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

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