Outlining and Arguing

On Friday I started working on an outline for the spec that my partner and I are doing. That is to say, I sat at my computer for an hour and thought about the show and where we could take it. I looked over the pilot script that I had, broke that down, and then put it away. The pilot is a very general document, it’s not the law of the show.

This is my first project since college with a partner. Writing with one can be very rewarding, challenging, and also disappointing. My experience over this last week has been the former rather then the latter.  As we’ve started as friends and are only a few days into this exercise, things pop up, we get distracted together, but we pull back into it just as easy. It’s important to make sure you both have the same motivation level, or you’ll find yourself in that disappointed category.

What’s also great about having a partner is you share the work. We outlined an idea together and now she’ll write out a draft this week and we’ll take a look at it next weekend. Then if it’s a workable draft, i’ll do a pass on it. And back and forth until it’s polished. If it’s not, then we start again. All in all, it gets us one step closer to a spec.

No Fear

Trying to take my own advice and write something interesting. The hardest part of writing something new is picking the right story. Sometimes it’s something from your life, or a random thought you had during the day, but there’s a spark and you’re off.

I was having a chat with a writer friend who asked me why I was writing something new. I had to be honest with him and myself; I’ve never really taken any writing classes. I don’t have any specs that stand up, and I need to practice what I preach. Satisfied with the answer he wrote back, “What are you going to spec?”. There is was, the question I had been dreading. In my previous Week 1 post, I gave a bunch of examples of shows that are prefect for specing. Not being a huge drama fan to begin with, my options are limited. He suggested something I hadn’t thought of ever doing, something bold, something hard, but ultimately the right idea for me.

Hopefully most of you know of the hit series on BBC America/Space “Orphan Black”. It’s star, Tatiana Maslany was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. It’s a fresh take on a standard science fiction trope and I took to it immediately. Since the second season hasn’t started up yet, it’s best to set a spec episode somewhere in the middle of the first season. I’ll be rewatching the first season and trying to determine if I can find a thread and start working on this.

Drama Spec – Week 1

The first challenge is to write a drama spec, something in which i’m not qualified to do as I’ve never tried to write drama before. However, writing is about opening new doors and trying new things. So let’s jump in.

As of this year, there are a large number of TV Dramas, but how many of them are something you should spec? Let’s take a look at a list.

The Americans, Hannibal, Sleepy Hollow, Elementary, Arrow. The Following. Bates Motel

These are current TV Dramas that are entering or are in their second season. There’s no guarantee any of these will get picked up for another season, but they have a better chance then most. Why these rather then a more established show like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, American Horror Story? Because I’m looking for shows that won’t cause you to have an aneurism trying to shoehorn in a storyline into an already complicated plot. Also note there are several other shows out there that are in their third season that are also great to spec, but might not be as eagerly read by someone.

This next list are shows that are still in their first season. There’s no guarantee on these shows and some of them might not be up your alley, but it’s worth keeping on eye on if summer rolls around and you need something to work on. Everything tagged with ** are shows that have not aired yet.

Almost Human, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Chicago PD, The Tomorrow People, Masters of Sex, Star-Crossed **, Resurrection **, Believe **, Crisis **, The 100 **, Extant **

The last piece here is that you need to set yourself apart. Pick something daring, something that’s a little out of left field. Don’t make it your only project, but if this is your second spec, try something a little out there.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Your first few scripts are going to be bad. Not just, “Oh, I could have done that a bit better”, but more “I have locked it in a closet rigged with dynamite” bad. You never want them to see the light of day. But recognizing bad writing is as important as being able to write well.

My first job in Los Angeles was as a reader for a development company. That meant spending hours doing what amounted to book reports on TV pilots and Screenplays that the company had access too and writing a short 2 page breakdown of the story and my thoughts on it. 90% of submissions were terrible. Those lucky 10% got my blessing and I went to bat for them in the room. That’s what this whole thing is about, being that 10% and finding someone to champion your script.

So get writing.

Back to School

Having no real formal training in writing television scripts, it’s no surprise I don’t have anything worth showing people. I’ve got about 6 pilots in various stages, plus 1 or 2 aborted specs that I wrote so many years ago that the shows are no longer on the air. So to kick myself into the next stage I’m going back to school… sort of.

Inside the Room With the help of the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program book Inside the Room, i’m going chapter by chapter relearning the process I gathered by reading interviews and watching hours upon hours of television. Hopefully by the the end of this process, i’ll have a much better grasp on what the hell it is i’m supposed to do after FADE IN:


Recently (yesterday) Jose Molina challenged himself and his twitter followers.


I’m going to meet that challenge and keep an ever growing list, which will no doubt be filled with some really terrible choices (Hello Ride Along!) The rules so far are: 1. Must be a movie you’ve never seen. 2. Must be a theatrical release, not made for TV.  3. Must keep a list.