Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Groove Continues

7:29 a.m. and I’m on page 28. This thing is playing along like a champ. Usually you have the beginning and the ending and maybe even the turning point but there are a bunch of leaps in the middle that aren’t readily apparent. Sort of like those buildup Soprano episodes before someone gets whacked. This thing is lying there like a game of pool and I just have to run the table. One thing you do learn with experience and coaching, is to sense the rhythm in the pages. A script should be 100 to 120 pages long, but take my advice and make it 100, if you can. Studio execs aren’t in it for the reading.
I’ve been told they read at a C-student level, so imagine President Bush reading your script and keep it short.
The other thing is make sure the beginning goes boom! Don’t wait around for them to get into it. If something major doesn’t happen by page 10 or sooner, you are screwed. Ideally it should open with a big scene even before the credits.
The other thing is the 3-page rule of dialogue. If people are chatting about anything, keep it under 3 pages. There are a bunch of other rules and formulas which brings us to the conundrum: It has to be original and different enough to get in the door, but not too out there or it gets tossed back out the door. Mine were definitely original enough to get in. But then they got tossed back out because they are too cutting edge. That’s why the producer wants to make one as an independent low-budget deal and hope for the best. Me? I’m still trying to bag the elephant(not my phrase).
One thing this blog is allowing me to do is record in real time the process and that’s kind of cool. Comedians tease me for my limited work hours, but 5-days-a-week, year after year, I’ve been able to write around 55 jokes a day, and sell most of them. I don’t expect any recognition for that, but I’ve always felt that at some point I should describe it, just as one of those quirky gift things like the Rain Man had. Actually, my favorite comment about it was made by Sam Denoff, who said, "You write funny and you write fast." Look him up on the Internet.
This could be my best chance to describe the process. This morning I will write 7 jokes for Jay Leno. On a good day that takes around 25 minutes. He’s bought well over 500 of them by now, but I’ve sent him thousands. Then I’ll write the radio jokes. I get 4 to 7 pages of little stories and I add a couple of lines each and send them back. That takes an hour and a quarter on a bad day, but less than an hour on a good one. So, yes, that does mean I only work an hour and a half a day, but it feels longer. Plus, I've always required a great deal of Me time. I'm not a cubicle kind of guy. I do not play well with others. Just ask my band.
On top of this today I will bang out the new script. So far I wrote a quarter of it in like 24 hours. I have to believe that’s unusual. You could argue that I’m doing it quicker than normal because I’m describing it on the blog.
Possibly - it is fun recording this for an audience. But then again, if I wasn’t doing the blog I’d be writing the script.
My producer gets to town in a couple of weeks. He has two events scheduled in Portland that I’ll get to later. I worried that this latest project might not be ready. 2 weeks to write a script? it doesn’t sound reasonable. Instead, it’ll be closer to 1 week at this rate – the same length of time as the one he optioned for $2,500. Hell, I hate to sound too optimistic but before he gets here I might start working on the sequel.


At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem the very difinition of prolific.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I hope I'm not overdoing it here. I'm a loser in many ways but this is my one area to shine, so why not?

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Charlie Burr said...


Kind of a rude question, but I'm interested in how Leno's folks compensate you. Is it a flat rate or does a gem go for more? What's standard?

Also, do you contract for celebs and others who have to give high profile speeches or awards shows or whatever?

Have you ever sold a joke to a campaign?

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Charlie Burr said...

OK here's my VOE joke, which is a little lame (and a variation of an oldie):

Q: What do a Alabama divorce and a Emilie Boyles investigation have in common?

A: Someone's losin' a trailer.


As you can see, I'm clearly not asking about compensation on my own behalf.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I have written for other celebs. Mainly I've seen them use my joke on the Tonight Show(Roseanne, Fred Willard). I've never written for a candidate but I sure have tried to get involved, especially during the Bush years. I personally handed letters to Howard Dean and James Carville, but they never got back to me. I also dealt with David Wade during the ill-fated Kerry campaign.

Leno plays a flat rate of $75 a joke but he also gives me a nice bonus at the end of the year. Once he buys one, it is his to use again at no additional cost. The radio gig is a salaried position.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly fodder for Leno:
WH spokesman McClellan says that Bush's Spanish is, "really not that good." No foolin (geez, you just can't make this stuff up)? Given Bush's lame attempts with English, the only thing surprising is that lap-dog Scott said it at all. No doubt this uncharacteristic candor reflects McClellan's new status as the former press secretary come next week.


At 2:11 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I wish Scott McClellan the best of luck in whatever Dairy Queen he ends up managing.


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