Monday, December 09, 2013
Today’s is from Ellen.
Hi, Ken. I'm a novelist working on a script, so it was interesting to read this reverse take on what I'm experiencing.
Two questions for you: Was writing a novel harder than you thought it would be? And also, do you think the experience will benefit you as a screenwriter?
It wasn’t harder, but it was sure different. I could never get into a character’s thought process before writing in prose. And I never had to be as descriptive before. You can’t just say INT. APARTMENT – DAY and leave it to the art and set department to design something for you. My stage direction in screenplays tends to very sparse. The apartment is a mess. Period. Done. On to the fun stuff.
The other thing I was struck with is that a novel becomes the finished product. Scripts are always works-in-progress. Once you get it on its feet things change. Sometimes the end result is nothing like you intended. Writing prose you have the last word. I find I like that for some reason.
I also enjoy that as the narrator I have a voice. I can express opinions and make observations. Certainly you can express your point-of-view through a character, but sometimes they’re not on the same page as you. Or have the same perspective as you. I don’t need there to be a character with a Ken Levine P.O.V in a novel.. I can provide it myself thank you very much. I like that too. It's like being able to provide the commentary track to your movie right on the movie itself. (Now there's a concept.)
And literary characters never question their lines. They never ask what’s their motivation? They never refuse to do nudity. They don’t require a twelve-hour turnaround between shooting days. And as opposed to actors, they welcome stage direction. They’ll say the lines just like you tell them to. He said accusingly. She said with a slight touch of anger. Write those indicators into a script and see how your actors respond. Think the first twenty minutes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
It’s also nice that budget is not an issue in prose. The writer has a blank check to go to elaborate worlds, stage parties with thousands of extras... I mean, guests, globe hop if he so desires. You’re not paying for background people and having to feed them, you don’t need government approval to do scenes in certain countries, you don't need permits to shoot on city streets, and all your special effects go off perfectly without a hitch. You’re never delayed because of weather. No Teamster locals are going to go on strike preventing you from writing chapter six.
So I’ll definitely write more novels. Did the experience help me to be a better screenwriter? Honestly, no. Screenwriting has its own set of rules. On the other hand, I became a much better screenwriter once I became a director. I have a way better feel for how actors approach material and what they need to realize my vision. Screenwriters sometime forget (me included) that real human beings have to say these words and do these actions.
Ellen, for you to tackle a screenplay, I think if you’re skillful in dialogue (a tool you need in prose) you should be fine making the transition. The only thing I’ll say is remember, to convey a character’s emotion or motivation you have to do it via behavior. You have to find clever ways for characters to express their inner feelings based on the choices we see them make, their body language, and other behavioral clues. You can’t just say what he’s thinking. Thought bubbles like in comic books are frowned upon.
Good luck, and allow me to take this golden opportunity to once again plug my novel. MUST KILL TV. When was the last time you treated yourself to a really funny book? For $2.99 be a sport. Don’t make me have to go back to writing screenplays. Here's where you go. Thanks.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Thanks to Dan Hoard, Josh Lewin, Dave Sims, and Ian Eagle for being such gracious hosts and tolerating a total geek with an iPhone camera.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
I give Carrie Underwood props for bravery. That’s a big role to fill in front of 30,000,000 viewers and I thought she did the best she could. She’s a great singer. But she can’t act. She just can’t. There were moments that were painful. But then moments that were magic when she sang. I know there are purists who disliked the fact that a young country singer was playing Maria, but if young singers don’t embrace this music and expose other young people to it, the music will fade into the mist. Sure, it would have been way better if Anne Hathaway did it, but if I were running NBC I’d take Carrie Underwood – subpar acting and all – in a heartbeat.
Broadway pros Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald were solid (although I’m not sure there were African-American nuns in Austria back then… maybe so), and the kids did a great job. Some of those sets were very unwieldy. Anytime there was a scene on that mountain I held my breath. There were a few bobbles along the way but frankly, that’s what made it fun. It was LIVE. As long as the kids didn’t screw up (which thank goodness they didn’t) I was happy. Kids don’t need the trauma of goofing up in front of 30,000,000 people here in the day of snark.
With the success of SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE, we can expect other big name musicals to get the same treatment. Please Fox, don’t do MY FAIR LADY with Brittney Spears. The next one or two will be attract interest and then by the time they do PAJAMA GAME with Lena Dunham the trend will be over.
But congratulations to all concerned... except Wal-Mart. Thank God I could fast-forward through their commercials.
What did you guys all think?
Friday, December 06, 2013
Jerry Smith gets us started.
Are series regulars on any level paid for shows on which they don't appear? For example, of the last two Walking Dead episodes, one featured none of the main actors and the next featured long shots of a few of them with no dialog. How do stars feel when they are not the subject of their shows?
It all depends on their contracts. Most series regulars sign for “all episodes.” In that case they get paid whether they’re in an episode or not, although generally they are in every episode.
Some actors will sign for a partial season like eight out of thirteen. If you have a show with a large cast like THE GOOD WIFE or MAD MEN you will often sign actors for partial schedules.
As for WALKING DEAD, I don’t know whether the series stars all got paid or the producers knew before the season they were not going to need the main cast for a couple of episodes and made deals for say ten of thirteen.
Laura Es asks:
I've been reading many multi cam scripts, and noticed they always jump from scene E to scene H. Is there a reason why there are never Scenes F and G?
Yes, F looks too much like E and G looks too much like C. Camera assignments are marked on the floor with white tape. Example: the third camera move in the second scene would be B-3. Camera operators have to be able to clearly distinguish where they need to go. They can’t be looking down thinking is that C-4 or G-4?
From John Philipps:
I was at the Two and a Half Men recording yesterday. There were 7 pre-recorded scenes showed on the audience screens. I heard laughter on the sound track besides our audience laughter. Did those laughs come from the crew or a test audience during recording, were they added digitally, or did I just hallucinate?
Also, pre-shot scenes don’t get the same level of laughter as live performances. They just don't. The temp laugh track can help prompt the audience a little.
On shows I’ve directed or produced I will sometimes pre-shoot a scene and instead of showing that, have the actors do a dummy version live on the stage. Example: a scene of two people in a car driving. Instead of showing the pre-shot scene I’ll just have the two actors sit in two card chairs and play the scene live. I don’t film it. Just record the audience. We then take the actual laughter and lay it in the pre-shot scene. I know. Sneaky, aren't we?
And finally, from Hamid:
I love that Cheers always kept its title sequence in an era where every show revamped its titles and jazzed up its theme tune each season, so I wondered if the network ever tried to persuade you guys to change the titles over the years? I know it was slightly altered after Nicholas Colasanto passed away but I think that was the only change.
The comment section awaits your question. Thanks.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
The fear of every play-by-play guy is screwing up a big call. This is clearly bogus but hilarious just the same. It's the "radio call" of the miraculous Auburn win over Alabama. The creators are Robert Clay and Josh Snead.
By comparison, here is the real radio call by Rod Bramblett for Auburn radio.
Congratulations to all the nominees. Some fun additions. HOUSE OF CARDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK -- two Netflix shows made the cut. Also nice to see that THE GOOD WIFE was recognized again. Notably absent: GIRLS. Anyway, here's the complete list of nominees. Some tough races. A lot of truly excellent writers are nominated in all categories.
This of course is bad news for the Sky Mall. Admit it, the only time you scanned it was when you couldn’t continue reading and loving MUST KILL TV on your Kindle (was that subtle enough?).
It’s good news for passengers at a time when we don’t get much good news. Flying coach has now become the cattle car scene from DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. We’re charged for everything from luggage to pillows, blankets, food, five inches of legroom. In case of emergency I fully expect you soon will have to swipe your credit card before the oxygen masks drop down. In case of evacuation, American Airlines Platinum members exit first.
I’ve been on a number of charter flights with baseball teams and we never had to turn off our electronic devices. And how’s this for spitting in the face of death? Our chairs weren’t all in the upright position. Some extreme daredevils even had their tray tables down. During taxiing even! Not once did the captain come on the PA and say, “Well, due to one of you reading old text messages we now find ourselves in a no fly zone and so instead of landing in Cleveland we’ve just been attacked by two surface-to-air missiles.”
Make no mistake, I’m all for safety. And if there are legitimate reasons for shutting down devices or keeping seats in their most upright positions I’m happy to be the first one to comply. But sometimes I wonder. Yes, if there are new more improved navigation systems that eliminate any interference by electronic devices, then the revised rule makes sense. But is that the case? I’m just askin’.
Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy it as long as I can. Those Sky Mall people have powerful lobbies in Washington.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
As longtime readers of this blog know, I have had my run-ins with Roseanne. She personally attacked me on several occasions and I suspect this post will result in a lot more. Last time I was a balless Ass hat who hated women. This time I’ll probably be the Anti-Christ. So what? I’ll be laughing it off anyway.
When I got in a blog war with Ms Barr her comment section filled quickly with bootlickers who took her side. And when some Colonel in the Army posted that he thought my position was fair and respectful she replied to him by saying “What do you know? You’re in the military. You can’t get a real job.” This of course caused a minor firestorm and she quickly deleted her response… as she has done with her Friday night rant-a-thon.
The woman is clearly unbalanced. And I feel sorry for her on that account, but when she repeatedly publicly trashes people it’s hard to stay sympathetic. At some point you just wanna say – go the fuck away! Take your meds, go to yoga, raise goats, paint, whatever – but get out of our lives and stay there. Enough already.
NBC foolishly has commissioned a pilot with Roseanne and that was the target of her recent ravings. The showrunner assigned to write the piroject Linda Wallem (one of the co-creators of NURSE JACKIE so no slouch) apparently did not include Roseanne in the creative process to her satisfaction. And NBC didn’t properly stand behind her to her satisfaction. So she lashed out at everybody. Somehow even Anderson Cooper got caught in the gunfire. Roseanne tweeted:
‘censor this s*** u f****ing p***k mother****ing a**hole dispshit banjkster w***es of Hollywood neo con anti semites. ANDERSON COOPER IS A TOAD.’
And he had nothing to do with the NBC pilot. How did Roseanne miss me in this barrage?
Here are some of her other delightful tweets:
‘everything-every word I turned in to nbc and nbc studios was censored and thrown out-they wanted ‘my brand’ w/o me in it. Worse than matt w.’ (referring to Matt Williams who created ROSEANNE)
‘I’ve ben disrespected and ripped off by Hollywood. f*** hollywood. f*** every stupid p***k there. Misogynist classist white colonial f***.
‘f*** these hollywood anti semite b*****d jewish women loathing f***tards… the women in hollywood cannot fall to their knees to suck d*** fast enough.’
Nice, huh? Even when she likes you it’s insane. This is her support of Alec Baldwin and his recent flare-up:
‘no wonder alex baldwin calls ppl names and s**t-he shld lay off gays and go for morons tho.’
What is NBC doing even being in business with this mad hatter? It’s not enough she’s unstable; she’s also over. When was the last time Roseanne was relevant? When was the last time Roseanne commanded an audience? Like all networks, NBC is chasing younger viewers. Why are they interested in a 61-year-old woman whose only recent claim to fame is alienating people? It’s like if the Lakers gave a ten-day contract to Dennis Rodman. Why? Seriously – WHY?
Her retraction means nothing. Her credibility means nothing. My hope is that NBC rids itself of this unnecessary migraine. My guess is they will. And when Roseanne rants that she’s never going to work in Hollywood again that it’s (a) true, and (b) Hollywood’s choice, not hers.
Goodbye. Go away. Visit a volcano.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
The family went up to Mountain View in Silicon Valley on Wednesday. We were all supposed to fly but my wife Debby couldn’t get all of the latkas into the suitcase. A car was required. Actually a deuce-and-a-half was required, but she managed to squeeze them into the Prius. For awhile I thought we’d have to strap the applesauce jars to the roof.
Kim’s family from Boston also made the journey. They rented a house in nearby Mountain View and invited us all for dinner on Wednesday night. It was lovely but a tad weird. There we were in some stranger’s house, eating in their dining room, pictures of their family all around. I can see the reality show now: HOME INVASION COOKING.
Stayed at the Sheraton Palo Alto. It’s next to the Westin. They’re essentially the exact same, but the Sheraton is twenty steps closer to the Bloomingdale’s in the mall. It was also Black Fridikkah you know.
The only thing my daughter Annie likes more than watching football on Thanksgiving is getting her wisdom teeth pulled with bolt cutters. So I got dropped off at Matt & Kim’s while the girls went skeet shooting or something. I dunno, they just drove away very fast. Thanks to Kim’s dad for carving. Especially with that electric knife. Had I had the honors it would have looked like the Tate-Labianca crime scene. Dinner itself was fabulous. Kim is a great cook and Matt can really open wine. I can’t describe the joy of looking around the table at all my loved ones, secure in the knowledge that the real occupants of the house are not going to come home early.
Black Friday begins earlier each year. This is good news for the idiots who camp out at Best Buy for nine days to save $4 on a battery recharger. But the novelty of shopping at midnight is gone. Now the madness begins at 8:00. If they open any earlier the actual Thanksgiving dinner will give way to tailgate parties.
On Friday we all took the CalTrans train that goes right through our room at the Sheraton straight into San Francisco. Went to Scoma’s for lunch. They have the best seafood and shortest Italian name on Fisherman’s Wharf. A San Francisco mainstay, there are celebrity photos everywhere. We sat right under Shari Lewis & Lambchop and Chili Davis.
Must say I was disappointed in the street performers on the Wharf this year. Did not see the guy who jumps out of a bush and scares the shit out of people. Nor was there the Liza Minnelli impersonator who essentially elicits the same reaction. Just a few guys spray-painted gold and Taylor Hicks.
Scary moment that night walking home from a restaurant. A bus approached as we were crossing the street. Its destination sign said: “SORRY.” Holy shit, was it planning to hit us?” The sign changed to “NOT IN SERVICE.”
Saturday was the Stanford-Notre Dame football game. There’s nothing like a college town during a big game weekend. Rowdy Stanford students and alumni packed the coffee bars and martini lounges ordering scones and extra olives until they had to be cut off.
Debby and Annie drove back, leisurely hitting every outlet store between Gilroy and Oxnard. I flew home so that I could get in my car and drive to San Diego. Destination: Qualcomm Stadium where the San Diego Chargers were hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. Football fans are a hearty breed. Every week you see them brave punishing arctic conditions, monsoons, and typhoons to sit a thousand miles from the action or just stand for five straight hours with no relief. In San Diego on December 1st it was 75 degrees with clear skies. They didn’t sell out. The game was blacked out locally – the first TV blackout in the NFL this year. But shadows were expected so I’m sure that kept a lot of fans away. Explain to me again why Los Angeles doesn’t have an NFL team but San Diego does. Explain to me why Oxnard doesn’t have an NFL team but San Diego does.
It turns out I was friends with all the radio announcers covering the game. Josh Lewin of the Chargers who once stayed at my house and didn’t break anything, and Dave Sims of Westwood One – my former Mariners partner who agreed it was wrong that I should take the fall for their last ten losing seasons. Also bumped into CBS’s Ian Eagle, the busiest sportscaster in America. He is currently in a stretch of ten cities in twelve days. This explains why he called a Charger field goal a three-pointer for the Knicks.
|Ian Eagle, Dan Hoard, some blogger|
The Bengals won (or, in Ian’s case – the Mighty Ducks won). There was a layer of grease on my car so thick it could probably squeeze through a CT-scan tube.
There is yet another mayoral election this Tuesday in San Diego. The last hizzoner resigned after 20 sexual harassment allegations of kissing, groping, and inappropriate headlocks in less than nine months in office. Toronto is missing a bet not calling itself the “San Diego of Canada.”
San Diego Union-Tribune headline: O.B. (Ocean Beach) Shrub Trimmer Faces Felony Charges.
Driving back to Los Angeles there’s always a horrific accident at Camp Pendleton that halts traffic for nine miles. I’m starting to think it’s the same accident. It actually occurred in 2004 and the poor driver is still trying to reach On-Star.
All in all, I had a great holiday. Anytime you can spend six days with your family, old friends, and the Cincinnati Bengals special team unit you have to consider yourself blessed. Hope your Thanksgivikkah went as well. Oh, in case you’re still looking to get me something for Chanukkah, I want Ian Eagle’s frequent flier miles.
If you enjoyed this, a book of my travelogues is still available. WHERE THE HELL AM I? TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED makes the perfect holiday gift for the person who wants to go nowhere.