The creativity and writing began early as day 2 of the Toronto Screenwriting Conference got underway this morning with showrunner Stephen Falk (Orange is the New Black, Weeds, and You’re the Worst) took to the stage to talks about how to break a season, or specifically how he and his writer’s room, break a season. Falk is an actor turned writer turned showrunner, and he entertained enormously with his talk, he played wonderfully to the audience, as he introduced himself and his style, before delving into the topic at hand. And what followed, as with all the talks this weekend, was as immensely informative as it was entertaining.
He talked about breaking the first season of his series, You’re the Worst, into 3 recording blocks, and then crafts the story to match it – a three act play spread out over the three shooting blocks. He brought in three different directors, one for each block, to match the tonality and needs of the story. He tied in themes to the endpoint of the season as he and his team broke down the season. His Writers’ Room throws up concepts, and bits, to fill out the season, ideas after ideas, or even just moments, and then tie them in with the season’s theme and its endpoint; how they’ll relate to it, as well as plans for things they want to happen to the characters. But the characters also need to be active in the pursuit of what they want, So act/season arcs need to tie in with all of this to move the story and characters forward.
From there we hear what it’s like from the other side of the desk, as we settled in for Interview with the Executive. The executive this week is the Executive VP for Development at FX, Nicole Clemens who sits down to chat about her position and what she looks for on behalf of the network, how things are developed and pitched, and perfecting your take on that all important pitch. From there she discusses FX’s development and creation of series, pilots, and going to series. It proves to be very fascinating as we learn how many pitches are given and how many actually make it through to series. It’s a stunningly small number. So you truly have to differentiate yourself. Which is something our lunchtime interview is a specialist at.
Before we go for our lunch, we had an awesome little chat with one of our favorite speakers at this event, Corey Mandell, he blew our minds last year with the revelations about bi-sociation, The sustained dissolvement of apparent paradoxes, and in conversation we could see how amazing he would be as a coach and teacher, and that just gets the mind racing creatively again.
After lunch, we settled in for a screening of the pilot episode of Glen Mazzara’s Damien, as well as a breakdown of it. There’s a lot of info in the episode, and it ties in nicely with the original film, The Omen, including some really well done incorporation of footage from Richard Donner’s original movie. The series, looks solid, and is one of those ones I am looking to sit down and binging my way through.
There’s a nice moment afterwards as a small happy hour is hosted, and everyone shares a drink and a laugh, celebrating the weekend and networking. It’s amazing how many people we are starting to recognize at this event, and how many we actually already know!
The last session of the day before we five back into Hot Docs with more interviews is with Corey Mandell. The final talk of the day is about Creating a Successful TV Series Engine. Mandell is always engaging, and he seems to be the perfect ending for the conference, wrapping up the enthusiasm and creativity that embodies this event.
The biggest thing he shares is that you have to create characters that the audience wants to spend time with. You tie that in with what makes your storytelling voice and the story it tells unique, as well as the world you create for it.
And then, just like that the weekend draws to a close, and Sue and I are left with a wonderful sense of information overload, and things we want to do, create and write.
It was a fantastic weekend, one that fires our imagination, and gets the creative juices flowing… now to put them to work!