Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Guest post #2: Paula Finn

So the last post I posted Paula Finn's article on comedy writing tips from the comedy greats. If you missed that, please read it. There are some great tips. So here are the next things she's learned. Again, if you'd like to read more of her tips from the comedy greats, the book is called Sitcom Writers Talk Shop: Behind the Scenes with Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Other Geniuses of TV Comedy and is available on Amazon and through Rowman.com.  So here you go, your next tips: 


3) You gotta have heart: the power of drama in comedy.
 When attempting to explain the success of The Simpsons, Mike Reiss feels “The key thing on The Simpsons is you’ve always got to have some heart in there. But not too much…If you throw in 25 seconds of emotion right at the end — if Homer can be a goof the whole show and then suddenly realize he’s been bad — that will be very powerful to people.”
Phil Rosenthal thinks the poignancy of something beautiful expressed by two people “grounds them as characters; it grounds them as believable. Because we’re not just ha-ha funny all the time.”
Currently teaching at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Ken Estin says, “I tell my students that if the show has heart, if it has a soul, if it has those human elements that are so precious to us — it’ll be a better episode. I always thought about finding a really human moment, a really touching moment.”    
And how do writers integrate the drama or emotion with the humor? In David Isaacs’ view, it depends on “whether or not the characters and story have a capacity to deal with real issues and real humanity.” He uses Frasier as an example: “The show Frasier was able to do that because the feelings between Martin and Frasier were so strong, and they were such opposites in who they were that their clashes and conflicts could come down to very real father-son attitudes. You could actually have a moment that was fairly dramatic — not for long — but you wouldn’t worry about getting a laugh.”

4) Even great writers get blocked.
James L. Brooks described his struggles while writing Terms of Endearment: “…I was stuck. I was stuck in my script, and I couldn’t go backwards and I couldn’t go forwards. And I spent every day blushing. I’d literally be blushing...It was just intolerable. And I went out one night, and there was a concert pianist there who did pretty well all over the country, but he had never played New York. And he had a fear of what that would be if he played New York. And I described what was happening to me, the blushing and stuff. And he said, “Oh, that’s a state of shame.” And it helped me enormously that there was a name for it, which meant I wasn’t the only one in the world who ever experienced it. And I don’t know what happened from there; I know I went to Hawaii and had a small room at a friend’s house, and I had the illusion that I had cracked the whole thing. And I had one of the most euphoric moments in my life. It turned out I hadn’t cracked the whole thing. But the feeling that I had cracked the whole thing released me from all the tentacles of that writer’s block.”
               I asked the writers for their strategies in overcoming a block. Hal Kanter said he’d call a friend to see if they could help “prime the pump” for him. David Isaacs’s advice is “Just keep moving forward.” Sol Saks believed writer’s block is usually a lack of conflict, which is the basis of drama: “If you’re writing a scene and you don’t know what to write, the answer to it is, you have no conflict.” And Leonard Stern gives his prescription: “Actually, I don’t know a writer who hasn’t suffered from writer’s block, and the cure is always the same: patience, patience, and then, if necessary…more patience.”

Wow some great tips in here! I don't even know where to begin! As far as writing blocks, I think I follow the David Isaac's rule of advice, just keep moving forward. I believe in just putting anything on the page, even if it's crap. Because half the battle is getting it out of your head and onto the page. Once it's there, you can always edit. 

As far as the power of drama in comedy, I definitely believe in that. My gosh, how many times have you seen something awful in your own life and in the middle of it thought, well to an outsider this sure could be funny. I'm not the only one that does that right? haha I hope not! Since the comedy greats see the comedy in drama, I am pretty sure I'm not the only one that does this. 

Would love to hear if you've experienced either the comedy in dramatic moments yourself or have tips to avoid writer's block. Loving these tips from Paula that's gotten from these greats. Hope you are too! 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Guest blog: Paula Finn


So today and for the next several posts I'm going to shake things up. Yes, I'm crazy like that. So...I'm going to have...drum roll please...a guest blogger! Tada! Her name is Paula Finn, she's the daughter of the writer of Honeymooners, Herb Finn. I know, wow, right? And she's written a book called Sitcom Writers Talk Shop: Behind the Scenes with Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Other Geniuses of TV Comedy. Awesome, right? 

So I'm completely honored to share some of her tips that she's learned from interviewing and sitting down with these comedy greats. And they're in her book if you're interested in reading even more after reading these tips in my blog. The book is published by Rowman & Littlefield, and available on Amazon and through Rowman.com. So without further ado, the first tip: 

1) Get real.

Carl Reiner believes the truth of the material and of the actors is critical to any show’s success. In his words, “Once in a while you get a fanciful idea for a show and sometimes that carries it for a time…but really, there’s nothing better than the truth.”

Phil Rosenthal makes the same point: “…As long as you stay in the real world, in the world that’s believable and relatable — then you really can’t go wrong.”

Janet Leahy suggests that writers do research to get to what’s real: “If you’re stuck for a story or if you’re stuck in the middle of a story and you don’t know how to get yourself out of it ask yourself what would really happen in this situation. A lot of times writers will make things up, and that’s why they feel a little awkward because they haven’t done enough research. Even in comedy you can do research. And the more truth you find, the more creative your storytelling becomes…go out and do research, meet people, read books, whatever you need to do but the truth always helps you.”

2) Know your characters.
Hal Kanter illustrates the importance of knowing your characters with one of his favorite anecdotes. The story is from the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show, but it applies equally to screenwriting: “All of the writers were sitting in the room with the actors putting together the final script. And we were trying to get a line for the Kingfish; nobody was happy with the line that we had. Everybody was throwing lines back and forth, back and forth. It was a large group of writers, all of whom were excellent, and nobody came up with a line. I finally turned to Freeman Gosden who was the headman and also played the part of the Kingfish. I said, “If the Kingfish himself were to come into this room right now, and you were to explain to him what the problem was, what do you think he would say?” And Freeman immediately shifted into the character and he said, “Well, boy” — whatever the line was — and we all fell down laughing. That was the perfect line! Even Freeman himself was startled by the fact that that character had come out of nowhere. That was a lesson we all learned; you have to know your characters before you sit down and write. And he knew his so well that the Kingfish actually came alive.”

These sound like two really great tips to me! Have you used these tips to help you get out of a writing jam? If so, I'd love to hear how it helped. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

And the script goes on

So it's been way too long since I've written. The only thing I can say is I've been so busy with writing projects, so that's at least a good reason not to blog. But I do at least want to try and blog once a month. Okay, it's been about six months. Sort of the same thing. lol

I'm about to start the 2nd act of my WW2 script that I'm co-producing with two producers. I brought the project to them, so that's why I'm co-producing it. They've produced a ton of things. Me, this will be my first. But the most important thing is that I get this script finished!

I finally got notes from both of them on my first act. There wasn't a ton, so that's nice. And now I can get started on the rest of the script. Maybe I'm writing my blog because I'm nervous to actually finish the script. Do you get that way? I guess those small voices in my head that doubt what kind of writer I'll be, pop up every so often. I know not to listen to them. I know that you have to get something on the page so you can rewrite it. But there's still some of those voices and moments. So hush you darn voices! Okay, I don't want this blog to be too long. I don't want to waste all my time blogging and not writing! If you have any tips on how you ignore those voices of doubt, I'd love to hear them. And for me, onto the 2nd act of my script!

Monday, January 7, 2019

On The Page, again!

So about two years ago, me and two other writers, Mike Martin and Aydrea Walden, were asked to be on On The Page podcast by the wonderful Pilar Alessandra for our first time. She calls us the "Go Getters" which is really cool! Then recently, she asked us back again as returning guests. So since it had been a while since I chatted with these two other wonderful writers, it was really nice to be back on the podcast with them and see what they were up to. I will say, that I know I was super nervous the first time I did the podcast. I can't speak for the others. But I will say is we had a really nice relaxed energy together this time. Or maybe it was because I wasn't as nervous this time! haha Who knows. All I know is I hope it's as fun to listen to as it was for us to record. And of course, it's always wonderful spending time with Pilar. Please listen and hope you enjoy!






Thursday, October 25, 2018

5 Things I Learned Writing This Movie, #4

So tomorrow night 5 Weddings opens worldwide in 52 countries. You'd think that would be exciting right? Well, as a writer, I have to say, there's nothing scarier for me. See, what I love about writing is writing. But whenever people see my work, I know I'm putting myself and my hard work out for the world to see and to judge. And that is not really fun for me. So what's a writer to do?

Well, one producer friend suggested, just enjoy that I got a film made. That's no easy thing. With all the movies we see get made, you'd think maybe that's not a big deal. But really, with all the screenwriters, there really are a lot of very successful writers that don't even get a film made. So that's a really big deal and something to be happy about.

Then, that producer also suggested, my friends and family are all coming to see the movie and all excited for me. Enjoy that! What we writers forget with each step is to enjoy those moments. What's the point if we don't let ourselves enjoy these moments? So no matter what I'm thinking about people seeing it and wondering what they'll think, I have to let myself enjoy the whole experience. Enjoy that friends are there, they are happy for me. That's something!

Also, I'm listening to a book on tape, by Brene Brown, Rising Strong. And she has done a lot of Ted Talks and had talks on youtube and her suggestion is about the fact that a lot of people have opinions. But they personally don't put work out there to be judged, they just judge others. So her opinion is if your opinion on my work matters, then you have to put your work out there too. If you're just judging and not putting work out there, then your opinion DOES NOT matter. I love that! So this goes for movie critics and reviewers. It's sure easy to sit in the comfort of your home and judge someone else's screenwriting and film directing. But are those same people actually writing and directing? Nope. So even though I worry about being judged. I'm at least in the game. And that isn't something every person can say. And for that, I deserve a pat on the back!

So sure, other people might be super excited for me that my film is out tomorrow. And I promise I will try to enjoy it, every nerve-wracking moment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

5 Things I Learned Writing This Movie, #3

I'm back! I'm doing a series of blogs in honor of my movie 5 Weddings, that comes out this month worldwide, on October 26. I'm writing about 5 Things I Learned Writing This Movie. So onto:

#3 - Getting a movie produced can take a long, long time. I wrote the first draft of this movie about 13 years ago. Yes, 13 years! So what's a writer to do to not drive the producer crazy while you wait? You get started on another script, and then another, and then another, and then another. Well, you get the idea. Any script you write, you put in the past. And if it gets produced, great! And if not, you've got so many other scripts you won't care. And when it does get produced, like 5 Weddings did, then yay that's just icing on the cake. Even when the producer Namrata Singh Gujral finally told me about it two years ago that we were going to bring on Andy Glickman, a good friend of mine and talented writer to get the script ready for production, I almost didn't believe her! It had been sitting around for so long I really thought it would never get produced! But true to her word, one day, it was in production! I even have a blog post about being on the set for one of the days. And then next thing I knew, it premiered at Cannes! And now here we are, about to see the movie released worldwide. So, the moral of the story, is don't sit around waiting for a script to get produced, always move on to the next project. 

Okay, check in next for #4! 

Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Things I Learned Writing This Movie, #2

So I started a series of blog posts, 5 Things I Learned Writing This Movie, to honor my first produced movie that comes out this month, 5 Weddings. So, today let's hear it from:

#2 - When you write a script, you may think that what you have, is what it will always be. But for us, that was definitely not the case. And maybe not the case on many scripts. So what I learned is that when you write a script, it will change, and change, and change, and then change some more. At first when we started this script, it was a straight-up comedy. But after I finished the script in two weeks, the producer decided to add some dramatic elements. I don't want to say what they are as to not give anything away about the movie. I do think they add a lot of depth to the story, so I'm glad she suggested it. It ends up being the B story, in fact. But that meant there would be a lot of rewrites. So it went from a comedy to a dramedy. I also wrote the first script about 13 years ago, so that means a lot of rewrites over those 13 years. So as a writer you just have to be fine with changes. Because changes are what makes a better story. I think the basic elements are there from the start, but we added a lot over that time frame. So what I'm saying is, don't be afraid to let your script evolve! That's what scripts are made for.

Okay, be sure to be on the lookout for #3 tip next time!