LB Reads “My Seinfeld Year” by Fred Stoller

And what can I say that’s more important than this? It made me laugh.My Seinfelt Year Capture

Here’s what the Amazon blurb says:

“You’d know Fred Stoller if you saw him. He has appeared on practically every great sitcom you’ve ever seen – Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, and Murphy Brown just to name a few. But he has never been a regular on a series, always the guest star. He longs to find a showbiz home. Instead, he is a television foster child, shuttling from show to show in the vain hope that one will finally agree to keep him. “My Seinfeld Year” tells the hysterical and bittersweet story of what happened when Stoller finally got a shot at the showbiz stability he’d always dreamed of — as a staff writer on one of the biggest television shows in history.”

Here’s my take:

THE GOOD:

  • It’s funny. Stoller’s a very clever writer.
  • It feels as true to the life of a TV writer as it can be.
  • It’s genuinely helpful for the new writer because it paints such a perfect picture of what it’s like to work in TV
  • It’s a buck ninety-nine and it’s on Kindle
  • I know I’ve already said that it’s funny and real, but I didn’t say it strongly enough: My Seinfeld Year is wonderfully funny and real.

THE BAD:

  • I didn’t write this book.
  • I don’t know Fred Stoller.
  • Fred Stoller isn’t writing for TVWriter™.
  • There probably aren’t any more Fred Stollers in the world and there should be.
  • I wish it was longer.

CONCLUSION:

Hey, it’s dirt cheap and it’s priceless. Buy the damn book. HERE.

When TV “Auteurs” Turn to Feature Films….

..Trouble follows at least as much as success cuz…different media with different needs, don’tcha know?

auteurby Max O’Connell

While “Mad Men” fans anxiously await the upcoming Emmy Awards and hope that this will finally be the year where one of the cast members takes home a statuette (don’t count on it), the series’ creator and showrunner, Matthew Weiner, has another project out this week. Yet “Are You Here” is being released to little fanfare or excitement. There’s a reason: it’s not very good. When “Are You Here” debuted at TIFF last year (as “You Are Here”), critics were astonished that the creator of one of the finest and most ambitious shows of the past decade could make something so bland and directionless.

Yet Weiner’s hardly the first TV genius to make an underwhelming film debut. Two years ago brought David Chase’s “Not Fade Away,” which, while not without its fervent admirers, met mostly muted reception. John Wells has had a long and consistently acclaimed run in television as the showrunner for the first six seasons of “ER,” the last three of “The West Wing,” and his current project “Shameless,” but his two efforts as a filmmaker have been the wan Great Recession drama “The Company Men” and last year’s Weinstein-ized desecration of “August: Osage County.” Damon Lindelof’s biggest effort for film was the deeply frustrating (though not as terrible as the internet made it out to be) “Prometheus.”

The history of TV auteurs making crappy movies extends far past recent memory, too. David E. Kelley’s body of work includes both TV triumphs (“L.A. Law,” “Picket Fences,” “Chicago Hope,” “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal) are film flops “To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday” and “Mystery, Alaska” (screenwriter only on both). Glen and Les Charles of “Taxi” and “Cheers” fame have only the mediocre “Pushing Tin” to show for their film credits. Between Alan Ball’s HBO hits “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” lies his heavy-handed directorial debut “Towelhead” (and his Oscar-winning breakthrough script “American Beauty” has become a punching bag in certain circles, too). And the less said about Larry David’s disastrous “Sour Grapes” the better.

Why do most major TV artists make such disappointing movies? A consistent problem in a number of their movies is a tendency to develop as many characters and plotlines as possible without devoting enough time to develop a single satisfying one. “Not Fade Away” is among the more ambitious projects of the lot, but it feels like a lot of episodes of a striking television show mashed together. Ditto for Ball’s “Towelhead,” which features so many traumatic experiences for its mixed-race teenage heroine (including a tyrannical father, a neglectful mother, racist classmates, suburban malaise and a pedophiliac neighbor) in under two hours that after a while it just feels like we’re riding a misery-go-round.

Wells’ “The Company Men” has a germ of a good idea, but it spreads its primary characters so thin that one man’s drastic third-act action feels more motivated by where the script needs to go than by the man’s experiences. And while “Prometheus” was a highly ambitious film for Lindelof and director Ridley Scott, the film has a preoccupation with developing mythology and ideas that it doesn’t fully explore, as if Lindelof is writing a pilot for a “Lost”-type sci-fi show instead of a movie. There’s a habit of TV writers continuing to write as if they’re writing for a series, but without the time to develop any nuance to the different threads they’re working on.

Even some of the better TV-to-film writer transitions got there by staying within the realm of serialization….

Read it all

 

The Dangers of Binge Watching

OMG! Binge watching is so much, um, more than we ever thought. Thank God our favorite TV stars have come through with this Public Service Announcement to protect us:

YouTube Preview Image

This has been an EW video. (As in “Entertainment Weekly,” not, you know, “Ewww.”

Tips for Writing a Web Series Script

Question: When is the 3 act structure not the 3 act structure?

Answer: When you decide to call it something else.

But whatever you call the technique in the following article, we think it’s an interesting angle to work. Especially if you’re feeling stuck on a story and need to break on through to the other side:

organisation-structure_95892469by Nick Lawrence

When you start learning about screenwriting, one of the first things you’re likely to hear about is the Three Act Structure. With roots tracing back to Aristotle, the Three Act Structure has been championed by everyone from Syd Field to Robert McKee as the standard way to write a feature-length (90-120 page) screenplay. But for those of us writing shorter scripts for web series, applying the three act structure can prove confusing. It may be counterintuitive to try and pack two act breaks into a 5-10 page script, for example. What if your script only has one scene — how are you supposed to pack three acts into a single scene? Faced with these issues, it’s tempting to ignore structure and just try to write something entertaining. But is that really a good idea?

I want to introduce an alternative approach to screenplay structure called the PCR Method. PCR stands for Problem, Complication, and Resolution. I learned this method from Professor Jay Moriarty at USC, who cut his teeth writing for popular 1970s comedies like All In the Family and The Jeffersons. These shows were maybe 25 minutes without the commercials — closer in length to a web series episode than a feature film — so the writers had to develop their stories quickly and hold the attention of finicky viewers clutching remote controls. The structure they perfected is still widely used in half-hour comedies, and can be applied equally well to comedy and drama web series, including episodes that are only a few minutes long.

WRITING USING THE PCR METHOD

1. Start your story with a PROBLEM — some situation that your characters are facing. Problems can be big or small. Maybe an annoying character is coming to visit (Introverts). Maybe your character wants to throw a birthday party for her friend who hates parties (Introverts). Problems don’t have to be negative — maybe your character is going on a date and wants to make a good impression (The Mindy Project) or has the opportunity to stay in a beach house for the weekend (Girls). The important thing is that the problem engages us by creating dramatic tension — hope and fear about what’s going to happen. It doesn’t have to be big or high-stakes (though it certainly can), but it does have to be involving enough to make us care about what happens next.

Read it all

The 2014 Emmy Winners TVWriter™ Really Cares About

nbcemmys

THE EMMY WINNING WRITERS

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
Steven Moffat, Sherlock, “His Last Vow”

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias”

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
Louis C.K., “Louie” – “So Did the Fat Lady”

There ya go. Congrats to Steven, Moira, and Louie!

(You can find out the rest of the winners all over the interwebs, but the above peeps are, you know, very special to us here.)

 

TVWriter™ Is Looking For Writers to Review the New Fall TV Shows

 tv

Yeppers, kids, it’s that time again when the TVWriter™ minions put out the call for new troops.

We need fresh blood (not literally, unless LB has something up his sleeve that the rest of us aren’t privy to) to take on the awesomely wonderful gig of watching and reviewing as many new broadcast, cable, and interweb series as possible in the coming months.

We’re talking about reviews of 500 to 750 words (that’s 2 or 3 double-spaced pages) emphasizing not only how good or enjoyable (there’s a difference) the new series are but also why or why not, with an emphasis on the part the writing – as in concept, plotting, and dialog – plays in the mix.

Even though we aren’t offering genuine moolah for the gig, TVWriter™ is happy to confer the title of Contributing Editor to our active columnists and reviewers, and if we ever get a masthead, those Contributing Editors will be right up there. And, of course, being a Contributing Editor can look pretty good on a resume, no? Plus you get to work from home or your favorite coffee house or whatever and – this is the best part – columnists and reviewers get to pick LB’s brain when needed, which is one of the best showbiz and writing resources you’re ever going to find anywhere.

(A note about why we can’t pay. It boils down to the fact that the $$$ just aren’t here. TVWriter™ is an advertising-free zone, deliberately so, to enable those of us who write and edit to feel totally unfettered and free to tell the truth, the whole truth,  and nothing but the truth about everything we present here. The closest things we’ve ever had on this site to ads, actually, have been plugs for TVWriter™’s classes and contests, and our Beloved Leader’s books, which help defray our costs. Oh, and from time to time we’ve written about other sites who are doing things we believe in and doing them, in our opinion, right.)

But we digress. You’ve heard the call. If you want to write for us – and aren’t going to crap out after just a few weeks like, well, let’s just say like some people do, drop us an email HERE, telling a little about yourself and what shows you’d like to write about if you have a preference, and attaching a short writing sample won’t hurt either.

We’ll definitely get back to you ASAP cuz, hell, gang, we do everything as fast and as furious as we can. How else can we be ready for those Big Time TV gigs that’re right around the corner, eh?