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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jack’s TV Writing Notes! — By Jack

If you remember a while back I did a post on TV writing. That was from my first class which basically focused on how to write a TV spec script. Essentially you write an episode of an existing TV show.  Now I’ve picked back up with TV writing II: Electric Boogaloo…I mean writing a pilot.

I could explain to you what a pilot is, but I think I’ll turn that over to my friend Jules…

Thanks Jules. Now in case you don’t like Pulp Fiction or that video has been taken down or SOPA/PIPA/ACTA got passed and I’m in jail, I will explain what a pilot is after all.  When developing an original idea for a TV series you sell the first episode of a show to a production company and/or (not sure if it’s either or both) a network. Let me clarify, you don’t sell quite yet. You option your pilot script.

When you option the show you get a certain amount of money and the production company has a window of time to make the show. Then if they film the pilot episode you get more money. If the pilot episode is successful and a network makes a second episode that’s when the real money comes in!

So how do I sell my show? I need my elevator pitch! An elevator pitch is a short 30 second – 1 minute pitch I could rattle off if I were in an elevator with an executive or whoever could get my show made. Not that any of us will be so lucky. But when pitching the show I need to distill what’s important about my show and what’s most attractive to get someone’s attention.

What do my targets need to hear?

  1. Distill the essence of my show.
    -Depending on which network I pitch to, my script will have to subtlety change.  A pitch to MTV better be a bit different than a pitch to HBO.  No matter who gets the show, changes will be insisted upon. What in my idea  must I hold on to that makes it different from every other show? If I can be as specific as possible on this, I can hold my ground on what I need and change everything else that’s not so important.
  2. What THEY need to see.
    -The production company (people physically making the show) needs to see that the show can last 100 episodes. Around that time a TV show goes into something called syndication. I.e. it goes to TBS or channel 32 and it shown at 6:00 pm then again at 11:30 pm. When that happens everyone who makes the show really gets money. Every time the show airs, you get money, but when it goes from once a week to 5-10 times a week, that’s 5x -10X more money a week. When a show’s on network, it will only airs as long as it’s being made. In syndication it could run for decades.
    -The network  (the people airing the show) needs to see it appealing to a massive audience and possibly attracting celebrities. They don’t care so much about it going into syndication, they want it to have as many people watching it at one time for the sake of ad revenue.
  3. The type of pitch. Depending on the type of show, my pitch needs to be different.
    a) Title Show pitch. (Seinfeld, Cosby, Louis C.K.) For these shows I’m pitching the character.
    b) Circumstance pitch. (Northern Exposure, Raising Hope) Guy X is taken from big city and moves to small town.
    c) Concept pitch. (LOST, Battlestar Galactica) Most appropriate for sci-fi, you have to sell a concept about the world of the show.
    d) Theme (Modern Family, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives) You guessed it, you’re selling a thematic idea for the show and how your characters revolve around that theme.

So that’s pitching and I have to develop my idea enough to have a sound elevator pitch for class next Monday. Come back next week for another exciting installment of Jack’s TV Writing Notes!

-Jack Out

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in By Jack, Writing

 

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A different head space. — By Jill

Occasionally in my world, everything slows down and I reach a clear head space.  I don’t say fuck. I don’t exclaim. And I don’t get angry. Yesterday was one of those times.

I pulled the earphone out from my iPod then from my ears. That way I wouldn’t have to lift up the cover to turn it off. Then I looked around the Dean & Deluca. I looked at all the people who were sitting alone like me and I wondered what they had become. Reflecting what I had become and what I would become.
A stead stream of New Yorkers flowed past window into the 42nd street Metro stop and Port Authority Bus Terminal. What did this lonliness mean? What was its opposite that I desperately prayed for? Was it a beautiful man to wrap his arms around me in bed, holding me there tightly, almost inescapably so?  Would this opposite be a job where people would have to search me out specifically for something very important and rare that only I could do? Perhaps a service that people would pay mountains of money for and my Blackberry would beep incessantly about. Is this escape from solitude an intimate forum where I can finally bare my burdens and secrets and not be a monster? Where I would find others with similar secrets were people I could respect and admire?  I don’t know. I really don’t and I don’t know how to solve these aching pains of loneliness.

And so when you can’t solve a problem you have to learn to deal with it. The head phones that I had pulled out of my ears may have suggested an answer. Shalom Auslander has been performing a story on The Moth podcast. It was a touching story about visiting the remnants of a concentration camp and also about a grandmother going through Alzheimer’s. And his conclusion was that laughter shall set you free.

He gives this excellent denouement about how laughter, dark laughter in particular is a victory. That Hitler probably never wanted anyone laughing as they walk through his death camps (as the author found himself doing) and that Alzheimer’s, if it were a person or a thing, probably wouldnt want anyone laughing at it. And so this maxim resonated with me for a few moments and seemed like this behavior may just be the answer.

Now I am old enough to know that epiphanic solutions to life long problems disappear almost as quickly as they are gifted. In my teenage and college years I desperately subscribed to solutions such as meditation,  The Secret (yea I was one of those) and “don’t think too much.” In college, I seemed to have a life altering epiphanies every other week. So despite this new “laughter” solution feeling incredibly germane, I knew it would likely evaporate. But at least right now, in my head space, I can reflect on all the changes in the last year year of my life and I can look at my current situation (far less comfortable to where I was a year ago) and I can grin. (Not laugh, not yet.)

—Jill
The moth cast. It’s the second one down. Shalom Auslander.
 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in By Jill

 

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Jumping on the SOPA bandwagon –by Jack

I’ve been keeping to myself lately, holed up in my room strictly working on 30 Rock and Raising Hope spec scripts. And I’ve not been paying attention to anything else. But now the internet seems up and arms about SOPA/PIPA. No one seemed to care when Obama took away due process. And I stopped trying to affect politics back when The Supreme Court put the final nail in our election process by giving corporations the right to make unlimited expenditures with the Citizens United ruling.

But now that youtube and wikipedia are threatened, that’s when our generation rises up. Okay, cynacism aside now that I’ve started looking into it (and by looking into I saw a really funny video) I’ve decided to at least write my congressmen/women.

I don’t feel I have much else to add to the debate, so I’ll keep this post short. As apathetic as I am about most goings on of the outside world, I do think it would be a shame if the internet, which currently is a tool of both corporate enterprise and a tool for a citizen’s expressive freedom, lost the latter. It may be inevitable that internet will eventually become more controlled and even purely corporate owned and commercially run. But for now it is a tool to say anything you want (no matter how inane, uninformed, and offensive it maybe.) PIPA and SOPA are the first steps to take away this freedom. The legislation is shrouded behind copyright infringement protection, but the powers granted are too strong, poorly defined, and with too limited over site.  If you don’t care about this what do you care about?

–Jack Out

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in By Jack

 

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Getting back to the gym — by Mack

I used to be a gym nut. Well not super crazy. I never did Cross Fit or P90X but I did have a personal trainer for a while so I learned some good ins and outs. I used to go 3-4 times a week. Lately, it’s been once a week. (Or less.) Now it’s time to get back on track.

My routine is as follows;

Cardio

  • I usually switch between running, stairs, elliptical, row machine, and bike
  • 20-25 minutes (more than 40 minutes is wasted)
  • Music — Eminem, Happy Hardcore techno, or Coheed and Cambria
    -something about those 3 that puts me into a different head space
  • Away from a mirror. Cause I will just look at myself the whole damn time
  • Occasionally I’ll run in Central Park, but I really need the number of a treadmill to keep a pace

Muscle work

  • Targets: Chest, Shoulders, Upper Back, Triceps, and Legs (usually one Target per day)
  • Things I never get to: Biceps, Lower Back (I really should hit that one,) Forearms
  • Warm up set. (I fucked up my shoulders because I never used to warm up) Just do 10 reps really light weight of the exercise. Get that blood flowing to that part of the body.
  • Muscle confusion*: Switch grips, switch weights, switch sets, (more on this with the asterisk)
  •  Target muscle group gets three exercises. I.e. for Chest – Bench, decline bench, butterfly curls.
  • Try to add a small exercise between sets. (Push ups between bench press sets.)

Abs

  • I really try to switch this up. (see muscle confusion)
  • I usually pick three ab work outs and do them three times each.
  • Sit ups, crunches, bicycle crunches, leg lifts, alternating leg lifts, pull up crunches…and a whole bunch of exercises I don’t know the name for.

Diet

  • Though I don’t do the paleo diet, I try to keep to some of the ideas of it.
  • High protein, low carbs, vegetable etc.
  • I try not to eat after 8pm. You’re body doesn’t need food that late, it’s not going to use it.
  • Conversely, if I’m going to eat crap, do it in the morning when I body will use it.

*Muscle confusion. Essentially, your body learns how to do what it does efficiently. So when you start exercising, your body doesn’t know what’s going on and has to work hard to accomplish the task.  Once it’s done that task enough times it figures how to most easily accomplish it.

So when I first started working in restaurants, running around, on my feet the whole 6-8 hours, I lost weight. Then after about a month, the weight came back. My body learned how to do all those tasks efficiently.

When working out,  if you make little changes, it switches up the body. Kinda throws it for a loop. Some of my favorite ways to switch it up are below;

Decreasing weight. Start doing you exercise (probably on a machine) at the highest weight you’re comfortable. Maybe do 6-8 reps (that exhaust you.) When you can barely get out that last rep, drop the weight down 10-20 pounds. Then do 5-8 more reps (till you’re struggling again.) Then drop it down 10-20 more pounds and continue till you’re practically only reping 10 pounds. (Or you’re super tired.)

Increase weight.  Same thing but in reverse. Start relatively low (not at 5-10 pounds) but something you could probably to 12-15 reps of. Then steadily increase the weight.

Switch grips. Do free weight bench with your hands parallel with your body. Or rotate as you come up. Slight changes like that work slightly different muscle groups.

Use that Bouncy Ball. You know those big rubber balls no one uses? You can use those for almost all exercises, especially upper body. Take free weight bench with dumbbells. Sit on the ball and walk your feet out so your parallel to the ground. The ball should sit just at or above your shoulder blades. Keep your knees together and use pretty light weight. Now your body has to balance and do the exercise. It will force you into perfect form.

Now you know the ins and outs of all my secrets. Use them for good and not for evil.

—Big Mack Attack

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in By Mack

 

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Over it. –By Mack.

Jack is in his own world. Shutting himself off from the rest of the world as he gets over that girl and writes his next script. Jill is off having adventures in a winter wonder land that would only impress a tourist.  As I prepare for a season of cutting winds and black snow I’m planning to hunker down with the complete series of The Wire I got cheap from Amazon. But I can’t escape this feeling that something is missing.  I don’t have the drive I used to have.

At what age do we lose that? I suppose it’s different for each person. And maybe some of us never lose it. But not all of us are meant for big success. What’s more pathetic?  The guy is still trying to make it as an actor at 45 or the guy who, though disillusioned, understands his place. I’m not trying to be morbid or depressing or nothin’.  But sooner or later you gotta face facts.

I almost have to admire Jack’s hermit like nature.  He works till he’s done. Only time he comes out is for coffee. Don’t even see him go to the restroom. He must be hiding diapers or something.  And with Jill, she may be annoyingly NYC green, but there’s this excitement in her. She goes to museums and plays and street fairs.  I used to be much more like both of them. What changed?

I’m almost ready to resign. Settle down with some girl. Raise a kid and push him so hard to go after his dream while he can. Cause that shit dries up. I’d totally be the dad who beats the crap out of the other kid’s dad at a t-ball game.

–Big Mack Attack.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in By Mack

 

Restaurant Etiquette — By Jill

If you’ve never worked as a server, there’s probably a good chance you might be doing things that piss the wait staff off. His is a general list of faux pas;

I”ll get the big one out of they way. We’re hoping for 20% and that includes alcohol. Why wouldn’t it? I got you the bottle, the glasses, kept your glasses full while you drank it. 15% is still acceptable but unless I fucked up on your table, c’mon don’t be stingy. What you may not realize is that I actually have to tip out the support staff from my tips. That means the bussers, runners, bartenders, coffee person, host, and wine sommelier are getting a chunk of my tips. One place I worked based that number on my sales. So if your check was 100 bucks, regardless of what you tipped me 5-7 bucks was getting tipped out. So $20 yea! $10, crap, I’m only walking with 3-5 bucks. Don’t give me the “verbal tip” by telling me I was the best server you’ve ever had then leaving me 12% and don’t tell me I was so good I deserve a raise, that’s what the tips for. Also, tell the manager, not me. I know I’m good. The managers don’t always. You might get me in a better section tomorrow night or out of the dog house if one of the managers don’t like me.  Generally, tips don’t get to me. I usually get good tips and if I do get a shitty tip, it balances with really good one. So let’s move on to…

“One Timing.” One timing is the process of sending me to get your table something on multiple trips almost immediately. Remember I have 3-6 other tables I’m waiting on. I have a laundry list of things I need to get done with dozens of obstacles in the way. Multi-tasking and consolidating my steps is essential to my success. So when I bring you your refill of diet coke, then you ask me for some more dressing, I go and get it. Then your friend decided she wants extra dressing too, I go and get it. Now your boy friend wants a cup of ice to put in his Cab (I don’t know why, but someone did ask me for that this week,) you’ve just sent me one 4 trips when I could have done it in one, and now I am behind with all my tables. Oh and adding when you get a chance! doesn’t help. It doesn’t let me know “you’re on my side and that you understand.” If I got you the extra parmesan “when I had the chance” your salad would be done, you’d have finished that 1/2 portion of chicken you’re sharing with your girlfriend, and you’d be drinking your skim milk cappuccino. And for fuck’s sake don’t ask me to take your picture! It’s one thing if you see me calmly walking around or chatting with my other servers. No problem. But if you see me clearing tables or with a tray full of drinks or perhaps you notice that all the tables around you are getting sat with customers at the exact same moment, this is not the time for you to ask me to drop everything and shove a digital camera in my face. Then don’t give me 2 or 3 other fucking cameras. We live in the digital age. Email it while I get that cappuccino “when I have the chance.” Lastly, don’t tell me “it’s the button on the right.” I know how to work a fucking camera.

Cash and split the rest on the cards. You got the bill, you give me some cash and two credit cards. You want me to keep the cash and put the remaining amount on the cards. This in and of itself isn’t a problem. Here’s what is: $200 check. You’ve given me $100 bucks cash and two credit cards. I give you back to credit cards with $50 bucks on each one. You then leave $10  for each card. You and your buddies just left me a 10 percent tip. No customer ever seems to get this concept. Just because you left me cash for half the bill doesn’t make the tip go away. Or rather, I guess it does.  The only thing you could do to piss me off more is take both copies of the receipt. When you do that we get nothing. And in the case of the restaurant where we tip out based on sales, I just lost money taking your table. Thanks!

Here’s the next one. It’s 11:55 pm. You’re hungry and for some damn reason you don’t go to a bar that’s open till 4 am. No, let’s go to this restaurant that is almost completely empty and closes in 5 minutes! Now because of your hungry drunk ass; a server (or all closing servers,) 2-3 bussers, at least one cook, a bartender, a dessert guy, and a manager wait for you to get your appetizer, entree, dessert, coffee while you admire how beautiful a night it is!

Two women sat in my section last night for 5 hours. They were my first table and my last one. Here’s something to be aware of, by sitting at a table for a prolonged period of time, you’re stopping me from getting another table. So if you order another drink or two, that’s nice, but in your place, I could get a 4 top that is ordering appetizers and entrees and possibly a bottle of wine. For the most part I don’t really care that much. For some servers, money is their primary goal. Sell you the most expensive items, get you out, get the next table. For me, I genuinely do care about your experience. I want you to leave happy. So if you’re sitting there talking to your buddy, I can focus on my other tables and give them that experience.

However, I want to get the fuck out of there. Servers don’t have a time we get off. Based on how busy the restaurant is, a manager will look around the restaurant and decide if they need all the servers currently staffed. Once they feel business has died down, they will “make cuts.” Certain servers will be told they are “cut,” meaning that any new tables sat in their section will go to other servers and they just need to wait till their current customers have paid out. Let me say that again, I stay until you have paid your check. So if you find yourself in a restaurant, it’s pretty late, and you maybe notice that your server is not talking to any surrounding tables and every 10 minutes or so is asking if you need anything (or perhaps glaring at your from down the hall) there’s a good chance you are keeping them from going home. You don’t need to leave, you can keep chatting away with your friend, just ask for the check, pay, and sign the damn thing.  Those two ladies I mentioned earlier, they sat with their check for 30+ minutes. When I came to take the payment, their reply was “hahaha, we haven’t even looked at it.” They came in, ordered their drinks at 6:05 pm, I gave them their check at 10:47 pm. Even after I ran the card they took 10 minutes to sign.  I finished my paper work, changed and they were still sitting there as I left. Oh and for 5 hours + at my table they only left me 15%.

—Doesn’t believe how oblivious some people are.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in By Jill, Restaurants

 

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