The best comedy writing starts with characters

Anna Chlumsky and Julia Louise-Dreyfus in "Veep."
Anna Chlumsky does her best to manage Julia Louise-Dreyfus in “Veep.”

Given the many flavors of comedy and personal taste, is it even possible to create something that is universally funny?

The Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 funniest scripts ever written may be more definitive for some than others, but, if nothing else, the list reflects how broad comic appeal can be.

While the top five films appear to have little in common, at the heart of each lie shared elements of Continue reading “The best comedy writing starts with characters”

Baroness von Sketch: Keen satire, devilishly female

Baroness von Sketch CBC
The award-winning all-female Canadian sketch comedy, Baroness von Sketch Show, examines narcissistic contemporary culture.

While Saturday Night Live, with its skewering political satire, has returned to late-night prominence, another sketch comedy, north of the border, is equally worthy of praise: Baroness von Sketch Show. Launched last year on CBC, the female-driven sketch comedy appropriately won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Variety or Sketch Comedy on International Women’s Day. Continue reading “Baroness von Sketch: Keen satire, devilishly female”

13th Amendment documentary: Slavery, hypocrisy, and profit

Director Ava DuVernay's cogent documentary, 13TH, exposes a broken democracy.
Director Ava DuVernay’s cogent documentary, 13TH, exposes a broken democracy.

As someone with a background in broadcast journalism and film, I tend to be extra critical of documentaries. Too many tend to be poorly structured, indulgent, boring, uninformative, or some combination thereof. But “13TH” is among the more cogent and compelling documentaries I’ve seen in years. Continue reading “13th Amendment documentary: Slavery, hypocrisy, and profit”

Censorship, net neutrality, and preserving the Internet

Online activist Aaron Swartz fought online censorship, championed an open Internet.

One week into the Trump Administration, did you ever think you’d be associating the phrase “rogue twitter accounts” with the U.S. National Park Service, NASA, and numerous other Federal agencies? In this odd new world, the free exchange of ideas once again is under attack. And with changes coming to the Federal Communications Commission, so, too, is net neutrality. Continue reading “Censorship, net neutrality, and preserving the Internet”

Humor for ‘unpresidented’ times: Political comedy “Dick”

Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images)
Giddy teens Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, with Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon (Photo by Phoenix Pictures/Getty Images).

While it may be difficult to find humor in these “unpresidented” times, the last thing you may be in the mood for is a “political” film recommendation, but “Dick” is no ordinary political film. Continue reading “Humor for ‘unpresidented’ times: Political comedy “Dick””

Jessica Jones has what you need

Krysten Ritter (photo by Myles Aronowitz for Netflix)
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones: A hard-drinking private investigator with a superhero problem.

If you are still looking for a reason to subscribe to Netflix, all 13 episodes of “Jessica Jones” is it.

And if you’re already a subscriber, do whatever you do to prep for some serious binge viewing because “Jessica Jones” has it all: Action, romance, intrigue! Continue reading “Jessica Jones has what you need”

Screenwriting lessons I learned from Stewart Stern

Stewart Stern
Stewart Stern (1922-2015)

I want to preface this post by saying, emphatically, it’s not about me. But, as Stewart Stern would insist, despite my state of denial, it really, really, really is. And that’s why so many are mourning his death this week. You may have seen the headlines about the death of the guy who wrote “Rebel Without A Cause,” but Stewart, of course, was more than a gifted screenwriter. His screenwriting instruction transcended “instruction,” as anyone who studied with him would attest. And it got me thinking about what I learned from his class at TheFilmSchool, because it was unlike any screenwriting class or workshop I’d had, and ever will have.
Continue reading “Screenwriting lessons I learned from Stewart Stern”

Screenwriting development slates and focusing on stories that resonate

Screenwriting development slatesHowever arbitrary, the start of the new year is when we’re reminded to make resolutions, set goals, etc., etc., which, admittedly, prompted me to add a new column to my screenwriting development slate — an addition I expect to resonate throughout the year. Wait — a screenwriting dev slate? Continue reading “Screenwriting development slates and focusing on stories that resonate”

No, data cannot help you write a better screenplay

TypewriterWalt Hickey’s recent FiveThirtyEight blog post, “How Data Can Help You Write A Better Screenplay,” is flawed on so many levels, the key one being predictive analytics does not apply to screenwriting. Why not? Because, first and foremost, the screenplay is a blueprint for a film, and the process of interpreting text to a visual medium reflects a collaborative effort with multiple unpredictable variables — most notably, people: actors, directors, producers, editors, cinematograhpers, sound technicians, more writers, set designers, etc. Continue reading “No, data cannot help you write a better screenplay”