Monthly Archives: January 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

I’m going back to Square One when it comes to my spec outline for Modern Family. Since there is no textbook for writing this thing, or coming up with an outline, I’m going to go back to the first chapter of Ellen Sandler’s “TV Writer’s Workbook.” When I went through it the first time, I already had the kernel of my idea in my head. Perhaps I have to dig a little deeper to get to what the essence of this show is all about, and how to come up with the right story to display my talents. Someone did give me a note about how the show tends to have a unifying theme or something at the end, though it tends to be poorly constructed…

*Just to touch upon what my teacher said briefly, she told me my idea sounded like an episode of Family Guy (as in, sounded too outlandish). Does anyone remember that there was a hot homeless guy who randomly started living in Lily’s playhouse one day? That doesn’t sound ridiculous to anyone? I mean, I thought it was hilarious, but if Jay donning the characteristics of a cat lady is too outlandish, then I don’t know what isn’t.

Anyway, I’m working on chapter 3 of Sandler’s book, in which she reminds us that an integral step in writing a spec is to read existing scripts and really try to understand them. She provides a nifty spreadsheet in which you note which characters end a scene and how many scenes there are, and who appears in the opener, etc. So I’ll be doing that and charting my analysis here, and then reading this guy’s views on the show.

Assignments for the Week of Jan. 31

Film History – Ch. 11, American Film Years (1930-1945) Section 1 , Film Cycles and Cinematic Conventions and Section 2, The Comics.

NMP: I’m going to listen to this NPR series, Fractured Culture. As much as I love the Internet and social media and all that stuff, it’s basically ruining our society’s shared cultural touchstones that unite us. Also it’s destroying television.

Spec: Writing a better flushed-out outline. With stuff that makes sense and doesn’t apparently sound like Family Guy. Yes, I’m rolling my eyes, suck it. Also, charting four scripts from the first season. More on that in a couple of days…

Television: Watch Murphy Brown (oops, I didn’t do that last week) and read ch 15, Programming to Market Segments. I’m also going to work on

The Brothers Warner

So I watched The Brothers Warner last weekend. I enjoyed it, but in all, I wish it was more about their accomplishments and work than their ridiculous rivalry.

Basically, most of this doc was about how Jack Warner was a crazy jerk who got a lot of stuff done, but at the expense of his relationship with his brothers, particularly Harry Warner. This doc was about 90 minutes. A lot of it focused on their personal lives, and the family’s history. I mean, it was truly interesting to learn about, but I do wish there was more about their collaboration together to build one of the biggest studios in the United States.

I gotta say, the story of Jack Warner was pretty fascinating because he was basically THE caricature of a movie executive: loud, demanding, brash, hammy, and one to take the credit. Not one we would call modest by any means. Though, I would imagine it’s kind of difficult to dive beyond a caricature. Anyway, this was well done. I guess I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the movie business.

From watching documentaries and specials on the early developments of the film industry, and reading things here and there, you would believe that The Warner Brothers Created Movies With Sound In Them. But of course they didn’t. I just finished reading a chapter I accidentally overlooked in my textbook, A Short History of The Movies. It starts like this:

According to legend, sound unexpectedly descended on the film industry from the skies like an ancient god out of a machine,when The Jazz Singer opened on Broadway on October 6, 1927.

And really, I knew that there’s no way that a huge change like that happens to revolutionize the film industry in such an overnight way. In fact, as I learned, people had been playing with synchronized sound recording and motion pictures for 30 years prior to Al Jolson telling us we ain’t heard nothing yet. Lee de Forest (remember that one, comm majors?) did a great service by developing the amplification of sound in 1906 and 1907. And then in the 1920s a group of three German guys developed the Tri-Ergon Process, which eventually became the sound patent for European film. Soon after, the Vitaphone (synchronized record and film) was developed, and that company was bought out by the Warners. Even still, other studios like Fox were playing with sound and film, distributing short films and newsreels with speeches, sound effects, music, vaudeville acts, etc. With Sound. Yep.

The Jazz Singer, then, is the First Full-Length Feature to Use Synchronized Sound As A Means of Telling A Story. Also, there was blackface. But it was for a reason, at least: black people were basically shut out of performing on the screen. This was a way of bringing black music to America’s upper crust without offending them — hey, it’s probably difficult to swallow the fact that your maid is far more talented than you.

 

Kevin Smith Crazy Excites Me

A-freaking-mazing:

Kevin Smith plans to release his new horror movie Red State himself, the writer-director declared at the film’s first public screening at the Eccles Theatre on Sunday night.

Smith had suggested for weeks that he would hold an auction post-screening for rights to his film, but ultimately announced that he would take the movie on the road himself throughout 2011 ahead of a planned Oct. 19 release. He paid himself a token $20 for the privilege, and he hopes that the roadshow will make some of the movie’s roughly $4 million budget back.

“What we need to prove is that anyone can release a movie,” Smith said from the Eccles stage as part of a long and profanity-laced speech after the movie ended during which he championed Harvey Weinstein as an inspiration and mentor. “Indie film isn’t dead, it just grew up. It is just indie film 2.0 now. In indie film 2.0, we don’t let them sell our movie, we sell our movie ourselves.”

This is what I’m talking about!! This is exciting. I hope this bodes well for indies looking to crack into the distributing market. So many filmmakers have to rely on these big studios to buy, market, and distribute their film. While this is all well and good, not all deserving movies make it through the process.

Assignments for the week of Jan. 24

– History: Mast Ch. 11 (The American Studio years) – I finally got the book!

– Spec: Back to making it not suck so spectacularly…even though I am sticking to my guns, and I don’t believe my spec idea is so freaking horrible.

– Television and Society: watching Murphy Brown. I bought the first season, which I now have in my possession.

– NMP: Study Children’s Hospital | Watch FULL TIME VIDEO BLOGGERS andTELEVISION AND THE INTERNET ARE THE SAME THING (yes, I swear, I’ll do this. I was supposed to do it last week, but I had a cover story to write!!!).

Taxi!

I know that Taxi is not one of the best shows to come out of the 70s (though it did win 18 Emmy’s and a couple of Golden Globes, but it’s not like any of that means anything, let’s be honest). What I absolutely love about the show, though, is the odd wave of nostalgia it gives me for “Old” New York, despite the fact that I was born 6 years after the pilot episode aired.

I grew up in Queens, N.Y., and lived on Long Island during high school. I’m glad I lived and grew up where I did, but it would take a lot for me to move back to New York. There are several reasons, but one of the big ones for me is that New York has lost its interestingness.

I just read an interview in Bust with Fran Lebowitz, and she basically summarized what, to me, is completely wrong with New York, now.

“What used to be called middle-class respectability looked like it was going to disappear, but didn’t. It’s returned. It’s just returned in a different costume. If you do it in a loft instead of a split-level in the suburbs, it’s still the same. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to do it; I’m saying it’s suburban. This is why New York today seems suburban to me — all kids and babies in strollers. It’s 1950s domestic life. The sidewalks are the same size, but now you have twins and dogs.”

Basically New York has become overly safe. I know that sounds ridiculous, but once 9/11 happened, that city lost its true soul. It’s grit. The rest of the country stopped hating on New York, and now it’s being babied to death by politicians who want New York City to be America’s City. That’s all well and good, but this means you have to stop hating foreigners, and understand that NYC is not full of God-fearing, mini van-driving, Applebee’s eating people — and that it’s OK.

Anyway, sorry, I get ranty about what I believe has ruined New York. My point is that Taxi wonderfully embodies the New York of 1978 to me, even though I wasn’t there. The interstitial music is amazing, Andy Kaufman plays a foreign dude just learning the ins and outs of American culture, a dry, sardonic Jewish dude is the anchor of the show, and the lead female is sexy, funny, smart and divorced.

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