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Elephant Bucks: An Insider's Guide to Writing for TV Sitcoms [Paperback]

Sheldon Bull
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 1 2007
Publisher Marketing: A comprehensive guide to writing a highly commerical and saleable spec sitcom script and launching your career as a TV sitcom writer. Includes detailed inside information on how to choose the right series to spec, how to pick the right story, and detailed, step by step instruction on how to write the scripts that will get you work.

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Elephant Bucks: An Insider's Guide to Writing for TV Sitcoms + Writing Television Sitcoms (revised) + Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box
Price For All Three: CDN$ 44.77

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Review

Sheldon Bull is not only the funniest man on two feet, but one of the mostbrilliant when it comes to explaining how to be funny, and how to organizeyour creative ideas into the sitcom form. It is the clearest, best, and to my knowledge the only how to that tells writers step by step how to write for and break into the fabulous world of TV sitcoms-- Blake Snyder, Author of Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need

About the Author

Bull has been a professional tv sitcon writer, producer, and director for thirty years. His career included: writing for MASH, developing writing and producing the hit CBS sitcom Newhart; writing and producing the ABC hit Coach starring Craig T. Nelson; and producing, writing and directing the ABC hit series Sabrina-The Teenage Witch.

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By Deaks
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everything you need to know to write a sitcom spec script. Once you have the formula broken down for you, you see it everywhere. An excellent writer, and he provides fantastic examples, showing how to build a script from start to finish. He also has a blog of the same name which I subscribe to.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Sitcom Writing Aug. 18 2011
By Paul Chitlik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've been teaching sitcom writing at a well known film school for the last six years. During the first five, I used a book, which I won't name, as a way to give structure to the class. Nobody liked it, especially me. It was outdated, dull, and self-congratulatory. So last year I chose not to use a book at all. Things went okay, but there just isn't enough time in the semester to talk about everything in a way that sinks in. As the Chinese say, "Repetition is the mother of learning." There was nothing but their notes to remind students of what I had gone over in class.
No more. Sheldon Bull's book, "Elephant Bucks," is just what I was looking for and didn't know it. Sheldon, a real sitcom pro, clearly outlines what you need to do to prepare to write a sitcom episode, then guides you step by step (and his seven step approach closely mirrors my seven step approach to feature writing) as you write and rewrite your spec script. His examples are helpful and really quite amusing, and his style is lean and to the point. He knows what he's doing.
But there's more to sitcom writing than writing. Sheldon takes you into right into the writers room with practical advice that I wish I'd had before I got my first staff job. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Sheldon makes it easy to fit in from the first day.
I'm adopting this book for both my undergraduate and graduate classes. I highly recommend you read this book before you write your first spec sitcom, and, if you've already written one, read this before you submit it anywhere. You'll be glad you did.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop With The Peanuts! Start With The Elephant Bucks! Dec 15 2008
By Ramsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I remember when I first met Sheldon Bull. There was an all day symposium on writing from UCLA extension and he was on the panel devoted to comedy writing. All four gentlemen made me laugh so hard that I instantly vowed to take a class with each and every one of them.

Fortunately Sheldon wants to save people some money and has written a book on Sitcom Writing and Lifestyle titled "Elephant Bucks". Sheldon has written for MASH and produced such shows as Coach and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, then started writing this book after teaching seminars at colleges about sitcom writing. His writing style is very straightforward with tinges of optimism, which is awfully like the experience of meeting Sheldon in person, hard nosed and heartfelt.

His candor really washes over well when he discusses his views on how to break into the field of sitcom writing, and what a person needs to do to ensure a career in such a competitive field. He wants to be responsible for winners and takes great care in choosing what to say. Topics like: How do you break in? How do you stay in? When should you think about becoming a producer? How do you handle the competition and insecure egos? What are shows looking for in a staff writer? What will a pitch meeting and first Outline / Script meeting consist of? How should you react? What is an agent's job? What is the schedule and atmosphere like? What take out foods should I avoid? Sheldon takes the time to give the reader a firm grasp of what they are in for should they decide to pick up the gauntlet.

The other parts of the book are devoted to the stereotypical (a.k.a mandated) formula for a sitcom screenplay. Sheldon goes step by step through the process from outline to second draft by creating a fictional Spec script for the show Frasier. While some might consider this a little constrictive, there are some hints to pick up if you don't take the process literally. I learned some tips about outlining a script which showed me a more narrative approach to scriptwriting and how character's attitudes can punch up a slogging script.

After reading Elephant Bucks I gained a new and stronger appreciation for what goes into making a sitcom. Knowing myself, I probably won't go into television writing, I don't have the ware withal to write all those different spec scripts. And I believe that is the best way to break into the business because it proves you aren't a one hit wonder and that you have the discipline to create this kind of life for yourself. One of the things that kind of annoy me about the age we are living now is that a lot of artistic projects are getting green lighted for their novelty. Innovation is necessary, but first someone has to have the necessary experience to see the void and deal with it appropriately. Otherwise its just schlock. Well, this read was enjoyable, and the search for meaning breathes on for another day.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful. Helpful. Inspiring! June 28 2010
By Brad Oldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A friend of mine who wrote for a network late night show recommended this book to me, as he was put onto it by a friend who was currently on the writing staff of a sitcom. I think referrals don't get much stronger than that. I picked it up and read it in a day and find it to be a very honest, clear blueprint on how to write sitcoms. It is definitely the most clear and gimmick free book I have read, and Mr. Bull manages to not only give you insights into structure, but also what a job on staff is like and how to deal with all things hollywood. This is a must buy for anyone who wants to do this for a living or just wants to write better and funnier.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book About How To Make The Big (Elephant) Bucks April 20 2010
By Bob Fraser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First a disclaimer, Sheldon Bull and I have worked together and we're friends. But that aside, if you want to find out how the TV business works, this is the book you must have in your library. Sheldon has a way of delivering the crucial information you must have to be successful as a writer/producer/director ... and he does it in a personable and often hilarious way. This is not a book about 'theories,' it's a book about experience, facts, and how to protect yourself at all times - because just like boxing, the television business can result in getting knocked around a bit. Do yourself a big favor: If you have any thought of pursuing a career in TV, get Sheldon's 'guide book' and you'll never get lost in the bushes.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST INTRODUCTION TO WRITING FOR SITCOMS April 30 2010
By David Love - Published on Amazon.com
I was fortunate enough to be a student of Mr. Sheldon Bull. His no-nonsense, realistic approach to the nature of the entertainment industry may not be for everyone, but if you are serious about becoming a television writer and not looking for some magical short cut to success and fame, I can not recommend this book enough. I admit that I was at first skeptical of Sheldon's "seven plot elements." The technique seemed so simplistic and formulaic. But once I started watching my favorite sitcoms with a critical eye I discovered that everything from "I Love Lucy" to "Everybody Loves Raymond" to "30 Rock," follows this exact formula to a T. Sheldon's techniques, lessons and insights, have helped take me from never having written a television script in my life, to having three specs, a pilot, a major contest win, a manager and an agent, all within a year and a half! Of course Sheldon would be the first to say there is no magic bullet for success in Hollywood. There are no talent scouts looking to discover up and coming writers. But this book provides new and experienced writers alike with the knowledge needed to be ready when your opportunity strikes.
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