June 29, 2011

Welcome, please find a seat

My name is Ingrid, and I'm a screenoholic.
And if you're here, you are too.
Hello, bienvenue, welcome! to Screenwriters Anonymous.
You may be asking yourself, what can a new blog on screenwriting possibly add to the cacophony of screenwriting blogs? Well, every little bit of knowledge helps. But the idea isn't to emulate the other sites out there so much as report that which the others don't have.

In the beginning, there will be no interviews or articles, but that will change as the blog grows.
For now, I'd like to share the pearls of wisdom I have been taking from Twitter's Scriptchats and TV Writer Chats. Anyone who has engaged in the chats know they fly at the speed of light and absorbing everything is impossible. I never knew it was possible to get blisters on your eyeballs. And for those who've viewed the transcripts, well, the format is an eye-sore.

So here are the gems I've plucked from these online free-for-alls, some featuring big-name industry guests, many notes coming from the fingers of seasoned, working writers, and a drop or two of my own thoughts thrown in.
It's by no means a thorough resource - just a place to come and quickly extract usuable points to add to your repertoire of screenwriting knowledge, to remind yourself of things you learned in the chats but may have forgotten, or a catch-up for those with no time to get into the action on Sunday nights (US) or Monday mornings (Aus).

Okay! With that intro. out of the way, let's get to the meat.

TV WRITING FELLOWSHIPS on #TVwriterchat  2011
Guest: Kim Kiyong, fellow at Nickelodeon

* Fellowships at Disney/ABC and Nickelodeon are 1 year, full-time, paid.
* Others: Warner Brothers, NBC, CBS, and Fox; most part-time and unpaid.
* To be considered, write a spec for a popular prime-time sitcom. This show must still be on air.
* At Nickelodeon, there are 3 fellows a year, out of 1,200 submissions.
* If you are short-listed, you'll attend group interviews.
* You get 1 month notice between getting hired and starting.
* A good show to spec would be one that is about 2 - 3 seasons in, and not over-specced (like Entourage).
* Don't submit something like Nurse Jackie or Weeds for comedy.
* Make friends with industry people to get recommendation letters (this includes on Twitter too, because some of those people will like you and write you one).
*Recommended books for writing television: 'Small Screen, Big Picture' by Chad Gervich, and 'The TV Writer's Handbook' by Ellen Sandler.
* When writing your spec, add your voice to it, while also capturing voice of the show.
* Gags in a script come from what a character does, as well as says.
* When you begin a fellowship, you start rewriting the spec you originally submitted, based on notes the program director gives.
* Showrunners are God.
* If you want to work in TV, try getting a writer's assistant job in a writing room (though these are highly sought after).
* Otherwise start as a personal assistant and work your way up.
* When writing your spec, don't do a stunt spec (i.e. having characters from a different show cameoing).
* Nickelodeon has script co-ordinators, similar to writers assistants, , but they can work their way up to being a staffed writer).
* Get copies of scripts of the show you want to spec. Read. Study.
* If you apply for a fellowship and don't get in, but they really like your writing, sometimes they set up meetings with agents for you.
* John August's blog is a great resource.
* To write an epsiode outline: No more than 5 pages prose, no dialogue. Sluglines for each scene. Mark where act breaks are.

TV WRITER CHAT Sunday 22nd May
* If you want to write for TV, have 2 completed spec scripts, and two completed pilot scripts.
* John August's site for TV show outlines.
* Is the show you're writing/speccing single-cam or multi-cam?
* Use Wikipedia to reserach the characters of a show you're speccing.
* Most procedurals aren't big in Hollywood. Exceptions: Justified, The Good Wife, The Mentalist.
* What's getting good rating and what's popular in Hollywood may be completely different. Try to find out what the latter likes.

SCRIPTCHAT Sunday 12th June 2011
Guest: Max Adams. Theme: Visual writing

* Big mistake of new writers is starting a scene with action, and not a description of the location.
* If you're using a location, it must have significance for you to have chosen it. Even if it's just an office, all offices are different.
* "Films are made, quite literally, of moving light, So light, motion, these are majorly important elements in visual writing." -Max
* Use the light in setting a scene visually.
* Use visual verbs for motion.
* Denote the space. Is it small? Large? Cramped? Expansive? Dimly lit? Stinging with fluorescent light?
* A huge square room fillied with sunlight has a whole different feel than a tiny shoebox of a room with a crappy lamp.
* "Office" is not visual enough.
* Scene description should be short, and inform reader of space, light, and texture.
* It's not about what's in  the location, it's about the location.
* Your characters are in a vacuum until you describe the setting.
* Lighting does not give your scene texture - it gives it light.
* Texture comes from the predominant substance in the room. A stainless steel refrigerator. Carpet scored with burn marks from a lighter. Texture comes from objects and the condition/elements of them.
* Even if the reader has 'been' in that room already in the script, the light has probably changed with the time of day. A room aglow with warm sunlight will look very different with a fire lit at night.
* Don't write 'exit' or 'enter' in action. Lumber, stomp, plow, trot... Shows character and their mood, and movement.
* There is a product called the Visual Thesaurus that can help you with this.
* Create a space (starting description with the general/wider aspect), and then move in on what's going on or getting attention in the space.
* Don't type 'close-up' if you can write 'her eyes go wide,' or, 'a cockroach slowly scales the faded '70s wallpaper'.
* Perspective - how do you want your reader placed? Seeing character through a glass door, from a great height, distance, etc. ?
* Darabont was good at setting locations.
* Reading, and trying to draw, graphic novels can teach you to be more visual. Screenwriters forget spacial and physical factors a lot, so try and strengthen your visual thinking.
* You don't need 4 lines of scene description at the start of a scene. One sentence will do.
* Until there is a director on your film, you are the director on the page. You are also costume design, lighting, sound, props, and DP.
* Great character descriptions can be found in the Twohy draft of The Fugutive.
* Can you write "we see" in a script? It's hotly debated.
* Tony Gilroy's scripts use 'we' and flashbacks well.
* Character introductions are the one thing you can go nuts on.
* For smaller characters you can use a descriptor as their name, like GANGLY or HEAVYSET.
* Though there is much argument over things you should and shouldn't put into a script, technical word-wise, Max's only rule for screenwriting is: don't be boring. You can get away with faux pas if the script is engaging.

That's enough of a fix for this session. Coming soon are notes from the Chad Gervich TV Writer Chat, and more juicy info. on writing features. Until then, hook into your vice and get writing.

Screenwriters Anonymous - the only support group that encourages addiction.

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