Thursday, November 20, 2008

What shows would I like to direct?

Let’s get to some Friday questions. Ask yours in the comments section.

From Eric Curtis:

One of the things I remember the most about Cheers is the scene where Kirstie Alley hid a lit cigarette in her mouth. How did you find out she could do that? I can't believe it was in the script beforehand.

It’s what we make all actresses do during auditions. Seriously, she had mentioned to us at some point (probably towards the end of a drunken wrap party) that she had that rather unique and impressive skill. And we figured, this is the kind of thing that could win her an Emmy over Julia Louis-Dreyfus. So we worked it into a script.

Mary Stella wonders:

Which current show would you like most to write for and/or direct?

I think I’d like to write a MAD MEN or FAMILY GUY and I imagine I could find a story that would work with either. In terms of directing, I gravitate more towards actors I admire and would like to work with. So OLD CHRISTINE because of Julia L-D, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (I directed Neil Patrick Harris before and he is a joy), 30 ROCK (Alec and Tina), and LOST if it’s an Elizabeth Mitchell episode.

Paul in Kirkland weighs in:

Here's a bit of an offbeat question: How much credence should you give to *other* people encouraging you to write? Pretty much everyone at some point tells me (unprompted) "you should be a writer". I enjoy writing, but I'm a little hesitant to give it a shot - fear of failure and all. Should I take their comments as an indication that I have potential, or should I just figure that people have pretty low standards and they think you can be a writer if you don't end sentences in a proposition?

Paul, people don’t tell everybody they think they should be writers. (No one said it to me now that I think about it.) You should be encouraged. One of the great things about writing is that you don’t have to show it to anyone. It’s not like wanting to be a director, borrowing $20,000 from friends to make a movie. Those friends are damn well going to want to see the final product. You can bury your script in a drawer.

But this is key: never let a fear of failure prevent you from trying – writing or any other creative endeavor. Why? Because we ALL fail. No matter how successful we are we all have our AfterMASH’s and COP ROCKS and STUDIO 60’s. Writing isn’t about winning awards, it’s the need to express yourself. If you have something to say, say it.

From Chad:

Like anyone, I'm sure you have a political point of view. Do you think that shows up in your writing and do you have a thought or rule about that?

I think my political view colors my worldview and so is present in much of what I write. But it’s more about the situation and characters. You need to be able to write opposing points of view for dramatic tension. And you must be as true to them and their position you are to the one you favor. That makes you a better writer and broadens your scope, not necessarily a bad thing.

On MASH however, I must admit we did have a political agenda. Were we too subtle or do you think it maybe came through?

And finally, from The Anonymous Production Assistant:

What question do you wish you would've asked when you were a young, aspiring writer, but were just too dumb to ask?

How long should it take to break in? But I'm glad I was too dumb to ask that question because maybe the answer would have dissuaded me from trying. And no matter what I ended up doing instead (probably playing oldies on a radio station in Bakersfield) I would have been haunted by never having given it a shot.

30 comments:

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

There's an opening in Bakersfield?? Quick, give me the number...

D. McEwan said...

"LOST if it’s an Elizabeth Mitchell episode."

Oh please; even if she's not in it, they still shoot it in Hawaii.

"What? I have to go to Hawaii and shoot in Paradise for a week or two? Damn! Well, Elizabeth Mitchell better be in it!"

You might have to just make do with the sun, surf, Evangeline Lilly, Yunjin Kim, and a geat script. I would WEEP for you. And then I would try to pry script details out of you.

Anonymous said...

Ew, Family Guy?

You're better than that... Do you really want to join a team of ball bobbing manatees?

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is an opening in Bakersfield. Unfortunately it's a voice-tracking position and only pays $500 a month.

sonderangerbot said...

Yes, you might have to elaborate on Family Guy. Do they even have story lines?

Joe said...

1- Cop Rock? OMG, another serious bout of memory whiplash. You're killing me, Levine. (One of my best friends is/was a cop and also a musician. He loved that show. He used to sing perps their Miranda rights. Still might for all I know.)

2- Um, the political viewpoint of M*A*S*H didn't strike me as particularly inscrutable, but it wasn't obnoxious either. (Clear as mud, I know.)

3- Is it just me, or are the word verifications less gibberish-y and more sniglet-ish?

I have spoken.

-J.

jgc said...

Actually, IMO, Family Guy's writing seems to have improved this season. More actual stories, fewer "this was better / worse than the time I did XX." I think FG would give Ken a real chance to show off his truly screwball side.

emily said...

I just read that ABC has axed 'Pushing Daisies,' 'Eli Stone' and 'Dirty Sexy Money."

Ken, you probably could have saved them, and many others too. OK, maybe not Cavemen...


word verification: KINES

Anonymous said...

gotta admit...MASH's political agenda was nothing compared to what I've seen on Boston Legal this year. Seriously, why do writers and actors go there? The show is good, the writing clever, yet politically charged one-sided dialog runs rampant. It isn't necessary and just pisses me off. I watch to be entertained...not preached at. I can watch C-SPAN for that. OK, Friday vent is over.
T

PS Yes, I like MASH...a lot...

paul in Kirkland said...

Thanks for answering my question Ken.

And for the record, I proofread my post multiple times yet still managed to end it with a proposition instead of a preposition.

I guess step 1 is to take a grammar course.

Anonymous said...

The strange thing about M*A*S*H's political agenda is that it was set in Korea. Hardly anyone opposed the Korean War, before the U.S./UN stepped in, the South Koreans were being slaughtered. There was a very good reason to fight. If you go back and read M*A*S*H the novel, there is no anti-war sentiment in it. It's about doctors refusing to live under Army regs.

Joe said...

Speaking of political agendæ...when did Julia Louis-Dreyfus get this -- there's no getting around it, let's face it -- hot?

Or has she always been this way and have I been too self-absorbed to notice?

D. McEwan said...

"The South Koreans were being slaughtered. There was a very good reason to fight."

That's a very good reason for the South Koreans to fight. It's not "a very good reason" for AMERICAN blood to be shed. It's supposed to be The Department of Defense, as in defending America. The amount of danger the United States was in from Korea then was nil. No American blood should have been spent there.

As for "Hardly anyone opposed the Korean War," clearly you weren't eatng dinner at our house then. My Mother's brother was in Korea, and I assure you my mother was loudly and adamantly opposed to that "Police Action".

Not surprisingly, M*A*S*H was the only "Medical" show my Christian Scientist mother ever watched, but she loved it, because she hated the Korean War. (Uncle Duncan came home intact.)

gottacook said...

Your thoughts, please, about (the probably nonresurrectable) PUSHING DAISIES, which is the only non-animated scripted show that my whole family can enjoy (our daughters are 10 and 12). Would you have wanted to write for it? What did you think of its wry sense of humor, which seemed to grow almost entirely out of the premise of the show? And would you ever want to collaborate with Barry Sonnenfeld (who directed the DGA award- and Emmy-winning pilot, "Pie-lette")?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

We had the biggest presence in Korea, but it was technically a UN action.

I guess my Friday question didn't make the cut. Drat!

Word Verification: dista. As in, "Is dista guy who didn't get picked?"

Kirk Jusko said...

I agree with Mash's anti-war message, but that doesn't mean it was particularly realistic that every character on that show except for Frank Burns, and, early on, Hot Lips, was against the Korean War.

I'm really thinking of that episode that was in the form of a black-and-white documentary. In it, Chet Edwards asks Colonel Potter if sees any good coming out of the Korean War, and Potter replies, "Not a damn thing." Um, wouldn't someone at the Pentagon, who watched that on TV, get just a little upset at him?

Actually, we could have probably used a few Colonel Potters in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

In terms of directing, I gravitate more towards actors I admire and would like to work with. So OLD CHRISTINE because of Julia L-D

You'd first have to find a way to put Andy Ackerman out of commission. He's the James Burrows of that show.

D. McEwan said...

"Kirk Jusko said...
I agree with Mash's anti-war message, but that doesn't mean it was particularly realistic that every character on that show except for Frank Burns, and, early on, Hot Lips, was against the Korean War."

There was also that recurring anachronism that HAwkeye kepst making "Godzilla" k=jokes, event hough the first Godzilla movie wasn't made until after the Korean "UN Police Action" was over.

It was a good show anyway.

D. McEwan said...

Man, I have GOT to remember to proof-read before I hit the "Publish your comment" button!

Gareth Wilson said...

My question: what's the best purely visual joke you've written, and how did you describe it in the script?

KEN LEVINE said...

I never got PUSHING DAISIES so I'm not the person to ask.

Any question that is asked is put into a file and I try to get to as many of them as I can. So I didn't get to yours this week, hang on. I might not get to it next week either. But someday I will. Thanks.

Gareth Wilson said...

Sorry for the repeat, something weird happened last week and I didn't see my post. So I thought it hadn't gone through and I should save it for the following week. That's exactly how people usually make double posts but I've managed to extend the process from a few seconds to seven days.

Anonymous said...

It's like that time when I was in the french army, and hitler showed up.

Also, Studio 60 wasn't a failure.

jbryant said...

d: I know it was a typo, but I like "k=jokes." Sounds like the humor equivalent of k-rations (only tastier, I would hope). Every soldier should have some.

Jim Diamond said...

Hey Anonymous, what planet are you from? Even live shifts in Bakersfield don't pay $500/month...

Kirk Jusko said...

Mash was a good show, and I really wouldn't have cared if Hawkeye had made Linda Blair jokes.

Something about being in front of a keyboard just brings out the nit-picker in me.

(By the way, what's with Tony Curtis imitating Cary Grant in SOME LIKE IT HOT? I think he was still working in some English music hall in 1929.)

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
Also, Studio 60 wasn't a failure."

It wasn't? You think it was INTENDED to run only one season?

Let's see: it went on the air much-hyped, was critically savaged, bled viewers, and was cancelled after one season.

In network TV terms, that's a failure, a crticial failure and an audience failure.

Krik,

Since we're picking nits, first off, while Tony was imitating Cary Grant, his character, "Joe," was just doing a funny voice, which is why Sugar never said, "Hey, you talk just like Archie Leach."

Secondly, at the time of The St. Valentine'a Day Massacre, Cary Grant was, under the name Archie Leach, playing "Reggie Phipps" in a musical titled BOOM BOOM, starring Jeanette MacDonald, on Broadway. It was the third of his five Broadway shows, not to mention his Broadway vaudeville appearances with the Fred Karno troupe way back in 1920, so it's more than possible than a professioal saxophone player might not merely have seen him perform, but even have played in a pit orchestra for a show he was in, and could have decided that that Brit had an amusing accent. Although by 1929, "Joe" was living in Chicago, his natural accent brands him a New Yorker originally. And Cary Grant hadn't played an English Music Hall in over 9 years.

I can pick nits with the best of them.

Kirk Jusko said...

I didn't know Cary Grant was in the US, much less on Broadway, in1929. I wanted to be a nitpicking wit, instead, I'm, well, you know what verb to remove.

Actually, Jack Lemmon (as Jerry) does say to Tony (as Joe) "Where did you get that phony accent? Nobody "talks loike thet!"

While I didn't know Cary Grant and Jeannette McDonald were on Broadway together, I did see them in the same movie. I believe it's called ONLY ANGELS I MARRIED HAVE WINGS.

Or is it MY GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST FRIDAY?

D. McEwan said...

Well Kirk, now you know more about the career of Archie Leach than you did. He came to the US in 1920, and worked extensively on stage for more than a deacde, includng 5 Broadway shows, before breaking into movies in the early 30s, and becoming "Cary Grant".

And "Jerry" had a point, because Cary's famous accent was pretty much Grant's invention, a mid-Atlantic mash-up of his native Cockney and his American-acquired infelctions. He was, in every way, his own invention.

As for MY GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST FRIDAY: put a comma after "West," and it becomes Robinson Crusoe describing his island companion after too many years alone together.

Having been raised by a mother who pined for the rugged masculinity of Nelson Eddy, and thus having been endlessly subjected to the entire Eddy-MacDonald canon while at tender, vulnerable ages, I often referred to their first film together as THE AWFUL NAUGHTY MARIETTA, and any of their films as BRINGING UP MY LUNCH.

And didn't Cary once sing to Jeanette THE DONKEY'S PENNY SERENADE?

Kirk Jusko said...

How about Grant's original "French" accent in I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE?