tv screenwriter

Emotional Algebra: The Formulas of Television and What It Means for Daria’s Sick, Sad World

By H. Hernon

Human beings can be broken down into a series of patterns. The same can be said for our media. For as much as we complain about tropes, stereotypes and formulas there’s a reason they’re so prevalent: they work. They work really well. As a self-declared semi-creative, this can be frustrating. There’s no need to innovate. There’s no need to try something new. We’ve wasted our time on English classes, social science classes, and the dreaded media classes when we could’ve been doing math and science because that’s all you need. Grab the formula, plug in Chris Pratt and Anna Kendrick and you’ve got yourself a hit. No thinking necessary in this sick, sad world.

Or perhaps I’m just in a nihilistic mood because I’ve been binge watching MTV’s Daria. The show works incredibly well as a slice-of-life for late 90’s culture- it captures a certain early internet pessimism and necessary disdain for everything through the lens of high school apathy. But I would argue the show works on a level beyond that. It’s one thing to synthesize and satirize culture. It’s another to try and do that while maintaining a level of emotional connection, and Daria is able to make this all work using an extremely effective formula for television.

Let’s pull back a sec. When it comes to television comedy I’ve always preferred some sort of emotional core. I’ve taken a Community or a Party Down over a Always Sunny or Arrested Development time and time again. Not to say that those latter shows aren’t good or anything like that, they’re very funny. But a lot of narrative shows are funny. It takes a bit more spice to get a viewer invested. Community and Party Down do it through pop culture reliability and capitalist dread respectively, but it’s Daria that does it in a way that shows why TV is so damn good at getting people emotionally involved.

Daria Morgendorfer, the character, has been somewhat caricatured over the years. (Known blogmate Eli Schoop compared her to Tina from Bob’s Burgers in one drunken conversation, one of the most horrific atrocities in our friendship.) The stigma seems to be that she isn’t a character as much of ball of sarcasm, one liners, and edgy-cool disdain for everything. (Hi Tumblr!) But that perception of her as a character is paper thin. Daria’s character can be surprisingly complex for the world she exists in, but we’ll just use the important things. She has unrealistically high standards for everyone and everything, including herself. She has disdain for “the system” but no real drive to change it. She’s emotionally distant because she feels like that’s the only way she won’t be taken advantage of by anyone or anything. Non participation is a big theme. This doesn’t account much for her interests or even personality (the caricature gets some things right, sarcastic and a little bit too edgy at times), but for the basis of outlining this TV formula we can stop here.

And this is where the common critiques of Daria get things wrong. The show isn’t about how everyone is shitty and the only way to get through life is to be a sarcastic asshole to everyone and involve yourself in nothing. It’s most profound moments are about exploring the times when that clearly isn’t the case. The formula the show uses is this: set up a character that has a strict moral view on what they will and won’t do (Daria), establish this for several episodes so the audience knows what to expect from them, then in a moment of true emotional dilemma have them act out of there own understood set of morals and have them do something they wouldn’t normally do for someone else to show that they really do care. This can be seen in a lot of my favorite shows on a monumental scale. Rick and Morty season two ends with Rick getting himself arrested against his own socio-political views, Party Down as a series ends with Henry doing the one thing he said he’d never do, go back into acting, as a grand gesture to his faith in love interest Casey. The Office (UK) series two end with David Brent swallowing his pride for the first and only time and begging for his job back. These are all huge, one time moments, but Daria is able to do this by constantly questioning our main character’s morals.

And in slice-of-life fashion, this isn’t always a dramatic moment. Sometimes it ultimately means nothing, despite being internally huge for Daria (deleting embarrassing tape of Quinn in “Monster”), sometimes she grows as a person despite being right in the end, (attempting to accept that Jane can be participating in a corrupt school sport system in “See Jane Run”) sometimes she tries to change for someone else and feels shitty about it, (literally any Trent/Daria episode) and sometimes she legitimately is just in the wrong, and we see the faults of her rigid world view (“Jane’s Addiction”, “Partner’s Complaint”).

A lot of these episodes come later in the series because time is needed to set up these crescendo moments. That’s why TV is so fucking good. You can go a few episodes without giving the characters any moral dilemmas to work with or you can go years. Media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the amount of time we spend with the stories we watch is key here. Daria starts to realize these things late in season two and way more in seasons three and four because the audience has seen who she is for an entire six hours of content by then. There’s something to be said about following someone for that amount of time.

This doesn’t just apply to comedy, although I think it works better because I find it easier to connect to people I think are funny. This is why people loved Breaking Bad, it’s why everyone I know won’t stop watching Vanderpump Rules. (Reality TV, although unscripted, is a breeding ground for this sort of stuff, if you’re patient enough [I’m not]). This is something mostly bound to TV as a medium, and it’s so satisfying to be a part of.

So many shows try this formula, and not all succeed. Daria does it really damn well, and at a rate that is really impressive, especially for what it is. I’m still not done with the show, and I’m already anticipating that single tear slowly rolling down the cheek at the end of the last episode. I’m not saying every show has to do this emotional-moral marshmallow fluff, or that Daria is for everyone. It’s really not. But for as cliché, trope ridden, and stigmatized TV in general is, it’s a goldmine of emotion and growth over time, largely thanks to the patterns and rules that we know work.

So yeah, I overreacted a bit earlier. Knowing what works isn’t always a bad thing. As a self-declared semi-creative it’s always more fun to dump a can of beer on “the system” and give it a stone-cold stunner, but perhaps, just like Daria, we self-declared semi-creatives need to learn that sometimes dipping a participatory toe in “the system” isn’t always a bad thing.  

The challenge in writing procedurals is how to get beyond the technical to the heart. Donahue says: ‘The mistake we all make, including me and all of our writers on the first draft, is we do load it up with clues and we go to plot. Here’s the thing: no one cares about plot. No one ever has. But story - story is not the same thing.
You look around and it’s the story of the guy who doesn’t want to lose or who wants to go the distance. That’s something people care about.’
—  Douglas, P. (2011). Writing the TV Drama Series 3rd Edition: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

anonymous asked:

Hey Britta! As a staff writer, do you feel like you have any sort of creative control over the script you're writing? I know you co-wrote an episode (congrats, one of my favorites btw!), but how much of that is following an outline and do you have to follow the outline 100%?

This is a great question, and something I think a lot of folks who aren’t actively in TV don’t have a very clear understanding about.

The first thing to know is every show is different, so I can only talk about how Riverdale works.

But on Riverdale, every single episode is a group effort. We break the story together, we write the outlines together, we troubleshoot problems together. I can point to specific lines or ideas or scenes in every episode that I had pitched in the writer’s room, and other people can point to that stuff in me and Brian’s episode that was their idea.

Some shows, when a writer gets the outline and is sent off to draft, they might be handed a few pages of notes, or some character arcs, or complete outlines. On Riverdale, every writer is sent off to draft with a very extensive (like 12 or 15 page) document that outlines every single scene in the episode. We talk through the entire episode, scene-by-scene, with the showrunner and the whole room, at least once, maybe twice or three times before we start writing.

So you know exactly what your episode is by the time you open Final Draft and start typing. And you really can’t veer from the outline. If you think you have a better idea than what’s already decided, or if a problem arises, you need to discuss it with the showrunner before going off course from the outline.

But that’s not to say I don’t have creative input along the way! It’s a very collaborative room, and we all get to throw out ideas and speak up about every episode every day in the writer’s room. At the end of the day, Roberto makes the final decisions, but we all get to have input as we go.
‘Speechless’ Creator Calls for Casting More Actors With Disabilities at TV Academy Honors
Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, and Minnie Driver were among the stars in attendance at the 10th annual Television Academy Honors on Thursday night in Beverly Hills. Honorees and TV Academy members gathered under the stars at the Montage Hotel to celebrate six television programs that, through their content, strived to inspire change or change lives.
By Daniel Grzywacz

anonymous asked:

How do you plan on getting your creations and work out there after film school? Do you believe it will be a difficult endeavor or an easy one?

This is a big and scary question!

The short answer is: I don’t know, but I don’t think it will be easy.

Discouraged? Don’t be. Read the long answer below!

There are endless ways to get your creations out into the world. Film festivals, screenwriting contests (*winks*), sharing and working with your peers, and commercial work are just a few ways.

I am currently working in a (sort of) commercial job where I make promotional and training videos as well as graphic design work. This may seem boring, but I am actually challenged because I get to be creative in the way I share information. In this way, I am already sharing my works. The commercial work I do, while more business than creative, has given me connections, skills, and works that I can show to clients and other filmmakers.

The best way, I think, is to collaborate with other filmmakers. There is never just one person involved in making a successful film. There are dozens, sometimes hundreds of people working on a single project. The popular phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very true in the film industry. I am a writer, so I talk to my director and cinematographer friends when I want a film produced. I work on sets as a scripty and have had people ask me to send scripts their way because they aren’t writers but desperately want to make a film. The people you create films with have their own networks and the more people you know and work with, the more exposure your creations will get.

After film school specifically, I hope to work in television. In television, you work with a lot of the same people for a longer period of time, whether it’s on set or in the writer’s room. I am already involved in a writers room and I hope to build more connections in the TV world. (I got my hands on scripty notes from Empire via one of the show’s editors and I was so excited!)

Do I think it will be easy? Absolutely not. I am an introvert by nature and networking is something I struggle with. I also tend to procrastinate and be indecisive when working on personal projects, which makes writing a slow process for me. However, I still try to be involved in projects and I keep creating.

I hope this helped and I didn’t overwhelm you with my lack of a plan for my future.


anonymous asked:

Just before Jon goes all angry kitten on Baelish, observe his face(" Not even thank you"? till " As I loved her mother")- It does not make a whole lot of sense. Jon somehow starts boiling with anger before Baelish utters the trigger word. As if he knew that the rat bastard would bring up Sansa. And he would be more than happy to chew him to pieces. A platonic brother-sister relationship? NADA. This was a dude being possessive of the woman he loved. At least thats what I think. Care to comment?

I know, that is NOT how a brother behaves. His face and reaction, literally screamed “Oh no you didn’t, she is MINE.”

I wrote this before, we’ve never heard jon make that animalistic growl, that he made in that scene, before he chokes Littlefinger, and how his mouth twitches, I was like OMG looking at that scene. THAT was not meant to be platonic. He acts possessively, as if Sansa is his, as is she’s off limits to everyone/anyone, but, him. 

And then he comes out the crypts two minutes after, and looks at Sansa with such sadness, but at the same time, tenderness in his eyes, he waves at her, she smiles and waves back, then he lowers his hand, looks at her just a bit longer, then turns around and leaves, and then it pans to Sansa, you can see sadness in her eyes, and fear, for Jon’s life, fear he might never make it back home, you can literally hear the sounds of Sansa’s heart breaking 💔😩

EVERYONE saw these strange reactions from Jon this season, he’s had them 3 times, 1st with Littlefinger, then with Tyrion, and lastly with Theon. And the way both Jon and Sansa look at each other, it is not brotherly/sisterly love, there is 100% something else going on. Even many tv show directors/screenwriters, who write and direct romance, have noticed it, and they have no shipper goggles on, or whatever. We can’t be ALL crazy, come on lol 😂😂 

D&D have planted the seeds throughout season 6 and season 7, and they will flourish in season 8. 

The only ones who, LITERALLY refuse to see, and are in denial, are J*onerys shippers, who apparently, whenever there was a Jonsa scene, a scene where Sansa was brought up to Jon, and where Sansa mentioned Jon, they apparently put cucumbers on their eyes or something lmao 🙃🤣🤣

Jonsa has had so many romantic tropes in their scenes, that at one point I found myself thinking, wow D&D this is getting out of control, but please, continue, we don’t mind, quite the opposite. 😉😂😂

There is nada platonic about these two, and honestly, the chemistry between Kit and Soph, is off the charts. Their acting is on point, there is sexual tention, there is awkwardness, there is love, sweet stares, sweet glances, lip staring contests, they exasperate each other, they drive each other mad, they talk to each other, they scream at each other, open up to each other, don’t keep secrets, they trust each other, they would both do anything to protect the other, they fight but they quickly make up, and they complement each other beautifully.

J*onerys had none of this. Jon is like a close shell around her, he doesn’t open up with her at all, and you can see he’s very weary of her. He’s seen she’s moody, throws temper tantrums, she’s unpredictable, she’s narcissistic, entitled, power hungry, pyromanic and the list can go on. 

Jon could not fall in love with a woman like her, a woman who has seen the army of the dead, and yet still hesitates, to go North to help save the world. Had Cercei stayed put on her decision to not cease fire, she would have not gone North to help, because “Cercei would’ve came in, and taken the kingdoms back”. She thinks of herself as this hero, this good hearted person, when really she’s not, it’s just a facade, she loves being cheered, she loves have people fall at her feet in adoration, that’s what drives her, for the most part. She would put a throne, before the people, she would let the NK and his army invade and murder innocent peoole, to sit on a “pretty chair”, and rule above all.  I repeat, Jon could NEVER love a woman like that, a woman who puts power before everyone and everything.

#JonsaIsComing 💙