The Importance of Study Hall

Someone (sorry, don’t recall who) posted an article on Facebook, which I actually read — a rarity! It’s a little bit of psychobabble and some hippity-dippity stuff about why most people don’t find their purpose in life. I think a lot of it was true, but more importantly, it lead me to a realization. I believe I discovered my purpose in life way back in high school.  In Study Hall.

Study Hall was that glorious period of the day where you had no class instruction — you’d sit at a desk or a table (one year my study hall/study period was in the cafeteria) and you’d work on homework assigned in other classes or try to pass notes.  Some would attempt to be disruptive, mostly out of boredom I suspect.  I, of course, like the good student I was at the time would do homework, and prevent myself an hour of lost TV time at home — in my house, you could only watch TV if your homework was done.  Some days, though, I’d have no homework to do.  My time was split between two activities in those cases — reading a book or writing.

I still have those notebooks, filled with scribbles and doodles, but also with stories — stories about my friends, horribly bad poetry, a musical I thought I’d write about Death coming on his white horse and taking the dying to a huge party in the afterlife.  I wrote “Star Trek: TNG” fanfic before fanfic was a thing you posted on the internet.  I wrote an episode of Tom Baker era “Dr. Who” for my friends and I to film (but never did) — it was written in stage play style, because I didn’t know what a screenplay looked like.  The local library didn’t exactly cater to budding screenwriters in Morton, Illinois.  A half dozen notebooks full of dreams and stories and uninhibited lyrical fancy.

What’s interesting to me now, and why it occurred to me at all is I wondered why it seemed so easy to be so creative and prolific back then.  Was it just my youth and my general ignorance and naivete about most of the world? We talk a lot about the intrusion of technology into our lives, but I can get distracted by doing crossword puzzles… no, I think the key to my writing success those many years ago — in study hall, there was nothing else to do.  It was homework, read or, in my case, write.  I wrote to escape the boredom.  I was actually not much different than those kids trying desperately to disrupt the class, to escape their boredom; I just chose to disrupt mine on paper, foraging through my brain for any story that would entertain me for 50 minutes.

So, what did you do during study hall?  Could it have been the way you found your purpose in life?

Posted under randomness, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on January 28, 2014 2 Comments »

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Progressions

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do — I wanted to be a screenwriter.  I, of course had no idea how I would accomplish that goal. Once I was settled in my new Disney job (I was transferred cross country, remember) and started to focus on the real reason I had moved, a pathway started to present itself. I enrolled in the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting. To apply I had to write 15 pages of a script.  They were 15 terrible pages as I recall, and thankfully lost in a hard drive crash in 2007.  Still, the program wasn’t exactly rigorous in its standards and let me in.  It was meant as a way for those who could not get into the very rigorous MFA program to get a similar experience and instruction for significantly less money and no degree.  For me, it was a bargain — I had a good office job and could well afford the tuition, and what I needed was some structure to learning what this crazy dream of mine was all about.

The Professional Program, at least when I took it, was two nights a week on campus.  According to the website, I see they now offer an online version of the program, and a TV Writing track, which I am now very jealous they did not have back nearly 10 years ago, but that tells you how much power TV has gained in the last decade — also, how many more jobs are available writing TV than feature films.  The two nights a week were each 3 hours – one night was lecture, which for me was Hal Ackerman, who is still there and who had just written a book, which, obviously, became our text for the class.  The second night was a workshop class of only about 10 students as compared to the 75 or so in the lecture hall.  The first 20 weeks you spent with one instructor and then you were moved to a new workshop for the last semester / 10 weeks of the program.  My first workshop instructor was Tim Albaugh, who is also still there teaching.  Tim was the one who helped me find my writing strengths and weaknesses.  He overlooked the folly in my topic and genre choice for my first screenplay (A Western, about a Chinese Man who moved to Alaska and dealt with hardcore bullying. It was based on a true story but a really poor choice for first script right out of the gate) and did his best to encourage me as a writer.

Sidebar: Speaking of Tim  reminded me of another person who had encouraged my writing at a far younger age.  His name is Brad Keefauver. Brad worked with my mother at the local newspaper office and told her of his love of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I remember his very distinctive BSI earring he wore, in part because he was the only man I’d ever seen wear an earring at that point in my life (I lived in a very sheltered midwest town). The BSI of course was for the Baker Street Irregulars, a national organization of which he was a member, having written many pieces about Sherlock Holmes.  He invited my mother to a meeting of the Peoria Sherlock society – The Hansoms of John Clayton.  My mother, knowing what a fan I was of Sherlock stories on PBS (Jeremy Brett was my first Sherlock) took me along, which is where I met Brad and admired his daring choice of ear-wear.  He gifted me a large tome of the Complete Sherlock Holmes, Annotated.  I still own the very large book, which in some years served as a way to prop up my small 13″ television.  Of late, the book has been getting a bit of a workout again, as I pour back through some of the stories and the annotations provided to suss out details from either Moffat’s fine adaptation SHERLOCK or the CBS show ELEMENTARY, a fine show in its own right, honestly, even if it has strayed more from the traditional Doyle tales.

Brad not only introduced me properly to Holmes and the wonders of that world, but within the year he gave me real inspiration. I entered a Young Writers competition at my junior high school.  I wrote a futuristic tale, told as a diary about a young girl named Sari transporting her brothers in an old Yugo across the post-nuclear war hellscape to a launch point to get them off Earth to a space station.  I placed third in the competition. One of the judges was Brad.  Somewhere in a box, likely in my parents’ garage are the encouraging words he wrote. I’ve neither time nor inclination to drive to San Diego to find them (I searched the entirety of my own closet last night, coming up empty). Suffice to say, they warmed my little 12 or 13-year old heart.  It would be many years until I would purse writing as an occupation, but that little ember glowed for most of those years, reminding me that someone thought I had talent.

So, after the UCLA Professional Program, I spent about two or three months trying to finish the second feature I had written for the program in the final semester – a comedy.  I learned quickly that while I had some interesting or quirky comedic sensibility, it was hardly mass appeal.  I grew frustrated with my lack of output.  Here I had been in a program that had required me to produce story, outline, script pages on a weekly basis and that structure was now gone.

I had just started watching this new show on FOX called HOUSE — it’s ratings were okay, but not spectacular out of the gate. I was a huge fan of Hugh Laurie from BLACKADDER and SENSE & SENSIBILITY among other things, so Julie and I were two of the few Americans who knew who the hell this guy was and actually anticipated this new medical show.  Within just the first two or three episodes, we were hooked, and I used to try to come up with great ideas for stories for this character.  It then occurred to me that I might increase my output by branching out to TV writing — I was a product of TV as babysitter in the 80′s and was well versed in all manner of shows.  In some ways, I was more adept with talking TV than I ever was talking film.  By some stroke of Providence, I decided to look at the UCLA Extension classes; I had heard they offered TV writing courses each semester, and as I was missing the structure of the classroom environment for my writing, it felt like a good option.  What sold me on taking the class, was that the entry level TV writing course was being taught by a writer who was working on HOUSE — Matt Witten.

Of course, I couldn’t write a HOUSE spec in his class — it would cause him all kinds of potential problems, so I chose the other show I was obsessed with that year – LOST.  I’m not sure what it says about me that I consistently choose high degree of difficulty for my first attempts.  I guess I like to fail spectacularly.

Six or seven Extension classes later, I got a certificate in TV Writing.  That and a dollar will buy you a scratch-off lottery ticket; it’s worth nothing to say I paid UCLA many hundreds of dollars to learn how to write TV. In the one full year of extension classes I took, I finished three TV spec scripts — the LOST spec, a HOUSE spec, which I wrote in a different class, and a COLD CASE spec.  That output was far greater than what I had experienced in the Professional Program, and I was officially hooked on TV writing.

Why am I telling you this? I guess I’m more telling myself, looking back on my journey to what brought me to where I am now.  At times I feel as if I am so far behind everyone else I know.  It’s folly to measure your success against others, and yet, I cannot help but do so at times.  There are so many factors that play into how quickly or slowly we progress in our careers and in our lives.  Some of us have setbacks, insurmountable obstacles, and others get lucky, are in the right place at the right time, strike up a conversation with the right person, make what ultimately becomes the right friends…none can be planned.  All you can do is try to take advantage when opportunity presents itself, and do your best to dodge the roadblocks.

I hope to take the next step in my progression this year.  I want this to be the year I make it over the wall and into a TV writers’ room.  It’s been a long journey, a journey that started when I was 12 years old and was delayed for many years.  I came into the business “late” by many accounts, but I refuse to be beaten.

Thanks to Kay Reindl’s retweet of Chuck Wendig’s link to a guest post on his blog, I found motivation in Kameron Hurley’s words about Persistence being the key to success.  It is often said that those who succeed in this business are the ones who don’t quit.  I honestly don’t know how I’d quit now.  Besides that, as I once explained to my father, who wondered where my line in the sand was — the point where I pack it in and go back to a nice cushy I.T. job, there is no line in the sand which I can see.  I may take day jobs here and there, but I will always be a writer.  I can never not be a writer.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a new pilot outline to work on.  The machine stops for no one.

Posted under randomness, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on January 23, 2014 No Comments »

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Here We Go Again.

New Year. 2014. Whoop-edee-doo!

No, truly I’m excited for the year, just like I was excited for last year. 2013 had a lot going on. Here’s a sample of my year:

* Retained agent (yay! I’m still repped!)

* Went on about 12 pitch meetings for a project, which ultimately didn’t sell

* Went on about  10 general meetings with people/companies which read our scripts and liked them.

* Had one staffing meeting, which, did not result in staffing, but hey. Progress!

* Boss has two tv show projects going, one of which has been announced, another which hasn’t. So that’s two shots at potential future employment!

* Began developing a web series with my sister and writing partner Julie for an established brand. Watch this space.

* Completed writing a multi-platform series (for money!) with Bernie Su though it is clinically dead right now.

* Completed two new spec pilots, started a third.

So, it’s been a hell of a year! A lot accomplished, but yet, it feels like we are back to running the race — staffing looms, so we have the new pilot to finish, and of course other projects we are dying to write.  And here I am, after trying to get the old blog restarted in September/October trying to figure out if I can try, try again.

What choice do I have? Shut it down? Perish the thought…

How’s your 2014 outlook?

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on January 12, 2014 4 Comments »

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Scribosphere Carnival #3 – Criticism

Michael Patrick Sullivan at Red Right Hand is in charge this week, and he’s come up with a very intriguing topic.  In his words:

This week’s Scribosphere topic is how we each take criticism, or how we don’t, who do we seek out to provide it, and what do we do with it once we have it, how we give it, or, you know…whatever.

Let me start with this very important admission: As a kid, I was terrible at taking criticism.  My dad would constantly tell me that I needed to grow a tougher skin because I would inevitably burst into tears at even the smallest bit of criticism, constructive as it might be.  Of course as an adult, I realize that back then I might have also been uncontrollably bursting into tears due to my undiagnosed chemical imbalances, but that’s beside the point.  No, the point is, that over the decades, I have definitely gotten a thicker skin, and now I actually look forward to receiving notes and criticism of my writing.

I think I finally learned how to accept criticism when I realized that I wouldn’t become a better writer without it.  I believe too, that when you begin to critique the work of others, you gain a new appreciation for how difficult it is to be the bearer of criticism.  If you understand the difficulty in taking notes, it makes you more mindful on how to give them.  But, some people do not know how to give a note.

Let’s talk about that…

How To Give Good Notes

It may seem corny or even kabuki, but it does honestly help to soften your criticism with compliments.  Often in my writers groups now, I or others in the group will say ‘skip the compliments’ because we are there to work and we don’t need the platitudes to ease the pain of getting the tough love.  But when you give notes to someone you don’t know as well, and don’t know their level of pain tolerance, it’s a good idea to err on the side of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  Start with pointing out something good, and make it more than just a surface level platitude — were the characters really interesting? Was the plot intriguing? Did you like the writer’s voice? Was it a quick read? Funny? Exciting? Do more than just say you ‘liked it’ – writers tend to equate that with ‘it sucked’ — specificity of positive attributes will endear the writer to hearing what you have to say, particularly if you can be observant and astute about it.  The less specific you are, the less it feels like you actually read the damn thing.  Note good dialog or a great scene description — give them the page number! Let them know that you read it, you have real notes and you aren’t just placating them with positivity (like, say, your mom or your significant other).

Once you’ve got the sugar down their gullet, it’s time for the medicine.  There’s a way to administer this that causes less pain.  “I hated x” tends to be a bad way to give a note (unless you know the person really, REALLY well). I mean, that’s like stabbing someone in the neck!  Look, you are trying to make this as painless as possible.  We all know there’s some kabuki going on, that we are following a little bit of a script in giving notes, but that’s okay.  It’s what makes it possible for us to really hear the note and digest it.

I tend to start with big, general notes first — structure issues, for example.  Plot. Characters.  Start with the big notes first.  As an inverse to the positive, what gave you trouble? (what did you “bump on” — a common term for something in the script that jolts you out of the reading, making you aware of the mechanics beyond the story; a question, point of confusion, a contradiction)  Once you have your big overall note stated, you can get to specifics — where do the bumps occur?

Now, you may want to give the writer suggestions.  There’s a way to do this, and I’ll address ‘suggestions as notes’ in a few paragraphs.

Sometimes a script is just a train wreck.  It’s not small things, minor fixes — it’s just a hot mess.  Usually the hotter the mess, the nicer you have to be in dishing out the notes.  Because not everyone knows…

How To Take a Note

It’s inevitable.  You’ve read this script for this person, taken the time to read it, digest it, dissect it, figure out what works, what doesn’t, and when you go to tell them the news — they just seem defensive. Oblivious. Angry. In denial.  Any or all of these.

Defensiveness is the worst.  If someone gives you a note, you must fight the instinct to argue it.  Don’t tell your note giver that they are wrong! Wrong! WRONG!! This person has taken precious time to devote to your baby.  You asked them for their feedback.  The proper thing to do is keep your mouth shut, unless the person asks you a question for clarification.  That doesn’t mean you just nod and smile — that’s a sure sign you aren’t listening, another way of being defensive.  It is possible for the note to be wrong.  Very often you’ll get contradicting notes.  The important thing here is to take your emotion out of the process.  Before I go into a meeting or a setting where I am about to receive notes, whether in a professional capacity or in a group of peers, I mentally divorce myself from my project.  I try to imagine that this is someone else’s script, and I am hearing the notes as an impartial bystander.  Sometimes this doesn’t always work (I mean, I’m not made of stone after all!) but it does help.  If the note giver is doing all of the things I suggested above, the process is almost pleasant.  You want to know where the problems are — knowing where you aren’t being clear with story, character, intent will help you make a better script.  Isn’t that what you want? You want these notes! “Give them to me!!”

Okay, sometimes the person giving the notes isn’t very good at expressing themselves.  They say “I hated X.” (and they really don’t know you well enough to get away with that).  They stab you in the jugular.  It’s hard — you weren’t expecting that pain and wow, someone just called your baby ugly.  Take a moment.  Count to three.  Do NOT rebut, argue, cry, laugh or scoff.  Just write the note down.  Here’s the thing — they may not have given you a good note, in fact, it could be really crappy — but generally if someone gives you a note on something, even if the note itself doesn’t make sense, it’s indicative of something.  If you get the note more than once, obviously you need to look at it.

Some people want to give you suggestions.  We can’t help it — we’re writers, we see a problem, we want to help fix it.  Executives love to give you suggestions.  The problem is, their suggestions are usually wrong.  They tend to suggest things that fix the symptom, not the underlying problem.  You have to learn to see the note within the note (yeah, this process gets very Inception-like).  I take all the notes — those I agree with, those I don’t, because hours, days, weeks later, I may read that dumb note and realize it isn’t so dumb.

There’s a way, as the note giver, to provide suggestions, but you can’t just say “you should do Y instead of X.”  That is a sure-fire way to get the receiver of notes to completely shut down and ignore everything you have to say.  You may have the brilliant fix for them, but you know what? It’s their script.  They need to decide what to do.

Instead of “you should have a car chase here” the better way to make a suggestion is “I think your script loses momentum here– perhaps you need some kind of action sequence – maybe a car chase? I don’t know, you decide what it is, but it just feels like nothing is happening.”  Another favorite device is to talk about the “bad version,” a) because it most likely is the ‘bad version’ of something and b) it allows the note receiver to understand you aren’t necessarily prescribing that a solution, just using it as an example to illustrate their point.  There is a rare chance that the “bad version” is actually the right answer, but let the note receiver figure that out.

Wow, I had a lot more to say about criticism than I realized.  I suppose the TL;DR version (too long, didn’t read, for you not into the whole brevity thing) is: Don’t Be Mean. Don’t Be Defensive. Everybody be cool and respect the other party.  It isn’t easy to be on the giving end or the receiving end of notes, but these little tips can help make it just a bit easier for everyone involved.

 

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on October 7, 2013 6 Comments »

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Scribosphere Carnival #2 – Workflow

Jonathan was tagged with starting us off this week, and he’s provided a great topic to explore:

WORKFLOW – Everybody has one, and none are the same. Inspired by a post from John August (referencing THIS SITE), you should explain where and when you write, what hardware you use, what software you use, and what you would change about how you write. Have at it!

Where and when do you write?

I wish I could say that I have a really regimented routine, but honestly, most of the time, I write where and when I can.  I do have a desk which I bought thinking it would really increase my productivity, but in actuality, it more or less has become storage space.  Most of my writing happens exactly where I am now – sitting on my bed (I know, the worst) with or without the breakfast tray I use as a “desk” (right now it’s ‘with’)  I goodly percentage of my writing happens while I am at work and I have some time between projects for said boss — that writing happens in their former nursing chair w/ ottoman which rocks – literally.  That little corner has become my daily workspace.  Finally, I also make a dent in my writing at a little place called Solar de Cahuenga. I used to go here almost daily when I was unemployed for awhile, but I’m back to weekend visits and the occasional late night visit, since they’re usually open until 1 AM.  I love the vibe of the place, and now that I have a laptop with decent battery life again, I am no longer limited to one of the five or six tables which have outlet access (it’s the one thing I’d improve about the place, but then, maybe it would only cause me more headaches finding a table).  There’s outdoor seating, free wi-fi, and a decent menu of food besides the usual coffee bar fare.  I do try not to be a bad patron and I always buy at least a large iced tea (which is strangely addicting) when I am there for an hour or two.  For longer marathon sessions, I’ll buy lunch or dinner.  Back in the day, I’d hike to Solar, but now that employed and likely on a schedule, I drive and park nearby or splurge the $3 for the onsite valet parking.

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a commercial for Solar. But still. Good place.  Good coffee. A lot of regulars.

As for the hours I write, erratic.  If I’m at home, anytime in the evening. If I have insomnia, I might be up writing.  If I’m at work, middle of the day.  If I’m at Solar on the weekend it could be any time or evening on a weeknight.  As I said, no set schedule.  I’d like to say I write every day, but somedays, my brain needs a break.  Still, I’m far more prolific now than at any time in the recent past, so there’s that.

 

What hardware do you use?

Dell laptop.  I’m on my third one since 2005(ish).  I have my iPad which gets used a lot for note-taking and updating Google Docs and some for Final Draft, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

 

What software do you use?

Final Draft for all scripting.  Google Docs for breaking story with my sister and creating treatments/outlines.  Sometimes we transfer to a Word Doc or PDF for distribution, if we are presenting any of those documents to our writers group.  That’s about it.  I’ve never been keen to try any of the fancy pants outlining docs, and I’m not really a notecard person.  We just build outline bit by bit, starting with the structure and filling it in as we go along.  Pretty simple, I guess.

 

What would you change about how you write?

I admire my boss’s workflow.  Of course, writing is his full-time job, so he really treats it that way.  He gets up very early, like 4 AM and he writes for about 4 or 5 hours.  Then he takes a break to actually get ready for the day, particularly any meetings he might have, and depending on if he has deadlines, he’ll be back at it in the afternoon.  I think it’s really key that he does this every day — he writes every day, for several hours before the main day even starts, so if his day is filled with meetings or appointments, he’s already gotten work done for the day.

I, on the other hand, am not a morning person.  I have the tendency to write late rather than early.  It’s too easy for me to make excuses for not having written that day (my day job, other activities which filled the time) and then declare myself “too tired” to stay up and write.  Lately though, I’ve been on a bit of a tear, with real dedication to getting the script written and passed off to my sister for her round.  This has given me more discipline, but it isn’t consistent.  Might be that I get a lot done at work, or I get it done when I get home.  Solar gets used for marathon sessions of several hours when I have work to do.

On a more crafty than logisitics note, my sister and I are ramping up to dual processing -working on two different projects simultaneously, handing each one off to the other when our work is complete.  Ideally we’d be getting twice as many scripts completed in a year, simply because we are each always working on a different project.  We were able to test this out a bit earlier in the year, when we were revising one script while drafting a second.  As I’d finish acts, I’d give it to her for her pass and she’d hand me the revisions she’d been doing, so I can take a look at them and do a pass.  The other advantage this gives us is not getting burned out on a single script quite so fast, since we are always directing ourselves to something else in short order.  What we don’t know if this method will ultimately speed up our processes or slow us down.  Time will tell, but I suspect it will make us faster and give us more routine.  As soon as we “finish” one project (it goes out for reads, etc) we cycle in a new one.  The old one my come back around for rewrites, but it will be done in tandem with something else.  Feels efficient.

 

On an unrelated note, I’m really enjoying Scribosphere Carnival so far.  I’d really like to see other screenwriting bloggers get involved, so if you are one of those bloggers, why not jump in? I promise, the water’s fine.  Don’t make me come over there.

 

 

 

Posted under blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on October 5, 2013 2 Comments »

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Scribosphere Carnival #2 – Submit your topic ideas

In keeping with the rules I posted earlier, I get to pick the topic for next week.  You have until Sunday at 2 PM to submit your topic.  Winner gets to go next and post their topic to their blog next Monday!

Let the games begin.

Posted under blogs

This post was written by Shawna Benson on September 26, 2013 3 Comments »

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Scribosphere Carnival #1 – Time Capsule

Welcome to the first Scribosphere Carnival!  Before I get into this week’s topic, a few bits of background, and the posting rules.  I know most of you who decide to participate will want the instructions right up front before I start actually writing on the subject.  Will make life easier if we always post the rules, first, but I don’t expect that to happen every week…

So, first, what is the Scribosphere Carnival?  Simply, it is a way for blogs which are covering the topics of screenwriting for film, tv and the web to join together.  Each week, one blogger will declare the topic of the week.  Those who choose to participate will blog on that topic at some point during the week, and then post a comment on the OP (original poster’s) blog with the link to their post in the carnival.  That’s it! Pretty easy, right?

So there are a few guidelines, which will not only make it easy for people, particularly the OP to find your Carnival entry:

  • Please copy the title of the carnival post for your post on your blog. You should use the title of this post for your own entry.  You should also copy the topic as it is described by the OP and paste it into the top of your post.
  • Once your entry is posted, come back to this blog and link to your post in the comments below.
  • A follow up post by the OP will collect comments from those who have suggestions for the next carnival. The OP of the current carnival gets to pick the topic for next week! [This should be the only time an OP will both originate a topic and pick the following week, which I get to do because this was all my idea. ;-) ]
  • The OP should post on Monday. Everyone who participates has until the following Monday to chime in.
  • The carnival topic can be about anything screenwriting related — craft, business, etc.
  • As the OP, you should continually update your post with links to all of the participating blogs and their entries.  It is recommended that participants also link to each other’s posts throughout the week, but it is not required.
  • Participants are required, however, to post to the OP’s blog post on the topic at the top of the blog, i.e. “Shawna at Shouting into the Wind has posted this week’s Scribosphere Carnival topic which is…[link][topic][/link]
  • It is recommended that you tag or categorize your posts with the following terms: ‘scribosphere’ and ‘carnival’ but not required.  This would be for your own search and organizational purposes.

With those guidelines out of the way, here’s this week’s topic:

TIME CAPSULE — This topic is actually a 3-parter. First, recount your journey in screenwriting up to this point in time.  Second, tell us where you are on your journey now.  Finally, for the really fun, creative part — blog as if it is one year from today.  What has the past year of your journey been like? What has changed? Be as realistic or not as you like — it’s your time capsule! One year from now, we will revisit our time capsules to see how we did with our predictions… Your post can be as long or as short as you like — the most important thing is to have fun with it!

Okay, on to my response to this topic…

I’ve been on my journey for ten years now, going on eleven.  When I started, I had read one book – Syd Field – and was attempting to write rom com features while living in Orlando, Florida.  I had been out of college for seven years, when I decided I needed to radically change my life.  I got myself relocated to L.A. and my sister and I moved in together.  It would be another six years working along side the industry, but not really in it, taking classes at UCLA, really learning the craft, before I was laid off from my job and forced to focus exclusively on writing for awhile.  In 2011 I got a job working as an assistant to a successful tv and feature writer, and my sister and I found an agent who wanted to represent us last year (at Gersh).  Now my sister and I are fully committed to being staffed within the year on a tv show, and we will continue to write pilots so we can pitch them out.

September 23, 2014

Julie and I are on script this week.  The room is breaking the tenth episode of the season, but we are responsible for writing the ninth.  If my blogging is light, it’s because we have to submit our draft by the end of the week.  It’s nerve-wracking — this is our first tv script together.  We’ve each gotten story credits before, and of course, we’ve written that web series, so we are versed in the realities of production, but this is it — our first solo story/script.  I can’t wait for you to see it.  I hope it doesn’t suck.

 

** Sorry for how late this was posted Monday.  I had a surprisingly busy day today, so it took awhile to get this done.  I may expand my entry throughout the week, but I wanted to at least get something out there for people to see what it is we are trying to do…

Participating Blogs:

 

Posted under blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna on September 23, 2013 12 Comments »

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The Scribosphere Returns

From the ashes of our trashed draft posts, we are coming back, stronger than ever.  Why?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I see that nevermind the podcasts, the twitter feeds, the facebook groups or the multitude of how-to books and messageboards, there is still nothing like the blogosphere for disseminating information and dispelling misconceptions.  In our case, it would be about the craft and business of screenwriting for various media (film, tv, the web…)  There is so much misinformation and uninformed opinion masquerading as fact and authority, that something must be done.  If we have any hope of helping others on their writing journeys, which, I believe we should, then we have to start doing it by writing more.  Also, I got away from what was a great way for me to work out my own thoughts and feelings about this chosen path, and I think I’m worse for it, in some ways.  I’ve had a lot of changes since I was last posting here on a regular basis, new experiences and wisdom to share.  It’s true, there are a lot of details I can’t share because of prudence as my sister and I pitch our projects and take meetings, but I had made the mistake of not talking at all, rather than acknowledging the things I couldn’t say and talking about the more general lessons to be learned.

This weekend at the first official Scribosphere Meetup/Reunion (“meeting again, for the very first time!”) I made this proposal to the bloggers present, that those of us who have been negligent should do what we can to improve our blogging.  That means posting more regularly and linking to each other frequently, so that we can all share audience, share thoughts and opinions.  This is, of course, how we all got to know each other years ago, and I think it’s worth reviving the community we had here, so we can tweet out quick thoughts, but then go into depth on our blogs.  Not every issue is easily summed up in 140 characters.

To aid in our endeavor, I proposed that we kick off a Blog Carnival, described in the Wikipedia Blogging Glossary as: A blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Most blog carnivals are hosted by a rotating list of frequent contributors to the carnival, and serve to both generate new posts by contributors and highlight new bloggers posting matter in that subject area.

Each week one of the denizens of the scribosphere will propose the topic of the week.  Those who wish to participate must link to the originator of the topic and as many other blogs who respond (this is best accomplished by the bloggers commenting on the originator’s blog with a link to their article, so they can all be curated).  Since I  was the “genius” with this brainstorm, I was elected to go first.

I’ll be posting my article and topic later today.  I hope many of you will participate, and hopefully in time, we’ll have a very active scribosphere (and maybe some new members!) joining in the fun.  It will at least provide everyone a reason to post at least once every week, and usually once you start blogging, you find more and more reasons to do it, resulting in more posts. More content = more visitors = we all start talking to each other in more than 140 characters again.

As to how we decide who picks the next topic… well, that we will need to sort.  You have a week to think of a topic.  You’ll have this week to post on the one I blog tonight.

The motto of my blog has always been “Post, or you’re toast.” I’m done being toasted.

Posted under blogs

This post was written by Shawna Benson on September 23, 2013 2 Comments »

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Screenwriting Blogger-palooza is Tomorrow, Sept 21!

That’s right, several old-timer screenwriting bloggers are gathering to swap tales of woe and triumph.  Perhaps we’ll tell you how our blogs started, or why they were abandoned, picked up, abandoned again… the impact of Twitter and FB on our blogging, and our career progression (or lack thereof).

There will be booze and COOKIES — my aunt made (no lie) like five dozen cookies for this soiree, so I’m bringing them.

The details again, in case you feel like dropping by — at this point, even those WITHOUT blogs are welcome!

Saturday, September 21, 2013, 2 PM at Morrison Scottish Pub – 3179 Los Feliz Blvd.

Also, there is a BlackBoard Eats code for 30% off at Morrison right now — so grab it and save some money on some vittles!  Hope to see you all there!

 

 

Posted under blogs, randomness

This post was written by Shawna Benson on September 20, 2013 No Comments »

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Clear Skies – 17 months later

I actually meant to write this post five months ago, but you know how it is. You blink in April and it’s suddenly September. I haven’t blogged a lot in the past year — all you have to do is look at the dates of the last five posts to see that’s true — but it wasn’t for lack of interest. It’s been a very busy year.  Julie and I got an agent. We pitched a pilot all around town (though it didn’t sell). We went up for staffing and came close… I watched the webseries project go into limboland after completing the draft…

And through all of these trials, I’ve been in a good place, mentally.  Seventeen months ago, I bared my soul to you all about my struggles with clinical depression. I had really gone to a dark place and gratefully came out of it, with a lot of support from family, friends and you (and medication). I still have the daily worries and concerns, the occasional bad mood and even a few down days, but those negative moments are easily handled.  I allow myself to have a bad day, but it doesn’t turn into a bad week, a bad month, a bad year… When you are suffering depression and not coping, it is so easy to start down the spiral. The key is to see when it is happening and acknowledge it, without getting caught up in it.

Believe me, it would be hard to take the amount of rejection we’ve received this year if I were still feeling as I did last April. The perspective I have to keep is that with each rejection comes a new opportunity.  Each executive I meet, each person I pitch or draft I complete is one step closer to the goal, to be a staffed writer on a TV show.  Nearing the end of my 10th year in Hollywood, I am as close as I’ve ever been to the goal, and now I’m so close I can almost see it. It’s funny how the closer I get, the stronger my resolve has become — a year ago I worried how I would feel if I wasn’t staffed by now.  Now I don’t worry about if but when. I feel it will happen, and I just have to keep pushing.

I want to thank all of you for sticking with me, whether it’s here on the rarely updated blog, on Twitter or Facebook, in Meatspace… it means a great deal to me to know you are out there. I hope to see some of you “old skool” bloggers in a couple of weeks, when we meet up at Morrison in Los Feliz to catch up and talk shop.  I’ll also be back in Austin next month for the Austin Film Festival, so for those who I miss in L.A., perhaps I can see a few of you there. Otherwise, we’ll always have The Scribosphere.

Here’s to continued clear skies and fair weather… and to reaching the next milestone.

Posted under randomness, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on September 4, 2013 No Comments »

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