July 3, 2011

Dropbox, TV Writer Chat gems with Chad Gervich

Hi folks, 

If you haven't heard, apparently Dropbox has pulled a Facebook and changed its terms of use. They have empowered themselves to have rights over your content, to do with as they wish.
That future cloud of the internet just gets darker and darker.
If you want to read more, go to http://jdsawyer.net/2011/07/02/put-it-in-the-cloud-are-you-nuts/
And in light of all the recent hackdom, I recommend pulling your preciouses off Dropbox, and investing in a bunch of flashdrives for back-up, as well as emailing stuff to yourself.
UPDATE: Read - Dropbox responds to the lashing out of its members

Okay, the morbidity done, now for the fun.
The following is notes from the Chad Gervich-guested TV Writer Chat from last month. Why go to film school when you can learn more for free in front of your computer screen? You have the added bonus of maintaining a spinal posture that allows you to use your navel as a cereal bowl. Think of the lint as the surprise toy.

But first, a little clarification. The 'spec' (the oft-used abbreviation of 'on speculation') has a different meaning in film than it does in television. The basic definition of something 'on spec' is work, such as screenplay, that's done for a client without a job offer or contract, that the client will (hopefully) pay for.
In film, this means you write a script, and try and get someone to buy it.
In television, a spec refers to the writing of a script for a pre-existing show; whereas a 'pilot' refers to the writing of an original initial script for a show you have invented.

And now, on with the learning!

TV Writer Chat Sunday 12th June
Guest: Chad Gervich, author of 'Small Screen, Big Picture'

* Don't write a bible or one-pager for a spec pilot unless you know the agent.
* Agents won't bother reading scripts from a total stranger, especially a baby writer with no experience.
* No-one uses bibles before a show is made. They're created when the show is already up and running. They're not selling tools (and remember the old adage: No-one reads in Hollywood).
* A bible will hurt you; it shows you're an amateur. It also excludes the buyer from the development process.
* Don't shoot your own pilot, it will hurt you.
* Specs are the hot trend in Hollywood. If you want to be hired to write for TV you should always have several (up-to-date) specs and several pilots under your arm, but right now, original content is what eyes most want to read.
* Network structure is usually TEASER -> 5 ACTS
* Cable structure is usually TEASER -> 4 ACTS
* Know the structure of the type of broadcasting you're aiming for.
* A pilot script should never be the episode you intend to have aired first (the origin story). The pilot needs to be a prototype for how stories and generated, and how episodes will work. Maybe write the second or third episode-in.
* When you go to a pitch meeting, be armed with 10 - 12 plot ideas for your show, but do not take a bible (and memorise your plot ideas - shakily reading off a piece of paper doesn't make you look like you know your stuff, and if you don't know your show premise inside-out, who does?)
* Sample episodes you write scripts for are not to show where the series will go - they illuminate the kinds of stories the show will present (and character establishment).
* e.g. if pitching Friends, your sample eps would contain stories about dating, office drama, etc., even if these things never end up being used in the series.
* Chances are none of the eps you write will be used to make the show.
* Networks hate premise pilots (think of LOST's first episode). They do not reflect what subsequent episodes and stories will look like. Lost's first ep is chapter 1 of a long story.
* If you've already written your pilot script, don't bother pitching it - just send it to who you want to read it.
* A pilot should definitely be 'the day everything changed' (though this point conflicts a little with the whole 'do not use episode 1/the origin story as your pilot' thing).
* Reality TV has writers.
* If you start at the bottom in reality TV, you ascend faster.
* Check out realitystaff.com for job opportunities.

As always, think through what you read and don't take every word for gospel. For each point made there is always a success story to negate it.
There are lots of resources out there, like Chad's book, to get you savvy on how to write for TV, so make the most of them.

Next time on the show we'll give you juicy feature writing tips from the Scriptchat hive, and we talk to a rabbit who chooses to wear cosmetics. "If humans didn't judge us on how we look, we wouldn't feel the need to hide behind make-up."

Screenwriters Anonymous - the only support group that believes in peer pressure.

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