Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Comedy Should Be Added Last

I see a few common problems with comedy specs, but none so much as trying to be funny without laying the foundation.

Comedy plots should be built like cakes. 

First you figure out measure out flour (what the character wants).

Then add eggs (antagonist).

Add baking soda (conflict).

Pinch of salt (flaw being exposed).

Stir things up.  Then bake. 

When the plot has cooled, then ice with the comedy layer.

Why is comedy last?  Isn't the audience looking for the funny?

Yes, the audience is looking for that icing layer.  They want to laugh. 

But as soon as they take that first bite, they will spew it out --- unless there's a good foundational cake underneath.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Although cakes are consumed icing first, they are built cake first.

I can spot new writers b/c their comedy scripts have no plot, & are based on joke-joke-joke. 

Real writers set up the script as if it's a drama.  Then upon rewrite after rewrite, they add the comedy, jokes, prat falls, etc. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

TOP 10 CHECKLIST: Before You Submit...

I wrote this checklist awhile ago, but don't remember posting it here.

(And if I did, world, you're not listening.  So read this list again.)

1.  The script should be stripped to bare bones. No unessential plots, characters, or scenes.

If not, I will put down your script.

2.  Electricity should shoot through your script easily. If there are wandering or confusing scenes, electricity will stop.

And I will put down your script.

3.  Have you addressed all the things I will look for:  Premise, Character, Conflict, Structure, Dialogue?

4.  Have you properly introduced: a) the rules to your world (ESPECIALLY in Sci-fi and Horror), and b) the characters in the 1st ten pages?  Don't make me guess.

5.  All chase, fight, & love scenes must develop character & push the story forward.

A gratuitous love scene can kill the mood.  An emotionally laden one will get you a Twilight-like following.

6.  All subplots should mirror, or support the main plot.  This is NOT the minor character's story.

7. Tension-release (also known as hope-fear) is crucial.  Not tension-tension-tension.

8. Does your script read vertically?  If not, read this.

9.  Typos, grammar errors, & exceeding the proper page limit, begone.
The standard is still 120 pgs for drama, & around 90-110 for comedies.  Err on the side that less is more.

10. Cover page should be title, name, address (yours or your agent’s), email, phone.  No need for WGA # or copyright.  We assume you’ve registered with WGA &/or Library of Congress.

WHAT I'VE KNOW:  Keep me reading = I boogie-woogie. 

Slow me down = I slush. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: I Want, I Want, I Want

What do you do when you're stuck writing?

Really, really stuck so you can't make heads or tails of the problem?

Pick one:

A. Indulge in the 20 scoop Vermonster, hot fudge, banana, cookies, brownies, and all of your favorite toppings at Ben and Jerry's. 

B. Call me to brainstorm consult the crap out of the story.

C. Read actor/writer/director/amazing Alan Alda.

For me, "Alan Alda's interview on storytelling on film" is my new go-to, how-to article. http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_06/section_2/artc2A.html

I was particularly drawn to his words on what the character wants:

"I can always tell, I think, when conflict is concocted in a hastily written television drama, like a cop drama, because it looks like the writer has struggled to find ways in which the characters disagree, because that writer's convinced that the essence of it is conflict.

But that's missing the point, I think. You automatically get conflict if people in fact want something, and want it so passionately that they believe they deserve to have what they want."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: It's all about following what the character wants. When you're stuck, follow the want.

Don't miss the example about the 2nd story window. 

"I think people are drawn to watch people who want things."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Shameless Plug for: theOffice

I got a nice email from theOffice about their shared workspace built specifically for writers.  I've been by & it seems like really calm writing digs for those times when you need to run away from home.

They're located in Santa Monica & offer one week free memberships for Twitter followers!

http://www.theofficeonline.com/about.htm

Thursday, July 1, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Midpoint Madness

Bill Pace (http://twitter.com/scripteach), a NYC writer/teacher/filmmaker, twittered 2 articles that he uses when he gets stuck at the Midpoint. They're worth downloading. Thanks to him for generously sharing with us!

The 1st is a list of helpful midpoint definitions & examples.

The 2nd is titled ACT II - THE ELUSIVE HEART OF THE SCREENPLAY by Jengo Robinson, a London script consultant, which analyzes The Graduate.

I really liked the latter article b/c it shows WHAT the midpoint's purpose is (heighten drama) and more importantly, HOW to ramp up to it and what to do after it.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Many scripts flatten in Act 2. Why? Often it's b/c they are not driving toward a midpoint where something drastically changes & now the protagonist is in an unforeseen mad, mad world.

(In the article above, Robinson calls this the "flip the script" moment.)