Michael Baser is the Head of Writing for Film and Television at Vancouver Film School. In the past, he’s written for American Prime Time TV, and his IMDB profile boasts an expansive list of credits including classics such as Three's Company, The Jeffersons, and Full House. This spring, Baser is offering his expertise to aspiring and developing writers at VFS’s Why Story Matters lecture series. If you aren't ready to enroll in film school just yet, but you've always wanted to know what it would be like to take a writing class, Baser and several of his colleagues are offering six free writing workshops from March 12 until May 28, 2016.
Check out this interview with Baser to get his take on life as a writer and what to expect from Why Stories Matters.
SAD Mag: What convinced you to make writing your career?
Michael Baser: I was always, even as a very young child, driven to make people laugh. Since I was possibly the worst stand-up comedian in the history of comedy, writing became a vehicle to achieve this dubious goal.
SM: Did you study writing formally in any academic institutions?
MB: No. I majored in journalism in university but it did nothing to prepare me for my career. I learned about writing for the screen from [a] professional I had the great fortune to meet and who generously mentored me.
SM: Is it ever a struggle to write episodes for an already established show—in other words, to contribute to, rather than create a piece?
MB: No. It’s just using a different muscle. The secret to writing an episode for an existing series is to make yourself a student of that show so you can replicate the voices of the characters and be totally familiar with the types of stories they tell.
SM: How has working collaboratively lent itself to writing for television?
MB: Television is the most collaborative medium. You work closely with the other writers of the show but also with all other people who contribute to the final product. Nothing happens without the script, so the writer needs to interface with everyone,…from the director…to the set designer…to the make-up and hair, to make sure that what’s on the page gets onto the screen.
SM: How important do you think representation is in film/television?
MB: Pretty important…though agents are no substitute for personal relationships. I’ve gotten most of my jobs through my own personal network.
SM: What is your favourite television show airing right now and why?
MB: I’m kind of loving Better Call Saul. Great characters, quirky storytelling, and it’s taking me into a world I’m unfamiliar with. Makes me laugh.
SM: What can we expect from Why Story Matters?
MB: A thumbnail walk through of how to construct a cogent story. Kind of a tiny glimpse of what we do in the Writing for Film and Television program at VFS. Hopefully it will inspire the audience to think seriously about a career as a screenwriter. There has never been a better time, given all the new streaming services, cable outlets, and internet opportunities, to be a screenwriter.
Why Story Matters is hosted by Vancouver Film School and runs from March 12 - May 28, 2016. Michael Baser is lecturing on March 12 and April 2. The series is open to the public, but classes cap at 75 seats; you can sign up here.