Time for some Friday Questions (make sure they're in the form of a question). Do you have one? Please leave it in the comment section. And away we go...
MikeN starts us off with a rather unusual one:
Martians have invaded the earth and will take over the planet unless you can beat them in Jeopardy. You have to pick one celebrity you've worked with to play for the fate of the planet. Who do you choose?
Alan Alda. And I hope one of the categories is science. And that Paula Abdul is the other celebrity contestant.
Douglas Trapasso wonders:
How do you feel aesthetically about using profanity in a script? Do wish you had that option available when you wrote all those great network shows? Sometimes I wonder if it's a writer's crutch to substitute for experience or deep knowledge of the characters. Did Wolf of Wall Street really need 427 F-bombs to make its points?
A lot depends on the characters and situation. A gritty cop precinct would probably employ more profanity than a ballet studio. That said, I’ve always felt that too much profanity often undercuts its impact. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET could have cut 300 of those F-bombs. Of course they could have also cut 90 minutes from the whole fucking film.
There are times when I’ve felt handcuffed writing for a broadcast network. You know in real life the frat boys would say “shit” not “shoot.” But for the most part, especially in sitcoms, writing without profanity is very manageable.
And when writing for the stage or screen or cable where I have more freedom I generally resort to profanity very sparingly. If only I could in real life.
With regard to direction, why do so many TV shows prefer closeup shots of individual characters relating rather than a two-shot which would show more chemistry? For example, seeing Niles and Daphne together in a shot reveals so much more than say, an episode of FRIENDS where we flip back and forth between Monica and Chandler until we're dizzy.
That’s a stylistic choice. In general, you like to be close, especially in comedy. But you’re right, a good two-shot, or over-the-shoulder shot that favors the actor who’s talking but also features the other actor he’s talking to are viable options. I also like to have a variety of shots. But ultimately, it depends on the showrunner. Some like straight close-ups, others like variety.
But I agree with James Burrows who says that if the story really works you could just shoot the wide master and the show would play.
Brian Phillips asks:
While you were DJ'ing, did you find yourself listening to more or less music during your off-hours?
More. I was constantly switching back and forth between our station and the competition. And then I’d get home and want to hear any music that wasn’t on our station. Lots of Eric Clapton and Sinatra. Anything but the Osmonds.
And finally, from Anthony:
I'm a junior in high school and my dream is to write sitcoms. I've written about ten scripts already in order to practice, learned (to the best of my ability) the format, and am planning on attending a college in the Los Angeles area in order to have more opportunities.
Outside of this, some insight and advice on what my following steps should be would be much appreciated. The whole process seems daunting, and I'm not sure if this is a reasonable goal to even have
Sounds like you’re way ahead of the game. Just keep at it, Anthony. Keep writing scripts. There are no guarantees, but it sounds like you have way more desire than most people considering a career in comedy writing.
I would stay the course, and as for it being a reasonable goal – I think you have the luxury of time should you decide to pursue something else.
When you finally get to LA, look me up.