Wednesday, September 25, 2019

If I could do it, then ANYONE could

When David Isaacs and I decided to try writing TV scripts in an attempt to break into the business a lot of my friends thought I was crazy. Then we landed an assignment on THE JEFFERSONS and were on our way.

Within a couple of months a number of friends then began pairing up and writing spec scripts themselves. Their motivation was pretty clear. “If these guys could make it, we certainly could.”

Only one of those teams broke through. Larry Balmagia & Dennis Koenig. Both had terrific careers, both together and apart. A couple of the other teams at least finished their spec script. A number of others abandoned the project halfway through. Who knew is was HARD to write a good half hour sitcom episode?

Flash forward and I’m now writing stage plays. Mostly full-lengths. But to complement them I also write ten-minute plays. Ten-minute play festivals have become a “thing.” And I’ve been extremely fortunate. Amid all the rejections, I’ve gotten into a considerable number. Unlike full-lengths, they take a day to write and not four months. And they’re fun to write.

So just like with my TV writing venture, a number of friends have also tried their hand at ten-minute plays. I’ve had three of them so far.

But unlike TV, all three have stuck with it, all three are really talented, and all three have broken in. Dan O’Day, Elden Rhoads, and Andy Goldberg each are enjoying multiple productions of their ten-minute plays around the world.

At this point, let me say that breaking in is no easy feat. These festivals now receive upwards of 400 submissions for eight or ten slots. It’s not just, “If he could make it, I certainly could.”

This Friday begins two weekends of the Short + Sweet Hollywood Festival. I’m lucky enough to have two plays in. DATING THROUGH THE DECADES this weekend (Charlie Chaplin program) and PLAY IT AGAIN, SIRI next weekend (Cary Grant program.

But it’s not just me. Andy and Dan have plays in the festival as well. (Elden has a play too but it’s in Australia.)

So how good are we? Come see for yourself. They’re playing at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre (she was married to a playwright once) at the Stressberg Institute in Hollywood. Here’s where you go for information and tickets. Stop by and see what I wrought upon the world. I guarantee you’ll be delighted. I’ll be there for every performance of my plays so please say hi. Dan's play is in the Stanwyck program and Andy's follows mine in the Grant program. 

Note to all my friends: Next up I want to try skydiving.


Craig Gustafson said...

A friend's sudden death made me think that maybe time isn't infinite; and if I wanted to write seriously, I'd better get cracking. I decided to start with 10 minute plays, (A) to rev up my writing muscles and (B) learn brevity. This was a year and a half ago. Since then:

I've had a play published in "The Best 10 Minute Plays of 2019"
My plays have been produced in several venues across the country.
An evening of my plays recently had a six week run at a local theater.
My first full-length play will be produced locally next spring.
And as of last week, I am now a member of the Dramatist's Guild.

I LOVE 10 minute plays.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Good luck to Andy and Dan, whom I remember from the seminar you used to do.


PolyWogg said...

I have a Friday Q for you, and I guess the shortest form of it is to say -- How many of the wannabes for 22m sitcom or 10m plays are struggling to have a conclusion to their product vs. not able to write comedy?

Many writers of course fall into the classic trap while writing a book that they start about 3 chapters too early. Kind of like murder mysteries, I need to see the body pretty early. L&O always got this picture perfect - the body has already dropped before the opening. It`s a bit formulaic, sure, but the story starts in the right spot. Everything else is prologue and can either be handled later or ignored completely.

For shorter fare, like short stories, I have seen an explosion in recent years of an enormous number of SSs that really go nowhere. They barely have a plot, they meander through some interesting actions, and they peter out. There`s no real premise, and certainly no conclusion. Just a slice of life. One in the New Yorker in July was exactly that...a story about an aging script writer, meeting up with former friend now star, before going to see a movie the writer`s son has made. Brilliantly written (technically), lovely imagery, and at the end of it? Nothing. Star leaves, writer doesn`t grow or learn anything, watches his son celebrate the release, pfft.

I feel the same with a huge number of sitcoms when I watch them...slice of life stuff is fine, but I kind of want to feel like something is learned or resolved at the end, not just that I watched some idiots being idiots for 30 minutes (a huge premise for multiple Cdn so-called sitcoms...on the other hand, I watched Seinfeld and Friends that often had little growth, so I have no credibility at all on that point). I feel that was the draw of a character like Sam Malone or Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) or even the Swamp (Hawkeye and BJ). Let them learn something and you got an arc, not just a string of jokes. The story works without the chuckles.

So, going back to my you feel many who try end up failing because they can`t write comedy / plays or that they can`t write short fiction that goes anywhere?

As an aside, I watch all the new premieres every fall, mostly for dramas though. Bluff City Law was the latest and while they had lots of potential for MEAT, they went for slice of life in the backstory. The show was way over-promoted out the wazoo by NBC for MONTHS, over saturated at best (and not with any great scenes), the big thing was getting the daughter to come back and work with father to heal a rift. Apparently the rift was just 3 years, not lifelong. But, no worries, because they showed the daughter was ruthless corporate type, there`s a rift with dad, but mom has died, so we need a reunion, an eulogy, really badly introduction of a series of diversity characters (including asking a woman a random unrelated question about her wife), and reunite everyone on a new case to HELP PEOPLE (Dun, dun, dun). All accomplished ... wait for it ... SEVEN MINUTES. If it was something like THIS IS US, it would have lasted a whole season. But 7 minutes and we`re moving on, too bad about your mom. Heck, they didn`t even have time for a funeral home or cemetary scene, they did it all in a living room for a home-based wake so Dad and daughter could end up chatting in a porch afterwards. Pfft...if they`re only going to give me the law part, at least make that new or different, not same old retread plot of a 100 different shows. Maybe the writers for that one can take a page and write some short fiction that goes somewhere. On their next show, cuz this one is gone like the wind...


VP81955 said...

I'm writing feature romantic comedy screenplays (also a difficult endeavor, though I'm not comparing our respective situations by any means), so I empathize with you. I've seen some of your stage plays before, and will try to attend at least one of these.

Off-topic: Did anyone see the pilot for "Bob (Hearts) Abishola" Monday night? For the most part, I liked it, though as with most pilots it was a bit rough around the edges. Chuck Lorre's closing vanity card featured a yellow cap with an "IMAG" logo (which stands for "immigrants make America great"; Lorre wore one, and explained the anagram, during a press junket this summer). Where can I get one?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Obvious Friday question: Do you prefer writing plays on your own, or the collaborative writing you've done for movies and TV? Would you ever write a play with a partner (and it has been done -- George S. Kaufman only wrote one play solo, for instance)?

Robert Brauer said...

Ken, a Friday question related to this subject: what is it that differentiates one of your ten minute plays from a comedy sketch? I am presuming that there are differences, I just cannot make the leap of logic to determine what they might be.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Once again I had a great comment all written out, pushed the wrong icon and erased it.
I'm not going to try to rewrite it.

Let me just say that I hadn't planned to attend the "Short + Sweet" this time. (Broke, you know.) But, since you and Andy each have plays, and our mutual friend Maggie is in another play, I may have to sell a kidney and come to the festival.
By the way, do I know Dan O'Day? Wasn't he a ventriloquist dummy? Just kidding.

Break legs everybody.

If I do come I'll be the one with the huge, oozing scar.

Daniel said...

Do you have any clout with anyone at CBS Home Video to get them to release "Frasier" in high-definition (HD) on iTunes for digital download? They've done it with "Cheers." It's a shame they present such a great series so poorly.

ELS said...

Just remember, sir; if at first, you don't succeed, then skydiving might not be for you.