Script Writing

Can you believe it? I spent fifteen minutes typing up an entry in Blogger about scriptwriting and it failed to save it as a draft. It's out there somewhere in cyberspace, probably transiently sitting on a router, words never to be exactly recalled. It's like watching your scripts being polished by your producer.

I wanted to say a little bit about my experiences as a scriptwriter. It was a result of fortuous coincidences which are unlikely to ever happen again in my life, but when opportunity knocked, I grabbed it by with both hands and dragged it in kicking and screaming.

A friend of mine is a TV producer. He's actually been doing this for years, but apart from an occasional "good show" comment, we never really talked about it.

One day, he sent me a pilot script for a new series he was doing, I made a few disparaging comments about it and I decided to back up my words with a spec and offered to write him some scripts.

He said yes.

I have never ever been paid for professional writing work before this. Never. I'm not counting the reams of business reports I've done - I'm talking about fiction.

It's now been a month since he made the offer, and I am proud to say that I have been paid money for not one but two television scripts. Whether or not the final product bears any resemblance to my writing remains to be scene.

(I now pull out one of my writing tricks and reproduce bits of email that I've sent to other people on the subject)

It's a bit of a surprise, the kind of series that I'm working on. It's actually an English-language sitcom without a laugh track that focusses on a couple and the difficulties of a new relationship. It's a little bit like Sex in the City meets Mad About You, except without sex or Helen Hunt. The sex I don't mind so much, but Helen Hunt would have been a nice thing to have (and I shan't say what I think about sex and Ms. Hunt together). Oh well.

The writing has actually been quite easy, overall. I don't have to do a West Wing type of fast, intelligent banter, nor do I have to write dialogue that is too snappy. In fact, I've been asked to Malaysianise the English a little bit more and to bear in mind that the lead actor's accent isn't too hot.

And thus we come to the down-side of this whole experience. I am just short of selling myself to the devil with this project. The Great Satan I am talking about is Ponds Skin Whitener. There was an ad campaign last year where a pretty girl said that this boy in college never noticed her until she used Ponds Skin Whitener and then all of a sudden he did, so he took her out on a date to the movies and then he stuck his hand in a popcorn box and when she reached over to get the popcorn she got his hand and was pleasantly surprised and then things went brilliantly after that.

Now, Ponds are paying good money (some of which will hopefully trickle into my pocket) to produce a 12-episode series that carries this story along.

However, I am a big, big, big opponent of skin whitening products (why? Why? WHY? I ask), and the only saving grace is that I don't have to write lines like "It was a tough day, but at least I have Ponds Skin Whitener on my face". Product placement is someone else's burden.

The other problem is that the two lead characters were selected to look pretty in the ad, and not with acting ability in mind. The guy isn't too good in English (I had to break down his monologues after I was told that) and the girl has an extremely tight schedule (so there's one episode I've written that doesn't include her at all). However, they are good looking bods and if bad South American soap operas with pretty actresses can sell in Malaysia, then this has a fair chance.

Anyway, I hope that this puts a frame on what I've been doing lately.
posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 - permalink
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