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:

#OneHundredMovies

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.

Failing upward

No. Just no. I can’t keep watching people make inane connections to justify their decisions. It’s absurd that after years of trying not to be a joke, we do the one thing that people can point at and go, at least we didn’t do that.

I have a sorted history with web video, I started by being a shmuck who helped made comedy for the sake of grabbing a still with boobs in it to rake in some cash, not even really enough to cover the cost of shooting most days, but I did it because it was a job and also because I’m a shmuck who loves boobs.

I did other things, less silly things, but things that took more of my soul, and ended up crushing me down more and more because as much as I believe in myself, there’s someone who can top me. But between all of that I wrote some jokes.

I haven’t done much in the way of a career so far, but I can at least say I’ve been paid to write. Granted, I begged for the job, didn’t expect to get paid, and then tried to turn it down because I felt bad since they were shitty jokes. However, they got used in the monologue of a awards show that was supposed to celebrate a community, but as awards shows go, we needed to entertain. So we did, by poking fun at the presenters, the nominees, and ourselves. I don’t even remember which jokes got used, I have the list of ones I sent to the host, (Paul, god bless you, you magnificent bastard), but everyone enjoyed them until the show went sideways.

I don’t know if anyone even knew I wrote the jokes, I know it came up a few times for weeks afterwards, but I stand by them, because fuck you, they’re funny.

What does Vanilla Ice have to do with web video? I believe that’s the question of the week for which I have no answer.

A long day

Drinking and sunlight are never a good combination. Especially with fair skin. Having had lunch on NBC today, I ended up sitting in the sun for an hour, burning my head and arms in such a fashion that allows me to be a heat source for a small room.

Luckily, making the correct choices tonight led me to meeting some really great writers and actors that I admire greatly. What makes people who have succeeded tick is an interesting thing to study, especially when everyone’s drunk.

It’s a short one tonight, gotta catch some sleep before I run the LA TV Writer’s Meetup tomorrow. If you’re interested, follow my twitter. @DerekHousman.

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28

I just turned 28. I live in Los Angeles, i’ve worked on feature films, television shows, and a bunch of other small projects. I still haven’t accomplished much, but i’m working at it.

Birthday’s are a great time to take stock of your life, to see what you’ve done on your time on this planet, and to set some goals for yourself for the future. I have a simple goal.

WRITE MORE.

If i’m to call myself a writer, i’ve really got to step up my game. The best way to do this is to blog, every day, for as long as I can. So i’ll start today, my birthday.

From the start, the day has been off. Working at 5am on your birthday, at a job that pays the bills, just so you can write, even when you don’t, is just that more depressing. Luckily it was followed by a three hour drive with someone I didn’t expect to have as interesting a conversation with. Followed up by an inpromptu birthday party/dinner, and then a movie by myself (something that I really do enjoy).

It’s a good birthday, filled with enough birthday messages to drain my phone battery and leave me in a bar bathroom trying to coax it to give up the address of my hotel.

I’ll finish up here, it’s a good start. 

P.S. Mojito’s + 5 hour energy drink = A great time

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A Letter to the Web TV Community

Dear Web TV Community,

Growing pains, that’s what the Streamys and the community experienced last night as they attempted to put on a show to rival its big sister awards, the Oscars. With coverage in Time and Vanity Fair, we felt as if our moment had arrived. However, due to a number of problems including poor content choices, we are reduced to remembering a show filled with crass humor and seemingly unplanned interruptions. Live television is tough, and it’s compounded by the basic principal of Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Thankfully our host, Paul Scheer, stuck with us through the night and shepherded the crowd to the end.

There were some great moments to take away from last night. Before we hit that curve in the road we had a great monologue, some impressive entertainment pieces, and most importantly, we recognized some truly wonderful talent in the digital space. Acceptance speeches ranged from the thoughtful to heartfelt, and for a time you could feel the energy in the room grow. The technical issues would have been forgiven had the show not derailed as far as it did.

The problems that arose came from inexperience, poor planning, and a general disregard for the audience. I saw parents walk out, leading their children to the exits as fast as they could, members of the academy shifting in their seats as the tone shifted from light and cheerful to dark and somber. We knew that the night was a loss, even as some presenters and winners tried to salvage the night with impassioned speeches to rally the crowd, but it was too late, the damage was done.

I sat there, sharing glances with my fellow academy members, we were ashamed. This was our night and it had derailed into farce. And it was put on for the whole world to see. That was yesterday.

Today is a new day, we’ll pick up the pieces and start anew. It’s up to us as members of the community to rebuild from here. We’ll move forward and continue to put out good work, work that will be the lasting impression we leave on our community, instead of one awards show. We’ll continue to seek out major brands and companies to partner with to build this growing medium, one that cannot be shut down by a single event. In a year’s time, we won’t have forgotten what happened last night, but we’ll have learned our lesson.

I humbly ask the viewers, the community, the sponsors, and the rest of the academy to forgive. We are young and inexperienced, perhaps naive that we could pull off something of the magnitude that was planned. Let’s look forward to the future of the industry together, help us grow and learn from our mistakes and make the next year a better and brighter year.

We’ve only just begun our work.

Sincerely,
Derek Housman
IAWTV Academy Member

Why District 9 is Amazing

I rarely write movie reviews because most movies don’t stick with me past a day or so, but I want to remember this film, and remember what it showed me and hopefully everyone else who sees it. The following contains spoilers, click through to read.

1. The Movie – District 9

The last time I was this interested in seeing a movie was the Dark Knight, a movie in which I knew the story would be good, the actors great, and the tone and feel of the movie was just right. Going into District 9 was a whole different experience, while it’s marketing campaign was creative and quite expansive, you still weren’t sure what you were going to see. The teaser trailer kept you guessing while blurring the view of the aliens, until the full trailer came out and you realized this was something different, something amazing.

2. The Producer – Peter Jackson

Taking a relatively unknown South African commercial director, giving him 30 million dollars, and then telling him to go off and make a movie is madness in a town where the studio likes to keep a close eye on the project and a tight fist on the money. Jackson allowed for the director’s vision to be seen and more importantly, to be noticed. I expect to see more from Jackson as a producer going forward.

3. The Director – Neill Blomkamp (Who?)

That would be the South African commercial director who was given the opportunity to direct a Halo feature film after making his impressive short film Alive in Joberg and three other short films set in the Halo universe. After that fell through, Jackson decided to give him another chance, which led to District 9 itself.

4. The Star – Sharlto Copley

This guy is going to be everywhere, fast. It’s like Tom Cruise and Christian Bale had a child 35 years ago and didn’t tell anybody. He’s an amazing actor that seems destined for stardom. Through the course of this movie, the changes his character goes through are so natural that you don’t even realize how much the character has evolved until the end.

5. The Story – The Fly meets Aliens

Take one ordinary geeky guy, and then throw him in an extraordinary situation. Then douse the whole thing in jet fule and you have District 9. There are several story-lines running through the film, the main one dealing with Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) who’s only goal is to save himself, and ends up saving an entire alien race. Then there’s the story behind MNU and their exploitation of the aliens and their technology, and finally the story of Christopher, an alien who has spent 20 years perfecting a plan to save his people. All three weave together to create a reality that you can believe in.

Of course on the surface, this movie is also about cool looking aliens, bad-ass fight sequences, and seeing shit blow up. Who doesn’t love that?

6 – The End

The story itself sets up a nice ending, with Wikus having fully transformed and making a flower for his wife. And with Christopher off traveling back home, it allows for an interesting sequel that could really spin the story in a whole new direction. Overall, this is an amazing movie that will capture people’s imaginations and propel it’s director and star to new heights.