Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Strike Notes: Week 5


Monday - Tried out a new place to park, courtesy of a tip from fellow picketers. It's kind of a hike, but you don't have to move your car every two hours. Turnout was good today, spirits remain high. I caught up with Bill Kelly, the writer of ENCHANTED, who I met the first week of the strike and congratulated him on the movie. I really liked it, and feel that its success is earned. It's smart but not arch, and sweet but not saccharine. At a screening tonight of JUNO (very good too, btw, sort of GHOST WORLD meets John Hughes) I saw and said hi to a number of people from the WB line. Represent!

StrikeSnacks: Some miscellaneous candy among the WGA-supplied snackies.

Pedometer: About 2.4mi

Tuesday - Whoof, was it hot today, even on the early shift. More construction disruption, this time a crew repainting the crosswalk across Olive. It was perfectly visible before, mind you. Some writers from THE OFFICE were visiting today, including the guy who also plays Toby, the put-upon and sweet HR guy. Adorable! I put in an extra hour today since I won't be able to make Friday's rally.

StrikeSnacks: Kinda light. Homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a homemade cake. Bowl of Trader Joe's madeleines at Gate 4.

Pedometer: 4.08mi! I chalk that up to the longer shift and a trek to Gate 7, which is basically Mordor. You do pass by the Barham gate of Universal and its friendly picketers, which is like Rivendell before the final stretch in the full sun to that remote place.

Maybe the Barham gate's more like Lothlorien, since that was the last real refuge before Mordor? Or maybe Meduseld, since we picketers are embattled like the Rohirim, hardly like the Galadriel and elves--

Whoa nelly. Went down a big Tolkien geek rabbit hole there.

Happy, The Boyfriend?

Wednesday - Warm again today, and I dressed all wrong since the weather guys said it was going to be cooler! The weather guys must be eating what the AMPTP is feeding, just like Variety. Yet more sidewalk painting. "Your strike is going on too long," says the construction guy when someone asks. YOU THINK? C'mon AMPTP, get with the program. Today is blogger today on my regular 8-11am shift at WB, so we're joined by John August, Jane Espenson, Josh Friedman, etc. I also have a gamer grrl geek-out moment when I meet and briefly chat with Jordan "Prince of Persia" Mechner. A bunch of fans come to chat with the bloggers, including a woman who flew all the way from Houston to attend this as well as Friday's Mutant Enemy picket.

Pedometer: Reset partway through the day when I bumped it. Argh! I'm guessing about 2.5mi

StrikeSnacks: Little boxes of raisins courtesy of Preferred Artists Agency

Thursday - YET MORE STREET WORK. This time they're tearing up the other side of the street as last week, complete with jackhammers and foul asphalt fumes. It's truly horrible, but we don't leave. And I can't believe all this construction is a coincidence. I don't mean to get all tinfoil hat, but c'mon. I spot Annabeth Gish, picketing with the creator of her show BROTHERHOOD, Blake Masters. It's Bring Your Dog To Picket Day, so we have a few visits from worthy hounds. At the check-in table they're giving away red dog bandannas that read, "Don't Make Us Beg." Stayed another extra hour day today in advance of missing the rally.

StrikeSnacks: Dog food. You know, for actual dogs.

Pedometer: 3.01mi

Friday - Was out of town today, but it sounds like the rally, targeting reality writing, was a success. I can't believe the studios haven't gotten nailed on labor practices alone for reality show writers.

I check my email after my flight to learn that the AMPTP broke off negotiations, just as many had predicted. See you in Week 6, folks!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Are You Ready to Ruuuuuuumble?

2007 Strikers Guide to Los Angeles Studios

Hee! Zagat, eat your heart out.

The WB description is pretty on point, I have to say, likewise Fox for the one day I sampled it. Anyone care to weigh in on how the other studios are depicted?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Vote for MOONLIGHT in the People's Choice Awards!

Hey, my show's a finalist for the People's Choice Awards!

You're a person, right? You make choices, right? So why not choose MOONLIGHT for Favorite New TV Drama? On all the computers you have access to?

People's Choice Awards
Go to


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The AMPTP House Organ?

Here are the trades' headlines for Tuesday's WGA-AMPTP negotiation session:

Variety: WGA strike talks resume: Sides still far apart after four-day break

The Hollywood Reporter: It's a holiday miracle: Sides 'actually talk'

The stories that follow uphold the tone of those headlines. Again, these stories are covering the exact same session.

When you recall that demoralizing the opposition in the press is a key management tactic in labor disputes, it should come as no surprise that Variety also recently published an article forecasting March as when the strike might end.

Well, it's not like the writers and actors and other unions are the ones buying the ads.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blogger Day at Warner Bros. Tomorrow

A bunch of name screenwriting bloggers will be on the 8am-11am shift at WB tomorrow: Jane Espenson, Craig Mazin, Josh Friedman, and John August.

While I'm hardly a name, that's my usual shift, so I'll be there too. :) See you at Gates 2/3!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Strike Notes: Week 4


Monday - First week for the new hours and shorter shift, the 8-11am for me today. Quieter than last week, but still a good turnout. One picketer had a giant "HONK TO SUPPORT THE WRITERS" sign made, a big vinyl one that takes two people to hold upright, which quickly becomes the star of Gate 4. Very effective. Back at Gates 2/3, the insano jackhammering continues, and the WB Director of Safety very kindly comes out with a box of earplugs for us to use and pass around.

StrikeSnacks: Homemade cupcakes from visiting Fox reality show writers! The writers passed out the cupcakes themselves, but plenty of food has appeared with no apparent owner. This prompted a discussion on how in this weird time people will eat unpackaged food that just appears. Would you do that on the street, normally?

Tuesday - The big event today was the exorcism! A gathering of horror writers assembled, some dressed as nuns and priests, and exorcised the demons of greed that have been plaguing the studios. Spent some time at Gate 4B (or is it A?), the one further along past the executive gate. Pretty quiet. And idiot me got a parking ticket for not noticing the CLEARLY POSTED no parking 8-10am Tuesday for street sweeping sign. Doh.

StrikeSnacks: A student and 'Bucks barista generously brought coffee and Krispy Kremes and picketed with us for a while. And I missed what may've been the coolest moment of the strike at WB so far, the delivery by hand of croissants from the Wachowski siblings! They dropped off the treats at Gate 4 and voiced their support before heading into work.

Wednesday - Nothing to report, really. We're still amazed that people driving past continue to honk in support -- they must see us every day on their flight paths. We appreciate the honks, peeps!

StrikeSnacks: Anonymous doughnuts

Thursday - Was @ Fox today for a change of scenery. Love the stress-free 4-hour parking right by the picket base camp, but the bathroom situation, public bathroom in a park, leaves something to be desired compared to Gates 2/3 at WB. Fox has you sign in with the time you arrive and sign out, unlike WB. This feels a little Big Brotherish, but I see how it makes sense, since it lets people make their own custom shifts like my 8:07-11:15am.

Good turnout when I arrive, and MASSES when I leave. Apparently Fox is a bit of a scene, being the chief Westside option for picketers. Spotted Matt Groening. Fox also has a true picket line, walking in a circle instead of crossing the street back and forth like we do at WB, probably because there's space for a real picket. After a bit of that, I go on "honk duty" with a few other people, trading in my generic sign for one exhorting honks, which I then wave and generally look like an idiot trying to get drivers to honk. Worked out okay. Got two consecutive busfuls of kids hollering in support, which was excellent.

Oh! And I got a pedometer. Was curious how far I was walking... curious no longer!

StrikeSnacks: An odd assortment of stuff. Bags of nuts, homemade springerle-type cookies, doughnuts from a few places, and a case of Red Bull. Zing!

Pedometer: 2.74mi

Friday - Heard about the rally at Sony only after it was over. Nothing about it on the Guild site, United Hollywood, or by email. Ah well. It was cold and rainy anyway -- props to all who made it down there!

No Cute For You!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

WGA Strike LOLCat Theater #2

See you back on the line, friends. Here's hoping for a more productive week at the table.

oh no! she be sheddin on mah tee!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What's In a Name?

The AMPTP's latest proposal is glowingly entitled the New Economic Partnership. The thinking behind the moniker appears to be the same as that of the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind.

Such wonderful, inarguable titles. Who doesn't want to be a patriot? Who in their right mind would want to leave a child behind? But while these documents sound terrific by name, of course, they hide all sorts of less-than-terrificness inside. The canker in the rose and all that.

In the case of the New Economic Partnership, what's being suggested sounds like the kind of partnership where one partner wears a zipper-mouth hood and a ball gag.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This Just In... A Big Bag o' Spin

So this evening's exciting new proposal from the AMPTP that had the local news anchors breathless breaking into their regular coverage?

Not so exciting.


Hey BATTLESTAR Fans: Support Writers and Go See Hockey With Chief Tyrol!

Share a pretzel, talk about Cylons (dating vs. being), swap tips on how to mount an insurgency against an occupying force of oppressive killer robots, cheer the Canucks.

Ron Moore's posted details at his blog on how to enter a cool raffle for sender-inners of Pencils2Moguls, with more to come.

Enter early, enter often!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Strike Notes: Week 2-3

Daily notes from 11/13 until Tofurkey Day.

All this week construction crews were working on the sidewalk right by what had been our base camp location, installing fiber optic cable for Warner Bros. We got got dust-filled air, earsplitting jackhammers (crew had earplugs, we did not), blocked-off roads making our van park farther away, and we had to keep relocating the base camp.

Tinfoil hat alert #1: Coincidence that this was going on during picket hours? I think not...

Tuesday - A smaller crowd at WB today due to Picketing With the Stars at Universal, which went shockingly underreported in both local and national media. Tinfoil hat alert #2: The same Big Media that we're striking against owns all those outlets, of course.

From Gate 4 we could see the CSI FANS SUPPORT THE WGA sky banner circling the festivities, although from our vantage point it read AGW EHT TROPPUS SNAF ISC.

Gate 4 is a well-kept secret of WB picketing. It's shady most of the day, which was important during that mini heat wave we had. But it's also quieter, and the executive gate, which means you have to work harder for honks, and you get a few more grumps who flip you off or give the thumbs-down than at Gate 2/3. Some guy yelled that we were holding up his production or something. To which I say, DUH. "Strike," people. Look it up.

More new chants:

Why are we emotional? Streaming's not promotional!
Why are we screaming? It's called free streaming!
Hey hey Bugs Bunny! Stealing money isn't funny!

And we also started just yelling out lines from movies, especially relevant ones like "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" and "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

Every day the WGA brings water and boxes of various snacks such as chips and energy bars, and often picketers will bring stuff as well like coffee or doughnuts, but it's been cool seeing what other parties have donated to the cause (and our waistlines) to show support.

Today's StrikeSnacks: Pizza from South Bay BMW.

Wednesday - The first of three days of the early shift this week, early meaning 6am-10am. Ye gods and little fishes, is 4:15am early if you're not used to it. I am not used to it. Traffic to Burbank is light but weirdly macho at that hour. Lots of trucks, big rigs and pickups, driven by the kind of guys who drive trucks at 5:30 in the morning, and in that manner. In my tiny car, I'm a little scared.

Was on Gate 9 today, which is the truck gate at WB, where arriving trucks get their permits to get onto the lot at Gate 7. There was no one on the gate when we got there (7 was covered), so we felt needed. A lot of smiles and waves from arriving Teamsters, but we didn't turn anyone around unless you count that one pickup who did a U-turn in the middle of the street. I think he was just lost. The employees at the gate were supernice to us, letting us use their bathroom.

StrikeSnacks: Granola bars and something else (flavored coffee creamers?) from SUPERNATURAL fans.

Thursday - Our first ugly encounter at WB. Guess we were due. A guy, a crew member of some kind, went off on us about how rich and selfish we are and how he "stands to lose everything at Christmas" thanks to the strike. He wasn't interested in listening to how all unions are in this fight together against Big Media, or that residuals pay into his health and pension fund, or the realities of how most writers live, or that the WGA has been ready to negotiate this whole time and the AMPTP is the side refusing to talk and causing the strike to continue. He just wanted to yell.

"I shit on your protest," he said, and we couldn't help noting that he chose a group of all women to rant at. Big man. But his anger and fear are real and valid, if misdirected at a bunch of girls in red t-shirts. Strikes are not fun things. This one is causing a lot of people real pain.

On the plus side, I met another bunch of cool writers. I learned how research was done for THE PRESTIGE, how BROTHERHOOD outlines episodes, and what the COLD CASE room is like. Reason #152 I probably should have an iPhone: to look people up on IMDB discreetly so I can maybe form an intelligent question beyond, "Wow, is it going to be this hot all week?"

StrikeSnacks: Didn't note any specific food treats, but brought a giant plastic tub filled with boxes of pain relief cream, stickered with a nice message ("WGA... hope the strike ends soon. Apply this for relief after being on the picket line. Thanks for the words."), as well as little bags of picket line essentials like sunscreen, Chapstick, and pocket packs of Kleenex. Very cool!

Friday - Peppier today than it's been, both on the line and in honks from passersby, perhaps due to it being Friday, or the presence of two of WB's best and most energetic cheerleaders, Yvette and BooM. Yay! Go team WB! The high point was the arrival of picketers costumed as three of WB's most famous faces, Tweety, Sylvester, and Bugs Bunny. Their signs were character appropriate: "Sufferin' share-the-cash!" and "What's up, doc? Corporate profits!" A walking photo op.

I've decided that smiling and waving will be my reaction to any and all feedback from the crowd, even some guy sitting in the back of a truck cab doing that scratch-his-cheek-while-flipping-the-bird thing. What are you, 12?

By the way, I'm interested at how varying the reactions have been from Teamsters. That guy was a Teamster, as are those guys who ignore us as they drive past, as are those guys who cross the line but smile and honk and flash the Victory sign, as is one amazingly cool guy who not only refused to cross the line but has been working on it all day everyday at WB, holding a picket sign when he's not driving the WGA supply van or un/loading stuff. All Teamsters.

Tonight there was a dinner at our showrunner's house, and it was fun to see everyone all in the same place again, for a change, and not sweaty and sun-enervated in our red shirts. In the middle of dinner, one person got the email that the WGA and AMPTP will return to the negotiating table on the 26th. Cheers and huzzahs!

* * *

Monday - Did the 6am shift again. I don't mind the early shift, but it's totally screwing up my body clock. Despite the good news from Friday, today was rather subdued, as befits a weirdly foggy morning.

StrikeSnacks: Cupcakes and cookies from Sugar Cup bakery

Tuesday - Big rally in Hollywood! Alicia Keys, zillions of writers and other union reps, another sky banner (WGA - ON THE SAME PAGE).

StrikeSnacks: Tasty mini-scones from CAA. I hear there was cider too, but I didn't see it.

* * *

Off from the picket line today. Used the time to catch up on errands, pay bills (my 5-year-old car is almost paid off! Hear that, Shit-on-your-protest guy? Yeah, we writers all bathe in Cristal.) , and work a bit on some new specs, a DEXTER and a new pilot idea.

Tomorrow through Sunday, The Boyfriend is whisking me away to Las Vegas for some R&R. Yep, he's a keeper. I will attempt to find something vegetarian to eat for Thanksgiving, we'll go see Spamalot and the Star Trek attractions at the Hilton, and drink at lunchtime. Hey, when in faux Rome (or faux Venice or faux Paris or faux Egypt...).

As a final note, America's Second Harvest is one of my favorite charities, especially this time of year. It's appalling how many people go hungry in our land of plenty. It's easy to donate online, if you have the inclination.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We're Paid in Gold and Candy

From The Morning News, enjoy this Letter from Hollywood. What I find terrifying is the strong likelihood that the reality shows listed at the end are already in development.

That's right, AMPTP! Let's start talking again before you inflict BABY NATION and WHO WANTS TO EAT WHAT'S IN THIS BUCKET? on an innocent America.

Monday, November 12, 2007

You Can't Have It Both Ways, AMPTP

You can't cry uncertainty about the internet and then... well, just watch.

Strike Notes, Week 1 (and a smidge of Week 2)

Meant to post this weekend, but I was too frakkin' wiped out and in need of decompressing with The Boyfriend. Many, many blogs have posted insightful reports and perspective from the week, so expect nothing like that here. Cliff notes on the strike so far:

Monday - First day on the line! I show up with friend BooM at Warner Bros. Gate 2, hoist a picket sign, and get to it. I learn that hour 3 is about when you start to flag. Chanting of slogans, lots of general woo-hooing to the many many honks of support. My favorites slogan of the day is "Exterior! Street! Writers are striking!"

Tuesday - Some idiot in a Volvo speeds past, flipping off both sides of the street. It's easy to be an asshat at 30mph. I spend my post-picket time at home online, catching up with all the great coverage including United Hollywood's amazing video street team.

Wednesday - Today we got NOIZ-EE. Clacky hands, party horns, buckets-as-drums, surprisingly noisy small cowbell. I learn that if you have one of the latter, you will go approximately 6 minutes at a time without someone yelling "More cowbell!" from that SNL sketch.

Thursday - Today we got FED. A parade of generous food donations from all manner of supporters. Agents from Paradigm, mine and others, descended in their nice suits with trays of lattes in the p.m. for the shift change. Thanks, guys!

Got a huge boost when fans of MOONLIGHT arrived with pizzas, a great sign ("Vampire solidarity! Rah rah rah!") and welcome moral support. Very cool.

And, we learn that our assistants got laid off. Not very cool. But they've since joined us on the line. Very cool again.

Friday - Rally, with inspiring speakers I couldn't quite hear over the insufficient sound system and HUGE crowd, but which I caught up on via YouTube. You know, that crazy new internet thing.

I hafta say, between the blogs, YouTube, Cafe Press supporter swag, fan petitions, etc. etc. The AMPTP is getting PWNED online. It is fairly awesome.

A "ring girl" walks around the rally with a "Day 5" sign. Lots of great signs, actually. The one that read "Nick Counter hates puppies and babies" first read to me as "Nick Counter eats puppies and babies." Hell, for all we know, that's true.

More agency food love! Assistants from CAA circulated with churros, UTA's young turks made the rounds with energy bars, and the kids from WMA staffed not one but two bagel and coffee stations. Writers love carbs. There was also a Guaraki truck, and someone handing out water in bottles that looked like flasks. Or maybe it just looked like water...

Monday - New shift hours. I'm trying the O-dark-thirty shift W-F this week. May indulge my inner fangirl to visit the Barham gate of Universal tomorrow, where I believe the Battlestar Galactica peeps will be. A Vitaminwater truck came by to cheer us up at Gate 4 and left us some cold drinks. I have little calluses starting on my hands from my picket sign. I'm oddly proud of them.

A final thought for the AMPTP, courtesy of Spoon:

You got no time for the messenger,
got no regard for the thing that you don't understand,
you got no fear of the underdog,
that's why you will not survive.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

United Hollywood

Fab new blog, on the sidebar. Minty, refreshing fizz for all that AMPTP bullshit-induced dyspepsia.

WGA Strike LOLCat Theater #1

Starring Lassi, and courtesy of The Boyfriend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why We Fight

In case you haven't seen it, or don't yet grok what the WGA strike is all about, here's a helpful video:

Check out wgaamerica's page on YouTube for more, including video logs of the strike.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


While there are promising rumblings about the negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP, the strike is still on. Unless word comes down otherwise, I will be joining many of my brother and sister writerfolk at Warner Bros. on the picket line, starting tomorrow morning.

The WGA meeting Thursday night was something else, and not just because I was thisclose to writers whose work inspired me to become a writer in the first place. There were about 3000 of us, and the amped-up vibe of solidarity was palpable. Also cool was the college-reunion feel to the thing, as writers who hadn't seen each other since previous projects had a chance to catch up. We really felt like a community that night, and I deeply hope that's the feeling that we'll carry into the days, weeks, years ahead, strike or no.

The energy at work on Friday? Odd. Half manic DEFCON-1 as we pushed hard to get work in under the wire, half gallows humor, bittersweet, that reminded me of nothing so much as when a company goes through layoffs, complete with farewell hugs and the carrying out of office personal items in boxes and bags.

My show, MOONLIGHT, is on the bubble and it's unclear what a protracted strike would mean for us. I'm worried that the show might get canceled once the shot episodes have all aired. I'm wondering if we'll all get fired off force majeure even if the show isn't canceled. I'm sad at possibly not working with those terrific writers, staff, cast, and crew again, all of whom would feel the effects of a strike. I don't know how hard it will be for me to get my next job when the dust settles. I don't know how hard it will be for my aspiring writer friends to get their first. I'm disappointed at letting down our fans, who love the show and are really upset at the thought of it going away, as they follow the strike news with as much interest as industry insiders. Oh, and I'd prefer not to burn through my savings.

But honestly, all those, while valid, are short-term and largely self-directed concerns and I recognize them as such.

The big picture is a fair agreement for all writers now and in the future.

So I'll be out in Burbank tomorrow in my sneaks, picketing. Can you come join us? You can, says the WGA.

Eyes on the prize. Stay strong.

*At work on Friday, we were joking about lolcat-style picket signs, should we be allowed to write our own. E.g. I CAN HAS FAIR AND REASONABLE CONTRACT? And REZIDUALZ - DO WANT. For the six people driving past who would understand? Hilarious.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On the Scene of THE WIRE

Courtesy of Running With My Eyes Closed comes a tip about a fantastic New Yorker article on THE WIRE.

If you watch the show, you'll get insight into how the production's run, how the actors work with the writers, how the show's creators met and what their backgrounds are, and what they envisioned when embarking on THE WIRE.

If you haven't seen the show, OH FOR GOD'S SAKE. Rent it on DVD now and get watching.

THE WIRE is unforgettable, epic television. Sound boring? Hells no. It somehow manages to be funny, damning, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Authentic to the human condition, in other words, providing a literal city's worth of stories with surprising twists and unvarnished endings -- no network cop show, this. It really watches like a novel, so start from season 1. You'll have plenty of time to get caught up before the final season airs in January.

Oh, and David Simon's next project? A series about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans. I am so there.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tools o' the Trade

I'm always interested to find out the different ways writers work, particularly the outline process.

One writer friend has a suh-weet office setup with a big freestanding whiteboard, which I covet (I'm looking at you, BooM). Other friends swear by index cards, which don't really work for me as I have no place to put them.

I don't have an office at home, just a corner of the living room, so my system could not be lower-tech: Post-It stickies on a wall. But it works great.

They're super-easy to rearrange when nailing down the flow of scenes, and for me psychologically easier to discard than index cards -- just crumple, toss (into the recycling bin), and rewrite. The small size forces economy and clarity, which admittedly doesn't stop me from cramming more detail than I really need for a preliminary outline into those little paper squares. But I try to limit myself to the location, a quick few words on the content and purpose of the scene, who's in it, maybe a shred of dialogue.

Once I have the outline settled, I take the stickies over to my computer and turn them into sluglines and outliney paragraphs in Final Draft or Screenwriter, then put them back up on the wall to map any changes as stuff shifts around. Which it inevitably does. I haven't yet played much with using different colored stickies to track A, B, and C stories, but I think it'd work well.

The one downside is that the stickies are not particularly transportable, and I haven't found a good digital system. I know a writer who uses cells in a spreadsheet like index cards or my stickie notes -- I may try that next.

The card view in screenwriting programs doesn't work for me because I want to see the whole episode at a glance. It's easy to tell an act is running long when the stickies are close enough to the floor that the cat can pull one off to chew. And outlining programs (or even just Word docs) give a too-linear view and for me suggest too much detail too early.

At work, we use a mix of whiteboarding and corkboard-and-index-cards when breaking a story. The initial ideas, arc beats, etc. go on the whiteboard, and when the scenes are a little more baked we make cards for them and pin them up on the corkboard in act order.

What system the room uses seems to reflect the preference of the showrunner -- we had a change in leadership, and went from all-whiteboard to the whiteboard-then-cards mix.

What's your system?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Phil Klemmer Interview on TWoP

Television Without Pity's posted an in-depth interview with Phil Klemmer (CHUCK, VERONICA MARS). Lots of behind the scenes info on breaking stories, the life of a TV writer, how Phil got into the biz and more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Odds, Ends

A few tidbits:

MAD MEN was picked up by AMC for another season. Fantastic news! It's one of my favorite new series. Check it out if you haven't yet.

A blog I discovered recently that you must read: Kay Reindl's Seriocity. Kay's a working TV writer, hilarious and smart and opinionated. Also, you remember that story about someone getting hired for a show after the producers read that person's criticism of the show on a fan board? That was Kay. She knows much.

Sam and Jim Go to Hollywood are back after a longish hiatus with a new podcast, wherein they have the enviable problem of lots of cool opportunities and not quite enough time.

Oh, and fall has arrived in Southern California. Summer's probably not done with us yet -- another wave of heat or two seems inevitable -- but there's that nice nip in the air at long last. And fall means the new TV season is here, of course... more on that later.

Finally, here's a nifty compilation of some of the movies Los Angeles and environs have starred in, complete with zooming satellite views and life-to-film transition shots. Tip o' the Dodgers cap to Scott the Reader, on whose blog I found this!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dog Days

(Thanks, Shawna, for the nudge... a month since the last post. Stale Hell indeed.)

Remember when summer TV used to suck? Time was I'd catch up on my overflowing Netflix queue in the hot days between spring finales and fall premieres, but no longer. Noooo. Stupid cable, with your ENTOURAGE and WEEDS. And THE CLOSER, RESCUE ME, and BURN NOTICE. And THE MINOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF JACKIE WOODMAN and ROBOT CHICKEN. And MAD MEN.

And for reasons I can't explain, my usual aversion to reality TV has mellowed a bit this summer. HELL'S KITCHEN, LAST COMIC STANDING, and ON THE LOT are now on the TiVo, which is really the best way to watch those shows: fast-forward through the boring stuff and head right for the meat. Don't get me wrong, there's precious little meat (ON THE LOT particularly so).

But it's not all TV for me. I'm still working through the Netflix backlog-- on back episodes of THE WIRE. Heh.

And you? What're you watching now, if anything?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Is Whiskers Writing That Novel While You're at Work?

A (patient) cat in Germany has been given a digital camera collar by his owners, which documents his kitteh travels over the day, sort of like Justin TV for cats. Cool stuff.

Of course, if my cat had one of these it would all be shots of the corner of the couch, with occasional close-ups of her food bowl. Maybe an action shot of her yarfing up a hairball.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Into the Room

It's been a good couple of weeks for the scribosphere. For myself, I just started as a staff writer on a new network drama scheduled for the fall season.

The EPs and the other writers have amazing track records and are all smart, friendly, creative, and funny, which makes for a dream room. I'm thrilled, to say the least. Also grateful. And lucky.

I won't be posting about it much -- as you may've noticed, I prefer to keep mum about my work, discretion being the better part of valor or whatevs -- but I will try to pull together a few thoughts about things that I found helpful in getting here from there. Be sure to check out the sidebar for far more seasoned voices than mine!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Another County Heard From

A terrific new blog about TV writing has launched, Lisa Klink's What It's Like. Loads of helpful, entertaining information from a working writer with a lot of experience. It's in my newsreader, and should be in yours as well.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ziggurat Con

Gamer troops stationed in Iraq are throwing their own con:
When President Bush ordered troops to Iraq, he probably never imagined that he would be ultimately be responsible for what very well could be the very first D&D convention/game day ever held in a war zone. Ziggurat Con, being held June 9 from 1200 to 2100 hours at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, is open to all allied military personnel and civilian contractors in Iraq.
Check out Gamegrene for the full story. There's even info on how to donate to the event.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Primetime Fall Schedule

Whew. The upfront dust is still settling, but The Futon Critic has the day-by-day on the fall TV lineup, as announced by the nets this week in New York. Ladies and gentlemen, start your TiVOs!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

NBC Pickup News

Yes, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS will be back next season! Also, some pilot pickup nooz: CHUCK, JOURNEYMAN, THE BIONIC WOMAN, and LIFE.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Panic Now, Avoid the Rush

The upfronts are next week, sealing the fate of new and returning shows alike. A few new links to check out:

  • Roundup of the pilot buzz so far from the Hollywood Reporter

  • Nifty upfront guide from the Futon Critic posse

  • Also from the Futon Critic, a speculative and in their own words "probably full of crap" buzz index on pilots in development

    Place yer bets, ladies and gents!
  • Friday, May 04, 2007

    Clam Chowder

    Jane Espenson has published a number of helpful posts on "clams," played-out jokes and phrases long past funny.

    Penny Arcade offers one take on a common clam (click to see a larger version):

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    And the Race Is On

    Nikki Finke sums up the rumors, buzz, and speculation so far on the current crop of primetime pilots for fall.


    Drape Stars Hollow in crepe, GILMORE GIRLS has been canceled.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Brave New World

    Amusing sort-of-to-scale-map of online communities. Click to see more readable version:

    Monday, April 30, 2007

    He Ain't Heavy, He's My Daemon

    Tip o' the hat to Zen of Design for finding this cool personality quiz for THE GOLDEN COMPASS.

    Special props to the quizmakers for including a nifty feature where your friends rate how good a match your daemon is, which could lead to a new animal being chosen. Pelloneus was an Osprey when I posted this...

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    TV Day Presented by the Writers Guild Foundation

    A nifty Saturday seminar is coming in May, with some kickass panelists and sessions.


    Panelists (subject to availability): Peter Casey (Cheers, Frasier), Joe Cohen (CAA agent), Damon Lindelof (Crossing Jordan, Lost), Brannon Braga (Star Trek, Threshold), Jan Oxenberg (Chicago Hope, Cold Case), Jay Kogen (Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle), Chris Brancato (X-Files, Boomtown), Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life, Once and Again), Robin Schiff (Party of Five, The Bad Girl's Guide), Bill Chais (Family Law, Shark) and Alexa Junge (Friends, The West Wing, Big Love) with many more to come.

    WHERE: WGAw headquarters, 7000 West Third Street (at Fairfax ) Los Angeles , 90048.

    WHEN: Saturday, May 19, 2007, 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

    $150, general public; $125, WGA members; and $110-full-time students with I.D.

    A light breakfast, snacks, box lunch and an evening wine and cheese reception are included in the registration fee.
    I'll be there. Who else?

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Panthers Win State!

    Dear NBC,

    Please renew FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

    Thank you.

    (Missed an episode? Hell, the whole season? Catch them all online at

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Death, Where Is Thy Sting? In Vanguard, Apparently

    Damion over at Zen of Design has a thoughtful post up about death penalty design in MMOs.

    Having started out playing Diku- and LPMUDs and losing a painfully hard-won level with each death, I come down firmly on Damion's side of the death debate.

    City of Heroes/Villains and Guild Wars handle this the best of the current crop of games, in my opinion. Death (sorry, "defeat") in CoH costs you XP in the form of debt that you have to make up before you can make further progress toward your next level.

    Guild Wars is better yet, docking your stats by a percentage that you can work off. You feel this change in subsequent battles, especially if you've racked up a lot of deaths and your health bar is half what it usually is, but you haven't been materially prevented from progressing in the game or enjoying it.

    The above marks me as a casual player of MMOs, I realize. I just don't have time to play more than casually these days, but you know what? Even when I was playing hardcore, corpse runs were no fun. They were the anti-fun. They provided unnecessary friction to the play experience, and challenge and friction aren't the same.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Another 1st Down?

    NBC has ordered six more scripts for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, possibly an indicator that the show will be renewed. It may be too early to trot out the cheerleaders, but score this as good news.

    MEDIUM got a six-script order as well, which might point to renewal but as THR hints also could suggest pre-strike stockpiling.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    Crunchy Development Goodness, Right To Your Inbox

    The Futon Critic now lets you add their development updates as custom email alerts.

    Who's getting cast? What's getting picked up? How many zillions of dollars was that POD? Look no further. Handy dandy!

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Did They Watch Their Own Movie?

    I've read that the producers of 300 were "surprised" that the movie has been drawing in so many women.

    300 is 85% glistening, jaw-droppingly cut manly men doing manly men things, and features a strong-willed queen (Gorgo).

    The movie also has fans in the gay community, another "surprise" audience.

    300 is 85% glistening, jaw-droppingly cut manly men doing manly men things, and features a strong-willed queen (Xerxes).

    Tonight We Dine in Heck

    For the three of you who haven't seen this yet (I apparently was the fourth), here is 300, the PG version.

    This... is... CAKE TOOOOOOWN!

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Writers Co-Op

    From The Thinking Writer comes a tip to Variety's article on John Wells' fascinating, just-launched venture at Warner Bros. Participating screenwriters will forgo their upfront paychecks in favor of a cut of the gross, roles as producers, and writers' rights (writes?) such as ownership of the rewrite process and other production decisions.

    Interesting experiment? Utopian folly? A sign of things to come?

    If anyone can pull this off, it's Wells, co-founders Nick Kazan ("Reversal of Fortune") and Tom Schulman ("Dead Poets Society"), and their posse.

    Check out this who's who: Ron Bass ("Rain Man"), Henry Bean ("Internal Affairs"), David Benioff ("Troy"), Scott Frank ("Out of Sight"), Robert Nelson Jacobs ("Chocolat"), Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise"), Richard LaGravanese ("The Fisher King"), Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams"), Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost"), Stephen Schiff ("The Deep End of the Ocean"), Ed Solomon ("Men in Black"), Dana Stevens ("For Love of the Game"), Robin Swicord ("Memoirs of a Geisha"), Michael Tolkin ("The Player"), Rafael Yglesias ("Fearless"), and the writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel ("City Slickers").

    Excelsior, folks!

    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Off to GDC

    I'm up in San Francisco for the rest of the week for the Game Developers Conference, to catch such sessions as the panel Ted Elliott is headlining on writing across multiple platforms.

    Happy gaming and writing, all!

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    Complications Ensue Feed Down?

    Is anyone else having trouble with the feed to Complications Ensue? All of a sudden my newsreader's latest post is from 2/2, and Alex has clearly been posting since then.

    Weirder yet, I'm pretty sure some posts since 2/2 have appeared in the reader, but are no longer there...

    Monday, February 26, 2007


    About damn time, Academy.

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    WGA Award Winners

    The writers of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, THE DEPARTED, THE OFFICE, THE SOPRANOS, and UGLY BETTY took home the gold tonight, in the form of the book-birdy-pen thing that is the Writers Guild Award statuette.

    Full list of winners here.

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    SLINGS & ARROWS Season the Third

    Sound hautboys! The Canadian series SLINGS & ARROWS returns to the Sundance Channel starting Sunday, February 18, at 8pm. On the menu for our dysfunctional troupers: KING LEAR.

    Exeunt, pursued by a bear, to set TiVos.

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    Variety Pilot Watch

    What will you be watching on TV next year? Check out the current crop of pilots for a peek into the future.

    "Zombie dramedy"?

    I am so there.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Sam & Jim Got Staffed!

    If you've been following the adventures of writers Sam and Jim as they go to Hollywood, you'll be thrilled to know that they're on staff now at THE DEAD ZONE.

    Their first podcast since starting work there is up now, and provides an invaluable peek at a newbie TV writer's first experiences inside The Room.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    ROME Vincit Omnes

    Or vincit most, anyway.

    I started watching season 1 of ROME on DVD a little while ago, planning to take in just an episode or two as tonal research for a new project I've started.

    Well, an episode or two of this fantastic show wasn't enough, and I slurped down that first season in time for the season 2 opener last week.

    It's amazing, Shakespearean stuff, as Alex Epstein has commented on a few times.

    I particularly love how the writers imbue the characters with a principal trait that makes them who they are, and, as in Will's work, can be their downfall (some SPOILERS follow...).

    For Luscious-- sorry, Lucius, it's his honor. It resides like a hard, battle-tested stone at his very center, and wins him respect and position in Rome but also costs him his wife and family. Not to mention the chance to knock sandals with Cleopatra.

    For Titus, it's his easy skill with violence. It makes him a great soldier, but also keeps him, fatally, from finding his way in peacetime. It allows him to fall into seamy underworld assassinations and casual, unthinking murder.

    For Caesar, of course, it's his pride. For Atia, I think it's her fear of being alone, which comes out as political and social ambition and her fierce if often twisted love for her children.

    The treatment of Marc Antony's speech was brilliant, as Jane Espenson notes, and I also loved the "Et tu, Brute?" moment during the assassination. You're waiting for Caesar to say "And you, Brutus?" or something like it, and-- he doesn't. He opens his mouth, and Brutus, tormented, relates later that he thought he heard Caesar say something, but really the accusation was only in the dying man's eyes and face.

    I'm very sorry that this is the last season for ROME, but apparently according to interviews that'll allow for some balls-out storycraft. Not that the show's pulled any punches (or gladii) so far.


    Non sequitur postscript from The Boyfriend, who's watching BLOODRAYNE on TV as I write this: "Uwe Boll must be stopped."

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    HEROES Picked Up

    Excelsior! THE OFFICE and MY NAME IS EARL were also on NBC's shopping list.

    In other news, a scuba-diving cat. Seriously.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    The Name Game

    You want to do everything possible to make your characters memorable and compelling to readers and audiences, so why cram your narrative worlds with Johns and Susans?

    Of course, you can go too far with this. I remember seeing a Julianne Moore movie in which her name was Telly.

    Telly? Isn't that a muppet?

    A device I often use is to take some key aspect of the character or their place in the story and let that suggest the name. Hell, any trick that's good enough for Dickens, the Restoration dramatists, and the makers of Max Payne is good enough for me.

    Some examples from my scripts:

    (Caveat: No disparagement meant for people who have these names but not these characteristics!)

    Val, short for Valerie. Horror heroine. Valiant, valkyrie.

    Bridget. A two-fer, since this character is inflexible (rigid, stringent) and sexually cold (frigid).

    Lance. Easygoing guy, loose where Bridget is not. Also a little dreamy, not very grounded in real life.

    Fay. Seductive world traveler. More dangerous than she first appears, like faerie, Morgan Le Fay.

    Roger. A scoundrelly, womanizing Englishman. A play on the British slang meaning of the word.

    Galen. A twist on Gawain, the knight. The character is honorable, noble, and plays fantasy games.

    Neva. A similar twist on Guenevere.

    Abigail. Buttoned-up, prim, religious.

    Reyna. Powerful CEO. Reign, and reine is French for queen.

    Clayton. A man of substance, figuratively and literally, but also weak, feet of clay.

    This works with surnames and full names as well: I named a character Tim Pritchard because that suggested he was a little untrustworthy and kind of a dick, which he was. And Palmer Sykes just sounds like a child molester, doesn't he?

    Other techniques...

    Many BATTLESTAR GALACTICA characters have a regular-sounding name spiced with something more fantastical, often pulled from ancient history or mythology. Karl Agathon, Kara Thrace, Sharon Valerii, Gaius Baltar. A neat way to suggest sci fi without all those damn apostrophes that apparently we'll all be using in the future. Qapla'!

    And for horror stories or thrillers, I'm reminded of the Bill Cosby routine where you should name your kid something that yells well down the block, that is, doesn't end in a consonant. Compare the bellowing-into-the-haunted-basement possibilities of "FRANK!" and "BILLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

    What are your own methods for naming?

    Wednesday, January 03, 2007


    Mac-vs.-PC style "ad" for There and Second Life.

    The comparison to Macs and PCs, though superficial, works fairly well. The two worlds do a lot of the same stuff -- user-generated assets and events, virtual currencies -- but There is prettier, less flexible and customizable, and has less market share. Second Life offers more customization, is more popular, and erm, is ugly. In a number of senses of the word. ;)