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Tales From the Script: Part 2 (Storytime)

In our last episode, after a few attempts at screenwriting, I found a great writing partner in Lesley Braden.

Lesley’s idea (and the script is already registered with the WGA so just try and steal it, buster) was about a woman in her mid to late 30s who was tired of people either harassing her or taking advantage of her time because she was single.  She creates a fake guy on Facebook and puts herself in a relationship with said guy.  It’s Bridesmaids meets The Social Network.  Both movies just came out.  Both movies were successful.  Kristen Wiig changed Hollywood overnight and showed the women can open a comedy and make a ton of money.  Lesley’s idea was original, fun and hugely marketable.  I was hooked!

Initially we started writing it with the two of us in mind to play the lead character and her slacker roommate.  I have friends who have production companies in Michigan, so it seemed like something we could potentially try to raise money and make.  As it went on, we realized how this script would be a really great calling card for us if we wanted to try to get writing jobs.  So we stopped limiting ourselves with set pieces that we could possibly pull off if we were to raise enough money through a Kickstarter campaign of whatever and we decided to shoot for the stars.

When we cracked the story, we didn’t do a traditional outline.  We knew key comedy moments that we wanted to happen and then from there we figured out how to get there.  Using a basic three act structure, we knew too when certain beats had to happen.    As we fleshed out the secondary characters more, our secondary story lines and conflicts started to become clearer too.  We were both on the same page that we didn’t want this to necessarily be a joke based comedy.  We wanted the humor to come from the characters.  We both do comedy though, so naturally the jokes found their way into it.

The crazy thing was that every idea either of us had, the other either found a way to build on it or tweak it into something different.  We never pitched a story element to have the other one say, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard”.  I think that’s the key to a strong writing partnership.  You can’t shoot down someone else’s idea without anything of your own to add.   I’m sure it helps that from the beginning we were both really on the same page.

Okay, I’m going to jump ahead in time to the present day.  We’re going to start working on a spec script for a television show.  It’s an idea that I had rattling in my brain for awhile.  I bounced it off of Lesley the other night and instead of shooting down my idea, she said, “That’s great, we could do that or maybe make it this slightly different thing too.”  Okay, that’s not technically a quote, but you know what I mean.  While her idea was slightly different than mine, it also opened itself up for a neat spin on the ideas I already had.  I think the most exciting part of writing a story is not knowing what’s going to happen next.  Changing a small detail, or even a large one, can definitely do that!  I’m looking forward to cracking another story with her.

Tales from the Script: Part 1 (Partnering Up)

I’m at a pivotal point in the screenwriting process.  I thought for my own piece of mind I’d share the journey it took to get here.  I don’t know where this story will end.  I certainly hope it has a happy ending.  Let’s start from the beginning.

I’ve written a lot of screenplays.  Most of them were through my twenties.  I burned all my bridges in radio and television, moved back to Michigan and had the first “real” job of my life working in a Toys R Us.  Over the next few years I went through my Kevin Smith phase.  I first wrote my “Clerks” about a guy who was working in a big box toy store cleverly called We B Toys.

Next when I was in an unhappy relationship and feeling like I was hundreds of miles from where I wanted to be, I wrote my “Dogma” about a couple in an unhappy relationship who die and get stuck in Purgatory…which happens to be a small town in the middle of nowhere.

After that, the unhappy relationship ended so I wrote my “Chasing Amy” about a guy who ends his unhappy relationship and starts a non-romantic relationship.  I guess it was also my “When Harry Met Sally”.  The main character in that one was a struggling stand up comedian.  At the time, I hadn’t stepped foot on the comedy stage yet, so it was just a way for me to get out the material I wrote without having to actually perform it.  Coincidentally, the arc of that character kind of mirrored what I ended up doing creatively in real life years later.

So, after those first few attempts at screenwriting I started doing stand up and seemed to have a knack for it.  Most of my creative juices flowed into that outlet.  Friends asked me if I wanted to partner up with them on scripts, but for one reason or another it never really worked out.

Last year a fellow performer named Lesley Braden and I met with some other performers about starting a sketch comedy group.  That didn’t work out, but Lesley and I found that we worked really well together.  She pitched me her idea for the story we ended up writing and I loved it.   It’s like what they say about love.  You find it when you’re not looking for it.  I wasn’t looking for the perfect screenwriting partner, I just happened upon her!

Next time, I’ll talk about the story.

More Misadventures: Put the Lotion on the Skin

This past week I did a handful of shows.

I started at the Castle on Wednesday where I was working on a five minute clean set.  It was basically the set I did at the Ice House in Pasadena last month minus the opening joke.  It killed in Pasadena to the point where it threw off my timing.  I couldn’t keep the faux anger thing going on because I was so overcome with delight that the Latinos were enjoying me so much.  It ate shit at the Castle.  I recorded it.  Christine and I watched it.  Her guess is that the opening joke might not be the right opening joke.  Back to the drawing board.

After that I headed over to Joey’s for Bill Bushart’s birthday.  Bill was on fire on stage!  It was a blast to watch!

On Thursday I spoke at the writing session at Laff Tracks in Novi.  It’s a good group they have there.  I had a really fun time.   I’m glad they had me come out.  I worked from my notebook and tried some new stuff.  It probably wasn’t club worthy, but I could see it working more for rowdy bar crowds.  With the exception of one joke that I did a couple more times this past week, I honestly can’t remember what the other things were.

Friday and Saturday I was at the Holly Hotel with the Scheen and Connoly portion of the Jeff Comedy Jam.   It was a strong line up!  I think it’s fair to say that we all have similar sensibilities and if someone liked one of us, they liked us all.  That being said, one of the shows was a battle.  I’m still glad that Beth who runs the room there is still super cool and nice and hasn’t turned to the dark side that comes from whatever bad mojo haunts the Holly Hotel!  Previous managers…horrible people.  The most recent one started off nice, but turned evil.  Beth is still going strong and just a genuinely nice person.

My friend and newest writing partner Lesley Braden returned to the art of stand up during the Saturday show.  I was really impressed.  She came out with a brand new five minutes and it hit strong!

Bobbitt, Scheen, Braden, Conolly!

My brother brought out a bunch of his family and friends to the Saturday show for his birthday and I was glad that it went well.  He and I are polar opposites, but one thing we did always have in common was our sense of humor.  My first performances were acting out scenes from Saturday Night Live, Strange Brew and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure with my brother on our front lawn for neighbor kids.  It always makes me glad to have him in the audience.  This year for his birthday I didn’t make him get up on stage with me.  Okay, at Holly you can’t really get up on stage as much as you can get over on stage.

On Sunday, Mr. Scheen and I rocked Maxie’s in Flint.  The new general manager was complaining about the previous week show because audience members apparently left.  My only guess is it was the heat.  Maxie’s needs to fix their A/C.  I was drenched when I got done performing like I had been in a sauna.  It was a fun night.  Jeff Scheen left me alone in the parking lot with a scary man, but I made it home safe!

This week I’m in Lansing at Connxtions.  Come on out if you’re in the area!