Friday, May 28, 2010

Sipowicz!!

My application for the WB's Writers' Workshop just went out... in the mail? Sorry? Mail? As in envelope? Stamp? This - does - not - compute. System - overload. Bleep. Blop. Bloop. Zzzzzzhhhhh. Boom!

Anyhoo, this application was much like NBC's, so no surprises there. Okay, there was one: I had to pay $30 this time, which would have sent up red flags if I hadn't been told about the program by a successful tv writer who I bother every now and then. Actually, by all accounts, the WB's program seems a tad bit better since they make the names of the participants public (I've looked them up -- most are working tv writers), something NBC does not do. Those differences aside, like NBC the WB also required me to write a short essay about why I want to write for tv. A valid question, but I hate writing these darn things -- they make me feel like a Miss America contestant but in glasses and an a-cup. Sigh. Here is a sample from my one-page (max!) answer:

My dad called it the boob tube. Only The Cosby Show “cut the mustard” and cable was for sinners, but I managed nonetheless. When it came to TV, I always found a way. Since my father frequently hid the antenna and we didn’t have a remote, it was hard to be sneaky. If he was home and a blacklisted favorite was on (The X-Files, NYPD Blue), I’d park myself close to the screen and set the volume on mute. It was a problem at first, not being able to hear the dialogue, the jokes, the dramatic soundtracks. But eventually, I learned to work with it, making up my own stories to match the fuzzy on-screen action and dubbing over actual lines with my careful whispers. And so it began. Out of the context-less, nude bum of Detective Andy Sipowicz, my first scripts were born.

Bet that photo of Mr. Dennis Franz kissing doesn't seem so bad, now does it?

You're welcome.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I dislike you, Fine Print

You upset me, Fine Print. You teeny tiny consider-yourself-lucky-that-we're-even-reading-your-spec-when-you're-just-some-schmuck-from-Canada font that I have to squint and sweat over just to get a clue. You really put me in my place, don't you? You let me know who's got the power. But it's not like I could ever forget.

I've been trudging through you all morning, Fine Print, courtesy NBC's Writers on the Verge program. As you know, Fine Print, this is a program that I want to get into very badly. Almost as badly as I want that agent to call or e-mail me back. While I understand the chances of getting into this particular screenwriting development program are slim to nil, somehow, what with my bad math and all, that equals half a chance.

So, Fine Print, as you may have deduced from all the swearing, I just finished cobbling together and sending off my e-application. Of course, I had to re-send a page upon noticing that I forgot to write my name in one section of the contract so I am probably f*%ked, but sent off it is. Great. Good. Maybe?

Screw up aside, it's you, Fine Print, that has me worried. Here's the line that has me wondering: "NBC Universal may use all or any part of the Submitted Material, as well as my name, voice and likeness, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe and in perpetuity... NBC Universal may use any part of the Submitted Material that any member of the public freely could use without liability to me..."

Yes, the "throughout the universe" part is undeniably awesome but the rest? It feels like a lawyer just found a pretty way to tell me to take it up the ying yang and thank him for it. And then after all that, you, Fine Print, you asked me if I registered my spec with the Writers Guild of America, which makes me wonder... if I didn't (I did), what would you have done?

So, Fine Print, I don't like you but I signed the line beneath you because what other choice do I have? Aside from that one ever weakening link to that L.A. agent and another sort of shot through the WB's Writer's Workshop, I can't seem to find another way in.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I just flew in from London and boy, is my stabbing arm tired.

This is not a travel blog so no matter how badly I want to write about my trip around Europe, all I'll say is this: Home is where the heart is, yes, but when your heart travels with you (hi Muffin!) then home is wherever the light is good enough for proper eyebrow maintenance. (Note to GOOP: implement bathroom lighting rating system on all hotel reviews post-haste.) Aside from my travelling, I also managed to squeeze in an awful lot of episodes of Dexter thanks to Heathrow's incredibly dismal selection of magazine shops in terminal three (the Queen's fault) and a good book finished too fast (Annabel Lyon's fault).

So, as I knew I would be, I am now a big fan of Dexter. The premise is crazy and disturbing, dark and comedic. The relationships between the main characters are fascinating and wrought with tension, mystery and possibility. And the writing is pretty darn good too, but it's not why I love the show. In fact, Dexter turns me on mostly because the good acting saves the writing when the writing verges on bad. And it goes there sometimes. Via dialogue, the characters aren't always as round or free of cliches as they should be. To quote Lieutenant Maria Esperanza del Alma LaGuerta from episode 1, season four: "I need this case solved fast." And Lieutenant Maria Esperanza del Alma LaGuerta from episode 2, season four?: "This case needs to be solved yesterday." Gah.

Anyhoo, this is what I love about tv: when the acting is good, it makes everything written on the page that much better. I can't imagine how thrilling it must be for a new writer to see an actor like Michael C. Hall turn their words into action. The line his smile went crooked and his eyes nearly gave him away gets shot into life like a rocket when that man does it for camera.

As far as my own TV adventures go, I e-mailed the agent on Saturday because I couldn't help myself. I have yet to hear back, which can't be good. So, I'm going to carry on with my original plan and submit my applications to the WB and NBC's respective screenwriting programs and see what happens. Keep your fingers and disembodied toes crossed for me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gone baby gone

My pilot script is gone now -- out of my hands and into the agent's hard drive. It was scary as $#!% sending that thing off. I've invested probably five years of my life in this story, which should be terribly depressing given the zilch that has come from it. Well, not exactly zilch. In fact, far from it. These past few years have been the most creatively rewarding that I've ever had, which means I'm either Insane or a writer No Matter ____. No Matter what anyone else thinks. No Matter how much rejection I have to endure. No Matter how little I am paid for my work. Of course, "a little something something would be nice," that's what she said.

So now the waiting game begins. If I ever hear from that agent again, it could be weeks, months even. If I was in town I'd be sweating and twiddling my thumbs so I'm glad I'm getting gone, too. Unfortunately, I have to take my thumbs and my sweat with me, but I'm confident that they'll be pleasantly distracted by unfamiliar sights and sounds. There's no better way to take your mind off a Hollywood waiting game than by spending money you don't have on a trip to Europe.

Unfortunately, my blog postings will be few and far between so, mom, I'm sorry. I'll call you when I get back though. And no, that photo is not gratuitously violent and bloody. It's Casey Affleck, mom, so it's definitely pudding.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Listening is good

The lack of posting is starting to make me itch. But my creative attention elsewheres is paying off because I'm almost done the pilot. I had a table reading on the weekend, which is literally me and some friends (and my very accommodating boyfriend -- hi muffin!) sitting around my dining room table, reading. No need for fancy semantics here. Despite some defensive huffing and puffing on my part, the thing -- which featured pizza, grapefruit Perrier, cookies, wine and an impressive Greek slash Russian slash Pakistani (?) accent -- went pretty well.

As I've learned over the past few months, table reads are essential to tv writing. It's amazing how much I learn just by listening. The dialogue that tanks, the pace that challenges my ADD, the masturbatory exposition that can be cut cut cut. Of course, it's also very scary to share the thing with other people, but that sharing is the only way that I can make my stories better. My brain gets stuck in the mud sometimes and I need other people to push me out.

The biggest tweaks include a change of timing (Christmas season), more dialogue to break up the often heavy setting/character descriptions, and even a new title -- Happy Armageddon, which, if you've been paying attention, is the title of my recently deceased manuscript, minus the "A." I'm making the final changes today and then -- eek! -- off it will go to the agent who got this wacky ball rolling. I wonder if he actually thought I'd send him a pilot or if it was just some extremely kind, new-style blow-off? Could you imagine? I think I would cry tears of soy ice cream, because that's what I've been compulsively eating while writing this show. I've pretty much turned into that lady up there, except I'd be chocolate. No sprinkles either, because I'm a serious woman.