reetings, Fizzettes. Fizzgigs. Fizzscribes. Fizziacs.
I think I need a name for all of you. Let's have a contest! FREE HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITING SWAG
to whomever comes up with the best name for all my readers and Twitter followers! Send your suggestions to me on Twitter at @Fizzhogg
with the hashtag #teamfizz. Contest ends next month.
February was far too busy around the Domestique offices for a newsletter, but we're back this month with a full report.
Season 2 writers room is up and running. Our fearless leader, John Rogers, is working on a new pilot for NBC, so yours truly is running all things LIBRARIANS at the moment. It is exciting, it is exhausting, and it is rewarding.
I feel bad for feature writers who spend their careers sitting alone, typing away with only a glass of bourbon and occasional videos of funny cats to connect with. One of the BEST things about being a television writer is the camaraderie, energy, and pure joy of a writers room. When you have a group of like-minded (and not so like-minded) scribes all talking about anything and everything (sometimes even what we're supposed to be working on), it is simply the best.
Occasionally, we will disagree on something, and have to have a debate, but it's usually fairly genial.
In other news, I am still working on the pilot pitch I mentioned in January. There were a few delays (mostly scheduling stuff), and so I'll be pitching in April. It's for a TV series based on the book ALL OR NOTHING
by Jesse Schenker—who is currently one of New York's hottest chefs!
I also finished writing a feature script that I've had in my head for seven (7!) years. It's based on a true story, and was the single toughest thing I've ever written. But that equates to—it's quite possibly the single best thing I've ever written. Funny how that works.
It required exhaustive research and hours of reading.
Which leads me to this month's thoughts on the writing process (with a special tip of the chapeau to Phil Gaimon. You should all buy his hilarious and harrowing book PRO CYCLING ON $10 A DAY
. Buy it here
You've all heard it before. King said it. O'Connor said it. Gilroy and Mazin and Swicord said it. And guess what? There's a reason they're so successful. They know of what they speak. What am I speaking about?
To write well, you must read well. Meaning, a lot. Most screenwriters advocate reading as many screenplays as you can—good and bad—to learn your craft. That's fine and I agree. However, I believe a screenwriter can actually get more out of reading quality prose than a quality screenplay.
When you write prose you are not handcuffed by the format of a screenplay. Whether you hate Syd Field (me) or love him (anyone?), there are certain aspects to the formatting of a screenplay one must simply adhere to, or else it's not a screenplay. Not to mention, you are constructing a blueprint, which hundreds of others will interpret in an attempt to create the movie that you intended. Or didn't intend.
But a novel or short story has no constraints. Thus, the writer is free to go into the narrator's mind for long, internal monologues, or spend half a page telling us exactly how the lilies smell. The folks I've found who are bored by this type of prose writing, are inherently broken with ADD. But good writing is good writing. Be it economic staccato or Joyceian stream of consciousness.
When I read prose, my creative mind is freed up, my imagination kicks in at a level much higher than when I read the binary format of a screenplay. When I read a passage from a James Lee Burke novel, I am not only taken to another place and time, emotionally and spiritually, but I am sitting in a master class being taught by one of our greatest living authors. It is entertaining, inspiring, humbling and invigorating.
When I read a Tony Gilroy or Steve Zaillian (or any other great's) screenplay, I still get inspired, I am still entertained, and I am still in a master class. But why limit myself to just one class? To return to my favorite subject for all my analogies and metaphors—cycling—just because you're a sprinter doesn't mean you still shouldn't train in the mountains.
Every writer worth his/her salt will agree that you must keep your instrument sharp, exercise your writing muscles or whatever other euphemistic description they come up with, in order to write your best.
For me, creativity and imagination are the single most important tools in my toolbox. And those instruments are honed to a much finer point by reading prose over screenplays. Reading screenplays has a definite place in the training of a screenwriter. But for me, prose is my Angliru training. (look it up)