This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, TV biz, etc., etc. is dedicated to Ken Levine’s blog, AKA “…by Ken Levine.” We can’t help it. We keep finding useful nuggets of knowledge there every time we look and definitely think you will too.
As usual, the plan here is for you to click on the headlines over the excerpts below and visit the site to read the posts in full…and if anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?
The Levine & Isaacs writing process
by Ken Levine
Hello from New York. Here’s a Friday Question that became an entire post.
Wonder if you can give a high level look at your writing process with David Isaacs – what sparks an idea for a script, how long it takes to get from idea to outline to first draft to final script?
(You can see why one or two paragraphs might not cover this.)
We have no set way of coming up with ideas. I think we’ve each trained ourselves to always be on the lookout for good ideas because you never know when that spark is going to come.
Speaking for myself, I’ll read an article or see an incident at In & Out or come across some historical tidbit, or even hear a song that might trigger an idea….
Tips on writing dialogue
by Ken Levine
This is a lecture I gave a few weeks ago at NYU and one I give every quarter at UCLA. It’s some tips on how to write good dialogue.
Mike Nichols said: There are only three kinds of scenes: a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. Every scene must have a dynamic. It can’t just be people talking to each other. That dynamic is your friend. Constantly ask yourself: What does he want? What is her attitude? (By the way, you can have fights, seductions, and negotiations all at once.)
Forget grammar, forget perfectly formulated sentences. Write the way people speak. Conversational….
More tips on writing dialogue
by Ken Levine
Yesterday was part one. Today is part two.
Hitchcock said a “good story was life with the dull parts taken out.” Same for dialogue. Don’t waste time with hellos, how you doing?, etc. Get in a scene as late as you can, and get out as early as you can.
Take great pains in writing the opposite sex. There is a tendency to make the opposite sex generic or stereotypical. If you’re unsure how a member of the opposite sex would act in a certain situation or what they’d say, ASK a few of them.
LISTEN. Eavesdrop. Make your dialogue as authentic as you possibly can. Make note of expressions. (If your show centers in a high school, don’t just assume the kids today will use the same expressions or act the exact same way that you did.) RESEARCH. Scour Netflix for documentaries that might contain characters similar to yours. See how the talking heads in the documentary speak.
Remember that real people have to say these lines. Actors will question things. Be careful with insults….
At first blush, this sounds like a fantastic thing for writers. A newly formed production company, Adaptive, is going through discarded studio screenplays and giving some of them new life.
All screenplay writers bitch about the dreaded “Development Hell.” You do draft after draft and eventually the studio says “Nah, we’ll just reboot SPIDERMAN again” and your project is dead. Sometimes you can get it in turnaround, and sometimes another studio will be interested, but most of the time the script just sits in a warehouse that must look like the final scene of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC.
Once it goes there, rarely is it ever heard from again. I don’t know a single feature writer who doesn’t have at least two screenplays in that graveyard. Maybe three….