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Becoming a pro TV writer and editor in Los Angeles...and blogging the journey

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As promised, here’s a recent exercise that I did for the G.I. Joe Renegades episode: Cousins.  Try to get into the habit of doing this with EVERY television show that you watch. Tedious? Sure, but invaluable…

G.I. Joe Renegades
The Hub
Episode: Cousins
Writers: Henry Gilroy, Marty Isenberg, Jeff Kline
COLD OPEN:
Lady Jaye introduces Flint to Heavy Duty, who impresses him with his excellent marksmanship.  Flint gives Heavy Duty the mission of tracking down his cousin, Roadblock, which Heavy Duty accepts under the condition that he becomes part of the  team permanently.
ACT ONE:
A.   The Joes awaken to find themselves in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Roadblock’s family lives. Roadblock detoured them from their mission in Virginia because he’s got personal family business to attend to. He asks the Joes to respect it.
B.    A funeral for Roadblock’s father. Roadblock attends quietly in the distance, unbeknownst to the other mourners.
C.    With Granny Roadblock in mourning alone, Roadblock reveals himself, only to her rebukes that his crime is in coming without his cousin, Heavy Duty. After that, a warm greeting and a warning that he was smart to stay away, people have been inquiring about his whereabouts.  Roadblock scurries.  
D.   As Roadblock runs away, he’s zapped by something unseen. Coming to his senses, we reveal that it’s Heavy Duty, apprehending him. There’s a brief exchange revealing that they’re family with a little sour history. Suddenly…
E.    They’re attacked by something else, unseen. COBRA. Specifically Major Blood. Heavy Duty cuffs himself to Roadblock, disbelieving his story that his renegade Joe team is chasing Cobra and not working for them. Heavy Duty intends to bring him in.  The Mercenary Major Blood makes an offer: release Roadblock Heavy Duty can go unharmed.
F.    Chase scene ensues. Blood chases Duty and Block as they bicker over the best way to handle this.
G.   Duty and Block narrowly escape, when Blood outpowers their maneuvers with a missile launch that destroys the bridge and sends their truck flying.
H.   As the truck sinks, Duty tries to free Block, but loses the keys as Blood strikes with one final missile, forcing their vehicle to sink and the end for both of them seems certain. 
End ACT ONE: 8:15
ACT TWO
A.   Roadblock and Heavy Duty swim away together, escaping Major Blood.
B.    The pair is attacked by an alligator and barely survive. Banter ensues revealing that the strife is partially country-bumpkin v. City slicker. Roadblock saves Heavy Duty.
C.    The duo hears a short range communiqué. Roadblock tells Duty that it’s a been heard by his team of joes, but Duty insists that his Flint and Jaye heard it and will get them his way. A standoff.
D.   Major Blood attacks suddenly, forcing the duo to hide in the swamps.
E.    Stalking them, Blood offers them a fake offer to come out. When Duty seemingly accepts it, he’s attacked by a snake, which, again, Block saves him from.
F.    Alerting Blood to their whereabouts, Blood corners them where Block launches the snake at Blood’s head, sending him running and giving the duo an opportunity to escape.
G.   Blood frees himself, circling back, but the duo is gone.
H.   The duo have more banter. City boy v. swamp guy. Mix of family exchange v. tension.
I.      The Joes (Dude, Scarlett, & Company) get a message from Roadblock informing them of Blood and a rendezvous point.
J.     Major Blood intercepts that over his radio.
K.   Major Blood calls The Baroness, demanding more money for the capture of the renegade joe team. They quibble.
L.    Block and Duty tension has reached a boiling point. Garvey v. Booker T. Washington. They physically battle, tiring themselves out. Duty tries to free block.
M.  They’re captured by Major Blood.  
END ACT TWO: 14:05
ACT THREE
A.   Captured by Blood, Roadblock and Duty are suspended by rope over a pit of hungry gators inside a boathouse. Duty, upon realizing that Cobra is evil, realizes that his cousin is good.
B.    The Joes arrive at the coordinates, realizing that its likely a trap.
C.    Duty tries to free them, as time is running out. Their rope hold is breaking and they will fall into the gator pit.  They reconcile and explain the rest of their backstory, buddies again.
D.   They fall, barely avoiding the pit, Just as Major Blood’s bomb activator falls into the pit and a gator, again attacks!
E.    The Joes close in as a hidden Blood activates his defenses, downing each of the joes.
F.    Snake Eyes jumps to save Block and Duty, nearly killing the Gator when block stops him. They escape.
G.   Outside, Blood has Duke at his mercy when Ripcord startles Blood, giving Duke the opportunity to K.O. him.
H.   From Blood’s call, the Cobra cavalry has arrived led by Baroness. Battle ensues.
I.      Roadblock and Duty escape the boathouse, diving free and into the water.
J.     Back to battle, the joes are surrounded and hold out. Baroness and Blood exchange a moment.
K.   Suddenly, Block and Duty come charging in a river boat, guns blasting, saving the team.
L.    Blood, from the shadows, has the drop on the Joe team when he’s suddenly attacked by a gator ad pulled underwater.  The Joes assume he’s dead (with a quip).
M.  Blood emerges some distance later, with a whipped Baroness, who seems shocked that Blood emerges…but is very likely missing a limb.  
N.   The Joe team let the duo off at the Roadblock family home.  Duty still wants to keep his promise to take his cousin in, but Granny Block won’t hear of it. She forces a truce.  Granny gives them both their grandfather’s inheritance, ie, t he source of their bickering: His Tuskegee Airmen wings.  Roadblock offers it to Duty and granny reminds them that they have to look out for each other. 
O.   Granny invites the Joes in for dinner as we close on how Heavy Duty got the name, “Heavy Doodie”.  It’s from Granny.
FADE TO CREDITS.

As promised, here’s a recent exercise that I did for the G.I. Joe Renegades episode: Cousins.  Try to get into the habit of doing this with EVERY television show that you watch. Tedious? Sure, but invaluable…

G.I. Joe Renegades

The Hub

Episode: Cousins

Writers: Henry Gilroy, Marty Isenberg, Jeff Kline

COLD OPEN:

Lady Jaye introduces Flint to Heavy Duty, who impresses him with his excellent marksmanship.  Flint gives Heavy Duty the mission of tracking down his cousin, Roadblock, which Heavy Duty accepts under the condition that he becomes part of the  team permanently.

ACT ONE:

A.   The Joes awaken to find themselves in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Roadblock’s family lives. Roadblock detoured them from their mission in Virginia because he’s got personal family business to attend to. He asks the Joes to respect it.

B.    A funeral for Roadblock’s father. Roadblock attends quietly in the distance, unbeknownst to the other mourners.

C.    With Granny Roadblock in mourning alone, Roadblock reveals himself, only to her rebukes that his crime is in coming without his cousin, Heavy Duty. After that, a warm greeting and a warning that he was smart to stay away, people have been inquiring about his whereabouts.  Roadblock scurries. 

D.   As Roadblock runs away, he’s zapped by something unseen. Coming to his senses, we reveal that it’s Heavy Duty, apprehending him. There’s a brief exchange revealing that they’re family with a little sour history. Suddenly…

E.    They’re attacked by something else, unseen. COBRA. Specifically Major Blood. Heavy Duty cuffs himself to Roadblock, disbelieving his story that his renegade Joe team is chasing Cobra and not working for them. Heavy Duty intends to bring him in.  The Mercenary Major Blood makes an offer: release Roadblock Heavy Duty can go unharmed.

F.    Chase scene ensues. Blood chases Duty and Block as they bicker over the best way to handle this.

G.   Duty and Block narrowly escape, when Blood outpowers their maneuvers with a missile launch that destroys the bridge and sends their truck flying.

H.   As the truck sinks, Duty tries to free Block, but loses the keys as Blood strikes with one final missile, forcing their vehicle to sink and the end for both of them seems certain.

End ACT ONE: 8:15

ACT TWO

A.   Roadblock and Heavy Duty swim away together, escaping Major Blood.

B.    The pair is attacked by an alligator and barely survive. Banter ensues revealing that the strife is partially country-bumpkin v. City slicker. Roadblock saves Heavy Duty.

C.    The duo hears a short range communiqué. Roadblock tells Duty that it’s a been heard by his team of joes, but Duty insists that his Flint and Jaye heard it and will get them his way. A standoff.

D.   Major Blood attacks suddenly, forcing the duo to hide in the swamps.

E.    Stalking them, Blood offers them a fake offer to come out. When Duty seemingly accepts it, he’s attacked by a snake, which, again, Block saves him from.

F.    Alerting Blood to their whereabouts, Blood corners them where Block launches the snake at Blood’s head, sending him running and giving the duo an opportunity to escape.

G.   Blood frees himself, circling back, but the duo is gone.

H.   The duo have more banter. City boy v. swamp guy. Mix of family exchange v. tension.

I.      The Joes (Dude, Scarlett, & Company) get a message from Roadblock informing them of Blood and a rendezvous point.

J.     Major Blood intercepts that over his radio.

K.   Major Blood calls The Baroness, demanding more money for the capture of the renegade joe team. They quibble.

L.    Block and Duty tension has reached a boiling point. Garvey v. Booker T. Washington. They physically battle, tiring themselves out. Duty tries to free block.

M.  They’re captured by Major Blood. 

END ACT TWO: 14:05

ACT THREE

A.   Captured by Blood, Roadblock and Duty are suspended by rope over a pit of hungry gators inside a boathouse. Duty, upon realizing that Cobra is evil, realizes that his cousin is good.

B.    The Joes arrive at the coordinates, realizing that its likely a trap.

C.    Duty tries to free them, as time is running out. Their rope hold is breaking and they will fall into the gator pit.  They reconcile and explain the rest of their backstory, buddies again.

D.   They fall, barely avoiding the pit, Just as Major Blood’s bomb activator falls into the pit and a gator, again attacks!

E.    The Joes close in as a hidden Blood activates his defenses, downing each of the joes.

F.    Snake Eyes jumps to save Block and Duty, nearly killing the Gator when block stops him. They escape.

G.   Outside, Blood has Duke at his mercy when Ripcord startles Blood, giving Duke the opportunity to K.O. him.

H.   From Blood’s call, the Cobra cavalry has arrived led by Baroness. Battle ensues.

I.      Roadblock and Duty escape the boathouse, diving free and into the water.

J.     Back to battle, the joes are surrounded and hold out. Baroness and Blood exchange a moment.

K.   Suddenly, Block and Duty come charging in a river boat, guns blasting, saving the team.

L.    Blood, from the shadows, has the drop on the Joe team when he’s suddenly attacked by a gator ad pulled underwater.  The Joes assume he’s dead (with a quip).

M.  Blood emerges some distance later, with a whipped Baroness, who seems shocked that Blood emerges…but is very likely missing a limb. 

N.   The Joe team let the duo off at the Roadblock family home.  Duty still wants to keep his promise to take his cousin in, but Granny Block won’t hear of it. She forces a truce.  Granny gives them both their grandfather’s inheritance, ie, t he source of their bickering: His Tuskegee Airmen wings.  Roadblock offers it to Duty and granny reminds them that they have to look out for each other.

O.   Granny invites the Joes in for dinner as we close on how Heavy Duty got the name, “Heavy Doodie”.  It’s from Granny.

FADE TO CREDITS.

Posted on Sunday, July 17th 2011

Animation Scripts, Anyone?

I’ve put the feelers out for script samples from any modern animated action/adventure television show. Against proper internet etiquette, I’ve nudged at a few animation writers in hopes that they might share whatever is on their hard drive.  

Wish me luck.  If I get something, I’ll see if they’ll give me permission to post a few pages so that any of you looking at how to put together, say, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or Ben 10: Alien Force,  won’t be going in blind.

Also, for those of you curious about the process, i’ll post my notes that I took of the new G.I. Joe show on The Hub. For you aspiring writers, I suggest that you start looking at these shows analytically:

1. How long is the opening story bit before the titles? In one hour dramas, this is called the Cold Open.  In animation, it’s probably called the Teaser, but it serves the same purpose. 

2. How long between commercial breaks? These segments between commercials are called ACTS, and the typical 21 minute animated television show has three acts with TWO commercial breaks.  

3. Notice where the action ends on dramatic point? It’s just before the commercial, right?  That’s intentional. It’s meant to leave you on a cliff hanger so that after advertisers pay the bills with their commercials, you’re eager to stick around for more. 

4. We’ll discuss A and B story, ie, the main story and subplot, when we get hold of an animation script to dissect.  In the meantime, look at one of your favorite cartoons and pay attention to how it’s structured.  Watch the show for fun, then REALLY watch it again with a writer’s eye and take notes.  It’s tedious, but invaluable in helping you hone your instincts for what works and what doesn’t at a gut level.  

Good luck to you, and wish me luck too! I’m going to break in this year …

… no matter what. 

Posted on Sunday, July 17th 2011

Considering a very juicy idea for a spec Walking Dead script…hmmmm

Considering a very juicy idea for a spec Walking Dead script…hmmmm

Posted on Sunday, July 17th 2011

Second Time Around

This is crazy. I mean, really crazy.

It wasn’t called blogging back then, but I remember when Jon and I first started writing down our thoughts and calling the output Channel Zero, then, eventually,  PopCultureShock. I’ve known then, as I’ve known since I was ten, that all of my future paths would lead towards the pen.  Even back then, I was telling everyone that I would eventually write for comics and television.  Hell, I was young and arrogant, without a connection or a clue, and it took a good decade of living in Los Angeles to soften me up. 

Passing the PopCultureShock torch, the sudden death of Dwayne McDuffie, and, getting married, were definitely ‘perspective changers’.  

So here’s life, 360, and I’m blogging again -  just as I did in the beginning.  There’s no audience that I’m writing for, no sensationalism, no ad sales to worry about. I’m writing for the exercise.  Hopefully aspiring writers will follow along as I link regularly to podcasts and resources dedicated to the art, craft, and blind luck of breaking in as an American TV writer and video editor. 

So yeah, I’m dragging you guys along. Think of this blog as a really long reality TV show. 

Here’s the first thing to check out:  Gray Jones and the guys at Script Magazine host an excellent podcast on TV Writers called The TV Writer Podcast.  If you’re into animation, there’s an excellent interview with Steven Darancette where he gets down and dirty discussing the highs and lows of writing for U.S. television animation.  

I’m currently working on an Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes spec script because it’s a an awesome toon written by comic vet Chris Yost. Wish me luck. It’s keeping me in practice while I plug away at my one hour drama spec…

Keep writing!

Posted on Sunday, July 17th 2011