Welcome to week seven of AFF at Home! For those of you just joining us – AFF at Home is Austin Film Festival’s way of promoting a sense of community, engagement, and creativity in a time of distance and restrictions. Each week we’ll guide you through content and storytelling tips to inspire and motivate you to take your next creative step.
This week we are focusing on Writing for Episodic. Television has redefined storytelling over the last decade, but the writing process for television is still a mystery to many. This week, we’ll explore the collaboration required for serialized storytelling and the challenges in keeping an audience engaged week after week.
Just like last week, we have five actions to help place your story. We encourage you to go at your own pace and keep us updated on Twitter with #AFFatHome.
-Colin Hyer, Creative Director
We want to hear from you!
Viewer Testimonial: “As the social distancing started, I realized that the quarantine would be a perfect opportunity to focus on writing, and I could think of it more like a ‘writer’s retreat.’ AFF at Home helps provide that community feeling and helps me keep myself accountable.”
Let us know what you think! What do you like? What additional resources can we provide to support you on your writing journey?
Email us: AFFatHome@AustinFilmFestival.com
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There are plenty of ways you can help.
Writing for Episodic
Emmy Award® winning television producer, actor, comedian and writer Larry Wilmore discusses the creation of the influential Bernie Mac Show and his recent collaboration with Issa Rae creating HBO’s Insecure.
- Reinventing the Wheel: TV Drama Series Development Part 1 (1998) Rob Thomas (creator, Veronica Mars), Marti Noxon (creator, Sharp Objects)
- Reinventing the Wheel: TV Drama Series Development Part 2 (1998) Rob Thomas (creator, Veronica Mars) Marti Noxon (creator, Sharp Objects)
- Up Close and Personal: Tom Fontana Part 1 (2003) Tom Fontana (creator, Oz)
- Up Close and Personal: Tom Fontana Part 2 (2003) Tom Fontana (creator, Oz)
CONNECT WITH US
How will you apply this advice on writing for episodic to your work this week? Tell us on Twitter using #AFFatHome or in the forum below.
Q&A with VJ Boyd
What’s the process behind writing for television? We’re doing a virtual Q&A with VJ Boyd so you can find out! Boyd’s credits include Justified and S.W.A.T. Submit your questions here or on Twitter using #AFFatHome before 11:59pm on Thursday 5/7 and we’ll publish his selected responses here on Monday 5/11.
MORE ABOUT VJ BOYD
VJ Boyd has written for Justified and SWAT and is the author of the comic book series NIGHT MOVES for IDW. He co-created the NBC series Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector based on THE BONE COLLECTOR books and feature film.
SUBMISSIONS CLOSED. READ VJ BOYD’S q&a HERE.
CHECK OUT MORE OF OUR Q&A'S FROM PREVIOUS WEEKS
- Q&A with Wendy Calhoun (writer/producer Nashville, Justified, Empire) from Week 1 of AFF at Home: Sparking Your Story
- Q&A with Brian Helgeland (writer/director A Knights Tale, L.A. Confidential) from Week 2 of AFF at Home: Character
- Q&A with Amy Talkington (writer/director Little Fires Everywhere) from Week 3 of of AFF at Home: Dialogue
- Virtual Q&A with Chris Sparling (writer Buried) from Week 4 of AFF at Home: Setting
- Q&A with Jeb Stuart (writer Die Hard, The Fugitive) from Week 5 of AFF at Home: Action & Description.
- Q&A with Herschel Weingrod (writer Trading Places, Kindergarten Cop) from Week 6 ofAFF at Home: Comedy.
Student Screenwriting Corner
Writing for TV is all about creating dynamic relationships. Watch the On Story season seven episode “I’ll be There for you”, and hear from Marta Kauffman (creator – Friends, Grace and Frankie) who created some of the most infamous and touching TV relationships of all time.
I'LL BE THERE FOR YOU: A CONVERSATION OF FRIENDS(HIPS) WITH MARTA KAUFFMAN
While the show is called Friends, it’s really about family. Think about the characters who would be part of your TV family. Can you write the first scene of a pilot with those characters in mind?
Interested in our kids programming?
Take a look at our upcoming Summer Camps and Classes
“The constant refrain around AFF is the mirror-shattering trumpeting of writing and storytelling. Through AFF at Home we intend to showcase every extension of what Austin Film Festival aims to champion in its community, including our vaunted film competition alumni. We are delighted to represent the legacy of our alumni base through the WATCH section of the AFF at Home campaign; by curating incredible titles that are now available to stream in your living room, shower, wherever. Come join us in celebrating some Festival competition favorites, and marquee film titles from our Writers Conference heavyweights.”
-Casey Baron, Senior Film Program Director
AFF Now Streaming Pick:
Hand-picked past competition films from the AFF Film Department
Whether glued to the screen for Girlfriends, Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, The Game, or Law & Order: SVU, I have long turned to the “silver screen” for a break from reality. As I write this I’m observing my mother and sister in my old Miami living room, in my mind’s eye of course, joining me as well for a dramatic escapade or two. Or maybe I was joining them. Even in late-April 2020 the bounds of episodic storytelling connect us. And as that bond stretches thousands of miles of land; so too does our understanding and appreciation of the episodic series. Now we have YouTube to feed you the latest and greatest in cat video playlists and mukbang deliciousness. Just look up a mukbang video on YouTube. Maybe you’ll be disappointed. Maybe not, I’m just saying. Anyway, the landscape has changed. Well we’ve evolved as well, and will continue to do so with the times. 5 years ago we launched our Digital Series Competition, and it has grown substantially since. To celebrate some awesome episodic writing in conjunction with AFF at Home this week, we’re delighted to highlight the following Produced Digital Series Jury Award winners Song in the Sky, Brothers from the Suburbs, and Cleaner Daze. I remember watching SITS and thinking I hadn’t seen anything like it in our competition that year. It was dynamic with its protagonist and minimalistic but oh so memorable in artistic direction and animation. Brothers made me laugh in belly aching fashion for so long I still get phantom pain at times. Daze is memorable for all the best reasons. Take a look below at words from some of the imaginative forces behind these stories that wowed our jury members, creators Samuel Frederich (Song in the Sky), Patrick Wimp (Brothers from the Suburbs), and Tess Sweet & Daniel Gambelin (Cleaner Daze).
– Casey Baron, Senior Film Program Director
Brothers in the Suburbs (2019)
Creator: Patrick Wimp
Brothers from the Suburbs is a short-form digital comedy series that chronicles the highs and lows of three black teenagers coming of age in an affluent, suburban, white private school community.
Read more from Screenwriter to Watch 2020: Patrick Wimp
On Story Movie Night Pick:
Screening with a postshow On Story conversation
This week’s Q&A guest, VJ Boyd, started his television career in the writers room for the FX series Justified. Check out the pilot episode for the series and then watch the On Story interview where some of the series writers discuss adapting Elmore Leonard’s short story for television and the evolution of the show’s tone, rhythm, and setting.
Justified: Inside the Writers' Room
While screenwriting is always an endeavor fraught with uncertainty, TV’s platinum age has ushered in a glimmer of stability for those who land a job in a writers room. While writers typically like to work alone, writing for TV is largely a collaborative effort. Because of this, it’s important to develop the skills necessary to work in a group environment, even if it’s just in a room with one other person. If you’re like me, you were the person in school who never liked group projects; you found it incredibly difficult to relax your muse around others. But, in TV writing, it’s a necessary skill to develop. While having a strong writing sample is the first step to land a job in a writers room, it won’t hurt to preemptively practice letting your muse out of its shell around others. This weekend, if you don’t have a writing partner handy, ask a friend to collaborate with you. If you have a script you’re working on, see if they can help you generate ideas for the next scene. If you are starting a new project, work together to add new elements you would like to explore. Maybe even write the first scene together.
Of course, they call it a writers room, but we’re still stuck in quarantine. Don’t let this discourage you – there are some studios (even in non-pandemic times) that work mostly through virtual calls.
While your friend or writing partner might have different work habits, the following steps can help to bridge any gaps:
- A large contributor to writer’s block when collaborating is a lack of trust. Not only in your writing partner(s), but in your own ability to dish out or handle criticism. It takes a lot of vulnerability to work creatively with another person. Try not to be overly harsh – keep it fun and spontaneous. Crack a joke here and there.
- To start, identify what scene you’ll be focusing on. If it’s a scene that has others before it, make sure to briefly review the lead-up to that point in the story. Keep character and plot development in mind as you do this. If it’s a new project, but you have general characters and plot established, discuss what elements need to be further explored or established.
- Once the existing ground is covered, generate ideas for the path forward. Keep it a free-flowing brainstorm until you both agree on a direction. In this step, be sure to focus on the core elements (e.g. characters, plot, setting), but don’t get caught up in every last detail— these will come as you move into the actual writing.
- Then, once all the ideas are out there, settle on a general direction and decide how the writing will be tackled between the two of you.
- After the writing is complete, it’s time to edit and refine the scene. This part can consist of reading aloud or even outright acting.
The age-old saying goes, two minds are greater than one, but it is only true when the two minds work in concert together. Collaborating on a creative project is always difficult – it’s why great co-writers, bands, and business partners that last more than a decade are so rare – but the creations that stem from this effort have the potential to last generations.
– Sage Kosiorek, Script Competitions Director
Finished with your script?
Submit it for our competition!
Congratulations on another successful week of AFF at Home. Television is often looked at as “comfort viewing” – a way to quickly escape from the reality of your own world. And at this time, more than ever, people are turning to their favorites shows for instant escape-ism.
So tell us, what’s your favorite show? The one you put on for background noise? Your tried and true standby? Let us know using #AFFatHome or in the forum below.