A little less conversation, a little more action please

Got my revised 2-page outline ready for class tonight, but I’m still feeling like a slacker. I need to seriously do some actual writing soon. Lately I’ve been just sitting around doodling in notebooks, acting all conteplative, while I’m actually thinking about who will win “American Idol” this time.

One thing I’ve been pondering about lately: when did sitcoms get so bad? I find most sitcoms on TV intolerable for more than a minute or two and once ‘Raymond’ and ‘Arrested Development’ finish their runs, I’m not sure what is left to watch. How did we arrive at this place that sitcoms suck and suck very very much? Where is a Taxi or a Cheers (early seasons) or even a Roseanne? Oh yeah, Nick at Nite…

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This post was written by Shawna on April 26, 2005

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Latest TV and Film News

Not that I’m a great resource for breaking news, but since I’ll be talking about remakes, sequels and TV to Film adaptations in my Film Friday later this week, I thought I’d just point out that Wil Ferrell is going to be in the “Land of the Lost” movie.

Ah yes, you can smell the fresh ideas like last month’s milk…

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This post was written by Shawna on April 25, 2005

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Erased

Since I’m taking a TV writing class, I’m watching and recording a fair amount of TV shows. I had to go to Orlando last week for work, which made it more critical to have my DVR in working order. I had about 80 hours of programming saved on the harddrive.

Hard drive crashed today. Wiped out all programs, before I could watch the programs I recorded from this week. House, Lost, Alias, 24, Project Greenlight, even Low Carb and Lovin’ It! (My favorite Food Network show) are all gone. I’ve now lost two weeks of House and Alias I hadn’t seen and God knows that I’m in trouble trying to write my Lost spec without my episodes at hand to refer to.

I’m in mouring. It’s a dark day in the Benson household. Dish Network will pay for this tragedy!

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This post was written by Shawna on April 23, 2005

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I’m home

Just got home about an hour ago. I like traveling, but hate the actual travel part, especially on planes. Anyway, looking forward to getting things caught up tomorrow…

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This post was written by Shawna on April 22, 2005

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Out of pocket

I hope to keep you updated this week on all my writings and goings on. It may be a little more spotty than usual though as I’ll be in Orlando on business. In fact, my flight leaves in 3 hours and I haven’t packed.

My happy news for the day is my class instructor mostly liked my spec outline. I have some character issues to work out, but I think the story is pretty much there. I hate that I’m going to miss class this week.

Thanks to everyone for the really great comments!! I feel so special, and not in that short bus kind of way, either.

Last thing: I saw “The Amityville Horror” last night. How crazy is it if the best thing about the movie is Ryan Reynolds? That dude is RIPPED. It really helps to see terrible movies at the Arclight 21+ screening. Good movies get better and bad movies become watchable with a couple of alcoholic beverages at your side.

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This post was written by Shawna on April 17, 2005

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Is this thing on?

So, I had my TV class last night. It’s good, it gets my brain working, even at 7 PM. Trying to think of clever plot points is very difficult when you close in on 10 PM, but my instructor’s insistence on juice and cookies does help us get through the midway point in the class and down the home stretch.

There are 20 people in the class, so it can get exhausting listening to everyone pitch their stories and the rest of the class dissecting it, trying to find what will make the story really intriguing or at least workable. Fortunately, we’ll be splitting into discussion groups in the next week or two so I’ll only have to focus on maybe four or five other stories instead of 20.

But, it was weird last night. I felt like I was talking to myself a lot. When I was in the UCLA Professional Program last year, it was not only commonplace, but required that you get involved in other people’s projects, help throw out suggestions and ideas. Most of the people in the room last night have either written very little or no scripts at all, and as I threw out ideas to people about their stories or posed dilemmas or questions about what they had pitched, I felt the silence in the room as if people were thinking “who is this FREAK who thinks she has all these wonderful ideas? How DARE she criticize my story or suggest something completely off base from my idea?” I’m certainly not trying to best someone’s ideas, but the whole point of these classes is that you throw out an idea, and maybe someone builds on your suggestion or finds another way to take it, which is even better. You WANT someone to come up with a better idea than you did. Still, I couldn’t help feeling I had a huge target on my chest and I should really just shut up.

Am I wrong to try to help people? Am I being too pushy? I just don’t know.

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This post was written by Shawna on April 13, 2005

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Deconstructing other TV shows/films

If you want to learn to write good structure, one of the best ways is to write a narrative beat sheet for a TV show or film to understand that structure. Basically, you sum up a scene or “events” in a series of statements. For example:

  • Jack sends Kate to get Sawyer’s alcohol
  • Kate finds Sawyer and takes what alcohol he has before dashing back through the jungle.
  • In the jungle, Kate finds Claire having contractions and calls for help.
  • Jin finds Kate and Claire; Kate asks him to go get Jack and bring him back.

It isn’t about recording the dialogue (unless it is an event unto itself) or how people feel. It is about recording the events and how one event leads to another. By deconstructing TV episodes or films you start to get a feel for the rhythms of structure. If you pay closer attention, you can start to find the inciting incident, the mid-point, the end of each Act, etc as you pick apart the story into a series of “beats” or events.

I just finished my homework assignment for this week, which was to do exactly this for the show I plan to spec. It was on my mind, so I thought why not share?

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This post was written by Shawna on April 10, 2005

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Learn to Pitch

If you read the same blogs I do, you probably already read about Chris Abbott’s new book which she will be signing at the Barnes & Noble at The Grove on Wednesday April 13 at 7:30 PM. What is particularly cool is that Abbott will be giving people the chance to pitch projects and then with advice from the book, assist their pitches and let them pitch again. Sounds like a fun time!

(Hat tip: A Writer’s Life (Lee Goldberg))

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This post was written by Shawna on April 9, 2005

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The picture

I wasn’t sure about putting an actual photograph of myself on my blogger profile. For one thing, it is out of date. I won’t say how long out of date but more than three years, less than eight. As soon as I get around to it I’ll put a more recent photo up. That was the only one I had on a pre-existing website that I could point to.

So I’m no longer in my twenties (I’m 30). You take what you can get.

On another topic, progress made on the spec today. I think I have most of my story figured out. The trick is trying not to rehash what has already been covered in the show, but not going too far afield with my own ideas. There’s a definite trick to it. Why oh why didn’t I think about doing an episode of CSI or something? Those don’t expose you to tinkering with existing characters. Those types of shows (procedurals) in the vein of CSI, Law & Order, etc. barely develop their main character’s stories at all. Standalone episodes are easy to write. Insert crime of the moment “ripped from the headlines”. Rinse. Repeat. I would choose something episodic, something harder to pull off.

This makes me a glutton for punishment. And an idiot.

*sigh* Good to know I never change much.

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This post was written by Shawna on April 9, 2005

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Registered!

I finally WGA registered my first screenplay “China Joe” and my first TV pilot script which I cowrote called “Sistercritics/My Shadow and Me” (we can’t decided on a title).

You can’t mess with my work now!! I’m registered!

And now, back to writing new stuff.

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This post was written by Shawna on April 8, 2005

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