Heading to Albuquerque to hang out with the Isotopes this weekend. There’s something about minor league baseball that’s so pure. And there’s a Homer Simpson statue at the ballpark! But Friday Questions continue no matter where I am.
When pitching a screenplay synopsis to an agent or studio, do you give away the ending or not?
Yes. Studios now want the story almost beat-by-beat. And if it’s a comedy then want lots of jokes, five big comic scenes, five trailer moments, and a description of what the poster would look like with the tagline included.
Years ago my partner and I wanted to write a movie about my experiences as a minor league baseball announcer. We sold the pitch to Columbia by saying merely this: BULL DURHAM meets GOOD MORNING VIET NAM. After the meeting we went to lunch to celebrate when a stray thought occurred to me: What’s the actual story? It took three years and five drafts to answer that little question.
But in general, you have to now pitch everything. And if you can hum the score that would be helpful too.
Kevin Kelton has a question on a similar topic:
Did you notice that jokes from the trailer (of THE HEAT) were not in the film. The scenes were, but the blows that were in the ads were outtakes from the glass cut scene, the jail cop scene, and others. Feels like cheating to me.
This happens all the time. The goal of trailers is to lure viewers, period.
I’ve told this story before, but my partner and I were once paid a lot of money to write a joke for a trailer after the movie had wrapped production. They assembled the trailer and realized there wasn’t one big joke. So they would go back and film the joke we provided, but they were very clear that it wouldn’t appear in the movie. Now, if you’re saying – if it was a great joke and the movie didn’t have any, why wouldn’t they use it? That’s a good question that we didn’t ask because we were too busy racing to the bank to cash the check.
Mitchell Hundred asks:
Considering that many shows take a season or so to find their feet/voice, at what point in the run would you recommend getting into a show?
I refer here to shows that are now off the air and available for purchase/streaming, not ones currently on TV (and obviously not serialized ones, which you'd have to watch in chronological order).
It depends on the show. I’ve always maintained that the first year of CHEERS was its best. Same with FRASIER and COSBY. But you’re right, shows usually need a season or two to really find its groove. For MASH I would say that was season three and four. SEINFELD’S first batch were very uneven. You might want to start a little into the run.
But even though most hit shows need a little time to develop, they’re still quite good right from the beginning. So I would say start from season one. Sometimes you can pick out the early episode where the light bulb went on and the producers said, “THAT’S what we need to do!”
And finally, from Future Friday:
Ken, what are your thoughts on British/foreign comedy and sitcoms? Have you encountered an obscure country that has such an outlandish sense of humor that our comedy pales in comparison? (I'd say Japan excluded since it's not obscure, but if you firmly believe it's Japan, go ahead and say Japan.)
I have not encountered such a country. It’s not like the Dominican Republic and baseball. And I've never seen a Japanese sitcom. The only imports from Japan seem to be really appalling reality game shows and Pink Lady. If there's a great Japanese sitcom please steer me to it.
Has anyone seen a Cambodian sitcom? Maybe one from Bhutan? What am I missing?
What’s your question? Have a great weekend.