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Indiegogo Project Spotlight: A Guy Going Crazy

September 19, 2013

igogo_ggc

It’s been while since I’ve done a Q&A, so I figured I’d drag one of my new Taliesin Nexus buddies into an interview. Rich Camp is wrapping up (i.e. only four days left!) an Indiegogo campaign to fund his comedy webseries, A Guy Going Crazy. Rich has been very active on Facebook and Twitter promoting the campaign, so I hope his hard work doesn’t go to waste. He’s not afraid to go the extra mile to get people to fund, as he’s already eaten five whole raw jalapenos and embarrassed himself singing pop songs. Let’s meet Rich:

The Writer:  Rich Camp

Evan (ES):  Tell everyone a little bit about yourself…Who ARE you?

Rich Camp (RC):  I’m a hopeless comedian. I saw Adam Sandler’s films as a kid and that was what sparked it all. I got into SNL and from there it was non-stop movies and comedy. I made stuff with friends and, as the most excited one, I always learned the different aspects (from writing to editing) just to make things happen. This has developed into me being well-rounded in the field and having written, directed, edited and produced a lot of my own work. It’s kind of a gift and a curse, because I can do all those things when needed but I only want to write and perform comedy.

ES:  Your bio says that you have worked for Comedy Central and The Cooking Channel – What jobs did you have for those networks and what was the experience like?

RC:  On Comedy Central I was brought in with a friend to re-edit a web show they didn’t like the direction of. It was a cool experience because it was such a loose show — semi-reality based — and had a loose script so we were able to sort of write in post-production, reworking all the footage into something funny. On The Cooking Channel I was an AD and AE, so I traveled with the production, helping on set then went back and set up all the edits for the real editors. It was a great experience and I met great people. I also was able to write an episode which included writing the voice overs and set-ups. It was pretty interesting.

ES:  Do you have plans to move to New York or Los Angeles any time soon?

RC:  I do have a plan to move soon. While living in Rhode Island has been great for writing and producing my own content. I have been spending a lot of time in New York and LA networking, so I want to keep that going. I am hoping that between A Guy Going Crazy and So This Is Something I can establish myself with a portfolio along with my writing samples to showcase my abilities.

ES:  What television shows are you currently watching?

RC:  I feel TV is currently transitioningl. I’m usually a big NBC comedy block fan, but there’s been a lot of changes. I like Modern Family, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock…stuff like that. I’ve been watching different shows on Hulu and getting into them only for the shows to be cancelled. Like Goodwin Games.

ES:  What specs have you written and/or what shows do you plan to spec next?

RC:  I’ve written a bunch. I wrote a 30 Rock, Always Sunny, and 2 Broke Girls. Most recently I wrote a Modern Family spec. I usually use the fellowships in the spring to force me to write a new one. Most recently I’ve been writing my web show which is great practice for TV. Plus I’ve written a pilot, Substitutes, with my writing partner Anthony Giambusso. Plus we’re working on some other pilots at the time. No new spec plans at the moment.

ES:  I hear you are quite the reclaimed wood carpenter. That’s not a question, I just want to post a picture of the cool desk you made.

wood_desk

A Rich Camp original

ES:  What is your favorite food?

RC:  Pasta, all the way. But I will basically eat anything.

ES:  Dogs or cats?

RC:  Neither. Allergic to both despite growing up surrounded by multiples of each. It’s been torture. But, sadly, I do love animals.

The Project:  A Guy Going Crazy

ES:  What’s your project about?

RC:  It’s semi-autobiographical. I’ve always made movies with different people and there’s been such absurd situations and the emotional highs and lows I go through. I have always wanted to document that, so I wrote this web show. I think it’s a perfect web show, because, between the characters and it being my own life, I could write seasons of this without any issues at all. There’s always absurd things happening and always ridiculous characters I’m meeting, that it just builds over time.

ES:  How long did it take to write the scripts?

RC:  The scripts took me about a month for the first drafts, but they’ve gone through many rewrites. After watching multiple web shows and learning more about the format, I have changed them. They’ve been in a constant state of being worked on since November 2012.

ES:  Why should anyone donate to help you make it?

RC:  I’ve made two features, plus a lot of sketches and shorts. I’ve worked professionally. And through all of this, I never had a budget nor any help. I taught myself how to do things just so I could make it happen. I thought of it as all my own personal education and with each project I got better and learned more. My most recent film, which was 2010 was so close to perfect. The only thing holding it back was time, crew, and help on aspects I just cannot feasibly master on my own. No one can be great at everything and I’m far from great at most things. With the donations we will get the proper equipment, hire crew than can assure we have professional audio, visuals and editing. All these other projects have been building to this one moment, to this project. All I’ve learned has gone into this one. Now that I’ve developed the skills I’m asking people to help me in making this the best project it can be.

ES:  How did you come up with the budget?

RC:  The budget is based on figuring out exactly what I would need to hire the right crew that can deliver professional services. It also incorporates any equipment rentals and purchases that would benefit the final show. Nothing is superfluous, anything we purchase will directly go towards making the production more efficient, which will allow us to focus on delivering a better product. I’ve learned from experience and failures to what would help keep things moving along and functioning without getting in the way. I tried doing sound myself along with a cameraman in the past with very cheap equipment; however, when I went back to the editing room I found out that the audio was unusable. So it will go towards things like that, which will directly help us keep quality at the same level as you’d see on TV.

ES:  What if you don’t meet your $6,850 goal?

RC:  If we don’t meet the goal, I will do everything I can. I’ve never let anything come in my way, I’ve always just put in the extra effort and made it happen myself without money. The difference is with the full budget we will be able to assure there are no mistakes. We made the last film and while most of it worked well, the audio situations as a non-professional (that I couldn’t handle) had to be dubbed and I did that myself (without proper equipment or skills) and the end result I feel does take the project down a notch. So the show will go on at this point due to the nearly year’s worth of work already into it, but with a full budget we can achieve the goals we’ve had for years in producing something stellar.

ES:  You’ve been very active on Facebook promoting the campaign. Have you lost any Facebook friends since you started?

RC:  Haha, I feel bad utilizing Facebook so much, but over the years with all my work I have built a pretty supportive group. While I know they’ve endured some earlier work that was just not up to par, they’ve been with me over the years and grown. Not to toot my own horn but people can see my ambition and even new people will recognize that and offer their help on set or promoting.

ES:  The project is deemed a “Verified Nonprofit” – How do you set that up? 

RC:  There a lot of ways to do that. This project was chosen based on the scripts for a fellowship through Moving Picture Institute that invites you into a network and can help you along the way. Via that fellowship I was able to get nonprofit status, which has seemed to help, as more people are happy to learn of the tax deduction [Yes, I’d much rather give Rich my money and the IRS]. 

ES:  After this project, what else do you have planned for the future?

RC:  I would love to develop a bigger following for this show and have the fans demand a second season. If that was to happen I could have scripts ready immediately, since I’ve been developing new ideas this whole time. Aside from that I am planning to move to NYC or LA and continuing my education and performing at UCB, network and continue to produce sketches along with So This Is Something. I feel at this time we have the ability to create awesome content and get it out there, but beyond the potential for the viral success, we can also build a portfolio that can “wow” the industry when they ask what we’re capable of.

Thanks to Rich for taking the time to answer these questions.  It’s always nice to see fellow filmmakers out there just getting shit done. If you have a few bucks, help support his campaign; otherwise you can feel free to drop Rich a line:

Twitter:   @RichCamp

Website:  www.whatboy.tv 


So This Is Something…Episode 1

September 4, 2013

…or maybe it’s nothing…but we’ll see.

One of the guys (Rich Camp) I met at the Taliesin Filmmakers Workshop asked me if I was interested in pitching jokes for an online topical news show (think Weekend Update) that he was planning on shooting every week. Well, since I didn’t have much experience (ZERO) at writing topical jokes and it’s hard for me to say “no” to anything, I agreed. Figured it’d be a good learning experience.

Oh, the name of the show is “So This is Something” — Hence the title of this post.

Anyway, during the first week Rich, myself, John Bellina, Christian Borys, and  Anthony Giambusso all traded emails with pitches for jokes and setups, commenting on others, fixing punches, etc. 56 emails later, we had a few dozen jokes. Exactly two were funny, but at the end of the week, we all picked our top 4-5 favorite jokes and after that Rich took over and produced the episode with the help of his camera man, Chris Loens.

From a writing standpoint, it was a lot of fun trading jokes. It also forced me to read the news (WTF is going on with Syria? And Miley Cyrus? RG3 is back!). So, no matter how much my jokes suck or how much Rich ruins my brilliantly crafted punchlines, it was time well spent. It also forces us to just GO DO and not dick around too much.

On the technical side, I asked Rich what he used to produce the episode and he sent a few pics:

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He shot the episode on a Blackmagic Cinema camera and taped an iPad to the bottom of the camera to use as a teleprompter. Masking tape (and/or duct tape) is the best friend of any filmmaker. Bears are the enemy.

Rich_3

rich_1

For editing he used Final Cut Pro X due to the quick turnaround time – working with a green screen was a literally a click away. He also has Adobe Premiere, but for these types of episodes, it’s more time consuming.

Audio was recorded with a RODE smartLav and an iPod.
Having said all that, here’s how the finished product turned out…
We’re all figuring this stuff out, so we welcome any feedback you may have. The goal is for every episode that we do to be better than the last.

Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop

August 22, 2013

Talnexus

After over a year sleeping in a coma, it’s about time I brought this blog back to life…

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be one of 27 filmmakers who were chosen to participate in the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop, held in Los Angeles on the beautiful UCLA campus.  Room, board, and travel were covered by the workshop, so it ended up being a free trip to LA to hang out with cool filmmakers and connect with industry professionals.

Taliesin Nexus is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society.  Who doesn’t love freedom? No, this workshop is not solely for people who are making overtly political films or documentaries. All genres, media, and experience levels were well represented.

Aside from being free (both philosophically and monetarily), one of the major benefits is that the workshop affords some quality time with industry professionals. Starting on Friday evening and running through Sunday afternoon, the workshop included seven panels ranging from 60 – 150 minutes in length. Through these panels, we were able to interact with a great range of talented folks including (but not limited to) Paul Guay (screenwriter, Liar Liar), Daniel Knauf (television writer/creator, Carnivàle)David H. Steinberg (screenwriter, American Pie 2), Warren Zide (producer, Final Destination), and Kailey Marsh (manager/producer and creator of The Blood List).  

There wasn’t a dull moment the entire weekend, but the highlight for me was getting the opportunity to pitch a feature comedy idea to Paul Guay and David H. Steinberg. The entire class was “forced” to give the two screenwriters their best pitch, while Paul and David asked questions, poked holes, and offered suggestions in the same way a Hollywood exec or producer would. It was more stressful than that time I was awaiting a call from the Blue Man Group, but it ended up being an amazing learning experience.

Takeaways from some of the other panels include:

  • Content is king.
  • Kailey Marsh is queen (of horror).
  • Go Do. Don’t waste time thinking about a project or developing it. Just make it, then make something else, then make another thing, and then another…repeat 10,000 times until you get paid for it. Then do it 10,000 more times.
  • Stop writing good scripts. Write amazing stories. “Crap plus one” doesn’t cut it.
  • If the people you work for like Fruit Loops, then always have a backup box of Fruit Loops. I.e. be the best at whatever menial job you have…even if it’s hoarding cereal while taking notes in a writers’ room. (For more on working hard, check out my favorite podcast interview in the history of time: #5 – Stephen J. Cannell.)
  • Be prepared to eat shit for AT LEAST five years. If you do not quite prefer the taste of fecal matter, then perhaps this industry is not for you.
  • It’s a fun time to be involved in online media content. It’s the wild west and everyone is searching for gold on a level playing field.
  • It’s a sad time to be involved in features. It’s harder than ever to get anything sold, produced, or even considered. HOWEVER, a brilliant script by a passionate writer will always prevail…eventually.

Almost more impressive than the panelists, were the students. I was truly humbled to be surrounded by 26 young, talented filmmakers. Many were local to LA, while other students came from as far as South Africa, Australia, and even San Diego, CA! It was a bit intimidating to see so many filmmakers, most of whom were younger than I am, who have already accomplished so much. However, more present than the intimidation, was the motivation. Everyone had a refreshing drive and optimism that can sometimes get lost in Hollywood. Although I hadn’t stopped writing completely, my production had slowed down over the last year or so. This workshop and this group of people provided exactly the jolt I needed.

It’s now a couple days since the workshop and my inbox is full of emails from the people I met, my Facebook friends list is a bit longer, and my twitter account has THREE new followers. Everyone has been very open to working with each other in the future by providing equipment, helping out on shoots, and even providing feedback on scripts. Who knows if we’ll all stay in touch, but I sure hope so.

Needless to say, I highly recommend anyone interested in filmmaking apply to this workshop next year. All the details can be found here:  Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop. In addition to the workshop, there are other internship opportunities that occasionally become available. I also encourage my classmates to chime in with their two cents in the comments section if they want to add any details.

Other Random Things I Learned:

  • Fosters is Australian for beer, but not in Australia.
  • Mr. Habibi knows how to party
  • It is possible to transport a dozen doughnuts across the country in a checked bag. I recommend the blueberry fritter, as they hold up pretty well…even three days later.
  • In-N-Out is a great way to end any trip to Los Angeles.
  • Milk Jar Cookies is worth checking out. ESPECIALLY when you lock your rental car key in the trunk of your 2013 Mazda3 on Cloverdale Ave.
  • This is not a food blog, no matter how hard I try to turn it into one.

Q&A: Robby O’Connor – 2011 FOX-NYTVF Sitcom Script Winner

May 6, 2012

Since the deadline for the FOX-NYTVF Sitcom Script Contest was last week, I figured it would be a good time to hear from last year’s winner, Robby O’Connor.  I was really excited to interview Robby, as the contest is pretty much the only one in which the prize is a $25K development deal.  I was curious what exactly the “development deal” entailed and how Robby’s life had changed because of the win.  Let’s get on with it:

The Writer:  Robby O’Connor

Evan (ES):  Tell everyone a little bit about yourself…Who are you?

Robby (RO):  I’m a New Yorker born-and-raised and live here still (in Long Island City). A big part of my writing education came from working in film – first at Paramount’s New York book office and then at Dimension Films.

Working in film was great, but when your job is being critical of other people’s work, it’s hard to turn off that part of your brain and allow yourself to take a chance on the page. Once I’d decided I was going to write, I knew I needed to turn off that inner editor (not completely, but enough to be playful with ideas) and that meant NOT working in film anymore. I also knew I worked best in the mornings and needed a good night sleep, so I couldn’t be a bartender or anything. (Not that I know how to bartend.) 

ES:  I think one of the hardest choices writers have to make is whether or not to quit their day jobs to pursue writing.  How did you end up supporting yourself?

RO:  To make ends meet, I found a bunch of weird jobs on Craigslist.  The first one I had was nannying for a family with six kids on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  I wasn’t responsible for all six at once; really I was one of maybe three or four people passing through the house at any given time, corralling these kids.  It was pretty funny — the kids were four to thirteen years old and couldn’t figure me out.  That I’d grown up in New York, went to a good college, but was now somehow their nanny just didn’t compute.  I think the parents probably used me as a cautionary tale: “Don’t try to be a writer when you grow up or else you’ll end up like Robby.”  Anyway, that job wore me down pretty quick, but I still do a lot of part-time work; writing isn’t paying the bills just yet.

ES:  Once you realized that you wanted to be a writer, did you immediately gravitate to television or did you start out writing features?  

RO:  I stumbled on TV writing because I needed a really good voice sample. The first script I wrote – a feature – got me a manager, but it didn’t sell. It was an attempt at a broad sex comedy, but broad sex comedies that don’t sell aren’t good samples. I was pitching other feature ideas to a producer friend and nothing was gelling. In the process I wound up telling him about meeting my girlfriend online, internet dating, and the like. That friend pushed me to write a spec pilot about dating in New York. It’s pretty close to a zero-concept idea, but the thought was to write the hell out of it and have a solid voice sample. It was great advice.

ES:  What television shows are you currently watching?

RO:  For someone without a cable package, I watch a lot. Right now I’m tearing through Justified. I don’t think I could write an hour-long cable drama, but I love it when I find a good one. Like everyone, The Wire might be my favorite show, but I’ve been very happy with Breaking Bad too.  ARCHER is also great.

Then what else… well this week alone I’ve watched Mad Men, Veep, New Girl, Girls, Up All Night, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Community, and The Good Wife. That covers it I think.

ES:  What specs have you written and/or what shows do you plan to spec next?

RO:  I wrote a spec episode of Californication a few years back when I took a class on TV writing. Aside from teaching me how to structure a thirty-minute comedy, I don’t think that sample has done a lot for me. From what I’m told and what I’m experiencing, TV is moving away from that. People are open to reading your spec pilot now. So yeah, right now I don’t have plans to spec any existing seriesezez [that’s not a typo, that is how I’m going to refer to the plural of ‘series’ from now on].

The Script:  Adulthood for Beginners

ES:  In another interview you described Adulthood for Beginners as being kind of a Friends for this generation. Has the success of shows like New Girl and Happy Endings helped or hurt the development of your show?

RO:  I’ve actually just started watching Happy Endings because someone told me my pilot would make a great sample for that show. I should have included Happy Endings above, it’s a great show.

I don’t really know if Happy Endings or New Girl’s existences are helping or hurting my show. They’re both great. The real take-away I have from them is that it would have been smart if my pilot had just a tiny bit more of a hook (like those shows do) to tell stories about friends (like those shows do).

ES:  How long did it take to write?

RO: Six months? About a month was spent on characters and the outline and three more banging through a few drafts. The finishing touches came slowly over the last two months.

ES:  How many pilots have you written?

RO:  That was my first!

ES:  Describe your writing process a little bit — Are you an outliner or do you simply start writing and let the story take over?

RO:  I try to treat it as much like an office job as possible. I belong to a writing space (kind of like a private library with monthly dues) and on a good day work from 10am to 2pm. (The rest of the afternoon I do my freelance work to pay my bills.) Sometimes it’s not there and you’re better off reading magazines or going for a walk or anything to free up your mind. That’s the hard part for me; I wish I could always be in the middle of a draft and know that three hours spent at my computer is three hours closer to the finish line.

I’m learning how to be an outliner. I outlined Adulthood twice; halfway through a draft based off the first outline I realized it wasn’t working – the A story was off and that was affecting my B story too – so I went back and re-outlined the whole thing. That second outline isn’t exactly what’s on the page now, but it was vital to getting there.

After Adulthood I wrote a feature and really outlined that one well (I’m getting better every time). I was able to get through the first draft of that feature in under three weeks. So that’s what a good outline does for you.

ES:  Did you have friends or family to workshop the script with?  Are you a part of any writers groups?

RO:  As I mentioned, a good friend who works for producers encouraged me to write Adulthood. He read and gave me notes on at least three drafts of the script. He’s not the producer on it and did this only out of the kindness of his heart and it was invaluable. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few people who’ll read your script once and give you feedback, but few of those people ever read the next draft. Having a friend work through it with me on multiple drafts was amazing. I bought him a big bottle of Scotch when I won the contest. 

I don’t belong to any writers groups but would love to find one. Because I used to work in film, I still know a lot of people who work in film, so I have a lot of friends who can give really sharp notes.

ES:  Did you enter Adulthood in any other contests or festivals?

RO: Nope. The Fox competition was the only one I knew about.

ES:  If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring writers who have never written a TV script before, what would it be?

RO:  Read as many pilots as you can. If you can’t get your hands on pilot scripts, watch the first episode of everything that’s streaming on Netflix and Hulu. Your pilot can’t just introduce your characters – it needs an A story and a B story (and a C if you’re Modern Family).

Also, beware of writing a “premise pilot”. I didn’t know what that meant when I wrote Adulthood, but it’s how other people will judge your idea as a series. John August wrote about this in more depth here: http://johnaugust.com/2011/premise-pilots

The Fox Contest / NYTVF

ES:  What was your overall impression of the contest and/or the New York Television Festival?

RO:  It’s a really cool festival. Going in I was only aware of the Fox contest, but there are so many sponsored contests within it that there’s really something for anyone interested in any facet of television.

ES:  Were there any areas that you feel need improvement?

RO:  Not really. The thing to remember is that it’s a “TV” festival and not a “scripted programming” festival. If you go into it thinking “this is a festival about writing comedy” or that TV as a business is just about writing comedy, then you’re in for some education.

ES:  I have to imagine scoring a development deal with Fox gets you a ton of attention. What was that first week like after winning?

RO:  Really fun. I mean, I got money for writing for the first time in my life. I wish that meant less to me than it did, but that was great. I rode that high for a long time.

But did it get me a lot of attention? Yes and no. It got me the attention that mattered the most, which was professional validation and agency representation. But no, it wasn’t like my phone was ringing non-stop with 310 and 323 area codes. I didn’t quit any jobs. I’m still slogging through it like most everyone. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

ES:  Has the contest win led to any new friendships, business contacts, doors to the industry opening, etc.?

RO:  What I expected doesn’t mean a whole lot because I just didn’t know much at all about TV as a business. I’m learning that network TV has a very definite calendar, so Fox deals with its scripts during very specific months of the year, then its pilots, etc., before the cycle starts over again for the next year. Right now things are quiet with Adulthood, but fingers crossed there will be activity on it soon.

Having the development deal means building a relationship with Fox. It might be Adulthood that we work on together, though I’d love to be a staff writer on someone else’s show. That would be an amazing education I think.

ES:  Your website notes that you currently have representation; was this a result of the win, or were you repped before?

RO:  I already had an amazing features manager from before, but winning the contest got me totally stellar TV agents and now I feel pretty well covered.

ES:  With this contest, is Fox looking mainly for a show to produce or are they looking for a writer to develop and build a relationship?

RO:  Good question and I don’t know. I hope it’s a little of both because that means there’s hope for my show and then hope for me afterwards if my show doesn’t make it to pilot or series.

ES:  Advice for anyone entering next year?

RO:  Chose a title that starts with an “A”. I’m joking, but it was fun to see my script at the top of the list of 25 finalists. It took me a few minutes to realize the list was in alphabetical order, but for those few minutes I thought I’d already won!

ES:  What’s next?  What are you working on?  Anything you want to pimp or sell to us?

RO:  I’m just trying to write more. The contest was fantastic, but winning it doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on my laurels. I’ve got a lot to learn still. Also there are a lot of people who want to break into TV and even people who’ve been employed for years have to hustle to sell their ideas and get staffed.

A HUGE thanks goes out to Robby for taking the time to answer these questions.  I think his point about having a good hook for your show is important to note.  Based on a lot of interviews I’ve heard with showrunners, you need a strong hook to sell a show, but once the show is on the air there’s less of a reliance on the hook as the characters take over and draw the audience in.  Draw people in with insanity and keep them around with empathy.

If you have any other questions for Robby, feel free to drop them in the comments section or contact him directly:

Twitter:   @RobbyOC

Website:  www.robbyoconnor.com 


Friday Links: Raising Hope, Inspiration, Jokes & Commas

April 13, 2012

Happy Friday – Here are some links that I came across during the week that you all might find interesting.  My main source of is from my future boss / writing chum Crystal Hubbard’s Twitter feed, so give her a follow.

Something useful:

  • Raising Hope Scripts – It’s probably not the “hottest” show to spec, but I imagine there are writers out there who will be speccing Raising Hope.  Although I have no plans to spec it, I enjoy the show and am happy to see another Northern Virginian showrunner on the air in Greg Garcia.

Something Inspiring:

  • “Balls of Steel:  How far will you go?” by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman – I’m not opposed to posts about inspiration, but there are just soooooo many out there that the messages start to become redundant and diluted.  However, Bowerman’s articles tend to take a logical approach to inspire other writers.  Rather than generalized canned ideas, like “never give up,” she expands on not just the what, but also the why and how.  

Something jokey:

Something technical:

  • “Fanfare for the Comma Man by Ben Yagoda – Have you ever wished that there was one article that breaks down when, where, how, and, why, commas, are, used?  Me neither.  However, I did find this article interesting, as it examines how comma rules have changed over the years and even confirms that there aren’t necessarily any hard and fast rules.

Something fun:

  • http://ifttt.com/wtf – This is a cool website that allows you to create “If, Then” commands to make all of your web apps work together.  For example, you can create a “recipe” so that any time you star something in Google Reader, it will automatically tweet the link to the article from your Twitter feed.  It’s nerdy, but could be very helpful.


Making my first feature…Part 2: Procrastiwriting

April 11, 2012

As I mentioned in first post, I co-wrote a film called Love Reason and now we’re trying to produce it.  Hooray!

[About 1/3 of it has already been filmed and we’re currently in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funding to finish it.  Every little bit helps; even that five bucks you have stashed in your car for “emergencies.”  If this isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.]

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to share my experiences working on Love Reason and what I’ve learned from them.   Click here to read PART ONE:  Let’s Work Together.   Now, on to the second part…

 PART TWO:  Procrastiwriting.

Deadlines.  Ha!  I laugh at your face, deadline.  You don’t own me.  I can move you back a week and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Travis and I had a few conversations about how we wanted to handle the script.  He had an outline and a few scenes, so the blueprint was already there.  But early in the process we slipped into the habit of dismissing deadlines.  It was bad cycle that we got into that went something like…

  • Monday:  We can probably finish Act I by the end of the week.  No problem.  Plenty of time.
  • Tuesday:  Work was crazy!  No time to write.  Plenty of time the rest of the week, though.
  • Wednesday:  Work, not so crazy…but there was a new Modern Family and Happy Endings!  I still gots time to write later.
  • Thursday:  I almost wrote during lunch, but someone suggested Chipotle for lunch.  Do I really want to be the one asshole who’s in his office writing while everyone else is deep throating a 1,500-calorie,  foil-wrapped flavor torpedo?  Nope.  I can write tonight…
  • Friday:  I wish I would’ve written last night, but my stomach hurt for some reason…  It’s been a long week, I deserve a break.  If I write for 24 straight hours this weekend, I’ll still be ahead of the game!
  • Saturday:  Who writes on Saturday?  Besides, my dog deserves to go to the dogpark.  He had a rough week, too.
  • Sunday:  Writing day!  If I write for an hour, then I get to play PS3, right?
We got some writing done, but not at the speed at which either one of us were proud of.  I normally operate at maximum procrastination, but I’m not normally this bad when I’m working with someone else.  With our powers combined, we created Captain Procrastination.  Another problem (which turned out to be related) was the fact that there was a bit of miscommunication about certain aspects of the script.  I made assumptions about what he wanted, he made assumptions about what I assumed…  We had apparently skipped a step in the process.
Although we talked about the script and there was an outline, we didn’t physically sit down and go scene by scene.  What’s the purpose of this scene?  Why is this character in this scene?  We thought we knew everything we needed to know, but we were mistaken.
We met a few times at Cracker Barrel (Momma’s Pancake Breakfast, eggs over easy, bacon, side of hashbrown casserole) and talked in depth about the script.  We went over the outline (shown below, and yes that is a primitive penis drawing near the bottom of it) and talked about each scene in detail.
I like to put all the notes into a Final Draft document:  For each sequence in the outline, I’ll add a scene heading and below it I’ll write what needs to happen for that part.  Sometimes I’ll add a few lines of dialogue, sometimes it’s as vague as “Weird stuff happens with a stuffed bear.”  And as I write the actual script, I’ll just add to that master file with all my notes in one place, guiding me along…
Once we got over that initial hump of excuses, delays, and assumptions, we fell into a nice groove and we found a system that worked.  What was that system you ask?
…to be continued…

Lesson Learned:  When working with a partner, the most important work you can do is before you even start writing the script.  If you’re not on the same page (literally and figuratively…and I supposed metaphorically) on day one, you’ll spend twice as much time rewriting.  Be clear in what you plan to write and never ever assume anything.  And even in this digital age of email, Dropboxes, texts, Twitter, and Google docs, don’t take for granted a good ol’ fashioned face-to-face conversation.  There’s nothing quite like eating pancakes at 10 pm next to a diabetic teenager in her Tazmanian Devil pajamas, while breaking a story.*

*Based on actual events.

Making my first feature… Part 1

April 9, 2012

Besides writing sitcoms and ignoring this blog, a good portion of my time has been spent working on an indie feature, Love Reason,  with a buddy of mine, Travis Jones.  The experience has been challenging, rewarding, fun, and a great learning experience in writing and producing a film.  We’ve shot about 1/3 of the film and are currently in the midst of an IndieGoGo Campaign to fund the rest.  I’m extremely pleased with how the footage has turned out and am hopeful we’ll receive enough funding to finish. [If you’re a fan of the blog and want to show some support for an indie film, any donations would be greatly appreciated :)]

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to share my experiences working on this project and what I’ve learned from them.  Rather than have one long post, I decided to break them up into parts… because I only feel like writing enough for Part One today.

PART ONE:  Let’s work together.

Travis and I originally met through my blog when he was searching for Community scripts.  We corresponded a few times and exchanged examples of each others work.  I liked the look and quality of some of the shorts he had shot, while he enjoyed my sitcom scripts.  We became friends and agreed that we should eventually work together on something.  His primary love being directing and mine being writing, it was a good connection to make.  Oh, did I mention we both live in the same state?

Travis approached me with his initial idea last summer about his take on an indie romcom that he wanted to direct.  Many parts were based on his own experiences, so he wanted to bring me in to help write since I had a fresh perspective on story.  He also wanted the tone to be a bit dark/real, but with moments of levity.  We were both fans of Blue Valentine and (500) Days of Summer, but they were on opposite ends of the tonal spectrum.  Travis wanted to make something that landed somewhere in between those movies and felt real.  Between my comedic voice and his more dramatic style, we agreed that the we could figure this out…

Travis already had a basic outline and a few scenes written, but what drew me on to the project was his clear vision for what he wanted the film to look and feel like.  Aside from the basic story beats and character emotions, he went on and on about different lenses, lighting, color palettes, and lots of other technical crap that I barely understood.   What I did understand, was his passion for this project and the fact that he was going to make this no matter what.

That’s a huge draw for me:  A finished film.  I think after a while, every writer gets to point where they want to see their work produced in some way or another.

And you can’t make a film alone.  (Well, I guess you could, but it would be a pain in the ass.)

So, I agreed to co-write Love Reason and in hindsight, that was by far easiest part of the process.

…to be continued…

L      O       S       T

END OF COLD OPEN

Lesson Learned:  You never know where you’re going to meet a potential partner, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people you meet online (or even in person).  If you want to make movies or television, you must collaborate with others at some point.  Now go email a stranger online…maybe one day that person will help you make a movie.*

*Always meet strangers in well-lit public places.