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Jane Espenson

Jane Espenson - Do I Still Remember How to do This ? - Blog Update

Wednesday 7 April 2010, by Webmaster

Hi! I’m back. I don’t know for how long, but I missed talking with you guys in chunks of more than 140 characters!

I’ve been off writing shows (Dollhouse, Caprica), and speaking to young writers and pitching pilots and writing freelance eps of wonderful shows and generally recharging my blogbatteries!

Is everyone out there watching Community? I love this show and it’s a master class on new and fresh ways to tell jokes. And on how to actually be about something at the same time.

You can tell that the episodes are conceived in the same way you guys should be conceiving your spec scripts — they start with something to say and then the humor comes out of that. I guarantee you that they did not start working on the latest episode by thinking of funny things that could happen in a pottery class. They started by thinking about their characters, what they believe, and where they’re weakest.

Find your characters’ vulnerable spots and poke them and you’ll find a story. The idea that Jeff was over-praised as a child, resulting in a self-image that needs correction is not hilarious. It’s grounded and real — which allows for more license when writing the jokes. For example, the writers were able to go to the surreal place of having Jeff’s childhood memories change retroactively at the end of the episode only because we were invested in an emotional change that we really bought. You have to be really careful with surrealism because it can make an audience check out unless careful groundwork has been laid.

A lot depends on the show you chose to spec (or the tone you’re looking for in your spec pilot), but in general I would recommend that you should be able to produce a non-funny answer to the question, "what is your script about?" Answers like, "My main character is afraid his kids don’t respect him" or "My main character is scared that he’s more feared than loved at work," or "My main character thinks her lover is growing bored with her." Very non-funny. But the way that character takes action to address the problem — now you’ve got a whole vista of comic possibilities that the viewers are going to actually empathize with. And that’s golden.

Lunch: Yesterday I had a movie theater hotdog without seeing a movie. They had a spicy relish that I quite liked, although I still wished they had ’kraut.