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Tim Minear

Tim Minear - Screenwriting Expo Report

Clint Johnson

Thursday 12 January 2006, by Webmaster

This is the one that tipped the balance on whether I would take the time off work to come down to the Expo. This man can write and he can run a show. If you do carry on, be warned that the man drops the occasional swear word and I have quoted him and they are in a couple of the videos. I don’t have a problem with it but if you are one of those folk who do then consider yourself forewarned so if you continue on... well it’s your own beeep fault and so quick beep crying you beep beeeeep baby.

Continuing on to the main text for this entry and you will be treated to a blurry photo and a few short snippets of video I took with my cheap little digital camera. I have uploaded copies in Windows Media, Quicktime and one for the iPod Video. I don’t yet have the iPod Video yet so if you try that option give me a shout to let me know how it works.

Screenwriting Expo had video cameras set up so if you want a copy of this excellent session you will have to insist to them that they are made available. They have several of the sessions available here, but Tim ain’t one of them.

Blurry Tim

I’m just going to drop the video links in at random through the page. The best way to view them is to download them to your own computer (I simply detest streaming video but feel free to stream it if you can). For Windows, just right click and select "Save Link As..." or "Save Target As...". With the Mac, if memory serves, you option+click and select "Download to Disk...".

Breaking the Story Breaking the Story Breaking the Story

First off, Tim is one funny man. I’m sure that he has spoken in front of a crowd many times and has been able to hone his shtick, but he has really good stage presence and has a good repertoire of anecdotes, answers and comebacks. He has a lot to say and he says it rather quickly so a lot of this will just be bullets points to the session.

Since this is “Breaking the Story” session , he asks for a show of hands to find out which show we would break. There was only a smattering of hands for Wonderfalls, which I’m sure he was expecting, and about even for Firefly and Angel. He jokes that since Angel is immortal then it is possible to do a crossover of Angel and Firefly.

Too bad he was joking because that would be a fun episode. The way I would run it out is - we start the episode by introducing an Angel who has found peace within himself and is a happy, contented man. And then he crosses paths with the crew of a disreputable smuggling ship who put him in a world of trouble where he has to do some nasty, nasty things... and ends up the angst ridden Angel that we know and love.

But alas, it is not to be and he falls back on Angel. The first thing he establishes is that it will be set before the “mistake” of the Angel/Cordelia affair. It will be season two. He lets a few people pitch ideas and kindly shoots them down. Some of them don’t fit the series and some fit too well - “That is a really good idea and that is why we did it in season one.”.

I’m figuring that he had to come into this with a bag full of ideas that he could dip into as the situation warranted. He wouldn’t want to spend too much time just getting an idea for the session to break so he pulled a Dennis the ghost idea out of the bag. Denise sacrifices his quasi-corporeal existence to spend one day with Cordy as a flesh and blood man.

He said that Mutant Enemy liked to start the show with a fake ’A’ story in the teaser and put the heart of the episode into what seems to be the ’B’ story. A few people make suggestions and a couple of his stock responses are “That’s good... I don’t love it yet” and “I like it... I don’t love it.”

One woman wants to work the story around a vampire wedding and Tim runs with that. After taking it in a few different directions and then discarding them, the teaser starts to take form. He sees Cordy getting ready for a big date, when they are called out to break up a gathering of vampires. Cordy and the rest of the fang gang barge in on a wedding and they mostly stand in shock as Cordy slams her way through the wedding party with single minded purpose until she gets to the bride - and catches the bouquet as it flies from the brides dusted fingers.

After all that, she still fails to make the date and with resignation she heads back to her apartment where she laments not having a normal man in her life. She realizes she is still carrying the wedding bouquet and tosses it aside. Dennis, her personal poltergeist, catches it out of the air and carefully places it into a vase.

One person from the crowd suggests a curse that causes Angel and Cordy to switch bodies as the ’A’ story. Tim grins and shakes his head - “Cause Angel isn’t gay enough. Maybe we should do the Angel Firefly crossover where Angel fucks Mel.”

He talks a bit about the reason behind some episodes being based on budget and actor availability. ’Out of Gas’ was done because Gina Torez was only available for a limited time due to the getting married thing. He had to get he out of the story quickly and keep her out of it until the very end. That writing to restrictions resulted in what I consider the best of the Firefly episodes. Damn fine televisioin.

To help hear the feedback and questions from the crowd, there is a young guy with a mic and Tim is sending him from one side of the room to the other just to see him run. When Tim sends him on one particularly long jaunt from the front right side of the seating all the way to the left back, the young man whispers into the mic “I hate you.” and got a laugh.

Tim starts setting down the parameters of the show. Cordelia must give up something by the end of the episode without knowing it and Dennis has to give up his new corporeal state AND his ghost state to save Cordelia.

Tim talks about working the room on Angel and Firefly and any time they’d hit a stumbling block they would look around and ask themselves “Where’s Joss?”

Anyway, back to the story we’re breaking here. Coming back in from the teaser, we conclude that Xander shows up with Anya, looking all happy and in love. Cordelia makes up a story about how great her new boyfriend is and how happy she is.

Tim seems to be enjoying himself and wistfully says that he wishes they could start up Angel again. Someone yells from the crowd that he should try to get a Cordelia show on the air. Tim nods sagely and laments “But then I would have to use Charisma.” He paused at the ohhh that comment draws from the crowd. “Who I love of course.” He looked back at the video camera covering the event and mouths the words “Cut that part out.” to the videographer. Like I said, funny man.

So back to the story, where he figures that the point where Cordy is lying about her boyfriend is where the newly corporeal Dennis should make his appearance and be very much the man Cordy has just finished describing. He reiterates that we are breaking the story out and that the particulars would be figured out by the writer who get the assignment to take the story to script.

I’m thinking there will be a rash of bad fan scripts turned out over the next six months, all based on what is done here tonight. It might even make for an interesting contest if it weren’t for Fox and its legions of lawyers.

Someone comes out with a less than stellar idea and Tim responds “That’s not stupid...” and this pronouncement seems to be Tim’s stock no. Some of the ideas are getting rather complex and he tries to shut that down by saying he likes to concentrate on servicing the six plus two actors with a simple story.

We move on to act two where Xander/Anya and Cordy/Dennis go on a double date. The act out on this one is Angel coming in to pull Cordy aside and tell her that her date isn’t perfect... unless her definition of perfect includes dead. I figure that is a good place for her to slip in a jab at dead boy himself.

Falling back to how Dennis gains his day of life, Tim bandies about the idea of Xander bringing a “phleboten” to Angel which covers his own appearance and brings in the means of reanimation to Los Angeles. Phleboton is their made up word for any device that is used to get things moving or introduce some event or person. The item itself isn’t important, it is just there to move the story. I don’t know if that is the correct spelling for their word but that is what I’m going with.

I figure it should be the Monkey’s Paw and it interprets Cordelia’s lies (correctly) as a wish and grants it by way of bringing Dennis back to life. I’d go with dropping hints that Dennis follows her that morning and then have him amazed to find himself becoming physical. He learns about what price would have to be paid for him to stay real - Cordy’s happiness would be something that he would have to sacrifice for himself to stay alive.

But back to Tim and our really big writing room. He moves on to act three and says that this is where we find out the who, what and why of the dead guy... who isn’t Angel. He figures that it should come as somewhat of a surprise midway through act three that the new guy is Dennis... which means that I would have to revise my idea from the paragraph above.

Act four would need Dennis to solve the ’A’ story, which we haven’t actually decided on yet. He would solve it and sacrifice himself to save Cordy. Tim figures that Angel should almost kill Dennis at this point as well. He points out that “We need to find the Angel of it since - show not called Cordelia.” but we are running out of time and he figures that we could wrap it up here. The established theme of the show is love and sacrifice so the Angel storyline should reflect that as well.

Looking For in a Writer Looking for in a Writer Looking for in a Writer

He takes a slew of questions from the crowd.

* He says that it is usually better to know the end of the story before it is assigned to the writer.
* Out of Gas was written over the weekend.
* Inside cost about $2.4 million per episode.
* A writer to watch is Craig Silverstein, he is going to be big.
* He has a new show in development with Fox that he can’t talk about yet but it is a big, sprawling show and he is hoping to announce something soon.
* An outline from breaking a story is usually 5-10 pages of sluglines with descriptions and five to seven scenes per act.
* What show would be a good spec right now? Not one more Sopranos, he is sick of reading Sopranos scripts. Something different, a one hour spec of I Love Lucy where she has an abortion... he’d read that.
* On how he learned that Wonderfalls was canceled - “You know how it says your show is on the air tonight? Well it’s not.”

When asked for an embarrassing story about Joss Whedon, he thinks for a second.

“Embarrassing story about Joss? Let’s see, well we would come into the writing room and find him fucking the couch.”

And I think I will just leave there... how can I top that?

Click on the link to watch videos :


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