Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Job!

Looks like I have a new job! Although not a screenwriting job as yet, I have been brought into a new marketing company to do sales and copywriting. It's writing, and it's in media. Both good.

Interestingly, several of the people in the office are established directors and screenwriters (essentially this company is the marketing arm of a new full-service media and film production company), which can only be good for me. In passing I'd mentioned to the Director of the company that I was writing a Dexter spec and his response was "Oh, yeah Michael is a great guy, I worked with him," referring of course to Michael C. Hall. Cool.

I'm supposed to start within a few weeks. Supposedly a lot of travel is required. Nice!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Structuring the Dexter Spec

After much deliberation, I've decided how I'll structure my Dexter spec.

I'm going to have 3 main stories and two runners. The A and B stories will have around 12 beats each, the C story will have 8 beats and the runners will each have three beats. That gives me 38 beats in the story, which isn't far off from most Dexter episodes.

As for acts, I'm going to see where the story naturally takes me, but I am going to try and make some kind of act break or major turn happen every 10 pages or so (though in the script there will be no act breaks). So that's 5 invisible acts, which most Dexter episodes I've deconstructed appear to have.

So far I have my A, B and C stories picked and am mapping them out. I'm trying to put the story in the world of the 2nd season without too closely tying it to the arcs. I still use some aspects of the season, like the BHB investigation and Lila, but I've tried to keep them out of the timeline. My Heroes spec was done as an episode fitting between two real episodes (4 and 5 of season 2), so I kept the timeline and some story arcs in mind with that script. For Dexter I'd like to write my spec as more of a stand-alone episode: the A story features Dexter with a murderer of the week; The B story deals with Dexter's relationship with Lila and Rita; The C story surrounds the investigation into the BHB, and has Deb and Lundy getting closer to Dexter.

One thing I haven't figured out yet are the runners. I feel like I need Doakes to be following Dexter, as that is a big part of the 2nd season, but I'm having trouble thinking of a fresh premise for that scenario. Same goes for the relationship between Deb and Lundy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

To Pimp or not to Pimp?

I did it. I applied to the Script Pimp competition.

As an aspiring screenwriter that has yet to aquire an agent (though admittedly I haven't tried to find one, and won't until I've finished my Dexter spec), the possibility of acquiring representation by submitting to screenwriting competitions is tempting. A few weeks ago I submitted my Heroes spec to Scriptapalooza, and yesterday I applied to Script Pimp. But though the websites of each competition suggest that your script will be judged by industry people, I'm not entirely convinced that the competitions aren't cash grabs.

However, I don't agree with some other (mostly pro) opinions that the competitions are useless. Even if I don't get representation directly through the competition, it serves me in three ways: 1) a ticking clock to finish my friggin script already; 2) a way to build my resume and therefore a crude form of credibility; 3) encouragement. The last two are obviously dependent on whether or not I place as a finalist, but I'm willing to shell out $30-$50 if it makes me finish a script quicker.

Saying that, I'm not going to apply to every TV script competition out there. I've read decent reviews of Scriptapalooza and Script P.I.M.P., and I know that every competition run by a network or studio is golden. And I may not actually be able to apply to the US studio fellowships, as I'm a Canadian citizen. I know that the Disney fellowship requires winners to be able to work in the states. Does that mean I can apply and win the fellowship, but not accept it? Maybe that would look good on the resume anyway. I'm not sure about the Warner Bros. fellowship, as I didn't see anything on the website regarding international applicants.

Canada really needs to get some equivalent fellowships. I haven't found any yet. I saw one Banff competition that initially looked promising, but on closer inspection, the competition is for people who have already had at least one produced credit. I'm trying to win representation, so I'm not at that point yet. It may be less competitive in breaking into TV writing in Canada, but it seems there isn't as much support for the writer trying to break through. So which is harder? I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Deconstructing Dexter

Developing my Dexter spec has been much tougher than I anticipated. I've deconstructed 3 episodes and they each seem to have their own independent structures. There is no magic number of plots, scenes and no obvious act breaks. I purchased a copy of "Crocodile", a script from the first season, and that didn't help much as it's written without act breaks. When I do pick a certain number of acts, the length of each varies so widely between episodes that it brings my theories into question.

Josh talks here about writing the spec with a major twist every 10 pages, but also about the Dexter writers trying very hard to not have a structure. This seems contradictory. Why bother putting a structure to a show that doesn't have one? Perhaps the best technique is to abandon structure (well, you still need a beginning, middle and end of each story), and have the acts vary as widely as they need to. Because if you're trying to capture the feeling of a show, following too rigid a structure may make the Dexter spec feel like something else. I think that instead of concentrating on acts, I should just concentrate on plot, and see what organically happens.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Delusions of Grandeur

The first post of my new screenwriting blog. Because the universe desperately needs another blog about a developing TV writer. I tried to write a blog a few years ago but found it self-indulgent and somewhat useless - it was a personal blog, and I couldn't bring myself to write honestly about my own internal thoughts. So basically I was left with a dishonest journal, which is worth a penny covered in shit.

But over time I've become more and more obsessed with screenwriting. It takes up all my free time (and much non-free time... I may or may not be at work right now). My girlfriend is sick of me talking about it, though she's kind enough to pretend to care. And since I read screenwriting blogs every day, and maintain a constant internal monologue about the craft, I figure it could help to write it all down in the online community. So then, if I think something, and it's shit, I don't keep on thinking it. I've learned a lot from the screenwriting blogs I religiously read every day, and they aren't all pros either. It's good to know there are other people like me, pushing towards a dream that seems almost impossible at times. It's also good to know there are those that have plowed through, eye on the prize, and made it. Fortunately, my doubt is balanced out by intense delusions of grandeur.

To introduce myself: I recently graduated from the Radio and Television Arts program at Ryerson University in Toronto, and now I'm attempting to become a TV writer. I recently finished writing a spec of the show Heroes, and I've written an original episode of a single-camera sitcom series I created with some other people (it's the 5th episode, and since it's not the pilot I'm not entirely sure how useful it is to me). Right now I'm working on a Dexter spec, and once that's finished I'll start searching for an agent.

Outside of writing, I do freelance gigs (research, PA) in reality TV, and also have a day job that is completely outside the industry. The day job sometimes makes me feel like a douche and that I'm wasting my degree, but I know in order to be a writer I really only need to keep writing. Any job outside of writing for scripted TV is just a temporary pay cheque. Or so I tell myself six times a day.

So welcome to the ongoing saga of my quest to become a TV writer. At the least I'll waste some time while procrastinating on my current script.