https://youtu.be/k1aEDs3XpBg?feature=shared

On this week’s episode, I discuss the differences between writing for TV versus film and the differences in the development phases. We also go into ways to create your own material and what to really focus on. Tune in for much more!

Show Notes

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
If you write something great, the actors will come out of the word work to be in it, and you don’t even have to pay ’em because they’re getting footage and they’re also being involved in something that could be really great and could blow up and could make their careers. But if the script’s no good, you’re going to have to beg ’em to do it because what’s in it for them other than bad footage that they can’t use? It’s
Listening to Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin.
Hey everyone, it’s Michael Jamin. Welcome back to another episode of Screenwriters. Need to Hear this. I’m here with Phil Hudson again. Hello, Phil.

Phil Hudson:
Hey everybody. Good to be back.

Michael Jamin:
Hello, everybody. Today we’re going to talk about something, well, something I think is very important. How about that? The question is, should you write for film or tv? I think a lot of people, at least from social media when they leave comments, I think a lot of people really aspire to be film writers because they have their story and maybe they think it’s more prestigious. Maybe they like the idea of going to walking down a red carpet and seeing their work on a large screen. And so I just thought I talked to you about my feelings about film versus TV and why I greatly prefer working in television. And I think anybody who works in film is crazy. So it’s not that they’re crazy, but it’s just like, wow. I see a lot of advantages for working in film. And to be clear, I am a TV writer, but I have sold a couple of movies and after selling those movies I was like, I don’t want to do that again. I’d rather work in television, but I definitely see the appeal that people have. So I thought I may shed a little light on what my perspective is. That sounds good with you, Phil.

Phil Hudson:
I think this is an exciting topic and we were just talking before we started recording, the industry’s changed even since I started studying this craft. Seriously, back then there was a viable feature market and it seems like it’s gone the wayside, and I’ve seen the transition over the last decade with filmmakers and screenwriters coming into tv. I think because the money’s better, there’s more work, there’s more creative freedom, and I’m sure you’ll talk about it, but there’s that saying of the director runs the film set and the writer runs the TV set.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, if you want creative control, we have lots to talk about, but if it’s creative control that you want, then you want to be in TV because the writer’s in charge. If you want to be in charge in a film, then the director’s in charge. Often the writer’s not even invited to set. The writer has no say that will be rewritten. The director might hire multiple writers to rewrite. So if you think if it’s about your vision, unless you are shooting yourself, forget it. You are really an afterthought. And like you said, they are making far fewer movies now than they were even 15, 20 years ago, probably a third as many. And when you look at the titles being released, you got a lot of remakes. You got a lot of sequels, you got a lot of reboots. Yeah, I mean, so they’re making

Phil Hudson:
Another, it’s largely IP based material too. So it’s other books that have blown up and they buy the rights to that. They then make that.

Michael Jamin:
So it is because they’re easier to market, which is why you have Fast and The Furious 13, everyone knows that and it’s why you have it, Indiana Jones five, because everyone knows it’s just easier to market. And even Barbie, I don’t know if it’s Greta Go’s Dream to make, when she was approached to write Barbie, she’s probably Barbie, do I have to Barbie? What about my original idea? So obviously she wrote the Barbie movie and turned it into something very unique and special. But I can’t imagine as a child, she grew up thinking, I want to write a movie about Barbie. They came to her with an offer and she turned into something unique and creative, but I don’t think she came, maybe I shouldn’t speak, but I can’t imagine she brought the Barbie idea to them. I think they had to move the ip and yeah,

Phil Hudson:
I’m certain that’s the case, but even then because of the success of Barbie, now Mattel is talking about creating their own cinematic universe,

Michael Jamin:
Right? Right. So get ready for more gi whatever it is. I don’t know. Is that your dream? Now, indie filmmaking, by the way, is a completely different topic. Maybe we can brush on it a little. My area of expertise is definitely not independent filmmaking, but that’s a whole different,

Phil Hudson:
But that’s what I went to film school for and that’s the Sundance world that I kind of been in. So I’m familiar with that. And there’s a bit of a merge there. And we can talk about tko. Waititi is a really great example of that because he came out of the indie film world. He was a Sundance kid, and then he started doing more prolific stuff. And while I was touring for quasi handling social media for the broken lizard guys, that’s one of the conversations we had with their, one of the Searchlight VPs of publicity. And she was like, yeah, Tika, he does one for us, we do one for him. You do Thor, you want to do Thor? Awesome. We’ll make invisible Hitler. And it’s a way for them to incentivize. But I would say Clin Eastwood, I would say even look at Christopher Nolan, that’s the way it works. You get this deal at these big studios, I’ll make your billion dollar film, and then they let you make the film you want to make, and one is going to make a ton of money, may win some awards, the other one’s going to win some awards because they have the talent.

Michael Jamin:
So if it’s your aspiration for me, just the thought of working film, you go, okay, I’ll write a film and maybe I can sell it. But then, okay, then how many times are you going to sell a, it is hard to sustain that career. Whereas in television, oh, I know there’s a TV show and maybe they have whatever, 10 or 13 episodes a season that sounds like you can make a living that sounds like you’re working more steadily. And when I broke in, by the way, it’s 22 episodes, so I was like, oh, okay, these people work all the time. And for 10 seasons, that sounds to me that was the lure of a steady paycheck was in television, maybe less so today, but certainly more so than being a filmmaker.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s fascinating. One thing that’s standing out to me from this conversation really just echoes what you’ve been saying throughout the history of the podcast, and we’re approaching two years of this podcast, and that is you have to get out and do it yourself. Nobody’s going to do it for you. You can’t rely on anybody else. You have to get up and do it. And even the gre Gerwig, the Tiger Boy, tee Tees, they had a name for themselves as filmmakers before the big studio came with the big bag of money. They were the value, and that’s where they came to take advantage of them, right? Yeah. Greta Gerwig has the way to make her film stand out in her way and her style, and that’s why it’s a big hit. I don’t think it’s largely because it’s Barbie, it’s because of what she did with Barbie that made it work. But that’s something she has honed and developed over years and years and years of hard work before she hit it big.

Michael Jamin:
And also my friend Chrissy Stratton, who I’m going to have back on the podcast at some point, we had her run before. So I met her on King of the Hill. She’s a writer on King of the Hill. But then she went on to a very long career, almost as long as mine, working in various TV shows. She might be just one or two years behind me, pretty much equal. And she works all the time in tv, but she had this film that she’s been dreaming about for whatever, 10 or 15 years and then decided, you know what? I’m just going to make a short. And so on her own dime. And she raised the money. She’s a successful TV writer, but in film, she’s the no one. So she started from scratch and she called in a lot of favors and shot a movie on by raising her own money, real low budget.
And we’ll talk more about this journey and why she’s doing it, but it’s not like, even though she’s big in tv, she’s a no one in film. So it’s kind of a level playing field. And one of the thing, well, I know I’m jumping around, but I just so you’re aware, as I mentioned about creative control in film, well, lemme tell you about the experiences that I went through. So my writing partner and I, we wrote a writing sample, a feature sample. I was dreaming it was going to get sold, but he was like, it’s not going to get sold, whatever. But I was like, maybe it will. We wrote a sample, our agent shopped it around, no one bought it as predicted, but there was a producer who was very interested in working. He’s like, this is great. We can’t it, but let’s try coming up with some ideas together and sell those.
And so we worked with this producer and we wound up selling two more ideas, but every step of the way, it was kind of exhausting. We’re coming up with ideas, we’re writing drafts, we’re giving it to him. He’s got notes we’re not getting, and you’re doing, it’s called free revisions. You’re doing notes after notes. We sold it to the studio, but the producer is basically the gate. So until the producer’s happy with the draft, the studio will never see it. And so this is what free revisions is. So you’re doing constant rewrites for the producer.

Phil Hudson:
This is a big deal for the W G A, by the way. It’s a very big deal. It’s part of the strike too.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I don’t know what’s going to obviously happen with it. And you’re doing a lot of free work, which you’re not getting paid obviously, and the studio’s not seeing any of it. And then you get finally the producer’s happy, you give it to the studio and then the studio has notes and then, okay, now you’re again. So they say, do a revision. And again, you go back, you start doing the revision, you’ve turned into the producer and the producer’s like, eh, I don’t think it’s good enough fellas. I need to do more work and more work. And then finally you turn that revision to the studio. I was at one point producer who I liked quite a bit, really good guy, but he also had development people working under him. So at one point his development person left, he brought in a new one, and now this new person has a new direction that we’re going, oh my God.
It was like, this is a never ending hell. That’s how I felt. It’s just a never ending hell because you have to please them. And I understand this is how the game is played, but I was like in tv, it doesn’t work this way in tv, if I’m a writer on staff, I turn in my draft to the showrunner. If I’m not the showrunner, the showrunner has notes, great. Turn in another draft, we’re done. Shoot, we’re going to shoot it. And of course the network will have notes, but it’s so much more streamlined because you have a timetable, we have to shoot this thing on Friday, so you can’t keep this up in development hell for a year, which is what happens if you’re doing film. You could be in hell forever on this. I was like, work done. And that’s

Phil Hudson:
The term too. It’s development health, what you said. That’s an industry term for what that is.

Michael Jamin:
And the money, in terms of the money, I got paid way more in TV than I do in film. So

Phil Hudson:
That’s what I was about to say. I just said, we talked about the podcast, that experience I had where that guy signed the script, signed the contract to write a script for that thing, and it kind of fizzled out, but the numbers on it were, it’s like $160,000 to write a screenplay. Well, the average I understand is about six months to go through the whole process to write a script more than that. But then you have the notes and you have the feedback and you got all that stuff. So you’re going to do one, maybe two of those a year. Well, you can go get an M B A and then go get a six figure paycheck that’s going to pay you more than that. And

Michael Jamin:
Just so you know, the movie’s not getting made and it has nothing to do with you or it’s just like it’s a miracle movies. It’s a miracle when a movie gets made. So if you want to see your work on the screen, even if it’s been rewritten to death, forget it. Most movies just do not get made. So you’re okay, but you used to make a good living writing movies that never got made. Maybe it’s less so now because they’re making because they’re buying fewer. But back in the day, you could be a very successful screenwriter and never have a word of yours onscreen. But in TV it’s different.

Phil Hudson:
One question that comes to mind for me, Michael, when you talk about free revisions and development, hell, you also advocate that writers write and they write for free. And if you don’t want to write for free, don’t do this because that’s what this job looks like.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Right. What’s the difference between the experience with the free revisions and the notes with the producer versus your definition of free writing?

Michael Jamin:
I mean, we’re talking about two things. We’re talking about improving your craft to write, to learn how to write. And so a lot of people just write one script and they think, well, I’m going to sell it and I’m done. Give me a paycheck. And my point is then you put it down and write another one and then write another one. And you’ll notice that script number five is vastly better than script number one simply because you’re getting better at writing. But the free revisions I’m talking about for these producers, when you become a professional at some point, I got to take home money. This is not a hobby for me. This is how I make my living. So I just didn’t enjoy the process. I just thought like, ugh, it is no fun. It takes the joy out of it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, no kidding. So we have to write. We have to write. That’s part of writing. Being a writer is writing. But what the WGA is fighting for is that writers should be paid for all of the professional rioting where other people are making money off of the sweat of their back. They’re taking advantage of that situation because a bit of a power dynamic there where the producer has control and obviously they want to maintain their relationship and they want to make it as good as they can be. So I’m not saying it’s a negative or a nefarious approach to it, but it’s still a writers are sitting there not getting paid.

Michael Jamin:
I understand the producers are protecting their brand and they have a closer relationship with the studio. I get it. But they’re not the ones doing all that work for free. So I just like, this is not appealing to me. I’d much rather work in television. Like I said, you have more creative control. You’re onset. And again, in features, what would’ve happened had these two features of ours been made. It didn’t come to this and I didn’t expect it to, but we sold two features and at both times we’re finally done. We give both final drafts to the studio. The studio is happy with it. The studio executive were working with happy. They’d given all our notes and revisions. They were very happy with the script. Now they give it to their boss who has the green light, they have the power to green light. And the boss reads it over the weekend, not interested.
It was like, it’s over. It’s it. It was almost on a whim. Nah, what else you got? And it’s like there’s no argument. There’s no more convincing them, it’s dead because they just don’t want to make that movie. And often they don’t want to make that movie simply because the movie that did well that weekend was an action movie and your movie’s a comedy and they want to make more action movies now, or it’s as simple as that. Or someone put out a comedy movie that weekend that bombed and forget it. We’re not doing comedies anymore. And so it could have nothing to do with the quality of what you wrote. This is what the marketplace suddenly changed and now it’s dead. So this is how it is.
Unless you are making your own movie. And if you make your own movie, that’s great, but do it on a dime. On a dime. I say I had a nice conversation with someone, someone asked me to, it was a couple of days ago, they wanted to book some time with me for a consultation, which I occasionally do. And he really nice guy, but he had self-financed some projects and I was like, you spent too much money on that. Don’t put so much money into your own projects in the beginning until you really get spend a couple thousand. That’s what you can do it on. That’s what I recommend.

Phil Hudson:
And in the indie film side of things, the goal is to not spend your money. It is actually to find investors. And the question is, why would people invest in an indie film maker who’s made no money? A lot of people are looking for tax write-offs and they want to be involved in Hollywood. They want to feel like they are producing being part of that because they probably have that desire, that dream, and they chased the paycheck rather than their art. And so now that they’ve got the money, they would rather invest in another artist to be a part of that. And so my friend’s dad is just this awesome guy, and he just texted me out of the blue two years ago and he had a bunch of stocks vest and he cashed out and he was like, Hey man, if you ever have something you want to make, let me know. I’ve got some cash lying around. I’d love to put towards that.

Michael Jamin:
Oh wow.

Phil Hudson:
But that comes out of a relationship of trust that I have with the guy. It also

Michael Jamin:
Is, and it might come with strings attached. It may

Phil Hudson:
Be, and it probably will,

Michael Jamin:
It may be, and this is not how it works in TV and tv. So in film you might have a ton of executive producers because they help chip in for 5,000 bucks. You can become an executive producer of my movie. People do that and TV doesn’t work that way. Tv, that’s all financed by the studio. So it’s not that kind of model. But in film, you write a check for 5,000, or if you write a bigger check for 50,000 and the person says, I’ll give you 50,000 if you cast my daughter as the lead, or if you make these changes to the script, do you want to do it or not? That’s up to you. How much do you want that money?

Phil Hudson:
I think that’s really where the question of art versus craft comes into play, because in that situation it might be a little bit more art, it might be a little bit more of your decision. Well, that’s going to ruin my vision for what I have or destroy the theme of this piece, and I’m doing it myself because it is an expression of myself, and that is art. And you might turn down the money out of integrity for the art there, but you might also take the paycheck because you’ve got kids who need diapers,

Michael Jamin:
Right? And so some people, sometimes people are very naive about the whole thing and they’re like, you writers suck, or This is the garbage. Do you know how hard it’s to get something made? And do you understand that I also need to make money?

Phil Hudson:
Oh man, we do the webinars every month and we do, we started to do this v i p q and A after, and we were testing it out, but we had a member of your group she joined and she was telling us about how she has made two or three indie films and she had put up this money and she was going to shoot it in the forest. And the film, the films that got shut down because of wildcat or a cougar, like a mountain lion or something, came in and ruined the whole thing. None of the actors want to come back. And she knew this was a thing that could happen. And so she was asking the question about hobbling together, her footage to make something producible. And it’s just heartbreaking because a good story, you can’t really do that. The story should mean something.
And that’s someone who’s in there doing it. I think they’re doing it on their own dime, and that’s just heartbreaking to hear. But I’ve got other experience where my buddy Rich, he’s produced a bunch of any stuff. He’s done stuff with Michael Madson, done some stuff with major players, knows a bunch of people, and he was telling me about this film that he was working on for years and years and years. And they shot the whole film and then it got locked down in post because one of the executive producers who wrote the check wouldn’t sign off on the final cut. And so it could get

Michael Jamin:
Final cut

Phil Hudson:
And it got stuck and they were arguments and they had to work through and it was like five years. And the end result they got out of it was a worst film because the producer had too much say and wanted edits. So understanding story structure, you look at it, it is a hobbled together piece of crap that has a couple big names in it,

Michael Jamin:
Right? Yeah. I don’t even think you need, well, I don’t want to talk about big names, but, and I felt bad for this woman in the v I b talk. But here’s the thing, I also think you need to figure, be cautious on how producible is this movie you want to make. You didn’t have to do a movie, write a movie that take place in the mountains. You could have written a movie that takes place in someone’s apartment, and if you think I’m nuts, go watch the whale, which takes place in someone’s crappy apartment and was amazing and beautiful because their writing was beautiful and the acting matched it, but the set was ugly. And anyone could have shot that in their own apartment. And that’s on you as the writer is like, you don’t have to write a movie. I would be cautious about writing anything with kids, because kids are really hard to have on set first of legally. You need to have tutors, you want to bend the rules. Kids can only work a certain amount of hours. And what you do on your independent film, that’s your business, but to be up and up, that’s the truth. And kids, they get tired, they lose focus, and they want to horse around. So I would be careful about having kids. I’d be careful about doing anything that requires characters getting wet because costume changes are bitch, when you’re wet and at exterior locations, the same thing. Back noise, street noise, people being disruptive, a leaf blower.
But you can write something very compelling in a controlled set where you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff as long as the writing is good. It’s all about the writing.
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Phil Hudson:
I’m having a flashback. So my thesis film that I did, I took a crew, we rented a van, we took our equipment, we drove to Utah, negotiated all these things because of relationships. I had to get it cheap, shooting in friends’ houses, borrowing a friend’s truck, doing all of these things. Flew in a couple of indie actors from LA to be in my project. And while we were going through, you just start getting hit with every single thing you have planned, start shifting based off of, there’s cloud cover now because you’re outside, it’s starting to snow. Lots of beautiful things happen. Like we’re shooting on a pump jack, which an oil deck, an oil derrick is, what you think about ’em is pump jacks that big swinging arm pump. It’s a training school that agreed to let us shoot on theirs that was donated. And there’s moving in the background, makes the production value go through the roof, what we had.
But then at the same time, while we’re driving, a deer jumps out and my friend’s truck when my actor’s driving hits the deer, and then we’re driving the next day to go to the set to shoot the exteriors. And we need that truck. And then it blows part of the engine and we can’t use the truck anymore. And I’m rewriting on the fly and my friend’s daughter is casting this role using their house, and she’s just this sweet little girl and she has two lines and she gets stage fright and she can’t do it. And so we have to put her sister in who’s too young. And so I have to scrap those lines and rethink how do I get this emotional moment across? And then at the end, when we’re done filming, the little girl comes up and says, I’m ready now.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, great.

Phil Hudson:
And they’re heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because we’re done.

Michael Jamin:
And that said, whatever, I would take inventory if you decide to do this Indio thing, because as a way of getting discovered, as a way of breaking in, which is great. I would just take inventory of what you have that’s in your control. If you’re a truck driver and you have a Mack truck, alright, maybe you’re shooting the truck. I mean, that’s an interesting set.

Phil Hudson:
Well, it’s your life that ties in the right what you know, you can add reality veracity to that.

Michael Jamin:
If you have a storage locker, the same thing. If you’re allowed to shoot there, you’re probably not. But what little you have could be interesting. You don’t think it’s interesting because it’s your life, but we think it’s interesting. We don’t live your life.

Phil Hudson:
While you were talking, I was just thinking of Robert Rodriguez, who’s arguably one of the biggest directors on the planet. And he came from this in world where he did on mariachi. He documents all of this in a great book, the Rebel Without a Crew. And he donated his body to science to fund it. And he went to the small town in Mexico. He went in for clinical trials for a, to get the money, borrowed a camera that didn’t have audio. Went to a town in Mexico where he would summer, borrowed friends and family and a best friend to play the roles, did the whole thing. And then stayed up at night in an editing bay at a local TV station to edit his film and did it and blew up because he thought, and all he wanted to do was to sell it to a Spanish language channel and ended up selling it to Sony or whoever, Sony Columbia or something.

Michael Jamin:
And now you can make it for a fraction. You could edit it all on your laptop, you can

Phil Hudson:
Edit it on your phone. You shoot the whole thing on your

Michael Jamin:
Phone.

Phil Hudson:
But the story was good. Why did it sell? Why was it a big deal? It’s because he knew how to tell a compelling story, and he just used what he had to do that

Michael Jamin:
Job. So we’re in agreement here. If you want to do an indie film, great. Just don’t spend a lot of money. Also, you don’t have, if you write something great, the actors will come out of the word work to be in it, and you don’t even have to pay ’em because they’re getting footage and they’re also being involved in something that could be really great and could blow up and could make their careers. But if the script’s no good, you’re going to have to beg ’em to do it, because what’s in it for them other than bad footage that they can’t use?

Phil Hudson:
I dove headfirst into this stuff when I was first starting, and I would write a script, do one version of it, one draft, and then I would shoot it, do a casting call. People would show up, they’d want to be in it. We’d be on set. And they’d very quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t, but I just had the gumption to make it happen. And I remember my lead calling me out one time or shooting this shot, and he’s like, dude, what are you doing? We’re here. You’re not even using light to help add subtext and value. And he’s talking about how when you’re walking up the stairs, well, if you shot it this way through here, there’s a cage and a shadow being cast on my face and emotionally, my character’s going through this inner turmoil with his relationship and there’s all this.
And I was like, I have no idea what you’re talking about, because I had no clue. And I wasted time and energy and money doing it, and I was a valuable learning experience for me, and I got that lesson out of it. So yeah, your point, do it as cheap as you can because learning, you’re just learning. And that is the school of hard knocks, not the school of theory and philosophy. It’s get it done. You’re going to learn. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You’re not going to sell the first thing. It’s probably not going to win any awards. And if you do, awesome, you did it now, but you’re most likely not. And that’s okay. It’s reps, reps, reps, reps.

Michael Jamin:
Yes. And I have a lot of respect for people who do it. And even if they come up with something terrible and crappy, well, guess what? They did it. Guess what? They put a lot of energy and work into something and their next piece will hopefully be better. And most people just dream of it. And most people will just say, here’s my script. Make my dream come true. But the other people say, here’s my script. I’m going to make my dream come true. And it may take long, a long process, but it’s putting the work in so good for them.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. My first class I went in, I had some credit transfer credits from when I was first in college. So when I went to film school, I was up, maybe I was basically a year ahead when I got there, and I had to take a couple of freshmen film classes because they were requirements. And I remember intro to film, film 1 0 1, we’re in this big IMAX theater on our campus, and Peter Grendel, our professor my age is teaching. And his big point from the first lesson was the percentage of people who say they want to be filmmakers versus the people who make films is very different. It’s like 0.0001% make a film. He said, so even if you put in all the time, energy, and effort needed to make an indie film that does nothing goes nowhere, you have still done something most people will never do. But most people talk about doing, and that’s something to take pride in.

Michael Jamin:
My daughter shot a little scene in college. She got a scene, a little film that someone wrote, and it was just two people. It was short. It was like three minutes of a young woman. She was the girl and a boy sitting on a staircase talking about something, and it was too short to go anywhere. But I was like, that’s interesting. You could have done something. It’s easy to shoot. You’re just two angles and a master on a staircase. If they had spent a little more time with the script, I go, there’s something there for sure. It’s something compelling about a boy and a girl who are dating and whatever they were talking about. I was like, it’s something small. And the writing, it’s about the writing. It’s not about anything else as far as, and the acting. But yeah, I mean, just as an experiment, can I write something compelling about two people on a staircase talking about something? And we’ve seen this stuff. Here’s a good one. Mount is a good example, but in Pulp Fiction, when Samuel Jackson and Travolta in that car are talking about

Phil Hudson:
The crown royale with cheese,

Michael Jamin:
That’s interesting. That’s interesting. Fun dialogue. You still need a story on top of that. But it’s rich, and we all remember it because, or the scene or that small little scene, if you had shot that small scene where Samuel Jackson’s talking about, he’s in that guy’s, there’s young guy’s house. He breaks the first scene where there’s five college kids or whatever that they’re threatening. They owe them money. And Samuel Jackson’s talking about he’s clearly a killer, but he’s reformed. He’s found Jesus, and he’s struggling though. He’s struggling to do the right thing. If you shot that one scene and it’s an apartment building, that’s it. You have a couple guy on a couch and a guy and two guys holding fake guns, that one scene is very interesting and compelling. If that’s your movie you made, I want to see more. And it doesn’t cost a fortune to write that scene. There’s no special effects, I guess in the end had some fake bullets or whatever. But that’s it, that that’s all you need, A thug, a street thug who’s a murderer, but he found Jesus and he’s trying to do the right thing. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. That’s great. That whole scene is fascinating. And that’s for anybody listening, wanting to learn how to write great dialogue or understand characters. The fact that what’s so interesting about that cheeseburger conversation is they are killers, and they’re not talking about when we get there, we’re going to shoot ’em in the face, or here’s how we’re going to dispose the body. They’ve done this so many times that this just, we can talk about why they put cheese on a burger. It’s stabs quo. And the story’s there because they’re talking about the wife and the foot massage and all that stuff as they’re standing in the hallway and it just happens and they kick the door and they know let’s beat thugs. Right? But

Michael Jamin:
How easy are both those scenes? I mean, the first one’s a little harder in a car, but they’re both very easy in terms of shooting, that wouldn’t cost neither one of those scenes cost a fortune. It’s all about the writing and the acting will support the writing.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I mean, that’s Tarantino like Reservoir Dogs. It’s a warehouse. It’s a warehouse with some flashbacks outside. The whole thing takes you in one room,

Michael Jamin:
But even let’s say reservoir drugs, which obviously was the one that really made him. But the point I’m trying to make is just write, because you don’t have to write a whole movie, just write one compelling scene that promises something really on its own. You’re like, I’m hooked. And maybe there’s more to it.

Phil Hudson:
That ties back to your fractals podcast too, which has really stuck with me. And I think about it every time I sit down to write, when I’m structuring scenes and acts and I’m structuring my story, if you can’t do a scene, well, how could you do a short, well, if you can’t do a short, well, how could you do a full blown act or a TV pilot if you can’t do that? Well, how can you do a two hour feature?

Michael Jamin:
We shot that episode, that podcast episode a long time, probably over a year ago, but it was called something about fractals. I think it was

Phil Hudson:
Just called fractals.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. And the point I was making is anybody who knows anything about fractals, they’re patterns that repeat nature. So if you see a tree, it has a trunk in branches, but if you look at the leaf on the tree, the leaf has a trunk in branches, and then if you look at the cells, so it’s about these repeating patterns. And so my point is, for movie, you have to want to write a compelling movie, right? But break down the movie into acts, and each act has to be compelling. Then break down each act into scenes, and each scene is compelling. And then each line has to be compelling. And so you’re really just repeating patterns over and over, but on a larger scale. And so if you point out, if you can’t write a compelling act, if you can write a compelling scene, how are you going to write a compelling act? Just start with writing a scene. That’s

Phil Hudson:
It. Yeah. Write the scene, write the scene, write the scene over and over and over again. You can churn out scenes. Even if you just took a week and just focused on one scene, how much better is that going to be than taking a week and powering through 50 pages?
And I’m not advocating by the way that you shift your writing style, and it’s not necessarily what you teach as the process that we do in Hollywood, and we’ve seen in TV rooms. What I’m saying is as a writing exercise, getting in your reps to practice the craft of writing, you’re going to get faster return. Drilling. This thing, and I talk about this all the time, it’s Josh Watkin’s making bigger, small circles bigger. So how do you pull back and zoom in on something and focus on the detail work inside of that thing? And in Jujitsu’s transitions in this, it’s how do I get into a scene fast? How to get out of a scene fast? How do I display things through subtext? How do I have people say things without saying things? What’s the thematic thing? What’s the energy coming in? And the energy come out? That’s all the detail. That’s just a film condense. So focus, just do that while you’re doing the other stuff.

Michael Jamin:
That’s a good point. And I was going to also say, I’m guilty of this too. When I’m writing my, well, I finished my book, but when I was writing it, I’d have a scene in my mind. I wanted to get to the next scene where also some great stuff was going to happen. And then I kind of just got a little lazy in my transitions. And then when I’d read it again, I’m like, what’s going on in this transition? Can I make this transition interesting? Do I have to be lazy and sloppy? Is there a goal to be found in the transition? And then I’d realize, oh, that’s kind of where there’s some interesting stuff is, so I’m guilty of it too. But you have to be aware. It’s not just about a race, and you’re not just racing to get to the next scene you are when

Phil Hudson:
We talk about enjoy the journey and enjoy the process. This is what we’re talking about. You have to love doing this because it ends up getting you somewhere better than where you were before. And the other quote, I believe I’ve said on the podcast who really stood out to me was an interview with Kobe Bryant, and he just said that nothing he does on the court, he hasn’t practiced a thousand times, right? So he’s in there practicing, practicing, practicing. He shows up, and you hear this all the time in interviews with other players from the Lakers, they say that they would show up their first day and they’d want to show up early to put in the work. And Kobe Bryant was already there practicing free throws, practicing free throws.

Michael Jamin:
You’re talking about the greatest player or one of the greatest players in the N B A hasty was already there, was acting as if he was a rookie who had never taken a shot in a basketball court.

Phil Hudson:
All the money, all the skills, all the fame, known name, 70 hour work weeks, just putting in the work.

Michael Jamin:
If the greatest player has to do it, why do you think you don’t have to do it?

Phil Hudson:
LeBron James, he makes what? A hundred million a year off of all of his endorsement deals. I read, I think in Sports Illustrated, it’s like 9 million a year goes into taking care of his body just in trainers massage therapy.

Michael Jamin:
Wow.

Phil Hudson:
Why? Because that’s his tool. That’s his instrument. Your tool is your keyboard or your typewriter, your pad and paper and pen, and you don’t need, here’s the cool thing. You can write a lot of things without needing a fancy computer or fancy software. You can just sit down and practice this with a pad of paper and a Panama napkin.

Michael Jamin:
What’s your commitment to getting better at the craft? And I get why people just want to, they want fast results, but it’s not a fast result kind of game. I don’t know how we got here from, should you be a TV writer or a film writer?

Phil Hudson:
Well, I think we’re talking about indie film, we’re talking about the process of indie film versus features, but all of this relates it’s skillset. And I know you talked about for you, you liked TV writing, and I think with the time we have left, I’d love to hear what are the benefits that you found in TV writing? And I think they tie directly into this, which is there’s more work, there’s more time to sit, and you do this more than writing

Michael Jamin:
A feature. But not only that, I feel like TV writing, being a TV writer has helped me improve my writing all around because every week, including writing novels. Including writing films, because every week you have to come up with a new story, and it’s the repetitiveness, the repetition of, okay, let’s break a story. This week we got to break a story. Next week, we got to break a north story next week. And constantly coming up with new stories, even though they’re half hour as opposed to an hour and a half. It’s that repetition that really makes you really good. And that’s why I feel, and I’m not the only one who thinks this way, if you want to watch a really good comedy, you watch tv, you don’t turn to film, although there are some really funny films, pound for pound, you go back to tv.
It’s that action. That’s where the good writers really get good. I’ll see a comedy. I don’t even know how many come. I tried watching one of these streamers, I’m like, oh, comedy, I’ll watch this. And it’s terrible. This is terrible. From some unknown, have they spent some time in a TV writer’s room? They would know, no, this is not acceptable dialogue. That’s not an acceptable joke. You just learn so much by being in television, I feel. And then you could go to TV or a film if you have an opportunity. But the learning ground, I feel, is in tv.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Have you seen The Bear?

Michael Jamin:
I saw the Pilot. I haven’t watched the Rest. Dude

Phil Hudson:
Blew my mind, and it feels like one of the most dramatic films, TV shows I’ve ever seen. It’s short form. It’s a comedy, it’s a sitcom. It’s got all the enemies for these comedy, and it makes you laugh, it makes you cry. It’s all those notes, and you just look at it, and I looked up the creator and it’s like, man, this guy has produced some of the greatest standup comedians in history. Chris Rock, just tons of people. And it’s like, yeah, you’re learning this from being around and doing the work. And then that translate into what I think is one of the best comedies on tv,

Michael Jamin:
And

Phil Hudson:
It’s great.

Michael Jamin:
I got to watch it. The problem is Cynthia’s already seen it, and so I got to watch it alone, make time to watch it alone.

Phil Hudson:
I get it. I’m married. I understand.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But there it is. I hope that helps. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
One thing I just wanted to add to this conversation was when I first got into this, the advice was really centered around, is this a TV IT idea or a film idea? Not necessarily are you a film writer or a TV writer? And I just wanted to get your thoughts on this. I hear this advice all over the place. The question was, is this something that could end or is this something that could continue? Is this the kind of idea that there’s a clear defined ending to this, right?

Michael Jamin:
I feel like

Phil Hudson:
TV might’ve changed that now with our long form, eight to 10 minute, like a TV series ends up being a longer form film. But at the same time, I think there’s some weight in that, which is something you tie back to in comedy. Your character doesn’t really change at the end. They reset. I’d love your on that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So if you’re coming with a film, is this a TV idea or a film idea? If the character goes on a complete journey, Rocky and Rocky finally wins or goes the distance. It’s not a TV show because he’s not going to go. It’s not a fight of the week. It’s just like you take a street bum and you turn into, he went the distance, so it’s done. That’s it. They made sequels. Sure. Each sequel is basically a remake of the first one, and none of them are as good as the first one because you took a character. The only reason they did sequels is because they, Hey, we can squeeze some more money out of this. The story was over, I’m sorry, the story was over. It was a beautiful story, but it’s not like a world of Rocky and Nikki and the gang hanging out that would be hanging out at the training facility at the boxing club. That would be sunny. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia, which is fine. That’s a TV series. They’re just hanging out, people hanging out. So is it a world you’re creating, or are you taking a character on a full emotional journey?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, and that’s an interesting, John Wick one is just great. It’s great. It’s a great film. John Wick two, I kind of like more than John Wick one because we get into the world, but I wouldn’t want John Wick two if I hadn’t seen John Wick one and felt like it was satisfying at the end, and you’re kind of bummed. The other thing, this is just my thing as a writer, I really hate when characters suffer to the nth degree of suffering and just wrecking, this guy just got his life back and now you’re going to ruin his life in the second film. It’s a bit of a bummer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But yeah, so that’s what I ask, Yousef, are you creating a world, especially in sitcoms, this is your family. I think of it as, cheers. Do I want to hang out with these people week in and week out? Do I want to let them into my living room? Is that what it is? Because I certainly don’t want to let some movies, no. Some movies, no, I don’t want to The quiet place quiet. I don’t don’t want to let them into my living room week after week. That’s unsettling to me. Great movie, not a TV show.

Phil Hudson:
Children are men. Children are men. One of the most impactful films I’ve ever seen. Haven’t watched it again, so many,

Michael Jamin:
Right? It’s enough. Right, right, right. Got

Phil Hudson:
The lesson. Move on.

Michael Jamin:
Right. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Great answer, Michael. Thank you. Bye. It was great.

Michael Jamin:
Alright, everyone, thank you so much. Phil and I have more to talk about. We have some exciting stuff to talk about coming up in future episodes, but thank you so much and for what are we going to talk about, Phil? We got to promote, we have a watch list, our newsletter,

Phil Hudson:
We got all about it. So you can go to michaeljamin.com/newsletter to join the watch list. You can also go to /watchlist. A lot of people know that one, but you’ve got that. It’s a weekly newsletter. You’ve got the free lesson. It’s the first full free lesson. You’ve broken into three parts. A

Michael Jamin:
Screenwriting lesson,

Phil Hudson:
Right? A screenwriting lesson. If you want to learn more about the very first lesson you ever taught me as a mentor about screenwriting, which I think you were taught, and I think you’ve taught lots of other people, is what is the definition of a story. So go get that michael jamin.com/free. I think we get three to 500 people a week sign up for

Michael Jamin:
That thing. Oh wow. That’s crazy. We also have, we’ve been doing free webinars and now right now the schedule’s up. We’re doing it every three weeks instead of every four weeks. So you can come to that michaeljamin.com/webinar and it’s free. Come sit in and then

Phil Hudson:
Touring for a P orchestra. That’s going to be coming up, I think, at some point, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, hopefully. But we’re hoping that our book, my book is going to drop. I’m really happy with the way it’s coming up, but we’re doing the audio book now, and so maybe we’ll talk a little bit more about that. Maybe we will talk more about that in a different episode. Yeah, if you want to come see me on tour or be notified when my book drops as an audio audiobook as well, Michaeljamin.com/upcoming, and the audiobook is really nice. It’s really because I got some music. I have a composer on it. We’ll talk about it now. I guess. Anthony Rizzo, who is the composer on Maron, well, I’ll talk about it in the next episode. We’ll open up, talk about that. So go there, michaeljamin.com/upcoming if you want to see me on tour or be notified me the book

Phil Hudson:
Drop. And for everybody watching this, this is going to be a bit out of order, so it’ll be the next episode that I’m in. Right? Because the next one, I think you got Steve Lemi coming

Michael Jamin:
Up. Yeah, Lemi is coming up for episode 100 from Broken Lizard. Alright, everyone, thank you so much. Until next time, keep writing. Thank you, Phil.

Phil Hudson:
Thank you. This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for Michael’s monthly webinar @michaeljamin.com/webinar. If you found this podcast helpful, consider sharing it with a friend and leaving us a five star review on iTunes. For free screenwriting tips, follow Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. You can follow Phil Hudson on social media @PhilaHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It was edited by Dallas Crane Music, by Ken Joseph. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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