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My Top 5 Screenwriters

# 1  SHONDA RHIMES | The Queen of Hearts

Best known for:  Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

My favorite work:  Scandal

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Why I admire Shonda:

I admire Shonda’s writing because she writes about love in an antisentimatic way.  You gets no cuddles with Ms. Rhimes.  Instead of a character telling another that they are important to them or are the only friend they have, the character will say, “You’re my person.”  That’s what Christina told Meredith in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy when she needed to provide an emergency contact person in order to schedule an abortion:

Cristina: The clinic has a policy.  They wouldn’t let me confirm my appointment unless I designated an emergency contact person.  Someone to be there in case and…to you know help me home after.  Anyway, I put your name down, that’s why I told you I’m pregnant.  You’re my person.

Meredith: I am?

Cristina: Yeah, you are.  Whatever.

Meredith: Whatever.

Cristina: He dumped me. [Meredith hugs Cristina] You realize this constitutes hugging?

Meredith: Shut up, I’m your person.

Even when Meredith shows a moment of tenderness with a hug, she tells Christina to shut up when she protests.  Very funny.

On Scandal, the entire show is based on everybody’s love for Olivia.  It may be warped, twisted love, but love nonetheless.  On any given day, Fitz is willing to give up the presidency or go to war for her.  They both do dangerous, irrational, stupid things for each other in the name of love.  You won’t find their type of love described on a Hallmark card.  It’s raw, dark, and by any means necessary.

Olivia and Fitz

Daddy Pope loves her so much that he basically stalks her and kills for her in order to keep her safe.  Same for Mama Pope.  Same for Jake, Huck, and Quinn.  Their loyalty for her is unwavering because they love her.  Abby and David lie and cheat for her.  Cyrus, her male BFF, always takes her back after she does something to jeopardize the White House.  Even creepy ass Tom thinks she has a “face that launched a thousand ships.”  Yes, Shonda is the queen of the love story, but she isn’t going to give it to you “Leave It to Beaver” style.

#2  NANCY MEYERS | The Ultimate Girl Power


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Best known for:  Father of the Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, Private Benjamin

My favorite work:  Something’s Gotta Give

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Why I admire Nancy:

Meyers’ films are all about grown ass women living their lives, doing their own thing.  Her characters are usually over the age of 35, which I love because, seriously, Hollywood seems to think all the world wants to see is 20 year olds bouncing around on the screen.  Nancy’s female characters have it together overall, but learn they are lacking in a certain area.  They set out to fix the flaw and wind up learning a lot about themselves that they never knew.  Now, that’s girl power!

#3  DAVID SIMON | The Realist

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Best know for:  The Wire, NYPD Blue, Treme

My favorite work:  The Wire

The Wire

Why I admire Simon:

When you watch a David Simon project, you get sucked into the world he created and you don’t want to leave.  He makes you feel like the characters are your friends and family members.  That crooked politician or drug dealer could easily be your loved one.  You feel like you’ve walked the streets of the neighborhood in the story because he paints such a vivid picture of the way of life in the city.  The characters communicate the way real people speak; yet the dialogue still manages to be full of subtext.  It’s relatable because it’s lean and mean, no fluff.

This can be seen in my favorite scene from The Wire.  Detectives Moreland and McNulty run ballistics at a crime scene.  Each time they figure out a clue, they utter, “Fuck me.”  Each time they say it there’s a different meaning behind it.  How Simon managed to give two words multiple meanings is pure genius.  And that’s some fine acting too.

#4  AARON SORKIN | The Wordsmith

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Best known for:  The Social Network, The West Wing, A Few Good Men

My favorite work:  The West Wing

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Why I admire Sorkin:

Aaah, the king of dialogue.  Sorkin’s dialogue makes me drool.  You learn a thing or two from his words because they’re packed full of knowledge and wisdom.  Those marathon monologues are like a symphony.  I think Aaron influenced Shonda when she created Scandal.  Sorkin’s dialogue keeps you on your toes too because you have to pay close attention to the rapid-fire pace of the characters’ words.  Blink and you’ll miss an important piece of information that either reveals character or is a set up for some scenario later in the episode.

#5  BEAU WILLIMON | Mr. Personality

Beau Willimon

Best known for:  House of Cards, The Ides of March

My favorite work:  House of Cards

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Why I admire Beau:

When I saw House of Cards for the first time, my mouth dropped open within the first minute of the premiere episode.  Willimon has a way of letting the viewers know what type of person the character is immediately.  He does this by showing the character’s trait through action.  In Season 1, Chapter 1, Congressman Frank Underwood goes to the aid of a dog that has just been hit by a car.  Frank breaks the fourth wall and tells the viewer there are two kinds of pain:  the kind that makes you stronger and the useless kind that makes you suffer.  He has no patience for useless things and demonstrates that philosophy by putting the poor dog out of its misery by suffocating it.  BOOM!  Beau doesn’t bullshit around.

There are other writers that I admire, but the above are my top 5.  Rhimes, Simon, Sorkin, and Willimon are my uber favorites because they create anti-heroes with major flaws who you love anyway.  That’s my kind of writing!

Additional favorites:

Matthew Weiner | Mad Men

Mara Brock Akil | Girlfriends

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Scandal: Season 4 Episode 20 | First Lady Sings the Blues

“Now, you, scared man with glasses, we flip him over.  Now, right now.  He scream.  We flip anyway.” ~Shady Doctor

It’s a Christmas miracle!  Jake is alive!  Thank you baby Jesus.  From the looks of the previous episode, Jake was deader than a doornail.  Thank God Huck decided that Jake was “warm enough” then proceeded to jackhammer his fist down on Jake’s chest, jumpstarting his heart.  I was going to be highly disappointed if Jake died.  I would have been pissed at Shonda.  She already took McDreamy, but Jake too?  That would have been all out cruelty.  So, I’m happy she let him breathe.  And I’m happy I don’t have to be mad at her.  She’s my favorite writer after all, so I don’t know how that would have worked.  It wouldn’t.  She’s a god.  I bow down.  Okay, let me stop drooling over her.  It’s getting a little creepy.

The first few minutes of the episode gave me LIFE when Quinn walked into the conference room of OPA and found Jake spread eagle on the table bleeding like a hog at the butcher shop.  On reflex, she whipped out that gun in slow motion badassery.  I was like, “Quinn, you betta do it bitch!”  She was ready to SET. IT. OFF!  It’s amazing to see her transformation from a jittery little puppy to a badass assassin.  Talk about a character arc!  Huck took her under his wing and created a monster.

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Olivia and the rest of the gang rush to OPA to find Jake hanging on by a thread.  Charlie calls in some shady doctor to work a miracle, only the miracle can’t be paid for with money.  Shady Doctor wants Olivia to rescue his friend, a former Russian assassin (Assassin Granny as I call her), from being pulled back into the spy game by some KGB dude after many years of civilian life as a wife, mother and grandmother.  Olivia wants no parts of helping an assassin, but Shady Doctor threatens to bounce, leaving Jake to die.  Olivia agrees, then goes on a warpath to find Daddy Pope and kill him for what he did to Jake.  Livy girl, you already tried that several times and look how that turned out.  You will never get the upper hand on your daddy and you know it.  He told you pointblank, “What have I always told you, Olivia?  Against me, you will never win.”  So, you may as well sit down somewhere, girl.

So, Shady Doctor manages to piece Jake back together.  Later, when he gains consciousness, he finds a breathing tube in his throat, his arms strapped to the bed rail, and Russell, the man who gutted him like a pig lying on the slab next to him.  Ooooh shit!  How did Russell get there you say?  Daddy Pope.  FLASHBACK:  Russell shows up to Daddy Pope’s house with the nerve to tell him that he failed to locate Olivia and crew.  He politely puts down his drink, pulls out his pistol, and shoots Russell in the arm.  He hands him a handkerchief, then goes back to sipping on his brown liquor.  That Daddy Pope is a cold piece.  But, I love it!

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This is a Man’s World

“Sir, don’t you think a man would be better?  I know.  I hate myself for saying that.  I threw up in my mouth a little bit for saying that.” ~Abby

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Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mellie finds herself down in the dumps about America’s lack of support for her run for Senate.  Hence, the title of the episode, First Lady Sings the Blues.  Clever title.  For those of you who live under a rock, Lady Sings the Blues is a movie where Diana Ross portrays troubled Blues singer, Billie Holiday.  Phenomenal movie.  Get into it.

Former Vice President Sally Langston takes Mellie’s misfortune as an opportunity to tell her talk show audience how poor her approval rating is and how abandoning her job as the First Lady is an insult to the people of Virginia.  Millie wants to go on Sally’s show and go toe-to-toe with her, but campaign manager Elizabeth advises against it because she’ll look defensive.  Fitz asks Abby for her advise since she’s the next best thing to Olivia’s stellar problem solving.

Abby suggests that Mellie distance herself from Fitz politically, but even more important, they need to find out if running for Senate while married to a sitting president is illegal as Sally suggests.  She learns from David that it’s indeed legal “because no one ever imagined that a woman would ever get an idea in her pretty little head to run for office.”  In this case, Mellie should be thanking her lucky stars for misogyny.  Abby reluctantly suggests that a man should go on Sally’s show to defend feminism because the audience will turn the channel if they see a woman defending it.  She suggests Cyrus as the guinea pig.  Cyrus is like, “hell naw” because he’s against Mellie’s run for Senate.  Fitz gets in his face and demands that he get on board.  Needless to say, Cyrus goes on the show to defend Mellie all the while faking the funk, which Sally picks up on right away.  She accuses him of not truly supporting Mellie because he really feels he’s more deserving of that seat in the Senate.  I can’t stand Sally’s hypocritical, Sarah Palin-like ass, but I think she’s right on this one.

Desperate Times Calls for Desperate Measures

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Unfortunately, Cyrus’ appearance on Sally’s show makes things worse for Mellie.  America still thinks a First Lady shouldn’t be allowed to run for Senate.  On top of that Fitz’s approval rating has dropped further.  Poor Mellie.  She’s circling the drain fast.  Elizabeth suggests telling America that Mellie and Fitz’s marriage is over to get rid of the conflict of interest.  Everybody looks at her like, . . . the f*ck?  Fitz brings in the heavy artillery, by calling Olivia.  She pretends like she’s not going to help him, but she knows she can’t resist him even if it means helping her lover’s wife win an election.  Their conversation is strained, but the ever-present passion and longing between those two is coming through the phone lines strong.  Oh, how I wanted them to have a “one minute” moment.  Yes, I’m #TeamFitz.  What of it?

After learning that Daddy Pope is most likely behind Russell getting shot, Olivia offers up Daddy Pope’s phone number to the KGB Dude if he calls off his mission to turn Assassin Granny back into a killer.  She tells him he’ll be a hero in Russia if he’s thee one and only person who was able to eliminate the world’s most powerful man.  He bites.  Worse decision of his life.  Olivia discovers him in the trunk of her car with a bullet to the head after she fled from Assassin Granny’s house on account of finding her and the grand babies lying lifeless on the couch with matching bullet wounds.  Dear Daddy Pope strikes again.

The whirlwind episode wraps up with another badass girl power moment when Olivia takes Russell back to her boudoir, straddles him, and tells him to close his eyes.  Russell thinks he’s going to get some hot poon tang, but what he gets is the cold barrel of a Glock against his cranium.  Olivia did that!  It was reminiscent of the scene in Harlem Nights when Dominique La Rue (Jazmine Guy) straddled Quick (Eddie Murphy) and pulled a gun from under the pillow.  Only she wasn’t badass like Livy.  She squeezed the trigger, but nothing came out.  Quick whipped out his gun and blew her away.  No such fate for Olivia Pope.  She handled hers like a BAWSE!

Being the smart cookie that she is, she caught on to Russell when she realized he was the only person who could have told Daddy Pope about the Russians.  He tried to play dumb, but Livy wasn’t having it.  She put a kung-fu grip on his wounded arm (which made him cry out like a little bitch) and demanded him to tell her about Foxtail.  I want to know too.  Whatever it is, Daddy Pope is involved, so you know it won’t be a day at the beach.

What kind of death and destruction do you think Daddy Pope has up his sleeve this time?  God help us all. . .

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Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Read Your Script

. . . ACTION!

Okay, so you finally grew the balls to call a production company to ask if you can send them your script.  Good for you!  Now, here’s how not to eff it up.  Find out their submission policy and . . . DO. WHAT. THEY. TELL. YOU. TO. DO.  If they tell you to submit a logline, then send them a logline ONLY.  Don’t throw in your script, cast wish list (you’re not the decider here), budget, and soundtrack suggestions (nobody cares about soundtracks anymore) all packaged in a pretty blue presentation folder that you eagerly bounced down to Staples to pick out thinking it would make the production company buy your script.  No.  It will not.

Different production companies have different policies.  One may want a logline, another may want a synopsis.  You may even stumble upon that rare unicorn of a production company that will allow you to submit your script without having an agent.  Whatever their submission policy is, adhere to it.  Why?  Because they have their particular policies for a reason.  For example, one company may only want a logline because they receive tons of submissions and don’t have time (maybe due to lack of manpower) to read a bunch of full-length scripts.

A logline saves the reader a lot of time.  It immediately tells the reader what the story and character are about.  It also lets the reader know if the writer has any skills.  If your logline sucks hard, there’s a 99% chance that your whole script sucks even harder because if you haven’t mastered how to write a logline, you haven’t mastered how to crank out 100 pages that somebody other than your mommy would want to read.  Production companies ain’t got time for that!

Just work on your logline.  Make it sing and then send it in, but follow the rules and save your little presentation folder for school or something.  You will only piss off the reader on account of her having to shuffle through all of that extra crap.  And when you piss off a reader, your script goes in the trash and you get placed on the “do not read anything from this person EVER” list.  It’s basically like an airline “no fly” list minus the terrorist.  In other words, you’re screwed.  Yes, the punishment seems petty and mean, but it is what it is.  “Life is pain.  You just get used to it” (Charly Baltimore, The Long Kiss Goodnight).

. . . CUT!

Tell me, have you ever submitted something to a production company, agent or studio?  What happened?  Spill the tea in the comments section.

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CUT TO THE F*CKING CHASE | HOW TO KEEP HOLLYWOOD FROM TOSSING YOUR SCRIPT

Dear Fellow Screenwriters,

I know you are excited when you get permission to submit a script to a production company or studio. They’re going to flip open that script, be blown away by your writing, and call you up to ask if they can buy it for one million dollars, right? Of course!  So don’t blow it by sending crazy looking packages like this.

Crazy Package

It literally took me 3 minutes to open this package.  I had to whip out a box cutter and put my back into it.  The last thing you want to do is make it difficult to read your script.  Why?  Readers are swamped with mile high piles of scripts waiting to be read.  If they fee like they have to break into Ft. Knox in order to read a script, guess where it’s going.  The TRASH!

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Sealed with tape and INDUSTRIAL staples.

I didn’t throw this script away though.  I don’t do that because as a fellow screenwriter, I have a heart and wouldn’t want anybody to throw my script away without reading it.  But, I was annoyed and tossed it to the side to read whenever I can get to it.  Most readers aren’t as nice as I am though.  Your script will be in the can before it’s in the can.  Get it?  No?  Sorry, I write drama, not comedy.

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