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Merry Holiday to All, and to All, Better Diction!

ornamentYesterday an acquaintance was trading schedules with me, and he suggested we get together, “after the Holiday.”

It has, for some reason, become a real peeve of mine over the last couple of years when people refer to Christmas as “the Holiday.” No, I’m not offended as a Christian. I thought the “War on Christmas” bunk tossed about last year by right-wing talk shows was some of the most obnoxious use of airwaves in a long while. (Although I’m glad to hear that liberals finally get their own war on an abstract concept. Even if it was the Right who declared it for them.) Meanwhile, I certainly think it appropriate that all well-wishing messages this time of year go out with “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Clearly, one never knows if one’s general audience celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah or Solstice or Festivus. Or nothing. The level of respect afforded by not wishing “Merry Christmas” to every stranger is important in this land of ours.

Nope, it’s the WRITER in me who is bothered by “the Holiday.” Continue reading “Merry Holiday to All, and to All, Better Diction!” »



The Question Mark, as Applies to My Identity

Question Quill I had the good fortune to attend one of America’s more prestigious universities. While there, I read an excellent column in which the author found the student body guilty of raised inflection when telling people where we went to school. It was a way of asking forgiveness, simultaneous with one’s confession of being an overachiever. I knew immediately I was guilty of the columnist’s accusations. To this day, when someone asks me where I went to college, I will try, “Northern California” or “the Bay Area” before, when pressed, admitting, “Stanford?” Note the question mark.You see, the first time you supply this detail of your personality to a new acquaintance, you hear one of two follow-ups. “Oh, so you’re a smart one!” or “Wow. You must be rich.” If my years at my alma mater taught me anything, it was that I was neither of those things.

But if you really want to hear a stack of question marks at the end of a response, there exists another conversation topic, far more common, that strikes immediately at my nerve center of self-doubt:

“So what do you do?”

Continue reading “The Question Mark, as Applies to My Identity” »



What If They Just Don’t?

OK, normally I support networks giving TV shows a chance to find their legs. We’ve seen far too many decent show never given the chance to gel because they didn’t become instant hits.

And normally I insist that people not judge a TV show without actually giving the pilot episode a look.

However… I’m perfectly happy to see Daybreak go bye-bye after 6 airings.

I know Hollywood is heavy into recycling, but this non-idea has bugged me from the start. It’s Groundhog Day with guns. As an episode of South Park once so eloquently argued, “I mean, come on!”



Character Development and Naked Women

JessicaYesterday I posted that the time to really take a look at changing your script is when you start to hear more than one trusted voice providing the same opinion.Following my reading, there has been exactly one thing that more than one industry professional suggested I change in Fat Guy, Hot Wife. It concerns a section of dialogue that reads thusly:

JJ

I just had an idea for a movie. It’s called Natalie Portman Gets Naked.

MATTHEW

Good title. What happens in it?

JJ

Mostly, Natalie Portman comes on. And gets naked.

MATTHEW

No real action or story to it?

JJ

Natalie Portman comes on. And gets naked.

MATTHEW

I like it. Strong potential for a sequel.

What advice was I given about this snippet of dialogue? Too crass? Not enough action? Nope. What if Continue reading “Character Development and Naked Women” »



When To Rewrite (and When Not To)

Quill

Any salt-worthy writer knows the value of another pair of eyes to go over his screenplay. Building a world and a group of people and a journey is a huge task, and the best of us can lose perspective. There comes a point where you need feedback. You have your wonderful story in your head, and you need to test whether it’s the same as the one you’ve put on paper.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of people out there with opinions. Getting someone to provide a useful opinion on your script is not like, say, finding a useful opinion on your doctoral dissertation on French impressionists. Most people watch movies and television. Even readers with no background who protest their inexpertise can be very valuable to you if you guide them with questions about whether this thing worked or that thing. Hopefully, you can build a set of people you can trust to be supportive of your work while still giving you honest feedback. And if you don’t have a writing partner or writer’s group or really wise spouse to turn to, there is of course no shortage of people who will provide you with feedback for a fee.

Continue reading “When To Rewrite (and When Not To)” »



Snow Day!


As part of my struggle against homesickness, I bring a little piece of Western Washington into my rented garage/laundry room/bedroom each day. My personalized Google page includes a link to a webcam pointed off of this beautiful island in Western Washington. I was surprised to log in today and see that they have snow!Meanwhile, down here in CA., temperatures have dipped into the 60s. What concerns me is that I have been finding that weather really chilly. Has my time in L.A. wussified me already?



DigitalDeron’s Top 10 Worst Cliché Lines of Dialogue

With this posting I make a promise to you and to myself that the following lines shall never make their way into my writing. I’m not targeting clichés like, “What seems to be the problem, officer?” because people overuse them in real life as much as they do in movies and TV. Instead, the below phrases not only get tossed into screenplays with alarming frequency, they just aren’t how people talk.

#10.  “Is that all you got?” / “Is that the best you can do?”

For some reason, if a hero (especially a superhero) finally gets into a fight with the Big Bad of their story, the two must taunt each other for a while early on in their battle. So if your opponent has dealt you a weak blow, the most logical response is verbal antagonism? Hell no. It’s to attack back as hard and quickly as possible. Notice also that the answer to, “Is that the best you can do?” is always something equally lame like, “I’m just getting warmed up.” See it’s, another brilliant strategy our combatant has used. See, I thought I’d start with something less than full power, just to see if I would really need to TRY in order to defeat you.

Continue reading “DigitalDeron’s Top 10 Worst Cliché Lines of Dialogue” »



The Old Grey’s Anatomy Ain’t What She Used to Be.

Plot flows from character, not the other way around. Remember this maxim, and you create fantastic television, like season two of Grey’s Anatomy. Forget, and you create mediocre television. Like season three of Grey’s Anatomy.

GA bought a whole lot of credibility in my eyes last season with their Super Bowl stunt. What happened? ABC aired the first episode of a powerful two-parter of GA right after the big game. Amazingly, GA held onto a portion of the Bowl audience somewhere in the upper 30 millions. Even more amazingly, a lot of these new viewers came back for more the following week. The cliffhanger episode achieved everything a network executive could hope for from “event” programming. Christina Ricci earned an Emmy nomination, and GA gained a major ratings spike, their average viewership jumping from 17-ish million to mid 20s.

spoiler warning

Continue reading “The Old Grey’s Anatomy Ain’t What She Used to Be.” »



Save the cheerleader… BFD

CheerleaderThe trifecta of break-out hits for this season looks like this: ABC-Ugly Betty, CBS-Jericho, NBC-Heroes.

As an aspiring TV writer, I feel that it’s part of my “job” to be abreast of new programs, and especially the ones that are doing well. So it is that I have made an effort to watch the first several episodes of each of these shows. Unfortunately, watching them has taken just that—an effort. While America Ferrera shines, Ugly Betty offers all the edgy sophistication of an Archie comic. Meanwhile, Jericho does little more than reflect current American xenophobia in Lost rip-off form.

But it is in Heroes that I am most disappointed.

I’ve always considered myself to be of borderline dorkiness. I don’t own any Lord of the Rings memorabilia, and I have never attended any conventions in costume. (Unless you count the denim shirt and khaki pants dot-com days.) Still, my childhood basement hosted more than one weekend D&D marathon, and I do know the words to the Red Dwarf theme song. I am a fan of sci-fi. So I couldn’t help but be cautiously optimistic at the promise of prime-time, mainstream, high-production-value science fiction programming. Maybe Heroes would offer that feature so rare in the genre… Quality.

Continue reading “Save the cheerleader… BFD” »



I’m a Producerin’ Ninja

Ha-ha!  My efforts to involve talent in my upcoming reading have paid off.  I got word today from the manager of my first choice that she will be joining us.  Which means she must have read my script and decided it didn’t totally suck.  Sweeeeet.