No Complaints

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After my stupidly cocky sentence yesterday – along the lines of me flying with the writing, should be finished today, I am so productive, I managed to do a third of it in the last few hours, I am brilliant – the inevitable, was inevitably, going to happen. I accomplished bob all today. Well, compared to yesterday at least. I managed to get one scene good to go in the final act. And re-wrote a few other scenes which I had finished previously. Again.

However, I shall not complain about the decrease in progress today. The reason, which I now try to stick to as much as I can, is that nobody enjoys other people complaining. Its just tiring. Unless it is a short, brief, humorous complaint. However, if it occurs over and over, you just don’t want to be around that person. Or read that blog. They get cut.

For example, I think I could easily complain to Red Bull, if I was so inclined. While chugging back my regular can of Bull just before the gym earlier, I noticed something peculiar. I don’t drink it for pleasure, just for the buzz it gives me, so I’m not one to savour the taste. Opened the can, opened my mouth, and gulped back a big mouthful, maybe half the can. As I swallowed, all in one swoop, I noticed there was something solid going down with the liquid, and before you could say “Gulp”, it was all down the hatch. No clue what it was, in the slightest. I almost hope it was a rat’s toe, or a mouse’s finger. As long as it doesn’t kill me, it will just make the story better, so I can’t really complain. If I do ever get to find out. I shall be inspecting, ahem.

This change in complaint attitude, comes from living in L.A. Polar opposite to Cork. It is the most optimistic place you will ever be, ridiculously so. I imagine the suicide rate is quite high though. I never said it was genuine optimism, but still, fake of that, is far better than real pessimism. Another thing about L.A, in a similar fashion, is that people there will genuinely go out of their way to help you. More so than usual. The amount of invaluable help that I’ve gotten for free is unreal… acting classes, writing advice are the top two I can think of. However, I’ve also never been anywhere where people will try to con you so much, or at least try to make some money out of you, by luring you in with false hope of real help.

The key to getting the right balance, is to know when to pull out. Thats what she said. Apologies. Honestly though, if you can spot that a seeming potential offer of help, is actually going to be spoof or extremely costly, just reverse the roles, and let on that you are interested, but what are the perks going to be. Could you show me a free example perhaps. Just make sure to cut the chord, usually right before either your pants, or their’s, are asked to be taken off.

This happened to me today. The “Hey, long time no speak, how’s it all going, how can I help” spiel. A writing course, which I was sussing out, months back, built themselves up as the only way in to Hollywood. If you don’t learn how to write with us, then there’s no point in you even trying. That kind of thing. They had me worried.

After I had initially contacted them, and given my back story, they replied with the usual stuff, listing out every successful person who has been through their door, or walked by it. There is only one possible way that I could be as successful as them, and that is by doing this course they provided. And then that course. We are here to help, especially in this tough economic time. We are here to help you. Not to make a profit. Just to help. We are almost a charity. All this crap.

I say with full confidence that it is pure and utter crap, after I recieved his 6th email. The first 5 lengthy emails were about how he was purely here to help me, he now thought of me as a friend, I shouldn’t hamper my immense potential anymore, let him help me to unleash it, and so on. The 6th was dashed with words of encouragement, hiding the price list at the very end. Here she blows…

Online Professional Membership Fee and Payment Options:

For 4 Project Cycles (check one)

$4,995 payable upon registration or

$2595 initial payment followed by 18 consecutive monthly payments of $150 or

$1895 initial payment followed by 20 consecutive monthly payments of $175 or

$1095 initial payment followed by 22 consecutive monthly payments of $200

So, I emailed back, oh very interested, especially at such a competitive rate, I think I will sign up. Just a few more questions… what kind of stuff could you do for t.v, in particular sitcoms? Which route should someone writing a sitcom take next? What pointers could you give me exactly? I knew this was going to be my last email, so might as well try for free advice.

Doesn’t seem like much, but I managed to get  one Word document of “Basic Notes On Television Writing”. Handy when you are lacking the basics, like myself, although I was familiar with a few. I just didn’t heed them too well when I was first told them first time around…

Writers Boot Camp

Basic Notes on Television Writing

1. A spec script is one that is written on “speculation” (without pay).  In the world of TV staffing, a spec script is one that emulates an episode of a particular series.

2. Writers breaking into television generally do so by writing spec scripts.

3. Writing spec scripts is really a process of proving to a potential employer, a showrunner,  that you have the acumen and talent to work for them.

4. The three traits of a spec script worthy of submission are:

a)     Amazing storyline ideas never done before on the series;

b)    Nailing the character voices, expectations and series conceits;

c)     Out loud funny, if comedy; provocative, if drama.

5. While there are exceptions to rules by exceptional people, it’s still not recommended to new writers to write original pilots–except as an exercise. 

6. Of course, it’s positive to write anything, but most writers who haven’t written spec scripts will fail the challenge of breaking down their own show, and most writers without staff experience will not have the opportunity to run their own show.

7. A stunt spec is one that might resurrect a series from the past, or combine two series.  They are difficult to pull off, but certainly worth doing as an exercise.

8. In addition to having a good personality, it usually takes at least two GREAT spec scripts, and often a third piece of original material, for an agent to champion you as someone to represent.

9. The challenge is that it may take writing many scripts for any to be great.

10. Decide whether you are a comedic or dramatic writer.  Choose your projects accordingly.

11. Choose spec scripts for shows that will be on the air for a couple of years.

12. Choose spec scripts that are established–so that readers are familiar with the show–yet that are not such evergreens that it would be difficult to create unique storylines.

13. It’s generally a good idea to write one of the top five shows in your chosen genre.

14. Dramedy is not a very effective word, description or genre, so don’t use it.

15. While the distinctions of writing for television are important, television and feature are more similar than they are different.

16. The main difference between writing for television and features is that each series has its own established conceits and structural parameters, which supersede standard expectations.

17. When writing a spec script, you would write a Unity Page for the series AND for each storyline in the episode.

18. The 3-6-3 is optional for television writing due to the fact that there are less scenes per script in comparison to a feature, and there are multiple storylines further reducing the challenging of managing structure.

19. All basic series television formats fall within the guidelines of Main Character-Driven, Four Segment Story Structure. 

20. When writing a spec, you should study the episodes and storylines of the existing series to understand its requirements.

21. Too few writers investigate the history and workings of a series enough to bring fresh ideas that reach beyond the typical storylines tried by all of the writers around town.

22. Your Conceits for spec scripts will naturally be Story Conceits due to the need to honor the existing Character Conceits, if any, of the show you’re emulating.

23. Unless a personal friend, your goal would rarely be to submit your spec to someone working on that show due to the unlikely event that you will intuit their inside knowledge and show arcs, as well as the studio’s need to protect themselves legally.

24. When major story changes occur on the series, like Ross and Rachel breaking up again, then your specs need to be updated.

25. Even most experienced writers find they must write new material to be considered by the industry in a different genre, or if they come off a show that has ended.

26. 1-Hour Drama scripts are usually 45-60 pages, formatted as a feature, meaning that scene direction and dialogue are single-spaced.

27. 1/2-Hour, Single-Camera Film is roughly 23-35 pages, formatted as a feature, single-spaced as well.

28. 1/2-Hour, Multi-Camera (Sitcom) is roughly 45-60 pages, with double-spaced dialogue and character names and very spare scene direction.

29. When writing spec scripts, we recommend that you study the scripts of produced episodes to identify the traits of the page.  While not every industry pro will know exactly how each series script looks, it will help you match Scene Work to what’s on screen.

30. When attempting a pilot script, it’s important to understand that it is expected to be a template for perhaps 100 episodes.

31. A pilot script should be seen as an establishing script as opposed to an introductory episode.  Of course, certain introductions will necessarily be included.

32. Voiceover, in any writing form, can be helpful to inform the audience and create a rooting interest for a character.  But it’s best to make that choice based on concept and tone rather than as a crutch.

33. The writer of an original pilot should ask how their show is expressing what no other show has ever done.

34. Revenues from television have traditionally subsidized ventures into film production and helped the agency business survive.

35. TV is where most of the writing work is in the entertainment industry.


Firstly, funk number 5! And finally, now that I actually re-read them all again, there are some savage pointers which I can use. After all the other spoof emails I had to wade through, all in all, I can have no complaints.

This turned into way more writing than I had planned to do, probably the longest blogaruu yet, strange with the day being so uneventful. Anyways, song on…

Walcott by Vampire Weekend

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