July 10, 2011

Scriptchat recap & writing for sitcoms on TV Writer Chat

Hello my fellow junkies, and welcome to another week of screenwriting obsession.
In today's post, I recap a juicy Scriptchat, and give notes from a handy TV Writer Chat all about writing TV sitcoms. Enjoy!

SCRIPTCHAT Sunday 19th June

* Most independent film companies would rather not work with a writer/director - harder to develop with.
* Don't pitch at sit-down meetings - listen to what they want.
* It's good to get a manager before you get an agent, but having screen credits trumps both, and will be better for getting you work.
* Currently, females over 25 are the most powerful movie ticket buyers.
* Right now in the U.S., Latins are the biggest buyers of movie tickets.
* Universal themes = $$$. (Bridesmaids could have been about dudes, or set in India.)

* Use the Hollywood Creative Directory.
* There are different opportunities to pitch, including virtualpitchfest.com, inktip, and more.
* Enter fellowship screenwriting competitions above all others.
* In writing, go very broad, or very niche.
* The most successful comedies are ones people can relate to, due to experience. Like being a bridesmaid, having a buck's party, being on an awkward date, etc.

* Book suggestions for the day: 'The War of Art'; 'Do the Work'; 'Write for Fun
& Profit'.

SITCOM-WRITING CONT'D on #TvWriterChat Sunday 19th June
* Sitcoms usually have two acts. Sometimes also a teaser and/or a tag.
* Mike & Molly and 2.5 Men are both multi-camera.
* Modern Family and Cougar Town are both single-camera.
* Single-cam is story-focussed in comedy; multi is more about set-up/punchline.
* Multi-cam has more immediacy.
* Because multi-cam shows are on a set, jokes tend to get rewritten on the spot, depending on audience reaction.
* Single-cam shows are shot on-location.
* If you're in LA, go to a taping of the show you want to spec for.
* Multi-cam and single-cam are written differently. If you're writing a pilot, you need to know which you're writing for.
* There are two types of shows: ones where stock characters say jokes; and shows where flawed characters are put in funny situations (although you could argue most sitcoms do both).
* TV skews more towards the female market, depending on the network. Remember this when you're trying to write your show about 4 misogynists living on a whale-harpooning ship.
* Male-targeted TV networks in the U.S. include Comedy Channel, Spike, and FX.
* If you want to spec for a show, study scripts from it (not transcripts), read the Wikipedia page (especially helpful for character profiles), watch show, over and over, and break it down, and watch the DVDs with the audio commentaries on.
* Book suggestions for the day: 'Elephant Bucks' by Sheldon Bull; 'Successful Sitcom Writing' by J
├╝rgen Wolff.

As always, thanks to all the wonderful and savvy contributors to the chats who share knowledge like a happy rash. Their brilliance is contagious.

I'm going to give you homework this week. Not because I'm a sadist but because I enjoy inflicting pain.
Your homework is this:
Think of a show you wish was on TV (any style or genre
) but isn't on-air, and jot down a couple notes on how you would do/write such a show. Maybe you dislike the lack of celebrity vampire cooking shows or think there should be a program about one of Paris Hilton's Chihuahuas being a private detective.
Yes, your ideas will certainly be better, and maybe nothing will come of it, but it doesn't hurt to think about what interests you. Chances are your idea appeals to others (unless you propose a trivia game show about antique telephone poles, in which case, you're on your own, buddy).

You never know - a little brainstorming session can light a spark and lead you onto your next project.

Screenwriters Anonymous - the only support group that makes you wish you'd been a banker like your parents nagged you to.

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