Real Life Happens. Take Notes.

It’s been an interesting time, back here in Central Illinois for the holiday.  Christmas was very nice, but it was hard to enjoy it, since we had the shadow of my cousin’s wedding hanging over the proceedings.  The wedding went off yesterday, with only minor hitches, and so now that is done.

It occurred to me while I was videotaping the wedding for my cousin, that it isn’t often that we have such wild events in our daily lives, which can easily be used as fodder for some story or another.

And then I realized, I was wrong about that.  “Wild events” are happening all the time, every day.  Sure, they may not always be happening to us, but they are happening.  In the news this morning I see these headlines: Man dies after woman sets fire to his genitals; Man arrested for shooting talker at movie; California family finds $10,000 in a box of crackers.

And of course there were lots of other stories for the day, but it struck me that any one of those headlines (and perhaps all 3) could be the kernel that starts off a story or script.  I used to troll Odd News on Yahoo news all the time for these interesting little nuggets.  Now I find myself drawn to science blogs, which are always talking about some crazy discovery or theory.  If you are writing sci-fi, those blogs are a goldmine.

Not that you don’t already know this, but apparently I needed the reminder.  Life is happening all around us, even if not to us directly.  Even the smallest incidents or happenings can become the core of a story (think of all the miniscule life details that get plunged for humor on good sitcoms).  Take notes.  If you don’t you might be missing out.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on December 28, 2008


We are not talking about the Golden Globes

Because, they are stupid.

I like “True Blood”.  I do.  It’s an awesomely fun show.  But Anna Paquin, nominated for an AWARD?  Uh, no.

And I don’t care who does it, but I want a special award made for Stephen Root for being the best guest star on multiple shows this year.  Dude does not get enough recognition for being awesome.  His turns on “Pushing Daisies” and “True Blood” this year were made of win.

Oh, I have more to say on the state of TV.  Much more.

Posted under tv news

This post was written by Shawna on December 11, 2008

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NBC gives 10 pm to Jay Leno

That chill in the air isn’t just the arrival of winter in Los Angeles — it’s the cold realization that network TV is in trouble.  BIG trouble.  Really, really big trouble.

We’ve been watching the antics of NBC all season, and believe me, it’s been entertaining.  Knight Rider is, technically, a bust.  No new hits have been generated.  ER, one of its top rated shows, is in its last season.  Heroes has eroded pretty badly due to an uneven (and that’s being kind) season.  Other dramas have all seen declines.  The only bright spots for NBC have been Sunday Night Football and Saturday Night Live (during the election season).

And now they’ve locked up Jay Leno, every night of the week.  At 10 PM.  IN PRIMETIME.

Think about that a moment, won’t you?  Five hours of television programming, mostly scripted dramas — GONE, once Leno takes over the spot.  It’s cheap for NBC, much cheaper for them to give over an hour to the audience who will watch him at 10, rather than at 11:35 than it is to keep trying to find a ‘hit’ 10 PM show.

I am not typically a doomsayer, but this does not bode well.

We can hope that this is another boneheaded NBC decision — hey! Let’s get rid of pilot season!  A 52-week TV season, how about that?  Uh…the talking car from the 80’s, let’s bring that back!

But there’s something far more disconcerting at work here.

This might actually pay off for them.

On any given night Leno pulls almost 5 million viewers at 11:35 PM.  If he doubles that audience, which he should, that immediately gives NBC better ratings on 3 of 5 nights of the week than they have right now with scripted one-hour dramas.  ER is in its last season.  KINGS will take its place come midseason.  Law and Order shows will bump to 9 PM and suddenly, there aren’t as many time slots to fill (and futures for LIFE and LIPSTICK JUNGLE, which has already been on the verge of cancellation look pretty dim).  Dateline NBC and The Apprentice can go back to midseason or ‘plug n play’ shows, filling gaps in the schedule when a new show crashes and burns.

Hopefully this will inspire some more cable nets to go scripted later at night…I gotta believe when a door closes, a window opens somewhere else.

Obviously this isn’t happening right away.  NBC still has seven months with Leno at The Tonight Show.  But then…all bets are off.

Posted under analysis, tv news

This post was written by Shawna on December 9, 2008

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Does the future of Knight Rider depend on the auto industry bailout?

I think so.

Let’s consider for a moment the model which was used to finance “Knight Rider” for NBC.  It isn’t the cheapest show – it’s got some special effects and flash.  The way to make the show affordable was to tie in a corporate sponsor.

Enter Ford.

Ford sponsors the show.  The show features Ford vehicles heavily, basically acting as an hour long commercial for them.  A symbiotic relationship is born.

And then…trouble.  Ford suddenly finds itself in a financial mess.  They start looking around and what can easily be cut.  Advertising is one area where car companies spend, spend, spend.  Here’s this show that’s only performing moderately well and is fading.  Is it really a great deal for Ford anymore?

No.  I’m sure there was a conversation that went something like this:

“Yo Benny!”

“What up Deeeeeetroit?”

“We need some help.  You gotta do something about that Knight Rider show.”

“Dude, Hasselhoff canceling on us was harsh, but we’ll figure something out…”

“Don’t know if you’ve heard, Ben, but we’re bleeding here.  Asking Congress for billions of dollars.”

“Billions?  With a ‘B’?”

“You got it.  So, we need to trim a little.  I mean, we’ll still buy some Super Bowl ads, but we gotta cut back somewhere.  And this show…it kinda sucks.”

“Okay, well, what if you get the bank you want from Congress?  Would things be a little different then?”

“Well of course, man!  We could support ten Knight Riders!  But we gotta get the money first.”

“Well…Knight Rider is kinda my baby.  If I cancel it, it’s gonna look really bad for us.  So, what if we just…cut the season short?  We’ll wait it out to see if you guys get your money, and if you do…”

“…if we do, we’ll talk about how to fix the damn show while still showcasing fine Ford automobiles and trucks.”


So, there.  It’s up to you, Congress.  If you want “Knight Rider” to live, you’ll have to give Ford a lot of our money.  Of course, I’d rather see my money go toward fixing some friggin bridges or something, but hey, who am I to judge?  This is Knight Rider, people!

Posted under analysis, tv news

This post was written by Shawna on December 4, 2008

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Finding the Path

This may get a little too esoteric for some of you.  If you have no interest in hearing about how I have come along on my journey thus far and how I think what I have experienced can be of assistance to anyone out there, perhaps just wait for the next post, which I’m sure will be about how lame Knight Rider is.

Eight years ago I had a really tough time finding my current path.  I was aimless and feeling trapped in my life.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted or how to change my life in a positive way that made me feel like I was doing more than running on the hampster wheel.  At that point in time, I had a mentor who dropped into my life rather unexpectedly.  He tried to help me find my way, but I was so far down the well of despair that I couldn’t see the light at the top.

So I dug down.

Which is always the long way out of any situation.  They tell you when you are digging yourself a hole, stop digging.  Here’s the thing — sometimes, you can’t stop digging.  And if you can’t stop digging, the next best thing is to start digging in a different direction or see if you can start digging up back to the surface.

That’s what I did.  I overhauled my life.  I got a job transfer, moved myself across the country and committed myself to following one dream — write a screenplay.  And once I had done that, I wrote another.  And then I started writing TV specs…well, if you’ve followed this blog at all you know that has led me here, with a pilot in development and lots of other projects bubbling along.

It’s not a fast path.  If you are just starting on it, be prepared for that.  Prepare to spend 5-6 years just starting to feel competent.  I’ve been doing this for six years now and I just now feel like my writing might be good enough for someone to read (though obviously I’ve had lots of people reading my work before now).  And there is still a long way to go.  It’ll be another 5-6 years before I feel like I’m good at this.  A recent study determined that it takes 10,000 hours of study or practice to become an expert at something.  Talent helps, and may even shortcut you some hours, but you must sit in the chair and do the work.  Don’t just think about writing.  Don’t just talk about writing.  Don’t just write about writing.  A blog is a blessing and a curse.  At its best it can serve as a warm-up to your “real” writing or help you sort out some thoughts as you spin through various story ideas.  At its worst it is a procrastination excuse.  You can’t let a blog rule your life, and while I do feel bad that I haven’t updated it as much as I’d like, I ultimately had to make a choice — write scripts or make excuses.  Obviously, I went for Door number one.

The upshot is that once I started working on my scripts again, it has really lit a fire to write more overall.  So, that’s why I’m back here updating the blog.  A rising tide lifts all boats, or something like that.

Everything is Zen.  Take a few moments to clear your mind of whatever is cluttering it and write for yourself a letter of what it is you really want to accomplish.  Once you’ve had the honest conversation with yourself, you’ll feel better about moving forward.

At the very least, it gets you writing.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on December 3, 2008

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Setting course

The last two months have been really profound for me.  Of course, I wish I had been writing about it while it was happening, but I’m not sure I could have.  Sometimes you can only really write about things by looking in the rearview mirror…they are phantoms around you until you pass them by.

Let’s talk about writing goals.  They are important.  If you don’t set some goals for yourself, you will wander aimlessly in the wasteland, perhaps making tiny amounts of progress but never at the level that is satisfying.

In the last two months, I set three writing goals and I’ve accomplished two of them.  The third one has been a struggle, but I’m still hammering away at it, hoping to finish it soon so I can move on to the next set of goals.  Productivity is high, and the great thing is that when I’m writing a lot, it feeds the positive energy into the rest of my life.  I’ve dropped 15 pounds since September.  I am the healthiest I’ve been in at least a couple of years…and I have a new love in my life.  Well, I say new but it’s really…a very long (awesome) story.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’ve been busy since Austin.  I love going to Austin, it always helps me focus my mind on the priorities, get myself centered and charge my energy and enthusiasm to follow this path for my life.

I promise I’ll get around to updating the Watch List and I have lots I want to talk about regarding how the 2008 shows are shaking out (needless to say, I have some very choice words for NBC).

I hope you are all locked and loaded.  I know I am.  Course is set and I am ready to rock.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on December 2, 2008

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