Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Fellowship of the Zing

Damn you, Jane Espenson. Damn you and your always-entertaining blog, whence I learned of the Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program. It has stirred my latent dreams of being a professional screenwriter, and will surely consume a good portion of my free time until the June 23rd application deadline.

It's also pointed out just how little mainstream television I actually watch. The fellowship requires applications to submit either an original screenplay or an original teleplay based on a current prime-time TV series. They specifically forbid movie sequels and original TV pilots. I'm sure this is for business reasons, but it does make for two completely different writing exercises.

The only time I've even thought about writing for a TV series was back in 2003, when I imagined what the 9/11 episode of Sports Night might have been, if the show had stayed on the air that long. I'm more drawn to writing screenplays for some reason-- maybe I feel there's greater freedom to play with character and structure, and maybe that's an incorrect impression, but there it is. I wasn't even that excited about writing for Star Trek back when they accepted spec scripts from anyone.

Maybe I'm like Ray Bradbury, who was invited to write for the original Star Trek but declined, saying that he couldn't write for characters that he hadn't created. (I admit that anecdote may be apocryphal, but it's telling.) Maybe I'm just too demanding. Maybe I'm just like my father-- too bold. Maybe you're just like my mother?


Anyway, I discussed this with my lovely wife last night, and we ran down the short list of TV shows we watch, and there wasn't much. Our favorite is Gilmore Girls, but I'm not sure I could write in that particular style. Same for My Name Is Earl. We're about half a season behind on Lost, and I'm not sure a spec script would do the show justice, since it couldn't actually move anything forward.

Let's not even talk about Smallville. I just watched it again for the first time in months ("Fragile", in case you're wondering), and Christ, I feel like I'd need a lobotomy to be able to write such plodding, transparent dialogue.

I guess I'm not the type of obsessive fan who endlessly analyzes his or her favorite series for the smallest detail. Or maybe there just isn't a series on the air right now that connects with me in that way. Or perhaps there is, and I'm just not watching it because I've got too much other stuff to do.

We'll see if I come up with an idea in the next week or so. I want to leave enough time for rewriting, which means pounding out a first draft over Memorial Day weekend. Hooray for deadlines!

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