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Writing Is Like Acting On Paper

August 19, 2015 Leave a comment

I especially like writing for television. I’ve always sketched just as much as I’ve written so I get to direct the scene with stage directions on paper. I have to say that I don’t know if my way is the best way or even a good way. I’m a grade ten dropout who was driving a courier car when I took a YMCA Guidance and Counselling test. It suggested that I be an artist or a writer and should expect – actually said expect – to excel in show business. It blew my mind. I was in my twenties and working three jobs to care for my wife and daughter. My counselor suggested I try to break into an advertising agency creative department as a faster way to earn a living.

I got out the yellow pages of the telephone directory, looked up Advertising Agencies and started calling them from A to Z. I gleaned a few appointments during which the flaws in my presentation were pointed out to me. After each rejection I rewrote and illustrated my presentation for the next appointment. Inevitably I was eventually in the right place at the right time. I had succeeded in getting through to the Creative Director of one of the most creative, award winning agencies. He said he had no need, but perhaps their sales promotion department could help.

I immediately hung up and called back to the promotion department. I got an appointment. The creative director had a writer away on vacation and another off sick and he needed a sales brochure for a client immediately. I had no idea what to do so I glanced at sheets of yellow typewriter paper on other writers’ desk on my way out. I went to my father’s office at night to use the typewriter. I wrote the brochure and sketched a layout and went back to the boss in the morning. He loved it and immediately put it into production and gave me another assignment for a name brand kitchen appliance company.

I soon rose to a level where I was writing and supervising production of television commercials for national brand products. What I had seen on those copywriters’ desks was texts with a line drawn vertically down the center of the page. On the left side in all upper case letters is the visual description of the scene while the right side of the line, opposite the description is the audio, be it narration or dialogue. Dialogue on paper is acting. First I assume the character of X. I become character Y for the response and so on.

Learning while working in advertising, I took the skills I acquired to another level. I created a television series using the same techniques that I learned and used in making television commercials. My storyboards and verbal descriptions helped make the scenes emerge just as I wanted them to. It was wonderful working with the actors in the studio. We would have lunch in the studio cafeteria most days. Coincidentally, I looked somewhat like Kenny Rogers in those days, and he was taping his show in an adjoining studio. We’d sometimes meet during lunch and took some kidding about our looks.

The series aired on a national network for more than thirty years.
https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=The+Waterville+Gang&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001

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