Thursday, July 30, 2009


Okay... So as a writing exercise to get used to writing for TV instead of Features I am going to write an episode of "House M.D.". I love the show. I'm familiar with the characters, style, pace, act breaks. I've read a couple of House Scripts. (not as funny on paper - Hugh Laurie really makes it work).

I have been looking for really weird medical problems AND FOUND ONE!!! I have also worked through the A\B\C story arcs. Yippeee... So this weekend, I'm going to sit down and power through 60-70 pages of a House script.

Since he is in the loonie bin recovering from his addiction at the moment. The story will center around Chase, Cameron and Foreman. The B-Story will revolve around Cuddy with a hint of Wilson, and the C-Story... House playing with his Doctor's head.

FUN! I have never tried to write a 60 page script in 4 days... It's only 15 pages a day (I've done that in an hour before). If I play my cards right and get to work, I could have it finished by Saturday and have 2 extra days of polishing!

As a side note... I am losing my mind waiting for the announcement from! I made it to the finals. The script is solid and has a real market appeal at the moment 'cause Vampires are hot and so are Vampire Love stories so I'm confident I will do well in this last round. I just NEED TO KNOW HOW WELL!!!!! Anyway, without sounding cocky it's a sell-able script. As with EVERYTHING it could prob. use a little work, but the story is good, AND I've already outlined the sequel. :) I'm feeling confident in my ability as a writer. Not cocky. That's what I'm working with. There's no reason why Blood & Roses shouldn't win this competition. I just don't know how good the rest of the writers are. There are a lot of unrecognized Genius' out there and I could be up against all of them... You know what I mean? Plus, I already have plans for the prize money, and something on order :) Is that wrong?

Anyway, gotta jet...

Keep writing!!!

- G

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I don't have a life 'cause I'm creating the lives of others...

Ok... So, I spent the better part of my weekend and most of the last few nights writing and I have the foundation of what could be a really fun series. The Town of Gillies Hill Lives!

This is a Sci-Fi\Fantasy show. That being said, I think that most Sci-Fi fails to reach a mass audience because its just a little too out there. Alex Epstein said during our conversation (which I keep quoting) that the TV audience is a more mature audience than the movie audience which is comprised more of younger guys "who want to see things go boomie!". I agree... I like a good BOOMIE! :) And as he also pointed out with HBO programming it really opened things up and you can do more (and by do more I mean the Holy Trinity... coarse language, nudity and, violence...). Just look at one of my new favourite show True Blood... I don't think I've seen an episode in the last month without Anna Paquin's naked body flailing about... Anyway... the point I'm trying to make is that even the most Fantastical story has to be rooted in reality and a good way to do that is to create characters who are knowable, likable and familiar.

One of my proudest moments was when a contest judge told me that the characters in my screenplay felt like friends, like she had known them for a good long time. SUCCESS!!! If you don't have a protagonist that the people like the script isn't going to do well. If they don't care about the main character, why should they care about what they are doing... End of show...

My friends can attest to this... the characters I create all have a bit of me in them, and they certainly have a bit of my friends in them, and EVERYBODY I have ever met... For example, I went to high school with a girl who literally started ever sentence with "Well, if you think that's bad\good\sad\fun\- insert emotion, I....." she turned EVERY conversation into a competition. I once saw her try and top a girl who was talking about her Grandma dying! She actually said... "Well, if you think your sad, I had a dog when I was young and..." I think she went on to weave a tale of woe about how it got hit by a car and died in her arms at the bottom of their driveway... but OMFG! Really... You think losing a dog trumps a Grandma? Anyway, I 'm straying off course here a little... The point is that we all know people who are characters. We all know a public nose picker, we all know a sweaty girl, and a shy beauty... They live in our lives and the lives of everyone around us. Those are the characters you need to bring to the script. Flesh them out. Bring them to life. Once I finish the pilot and register it with the WGA and WGC I will post the character desc., etc. on along with the script for the pilot episode.

So I guess my tip for creating characters for the week is look to yourself, and write WHO you know. Another good step to take is to write out a little paragraph about the character. Here's a short one about the main character in my TV Pilot.

"Esprit Sparks grew up in a large home surrounded by several generations of her family in an almost communal existence. Privacy was and is a luxury. Esprit, named for her free “spirit”, longs for a normal life. Good luck! First, her pot smoking, tie dye wearing parents, David and Angela, gallivant around town in a Volkswagen Van that is older than they are. She’s their only child, and she shares a room with her Great Grandmother. Try to be a teenager in a house that smells of patchouli oil, Bengay Arthritis Cream and Weed. Normal isn’t a word that gets tossed around much over the bean curd and lentils at their vegan dinner table. Since attending a Birthday BBQ at Taylor Bowen’s house when she was 8 yrs old, Esprit has taken every opportunity to eat as much meat as she can, frequently ordering the double bacon burger at Gill’s for lunch."

Without going into detail and spoiling the plot and background info of the pilot you get a bit of a feel for Esprit's (Esspree) background and her rebelious nature. Accompanied by a character development sheet that describes her physical attributes, favourite things, close friends, biggest fears, etc. and you have a pretty idea of who she is and what she's about. Do this for your characters and they will suddenly come to life in your head and on your page. For me to be successful at finishing a script, I really have to be comfortabel with the people I'm writing about. I need to understand why the bad guy is a bad guy, and is he really a bad guy or are his motives just different than the main character. Why does the good guy or protagonist (not always a "good" guy\gal) want what they want? I don't think you can write good dialog and help the audience get to know the character and have them invest in them if YOU, the writer, don't know them. You know what I mean? But hey... I haven't sold a script yet and I'm certainly not a qualified Story Analyst (see my interview with Xandy Sussan). I'm just a guy who loves writing so take what you want from my advice, and go forth and write... and enjoy writing!!!


- G

Friday, July 24, 2009

Characters need a place to live!

Ok... so, I jumped a little ahead of myself. I have some characters named, but before I get into sculpting them into people, they will need a place to live. It's one thing to develop a good universe, but what about the city, town or burg they live in. That's gotta be real too... And really, my life was shaped and altered by where I grew up, so BEFORE I start getting into character details, and delving into their personalities, I should probably know where they grew up, what school they went to, who did they hang out with and where? That kinda of thing...

So, after doing a bit of research I have found some wonderful Ghost Towns that used to exist, but are no more that plaques on rough stone markers in farmer's fields. Because these old towns lived and died they come with a bit of history, and with a bit of fidgeting, creative license, and complete fiction you have your very own small town to build upon.

I gave the description to my girlfriend and she had 2 reactions... 1st, she wondered why I was sending her tourist information for a small town in Ontario. The next thing, she asked if we could move there. So I guess I'm on the right track.

Along with setting the scene as far as the town goes, I think you really need to create it like another character. I mean, each city I've ever been to has its own personality, so why not approach this like you would any other character?

I wrote and re-wrote and wrote some more and I think I've come up with a pretty likable, believable place. NOW its time to start creating some characters and giving them a purpose.


- G

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Characters - Love 'em or Hate 'em


So, I've been wracking my brain to come up with some likable characters to populate my universe. Interesting individuals who will bring the world I've created to life with their exciting lives and interesting mannerisms. I have a chracter development sheet on website in the download section that is kinda handy, but I want a little more detail for these characters since they will be living in the TV universe. Features require good characters with backstories and details, but they will not be scrutenized as much as a TV character that comes back week after week, season after season. TV charactaers have to have a deeper demension to them because the audience is going to spend more time with them, and if they are weak, or 2 demensional, they won't be appealing... Keep in mind that Giligan's Island ran for 3 yrs in the 60's and can still be seen on a couple of different TV channels... 40+ years of syndication! That's a lot of time for these characters to live... You know!? So, TV characters have to have a little more substance, depth, and consideration before making it to the page. Therefore... I have moved onto the 10pg. character outline sheet. Details like how would this characters freinds describe them, what is there relationship with their parents, what is their most embarassing momemnt. Those kinds of details. You have to know them intimately.

Another thing I have learned is that someone reading your script, without looking at the names of the characters should be able to say... Oh! That must be Jane speaking. Each character should be unique, and identifyable to the audience. I mean, if you're writing about a group of mindless automatons then I guess they should all sound alike and be identical, but other than that they should be individuals. That's not to say that groups of friends don say the same things, and do the same things. I mean, my friends are CONSTANTLY using my words and terms ;) in conversation. (Kiddin...) We learn from each other and use the same slang and turn of phrase because we are exposed to each other more. BUT we each have our own delivery and spin on the english language. We may use the same words, but we deliver them differently and individually... So that needs to happen with the characters.

I'm going to try and keep the number of characters in my story to a minimum. To many and following all the B-stories that you need to keep the characters alive for the audience start getting confuising. That's one of the reasons why Lost, lost me in season 2. That and the black smoke jungle creature that was never explained or seen again... wtf?

I think a small (5-6) collection of very well thought out characters that the audience can love or hate is perfect. There will be the episodic characters (like the crewman in Star Trek that dies on away missions) to support the stories and the main characters, but the overall arc will focus on just a few. i.e. House and his team, the Star Trek: TNG Bridge crew, Buffy and the Gang, and the Crew of the Serenity.

So... time to get to work... Lots to do!!!

Next... I'll need to give them all something to do, and give 'em a reason for doing it!

- G

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Setting the scene...


I sat down last night and started creating the Sci-Fi\Fantasy TV world my characters are going to live in. From what I've been reading, and from my own personal TV viewing a solid, believable, SIMPLE, universe is a really good place to start. One pitfall for some shows I've been a fan of is a distinct lack of continuity. One minute pigs can fly, the next they can't. So my goal is to establish a good set of rules and a good solid SIMPLE backdrop so that I don't have to take time away from the stories to explain the world they are happening in. Seems like a good idea to me... And as a writer I need to know the universe my story is taking place in. I have to live in it as well, at least as far as the writing goes. So if in the universe I'm creating pigs happen to fly, I need to pack a helmet and a large umbrella. Check! In my opinion you should know the world you are writing about inside and out, and I also like to have my worlds grounded in some semblance of reality. I think you should be able to sit down for an interview and have the interviewer throw 1000 questions at you about the world you've created and you should either have an answer, or be able to fill in the blank from the existing mythology you've created. Keeping thing grounded in reality even when you're creating a fantasy realm, allows you to exploit the audiences familiarity with their own world by overlaying it onto your own... So if pigs fly, there has to be a reason, and a logic, and if pigs fly, what other mammals fly? That kind of thing....

Now, one of the reasons I love my girlfriend is that when she is eating something, looking at something, smelling something, reading something, she doesn't like she gets this sour look on her face. Kinda like the one our Cats make when they have smelled something particularly obnoxious. We call it the "shit" face around our house... So I gave her the first draft of my Universe outline, and as she read along there it was... the shit face! I guess in my excitement and eagerness to drive home a particular point about the world I was creating, I deviated from the first concept I wanted to stick too... Keep It Simple Stupid! I got all wound up in the point I was trying to make in the outline, and left her saying "WTF??" soooooo... re-write... remembering K.I.S.S... and it passed muster. Thank goodness... Next... Characters... Now that I have a world that is fantastical, simple, and still interesting... It needs to be populated. Soooo... off I go to figure out the characters and their archetypes and what their back stories should be... Who are they? What did they eat for breakfast? What was their 1st grade teacher's name? you know... gettin' to know them as well as I know myself.


More to come...

- G

Pilot project...


So, I have decided to try writing a pilot. The reason... and interview with Alex Epstein... and my need to write things that I would like to watch. Alex said during our conversation that he plays a game with friends from time to time called, "what else could I do for a living?" and that the answer is usually "Frakked if I know"... Well, I have a day job (Sys Admin), and I enjoy it, but to be honest at the end of the day, when I have time to relax and do what I want, I'm usually still in front of a computer typing away or reading an article on writing. I'm not a professional writer, but I am a writer. There is a need to create, and desire to improve what I've written... No matter how many times I've been told that I can't, I have turned around and showed people I can and will no matter what they say... I'm accomplished in my own mind. I've won contests, finished 2 feature scripts that have been well received outside my family and friends, I've had a play produced (by an amateur theatre company), I've written a novel, and some really bad poetry... and it's something that I love. So hey! Why not throw my hat into the TV ring? I know what I like! I know what turns my channels...

Sooooooooooo... rant complete...

I am working on a pilot. It's for a one hour Sci-Fi\Fantasy show to fill the gap in my TV viewing left by the cancellation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. There's a few really good shows on the air now. Fringe is excellent, Heroes is a little hit am miss lately, I'm enjoying Dollhouse, Terminator SCC has been good (although off the air now)... And there's a bunch of shows airing this fall that are going to be pretty interesting and I'm hoping will be good... The Vampire Diaries looks like it'll great fun! But now I want to contribute. I'd like to write something for the Buffy Audience, for the lovers of Angel, and good writing... You know? So here I go, off on my pilot project. Check back for updates on how it's going...


- G

Monday, July 13, 2009

Q&A with Alex Epstein - Award winning Writer of Bon Cop / Bad Cop and the Book Crafty TV Writing

I'd like to welcome Alex Epstein and thank him for taking the time to speak with us. Alex Epstein is a writer for television and movies, and author of the books Crafty Screenwriting and Crafty TV Writing. He co-created the comic drama television series Naked Josh for the Oxygen Network (U.S.A.) and Showcase (in Canada); it ran for three seasons. He's been nominated twice for a Canadian Screenwriting Award for his work on the show and, he was Head Writer for a science fiction TV series, Charlie Jade. His insightful blog Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog can be found here.

TGL: Tell me a little about yourself? What is your background?

Alex: I started my career in L.A. as an assistant to an independent producer, co-dependent producer might be a better term, then moved up to vice-president of development, which meant that I read scripts and recommended which ones we should to try to option, and worked with agents, and tried to figure out how we could put together a pretty good script with an actor that would give us good foreign sales. We would then take the foreign sales to the bank and get the money for the movie that way. I did that for awhile for a series of producers and pretty much all of them were trying to make movies in Quebec. We were trying to take advantage of some pretty strong cultural support that the Canadian government gives to movies shot in Canada with Canadian scripts. I became aware of the warm fuzzy feeling you get writing in Canada opposed to the hostility you experience writing in L.A. So I moved up here and that turned out to be the best decision I have made, because I had been writing all along but it really took off at that point.

TGL: You went to school at UCLA?

Alex: Well oddly enough I was a Computer Science major at Yale, but have an MFA from UCLA.

TGL: What made you make the switch from Computer Science at Yale to UCLA?

Alex: Well, first of all, dating myself a bit, at the time computer games were nearly as much fun. I’m not saying Pong, but games did not have the AI’s that they have today, and the other things that you can do with computers were even less fun. So I won’t say I was bored, but it was not ringing my bell.

TGL: So you were more interested in Tron the movie than the game?

Alex: Well I always wrote. I wrote back in high school and just kept writing. Everyone always told me that I was a very visual writer so it seemed like a good thing to do. Also a pretty girl in Paris told me that I should go into film and when pretty girls tell you that you should do things, you should listen.

TGL: So writing and being a visual writer just kind of lent itself to writing for T.V. and movies?

Alex: I think so. It took quite a long time to turn that into reality. I would say the first 10 years of my career was less than spectacularly successful. I got paid to write some things, but I certainly wasn’t supporting myself.

TGL: Which medium do you prefer writing for? Do you enjoy writing for television or movies?

Alex: I prefer television. The comparison I like to make is writing a movie is like a one night stand. You put all of this work into it and then when it’s over, it’s done. Then you don’t see those characters again and you don’t revisit that world again. Maybe there’s a sequel, if you are very lucky, but very often you write the script and it doesn’t get made. With T.V., if you can get a T.V. show going, you get to play with those characters much more. If you get picked up for one season, say for an hour drama show, so that’s 40 minutes a show, for say 20 episodes, that’s 800 minutes instead of 120 minutes. So you are spending a lot more time with your characters, you’re learning a lot more about them, just a lot more time. So it’s like a marriage compared to a one night stand. It also doesn’t hurt that you get a whack more money.

TGL: So there is that difference as well?

Alex: When I was coming up, there was still this thing that T.V. writers all wanted to be movie writers, but they couldn’t afford it, because they couldn’t take the salary cut. T.V. writers no longer want to be movie writers because most of the interesting work is being done in TV these days.

TGL: Is that a global shift across the industry?

Alex: Yes. HBO really opened up story telling possibilities. So you can do a lot more things in T.V. now. Another thing about T.V. is the audience is older and more sophisticated. The movie audience, by large, are boys that want to see things go boomie. The pay cable audience is really quite sophisticated, and even the prime time audience is older and more demanding. So you can do much more interesting things with characters, and you can tell more interesting and rich, than you can with movies. It’s a bigger palate.

TGL: To go along with that, coming up with fresh ideas every week, and I have struggled with this, and I’m sure the people reading my blog have struggled with, writers block. I was watching an interview with Bob Moresco, who wrote Crash. He said that was absolute baloney, writers block is just an inability to sit down at a desk and write. What do you think about writer’s block?

Alex: I don’t believe in it. I don’t have it; I don’t know any professional writers that have it. If you’re a professional writer, you can always write. The writing may be crap, but you just don’t allow yourself to go “oh this is crap, I’m not going to write.” you just go “oh, this is crap, oh well, I’ll fix it later.” You know, a bricklayer can have a day when the bricks aren’t coming out right. But he doesn’t get to go, “oh, I’m just not going to work today because the bricks are coming out a little bit bad”. You know, show up for work, it’s a job. So you take that as seriously as any other job, you know, every other worker goes into the office, and you feel like crap and you feel like you’re not getting anything done, but you do the work and let other people decide if you are doing crappy work. They may even decide that, in fact, you are not doing crappy work. It is possible to be too critical of yourself. You may even write yourself out of your slump.

TGL: So you’re saying just sit down and get to work?

Alex: Yeah, you know, ass in chair, fingers on keyboard. ... But also, you develop tools for writing. You develop tools for looking at what you are writing and why does this suck? Or, how do I get an idea? Or, you have friends that you can bounce ideas off of. Because you have tools you can be a craftsman and you can respond if you are having a bad day, you’re not waiting for inspiration to strike. So a bricklayer isn’t just going into work hoping for inspiration, he has his level, and his trowel, and he knows the consistency that the mortar is supposed to be.

TGL: So if you have a good solid foundation and you know your plot outline and you know your characters, environment and things like that, and you invest time in those that the writing will just come?

Alex: Yeah. You develop ways to break down each problem until it’s small enough that you are not overwhelmed. What is the theme of this scene, what is the character working towards in this scene, why can’t he get it? If you answer those questions, you will be able to write the scene. So you don’t just go and write a movie, you write a 2-page pitch and then you write a 5-page pitch, then you write a beat sheet, then you turn that into a step outline, and then once it’s a step outline you only have to worry about the scene you are writing. You don’t have to worry about “what will I write.” You just have to worry about how do I get into this scene, how do I get out of this scene? Where do I want this scene to end up? You can start by figuring out where you want the scene to end up and then work back from there. Or you can place the scene that will get you into it. In my book, CRAFTY SCREENWRITING, I have a bunch of different things that you can do to start off to get into a scene.

TGL: CRAFTY SCREENWRITING that you wrote in 2002?

Alex: Yes. And also CRAFTY TV WRITING in 2006. So there are tools. So you develop your tools and they help you and you are not relying on talent to get you through the day. You’re relying on craft.

TGL: You offer a screenplay consultation service through your website

Alex: Why yes I do, thank you for mentioning it. It’s not cheap, but I think I get down to what’s really not working in a script, rather than just the symptoms of what’s not working, and I can often offer a way to fix what’s not working.

TGL: What are the most common problems that you see with a script?

Alex: Almost all the scripts that fail, fail with the elements of the story. The elements of story are, #1, you have the character that we care about. #2, that character has an opportunity, problem, or goal. #3, he or she faces obstacles and/or an antagonist. #4, he or she stands to win something they didn’t have before, which is what we call stakes. #5, stands to lose something they cherish, which is what we call jeopardy.

Almost all scripts that fail, fail because those elements are not strong enough. If I asked you what does the character want and you say you don’t know, then you don’t have a story. Or if you don’t know what the character is risking, or what he stands to gain, then you don’t have a story. A story is these five elements, and it fails if they’re not strong. I’m not saying that nothing is going on, I’m saying that there could be a whole screenplay full of things happening, but it still doesn’t have a story.

TGL: So what you are saying is the foundation of any real screenplay is going to be the story? If it doesn’t have those elements, then it won’t involve the reader or an audience?

Alex: You can have bad dialog, sure. But if you have a strong story, we can fix the dialog. And in fact, if the story is good, it almost forces you to have at least competent dialog. Whereas if you don’t have a story, it’s going to look like your dialog doesn’t work. And then you can spend a year working on the dialog and the dialog still won’t seem to work.

TGL: One of the other things that I have been told is also very important is that once you have a your screenplay, you’ve spent the money and got the coverage, worked with a story analyst and polished and, polished and, polished until you just don’t want to look at it anymore, you have to have a good query letter?

Alex: Now I go back and forth on this. I don’t know how many scripts have been picked up by querying something out of the blue. It’s a very high hurdle if you’re sending in a query letter from Kansas City. If you possibly can, try to find a friend in showbiz who can tell an agent or a producer, “Hey, this guy doesn’t suck, read him”. With this, I think, you’re going to have much better results then send out a whole bunch of queries. So when someone says you have to have a great query letter, I don’t know, does having a great query letter make it happen? I got my first few agents by querying them, and you may actually be in Kansas City, so you’re sort of stuck with sending query letters.

And by letters, these days, I really mean emails.

Certainly, though, a bad query letter dooms your query. And more importantly, if you’re having trouble coming up with a good query letter, then dollars to donuts your story isn’t working, either. Part of my evaluation service is a query letter evaluation service. I almost always wind up making more comments on what the hook actually is than how it’s phrased.

A great query should really spell out all the five elements of story. This kind of guy has this kind of opportunity, problem or goal, but he faces these obstacles or this antagonist. And if he succeeds he’ll win these stakes but he faces this jeopardy. Sometimes the stakes or jeopardy are implicit, but all the elements should be clear from the query.

TGL: So if a good query letter isn’t going to land you a job...

Alex: Now are you talking about T.V. or film now?

TGL: That’s a good question.

Alex: Because you don’t really get a job in features. You sell a script. If you can sell a pretty high profile script you might get on “the list” for rewriting other people’s features, but short of knowing a lot of people in the biz, you’re not going to just get a writing job in features.

TGL: Ok, let me rephrase it. If it’s not going to get you a job writing for a T.V. show...

Alex: What’s going to get you a job on a T.V. show is really awesome spec scripts and maybe a spec pilot. You get those to an agent, when they’re not too busy, they read you, they like you, and they start sending you out for staff jobs.

TGL: How important is an agent in this business?

Alex: You can’t do anything without an agent. Theoretically around the edges you can get a non-union gig, but only if you have a lot of contacts. And this would be a low-budget feature, maybe, but really not without an agent. It is extremely difficult to do anything without an agent. Why would a producer have anything to do with someone without an agent when they can get someone that has an agent? An agent means that someone is vouching for you, someone is depending on you to make money. There are plenty of people that are just as starving as everybody else who have agents, so why not start with them? Why hire people who can’t get an agent?

That’s why you don’t really query a TV spec in the way you query a feature spec. I mean a feature starts with a hook, to get someone to read your feature. With a T.V. spec it’s not going to be about the hook, it’s going to be about the...”I have a “HOUSE” spec in which House has a brain transplant, and a “CRIMINAL MINDS” about an evil clown, wanna read them?” If an agent is looking for clients, and the episodes sound reasonable at all, they want to read them. Because they aren’t looking for a great hook, they are looking for great writing.

With TV, they want to see great writing because they’re trying to sell you as a writer. With features, they want a great hook, because they’re trying to sell your script.

TGL: If you could travel back in time to the beginning of your career what would you tell yourself?

Alex: Don’t waste your time on features Alex, you’re a T.V. writer.

TGL: Is that because you have tried features? You co-wrote BON COP / BAD COP, which broke Canadian Box Office records.

Alex: I got the BON COP / BAD COP gig because the director and I had worked together on a TV show. I met Erik Canuel while we were both working on CHARLIE JADE down in Cape Town. So when he was looking for a quick re-write on BON COP / BAD COP, he told the producer, I want that guy from Charlie Jade, he can write fast and well.

TGL: So is that the key to T.V. writing, is writing really fast?

Alex: If you can’t write really fast you’re not a T.V. writer. You also want to be, you know, good. But if you’re good but slow, then you’re a feature writer.

TGL: What’s the turnaround on a T.V. script?

Alex: You have, at most, a week per draft. Say a week for the beat sheet, a week for the first draft, a week to rewrite it. There will be a writing staff, so you may have three weeks for the whole script, that’s multiple drafts that you’re dealing with. The fastest I’ve ever written a production script, from conception to FADE OUT, was 24 hours. There were three of us banging it out. I’m not saying it’s the best thing I ever wrote on, but they shot it.

TGL: Is there any advice you could give someone that is starting out?

Alex: I don’t think people need to go to film school, I think people need to work in the business. I think you learn more from working in the business than film school. I don’t think that you need to work on a set; I don’t think that is necessarily helpful. Working for a producer, working for an agent, that will get you the experience you need. The thing that I really recommend is working for an agency. Nothing makes you aware of what people are looking for and what they aren’t looking for. How precious they’re not being. How little time they take to look at the material. People who put all these precious things into their script, they’re just going to throw your stuff away. I don’t think people realize how little time they have to impress people or how much competition there is. Back when I was reading scripts, you had about five pages to convince me that I should read the rest of it. And I wasn’t being sloppy: in my experience scripts that failed to convince me in the first 5 pages never got good enough to pass along.

TGL: I heard ten pages.

Alex: Honestly, if it didn’t rock in five, it wouldn’t rock in ten, or twenty. I mean, why shouldn’t it grab you in three pages, or two pages. Or look at it this way: if the writer doesn’t know to create exciting drama, tension, mood, mystery, something, in three pages, then they don’t really know their craft.

TGL: Looking back over your career, are you excited where you have come from and where you are headed?

Alex: I have a lot of very good things in the works. Will they get picked up or not? I don’t know. So I am somewhere between excited and terrified.

TGL: Would you suggest screenwriting to anyone as a career?

Alex: No, because what I would say is, if you need to do it, you’ll do it. If I tell you not to do it, and you need to do it, then you’ll do it. If you need me to tell you to do it, you shouldn’t do it.

I mean, I have no idea what I would do if I couldn’t get paid to write. Every now and then my friends and I will play “What Else Could You Do for a Living?”, and the answer for most of us is, frakked if I know. It’s like acting, if you have to be an actor, if it’s as important to you as breathing, then you will find a way to be an actor. You may not be a rich actor, but you’ll work. If you don’t have to be an actor, for God’s sakes don’t be an actor, because it’s a really crappy life if you don’t absolutely need it. I mean it took me ten years to get to a point that I could support myself writing and that’s not at all uncommon.

Also, if you don’t have to do it, why not save room for the rest of us that do? If you need to do it, you’ll find a way to make it work. And if you don’t need to do it, that’s going to come across, and you’re not going to get the job. And if you do get the job, sooner or later someone who needs it more will kill you and eat you.

TGL: So it’s the passion and drive that makes it work.

Alex: Yeah, whatever I have to write, I’ll write. Whatever I have to do I’ll do. That’s what gets you through. When people reject you, if you don’t have to do it, you’re going to think, frak them, who needs the stress? But if you need to do it, you’ll think, oh my God I have to fix this, how how how?

TGL: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

Alex: You’re welcome.