Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Questions

Time for Friday Questions. The first one I can answer is less than one word.

It’s from gottacook:

Often on Frasier, Martin will call Frasier by only the first syllable of his name. How was that spelled in scripts?


MW is next.

You mentioned one of the scenes you wrote was assigned to a different script, not by you. I understand that and the money issues, but what happens during Emmy season and someone else's name is on a script you were mostly responsible for but they were assigned the credit? Who gets that Emmy?

The writer whose name is on the script gets the statuette. Technically you’re not supposed to submit an episode you didn’t at least provide most of the writing, but it happens all the time. There have been several instances where the Emmy-winning writer didn’t have three of his words in the script. And yes, that reeeeeally pisses me off.

DyHrdMET asks:

Are there people or services who, for a fee, would read your script with a TV insider's eye, and send feedback? And are those places trustworthy, regulated, and/or any good? Would you advise aspiring TV writers to avoid going there because they're scams?

I can’t speak for all but most are scams. These are generally not experts. And some of them charge a ridiculous amount. Many lie about their credits and background. Buyer beware.

One exception: I can strongly recommend Blair Richwood. She is absolutely terrific. I’ve used her myself and was thrilled with the results. Check out Episode 70 of my podcast. She was my guest and made a very gracious offer to writers just like yourself looking for feedback.

And finally, from Edward:

I listened to an old "Writers Room" podcast that included several people including you and Bill Lawrence. One comment made by Bill Lawrence was that he was fired several times early in his career for writing the show he wanted instead of the show the producers wanted. Are there any first-hand stories of this problem during your tenure as writer or producer?

David Isaacs and I were never fired off of any shows we worked on. But when you write a screenplay and they get someone else to rewrite you you are essentially fired. It’s just that no one tells you. That has happened a couple of times.

And then there was the time we met with a director on a rewrite. We pitched our ideas, he professed to love them and said start writing. We drove home and by the time I got into my apartment my phone was ringing. It was our agent. We were fired. I have no idea why. The only thing I can conclude is that we took Laurel Canyon over the hill instead of Beverly Glen canyon.

What’s your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. I do love the ones I can answer in one syllable but that’s not a prerequisite.


Glenn said...

As an experiment, a friend of mine sent in his screenplay to one of these "experts" to get some feedback. It was a $25 fee. The feedback was returned less than an hour after he submitted it (obviously nobody read it), and the notes were so generic they were worthless anyway.

VP81955 said...

To those of you not leaving SoCal this holiday weekend, you're cordially invited to the second annual Die Laughing Film Festival, set for today and tomorrow at the Complex at Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard. As its title implies, the festival celebrates horror and comedy (not necessarily combined, mind you) and a few dozen films are entered for competition.

Where do I come in? There's also a screenplay competition, and my "Stand Tall!" is one of the comedy entrants. (It's best described as "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" as a full-fledged romantic comedy.)

For info on the festival, visit For more on "Stand Tall!", go to

E. Yarber said...

Let me second your recommendation of Blair. I've had years of experience in the business behind the scenes and gotten two screenplays optioned on my own, but also wasted a lot of time recently in a terrible deal with a has-been filmmaker. Over the last month I've found her advice invaluable and am planning to bring projects to her as I regroup.

I was lucky enough to avoid guys like my last client for most of my stay in Los Angeles, but encountered plenty of scammers my first year. Once I nearly took a job with a guy running a high-cost acting school, but backed out when he told me frankly that my job was to work on people's fantasies and get their hopes up no matter what their actual ability (or lack thereof) proved to be. There are "seminars" where you can pay $600 or more for what is essentially a pep talk without any serious instruction. One woman looking to work with me was surprised how relatively little I charged for a reading and consultation, telling me a friend of hers had paid $1500 for an "insider" who wound up only speaking on the phone to that client for six minutes.

In all fairness, though, it helps to be fully prepared before you try to get a professional analysis of your work. Go to workshops, develop a taste for giving and receiving feedback, and try to find good teachers. When I worked with aspiring screenwriters, the biggest problem I had was that they had not bothered to learn basic writing skills because they were in too much of a hurry to get that mythical million dollar payday. There was a guy who kept referring wannabes to me and couldn't understand why I'd let them go after one or two sessions. "Keep them on the hook," he'd tell me. "Build them up slowly." I love encouraging people and am possibly too free with my kibitzing, but I also have to be honest. All too often, the big bucks seem to go toward those who tell people what they want to hear, even if it's valueless.

Pat Reeder said...

Here's a Friday question. I've loved "M*A*S*H" my whole life, even have the entire series on DVD, but this is the one thing that always bugs me:

As period-specific to the '50s Korean War era as most details were, the hairstyles were straight out of the '70s. I try to overlook it on Margaret (I imagine Loretta Swit didn't want to have to wear a '50s hairdo nine months out of the year.) The 4077 doctors ignored Army grooming rules anyway (and of course, this didn't apply to Charles, for obvious reasons.) But it was especially distracting on young male actors who played one-shot roles as wounded soldiers. They all seemed to sport those poufy, blow-dryer do's of the '70s instead of the military buzzcuts a '50s soldier would have.

My question: Why did the producers not demand that actors get an appropriate haircut? Was hair so important in the '70s that unknown actors would refuse a role on a top-rated TV show just to keep from looking like Frank Sutton for a few weeks? (Frank Sutton: now there's an actor who really committed to an appropriate haircut! Of course, he'd been an actual sergeant serving heroically in the South Pacific in WWII, so I guess he had no objections to the buzzcut look.) Thanks!

Sparks said...

This has probably been asked and answered, but I've missed it. Is there a character you particularly like(d) writing for. An actor?

luke said...

Donald Glover Wants the Lando Movie to be ‘Frasier in Space’

Unknown said...


Max Clarke said...

The interview with Blair Richwood was very good.

I was disappointed that Blair has no book or video course or similar product. Maybe for the kind of work she does, a book is hard to produce.

Ken gave an endorsement years ago for the Dan O'Shannon book, What Are You Looking At?. I've bought it. Good look at writing comedy.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I used to feel the same way about HAPPY DAYS. Except for the first season no one really had 50's hair. As for guest actors, they have to think of their career as a whole. Cut your hair for one episode of M*A*S*H and you're out of place for your next gig. Although I see your point on the regulars. Conversely, on THAT 70's SHOW, you saw many guest actors/day-players wearing wigs because long hair wasn't really in at that time.

Cap'n Bob said...

You want inappropriate hair, check out Michael Landon on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.

Peter said...

Sparks, here's a post by Ken some years back in which he said all stars should behave like Ted Danson.

Ty Cobb said...

I do love the ones I can answer in one syllable but that’s not a prerequisite.

Ken, what is the funniest syllable?

If you could sleep with any syllable, which one would it be?

Jonathan Weiss said...

Hi Ken - My name is Jonathan Weiss and I spent 1991 - 2003 as a stringer for various national sports radio networks covering LA/San Diego teams. Every few months or so I stop by your blog to read the questions and posts.

A while back, I ran across your tribute to Joe Resnick, who I am happy to say, was one of my favorite people in the business. You may or may not know that beat writers were not too kind to us in radio row and as a cub reporter, I was thrown out of the BBWA row more than once back in the day before Anaheim Stadium had its Disney makeover.

Joe was just a regular guy, in all his years freelancing for the AP he rarely received a byline - and never complained about it. He was unquestionably happy covering all the teams in relative anonymity and as it turns out, without health insurance.

Randy Kerdoon posted a link to an article detailing Joe's health and a week or so later, Plashske wrote about his death. It made me very sad - one, because I lost track of him after I left SoCal, and two, because of the overwhelming amount of people that passed away while working in the press box.

As a young radio reporter, it was difficult to be taken seriously by some of the older hands. Not only did I make friends with Joe, but also Biff Elliott of CBS (Biff was 150 when I met him…) and my absolute favorite person, Liz Shanov of ABC Radio Sports. I don't know how or why, but she took a shine to me and started giving me her back-up gigs. She must have started losing her marbles because she invited me to her Christmas party - I can't even begin to tell you how happy I was that she invited me.

Because Liz was strictly a network reporter, she wasn't at every game and no one was concerned so much when she didn't appear for a while. Eating dinner with Joe, I asked if he had heard from her. He looked at me for a moment and asked if I had spoken with Liz. When I said no, he said I should call her. I'm not sure if you knew, but she had several bouts with cancer and eventually, lost her battle. The irony of course, was that Joe was the one to tell me to contact her.

I remember when the Rangers won the NHL championship in 1994. Joe and I were talking, and he said he could die happy. I even have the small media guide they printed afterward. I may have received it from him.

Just wanted to let you know that I miss hanging out with Joe at Anaheim Stadium. I wish I had kept in touch.


Jonathan Weiss

Janet Ybarra said...

Another MASH-related possible FQ for you. This wasn't one of your scripts but I think it was during during David and your's tenure there...."Dear Sis," the great episode when Father Mulcahy had his crisis of faith/confidence.

Just one plot point has nagged at me after repeated viewing. An out-of-control patient basically slams Margaret (a woman) and then punches the Father. The Father freaks out that he punched back, but really objectively considering the violence of the patient, the Father's action is a controlled response to end further violence and agression. Yes, the Father is a sensitive soul but everyone has a right to defend oneself.

Perhaps I am over analyzing, it's just just to get to worked up over some schlub who just attacked a woman, I never had much sympathy for him.

Your thoughts?

JonCow said...

The FQ about reader services reminded me of the website. For those who don't know, it was started by Kevin Spacey as a vehicle for aspiring writers to get feedback on screenplays. To participate, you had to review a set number of screenplays before you could upload one of your own. In the early "Wild West Days" of Triggerstreet, reviews were sometimes as brief as "I read the first ten pages and knew there was no sense in reading the next 90." The rumor was that many industry insiders (development people) frequented TS, looking for new screenplays. Several screenplays uploaded to TS did get produced. The fear was that "your" screenplay would be read and the premise "stolen" by someone else on the website. Since everyone had self-chosen avatars, it was impossible to tell if the review of your work was from a working screenwriter, or a wanna-be living in their mother's basement. (Though, when the review is: "Your screenplay sucks" it's a pretty safe bet it was not from Dalton Trumbo.) Any thoughts on Triggerstreet and how best to evaluate "anonymous" critical assessments?

Janet Ybarra said...

@JonCow, I've never heard of TriggerStreet, but like anything else associated with Kevin Spacey I'm assuming today it's either dead or radioactive.

In the"old days," (ie the 1980s) people used to place classified ads in the back of WRITER'S DIGEST magazine advertising their services for exactly that, reading/critiqing your script or novel with an eye toward making it salable.

The ad usually contained a very brief CV of the one offering the service...of course you, of course, had no way at the time to know if he or she was lying about their purported experience.

Do You Do Any Wings? said...

I mean, I know they have a column to fill every week, but I’m not sure about this one. Any comments, Ken?

JonCow said...

@ Janet Ybarra IIRC, Triggerstreet was started in the late 90s when Spacey was turning in a series of stellar performances. I was active on TS 2002 to 2006. I read some very interesting screenplays there. Some very professional and some very amateurish. Very often a review would lead to a positive exchange of emails between the writer and reviewer. One such encounter introduced me to a husband and wife team, both 20-year military veterans, who wrote a screenplay that was similar to the animated 2017 feature Sgt Stubby about a highly-decocted dog during WWI. Another review of my own cowboy/sci-fi story led to a reviewer confiding that they had "entertained" their family at Thanksgiving with a re-telling of my story.