Do you like to use ellipses in your film and TV scripts? Here’s a trick you’ll want to know.

Okay, it’s a less a “trick” than a standard feature of Mac computers (and I’m assuming PCs as well), but it’s something most people don’t know about.

First off, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on ellipses in general, but they have their purpose.  The problem is that a single ellipsis adds three characters to the last word in your sentence, and three characters is sometimes one or two too many, creating “orphan words” that push into the next line.

Three Periods

Adding ellipses the old fashioned way, by hitting the period button three times.

Extra lines can be very annoying, pushing things off the page you might want there, or even adding to the overall page count.

Microsoft Word automatically addresses this issue by turning three consecutive periods into an “ellipsis symbol” that only counts as a single character.  Final Draft, sadly, does not.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t add one yourself:

One Character Ellipses

Adding an ellipsis symbol instead can help eliminate orphan words.

Adding an “ellipses symbol” is easy on a Mac.  Just press “OPTION-semicolon” and it’ll create one.  Easy-peasy.

Or you can use the Mac’s built-in “character viewer.”  To do that, open the System Preferences and select the Keyboard pane.  Then click where it says “Show Keyboard & Character Viewer in menu bar.”

KeyboardPrefs

That will create this icon (and dropdown menu) on your desktop.

KeyboardTaskbar

Selecting the character viewer will bring up this window, showing you every character/symbol might ever need to use while writing:

CharacterViewer

What you see above is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  There are hundreds of characters to choose from obscure iconography to foreign currency symbols.

The character viewer is a useful item to keep in your menu bar because you never know when you’ll need a certain symbol to help elucidate your writing.

Fun fact: The plural of ellipsis is ellipses. 

FYI: I’m told the Windows equivalent of “OPTION-semicolon” is to hold down ALT and type 0133.  (Of course the Windows version would require three additional keystrokes.)

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Anatomy of a TV Writers’ Room

449A4438One unexpected fruit of the internet: a million blogs dedicated to recapping every episode of every TV show currently on the air. Throw in all the people devoting their free time/lives to reexamining old episodes of Buffy, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Doctor Who, and you’ve got approximately 1 trillion web pages all devoted to one thing: Telling People What They Already Saw.

The AVClub, HitFix, TelevisionWithoutPity, and Entertainment Weekly — among countless other sites — have all figured out how to monetize the desperate need for TV addicts to have their opinions verified through consensus. No show is too small to be covered, no detail is too small to be obsessed over.  Thanks to the explosion of the TV echo-chamber, never before has so much attention been given to the process of making television.

And never before have so many people gotten it so wrong.

Reviewers in particular love to speculate about how shows get made, and they do so in a very authoritarian manner.  They occasionally get some things right — like how TV is a writer-driven medium — but they severely underestimate just how collaborative the medium really is.

With so much rampant misinformation out about how a writers’ room actually works, consider this my ever-so-humble attempt to get some actual facts into the mix…

Continue reading

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So the Star Trek fans don’t feel left out…

So the Star Trek fans don't feel left out...

I overdid it with the blur tool around the neck, but overall not bad for five minutes of work, no? The hardest part was filling in Worf’s head, since the only image I had that’d work was cut off just above the eyebrows.

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There. I fixed it.

WookieMistakeAll around L.A. are billboards and posters for the new Ice Cube/Kevin Hart movie “Ride Along.” It looks like it could be pretty funny, but I just can’t get past the tagline the marketers chose: “Propose to this cop’s sister? Rookie mistake.”

Henceforth, I vow that whenever I see a movie poster with the word “rookie” on it, I’ll change it to wookie and alter the cast accordingly.

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Local L.A. Newscaster Or Porn Star?

If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles and turned on the TV at noon, 6, or 11pm, you might’ve noticed something “different” about the people delivering you the local news, sports, and weather.  Their lips are plumper. Their bods are buffer. Their boobs are much, much, larger. They frequently look like the porn version of what a local newscaster should look like.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a quiz for you:

Each of the men and women below are either a) a local L.A. newscaster or b) a porn star.  Can you tell which is which?  As my least favorite local news teaser goes… The answers may surprise you.

(Their true identities are revealed at the bottom of the post.)

#1

k3io5

Meet Alysha.  A born and bred Californian, Alysha went to USC and majored in Communications.  After a stint in local radio, you can now spot her either doing early morning traffic updates on ABC 7… or doing a guy who kinda looks like Johnny Galecki in the X-rated porn parody Bigger Bang Theory.

#2

Michael_Brownlee_(3)

This is Michael.  Michael has had small roles in major movies like “Bruce Almighty” and “War of the Worlds,” but most Angelenos know him from his daily duties co-anchoring “Today in LA” on channel 4… or from his 12 inch shlong.

#3

spl106554_0031

That woman spotted with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins is Jackie, a Southern girl who moved to L.A. from Miami for the increased exposure.  Teenage boys throughout the land now stay up late to watch her do what she does best, which is either “predict the weather” or “get boned through every bodily orifice at the same time.”

#4

ra7

This is Henry.  Henry is a big hockey fan. He is also a big fan of videotaping himself having unprotected sex with pre-op transexuals. Or he’s a meteorologist.

#5

Courtney Friel Pokerbabe2

Say “hi” to Courtney. Before coming to Los Angeles to be a reporter, you might’ve seen her on the Fox News Channel.  Or on Cinemax’s late night softcore series Jasmine’s Erotic Journal, where she plays a bisexual novelist who travels the world interviewing women about their most sensual sexual experiences.

#6

1649380_G

“Steve E.” has had a long career in a business where longevity is rare.  With loads of experience both in front of and behind the camera, Steve can currently be seen either anchoring Fox 11′s Good Day L.A. or directing “classy” triple-X fare like Miriam’s Fuckbox and Debbie Gets Dumped On.

#7

JenniferGould

Jennifer is a fitness buff whose most recent positions include either “sports anchor and reporter” for KTLA 5 or “reverse cowgirl and the standing wheelbarrow” for Cumbuster International Pictures (the prestige division of Hustler Entertainment).

#8

elita-lorescaThis is Elita Loresca of NBC 4. She does the weather.  See.  I just told you exactly who she is and you still don’t believe me.  Told ya this wouldn’t be easy.

#9

DougKolk

Doug has dreamy eyes, and he likes to make women scream on camera.  Does he do it with his salacious coverage of Justin Beiber’s latest doings… or his trademarked move known only as the “three-fingered Mexican oil change”?

#10

port2image8This is Sharon.  She’s either a weekend anchor for CBS 2… or an exotic dancer who’s currently filming a Playboy reality series about her open marriage called Sharing Sharon.

And the truth is…

They.

Are.

All.

L.A. newscasters.

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Searching for John Connor…

80sCharacters

Marty McFly. John McClane. Sarah Connor. Axel Foley. Riggs & Murtaugh. All are 80s movie characters that quickly became household names. Rambo and Indiana Jones became so iconic so fast, the sequels to First Blood and Raiders of the Lost Ark bore their names. Even 80s movies that weren’t box office champs produced characters with names still recognizable today. Snake Plissken. Lloyd Dobbler. Spicoli.

Plenty iconic character names from the 90s jump off the top of my head, too. Neo. Tyler Durden. Hannibal Lector. Keyser Soze. Sidney Prescott. Ethan Hunt.*

But from after 2000? I’m drawing a blank.

I’m not talking about titular names (Napolean Dynamite/Erin Brockovich) or names that were well-known before they made it onto film (Peter Parker/Katniss Everdeen). I’m talking about character names that didn’t seep into the public consciousness until after they hit the big screen. Where have they gone? From after 2000, all I can think of is Capt. Jack Sparrow. Avatar is the biggest movie ever… but can you name Sam Worthington’s lead character? Can you even name Sam Worthington?

Possible explanations for this:

1) Maybe it’s a personal bias. This is how it looks to me because the 80s and 90s were my formative years.

2) Maybe this is an example of a confirmation bias. I formed this theory first, and I’m only seeing evidence that confirms it.

3) Maybe it’s due to a dearth of “original” movies. We’re too busy talking about Harry Potter, Jason Bourne, and the Marvel Universe to talk about characters that were made for the movies.

4) Maybe it’s because of the new golden age of TV. Don Draper, Olivia Pope, and Walter White are the new Clark Griswold, Ellen Ripley, and Maverick.

5) Maybe movie names have gotten too generic. I just looked up the name of Worthington’s character from Avatar. It’s Jake Sully. In any decade would “Jake Sully” have become a household name?

“Oh my god, you’re being so Jake Sully right now!”

– Something that would never be said, ever.

6) Um… I don’t really have a six. I just want to try to come up with more names from the 2000s I should know. What about Leo’s character from Inception? He did have a name, right? The name Frank Abagnale, Jr. means something to me… Catch Me If You Can! But, wait, he was a real person. Does he count as a movie character? Does anyone besides me even remember his name?

7) Maybe I’m making too arbitrary of a distinction between “known” and “unknown” pre-existing characters and Bella, Jacob, and Edward should totally count.

8) Or maybe… As a society, we can no longer distinguish between real people and fake people. Whenever we think of fictional characters now, we can only think of the actors who play them. (See: Reality Television, or the fact that you call every character that Bradley Cooper has ever played “Bradley Cooper.”)

Wait! Maximus from Gladiator! He totally counts! (Even if his name is a little on the nose.)

Anyways, I don’t think this can be attributed to any kind of bias or a lack of catchy names in scripts these days. And sure, kids today could do a better job recalling movie character names from the last decade than I could, but we’re talking about “household names,” not “names that kids know.” I also don’t think we can blame TV, since TV was a major cultural factor back then, too. (J.R. Ewing, George Constanza, Sam & Diane, etc., etc., etc.) And if you’ve read this blog before, you know how I feel about people who say Hollywood has run out of originality. (They need to be more original in their criticism.)

So what is it? I dunno. But I really do think there’s something going on here… The lack of household names is a symptom of something… Something about the diminishing role that movies overall play in culture, maybe? Who knows, the shortage of straight-from-the-movies household names could be the canary in the proverbial coal mine. (Or should that be “Sparrow” in the coal mine?) It could be a harbinger of doom for the entire medium!

Or it could just be my imagination.

—————————

*Yes, Mission Impossible was based on a TV series, but the Ethan Hunt character didn’t exist before the movie… If you can’t place the name Sidney Prescott, imagine “Sidney” being said in a scary voice over the phone… Yes, the idea for this blog post came to me while I was doing this one

EDITED TO ADD: Names that movie buffs will recognize don’t count either. I’m talking names that a majority of a random sampling of America will know.

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: McLovin!!!!!!!!

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Over on the tech-only blog:

Premature thoughts on Chromecast.

Post-mature thoughts on Chromecast.

A light bulb review!

Some thoughts on A/V receivers and smart TVs.

A couple really, really specific reviews that are only of interest to impending parents and DSLR video shooters.

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No More Origin Stories

Henceforth, the following well-established characters no longer need to be shown how they become who they are:

  • Spider-Man
  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Green Lantern
  • Green Arrow
  • The Fantastic Four
  • All the X-Men
  • The Lone Ranger
  • The Phantom
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Giant
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Anakin Skywalker
  • James T. Kirk
  • Spock
  • Willy Wonka
  • Indiana Jones
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Babe Ruth
  • Charles Foster Kane
  • Bane 
  • Harvey Dent
  • Catwoman
  • Pretty Woman
  • Jack Ryan
  • The Hulk
  • Hulk Hogan
  • Rocky
  • Rambo
  • Bambi
  • Godzilla
  • Scooby Doo
  • Yogi Bear
  • Bruce Lee
  • Bruce Almighty
  • Evan Almighty
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Bill
  • Ted
  • Steve Jobs
  • JFK
  • RFK
  • FDR
  • ALF
  • Hal 9000
  • The Watchmen
  • The Wedding Crashers
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Hobbit
  • Hitler
  • Black Hitler
  • Madea
  • Big Momma
  • Freddy Krueger
  • Jason
  • Michael Myers
  • Austin Powers
  • Dorothy
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The inmates of Oz
  • Franklin
  • Bash
  • James Bond
  • Jaws
  • Jesus
  • Underdog
  • Dog the Bounty Hunter
  • Boba Fett
  • Willy Wonka
  • Sarah Palin
  • Any fictional president who’s really just a veiled take on Bill Clinton
  • That guy who sawed off his own arm
  • The Punisher
  • The Terminator
  • John Connor
  • Sarah Connor
  • The Transformers
  • Mad Max
  • Maxwell Smart
  • E.T.
  • Nemo (the fish)
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Oskar Schindler
  • Helen Keller
  • Mr. Magoo
  • The Alien from Alien
  • The Aliens from Aliens
  • Ellen Ripley
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Jason Bourne
  • Ethan Hunt
  • Rain Man
  • The Graduate
  • The Godfather
  • Robin Hood
  • King Arthur
  • Merlin
  • Houdini
  • Harry Potter
  • Burt Wonderstone
  • Snow White
  • The Fly
  • Marty McFly
  • Stuart Little
  • Robocop
  • Axel Foley
  • The Ghostbusters
  • Neo
  • Mulder
  • Scully
  • Josh Baskin
  • The Rocketeer
  • The family from Parenthood (the movie and both television shows)
  • The Odd Couple
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • The Mob Doctor
  • Darkman
  • Donnie Darko
  • William Shakespeare
  • Mozart
  • Beethoven (the dog)
  • Richard Nixon
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Blade
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Ben Stein
  • Bella
  • Edward
  • Jacob
  • Derek Zoolander
  • Paul Blart
  • Gumby
  • Judge Dredd
  • Swamp Thing
  • Tomb Raider
  • Sgt. Bilko
  • The A-Team
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Frank Abagnale, Jr.
  • The guy from the The Terminal
  • Anyone from G.I. Joe
  • Norman Bates
  • Dexter
  • Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Scrooge McDuck
  • Howard the Duck
  • Howard Hughes
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Supergirl
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Liberace
  • Mark Zuckerberg

The following characters haven’t really had their origins explored on screen yet… but that’s okay.  Embrace the mystery.  Skip the origin story for them, too:

  • Han Solo
  • Hugh Hefner
  • Jack Bauer
  • John McClane
  • John McCain
  • Propeller guy from Titanic
  • The Fonz
  • The Golden Girls
  • Rapping Granny
  • Captain Hook
  • Grumpy Smurf
  • MacGuyver
  • Mary Poppins

The following is the entire list of pre-existing characters for whom it’s completely okay to retell their origin story:

  • Mighty Mouse
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Over on the Tech Blog

My Adventures in the Third Dimension.

So you want to hear music throughout your whole house…

And a cool use for a small clip.

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Sifting through the remnants of Twitter past…

Twitter recently celebrated it’s 7th birthday.  It’s easy to forget just how old that is in internet years, until you try to find a good user handle and see that all the good ones are not only taken, but also very, very dead.

Case in point: @TVExec

For a project I’m working on, I wanted to find a handle that could be used for a fictional TV executive.  I figured @TVExec  would be taken, and probably even abandoned by now, but I was still surprised to see just how dead it was.

6 tweets. Two followers. Following just one person. Hasn’t been touched in two years.

TVExecTwitter1

It’s also readily apparent that this account was created for one purpose and one purpose only: scoring with a porn star.

TVExecTwitter2

Assuming he really works in TV in some capacity (hence the Idol and So You Think Can Dance drops), I’m guessing he thought his connection to mainstream media might actually be attractive to her.

First I was upset that this great handle was being wasted… but then I was intrigued.   Is he really a TV exec?  Did the porn star agree to go out with him?  Did she take his money and leave his dead carcass on the bed at a Motel 6 and that’s why he never tweeted again!??!

With concern for his safety on my mind, I now had reasonable cause to dig a little deeper.

All it has for a name is “T. Williams.”  Sadly, the picture is not of Treat Williams.  But if this guy really did want to score with a porn star, I’m guessing he used a real photo. After all, his attempt to sleep with her might be shameless, but it wasn’t dishonest.  The last thing he’d want is for his perfect night to be ruined when she discovers the anonymous twitter troll she agreed to meet isn’t the one she pictured.

A quick Google Image search revealed that the same picture was used on a second, more legit-looking twitter account.

RealTwitterer

It’s a pretty normal twitter account for guy, mostly tweets aimed at sports writers and whatnot.  Not a proposal to a porn star to be found.  And, as it happens, this guy does appear to have a connection to major TV network.  Interesting…

And this is when I got kinda freaked out.  He roots for the same sports teams I do: the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Bucs.  He must be from Tampa.  I’m from Tampa.  Heck, he might’ve even gone to the same high school I went to (if not with me, then with one of my older siblings).  Okay.  This is hitting too close to home.

So I ended my search.  “Mr. TV Exec” if you’re reading this, I hope you and your porn star found true love and she didn’t kill you.  I also hope that one day you may relinquish that awesome twitter handle to someone who might actually use it.

There are some other good, dead handles I’ve come across that are worth a blog post, too. I’ll follow up with them at some point. In the meantime, what are some abandoned Twitter handles you’ve come across that you wish you could use?

UPDATE (6/18/13):  Per the comments below, you’ll see that the real Twitterer has reached out.  He also emailed me.  He seems like a nice guy, so I’ve gone through the post, removing details that could identify him.  It’s also worth noting that as of today, The “@TVExec” Twitter account no longer exists.

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Could this have been the very first parody of The Mindy Project? From over 10 years ago?

Also discovered in an old Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern: this parody of a comic strip in the campus newspaper circa the year 2000.  The actual strip was called “Badly Drawn Girl,” written and drawn by a student named Mindy Chokalingam. I wonder whatever happened to her…

Sort of Funny Girl

UPDATE: Point of clarification, the above was NOT written or drawn by Mindy. Sadly, I can’t remember which staff member came up with it…  I just thought it was interesting that her college comic strip (as characterized in this parody) bears some similarity to an excellent show currently airing on Fox…  Hmm…

UPDATE 2: Someone has created a tumblr featuring some of the original comic strips parodied here.

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