Posts tagged 'Writing for TV' (12)

Learning how to write for TV

i just started watching tons of pilots and reading pilot scripts. i also read a book called "save the cat" which is an excellent way to learn the math of writing tv and movies. i got note cards, a cork board, the whole thing! I'm a dork but i couldn't afford classes or anything on it. watch your favorite tv pilot, write out the math of it, and follow that template.


Very fun. I got paid to travel across Canada and stay in fancy hotels and all I had to do was come up with lines for the host like "The temperature may be ice cold here in Winnipeg, but things are really heating up in the judging room."
If my twitter feed has been any indication, I already have! Just kidding. I love Black Mirror (what a pointless thing to say, who hates or even moderately dislikes it) ...It would be amazing to write an episode, I don't know if I'd have the chops to commit to grounded sci-fi without bailing into the absurd, but I'd love to try. And in case it needs to be said, obviously the parallels between the "meow meow beanz" Community episode and the episode of Black Mirror that deals with the same topic are total coincidence. From what I've heard, the cosmetic details that are uncannily identical would have been the easiest thing in the world to change if you were really trying to rip something off, an...
TV was an accidental detour from what I thought was going to be a feature writing career - it started when Ben Stiller asked me and Schrab during a movie pitch meeting if we had any TV ideas...a very long story later, we ended up doing Heat Vision and Jack with Stiller and although FOX didn't pick it up, I had already gotten a taste of how much more empowered writers were in TV than they were in features and ended up sticking around for a few decades.
There is no line that I know in terms of what's "too far," whether that means too sentimental or too ...I don't know, controversial or confessional....a "boundary" is an artificial construct, we have to create boundaries when they involve other people, precisely because it makes empirical something that would otherwise be frustratingly subjective (like that neighbor that just kind of 'feels like' their yard extends into yours, in which case you have to go to city hall and pull out a map with lines on it). In matters of creativity - when you're sitting and writing dialogue by yourself, there's no lines needed because you're not having to function in cooperation, your job in creation, I think,...
Each year I'm getting more and more joy out of the process than the outcome...that may be because I've been fortunate to have great outcomes and are taking them for granted but I like to think I'm remapping my neurology and interpreting certain experiences differently. I like talking to other people about how to tackle a story. If I were a character in a movie, my "arc" would definitely have something to do with a journey from isolation to collaboration. In other words, as I near my retirement, my real joy has become exploiting younger writers.
Another night to remember: Around three a.m., [30 Rock producer and writer Robert Carlock] and I were leading a rewrite in my living room and realized that we had both fallen asleep while talking. When we woke up a few moments (or hours?) later, the other writers were just sitting politely, awaiting further instruction. That is a dedicated staff.
Every character on that show fulfills a different part of what’s fun to write for comedy for. Writing for Tom gets to fulfill the douchier quotient, and writing for Andy, you get that dumb, big Labrador retriever, and Ron is the weird libertarian… I mean, he’s Ron. Oh, my favorite character to write for is Kyle at the shoeshine stand.
Oh. Well I thought a Minute with Stan Hooper was the best thing I ever did outside of stand up comedy. But Fox didn't stay with the show. It was a show that was intended to turn very dark, like at the end of the first season, it was set up like a homespun show, and then at the end of the first season my wife was going to be slaughtered by the town barber that we'd come to love as a kind of a funny old fella. Anyways, turned out he was a psychosexual sadist. but they never let us get to the end. So you never got to see my plan. And I'm not saying anything against psychosexual sadists. I just think oftentimes you know, they'll slaughter innocents and I'm no fan of that.
It was pretty crazy. I already had a whole rhythm to my week as a writer, so it took a while to change it up and focus more on performing than on writing. Here's what helped a ton: Rob Klein and Bryan Tucker took over most of the Head Writer job and they're two of the funniest writers I've ever met. Rob and Bryan and I write a lot together for the show. Also Dennis McNicholas who used to be one of the head writers with Tina Fey and Adam McKay started producing WU last year and that was awesome. And our WU writers are the best and made our jobs a lot more fun: Pete Schultz (Leslie calls him "Franklin), Josh Patten (Leslie calls him "Clarence"), Katie Rich (Leslie calls her "Rachel"), and Mega...