I’ve realized over the last year that I’ve gained quite a few screenwriting friends.
Whether just becoming interested or been writing scripts for a few years, I have quite a few friends who at least know what Final Draft is and intend to use it soon. Because of this, because I’d love to have a solid reason for more content on my blog, and because it’s always good to hear about people’s writing journeys, I’m starting a ConQnA series! (I’m a little on how Con worked its way in there…)
Basically, I will interview my friends (and whoever else wants to jump in — email me below) and post their responses here.
I think it will be good to explore what inspired others to become TV writers — and screenwriters and playwrights, because I don’t discriminate against medium (except reality. I middle-key discriminate against reality TV folk). Also, in this #OscarsSoWhite era, it is important to me to highlight my friends of color who want to write for TV and Film (and Theater). Our voices need to be heard as much as possible. The early stages of writing a project is often a great place to begin your diversity and inclusion — by the time it gets to the screen/stage, it feels more authentic.
Next week, I will be uploading these interviews. I’m excited! I’ve already gotten a couple and it makes me so happy that these friends of mine want to support this project of mine. I’m also proud of myself that I finally took the initiative to ask them to do it — something that’s not always easy for me as an introvert and a procrastinator. I’ve made great strides in starting projects in 2016 — which I hope continues (and becomes a lucrative adventure).
If you’d like to be apart of this series, please email me at [email protected]. Include ConQnA in your subject so I know what it’s in regards to.
First ConQnA Post next Tuesday! Then weekly after that for as long as I have interviews to post.
Banner stock photo from RekitaNicole.com. Shout out Black-owned stock photo sites!
I’ve been on hiatus (not really on purpose, just life and work getting in the way), but sometimes I still collect links for ConStar Clicks and then never post them because I either have too few or no time. Here are some links I’ve accumulated during this sorta hiatus. More Clicks coming soon (for real, there’s already a draft for next week’s!).
How Does an Aspiring TV Writer Get Discovered by an Agent? [Splitsider]
Search for a story that is meaningful to you, and excavate the depths of your imagination — what have you dreamed about writing, what do you wish you could watch? It doesn’t have to be a pilot, even. Is there an indie movie idea you’re dying to get out?
Basically, write what you want to write, no matter how wacky or unconventional, because agents will see the potential of it and it could get you work. Definitely something I needed to hear. Lesson of the day: Write it anyway.
Two articles on TV Staffing season (which has passed for this year, but is always useful for next spring!)
I’ve applied to three writing fellowships this year (!!). As notification season quickly approaches, this article was a very helpful read. Cross your fingers for me guys!
- 10 Things I Have Learned on My Way Into Two TV Writing Fellowships [Scripts and Scribes]
This week's #ConStarClicks involve diversity, geek tv shows, & and lack of diversity in geeky books. I sure know how to craft a theme, y'all. That theme is my life.
I don’t really do New Years Resolutions, but I’d love to finish something I write this year. My first challenge? Finishing a spec script. Tis the season for TV writing fellowship submission deadlines and I think I am going to take a crack at actually submitting something. So, right now, I am working on a spec script for the show Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
I’ve worked on a few specs before. I wrote a Castle spec a few years ago that got completed, but wasn’t good story wise and was way too short. I wrote a Parks and Rec spec that, upon reread, felt authentic to the show and actually had some jokes (!) but was missing a third act resolution and pieces of a plot point were done by the show itself after I’d stopped working on it. And earlier last year, I tried my hand at a Scandal spec. It seemed to be going well while writing it during a show hiatus, but once the show returned, a lot of little points I’d thought of were used on the show and plots/relationships/etc were more and more invalidated each new episode. I’ve also written a few short teaser-type scenes for a sit-com pilot and the first few pages of a drama pilot. Again, nothing I’ve completed.
Even though each script has gone unfinished or left something to be desired, I’ve felt stronger and stronger about my writing after each attempt. But it is time to finally finish something. The point of writing fellowships is to hone your craft, so hopefully, should I finish something and submit it, it is more about the potential within my script rather than how brilliant it actually is, but as with most writers, you want it to be brilliant from the get go.
I mostly write this so I am putting it out there. Connie should be working on her spec script. I’ve got an A story (recently developed, but I finally feel good about the direction it’s going), a nemesis for the main character (though I’m still working out obstacles), an emotional trajectory, a B-story involving Terry, Rosa, and Gina, and a vague idea for a C-story that maybe should tie into the A-story?
What I’ve noticed is that I am paralyzed by choice when it comes to writing fiction. There are so many paths a character could take, so many ways a character could be, which determines where the story goes. What if I choose wrong? If I pick between two ideas and one isn’t working, does that mean the other is better? Or should I break my brain trying to make idea number one work? I spend a lot of time stuck at the fork in the road and when I pick one, I keep wondering what’s down the other path. It’s definitely a struggle. And that’s all in the outlining. Once I’ve started, the characters start speaking and want to do different things than what I’ve planned, which affects where the story goes and thus all the little pieces I’ve thought of start to fall apart. Hence why I never finish anything. Even if I stop thinking about the road to the other side of the last fork in the road, a new one comes and I become overwhelmed with choice and the fear of missed moments of awesome. Also, there’s the giving up and the getting distracted, and the chronic procrastination, and ooh books! –ooh, new TV shows! –ooh, other ideas I should write! Typical writer problems.
So my goal for early 2015 is to finish this spec script. I bought an iPad around Christmas and it’s actually been helping me to be really productive. I’ve written about 7 pages of notes in Pages solely on my iPad while rewatching the show and on my commutes to work. And I bought Final Draft for iPad, which I think will be a really good way to write while on the go. So here’s to finishing this spec script. Hopefully the abundance of choice won’t be so paralyzing — I can just use those ideas in a second script. This post is to get my feelings out and for you readers to hold me accountable via comments, or Twitter, or wherever you see me lurking on the internet. Because if I’m on Twitter, I’m not writing. (But don’t take away my internet, research spurns ideas!)
Are any of you working on some works-in-progress that you’d like completed this year?
As a media studies major, one of the first things I learned in my television history class was that it started out as being simply televised plays* EDIT: or televised radio shows. TV scripts are called “teleplays” for a reason. A lot of early series are presented as one-act plays for the small screen, lots of anthology shows, where each episode was a different story. The most famous, perhaps, might be The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, both featuring mysterious, science-fiction, and horror/thriller type stories, but others were more explicit in their titles like Playhouse 90 (90 minute teleplays) and the Philco Television Playhouse. Both media are heavily focused on dialogue and character, with plot being often secondary. This article in The Atlantic on the trend of playwrights also writing for television and vice versa doesn’t talk as much about the history of early television plays as much as I would like, but it’s interesting the way things cycle back around.
♦ It’s been a minor struggle all of my life that the shows that I like don’t get major award recognition. This article over at the AV Club finally talks about this struggle. I watch “mid-reputable” television. I’m usually not interested in the prestige shows. The Mad Mens or the Homelands or the Boardwalk Empires. I gave Breaking Bad a shot, but I wasn’t as into it as everyone else. Recently, The Wire had a marathon on HBO, and I just didn’t feel like starting it. But the shows listed in this article: Sleepy Hollow (once I catch up and the show redeems itself), Jane the Virgin, Arrow, The Flash, etc (all genre shows you’ll notice) are more my jam. I spent my teens loving Charmed and Angel, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Dollhouse and I still miss 30 Rock and need to find all the waffles to cope with the last season of Parks and Recreation. None of these shows were ever ratings darlings or big award winners. What do these shows get? They’re so often sidelined, “There’s less of a sense that TV buffs have to watch these shows to stay current,” and when they are nominated, it’s rare for them to get recognized a second time (I’m looking at you, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
“Astute TV watchers may hope that Tatiana Maslany will get nominated for her work on Orphan Black, but they also know—or should, anyway—that it’s a longshot.”
— True, but it hurts, because she’s just as good — better even — than the usual players on the prestige dramas that always get nominated!
I think this line in the article is really important, as it reminds me that while the Emmy’s may not recognize my shows for awards, that it doesn’t really matter. “And if in the end we’re all more excited about a new episode of The Flash than The Affair, maybe that says something about what’s really the best that TV has to offer.” Because while there are plenty of shows that are ratings, awards, and critical hits, I think the middle-ground shows make people happier. You look forward to them more, they often have lighter or funnier storylines. (Isn’t it a wonder that the awards that typically don’t get nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe Awards are often winners of People’s Choice Awards?) And that feeling of joy and excitement to watch your show is more important than how many awards it gets or if the big wigs over at the New Yorker or the Times think it’s “art.”
Shameless plug: Here’s an article I wrote last year about New Emmy categories we need. It basically would get recognition for a lot of midlevel TV shows out there in the Dramedy, Procedural, and Scif-fi/Fantasy genres.
♦ Want to know when your shows are returning or premiering this winter? Here’s a full list thanks to THR. Make sure to input them into your calendars so you don’t miss mid-season premieres! I definitely suggest Agent Carter, which I enjoyed much more than I’ve ever enjoyed Agents of SHIELD.
♦ Finally, as I venture into my first writing project of the year (a post coming on that soon), I probably need an app like this presented by the AV Club, that doesn’t let you use the rest of your computer until you complete the goals you set. It’s easier to get around the time limit (by not writing) than the word count limit. Though I’m sure if I write WRITING IS SO HARD over and over, I’ll hit it in no time. I won’t even copy and paste.
EDIT: Maybe I will go through some old textbooks for more blog fodder…
a ZEN PENCILs comics drawn from Shonda Rhimes' Darthmouth commencement address tells us to DO in classic Shonda speak.
TV is all about dialogue. You have to be more concise and judicial about it, but TV is maybe second to plays (or so I hear) when it comes to the importance of dialogue in the medium. This is a great article to take a look at to look at how your dialogue is being presented in your work, no matter the medium or genre.
The writer for About Last Night, a white writer, was very cool about the cast changes from a traditionally white-cast rom-com, to a black one, but others weren’t so cool about it.
It was like my script was suddenly not as good or less than or just plain not cool because of the casting. Whatever. Those people suck.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but this is nice to hear. Just because a movie features black actors, doesn’t mean their lives must appear different than if the movie were starring white actors. There are a few cultural differences, but we have the same careers, the same relationship problems, and the same insecurities that everyone of any race has. The last quote was my favorite:
Before Headland even finished the first version of the script she told herself, “Don’t write jokes, Leslye. Write people.”
via ‘About Last Night’ Writer Fought Against Racial Stereotypes When Re-Writing Script – Atlanta Black Star.
Also read more: ‘About Last Night’ Writer on Reimagining Movie for a Black Cast [The Hollywood Reporter]
The Aspiring TV Writer & Screenwriter Blog: Three big myths in the aspiring writer world.
From fellow blogger, Amanda. Basically these things hold us aspiring writers back: thinking you’re all that, whining instead of writing, and thinking our writing will be a reader’s saving grace after a long day of slush.
Keep working at your talent and be realistic about your skills and you just might beat the odds.