Bri Castellini: How to Kill Your Darlings – @stareable

 by Bri Castellini

I don’t care how talented a writer you are, how witty your dialog, how ingenious your story weaving- it’s almost guaranteed your scripts are several pages too long. But especially when your story is good and your dialog competent, it can be easy to convince yourself you’ve done enough and you’re ready to shoot. Think again- today we’re talking about killing your darlings.

Defined: a “darling” is an element of your story (usually at a script level, but occasionally is a particular prop or piece of wardrobe) that is disproportionately important to you than the story itself.

An example is a three-page witty dialog sequence that you love because it’s funny and clever but doesn’t actually move the story or the characters forward in any way, or a particular poster on a character’s wall that would be expensive or difficult to attain but is an inside joke amongst the cast and crew.

Defining and deciding to kill your darlings is an exercise in understanding the purpose of every moment, every character, every word, and every beat in your story, but that can be difficult. Let’s make it simple.

Do A Table Read

Because screenplays are mostly dialog, it can be easy to write off long conversations as too long because the individual lines seem short and “it’ll be faster when the actors talk.” It’s hard to actually make that call without hearing those lines aloud, though- there’s a reason even veteran showrunners still do table reads on major network shows. Even if you don’t have all the parts cast yet, get a group of actors and friends together and hear your work, and pay attention to the moments of waning interest. In theory, a table read is engaging to everyone the whole way through the same way watching a new movie is. But if you look up from the page and pay attention to the readers who aren’t speaking, you’ll notice at which points they start to zone out. The sections with the most glassed-over eyes are the ones you should reconsider.

Furthermore, if your script is comedic and you haven’t heard a chuckle in over a minute, something’s wrong.

Cut transitions, intros, and outros

What is the absolute shortest version of your story where it can still make sense and be impactful? Arthur Vincie, the creator of Three Trembling Cities 1, suggests you “cut the first 10 pages out and see if the story still makes sense. About 60% of the time it does; the other 40% usually just require some tweaks.” Obviously not every web series has 10 pages to spare (or 10 pages in an episode), but the point stands- introductions are worthy exercises in figuring out your narrative, but they aren’t always the actual best place to start the story.

In a similar sentiment, Tim Manley, writer and co-creator of The Feels 1, talked about cutting his scripts on our podcast Forget The Box as a reaction to his other co-creator Naje Lataillade explaining the various shots a particular episode will require. Tim recalls that “my brain will trigger- ‘that sounds like a long day.’ And I’ll be like, you know what? The whole scene takes place in one room. And actually I cut the beginning and I cut the end…. But what that actually does is boil it down to the most interesting part anyway. So the constraint, from my point of view, forces us to only do the parts that you really need, and in the end honors viewers time and honors everyone’s time.” And isn’t that how it should be?

Ask yourself: do you need a page of a character leaving one location and arriving at another? Are we learning anything from that, or are you worried people will get confused about where she is? Sometimes, it’s actually better to tell instead of show, if telling takes a single line of dialog and showing is two minutes of screentime.

Combine or cut characters

Alicia Carroll of Fishing explains that her “personal vice is characters. I always have too many. The challenge becomes deciphering which ones are necessary, which ones can composite together, and which ones have to cut.” Especially on a web series, more characters means more people to coordinate schedules with, more pages of dialog leading to longer shoot dates, more bodies to feed and keep comfortable on set, and just generally more variables to account for. And often, that many people aren’t necessary.

Ask yourself- is the purpose of this character to have a world and path of their own, or to move the plot forward in a few key scenes? If it’s the former- great! If it’s the latter- give those key scenes to another character who is fully fleshed out and who is not just a prop in service of your plot- it’ll give more gravity to those moments because the characters are more integrated with the story by nature of the fact that there’s more to them than their main plot significance.

Have someone else do it

Presumably, the reason you’ve been made aware of a “darling” is because you showed your script to a friend or colleague. If you trust them, or have another person you trust, why not give them a go? Give them a new document to cut what they wish, then read over the new version yourself. If you don’t notice something’s gone or it only takes a small rewrite to connect the dots between sections previously separated by darlings, it might be easier to let them go. (shout out to Dana Luery Shaw for suggesting you let someone else do the dirty work)

Save stuff for later

In The Good Place podcast, which I highly recommend, the writers of the show talk about how when a joke gets cut or changed in an episode, it doesn’t get purged from the Earth. Instead, jokes that don’t make it to air end up in the “candy jar,” a document of funnies pitched to dip into when in need of a laugh or some inspiration.

When we talk about “darlings,” we call them that because they’re good, they just might not be good for this particular project or moment. So don’t reject them entirely- protect them and put them in a list of things you want to revisit eventually. That can often help with the sting of killing them- maybe we should rephrase to “gently guiding your darlings to a waiting room because they aren’t needed quite yet.”

Do you have an example of a darling you’ve killed? Or do you have another method for identifying and trimming them? Let me know in the comments!

Will Shane Dawson’s 15 Minutes of Fame Ever Stop?

Do you know Shane Dawson? Have you heard of him? He was brought to our attention recently because Mr. Dawson and his YouTube channel have – brace yourselves – over eight million subscribers.

Dood’s rich and famous and does what he wants the way he wants it, and entertains people in the process. And as of now he’s my #1 hero, a mythic creator who not only has ideas but goes to work on ’em…and finishes as well.

Some cases in point:

The hell with so-called Bigtime TV. I’m downloading the best free video editing app I can find and pulling myself out of my lower middle class existence and into the YouTube Hall of Fame.

How about you? Gonna give it a try?

Shane Dawson TV is HERE

Last Day to Nominate Your Screenplay or Videogame Script for a WGAW Award

In case y’all forgot:

The 15 Best Shows Within a TV Show

Don’t know how you feel about them, but we at TVWriter™ love TV shows within TV shows. There’s something about the absolute falsity of such a situation that drives LB wild with delight, and a delighted LB is, well, he’s a much easier boss to work for, if you know what we mean.

Anyway, we don’t know how we missed this article when it came out way back in August, but here’s a look at some great shows that aren’t really shows or are they:

LB’S NOTE: A quick heads-up. The pic we’re using to illustrate this article is of a show within a show that placed 13th with Paste Magazine but has been, from the moment I first saw it on Community, absolutely numero uno with me – Travis Richey’s Inspector Spacetime. So:

Inspector Spacetime with the original cast

by Amy Amatangelo and Paste TV Writers

If you’re reading this, my guess is that you love watching TV. And guess what? Your favorite TV characters love watching TV, too. One of TV’s most delightful inside jokes comes in the form of the show-with-in-a-show: the faux comedy, drama or reality program that plays in the background as the characters continue on with their lives. The show that they just can’t stop talking about and gather around to watch.

These embedded wink-winks—including the most recent, Kev’Yn, a Martin-inspired sitcom revival that appears in the new season of Insecure—are a way for showrunners to slyly communicate with the audience, respond to viewer criticism, or comment on a particular aspect of pop-culture or the television industry. Sometimes they’re just trying to make us laugh.

Here are our 15 favorite shows within a show. Note: This list includes only shows the characters watch, not fictional shows the characters star in—so no TGS from 30 Rock or Seeing Red from The Comeback (sorry, Valerie!) You’ll have to keep an eye out for those on our upcoming list of the best backstage TV shows.

15. Vidas del Fuego
Show: Ugly Betty

The ABC dramedy was itself based on the popular Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea, so it made total sense that Betty (America Ferrera) and the rest of the Suarez clan would be hooked on Vidas del Fuego, which centered on a pregnant maid who is having an affair with her priest and a stepmother seducing her stepson in order to get control of the family fortune. A telenovela inside a telenovela is the TV version of those Russian nesting dolls, and it was perfect. In a forward-thinking move at the time (this was back in 2006), ABC even offered weekly webisodes of Vidas del Fuego. We’re sorry/not sorry we watched. —Amy Amatangelo

14. The Terrence and Phillip Show
Show: South Park

If South Park was knocked for its elementary animation and immature humor, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker doubled down with The Terrence and Phillip Show, which makes South Park seem like something from Studio Ghibli by comparison. The crass Canadian stick figures are to the parents of South Park, Colo., what Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny are to the real-world parents who write off South Park as an obscene waste of time. After 21 seasons, Stone and Parker have explored the world behind the show within the show to the point that Sir Phillip Niles Argyle and Sir Terrance Henry Stoot have gone from two kids yelling “You FAH-ted!” to Buddhist monks and Nobel Peace Prize winners. So there’s hope for Cartman yet. —Josh Jackson

13. Inspector Spacetime
Show: Community

Inspector Spacetime with some other guys (per PasteMagazine.Com)

The incredibly British and incredibly fake Doctor Who parody Inspector Spacetime helped strengthen Community’s most affecting friendship. Though Abed (Danny Pudi) learned of the show from Britta (Gillian Jacobs), it’s through Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed’s appreciation of the multi-incarnate (and sometimes very sexy) time-and-space traveling Inspector that the show within the show found its place in the tightknit group of friends. Fighting cybernetic Blorgons with a Quantum Spanner is one thing, but providing a specific interior fandom for a show that spawned a cultish fandom of its own made two of its characters even more relatable to Community viewers. Plus, the “Inspector Spacetime Christmas Special” is a hilarious jab at Star Wars inside of a larger stab at Doctor Who. No geeky sci-fi property is safe. —Jacob Oller

Read it all at Pastemagazine.Com

munchman sees ‘Homecoming’ – Aiyee! Yikes! Oh Noooo!

Can you see Julia Roberts’ face here? Can you see what’s going on in this scene? Neither can I.

by munchman

THE STORY (direct from Wikipedia, so you know it’s accurate and not just yer friendly neighborhood munchero messing about: 

Heidi Bergman is a caseworker at Homecoming, a facility that helps soldiers transition back to civilian life. She leaves Homecoming to start a new life living with her mother and working as a small-town waitress. Years later, the Department of Defense questions why she left, which makes Heidi realize that there’s a whole other story behind the one that she’s been telling herself. Oscar winner Julia Roberts stars as Heidi in the first regular TV series role of her career. “Homecoming” is based a podcast of the same name.

THE GOOD: 

  • It’s created and written by Mr. Robot’s Sam Esmail & based on a podcast by Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz
  • It stars a Big Deal Movie Star named Julia Roberts
  • It’s a potentially interesting new twist on the old evil government mind control story
  • It’s beautifully shot, possibly the best looking series in the history of TV anywhere in the world (that isn’t shot in a Scandinavian country anyway)

THE NOT SO GOOD:

  • No matter how great looking this show is it’s still the same old story with the same not really very surprising at all “surprise” ending
  • The dialog has been lauded for its “realism,” which in this case means that is boring as hell
  • If the dialog and story aren’t boring enough to put you to sleep long before you finish watching even the first episode of this overrated 10 episode season, the pacing will sure as hell do it for ya
  • Did I say it’s beautifully shot? It is, indeed, but most of the shots are so dark and shadowy that I was so irritated at not being able to understand what I was seeing that the beauty didn’t matter. I’m thinking the purpose behind the darkness wasn’t necessarily creative but rather done to disguise how old, bedraggled, and generally unpleasant Former Big Deal Movie Star Julia Roberts now looks

CONCLUSION:

A total waste of time brought to us by Amazon, the company that may have speedy delivery but sure can’t get TV (or film) production right. I know critics are raving about it, but hey, they’re critics, which means that they’re also probably wannabe TV and film writers, which in turn means that their futures are dependent on pleasing not the viewers but the production entities they hope to work for in the future.