Category Archives: Portfolio

SCRIPT SHOWCASE: The Good Wife 1×16, “Fleas”

It’s important for screenwriters to read pro scripts. TV, movies, webseries, the works. We have to see how they work. Not just the functions of the various formatting elements (slugline, action, parenthetical…) but the interplay of the language. The expression of a complicated idea in simple actions and dialogue.

Sometimes I want to share the love for a really good, well-written script. Right now, it’s the episode of The Good Wife that convinced me the show was truly something special.

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WRITING: On Bravery

Recently, a friend did something that I would never be able to do: she got up on stage and did stand-up comedy for the first time. Not only that, but she did another set only a week later, giving herself no room to retreat if the first didn’t go well.

And of course, she was great. I didn’t see her first performance, but her second was hilarious and unique, standing out from the crowd at its very foundations of tone and performance. Instead of the typical bonding with the audience in a chummy performance that was more about fighting anxiety than anything, my friend used anxiety as a performance, offering awkward silences, tentative readings and scrambling through note cards to double the effectiveness of the jokes. A risky idea that could backfire in a show aimed at showcasing newcomers – and yet it was a roaring success.

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PERSONAL: Developing New Skills

I’ve always been of the mind that being good at something only requires a small seed of talent, and that the thing that divides one from the masses is hard work and passion. Some people’s innate talent saves them a lot of effort, true. But at the end of the day it’s still about investing your hours, and your elbow grease. into striving to be better. It can be easy to make time for your primary talent, the one that you see as your main priority. But it takes just as much work to develop new skills.

What new skills are you trying to build, and how are you going about it?

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WRITING: Picking the Procedural Pilot Story

The bread and butter of dramatic network television, no matter your grander ambitions, is procedural storytelling. From the whimsy of Castle to the grimness of Criminal Minds, television is saturated with procedural storytelling, so an aspiring TV writer had best master this skill. One thing that seems to trip me up every time I work on a drama pilot with procedural elements is choosing the beginning ‘case of the week’ for the characters to solve in the first episode. It’s an intriguing question: How do you choose which procedural story to start with?

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MUSIC: P!nk “The Truth About Love: Addendum

Last week I gave some initial thoughts on P!nk‘s new album. Below the cut, an addendum.

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WRITING: One Revision Trick

A revision trick I’ve been using this week for a feature script:

Think of every major role. Think of what scenes the actor would be deeply enticed to play. The showy climactic moments that would really let them stretch their muscles. If every major character doesn’t have one, you might be neglecting their arc. If the ones they have aren’t passing muster, you may not have set it up well enough.

Give it a look. It might help you figure out where to go from here, revisions-wise.

WRITING: Writers Block Habits

Everyone approaches defeating writer’s block a different way, maybe even a different way every time they encounter it. There are good habits, that is, the ones that help you break through and write, and bad habits, the ones where you circle the problem for hours and then go to bed, exhausted with no progress.

My good habit is usually promoting inspiration. I do my best work when inspired, so I do the best I can to get my engine revved up: warm showers, walks around the neighbourhood, good food. Looking over my notes, trying to catch the magic moment that will get me excited again.

My bad habit is usually hopeless comfort-seeking. I get afraid of that feeling of listless lack of inspiration, so I get worried and fuel myself instead on lazy comforts like candy and good TV, and on easy distractions like blogging and social media.

How about you? What are your good and bad habits? Are you able to catch yourself in the act? If so, how do you re-orient yourself? If not, is there something you could do to force yourself to notice your behaviour?

WRITING: Talk to Other Writers

There is nothing I love more, except possibly writing itself, than talking to writers I respect. It’s not just talking craft; in fact, that may be the last thing we discuss. It’s talking about being a writer. It’s how you know you’re not alone in the world. It’s how you strategise new battle plans against the dreaded writer’s block. It’s how you commiserate about the parts of being a writer that suck. Such as, almost all of it aside from writing itself.

Talk to other writers. Don’t be prejudiced because of medium or style. Every time I speak with my novelist cousin Kayt Burgess, I come away feeling both excited and peaceful, wanting to start a thousand projects and yet committed back to focusing on what I need to do next. We talk about self-promotion and networking, about what we’re working on and whether or not our blood’s on fire with inspiration or burnt out. It really is therapy.

Make sure you have other writers to talk to. Join a writers group, find friends who write. You don’t want to be alone out there.

WRITING: Adapting and Re-Imagining Characters (The Emma Frost Remix)

There have been a rash of reboots and reimaginings in the last few years, ranging from literary switchups like Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, to the glorious reimagining of shlocky 80’s sci-fi Battlestar Galactica, to successful movie-to-series transitions like MTV’s Teen Wolf. This is alongside media where it’s common within a work to completely reboot things creatively, such as comic book series where the head writer changes every few years. The ability to pick out the essential traits of characters people know intimately, and successfully reimagine the characters and world, is a really cool skill.

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Under my longtime pseudonym, I write about my seven years writing at MZPtv. It was a blast to write, so check it out!