Sunday, February 25, 2007

More LA Stories

Going away for a few days - and yes it is work, nothing to do with gorgeous blonde. Unfortunately.

In an earler LA post I mentioned Steve, a customer at the car wash. He owned a ''no credit card required'' car rental business and a lot of his customers were porn stars, many of whom didn't have bank accounts for various reasons. He vastly overcharged them on the basis that he had to steam clean the seats when the cars were returned. I didn't ask why.

LA is a place where you can bump into anyone. I saw Mel Gibson buying bagels on 3rd street. So there you go, that puts paid to all that anti semetic stuff. Just before I left for the states I had seen a documentary with he and Clive James and he seemed like an okay guy. He told a story about how crazy the business was. He had been on a chat show promoting some movie, and as he walked off someone from the studio audience rushed at him with a script in hand shouting it was perfect for him. Audience member was quickly bundled out by security.

Anyway, back to Steve. To put it mildly, it is odd to see a white guy working in a car wash in LA, and as it was the one Steve used for his fleet we struck up an acquaintance. Who was I? What was I doing here, etc. When he found out I was a writer and had read for some big companies he asked me to take a look at his friend's script. I still remember the title . The Rocking Horse Soldier, which I think is not a bad title.

I looked at it and it was ...........meh to be truthful, not that great. No real voice, dull story. In reader speak ''dramatic situations not exploited to their full potential''

I gave him my notes, couched as diplomatically as possible and he said he'd pass them on. But then what he said really tickled me. ''We wanted Mel Gibson for the lead. Almost got the script to him at a chat show he was on but those security fucktards got in our way''

And that's LA.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Spec

Sorry, it's been a while - work and stuff. Who am I kidding? Actually it's because I'm infatuated with a beautiful blonde who fucks like a porn star. Fortunately I gave her my real name so she won't be reading this.

Anyhooo enough of my problems! The most important thing in your original spec is VOICE. No one knows what it is, but everyone knows it when they see it. Don't copy styles. No matter how much you like Black or Tarrentino you are not them. You are you.

Good Eds and producers are attracted to confident voices. That equates to writers who know what they're doing, do it well and don't give a crap about marketing. Then comes the meeting. At that stage they will decide if you are worth a punt to write on a show. And that is where you have to make your decision. Are you a writer who can assimulate a show? Think about it carefully because if you are an unproduced writer the chances of your spec being produced are slim to nil. That's just the way it is.

Assimulating a show means altering your voice to match that of the show. Some can, some can't. If you can't that doesn't mean you're not a good writer. Osmosis is a particular skill. But to be a pro writer osmosis is a skill worth having.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Writing Viewer

Twice in the last couple of days I've been chatting with my agents and they brought up three
new shows that are just airing. Had I seen them? What did I think etc. [They hadn't seen them] I was able to say yes to all three and give an opinion.

Wow, where do you find the time to watch so much TV? They almost asked. Well the truth is I don't. I very rarely watch a whole episode of something. If I want a general view of style, pace and tone - 15 minutes, tops.

That's when I'm watching as a writer. And that is my job. It's my job to know what nearly every show on TV is about stylistically, I don't need to know the plot or outcome of an individual episode.
I watch differently as a viewer, strictly for pleasure. That changes of course if you have a sniff of writing for that show. Then you become an avid viewer, more avid that the geekiest fanboy imaginable. You listen for the WAY that characters say things, not just what they say. You look for act breaks, how many stories per ep [A B C and D] Memorise snippets of back story. Do they use wipes, fades, jump-cuts? Study the characters motivations for clues as to how they might react in a given situation. In other words, be ahead of the game.

So, with the possible exception of soap, you don't have to get square eyed watching TV until that assignment is in the air. Up til then all you need to know is ''enough'' What do you think God invented box set DVDs for? And think of the time you're saving to actually write?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How To Give 'Good Meeting'

Clean? Check.
Sober? Check
Pitch perfect? Check
Up to speed on the previous work of the producer/exec? Check.

The rest is down to you not saying anything stupid. Clean is very important. No one wants to work with a stinky writer.

Of course it helps if you have some amusing anecdotes, because if this is a first meeting the inevitable question will be ''Why did you get into writing?'' I've already overused ' I wanted a step up from playing piano in a Brothel.' so that one's out, but you get the idea.

''Dunno really'', or ''I've just always liked writing'' may be true but are hardly memorable. And that's what you have to do in whatever short space of time has been granted to you. Be memorable for all the right reasons. Talent is a gimmee. You wouldn't be having the meeting in the first place if you didn't have talent. Don't rely on talent.

Because you could well be the third or fourth 'talented' writer they've seen that day. And if you're up for a gig or pushing your own project then you better believe it that those writers before you were working their asses off to make a good impression. Because that impression can be the difference between YES and NO.


Personable? Check
Enthusiastic? Check
Amusing? Check