Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First staff writing credit! (And first writing credit, period!)

XIII is wrapped! Actually it was wrapped two months ago, but I have a baby so things seem to get left to the wayside when you're trying to prevent a little person from picking up and eating any piece of dirt or cat puke they come across. Not even joking, today we caught Ava playing with our cat's vomit. She'd already smeared it all over herself, but I don't think she ate any (at least I hope she didn't). 

Back to topic, XIII was intense and crazy (like most TV shows are, especially in the back half), but in an exciting making-TV-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way. I worked with some world-class writers and crew and it resulted in a serious boost to my career. The showrunner, Roger Avary, gave me a chance to prove myself in helping to fix a problematic script. He liked what I did, and I got promoted to Story Editor for the last four episodes! Story Editor is the first rung on a TV writing staff, so for the first time I was actually paid to write (well, re-write, but whatever) TV. I joined the Writers Guild of Canada and got a fancy new title (see photo of me proudly displaying said title). Of course, I still had to do all my duties as a Script Coordinator, but I was fine with that. I got to be in story and production meetings, go on location scouts, and people actually listened to what I had to say (or at least pretended to). In fact, I was expected to have an opinion. Needless to say, this required some getting used to. 

Now XIII is wrapped and I've been spending some quality time with my wife Holly and 11-month old daughter Ava (who saw so little of me during production), writing my own stuff, and trying to figure out where to go from here in terms of my career. I'm hoping that my work on XIII will translate into more work on other shows. From what I understand people liked what I did, and there are a few irons in the fire, but you never really know until you've signed a contract and are actually writing (and even then you don't really know). So we shall see.

It's an exciting and somewhat frightening situation that I'm in now - I'd worked my way up as a Script Coordinator, so that I'd managed to forge a half-decent resume and was starting to get regular work. Now that I've managed to get a promotion to staff writer, which is amazing and exactly what I wanted, I'm unfortunately at the bottom of this new new rung of my career. I'm not complaining (I mean, 3-4 years ago I was selling memberships in a gym), but it's going to be a challenge.

In the meantime, I'm going to go play with my daughter and follow her around, grabbing small sharp objects out of her hands before she quickly shoves them in her mouth and tries to swallow them (as she does the crawling baby equivalent of running away and laughing at me while I chase her).

Let me tell you, rewriting is hard, but baby-proofing is harder.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

XIII

Hello there! It's your favourite neglectful blogger. I always promise to update often, but it never happens - but then quality is better than quantity though, isn't it? ISN'T IT?

It's been about 7 months since my last update, and I'm no longer on Transporter, though that show is (apparently) still shooting. Well, not shooting right now exactly, because they're on hiatus. But regardless, neither I nor the writers I was working for will be on the show when it returns from torpor. Transporter was a really great experience, and I worked with some fantastic writers, but sometimes a production has other issues.

However, this happened to come at a perfect time - about 2 weeks after the hiatus started, my daughter Ava was born! So I was able to be around and help my wife in the first months of my daughter's life, which was just amazing. And if you thought you didn't have time to write before - try having a baby. For the first 6 weeks I couldn't even think about sleeping, never mind writing. I have no idea how people go to work right after having their first. I couldn't have done it. But after 6 weeks, Ava started actually sleeping at night, we became more accustomed to her rhythms, our lives started returning to (somewhat) normal, I could think again (as much as I could before, anyway), and I got back to writing.

One of the most invaluable things about working with TV writers is that they will sometimes read and give notes on your scripts, and then you're getting professional notes from people that actually write for TV for a living. I asked a couple of writers I've previously worked with if they could read my pilot, and they did and gave me excellent notes, and so far they seem very happy with the direction that I've taken the re-writes, so I'm going to start re-writing ASAP.

And about two weeks ago I was starting to get the itch to go back to work, and by a stroke of luck got hired as Script Coordinator on the second season of the Canadian series XIII! It's on Showcase in Canada, and M6 in France. It doesn't have a US broadcaster yet as far as I know. However, the showrunner is Roger Avary, the co-writer of Pulp Fiction, and he's a really nice guy (as is everyone else on this show), so I think this is going to be a really great experience. Hooray for sane shows!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Well, that certainly changes things.

My wife is pregnant.

I don't normally write about my personal life on here, because I try to stick to the topic of breaking into the TV industry, but I'm going to change that at least for today, because I think this does have to do with my career, as this little fact will very much affect it (along with every aspect of my life). Holly's actually quite along at about 5 months (the baby is due in November). This is something that is nerve-wracking for anyone, I'm sure, but it's certainly a frightening prospect as a writer, and especially as one that is still trying to, you know, get paid to be one.

Saying that, I am VERY excited. But that doesn't make it any less frightening.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as I continue seeing progress in my career, I'm not too worried. And right now I'm still working on The Transporter, and this contract will go all the way until the end of November, right in time for the baby to be due! It's also likely that I won't get another job until early 2012, seeing as the Toronto winter is slow for productions, and that will give me some time off to get to know the baby and change some diapers.

One disappointing aspect about the impending baby is that I will lose my beautiful, writerly office. I was so excited when we bought this condo because it had an extra room, and I bought a nice new desk and set up my writerly books and writerly pens and painted it a writerly forest green. I tried to explain to Holly that a little baby doesn't actually need their own room because they're so small you see, but she just locked me with her laser eyes and told me that wasn't going to happen. Then I said," but you can use my desk as a change table!" and she laughed and laughed and laughed. So I suppose I'll have to find somewhere else to write. And buy a bigger house when we can afford it.

One of the writers on The Transporter, Joseph Mallozzi, writes his own blog and details our production exploits on it. I told Joe that Holly and I were having trouble deciding on a name, and he took it upon himself to hold a contest where his readers will pick a name through a poll:

The contest

The finalists

The winner!

So, uh... thanks Joe! I'm sure Holly will be excited that we have one less thing to figure out.

In other news, my pilot Merely Mortal was taken to the Banff TV Festival a couple weeks ago by the production company and they apparently got some interest on it! They're sending out materials now.

As well, excitingly I'm involved with the creation of the web content for The Transporter, working with a producer, Sasha, that has been hired specifically for the project. We were originally going to have both webisodes and an online game for Facebook, but unfortunately due to budget constraints we had to nix the webisodes, which is disappointing because I was going to write them. But I am looking forward to working on and writing for the game. We've already been brainstorming about it and there are some fun concepts that could work. I'm definitely interested in video game writing, so this should really be interesting!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Transporter Writers' Room

I've had the pleasure of being able to sit in the Transporter writers' room and see the writers break story over the past week. I'd never been in a proper writers' room before, so it was quite interesting to watch the Writers (Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Alexander Ruemelin, Rob Cooper and Carl Binder) work their magic. By "magic" I mean efficient story breaking, as well as a massive amount of poo poo and penis jokes.

The process is quite simple. One at a time, the writers will pitch story ideas, and try to get the others excited about the idea. They may reject the ideas outright, or just not be crazy enough about it and move on. Eventually, ideally, one of the ideas hits a note and the room really responds to it, and starts riffing on it. Other writers say "yeah that's great, and how about then the genetically enhanced monkey genius turns on the time travel device and sends Frank back to the age of the dinosaurs" (that is actually the plot of the pilot, so I'm sorry for letting that one out of the bag). Once they find an idea they really like they write it down on the whiteboard, and start hammering out the acts, beat by beat. In Transporter's case, we have four acts (though apparently they're just for us because all the networks will ignore our act breaks), so a person (normally the writer that will end up writing the episode) stands up and writes down the beats of each act as the writers' room develops it. And they do that for each episode. Then one of the writers goes off to write the first draft.

They had already broken and started writing 7 of the scripts before I ever started on the show, so I didn't get to see those get broken. Since there will be 12 episodes in the season they have 5 more to break. In the past week they broke two of those episodes, which Carl and Alex will now go off to write.

In other news, the production company that optioned my pilot Merely Mortal is going to start pitching it to broadcasters in a couple weeks, and will be taking it to the Banff TV Festival next month! For those of you that don't know, Banff is one of the biggest and most influential TV festivals/conferences in Canada, so this is very exciting. And now I'm starting to think of ideas for episode #2 and #3, and to write treatments for those episodes, so they can show them to those prospective networks. So the next couple months should be really interesting!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

First optioned script!

I have reached another important point in my writing career - I have optioned my first script!

That is, it's my first option, but it's also my first pilot. Merely Mortal is a one-hour comedy/action/drama. It's still in the very early stages (I just signed the option agreement at the end of last week), so I'm not going to name the production company just yet, but it is an established Canadian production company, with quite a few feature film and TV series on the air.

Of course, that's great but it's not the end of the grind. An option basically gives the production company the "option" to produce it within a set amount of time. In my case they have 1 year, but they can renew the option for several years after that. Now the production company will go to networks and attempt to pitch it to them. If the Networks want it, then we can go forward with development. If not, then... not. And that's really all I know about the process right now. So this should be interesting! I have heard that they are thinking of pitching it in the US, which is pretty exciting.

This past weekend I also finished my new pilot, Garrotte, which is a western with a twist. I'm really excited about it and the people that have read it really seem to like it. I'm rewriting it now but am planning on sending it out to my agent and then production companies within a week or two.

As for my job on the Transporter, it's going quite well! I'm really enjoying reading the scripts and working with everyone here. What's not to like? The show has fast cars, guns, naked girls and ... what was I talking about?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Job done! New job!

Well, I'm now finished on Awakening. We wrapped just over two weeks ago, and now they're going into post production. Hopefully they'll get picked up, it's a great show and the cast is awesome (one of which was Titus Welliver from Lost, Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy). It was a great experience working with Bill Laurin and Glenn Davis, who are two great writers/EPs, and nice people to boot!

I've now somehow lucked into another fantastic job, in record time from ending my last contract. In the past two weeks I interviewed for, got, and started the job as Script Coordinator/Writers' Assistant on another show, The Transporter, for HBO/Cinemax. Yes, it's based on the movies that starred Jason Statham, and no he won't be the star. First of all, I'm really excited because it's a series! I've worked briefly on other series, but never for the entirety, and I've never been able to sit in on the writing room while they're breaking story, which I'm really excited about. Also, most other shows I've worked on are American, and with US shows the problem with being a Script Coordinator or assistant is that you will never be in the writing room, because it's in LA, so normally your education is limited to what is outside that room. For aspiring writers, such as myself, that's the downside to working on US shows. But since Transporter is a Canadian/French/German co-production, is being partially shot here and is an English show, the writing room is in Canada, and I get to sit in on meetings and watch how it's done. Very exciting! I will try and share what I learn about the story room process.

I'm working with three writers, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, and Alexander Ruemelin. Joseph and Paul are from the Stargate franchise (another movie that was turned into a series), and Alexander is a German screenwriter. They are all hilarious, really nice and are all dorks just like me. I can tell this is going to be fun. I don't actually know how long this contract is going, which is also nice - so far I've been working on short term contracts because they've been mostly pilots, TV movies, ect. Actually being there for the writing, prepping and shooting of 12 episodes of a series will be a nice long run, where I can learn a lot and also not have my wife nag me about getting a more regular job. Also, I've read the first few scripts and the outlines for the first 8 episodes, and this show is going to be awesome. I'm excited to work on it, which I think is important.

Last week was my first week, and as the office hasn't officially opened yet, it was pretty relaxed, as everyone is still in the process of adjusting to the office and developing a rhythm. I find that every production office has it's own, and it takes a bit to find it, but once it happens the office really kicks into high-efficiency gear as everyone knows what and how to do their piece of the puzzle. I really like that aspect of it, the only downside that I've experienced is when you're working on a pilot and create a really great rhythm, then it's all over after 1-2 months. I'm interested to see what happens when you take that and transfer it to a longer period of time.

One of the writers, Joe, also has his own blog, which is updated much more than mine. I will try and take a page from his book and attempt to update more frequently. It should be an eventful experience, so I'm sure I'll have quite a bit to write about!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Update! What whaaat?

Well I'm long overdue for an update, so I sincerely apologize.

Since we last met, I've continued working as a Script Coordinator, PA and Producer's Assistant on various shows (Blue Bloods, The Yard, Covert Affairs). Right now I'm working as the Assistant to the Executive Producers/Writers on a new pilot for Warner Bros. and the CW called Awakening, about zombies. Zombies! I may have got the job because in the interview I pointed out that at my wedding, 4 of the 7 speeches mentioned my love of zombies. Not even kidding. I just started last week, but everyone here seems really cool so far. The writers of this US show are from Toronto and still live here, so it's good to know that's possible. That's my ideal situation, to work in LA and live in Toronto.

As for my own writing, I wrote a spec of Fringe, and have been writing a one-hour drama pilot, of which I'm about 3/4 finished through the first draft. My agents have been actively getting me meetings and sending out my scripts, and I've been getting a few nibbles. It's nice to get some kind of confirmation that things are going forward in your career, even though there hasn't been any solid, you know, cash money yet. It's an interesting/frustrating/satisfying place that I'm at right now. I have an agent, I am getting meetings, people are liking my pitches/scripts/ideas, and I've been getting really close to writing gigs, but haven't got one yet. One show my agents were trying to get me on said they thought I was a good writer, but they wanted someone that's not quite as "junior". Meaning, that I don't have enough credits yet (or any, to be precise). It is frustrating, because how is a writer supposed to get experience if no one gives them a chance? It makes it so much more difficult when Canadian shows don't have to hire on at least 1 fledgling writer like American shows have to. But, I know that it's just a slog and you have to keep going. If you're good enough, eventually someone will take a chance and you will make it.

Saying that, I might actually have some big news soon, though I don't want to jinx anything. I could potentially have an update on that in the next week or two. We'll see!