Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writer Levels

I've been thinking lately about where I stand in my writing.  Then I realized I shouldn't compare.
But I did think of something that may be of use to you writers out there.  It's a basic Writer Level comparison chart.  Well it's not really a chart, but it's a list of levels that could easily be made in to a chart.  But I don't have the time.  Either way, the information is there.

The basic levels for writers that we use in Television are:

  • Baby
  • Staff Writer
  • Story Editor
  • Executive Story Editor
  • Co-Producer
  • Producer
  • Co-Executive Producer
  • Executive Producer
  • Showrunner

Consulting Producers are thrown in there sometimes as well.  The consultants are usually higher level than producer, but they don't want to give away profits on the show like an EP.

Features don't have a level system like this, but they do have increasing levels of pay depending on how much you made on your last writing job and how much the studio believes your work is worth.

I thought of a few levels myself, some that can help paint a better picture of how the work and dedication that goes into becoming a full-time TV or Film writer can pay off.  Here they are:

  • Novice Writer: Anyone from those just starting out to those who have written a great deal but haven't been staffed on a show or been given a professional writing job.  No this does not include Independent films unless you win awards and/or get wide distribution for the film.
  • Beginning Writer: You've landed a staff writer position or you've sold a spec screenplay.  You have officially been put on the map as a writer worth your business.  You can now continue to work your way up the ladder.
  • Intermediate Writer: You have been on staff for a while, maybe you're a Producer (TV only) by now.  You have a few pilots or features in the works that you're trying to sell around town.  You know the game and it doesn't surprise you.  Writers at this level have been known to secure Blind Script Deals or feature writing assignments.
  • Advanced Writer: You've sold one or more pilots.  You may have even had your pilot go to series.  One of your features has made it all the way to the theaters and you have retained credit (believe it or not, this is a very hard thing to do).  People now recognize you as a writer by trade and you might be hassled by novices after a Q&A sometime.
  • Expert Writer: You have been a showrunner, you have had several features made, you are an officially recognized (by IMDb and others) writer.  Congratulations.  Now good luck getting your next project off the ground (because your neighbors cousin just made millions selling his stupid YouTube channel to MTV).

It seems that an individual can jump from Novice to higher levels depending on success, but this is a very hard thing to do.  Everything in this town is about popularity.  It's just the way it is.

Maybe you can talk to your neighbor's cousin for a job on his YouTube show?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A mean old miser with is given a second chance at overcoming a cruel afterlife. During the night of Christmas Eve, he is visited by a series of ghosts that show him how different Christmases influenced him in the past, how the present world around him is more than he knows, and how bleak the future can be if he doesn’t make a change.

This tale has been hashed and rehashed on the big and little screen over and over again. To be honest, I’m not sure I will ever care to see another version for the rest of my life (especially not the new Jim Carrey version). However, reading the original tale is something completely different. It was a quick and wonderful read.  It is also really scary.  Surprisingly more haunting than I had thought.
A few times Dickens would go off topic with describing an event or an object in detail that has absolutely no meaning to us in our day, at those times it became difficult to focus on the reading. For the most part they were few and didn’t take away from the enjoyment for too long.

Just in case you were wondering, The Muppets did my favorite adaptation of the book. You may agree or disagree, but that film influenced me in many ways.
This tale from Dickens breathes of life and love. It gives you an overall sense of enjoyment for the Christmas season as well as the love and affection of those around you. Dickens was a master of the written word, and this short tale has had such an impact in the world that it is worthy of emulation. It was enjoyable if not only for the sake of knowing his words in a more intimate manner.

What I Learned:
Learn the power and effectiveness of words to get your point across more effectively. Describe things in the greatest of detail without boring your audience. Learn a grand vocabulary so you may use it for the benefit of your tale.

Suspense comes from within our character’s reactions. You can describe a thing in detail to the reader, but it’s in the character that we become panicked, queasy and stressed. Use their emotions and actions as a tool against the audience to make them uneasy.

Back on the Wagon

It's been a while since I've posted some regular items to the blog.  I've added a few things here and there for the past few weeks, but nothing of substance.

I just posted my book review of Bone, and soon I will post my review of A Christmas Carol (that's how behind I have become).  I am still very much interested in completing my list of 52 books, but because of several events as of late the schedule has been thrown out the window.  I was doing well for the most part, but unforeseen circumstances can be a detriment to the most avid timekeeper.

With the help of my buddy Spencer, I am working on weekly goals for writing.  This includes my blog, so to answer to him I am working on being a better blog writer.  This isn't an apology or a resolution, just an FYI to the two or three people that enjoy reading the nuggets of inspiration up here.

BONE by Jeff Smith

Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume by Jeff Smith

Three Bone cousins are kicked out of Boneville and stumble upon a world they never knew existed. Their presence in this magical land awakens an evil that had long been forgotten and starts the course of a war that involves a royal family, dragons, and the fate of the entire world.

At first glance I wasn’t quite sure what this whole thing was about. What are these weird bone creatures and what’s with this weird land? It was all strange and confusing, especially when friends tried to pitch it to me.

After the first few pages, I was absolutely hooked. It is so wonderfully written and beautifully drawn. There are elements of Disney, Bill Waterson, and The Lord of the Rings influenced throughout the work. I’m really grateful I picked up the full epic, because each book ends with a gut-wrenching mystery, compelling me to keep reading. It is definitely worth your time, and it is most definitely worth the $25 you will spend on Amazon to get a copy of the full epic. I highly recommend.
What I Learned:
Mystery is best revealed piece by piece. End each scene or act on a strong mystery and keep the audience guessing.

Also, start your story as late as possible for it to make sense. Don’t worry about the audience being able to know your characters because they will know them through their words and actions. Just get into the story as late as you can and leave as soon as it is finished.

Up next: A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thought you should know...

Chindo-gu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, chindo-gu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever.
via Wikipedia

Now go to this website and view the catalog:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Writing Goals 2011

Hey folks, it's that time again.  Time to discuss how you did last year and how you intend to do better now.

I myself have done fairly well this past year.  My goal was simple in 2010 (as was my childish understanding of this business one year ago... oh silly, naive me).  Last year I wanted to complete five (5) full-length screenplays - also accepting two complete pilots to count towards a screenplay.

Here's how I did (in sequential order):

  1. THE GILLIAM EFFECT (co-written with Spencer)
  2. SEVEN GLADIATORS (co-written with Spencer)
  4. DINNER TIME (co-written with Spencer)
  5. LOST & FOUND Pilot
  6. BAND OF THIEVES Pilot (co-written with Spencer)
  7. SPIRITS Pilot
And that doesn't include all the really great projects that I pitched, outlined, and threw out mid-keystroke.

For 2011 - I want to go on record with my goals so I can look back and cry about not fulfilling expectations as I did last year.  Here's the lineup:
  • 2 Features - One with my bud Jacob Parker and another with my oft-times writing partner Spencer Holt.  Actually, maybe three if I decide to do Scriptapalooza this year.
  • 3 Pilots - Two Drama (I'm already outlining one drama with an element of sci-fi).  One comedy (probably with Spencer).
  • 3 Short Stories - Two sci-fi(ish) and one dramatic.  Not sure where to place them once finished though - any ideas?
  • Novel Outline - Only going to do the outline.  I have a project that I'm excited about and I've written a great deal already, so this should be a lot of fun to get through.

So that's it!!  What do you have planned?  Anything I should know about?

Tried to remember this quote verbatim for my friend Tim, but couldn't.

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.
Sonja, Love & Death by Woody Allen (1975)