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“Mad Men” Writers Visit VFS

December 15, 2013

I had the pleasure of meeting Emmy-winning screenwriters Maria and André Jacquemetton when they visited Vancouver Film School recently.

The writing team, who most recently worked on the acclaimed television drama Mad Men, spent over two hours answering questions from students looking to break in to the television industry, and another three hours the next day holding roundtable discussions. Everything was fair game, from the best way to pitch ideas and nab an agent, to the co-writing process and working as a writers’ assistant.

With André and Maria Jacquemetton at VFS

Me with writers André and Maria Jacquemetton (middle and right). Courtesy VFS.

 

I shared some of what they had to say in this recent post for Vancouver Film School’s blog:

This Calls for a Cocktail: “Mad Men” Writers Visit VFS – VFS Blog.

 

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Meeting television director Bethany Rooney

September 15, 2013

I had the pleasure of writing a guest blog post for Vancouver Film School about TV director Bethany Rooney, who had a candid conversation with VFS students last week.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten and Bethany Rooney

Me with Bethany Rooney. Photo courtesy Vancouver Film School.

Bethany Rooney has 25 years of directing television under her work belt and took time out of her own schedule to come speak to students at VFS. For about an hour she patiently and thoughtfully answered questions on everything from shot selection and how she likes actors to behave, to collaborating with writers.

She is in Vancouver for the next week shooting an episode of Arrow. Already this season she has directed episodes for three other shows, including Drop Dead Diva and Criminal Minds and she’s got four more coming up.

You can learn more about Bethany and what I thought about her presentation, because I know you are dying to know my inner thoughts, by going to the VFS blog.

TV screenings at VFS and choosing what to spec

September 8, 2013

Week two at Vancouver Film School, we were notified that we must attend 12 screenings for television shows currently on the air. We have to. It’s mandatory. In other words, life sucks. Go ahead and cry for me, if you feel so moved.

These are the shows we can choose from to write our first spec script.

The shows we are required to watch, hand-picked by the VFS writing instructors, are:

It’s a diverse list (there’s even a Canadian show!), and includes multi-camera sitcom, crime, thriller, single-camera comedy, supernatural, animated and cable and network shows.

The Mindy Project

“The Mindy Project.” Courtesy Fox.

I’ve seen/follow 7 of the 12 shows on this list. This either means that a) I watch a lot of TV shows; or b) I watch a lot of quality TV shows. The answer, my friends, is both.

Aside from deciding what to wear to these exclusive screenings (I’m thinking a one-shouldered evening gown with a two-foot train – the one shoulder says, I’m fancy, but I can get down to party, if necessary), I have to choose a show to spec.

Realistically, I could see myself spec’ing The Mindy Project or Parks and Recreation. Elementary, which I’m a big fan of, particularly the writing, would be challenging, but if I could pull it off, would be very rewarding.

"Elementary." Courtesy CBS.

“Elementary.” Courtesy CBS.

As for the other shows, I’ve fallen out of love with Castle, recently. The Beckett-Castle love story and father issues became a little too trite for my taste. I stopped watching Grimm because it’s gory and Modern Family doesn’t do it for me anymore/I don’t understand why Claire is so crazy. Maybe they could do an episode about her going to the doctor to get a prescription for mood stabilizers (that will be my spec!)

Previously on this well cared for blog, I have shared my distaste for the show entitled 2 Broke Girls, so I will not rehash that here. I’ve seen one episode of Eastbound and Down, liked it, then forgot about it. I have not seen any of the other shows so that must mean they suck.

So tell me, readers, do you watch any of these shows? Which ones? If none, what other shows do you watch? If your answer again is none, I would encourage you get off this blog immediately and never visit again, because the blog may be called The Omnium Gatherum, but really, all I talk about is television.

I don’t really care about anything else.

I do, actually, but I don’t care to write about it on here.

I tried, but I got bored.

So, to recap, this is a blog about television.

K.

Vancouver Film School – Writing – Awoohoo!

August 31, 2013

I’m baaaaaack. After an 11-month, 356-day hiatus I have returned to write another post on me dear old blog. I’m sure you are dying with curiosity, wanting to know what I’ve been doing for the last year. So I won’t tell you. Explicitly, anyways. You can go here, here and here to find out. I know how much people like reading an article or post online, then pausing halfway through a sentence to click a link to go to another website and start reading another story or post. I care about my reader(s).

This post is about more than my dedication to blogging and how accommodating I am to people. I have an announcement, and it’s about the future guys – well, my future. This won’t affect your dinner plans or the lives of your children.

Y’all, I’m going to film school. I am one week into the Writing for Film and Television program at Vancouver Film School.

Awesome sauce, right? For the next year I will be working my ass off to become the greatest writer in the history of television. In a humble sort of way, of course.

In all seriousness, I’m taking a leap of faith/crazy and going for my dream to write TV shows. This next year is going to be amazing and exciting and awful and exhausting and fulfilling and all so worth it.

The intention is to chronicle my year-long adventure on this here blog and share things I’ve learned about the film and TV industry, about writing, living in Vancouver, about the human psyche, foreign policy, agribusiness – pretty much all the standard subjects covered in film school.

So I invite you to join me on this journey, to live vicariously through me, and to make comments on my posts, preferably positive ones that tell me how amazing I am, but I’ll also take thought-provoking questions and witty repartee.

Let’s do this, bitch.

‘Husbands’ shows real gay marriage

September 8, 2012

This is my first commentary/review of a web series. That’s right, I have finally entered the 21st century. Watch out 22nd century, I’m coming for you.

Husbands started its second season in August. The show is a comedy about two gay men who unexpectedly get married in Vegas, made possible by a new federal equality amendment. Wholesome beginnings. One of them, Brady, is a baseball star with the Dodgers, the other is an actor named Cheeks. Cheeks is flamboyant and totally out there (could you guess from his name?). Brady only came out a year ago and is more pragmatic and reserved.

They decide to stay together for the cause, not wanting to undermine the whole movement over their drunken asses. But here’s the second catch – they’ve only been dating for six weeks. Whuuuuuck? I have a feeling things are going to get craaaazy up in here.

Husbands Series Premiere




Season 2 opens with Brady asking Cheeks to tone down the gay because his over-the-top tendencies could jeopardize Brady’s career. “This is not children’s filth!” screams one of those million moms on television after Cheeks tweet-insta-pins a photo of the two. Cheeks argues that he is being himself:

I’ve spent so many years branding myself as someone who embraces stereotypes because disregarding society in favor of one’s authenticity is a very important step towards self-love and personal empowerment.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that Cheeks’s personality is truly authentic and I question if it’s fueled in part by celebrity culture, where people flaunt themselves all over the place – men, women, gay, straight. It comes off as vain and immature, and not very amusing. On the flipside; however, having to pretend to be someone you’re not isn’t an option either. Brady can be so inconsiderate, God.

This points to one of strengths of the writing and character development on Husbands. Viewers can see both sides of the conflict and understand where both Brady and Cheeks are coming from in their struggles to make their relationship work on a personal level and while under the scrutiny of the public.

Husbands season 2

They are in love? Brad Bell on top (had to be said) and Sean Hemeon.

The main qualm I have with Husbands is the rather uninspired story lines. Besides the newish-for-television element of a gay couple, the rest of the show is pretty formulaic. The jokes and scenarios are standard couples buffoonery, personality clashes – pretty basic new relationship material – which is fine, it’s just kind of been there, done that.

I’ve never been a fan of opposites attract couples comedy. Maybe that’s why I like the dynamics on Modern Family – gay and straight (although I don’t see how both wives being stay-at-home moms is very modern). To stick with the gay theme, take Cam and Mitchell. They have the same power struggles and personality clashes as Brady and Cheeks, but the humor goes beyond that. Things happen outside of their differing methods of self-expression. Maybe it’s celebrity couple versus regular people couple. Or maybe it’s because show creators Brad Bell and Jane Espenson chose to have Husbands solely focused on the dynamics of being an out, gay, celebrity couple, when their livelihood depends on their public image. Regardless, I’m not much for pillow talk.

What Modern Family doesn’t have, which Husbands has in spades, is real displays of affection. The husbands on Husbands kiss a lot. Cam and Mitchell hug each other the way they would their grandmothers – and that’s all they do. Brady and Cheeks’s relationship is not network TV gay marriage. These guys kiss, touch each other – you know, that stuff people in love are wont to do.

I definitely give Husbands points for bravery and delivery style. Putting this on the web instead of shopping it around to cable networks only to have it inevitably watered down was a smart move. And the short, snappy episodes are a perfect length for web viewers. The episodes in season one are Super Bowl commercial length. It’s a good tactic to hook a web audience and it works with the pacing of the story.

Behind the Scenes – Season 2, Episode 1


So, in closing, do I think Husbands is comedy gold? Not exactly. There are some memorable lines and genuinely funny moments, but the rest of the humor is pretty unremarkable. Is the show groundbreaking? Sure. It goes farther in pushing same-sex marriage into the mainstream than any show on television has ever attempted – or has and has been shot down. So I say you go, Husbands, go be your funny(ish), gay self, and don’t ever change. Well maybe just a little. Sometimes change is good.

Husbands Season 2, Episode 2

Related links:

Jane Espenson and Brad Bell Talk “Husbands,” and Their Online Journey to Sitcom Success | Hollywonk

Could ‘Go On’ starring Matthew Perry be more predictable?

July 31, 2012

One of the best parts about watching the Summer Olympics on NBC is getting a first look at the new fall shows, as it seems every third commercial is a promo for The New NormalRevolution or Guys with Kids.

Go On starring Matthew Perry

“Go On” premieres this fall on NBC. Smiley face mug a little “Mr. Sunshine”, no? Photo courtesy NBC.

But there’s one show premiering in the fall that sees the return of a huge star for NBC.

Matthew Perry stars in new comedy Go On. So, let us sit down and share the story of what this show is about:

Perry plays a sports radio host.

Go on….

He’s emotionally stunted.

Sounds familiar, but go on….

HIs wife died in a car crash while texting.

Seems like Hollywood is really picking up on the texting while driving is bad. Please, go on….

He is forced to go to group therapy to work out his issues and learn to be a team player.

Go on….

The therapist is hot.

Oh crap.

Of course there’s a crazy cat lady in group therapy. Why is there never a crazy dog lady? There is something mentally unhinged with women who refer to themselves in the third person, as “Mommy”, to their tiny dogs. You don’t have to tell him what to call you, he’s never going to speak. I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten a burrito bigger than those rat-faced weirdos.

So many elements of this show sound like a repackaging of the failed Mr. Sunshine that Perry starred in last year. And a lot of that was Chandler Bing only richer and more suave (or was supposed to be at least).

Now I have no problem with NBC making The Chandler Bing Show. I still don’t know why Chandler never had a guest appearance on the laugh-out-loud hilarious Friends followup, Joey. They were best friends and they didn’t even exchange a phone call? Must have been the time zone difference.

Sadly, Mr. Go On doesn’t star Alison Janney, whom I thought was brilliant on Sunshine. But, I’m moving on, and I hope Go On does as well instead of rehashing the same character elements (I don’t have super high hopes because the show’s creator was created by Scott Silveri, an executive producer on Friends. He also did Joey. Clearly he is having difficulty getting past that show.)

If Go On can avoid stereotyping characters, give Matthew Perry a beyond shallow role and avoid a romantic tryst with the therapist lady (really, Hollywood, again?) this show could actually go on to be something enjoyable (see what I did there?). Otherwise, see you next pilot season, Matthew Perry. Maybe they could just make his role on The Good Wife bigger – it’s like The West Wing all over again!

Update: I’m currently developing a sitcom about crazy dog ladies and guys. I’m thinking Matthew Perry can star as the critical, emotionally aloof, joke-cracking television executive who is forced to develop a reality show that follows the dog people through their obsession and unnatural relationships with their pet-children.

And the Emmy goes to … sadly not these shows

July 19, 2012

The Atlantic hit it so right on what shows and actors will be wrongfully not nominated for an Emmy, it reminded me of why I so often do not watch the awards show. I mean usually it’s because I forget they’re on, but it’s also because they never take a chance any of the really deserving shows or actors.

Matt Czuchry of The Good Wife

Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos on The Good Wife. Courtesy CBS

Matt Czuchry is so strong as Cary Agos on The Good Wife yet he’s often overshadowed by Chris Noth and Alan Cumming’s characters. I remember when he was a wee boy on Gilmore Girls. He played a similar, you can be a smarmy asshole, but really you’re a pretty nice guy, and alright, I do like you, character.

The cast of Happy Endings

The cast of Happy Endings. Courtesy ABC

I already wrote a post about how I’ve been progressively warming to Happy Endings, but I don’t think it deserves a Best Comedy nomination yet. There are still a few kinks to be worked out plot and characterwise. Where it shines is the cutting dialogue and goofy character pairings (Penny and Max are a favorite). If it keeps improving the way it did over last season, only it’s second mind you, I’d say Happy Endings will be worthy of a nomination after next season.

Ben Wyatt with his claymation doll

Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt with his “claymayshe.” Courtesy NBC

When Mark Brendanawicz left Parks and Recreation at the end of season 2 I was really sad (mostly because I loved it when Andy or Tom would say his name), but his replacement, Ben Wyatt, played by Adam Scott, was nothing short of comedic perfection. Ben’s humor is so versatile: he can be subtle, nerdy and quirky, and most importantly Adam Scott is capable of gelling Ben with every single other character on the show. I would like to see more of him and Ron alone, and of course there needs to be another Treat Yo Self Day with Donna and Tom.

Max Greenfield as Schmidt no shirt

He’s usually shirtless. Max Greenfield as Schmidt on New Girl. Courtesy FOX

Max Greenfield of New Girl needs to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. His character, Schmidt, is (rhyme attack) the shit. He plays one of the most original male characters to appear on a comedy in a long time. He’s not just the player, he’s the neurotic, kind of a stickler, but also sweet guy. And I will never think of youths or chutney again without thinking of dear Schmidty. He should also get a special Emmy for his workout video alone.


Update: Max Greenfield was actually nominated! Congratulations Max, and congratulations nomination committee people for making a smart choice.

Awake TV show

Jason Isaacs starred in Awake before it was cancelled. Courtesy NBC

I don’t agree with everything The Atlantic said. Some of the dark horses the article notes are actually just undeserving vanilla horses that someone poured black paint on and tried to masquerade as cutting edge. Awake was not brilliant or complex, Kevin Fallon (the guy who wrote this piece for The Atlantic), it was dry and predictable. Those lighting changes where everything was grey and green when Son was alive and bright and warm when Wife was still kicking were obtuse and unimaginative. Also, I love how that guy’s psychologists had no problem letting him continue to hallucinate, becoming a harm to himself and potentially others. They must be highly sought after professionals.

I would be very surprised if any of these actors or shows picked up nominations, but then again I probably won’t find out because I’ll once again forget to watch the Emmy Awards.

What shows or actors do you think deserve an Emmy?