Monthly Archives: June 2011

Great Scripts, Less Filling

In between classes, I’m going to be reading some of the best scripts of the last decade, as designated by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, as well as the Writer’s Guild of America. The scripts will be (though not in this order):

What I’ve learned about actors, by actors

Lesson #1: When All Else Fails, Just Be Clive Owen.

I’ve never wanted to really be an actor, but I’ve always found actors to be interesting (kind of like business affairs). One of my mom’s besties is a working actress; we would go to her house and she’d braid my hair quite often as I was growing up, or my mom would bring my sister and I to come to her house to play with her dogs Winnie, and later Biscuit. My aunt, as I typically refer to her, is highly engaging, and charming (even though she’s kind of a ham). Still, you can’t help but like her. And I thought she was insanely cool because she got to play Storm in The X-Men in a traveling performance-thing. As I’ve gotten to know her, I was able to see the complex life and attitudes of a working actor in New York City. It often made me angry if she didn’t get a part, or rejected for something. It was as though the rejection was a slight against me, too.

Anyway, she was the first actual person in my life that I knew who actually acted aside from kids in school plays. Seeing the experience, rejection, and hard work she would endure certainly turned me off from the acting thing (even though I’ve been told I do have a knack for it by people who don’t matter haha). Still, as an aspiring writer/producer, I am interested in the craft and business of being an actor — the rejection, the fear, the work, the sacrifice. I wanted to know when an actor comes to me, what are their goals? Their needs? So, I sent out to learn a little bit about what an actor goes through, from process to preparation, and practice. This is what I’ve come up with: 6 items that I’ve learned about acting, as expressed by actors and instructors themselves.

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Show Business — Oh Yeah, It’s a Business

The Most Amazing Photo Filed Under "Business"

Years ago, when I was trying to decide upon what my next move would be after college, I briefly considered getting an MBA in Entrepreneurship or Management. I have to admit, I am incredibly happy that I decided against it. Just like my rationale with film school, I figured there was little point in sinking $100,000 into a degree if it’s not necessary. In fact, after turning down (twice) a chance to earn an MA in Journalism at USC, I told the vice president of human resources at my job last week that the last five years have BEEN my MA program — and I earned money while learning!

Anyway, all that being said, I know that I have a lot to learn about business in general. It does help that I am somewhat entrepreneurial and business-driven. I just don’t like the ickiness of being A Suit. Really, I commend the people who have a punch card at Brooks Brothers and looooooove to talk dividends, but that ain’t me. At least not completely. I find finance, economy, management, leadership, startups, all that stuff to be kind of interesting. But, if I want to be a producer, I have to know things beyond “oh, that’s kind of interesting…”

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Wait — an hour?

OK, so I’ve pitched my pilot to several people, and even let my sister read the first few pages. Many of them have suggested that it be an hour. An HOUR. Like, 44 minutes of television programming.

I did a little research, and watched the pilot for Ugly Betty, one of my old favorites, and read the pilot, written by Silvio Horta, who adapted the show for English in the United States. {Read the pilot script here}. This pilot is a great model for my pilot, and it actually inspired me to take my story into a different direction for a stronger ending.

However — an HOUR?! That’s a lot of time! I realize that many dramatic comedies, like Ugly Betty, and Desperate Housewives, Psych, and¬†Glee are an hour long. Still, come on! I totally envisioned that it would only be a 22-minute, wham-bam, in-and-out kinda pilot.

But I fear my friends, family and mentors are right. This show has to be an hour.

Don’t they know hour-long shows have a bajillion-acts! Don’t these people know how much more work that is?! The Ugly Betty Pilot is 61 pages. I’ve seen some Grey’s Anatomy scripts that are seriously like 70 pages. What is a girl, used to a solid 30 pages, supposed to do?

I guess get cracking.

Unfortunately (and fortunately) I only have a week and a half until I should send this out to people. I’m writing this pilot for FOX’s writer’s program, so everything’s due June 30 — that includes getting someone who is already in the industry to read it and then sign off on it.

Also, my protagonist is Liz Lemon, essentially.

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