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Writing Partners

4 hands

I write best with a partner. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years before finding one who I really click with.  And I found him completely by accident.

The hardest thing I found about writing with a partner is that one person is always going to be more motivated than the other. Some days you may be the motivated one, while other days it may be them.  No relationship is truly 50/50 all the time.

Whenever I write something, I send it out to a bunch of people to get feedback. Very few people actually ever get back to me.  DJ Dangler always does.  And when he does, he’s thorough.  The first thing I remember critiquing was a spec script I wrote for Bob’s Burgers.  We went through it line by line picking apart dialogue that didn’t feel true to characters and moments that didn’t feel like the show.  It was incredibly helpful.

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Tales From The Script: Part 6 (Here Goes Nothing…literally)

Through comedy I know a few people.  Through her work, Lesley knows a few people as well.  In my mind, here’s basically how I thought this would work.

Lesley and I wrote a really good screenplay.  We let some people read it and give us feedback.  We wrote a better second draft.  We had some funny people over to read through it and we took notes on the comedy beats and how the words flowed.  We wrote an even better third draft.  We registered the script with the WGA.  Then we started contacting people.

Our script is basically Bridesmaids meets The Social Network.   It’s really funny.  Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids, was a stand up comedian in Detroit, just like me.  A mutual friend gave me his e-mail address a long time ago and we wrote back and forth a couple times.  He was super nice and supportive.  So, with this third draft in hand, I wrote him and asked him if he could point me towards someone who could read it.  I know there are all sorts of legal issues with asking him to read it himself.  I waited for a response.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been in LA to do some comedy stuff.  I always had a couple thumb drives in my pocket with copies of the script in case I ran into someone that could do something with it.  I ended up performing on Comedy Bang Bang at the UCB Theater.  It’s a show produced by the great Scott Aukerman, who in addition to creating Comedy Bang Bang, has been making a living as a writer since about 1994.   I got to pick his brain for a little bit after the show.

He told me that a response from Paul would be a long shot because even though I worded my e-mail carefully, the potential for lawsuits would be too risky.  Even if he did write back, it was unlikely that he’d feel comfortable passing on a thing he hasn’t read himself.  Yeah, that’s a big Catch 22.  He can’t read it because of legal issues.  He can’t pass it on because it’s good because he can’t read it.  Scott said the way to get it out there is to basically treat the script like I treat my stand up and let the work speak for itself.  I need to let people in Hollywood read it and generate a buzz.  Eventually the buzz will get around and someone will take interest.   There’s a part in the script that would be perfect for TJ Miller.  I know him a little, so maybe I’ll try to get it in his hands.

The more likely scenario Scott said was that someone will notice me from my stand up and want to be my agent.  They’ll ask if I have a script and when I tell them about this thing that Lesley and I created, it’ll make me 20 times more valuable.   Great.  Well, as good as I feel I am as a stand up, no one in nine and a half years has asked to be my agent yet.

Discouraging?  Yeah.  A long time ago and older comedian asked to take me out to lunch so he could pick my brain.  He was retired now and wanted to make a run of it as a comedian.  He was a nice guy who had been public speaking for longer than I’ve been alive.  He was comfortable on stage, but every joke he told came straight from a book.  I told him that the only way he could make a go of it as a comedian was to write his own material.  He didn’t want to hear that and got angry.  I couldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.  I told him what he needed to hear.  Scott Aukerman didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear.  There is no secret backdoor into the writing pool of Hollywood.  He told me what I needed to hear.  There is no secret backdoor into the writing pool of Hollywood.

So where does that leave us?  Lesley has a couple connections too, but they feel like really long shots.  To make the script speak for itself, I think the plan is to do what I would do with my comedy.  For comedy, a lot of people enter festivals so our peers from all over take notice of us and hopefully spread the word.  I think Lesley and I are going to start entering the script into different script writing contests and see what happens.  Maybe it isn’t as good as we think it is.  I really like it.  When I pitch it to people, they seem to like it.  They laugh.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in nine and a half years in comedy it’s the difference between a kind and a genuine laugh.  I think they laugh genuinely.

So that’s it for now.  You’re up to speed.  I’ll let you know when something happens.  If something happens.

Tales From the Script: Part 4 (The Book is better…)

I mentioned before that Final Draft is the most important tool and screenwriter can use.  Another, almost as important, tool is this great book called Writing Movies for Fun and Profit.

I’ve read a lot…a few…books on writing scripts.  This one by far is my favorite.  It’s written by Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon who are most visibly known for Reno 911.  What you may not know is that they’ve also written pretty much ever third comedy made since 2000.  They don’t write giant award winning masterpieces, but they do write extremely marketable and successful comedies like the Night at the Museum movies and Herbie Fully Loaded.  They’ve also done a literal shit ton of punch ups on movies they’re not credited for.

In their book, Ben and Thomas take you through every step of the career as a screenwriter.  They go in depth about the different kinds of writing jobs you can get and really dive into the business side of writing.  It’s also a really practical writing guide too.   They cover everything form pitching your script to dealing with the Hollywood powers that be once it’s in development.

It’s a really quick and light read that’s full of humor and really great information.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  In fact, if you’re a screen writer and you don’t own this….then you’re probably and asshole.

I’m in LA right now as you’re reading this.  Unless of course you’re reading this sometime other than August 2012.  Chapter 22 will tell me what I need to know now that I’m here.   Okay, I’m not supposed to write in public because everyone will assume I’m a douchebag.   Okay, there’s a list of all the In-N-Out Burger locations as well as a guide to their secret menu. I’m going to grab a bite to eat and go write in private.

Tales From the Script: Part 3 (Tools of the Trade)

The first few things I wrote years ago were done with a regular old word processor.  It was a pain in the ass.  Every time I went to do a new draft, I’d have to manual go in and change the “continued” and all that stuff.  Setting the tabs was awful.  Making sure everything was formatted correctly caused me so much panic.

I was never able to full jump into just the creative part of screenwriting because the mechanics were always in the back of my mind.  Well, truthfully, they were front and center.

A year or so ago I got Final Draft.  It’s the industry standard for screenwriting and I totally see why.  It’s basically a word processor program specifically designed to write scripts.  I don’t have to think about anything other than the story when I use it.  When you hit Enter to go on to a next section, it asks you if you want this to start with a character, dialogue, scene header, whatever.  With a click, you can be back on track.  It becomes second nature and it makes the whole process so much quicker and easier.

Here’s something else I just found out about Final Draft.  Okay, I mentioned before that Lesley and I are going to start on a spec script to show that we can write television as well.  I Googled Modern Family scripts and found a link to a template that plugs right into Final Draft!  There are plug ins for pretty much every popular show out there.  And if you’re writing a spec script, the best idea is to do it for a popular show.  As much as I loved The Middleman, writing a script for that would make little to no sense!

Yes, the software is a little expensive, but if you’re serious about writing, I can not recommend it enough.  Here’s a link if you want more information.