Cartoon: The Three Rays

threerays-blogMore genius from Grant Snider at Incidental Comics

What NOT to do When Writing a Script

by Ken Levine

NoMistakesHere are some handy tips on what NOT to do when writing a script:

Don’t put extra pressure on yourself unnecessarily. I once had a writing teacher who said, “Think of each page of your sitcom as being worth a thousand dollars. Then say to yourself, ‘is this page worth one thousand dollars?’” This teacher should be shot. First of all, his math is off. And secondly, there will be some pages worth five grand and others worth sixteen bucks because you’re just describing a character driving away to end the scene. Don’t put monetary values on pages or jokes or anything. It’s arbitrary and destructive.

Don’t feel every line has to be perfect before you can go on to the next. The end result will be a rather stilted very calculated script. Get a flow going. You can always go back and revise. Don’t let one difficult line completely stall the process. And here’s the dirty little secret: The lines won’t be perfect anyway.

Don’t clog up your pages with lots of stage direction. A reader sees a giant block of direction and best case scenario – just skips it, and worse case scenario – tosses the script away. Do the bare minimum and then cut that down.

Likewise, any big speech can be trimmed. Don’t fall in love with your rhetoric.

Characters rarely articulate just how they feel and exactly what they want. In fact, most people go out of their way to NOT express what they’re really thinking. They convey their feelings in behavior, innuendo, denial, misdirection, a smokescreen of humor – pretty much anything other than stating the obvious. It’s your job to find ways to get their feelings across in an artful not bald way.

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3 Big Myths About Writers

Good morning! We’ve found an exciting analysis of writing! That we can agree with! Wotta great way to start a TVWriter™ day!

A plusby Amanda

Megan McArdle wrote an interesting piece for The Atlantic about why writers are the worst procrastinators:

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

She isn’t specifically writing about screenwriting, but I think her points are applicable. I was definitely one of those annoying kids who didn’t have to try very hard to get As in English class. Writing came especially easy to me, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with why I pursued this path.

We’ve been writing prose since first grade, but screenwriting isn’t something we normally study until at least college — so it’s inherently challenging because it’s foreign to us at first. Add in the challenges of actually getting noticed as a screenwriter in Hollywood, and succeeding at this vocation is nearly impossible. It’s understandable that we’re not prepared for the harsh realities of pursuing a screenwriting career.

This all got me thinking about some myths that hold aspiring writers back. It’s important to be realistic and to try to understand the industry from beyond the writer perspective.

1. But I’m Brilliant (My English Teacher Said So)! 

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LB: 3 Men Who Helped Make My Life What It is Today

hemsworth-lee-ferrigno-580x435by LB

From right to left:

  • Lew Ferrigno, who introduced me to the World’s Greatest Wife, Gwen the Beautiful
  • Stan Lee, who got me through some of the toughest years of both my personal and professional lives
  • Chris Hemsworth, who, well he’s fuckin’ Thor, you know? And I’ve seen him! And he’s real

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

surprise-catChapter 49 – Shooting, Surprising, Shooting
by Leesa Dean

So, this week was great. Since I last wrote, my camera production class went to Union Square Park and spent most of the day shooting. The day before I wrote a script in class and my shooting partner Tara and I put together a shot list.

The script was about the Oscars, which were happening the next night. We went up to people, prank style, told them we were from DCTV and ABC was debuting something new at this year’s red carpet event, The Hipster Fashion Police. We said we managed to get a copy of some of the categories, nominees and wanted to get people’s opinions about who would win.

For example, one of the questions was: who has the best beardage? Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix or Gov. Chris Christie who, admittedly doesn’t have a beard but probably used them in the whole George Washington Bridge scandal.

It really was fun shooting. Initially, we got some establishing shots, then picked victims, er, people to interview! Everyone we got on camera seemed got a kick out it, though I became a pro at accepting people blowing us off. We were just standing there, camera on tripod, I’d look at someone walking, start to open my mouth to ask if we could interview them, they’d half-way shake their head no and keep stepping. I’d mutter, “ok.” It actually was kinda amusing.

The only drag was the weather. While we lucked out and it didn’t snow, it was SERIOUSLY cold. While the temp was 38, real feel was in the teens and boy, could we feel it. In fact, I have a scratchy throat this week because of all the traipsing around.

After we shot, we went back to DCTV and screened the footage. It looked surprisingly good and I thought: Ok, I really really can do this. Now, the only thing I need is some cash to buy a camera so I can really start sinking my teeth into it.

And unbelievably, like something right out of a Seinfeld episode (the one where everything always evens out for him), I got an email from Focal Press.

Back in April 2013 I had submitted to their Bound to Create Contest. I wrote an essay about what motivated me to how to animate, my influences, how I taught myself, submitted it and literally forgot about the whole thing.

At the time I thought, if I win, maybe they’ll send me some cool free books (Focal Presspublishes really great production books about animation, cameras, directing, producing, etc.)

Well, I won. They told me it was a unanimous decision and as it turns out, they’re giving me a check which should be enough to buy the body of a digital camera and, maybe a tripod!! I’m really over the moon about it.

Meanwhile, last Sunday, we headed back into the green screen studio to reshoot with the actor and it was not what we expected.

More on that next week.