David Chast on ‘The Sopranos’

Back in 2001, David Chase gave a fascinating interview about the development of his masterpiece, The Sopranos.

This one’s a master class in TV writing all by itself:

For your delectation, the pilot script for The Sopranos is HERE (unless it’s been removed)

23 Words or Phrases to Eliminate From Your Writing

An infographic that’s as good looking as it is helpful. You don’t find gems like this often, so go on, look and enjoy (just don’t do it redundantly.)

More cool infograph-type stuff is here

“Professional Editors. Affordable rates” are also on the very same site. Worth checking out!


Why Writers Have A Hard Time In Recovery

If learning your lesson was easy, it probably wouldn’t be much of a lesson, would it? Can you handle the challenge of recovery?

from Dreamstime.Com

by David Silverman, MA, LMFT

t’s tempting to follow in the footsteps of great writers who used alcohol or other substances to boost their productivity.  Tempting, maybe, but also long term most likely not such a great idea.

“Write drunk. Edit sober.”

This quote has been attributed to Hemingway, but the that’s been disputed.  Regardless, it gives you an idea why writers do it. That first draft is so agonizing to get on paper. Staring at the blank page fills many writers with fear. Writing (drunk or high) can lower your inhibitions while you get it down for the first time.

Should you have trouble avoiding this temptation, be warned. While writing drunk and editing sober might work for a while on some level, think about the long term. All that drinking, or all those drugs, can affect your grasp on reality, your performance as a writer, your general level of functioning – not to mention your liver.

Why do writers have the worst track record of recovery in Hollywood?

Why is it worse for writers?  Why is it harder to get sober for other creative professionals in town, like directors, producers, actors, rock musicians; and in another category… agents.  Why? Because, all those performers and cut-throat business people, they’re on view every day, doing their work.

If they drink, everybody knows about it. If they drink on the set, people will smell the booze. If they smoke pot in their trailer, people will smell that, too.   Too many witnesses.

Writers, on the other hand, can write in the privacy of their own homes, stoned, drunk or both. They don’t have to clock in. They can write all night. They can drink scotch and pop a handful of pills  first thing in the morning.  Nobody will be the wiser.

When do you decide to clean up your act?  You’ll know when it’s time.  Your life will start falling apart.  You might be hiding your addiction from others in your life. You might have trouble paying the bills.  You might not show up to meetings on time.   Even worse, you could get a DUI.  Speaking of which, why do people still get DUI’s when there’s Uber?

Reaching the decision to quit drinking or using drugs is the most important step in the process of recovery. If you’ve reached this decision and have time, you might need to be treated in a residential rehab for anywhere from 28 to 90 days.

Success in treatment involves developing a new way of life, with sober friends and supporters. It also involves getting to the cause of the addiction, and work towards removing that cause as a reason to self-medicate.

You’ll have to develop healthy ways of managing stress in this new way of life. If writing is a trigger, as it is for perfectionists, for example, getting sober will be a more difficult task….


And Now a Few Words from the Showrunners of ‘Life on Mars’ (U.S. version)

This article fascinates us because it’s a look into the thinking of those responsible for a show that to those of us here at TVWriter™ may well have been the worst U.S. network adaptation of a UK hit ever.

The finale of the U.S. version put the final nail in the coffin, replacing the shaded, mysterious, semi-supernatural conclusion in the original with the absolutely most mundane, over-obvious explanation a show called Life on Mars could possibly have.

The fact that the guys in charge of the U.S. version, starting at the highest executive level and working down, are so proud of their take on it is proof, if any of you need it, that the pros ain’t necessarily any smarter or more talented than the rest of us. (Just richer, maybe.) Cast your jaundiced eyes here:

Life on Mars, U.S. version

Behind the Scenes of TV’s Most Bonkers Series Finale
by Liz Shannon Miller

In describing the nuances of one-season wonder “Life on Mars,” executive producer Josh Appelbaum coined a term: “It was exce-silly — excellent and silly.”

None of the 5 million people who originally watched the ABC series finale would likely disagree. Tracking the mystery behind why modern-day detective Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) finds himself transported back to the year 1973, the cop/sci-fi hybrid based on the UK series of the same name failed to secure a second season, but thanks to the forethought of Appelbaum and his fellow showrunners, the series did manage to deliver an ending.

And oh, what a series finale it was. The episode “Life Is a Rock,” which aired on April 1, 2009, features one of modern television’s most bonkers final twists, and was actually 100 percent the ending planned by the creators from the beginning.

Yes, it came a little sooner than they would have liked, but the creators remain grateful for the chance to put that ending on screen. How that ending came to be, in all its insane glory, is a story best told by those involved: Appelbaum, fellow executive producer Scott Rosenberg, director Michael Katleman, and series star Jason O’Mara. Despite the years of distance, all of them had the deepest affection for this epic “exce-silly” episode.

Life on Mars UK

“The Wrong Network at the Wrong Time”

Rosenberg: Steve McPherson at ABC was obsessed with [“Life on Mars”]. They had shot a pilot with as good an auspice as you can get in television: David E. Kelley wrote it, Tommy Schlamme directed it, and Jason O’Mara starred in it. We were vaguely aware of the BBC original. McPherson brought us in, he’s like, “You guys want to take this over?” So we looked at it and it was honestly, I can happily say this on the record, it was terrible.

So we said, “Oh, it’s full of really good actors, but just kind of not gelling in a particularly good way.” And, we said, “We’ll do it, but you have to let us re-cast everything and set it in New York City.” And, he was like, “You can re-cast everybody except Jason O’Mara.”

O’Mara: I spoke to Steve, and I said, “What’s going on, are you picking up the show?” And he said, “I’m getting rid of everything except you and the title.” I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah. I’m changing everything.” I didn’t have a choice, because I had a holding deal with the network at the time….

Read it all at INDIEWIRE.COM

PJ McIlvaine: In The Zone

Now THIS is the zone where we’ve always wanted to be!

by PJ McIlvaine

Writing can be a long, rough, exasperating, never-ending, demanding, heartbreaking slog. Anyone who claims that they were an “overnight” success, ahem, I’d take that with a grain of Himalayan pink salt.

Writing is lonely. The only people speaking to you are the voices in your head. And if you don’t listen to them, man, do they get cross.

Writing is physically demanding. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you may end up as old as Methuselah. I have written through flu, sinus attacks, kidney stones, the kids throwing up in pots beside me, and other untold miseries and tragedies…you name it, I’ve done it, survived and even thrived. I’m not saying I’ve done it well or that it’s easy. That’s a story for another day.

But when you’re in the zone…ahhh, it’s bliss, it’s orgasmic, it’s floating on air, it’s that wonderful, heady, intoxicating zone, and there is no better feeling in the entire world, besides, maybe, a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream or snuggling up to your loved one on a cold winter night or rocking out to John Fogerty. And I’m saying that’s a big freaking maybe.

But the zone, that elusive zone…I never know when I’m going to be in the zone. The muse is fickle and fleeting. But when the zone comes knocking, I damn well know it and I must heed the call. I take full advantage of it because who knows how long it’s going to last.

For I have learned the hard way that the zone has a mind of its own and I ignore it at my own peril. My hard drive is littered with half-completed books, barely begun scripts, and aborted first pages. I allowed myself to be distracted by other shiny new objects. Now I’m older and wiser. I let the zone do the driving. I’m merely the passenger.

So what does being in the zone mean, exactly?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but it’s when I’m seized with an idea to the point of obsession and exclusion of all other ideas. Oh, to the outside world, you seem completely ordinary. You do the routine, mundane chores like laundry and going to the market. Nothing to see here, move on.

But inside…that’s a different story entirely. I breathe it like a forbidden romance. I literally cannot think of anything else, no matter what I do or where I go. It’s branded into my brain. It courses through my veins like a rolling river. I close my eyes and voila, it’s all there, unfolding like a movie: the plot, the characters, the voices, the surroundings, complications, drama, everything and anything. I may not have the entire story fully fleshed out from beginning to end, but I have a general sense of how it goes. I find that writing it down in an outline is NOT helpful and even hinders me. I’ll usually write a paragraph or so, sometimes even just chapter headings as a guide post, but that’s it.

And also with the zone, and maybe this is the most crucial part, it waits patiently, well, maybe not so patiently, for me to write it all down before it disappears like cotton candy in a five-year old’s sticky hands.

When I’m fully enmeshed in the zone, it’s like being on auto-pilot. The words pour out of me, all coming from a higher power, and I dream up with things that later, even I wonder where the hell did THAT come from. The best way to describe it is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. I know I’m going to hit land eventually, and I hope that when I do, I’ll be okay, gulp.

Over time, I’ve learned to trust my zone. Now that isn’t to say that when I’m in it that there aren’t ebbs and flows. There are, plenty of them. It might steer me in the wrong direction and I have to make a course correction. Sometimes I’ll write something not knowing how it’s going to play out and then, boom, subconsciously the answer will come to me when I least expect it or when I’m doing something else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with a brilliant scene washing my hair or taking the dog out for a walk.

And when I do hit a low point, as all writers do, I just keep writing, even when it seems it’s hopeless, it’s treacle, it’s horrible, I don’t know what I’m doing (add your own reason). I know that eventually, the zone is going to come through if I just keep plugging away to finish the first draft. Once I finish that, the revising, the re-writing, all that is doable. The zone, the passion, carries me until I can type THE END which we all know, really isn’t.

Many people call it different things, for me it’s the zone. But whatever you call it, when it comes, grab it by the tail and don’t let go. And now, if you’ll excuse me, the zone, my BFF, is calling.

Pj McIlvaine is a prolific writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. She has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and a host of other places. Her Showtime movie, My Horrible Year (with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen and Eric Stoltz) was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Find out more about Ms. McIlvaine HERE. This article first in her most magical blog.