Hello from Arizona, where it turns out it’s Friday here, too. So here are some Friday questions.
Crouch_P gets us started.
When writing a pilot, do you include a character and set list, and if so, are these generally considered to be part of the page count?
Depending on the project, yes to character descriptions, no to set lists. If you do character descriptions, make them very brief – two or three sentences. And what I like to do is also include a prototype, even if you know you’re not going to get him. E.g. “Picture James Franco”, “Picture Will Ferrell”.
Plus, I would still remind the reader in a sentence or two who the character is the first time you introduce him in the body of the show. Do it in the stage directions. Again, emply the “Picture Natalie Portman” trick. It just helps the reader instantly get what you’re going for.
It's crucial in pilots not to confuse the reader. That sounds like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised. I know I’ve said this before, but don’t give women characters traditional male names. Alex and Sam are two that spring to mind. Or names that are just initials. J.D. That could be anyone. Don't befuddle the reader. You're writing a pilot not a Russian novel.
I try to choose names that were popular when the characters were born. A mom character might be Deborah. But there aren’t too many 12 year-olds named Deborah these days. Likewise, there aren’t a lot of 50 year-old women named Britney. And I’d avoid Adolph just on general principles.
Speaking of names -- Johnny Walker has a CHEERS question.
I think back to the Woody and Rebecca years, and mingled in with the laughs I'm kind of shocked by what I remember of Sam's womanizing behavior. It was lost on me as a kid, but I was wondering how you feel about this years later?
I haven't seen the episodes in a very long time, so I'm not referring to anything specific (other than maybe Sam's desperate quest to "bed" Rebecca).
I must say I was never a fan of the season arc where Sam went to elaborate and sometimes despicable lengths to get into Rebecca’s pants. Ironically, NBC did research testing on the show at the end of that year and Sam tested the highest of any character. Why? Because the audience perceived him as fatherly to the bar patrons and “protective” of Rebecca. Huh?? What show were they watching? Sam did everything but slip her a roofie.
As for the original womanizing (first few seasons), I thought that worked, primarily because Diane was such a terrific foil. She could really get under Sam's skin and get him to question his beliefs. This created a terrific internal conflict. His brain vs. his crotch (and we all know who wins that battle).
I also liked that we dealt with Sam aging during the course of the series. There comes a point where you do have to grow up. Even Sam -- which isn't to say that he went quietly .
Jim S with another CHEERS question:
I saw for the first time in years the episode where Frederick's first word is "Norm". That was one of the cleverest things I've ever seen on TV. I noticed the credits show you and your partner as the writers. Just how did that really great idea come about?
This is one I addressed before but here’s the answer.
And finally, from Ajjjj:
As a young writer about to move to LA and working with a limited budget, what parts of town would you recommend to live in... specifically cheap enough but still not running to your car and back.
Also, is there an area of town where you'll be closer to where most of the TV writing happens, or is it spread out?
The studios are more spread out now than they ever were to take advantage of cheaper rentals. So it’s not just Hollywood and Burbank and Century City. Now it’s Valencia and Redondo Beach as well. But don’t worry about it. If you get a good writing job you just move to wherever your office is. Unless it’s downtown.
Several areas seem popular with young people relocating to Los Angeles. The West Hollywood area (actually East West Hollywood) around Melrose and La Brea is nicknamed “First Stop L.A.” Housing is somewhat affordable and the area is somewhat safe. Hollywood near the hills is also a good destination. This is where a lot of locations for SWINGERS were filmed. Then there’s the Silverlake District. Funky with a lot of artist-types.
Beware the Westside of LA – it’s expensive. And Malibu is a little pricey, especially around where Barbra Streisand lives.
What’s your question?
For you folks in Seattle, I'll be calling tonight's Mariners-Dodgers game on 710 ESPN radio and mlb.com. Join me for some thrilling Cactus League action!