Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Questions. Boo!

Happy Halloween. Trick or Friday Questions?

Matt gets us started:

It seems to me that successful plays used to be made into movies. Maybe I am missing them, but that doesn't appear to me to be happening anymore. But I don't understand why. Seems like you would have a built in audience, good press already and in general plays would be more plot driven and cheaper to produce as movies. They wouldn't have to be blockbusters to be a financial success. Can you explain this to me or at least tell me I am wrong?

Plays are still adapted to movies but less frequently.  DINNER WITH FRIENDS springs to mind. First of all, there are fewer original plays getting to Broadway. Revivals and adaptations of Disney movies are clogging up the theatres these days -- an alarming trend to be sure.

Another problem is that plays often are set in one location – like an apartment. (Again -- DINNER WITH FRIENDS).  It’s sometimes difficult to open up a play and make it more visual without losing the essence of the piece. Plays are more dialogue driven. Movies are controlled by images.

Also, plays are sometimes very stylistic, taking advantage of the theatrical experience. When converted to the real world of film they often lose their magic.

That said, my play A OR B? (now playing at the Falcon Theatre) would make a great motion picture. Please contact my agent.

From Jim:

I'm just a bit curious to know what your writing process is when its just you. No partner, no assistant, and I guess no budget for anything like that, just you. Do you sit at your PC quietly typing stuff out, the benefit of years in the business. Or do you try and re-enact everything yourself, complete with impressions of your actors, using whatever you've got to hand as props.

I work on my desktop Apple or laptop Apple, just quietly typing (and mostly deleting). Often I’ll have ‘60s music playing. I like the energy and variety. And what’s better inspiration for writing comedy than “Eve of Destruction?”

When I’m finished with several scenes I print them out and revise off of that. Often I will read it aloud to hear the rhythm. I’m very big on flow and having the dialogue sound conversational and natural.

I never act anything out. I’m way too klutzy.

Steve B. has a question regarding my review of SELFIE:

I saw the pilot, and felt exactly the same way as you did. But you seem to completely dismiss the chances for the show after one episode. We've all seen shows that eventually find their legs and grow greatly over the first season. What is there about a show that will make you give up at the very beginning, and what might give you a little hope to hang in there?

Look, there are shows you watch and see something of value even if it’s undercooked and are willing to give it another chance or two. And then there are shows you see and go “Ugh!!” That’s just human nature. You hate the premise, hate the actors, don’t think it’s amusing or compelling, and time’s too short. For me it’s often the writing. For most people it’s the casting.

But now there’s a third viewing option: shows you hate-watch. There’s something about the train wreck aspect of them that just fascinates you. Watching how inept, how stupid, how unfunny they are is oddly entertaining. We’re a sick society… well, some of us are.

What shows do you hate-watch?

Brian Phillips wonders:

Who did you work with that had a bad reputation, or you heard bad things about, that turned out to be a positive working experience?

Producer Scott Rudin. I had heard horror stories but found him smart, respectful, supportive, and helpful. Of the many studio producers or executives I’ve worked with, he’s one of my favorites.

And I’ve mentioned this before, Kristin Chenowith. I directed three episodes of her sitcom KRISTIN and she could not have been nicer, more professional, and gracious – not just to me but everyone on the crew. That’s the real tell with actors – how do they treat crew members? Kristin was absolutely lovely. I would work with her again in a second.

Have a safe and sane Halloween tonight.  Leave your questions in the comment section and come see my play.  Only a couple of weeks left. 

34 comments:

MikeK.Pa. said...

You'll be happy to know that now that ABC has cancelled Manhattan Love Story, they're doubling up on Selfie, which is on life support. I'm disappointed on the quick hook as I found Analeigh Tipton to be fascinating to watch. Not classically good looking, but oozes vulnerability, which always gets me. She's already booked for supporting roles in several movies, so I'm sure in time she'll find the right role. Jake McDorman reminded me of the poor man's Seth Rogen, another actor I like who finally had a hit movie in Neighbors.

As far as love-hate (I already mentioned Dragnet yesterday), for current shows it's gotta be Bad Judge. Kate Walsh seems to be having the time of her life playing her character so outrageously, but I can't get into the rest of the cast or the plots.

BTW, very smart to speak nice of Scott Rudin. There's a guy who could get A or B? to Broadway just like that.

Terrence Moss said...

I now hate-watch "Glee". The fact that it's still on the air, but "Enlisted", "Surviving Jack" and "Raising Hope" proves that FOX was on some good shit last season.

As for the "Selfie" question, some shows aren't worth bothering with as evidenced by their quick cancellation.

Such was not the case with "Manhattan Love Story". I hate romantic comedies, but after it was cancelled, I watched the four aired episodes. ABC was WAY off base pulling the plug so quickly.

Ron Smith said...

I'm hate-watching "Mulaney" on Fox, hoping sometime in thirty minutes they'll give a decent line to the great Martin Short I can laugh at. So far there's been-- one (he probably ad-libbed that one).

Patrick said...

Hate to say it, but I still fully intend on hate-watching The Newsroom's final season. I've mostly just stopped watching shows that are actively awful so I can fit more of the good stuff in (Gotham lasted 2.5 episodes in my rotation, which is 1.5 more than Teen Wolf ever did), but you bet your ass I will be watching The Newsroom live, Twitter in one hand and wine in the other. For me it's the combination of a talented writer/producer, a talented cast, and an interesting premise and setting that somehow all combines into one giant s***storm.

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks for answering my question. Here is another one. "Modern Family" had a great pilot episode. You have previously said that the second episodes are harder.

That being said, what are some great second episodes of shows that you liked?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Friday Question Ken:
You've said that show Runners are the ones that give a show it's atmosphere, appearance, tone and timing. How does a guest director (such as yourself or one of the cast members) make their mark if they are given the opportunity to direct? Is it supposed to be seamless to the television audience, and we wouldn't know it was a "Levine Direction" unless we saw the credits? thanks.

skarab said...

I wouldn't call it "hate-watching" but for years we have watched "CSI Miami" strictly for its camp value. My wife calls David Caruso "the sideways cop".

Dan Ball said...

This is the wrong answer, but I'd rather find new shows or movies to like or rewatch good shows or movies I've seen a lot. I do probably hate-watch LANCELOT LINK: SECRET CHIMP on Hulu. It's kinda nostalgic too, because I used to watch the reruns on Nickelodeon when I was little. For what it is, the show was pretty impressive and funny (brought to us by some of the minds behind GET SMART!)

Scooter Schechtman said...

You've all been hate-watching? Welcome to my parlour, children. Yes, the drinks are harmless...

ScottyB said...

Hate-watching is dangerous. I hate-watched 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' ... and then I reallyreally started liking it more and more.

I started hate-watching Charlie Sheen's 'Arrested Development' ... and then found myself laughing more times than not, and realizing even more that Barry Corbin is really fucking funny (I always knew Shawnee Smith is a total babe, tho).

That said, I totally refuse to hate-watch 'Bad Judge' more than the once I've seen it. Some things are just too dreadful to even have a train to wreck.

BetterYeti said...

Also, plays are sometimes very stylistic, taking advantage of the theatrical experience. When converted to the real world of film they often lose their magic.

Following up on this, I think the larger "theatricality" of performance and dialogue works on stage in a way that doesn't gel with the naturalism we've come to expect in movies. Jodi Foster's screen version of "Carnage" is a good example of this. Never did I think I was looking at real people while I could see these pantomime characters working on stage.

Pete Grossman said...

Re: Kristin Chenowith
My buddy who introduced me to your blog had the same positive experience with her and welcomes the opportunity again in a heartbeat.

The Mutt said...

Friday Question: During your current theater experience, have you encountered the many theater superstitions? (No whistling, Macbeth, break-a-leg, etc.)

And are there similar superstitions in the TV business?

diego said...

ENTOURAGE is the ultimate hate watch

Tim W. said...

I don't understand hate-watching something. There are enough decent shows, and simply not enough time for me to watch shows I don't thoroughly enjoy.

Cristina said...

Hi Ken is there a way to resuscitate a bad show on the brink of cancellation like Selfie? As a writer can you do something to turn around a show to make it watchable and funnier? Thanks

jbryant said...

MikeK Pa: Analeigh Tipton was very good in CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE and DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. Never would've expected it from a former AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL contestant!

Seth Rogen was in several hit movies before NEIGHBORS, including THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and THIS IS THE END.

As for hate-watching, I try not to do it, but it happened with FARGO. That may sound odd, since the show had a lot going for it, especially its high production value and superb casting, but I found its attempts to be Coen-esque just pointed up its inferiority to the original. And boy, did it have a lot of dumb plot points and forced humor.

And then there's NASHVILLE, which I started out love-watching, but it's become so ridiculous. It's still a guilty pleasure, though, so maybe it doesn't qualify as a hate-watch.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Patrick: Watching the Twitter feed and *not* watching the show would be, for me, a far preferable strategy for THE NEWSROOM.

jbryant: NASHVILLE has become an enormous disappointment. The big USP for me was always the music, but either the budget or the talent in that area has shrunk drastically, and the storylines are soap cartoons. That said, I can't abandon the show because of the Stella sisters. They are amazing.

wg

Ralph C. said...

I've never hate-watched any tv series but, due to my favorite show of all-time, Mystery Science Theater 3000, I've watched movies that I thought would be bad, like "Cool As Ice", as an example. If I was to hate-watch anything, I'd ale sure to have at least one person watching it with me so I can riff on it and have an audience.

VP81955 said...

I have a fine example of changes in a play turned into a movie: Hecht and MacArthur's "Twentieth Century," later converted into a film starring the lady in my avatar. The play was entirely set aboard the fabled Twentieth Century train, but the first 40% or so of the film sets up the characters and story -- the rise to fame of Lily Garland (nee lingerie saleslady Mildred Plotka), the rise and fall of her relationship with impresario Oscar Jaffe, who discovered and honed her, and Lily's decision to head for Hollywood, sending Oscar into both a professional and personal funk. Once Oscar boards the train and learns that Lily's on board, the riotous fun begins. (This is the film that made Carole Lombard a star, and definitely John Barrymore's best comedic performance.)

And since you brought up Kristin Chenoweth, let's come full circle: Broadway's little giant will play Lily Garland in a revival of the musical based on the play-turned-movie, "On The Twentieth Century." (Its initial B'way won plaudits for Madeline Kahn.) Learn more about the production, which will have a limited run in NYC next spring, at http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/On-the-Twentieth-Century.aspx

Unkystan said...

Hey Ken, any chance for an off-Broadway run of your play here in NY. I'd love to see it but...

pumpkinhead said...

I don't really have anything of interest to day today (if in fact I ever do), but I would feel remiss not leaving some sort of a comment today of all days, given my moniker. Happy Halloween, sir!

MikeK.Pa. said...

jbryant: I know Seth had some early success with Knocked Up etc., but since Pineapple Express it was one bomb after another with the zenith being Guilt Trip. I really like him and rooting for him to find better vehicles. Harrison Ford made a career of picking great projects for such as wooden actor as he is. Seth's likability is off the charters.

Phantom Dreamer said...

Anger Management.

Dana Gabbard said...

I actually watched Manhattan Love Story. Analeigh Tipton was quite good. I felt Jake McDorman's character was only fitfully interesting, which hobbled his performance. It might have developed into a decent show if given a chance. Although I found the "hear their thoughts" gimmick added only a little humor and easily could be dispensed with.

Another new show I am watching is Forever. It is mostly a procedural with a sci-fi component. I think its premise will likely be exhausted in 8-10 episodes. They use the NY setting well. And what a pleasure to watch Judd Hirsch. He steals the show.

404 said...

I'll be honest: I watched SELFIE and completely agreed with you on the pilot. But I stuck around, and I'm glad I did. Every episode has gotten better and it's one I hope they keep.

CRL said...

Looks like 'A Or B' is going to have a longer run than 'A To Z'....

Jabroniville said...

Does Kristin Chenoweth really have that bad a reputation? Everyone in threatre has heard the rumors if her and Idina Menzel on the WICKED set, but that just seems like opposite personalities to me (the poised pro versus the more free-wheeling manic type).

John Foster Dolls said...

Not a TV show, but I checked out "Valley of the Dolls" on Netflix. I knew it had a shlocky reputation, and I'd read the old MAD Magazine parody. So I thought, "Well, let's see."

Train wreck? All of Grand Central Station was in flames.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I hate watch Jack Van Impe. He predicted the end of the world on Y2K; when nothing happened, he waited until Obama became President to blame him for everything.

The Mutt said...

I was going to say that I don't hate watch anything, but then I realized that I do watch Fox News and the 700 Club and other televangelists. I've written for a few comedy troupes over the years and you can't beat them for material.

Mike said...

Ken, who is your agent (her/his email)?

Ken Levine said...

Mike,

My agent is Josh Hornstock at UTA.

lsefton said...

Hi Ken,

A group of librarians (really!) are trying to remember which sitcom this is. Here's the information:

"There was an opening theme song to a 80s or 90s tv show where someone is painting a room, then someone opens a door and the first someone paints that persons face by accident. What is the show?"

So far there's a lot of "oh I know that show, I just don't know the name!", but no name. Any ideas?

Thanks!