Friday, May 14, 2010


Those of you who have been visiting lately...thank you! We're not dead.

But, we have been on a brief hiatus. Trips back East. Back back West (yes, we refuse to say 'out west).

Rest assured, however, that we'll be back.

Well, you were clearly resting assured anyway. So I guess...continue to sleep peaceful nights.

We'll be back soon.

Until then, we're going to post random life tricks that are awesome. Check them out and your life will be easier.

TIP #1: If you use the phrase "I'm not gonna lie," stop using it. You seem like a douche. You're welcome.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Background Noise

In writing any kind of script, but comedy especially, one of the most undervalued tricks in keeping a scene interesting is bringing the background to life. It’s kind of what Blake Snyder means by ‘putting the pope in the pool.’ But we say, take it further. Don’t just put the pope in the pool. Put the pope in the pool, surround him with eccentric pool floats and a precocious kid that keeps repeating the same swear word.

Snyder advocates putting the pope in the pool as a tool for disguising exposition. But even when you have snappy dialogue happening in the foreground, there’s no reason your scene can’t be enhanced by some ridiculous setting. If your characters are having a raunchy, hilarious conversation about anal suppositories, don’t make it happen in the privacy of their home. Make it happen in a crowded McDonald’s that’s overrun with a middle school gymnastics team. Or make it happen at a church get together. Don’t shy away from raising the stakes because it’s easier just to write two people talking.

Here’s an example:


Dick and Jane wait in a long line in the crowded bistro. PETA stickers and happy animal faces adorn the walls. A HAPPY CHILD pets her dog in the corner.

How was I supposed to know, Jane?

I don’t know. Common sense? Normal human instinct.
The use of your eyes, maybe?

I used my eyes. It didn’t look real.

In what way did it not look real? Its fur? Its cute little nose?

A few RESTAURANT PATRONS chat nearby.

Did you know it’s National Dog month?

Yeah. I’ve adopted three puppies already today.

Look, I’m sorry, okay? Why did you bring me here anyway?
Torture? Guilt trip?

I’m a vegetarian, Dick. In case you forgot.

How could I forget? Huh? Maybe none of this would’ve
happened if you weren’t always breathing down my neck.
It makes me very tense. I get jumpy.

God, I love dogs.

Please, Dick. Don’t blame this on me. I didn’t pull the trigger.

Your father is not usually a joking man. When he said target practice,
I thought he meant it literally.

Well, good work. Excellent judgment.

I didn’t mean to shoot your dog in the face, Jane! I’ve never
even used a gun before!

Aghast Patrons stare in horror as Dick panics and hurries out. The Happy Child bursts into tears. Jane calls after him.

We’ve had that dog for ten years, Dick. She survived two car accidents!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greenberg's Hot Tub is Outta My League!


So we've been out of the loop for a while. Mostly just watching movies.

This is what we've seen lately:

She's Out Of My Leage - Ugh. This had potential, but ultimately fell short in the meatiest dramatic moments. Contrived conflict WILL sink a comedy script - and this movie is proof. Up until that 'all is lost' scene, I was pretty much on board, floating happily along, getting what I expected. So lesson: Don't underestimate the importance of getting your DRAMA right in a comedy.

our rating: 2.8/5

Hot Tub Time Machine - Better than League, by a lot. Realy good bits in this movie. And this movie is also an example of a good concept that is executed relatively well. It's not perfect, and there are some definite holes in the plot (especially towards the end) but it was a lot of fun.

I don't have the catalog of john hughes movies memorized, but I'm not sure if an expertise in them would have helped or hurt. on one hand - it's nice to really get references. On the other - I doubt this lives up to the standard Hughes set.

our rating: 3.4/5

Greenberg - It has quite a nice look to it, but the main character, as you've probably heard, is SO UNLIKABLE. That, and he really does not have any redeeming characteristics. Thus, the love story does not really make any sense. Why does this friendly, sweet girl keep returning to Greenberg? Clearly, good girls go for shitty guys all the time, but there is always some sort of reason! And here - no reason.

That, and it really can be a challenge to watch someone so unlikable for so long.

All that said, it was a pretty nice character study once you get past all that. Interesting enough, and one conversation about the problems with the emerging into adulthood GEN X was particularly riveting (cough cough...hate myself...cough cough).


So perhaps that will do as a blog post for now.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Screenwriting and March Madness

Watching March Madness, I realized that there is a really huge connection between this tourney and good screenplays.


For every one of these teams, the stakes are high in every single game. Thus, teams always try their hardest to win.

but the really brilliant part of the tournament is THE BRACKETS. NCAA brackets are to tv sports what an active protagonist, or tons of conflict are to a screenplay.

The Brackets are what make otherwise uninteresting everyday events completely riveting. Normally, we wouldn't care which of two random teams won a game, but because the tournament stakes are so high, and because we have our little brackets to KEEP TRACK of progress, we are watching all weekend long.

So in your screenplay, keep the stakes as high as possible, and always give your reader a way to KEEP TRACK OF PROGRESS!

If your hero is breaking the girl out of a prison, then let us know exactly what that will take before he does it. "okay, take out guard one, blow a whole through the ceiling, drop down on wire, deactivate alarm, and free the girl." That way we're there with him all along, we can feel exactly how he's feeling. "Nice...this is going smoothly or...FUCK there are three guards, not one!"

Alright, I've gotta get back to CBS. I could be missing something!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


When you’re working on something, anything really, but in this case a script, a way to know that you’re doing it right is to write and revise every scene until they click. And I mean really click, and right away you can totally feel it. It’s not imperceptible in any way, like maybe this works now. No, you know that something works because you’ve ratcheted up to it by building tension, and story, and character and then CLICK. It’s immensely satisfying, like the sound it makes when there’s a crick in your neck and you turn your head and your vertebrae pop back into place. Or the sensation of shaking the water out of your ear after being in the ocean.

I guess kind of what I’m saying here is that as a writer, you don’t feel right until you have that CLICK in your writing. It’s like there’s something off balance in your world, and you can’t feel normal until you know you’ve fixed it, until you know you’ve really written something to its full potential. In a way it’s almost like being an addict…you have to have that feeling of satisfaction in your work or you’ll go crazy with frustration. Feeling that click is knowing that you can write, and write well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Screenplay too long?: What to cut...Part Deux

There are tons of posts around (including on this blog) about how to shorten a screenplay that's too long. After recently being told our 101 page comedy should be 90 (YES. 90. Things are getting that short) I've embarked on a shortening journey.

There are certain inalienable truths of shortening: It's a pain in the ass. It's not fun. It takes a lot of concentration and determination. But finally, it has to be done.

So I thought we could share some tips that I haven't seen around the internet and maybe also comment on those tips.

First and foremost: Don't use the TIGHT feature on Final Draft. That's cheating and you'll end up looking like a total noob.

Here are some common practices:

1) Clean up widows and orphans. Don't let any one word of dialogue get a whole line.
2) Look for big chunks of dialogue. Reword thing so they are shorter.
3) Same for action paragraphs.

Here's what I've found useful while scanning our screenplay:

1) Look for blocks of action tacked onto the end of your scenes. Do you need this at all? Probably it is too detailed. We don't need to know how someone walks away. just that they walk away at all.

2) Look for LONE lines of action between dialogue. Can this be tacked on to earlier action paragraphs or deleted all together? Each of these takes 3 LINES in your screenplay. And it's probably not worth it.

3) Look at ALL YOU WRYLIES. And delete them. Then read through again and see if you needed them at all.

4) CUT FREELY. Cut broad swaths from your screenplay. Don't be afraid. If you miss a joke, you can always put it back in, and chances are you'll forget it was ever there. Make them scenes trim and fit, yo!

5) Look for ellipses. Are they really needed. Are they the character hesitating, or you hesitating as you wrote?

6) Do you have really long character names? Comb through and see if maybe characters are referred to by name too often (either in action or in dialogue).

That's all we can think of for now that isn't covered in depth elsewhere.

Oh! And it's been said so many times before, but it needs repeating - get into your scenes as early as possible, and get out as late as possible!

Dick and Jane

Monday, March 15, 2010

Screenwriting is Simple...right?


So you’ve got an idea. Say your logline is, After nuclear warfare destroys much of existing society, mutant rabbits must battle with mutant turtles to determine the future leaders of Earth. You’ve got a hilarious ending planned, in which the lead mutant rabbit challenges the lead mutant turtle to a foot race, and the whole script is going to be brilliant.

Then you start to run into some little problems. You want to have a character that acts as a spy, but you can’t come up with a unique ‘traitor-villain’ on either the rabbit or turtle side. So you invent a Wall-E inspired cockroach character who passes information for food. Why, though, is this cockroach the only cockroach survivor? It doesn’t make a lot of sense, so you create a whole army of mutant cockroach survivors. So, then there’s the problem of for whom the cockroaches are fighting? You figure that logically, the cockroaches would have their own agenda, so you create a separate rebellion subplot, in which the cockroaches are trying to sabotage both sides of the war.

Okay, so that’s still simple enough right? Cockroaches vs. turtles vs. rabbits. Fine. But then you start to think about relationships, and you realize you don’t have any real character bonds, let alone a romance. So you ask yourself, what if one of the rabbits likes one of the turtles? And in comes your romantic subplot. You figure you can add a lot of tension if the lead rabbit’s daughter loves the lead turtle’s son, but when one of the cockroaches spots the lovers intertwined, disaster ensues.

You’ve got a lot of conflict going on now. But that’s fine. It’s good to have a lot of conflict. Until you come to the problem of resolving it. Unless everybody dies, somebody has to win this war. And defeat the cockroaches. And reunite the separated lovers. And the cockroaches have really weakened both sides, but you can’t have the cockroaches win! So you decide that the turtles, who really are the good guys, find a mutant plant that gives them impossible strength, so they can defeat the rabbits. But…what’s to keep the rabbits from getting a hold of the same plant? How can you make it exclusive to the turtles?

So…you make it an aquatic plant that the rabbits can’t get to. But…what about the cockroaches? They may not be excellent swimmers, but they could survive underwater long enough to steal some plant from a turtle. My god, this is getting complicated. And what if the turtle and rabbit versions of Romeo and Juliet both eat a ton of the plant so that they can put an end to the war once and for all and make freakish mutant rurtle or tabbit babies together? What language will the turtles and rabbits speak so they are able to understand each other? Will there be subtitles?

This is a problem we often encounter: in setting up a lot of conflict, we set up a need for many, many solutions. And when the solutions don’t come easily, we create a new element that comes with its own set of difficulties to make the solutions work. But then we have to solve a new problem, and so on…So, the key is, simplify. Make your rabbits fight your turtles, make the turtles have the obvious defense of their shells, and so they win. The teenage mutant turtle and his teenage mutant rabbit girlfriend run away together and live happily ever after, and a giant shoe falls from a telephone wire onto the cockroach camp, so they’re out of the picture. The end. Sounds simple enough. Right?

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