TV Writing Contest: The Black List (Part 2)

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So I did it. With a day left I finished my first TV pilot. It was called “No Returns Allowed” and is about a thief. After the blacklist contest time period, if enough people comment or request it, I’ll just post it on the blog for free. The contest is for the ATX festival in Austin, TX which I live near, so I figured it could be a good opportunity (maybe they want local voices). I heard about the contest relatively late (around 3 weeks prior to submission). I asked myself “Hey, remember back in college when you wrote that screenplay that never went anywhere?” I shook my head assuredly and said “Now that you’ve written a few novels and know about plot structure and design, couldn’t you try this again?” I nodded my head again. Okay, I was game.

I came up with the new plot in 30 minutes. Unlike a movie, a TV pilot has to introduce all the characters and the setup to the show and give the hook. I figured out a way to do it, in order for it to be clear what every following episode would be about. I then wrote an arc to what the first 3 seasons would be, with a cliffhanger at the end of each. This gave me a sense of the nuggets I had to put in the pilot.

It took me 4-5 days of actual writing to get it done. I had one person copy edit it for me, but I’m sure there are errors. I didn’t use Final Draft to format it, only the established guidelines of screenplay writing. I also read the pilots of Lost, Breaking Bad and the screenplay to Birdman to see the tricks in those stories. I sensed a trick early on. It seems actors get direction on the manner in which they play their character, and then later on in scripts less direction is given so the actors can run with it. I tried to do the same besides adding pause beats here and there. If you want to read a crazy pilot, try LOST. Dang, J.J.Abrams really gave a sense of the chaos in the pilot. Pretty amazing.

I went on the blacklist website http://www.blcklst.com and simply registered and paid my $25 to upload my teleplay. Then there was an easy to find option to opt it into the contest, which technically ends the 15th of April, however the contest stipulated it needed to be in at least a week. I can only assume there is an inherent advantage to submitting early. I would have paid $50 for a reader to critique it, but due to timing, I figured it would be dead money. I just have a hope and a prayer at this point.

If it did get consideration for the top “5-10” then that would be a good story in itself based on the long odds and having zero contacts in the TV business (The signup for the blacklist has a bunch of blocks for guilds and production history and other TV associations which made me go “um … uh oh Matt.”)

CHECK OUT MY NEXT UPDATE ON THE BLACK LIST

Movie Reviews: Birdman

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Birdman directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu

I’ll say it up front. This was the best movie of 2014.

I’ll say something else. The script was so good, I even read that, just to learn how the heck they pulled it off. If you are into the craft of storytelling, Birdman puts on a clinic. It stars Michael Keaton playing himself Riggan Thomson. To support him, it has Edward Norton playing himself Mike Shiner, a demanding method actor. Zach Galifianakis isn’t the caricature he built for himself. Emma Stone puts on a solid performance as well as Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson’s daughter.

Constructed to flow as one continuous story, the director gambled with a quick film shoot and used every trick in the book to pull off the sequences. I think I know how he did it, but not really. I keep telling myself I know exactly where the cuts are, but it really doesn’t matter. He builds the story around the stage, and on that stage is Riggan, a man with a crisis of conscious, but in a funny way (see Michael Clayton for the boring way). He is so hard on himself and his mind is so sucked in the vortex of the commerciality of art, that he is on the verge of a breakdown before opening night.

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There is an easy way out. Just eat the damn apple and agree to a sequel. But no, Keaton Riggan wants to be bigger than that. He wants to be taken seriously and accepted for being a talented actor. He wants to show his range and prove to his critics that they are wrong about him. He is willing to do anything … even walk in his underwear in New York City.

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The movie wraps up nicely on stage, as intended. Risks are taken, but did Keaton Riggan get the public acceptance he yearned for?

GUEST REVIEW: “THUNDERPECKS” (Rumored former A-list Actor)

I get this. Those who have not adorned massive cod pieces and thunderpecks do not understand the pressure to succeed as a superhero. We have to appease so many rival groups: The die-hard fans who will destroy you for getting something wrong, the teenage girls who who don’t think you’re hot enough to go see the movie with their boyfriends and sinking the opening weekend numbers, the reviewers who will skewer my ass regardless of how much soul I breathe into the character. As actors, we are one big fuck up from destroying our superhero careers (Ben Affleck in Daredevil, Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern, Chris Evans in Fantastic Four 2) that there are no second chances unless nobody else “looks the part” and Hollywood comes back to us (Ben Affleck in Batman vs Superman, Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool, Chris Evans as Captain America).

Movie Rating: 10/10 Virtues of Ignorance