MONTHLY SCREENWRITING TIPS - ISSUE #5
Should writers lament or celebrate the 20th anniversary of Jerry Springer’s outrageous TV talk show? Please understand that no writers have been harmed in the preparation of this article. Here’s wishing writers everywhere a serene holiday and love and success in the New Year!
JERRY SPRINGER MARKS 20TH TV ANNIVERSARY
Do writers celebrate or lament?
The scandal in my life, quite frankly, is that I don’t go to the movies too often and I rarely watch TV.
Hey, I already have tenure.
In my book ESSENTIALS OF SCREENWRITING I bore everybody with my theory that only one out of six works of creative expression, including movies and TV shows, is worthy. I’ll discuss that issue, and reveal how I came up with that figure, in another column.
For now, though, let’s talk about TV.
I travel a good deal, especially these days, appearing at bookstores, colleges, and universities, flogging the aforementioned book. For this reason I log time in too, too many hotels. And it is in hotels where I’m most likely--or least unlikely--to turn on the TV, perhaps only because it makes the room seem a tad less lonely.
In August I checked into the legendary Claremont Hotel, Resort, and Spa in Berkeley. The flight from Burbank to the Bay Area was smooth as silk and took barely an hour.
The downside was that when I finally picked up my car from the rental outfit, far more time had passed since landing than for the entire flight.
At Oakland airport it used to be possible to walk out of the terminal directly onto the car rental lots. Now you have to wait for three packed shuttle buses to go by, and then Dollar takes its sweet, sweet time before the minimum-wage morbidly-obese clinically schizophrenic nitwit behind the counter manages to get you into a car.
They offer an optional 'special deal' that covers expenses should you have a dead battery. They rent you a car and then sell you insurance to cover a dead battery? To be fair, they do provide at no extra cost a steering wheel.
When I finally got to my room at the Claremont, I turned on the TV just in time to catch scream-outs on Maury Povich's knockoff of Jerry Springer's classic show, with mentally ill people howling at each other, and family members physically assaulting one another.
Springer launched this contribution to American public and popular culture now twenty years ago.
Who invented TV? Was it Lee DeForrest, who created the FM frequency on which broadcast television is carried? Or is it Philo Taylor Farnsworth (you can’t make up these names), who created the light-sensitive plate which made possible what they then called the camera tube? Or was it Vladimir Kosma Zworkyn (what’d I tell you about the names?) who invented the image orthicon tube, which made possible the TV screen?
Had any among the three of them known it would lead to Springer, wouldn’t they have smashed the damned device right there in the lab?
I acknowledge that in Springer’s earliest days I watched with perverse fascination. It was like a late Fellini film shot on acid in the American heartland. I loved big bald Steve, one of the original security staff, who lurked in the background, ready to pounce upon and restrain any guest deemed to be on the verge of committing a felony.
On one occasion, however, I actually learned a great deal about romantic dialogue. The guests were a trio: two men and a woman. The men were lovers who had lived together for a fairly long time. One of the men was cheating on the other with the woman. The cheater kept insisting that he wasn’t gay but bisexual. For some reason it seemed terribly important to him to make that distinction.
It was a bizarre scene among bizarre souls; what sort of mentality appears on a syndicated afternoon television show to confess to millions of strangers across the country and around the globe?
At one moment, however, there was a sudden fit of eloquence, truly touching testimony blurted out by the spurned party. He turned to his partner, looked him in the eye, and said plainly and matter-of-factly, as if merely offering driving directions or commenting upon the weather, “We’ve been together for four years. We’ve confronted all sorts of challenges and survived and thrived. We’ll get through this, too. I love you. You love me. No one can love you more than I do, and no two people can have as happy and fulfilled a life as we have had and will have into eternity if we’ll just stay focused on one another.”
I merely paraphrase, of course; I can’t possibly do justice to the actual poetry that leaped from this deranged maniac’s mouth. He seemed now somehow wretchedly human and humane.
Damned if a tear didn’t well up in my eye, and the hackles writhe and ripple across the back of my neck.
The lesson is that the romantic dialogue sounds best when it is straightforward and simple. One word after the next. No fancy high jinx, no Shakespearean soliloquy. Only a character, however real or imagined, speaking plainly and purely, straight from the heart.
Please note that writers may find hidden story and character gems in the most unlikely of places.
Viewpoint Q&A: Into the Life of a Manager – Done Deal Pro Interviews Jewerl Ross
What is a typical day like for a manager who represents writers? How does an agent differ from a manager? As an upcoming writer how do you “break in” to get representation? Get to know the answers to these questions and up close and personal with one of the industry’s top managers – Jewerl Ross of Silent R Management. As the screenwriting resource website Done Deal Pro reports in a new Q&A with the manager, Ross can boast a hot slate of writer clients with over ten years in the business, including David H. Steinberg (“American Pie 2,” “Slackers,” and DreamWorks’ “Puss In Boots”); Trevor Sands (currently writing “Electric Church” at Sony for producer Jimmy Miller after completing a successful adaption of the prestigious book series “Hyperion Cantos” for Academy award-winning producer Graham King and Warner Bros.) and Matthew Aldrich (known for his work on “Cleaner” with Sam Jackson and Eva Mendes), to name a few. Read the full Q&A on a day in the life of this Hollywood manager here.