will be where things make the final click into 'aha!' mode and we'll get to move on to some other fun stuff as well - stuff like 'pitching' and 'learning to pitch' and 'not yakking all over the floor in front of those you are pitching'.

Not that I'm nervous or anything. I mean, there's that whole 'fear of the unknown' thing which is rather common. But, hey, I jumped out of the first plane I ever took... so, yeah, it's gotta be easier than that, right?

Anyways, the short update is that things are moving toward a conclusion on at least two fronts - Chris has some other obligations that he needs to start focusing on soon... so that definitely puts a ticking clock on things.

Mmm... tiiiiicking cloooock.

And my vomit draft is nearing some sort of a 'done' state.  Fingers crossed, that'll be wrapped up fast-ish.

More to come soon!
Brandon

Monday, February 06, 2012

Now that's more like it

Alright, quick post before I head off to a web-series meeting:

Sunday was pretty good, managed to sneak in another 5 pages into my vomit draft (which, at this point... yeah, I don't even want to try and play out the mental image).

My son turned 1 on Saturday so that involved a lot of fancy footwork to get set up and ready. He seemed utterly delighted at the sight of the sparkler though, so that made the good 2-3 hour hunt to find them... well, mostly worthwhile.

Lots of pictures, lots of cake and other things that are really not all that good for us... but it was fun. Hopefully next year, when he has more of an idea what's going on, we can do something a bit bigger and have more people over.

That said, I may come to severely regret that thought as the day approaches.

Who knows?

In other news, yeah, web-series meeting tonight. We've got 5 scripts in the can... well, mostly, with at least one more to do (possibly a 7th, depending on how much hurt we're willing to sign up for).

On the whole, it's coming together well... so, with a bit of luck, we can lock it all tonight and move on to some other interesting stuff like pre-production.

Again, stuff I say now that I may soon come to regret.

Anyways, that's all for now.

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, February 03, 2012

Wow... Long Week

Holy hoopla, Batman... this week was made of stabby things.

Lots of things that could go wrong, did.  Lots of things that shouldn't have gone wrong... did.

Needless to say, I've been a tad off balance today (and pretty much every day since Monday...).

As it turns out my re-vamp that I was all excited about for Pipeline went over like a lead balloon dropped from the 30th floor.  Okay, yes, maybe I am prone to dramatics... but still, yeah, not as well as I would've liked.

The silver lining in this scenario was that it ended up with Chris and I having a pretty interesting chat about what made this draft worse than the last one -- which helped us further identify the things that we like about the show.  Which helped us focus on that further, going forward.

As an aside, a definite big-ups to Chris for being totally cool and understanding about it - pretty much saying 'yeah, that happens... to everyone of us'.  We spent a good hour or two on the phone just talking it out, re-connecting dots, making it better.  So, yes, that one definitely ended in the 'less bloody' category.

My Doctor Who spec has been sitting fallow for days now -- I simply haven't had a chance to sit down with it since I've been tooling up on Pipeline this week.  I'm cautiously optimistic for a Sunday writing session of some sorts but we'll see.

Finally, and, ending this hell-week on a positive note: my son's 1st birthday is this Saturday (mere minutes away, at this point).

It's funny, I used to look back at the year and smile my goofy lil' smile and say 'wow, where did the time go?'

Now I have a very physical reminder in front of me -- one that seems to grow and develop before my very eyes. Every day it's something new, or different. Sometimes I just sit there and watch him figure out the best way to fit Cheerios into his mouth.

I know it sounds corny, but, yeah... I'm hooked.

And he's got me deep in the thick of it now -- experiencing time in full-on freeflow... each day overlapping with the previous and the next.  If I'm lucky I can pause long enough to appreciate what's going on around me -- or sneak off for a rare drink with friends.

But I don't stray for long 'cause, honestly, I find that I can't wait to get back to him.

Anyways, long story short: this first year has been the most exciting, terrifying, frustrating and incredible time of my life thus far.

And I'm incredibly stoked to see what comes next.

Happy 1st birthday, lil' guy.

Please stop pulling my hair now.

Thanks,
Da-da