Sunday, March 19, 2006

Coming to some conclusions

At college on Thursday, many of the other MA Screenwriting students were making plans to attend a student filmmaker event in Glasgow on Friday. Several asked if I was going. I had no plans to go and said so. For a start, I needed to finish and submit the outline for my 10 minute short film project, the first piece of assessed work due in this trimester. Plus I'd promised to write an extra few hundred words for the epilogue of Twilight of the Dead, the third book in my Fiends of the Eastern Front trilogy. That was due on Friday and gave me the opportunity to insert a slower curtain ending to the novel. I have a tendency to rush the final chapter and epilogue of any novel, simply born of an eagerness to finish the project and some laziness on my part. So fixing that right up improved the end of the novel, something that makes me feel better.

But there was another reason I didn't want to go to Glasgow. I'm coming to the conclusion that I want to be writing for TV, not films. For a start, there's a lot more work in TV writing [if you've got the talent, craft and contacts], so I can hope to make a career out of that. Secondly, TV writers get a lot more respect than most screenwriters. There's an appreciation of the contribution TV writers make and - it seems to me - a lack of appreciation for what TV directors do. The converse appears to be true in films, where peddlers of the auteur theory would have us believe the director is the author of a film. Excuse my French, but what bollocks.

Dozens, often hundreds and sometimes thousands, of people contribute to making a film happen. The author of a novel is a true author, and even they don't act alone - the editor is also party to the achievement. To call the director the 'auteur' of a film seems unfeasibly arrogant to me. I could be wrong about that, but it's how I feel on the subject. Writer-directors have a far stronger claim to being auteurs, but that's another part of the same debate, in my humble opinion.

Anyways, my tendency is definitely drifting towards writing for TV, if I can. So the prospect of going to see a lot of student filmmakers talk about their fledgling work didn't entice me to pish away most of a day getting to Glasgow and back. If I'd already known any of the people involved, that might have swayed my decision. But I didn't, so I didn't go. Far as I'm concerned, my goal for the MA Screenwriting course is to build my craft as a wannabe TV scribe. [I want to write for radio too, but since I've already got a toe in that door, I don't consider myself a wannabe radio writey anymore. A novice, a tyro, all but a virgin, yes, but not a wanna anymore.]

There are a lot of screenwriting blogs out there, but not quite so many from the POV of TV scribes. One of the best I've found thus far is that of Jane Espenson [to be found, natch, at ]. She's written for Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Gilmore Girls and Tru Calling. Her blog is chock full of helpful hints, particularly on writing spec scripts for US TV series. Of course, that's field of specialisation is not much use when you live in Scotland. However, her simple notes on how not to write on the nose dialogue are revelatory. Best of all, the methods she suggests work and they're so easy to apply. Thank you, Jane!

She also gave a great tip on a recent posting. It can be problematic getting copies of real screenplays for current TV shows. Occasionally the top shows like The Sopranos or The West Wing will spawn a script book, but these are often tidied up versions of the real deal. I've been searching in vain for a cost effective way of securing copies of current US television series. Purely as an aside, Jane made mention of Script City [ ], a website where you can order pdfs of thousands of scripts for TV shows, TV movies, films, treatments and even storyboards. For 40 US dollars I've gotten scripts for the pilots of Deadwood, The Shield, an episode of Sports Night and the episode of CSI that introduced the Miami spin-off. [When the script for that episode was written, they didn't have a last name for Horatio Caine, so he's called Horatio Staff throughout.] All emailed direct to my inbox, no extra costs for shipping from LA, the primo stuff in original formating.

That's my top tip for the weekend - Script City.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Script City do indeed do the business. There's also a section in the sidebar of my blog of places you can find scripts on the web. Some of it's archive stuff, but there are some recent goodies too: Lost, Spooks, Battlestar Galactica, Wonderfalls, Firefly. Not all of them have perfect formatting, but all make for good reading.