Wednesday, March 29, 2006

100% Fat Free

Denis McGrath, my good buddy up north in Toronto (though we have yet to work together or see each other face-to-face; something I hope to change in the future) has been dealing with the Canadian Television industry and its protocols for quite awhile now. Lately, the discussion over on his blog has been, "What's wrong with Canadian TV writing and how do we fix it?"
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Beyond the fact that it makes fascinating reading about the system of TV development up in Canada, the whole discussion illuminates a problem that everyone has with their script at one point or another:
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How do I give the audience the maximum amount of story in the quickest (read: best) way possible?
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Every writer loves the sound of his or her own voice. I think it's in the gene pool or something. We spend so much time crafting every word, every syllable that we forget the one simple thing that separates an average writer from a great one:
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Say nothing more than what you absolutely, positively need to, then move on.
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We writers need to get over ourselves and engage the editor to our work. By that I mean we shouldn't be afraid to cut our work to the bone so that only the best stuff is left, and the story doesn't have any fat on it whatsoever. I'm as guilty as the next guy.
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In the movies that I've written, the mandate has always been to jam pack as much story as possible in 90-96 minutes . That's because that is the average run time of a TV movie. The SciFi Channel has stated that in their creature-features, they want to see the monster within three pages - cut to the chase (literally). Imagine what it's like for an hour of series TV (actually 48 minutes).
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John Rogers over at the Kung Fu Monkey has a philosophy of television as haiku. That's a great way to look at it:
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What are the fewest, most powerful words you can use to communicate?
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Find those words when you're rewriting.
The rest goes in the trash...

1 comment:

Jeff O'Brien said...

Canadian TV- if you go CBC the problem is that it's a shill for the governement and it's politically correct to the point of nausea. If you want your Canadian identity rammed down your throat, by all means tune in.

Private channels in Canada - well here in Vancouver we used to get Baby Blue Movies which played soft porn at night.

Trailer Park Boys rocks though!