Friday, February 10, 2012

What day is it?

Friday?   Oh.  Time for some Friday Questions I guess.  Warning: I’m still jet lagged. But I'm reasonably sure I can keep my answers straight.

Sam King has a series of questions.

1. To be a staff writer on a network or cable does the writer have to be a WGA member?

Yes, producers will only buy scripts from WGA members. If you’re not in the Guild and they buy your unsolicited script you will have to join the WGA.

2. Will producers only buy scripts from WGA members?

Yes, It is possible for a non-SAG actor to get cast in a TV show or movie. Hold on a second. I just dozed off. Okay. If you are in only one show you don’t have to join the union (Taft-Hartley law), but if you are in two you not only have to join SAG, you have to join that day. And not by check. They’re wise to starving actors.

3. Is it possible for a non-SAG actor to get cast in a TV show or movie?

It depends on the show whether casting is limited to SAG members. Occasionally there will be open casting calls, but more often good casting directors will scour the local theater scene and try to discover unknown talent.

4. Are auditions for actors generally limited to SAG members? Are there any open auditions?

Yes, to be a staff writer on a network or cable show the writer does have to be a WGA………… Sorry. I better take a nap before answering any more of these.

sophomorecritic asks:

Can you still relate to writers who are struggling to pay bills and have to pinch pennies? I imagine after Cheers or Mary Tyler Moore, you were pretty set, no matter what you did. How did you stay hungry after that point?

Okay, I’m still a little hazy but is this for real? I’m not Warren Buffet, even with my MANNEQUIN 2 royalties. I stay hungry by being the same person I was when I started out. I like to think I still relate to struggling writers because no matter how much any of us makes, we’re all just struggling writers.

From Helena:

The advice to people who are to write a tv spec script seems to always be "pick a new show that you think will really take off, but pick it before it actually does". I'm curious, are there people who do the exact opposite and pick shows that are long gone (but successful), like M*A*S*H? What impression would that make on a producer?

There are always stories about folks submitting specs from vintage sitcoms like MASH and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. I would not advise it. It’s very gimmicky for one thing. And for another, comedy styles have changed. I’m not sure a well-written MASH spec is going to tell the WHITNEY producers whether you can write their show.

Back to bed. Hope some of that made sense. More Friday Questions next week when I’ve regained consciousness.


Karl said...

Future Friday Question - Is there a LEGAL source for television scripts and transcripts online that you can recommend for people that want to read and study them?

Bg Porter said...

In the room, how much consideration is given to how a joke will age? Is it enough to get a laugh in 1973 with your great Comet Kohoutek bit? I'm remembering the Cheers scene where Frasier enters the bar and agrees with the tribal chant that he had just heard, "Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody... Wang Chung...tonight." Plays very differently in 2012.

An (is my actual name) said...

Can you talk a bit about the fifth season of Cheers and laying the groundwork for Shelley Long's exit? Diane was pretty sane in season four, but got downright nutty in her last season with all the proposal rejections, her marriage obsession, the engagement ring debacle, her rogue house purchase, etc. I'm wondering if that was a deliberate move to make her departure easier on the audience (although the finale, "I Do and Adieu" is still a heartbreaker).

I guess I'm interested in the up-front damage control process for a production team in connection with the anticipated loss of a star. I'm also curious as to what role (if any) an actor plays in shaping an exit, as it would seem to impact future marketability if the audience detachment process goes too far. Hope that makes sense.

Tim Susman said...

There are a couple shows where I can point to a single line or exchange as the moment when I decided I wanted to watch more of the show. With Friends it was Chandler's rant that starts with "Now I have to get a snake." With The Closer it was a line delivered by guest Tom Skerritt which I won't divulge for spoiler reasons. Has anyone ever told you that a line you wrote hooked them on a show?

Charles H. Bryan said...

Forgive me for missing any announcements along these lines, but Ken, are you going to do any play-by-play or pre/post-game broadcasting this season?

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Karl I'm guessing that this site is very approved:

There's also this one, which may or may not be, but looks like it's ok: will let you read online -- watch out for pop-ups, though.

And the My PDF Scripts site is shut down while they're pulling things that have received DCMA notices. Make of that what you will.

By Ken Levine said...


I will be back doing a part-time schedule of radio play-by-play for the Mariners again this season. I hope you find that good news.

Can't wait for spring training!

Frank said...

I still hold hope the comedy savvy WHITNEY producers will wet their pants once they read my highly crafted MY MOTHER THE CAR spec.

Breadbaker said...

Ken, did you have anything to do with W*A*L*T*E*R?

By Ken Levine said...

I had nothing at all to do with WALTER.

Cody said...

A short yet apt description of a screenwriter -->

Liggie said...

F.Q. Should there be an Oscar for Best Casting Director/Best Ensemble Cast? I personally think if all of the actors do a great job, รก la Altman's best movies or even "Up in the Air", they and/or the person who hired them should get (group) credit.

PS Reading your archives from Day 1. If you're still doing word verification ... "cowague": A shake made from a dizzy cow's milk.

Dave Creek said...

Re: Tim Susman's question: I remember liking MASH from the beginning, but the first episode I remember as being "special" was the one where Hawkeye couldn't save a patient and Henry had to tell him Rule #1 of war is that young men die--and Rule #2 is that doctors can't do anything about rule #1.

It was a great serious line in what had been a rather silly sitcom and a serious line reading from the character of Henry who had been just a buffoon in previous episodes. It showed me the series was going to go into different places than I expected.

Phillip B said...

Tonight's Mary Tyler Moore episode (courtesy of FAMNet) had a Comet Kohoutek joke - originally broadcast in 1973 - and it seemed to hold up pretty well...

Jerry Rethy said...

Spring Training begins Sunday for the Mariners. Will you be on the Japan trip, or have the straws been drawn, yet?

By Ken Levine said...

I will not be going to Japan. Two 15 hour flights in one month is enough. But I'll be in Arizona and can't WAIT!

Robin Raven said...

I didn't realize you wrote "Mannequin 2." I saw that in the theater the same year I discovered "Cheers" reruns, and that both just rocked my world. I love your blog.

This is random, but, having been a Cheers fan since I was 12 (am turning 33 in a few weeks), I am being given, to my pleasant surprise, a "Cheers" birthday party this year. (I'm such a big fan that I know that Shelley was 33 when the series started. Yes, I'm that big of a fan. LOL!) Anyway, did you know they make officially licensed Cheers birthday plates and napkins as well as all sorts of other party stuff like root beer with the art from the show. I thought that was cute. Not sure how you feel about stuff like that; I imagine you are protective of the show, but must also like that it remains so beloved. (How could it not?)

Also did you get to know Woody well? I love him (and am a vegan like he is in real life). I noticed that on the official Cheers website they have a Woody's Goodies snack mix that is not vegan. Thought that might tick Woody H. off since he is so devoted he requested fake Twinkies during the filming of Zombieland so he wouldn't have to compromise his ethics.

Oh, and can I please, please see the alternate episode ending where Sam and Diane DO get married. I'd so pay big bucks for a screening. (Seriously.) :)

Sorry for this long and random and somewhat nonsensical comment. I just love your blog and felt like commenting, and it turned into a ramble. I make a living as a writer, but you'd never know it by this comment. ;-)

An (is my actual name) said...

Robyn - Here ya go:

No charge!

Johnny Walker said...

That's actually a really great scene.

Robin Raven said...

Oh my gosh, thank you An!!!!!!!!

I was feeling embarrassed about my little silly comment sharing so much about myself, but now I'm so glad I left it. ;-)

That was fantastic!!! They should put that on the DVD!!! I just love it!!! Ah, Sam and Diane.

Thanks, An, you made my weekend. :-)

(And many thanks to Ken for writing such awesome stuff!)

John said...

Friday Question:
Who has the most input into stunt casting, stunt stories, etc. The kind that show up during sweeps or summer hiatus.
Sometimes they can be fine - a good guest star, or a chance to have a change of scenery, or an excuse to put the detective undercover in a bikini.
Mostly, they are signs the show is on life support. Hell, jumping the shark is coined after a 3 parter to open a season.
How often do these decisions come from a) those within the show that honestly think it is a good idea, b) network interference c) panicking by either of the above because the ratings are slipping, d) other internal forces on the show such as a favor to an actor.

Look forward to your insights.

Helena said...

Thanks so much for answering my question!

Adam said...

Future Friday question - Where would I be able to obtain beat sheets and outlines for current TV shows? Recently finished a spec writing course here in Chicago and our teacher was only able to provide an outline sample from Home Improvement. While it was somewhat helpful (and mostly nostalgic), it'd be great to have a more current example. If you don't have any site recommendations, what is your advice when it comes to beat sheets? Do you have any personal examples you can share with us? Is there an industry standard or does it change from writers room to writers room?