Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie 75

R.I.P. Joan
by Leesa Dean

joan_riversI’ve been working towards a deadline and it’s been nuts (pulling 12-15 hour days) so this week will be short.  I was going to postpone but instead decided to write a few words about Joan Rivers, who, unless you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t hear, recently died.

I don’t think there’s a female comedian today who’s not indebted to her.  And while I’m not a stand-up, I do write comedy and her influence and the kind of material she did had a huge impact on me. The political incorrectness. The great snappy one-liners. The I give zero f*cks of it all. When she was on, as Chris Rock said, nobody could follow her.

I think the moment I really started paying attention was when she began doing red carpet (which, I guess, is a reflection of my age.)

I was watching E! during Oscars coverage and there was Joan, describing some actress who had just walked by saying, “Just a girl with a dream. She slept her way to the middle.”  It was such an outrageous thing to say on live tv, at the Oscars red carpet no less, that once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I knew one thing: I was in!

She’s gotten a lot of flack about her no holds barred skewering of celebs, saying how mean-spirited she was. While I never knew her I did get a chance to observe her in person once.

Many years ago, I volunteered at God’s Love We Deliver, an org that brings hot meals to homebound people with, primarily, AIDS.  It was not an easy thing to do.  A lot of places we’d go were shelters and SROs (Single Room Occupancy dumps), seeing people living out the ends of their lives alone, in decrepit despair and squaller.

I went, as a lot of volunteers did, on the holidays–Thanksgiving and Christmas–and this particular year who did I see waiting in line with the rest of the volunteers, picking up a bag of food, rocking a fur coat, but Joan Rivers.  There was no press.  No publicists.  Just her and a friend, waiting in line with the rest of us.  Helping.  I even made o point of looking at the tabloids the next day and there was nothing about it.

This was during one of the low points in her career. Right before she got Fashion Police. And, frankly, she could have used the press.  It’s kind of standard for celebrities to volunteer and use it as a photo op and an opportunity to show how great they are.

It was such a class act and spoke volumes about the type of person she was.  So when, even post mortem, I hear people say what an unfeeling person she was (for, basically, telling jokes whose punchlines were a little too politically incorrect for them to handle), I say, quoting her, “Oh, grow up!”

Peer Production: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

This one hits the bullseye. About showbiz. The human  condition. And as an example of the art of indie animated film making:

by Steve Cutts

Animation created in After Effects, Flash, Photoshop and a bit of CrazyTalk pro 7. All voices created by Steve Cutts.

Music by Kevin MacLeod

Viacom Agrees To Breakthrough Deal To Provide Channels To Sony’s Online Pay TV Service

Another death blow to the trad TV paradigm. How long can the mortally injured giant keep tottering before it falls? (Oh, c’mon, you don’t really hate that metaphor, do you? Do you?) Give a big hello to Internet Pay TV!

sony_logogridby David Lieberman

This is a big advance for Sony’s plan to offer pay TV channels via the Internet by the end of this year, which it announced in January. Viacom’s agreement to offer its 22 channels outside of cable and satellite is its “first-ever agreement to provide its networks for an Internet-based live TV and video on demand service,” it says this morning. In addition to popular services including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon — all in HD — Sony will be able to offer customers access to Viacom’s TV Everywhere websites and apps as well as its full VOD package. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms, although I suspect Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman will face some questions about this later today when he appears at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in NYC.

“Viacom always strives to create transformational opportunities that combine consumer value and technological innovation,” Dauman says. “Given our young, tech-savvy audiences, our networks are essential for any new distribution platform, and we’re excited to be among the many programmers that will help power Sony’s new service and advance a new era for television.”

Read it all

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 9/16/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Mike Lisbe & Nate Reger (HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN) have sold THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, a comedy in the tradition of FRIENDS, to NBC. (So if you always wanted to write for FRIENDS, it’s time now to dust off your old specs and your kneepads to prostrate yourself before the NBC powers that be. I know that I am cuz it’s about time el munchero sold out, don’tcha think?)
  • John Glenn (EAGLE EYE) is developing an NBC drama series called THE POSSESSION OF MAGGIE GILL about, you know, weird shit involving a teenage girl not unlike the one we all remember so fondly from THE EXORCIST. (Hands in the air now. Who thinks this will go to a shot pilot? Who thinks this will make the schedule? Who thinks it’ll last longer than 6 episodes? If you raised your hand for any of the above, I’ve got a bet to make with you cuz gambling is better, ethically, than selling out, don’tcha know?)
  • Greg Mottola (who may or may not be related to Tommy cuz how many Mottolas do you think there are running around LA?) is adapting Conn & Hal Iggulden‘s comic guidebook THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS for a comedy at, yet again, NBC. (I’d love to have a snark or two about this project, but since I’ve never heard of anybody involved, nor the source material, all I can do is put my head in my hands and mumble, “Why? Why? Why?” Which means that I’d love to hear from anybody who knows more about this project than yer friendly neighborhood, oh, you know.)
  • Ted Gold is the new dude in charge of scripted series programming over at Spike. (And although I don’t know him, I’m going to google up on the guy and then give his office and say I do. A little creative mutual history can go a long way in this town. Who else is up for playing this game?)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

Peggy Bechko: 4 Great Tips on Writing to the Magic

 Peggy Bechko Magicby Peggy Bechko

Writers, at least fiction writers, pretty much live in a world of make-believe. We live in worlds of our own creation and in that living attempt to make those worlds real to everyone else; readers, listeners, watchers.

But it’s not as simple as sitting around spinning tales. Don’t we wish. There’s a whole lot that goes into writing a story and one aspect of that is research. No you can’t skip it.

Getting facts straight brings believability. If your setting is in the 1920’s Chicago you better know what you’re talking about to get the mood set and not flush readers and watchers right out of their ‘suspension of disbelief’ mode. Yes that goes for Sci Fi and Fantasy as well – get some facts in there that will make your ‘way out of our experience’ world more real. If you trim unreality with reality you bring belief and immersion.

And research doesn’t stop with just the story. A good writer knows his or her genre or field. Study it. If you write scripts read a lot of them; some of the classics and lots of the current crop. Study what everyone is doing, find the clichés and then find ways to stand them on their heads. Dig deep, reach for originality, Do something no one else has done.

Yes, it sounds easier than it is, but that’s your goal. Doesn’t matter what genre you work in, scifi/fantasy, drama, romance, adventure, comedy or a new one of your own creation – read a lot, know what’s out there, know the style, then find that opportunity and create something transformational.

And that’s where the magic comes in. Yep, magic is what it’s all about for writers. Play with your story when you’re on that fifth revision and can’t quite figure out why it isn’t all coming together the way you intended. That story that has become like an albatross since it’s inception will suddenly take wing if you find the magic and pull your head out of the rewrite doldrums.

When you’re tired, and tired of the story, wondering why you ever wanted to write it in the first place take that break and let your brain have a play day. Whip out the old ‘what if’ question and throw in some doozies. Look for the magic and you’ll find it.

You’ll also find the conflict. Hey, as writers we’ve long ago learned the lesson. If you have no conflict your story dies. There is, after all no story with no conflict. Play with your characters when you’re looking for that magic. What is it those newly created people in your newly created world want the most? What are their obstacles?

Don’t be nice to your people. Hit them over the head with it and make them squirm. The more the better. The more the people in your novel appear to be on the losing end the better the tension. The more the people in your script seem doomed – right up until the final scene, the more you’ll have an audience on the edge of their seats.

So turn the demons loose. They’ll reveal the art your protagonist must take through your story. They’ll lead the way and you’ll create a great story.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.


LB: R.I.P. Theodore J. Flicker, Provocateur Creator of BARNEY MILLER

Ted Flicker Capture

Ted Flicker, known primarily as the creator of the classic ’70s TV series BARNEY MILLER and the writer-director of the cult classic comedy film from the same era, THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST, died a couple of nights ago at his home in Santa Fe.

Ted’s credits are amazing. Well, not just amazing but, to me, amazingly cool. In addition to the brilliantly understated and wise – oh so wise – BARNEY MILLER and the insanely paranoid THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST (which wasn’t but definitely should have been a Kurt Vonnegut novel), Ted was a member of the Compass Players improv group that also gave us Elaine May, wrote and directed the first Broadway musical about the Beat Generation, The Nervous Set, played none other than Buffalo Bill Cody in THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, and wrote and directed episodes of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E and even a show I worked on as Executive Story Consultant, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.

Was Ted’s episode of STREETS funny? I don’t remember. But even if Ted’s satiric insight didn’t make it all the way to the Final Draft, I know he snuck at least half a dozen cliche-destroying zingers past us in the first act of the First Draft alone.

Actually, I didn’t meet Ted until 1991, when I retired from showbiz for the first time and made Santa Fe my hidey-hole. (Yeah, I reconsidered that exit a few years later because…well, hell, if there’s one thing sticking to your principles is good for it’s leaving you broke.) When a mutual friend introduced us, he’d already been living there for a few years, nursing wounds inflicted by a long and arduous lawsuit against his former BARNEY MILLER partner. Out of respect for Ted, I’m not mentioning the guy’s name here, but if you’re curious it shouldn’t be heard to google it.

How arduous was it? Here’s what The Amazing Flickman had to say the first time we talked:

I was fired from my own show by a guy who kept claiming it was his, and who was such a persuasively devious son of a bitch that he had the network believing him – even though everybody there had worked with me on the script and knew damn well that it was mine. Any love I ever had for my fellow man was destroyed by that bastard’s betrayal of me. A betrayal that was both creative and financial.

And the lawsuit, God, it was ugly. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t sue him next time. I’d just kill him and plead insanity. Any time I’d serve after that would be nothing compared to what I went through in civil court.

And that was the first time. You can imagine where he took it from there over the years.

Ted and I stayed in touch after I left the Southwest, and while he was a brilliant analyst of politics and art, his feelings about the inhumanity inherent in showbiz never mellowed. In fact, over the years they got stronger. In the 1990s, when I started this website (then calling it “The TV Writer Home Page”), I asked him if he’d like to be involved in any way. As a teacher, maybe, or a father figure/mentor to new writers. “Are you crazy?” he said. “Why would I want to help anybody else feel as bad as I have?”

I enjoyed Ted’s conversational brilliance, the way he could untie the faulty logic in anyone’s argument, including his own, but I always felt that his creative insight was something new and experienced writers alike could use more of, so in 2003 or so, I again tried to recruit him. This time, his emailed refusal was even angrier: “I’m fully engaged in living real life now, and am there for you whenever you need me. But I have no interest whatsoever in talking about anything that has to do with the entertainment industry. Or in listening to it. If you want to discuss television, then we’re through.”

So we didn’t talk about television. Or about writing. Ted had MS, and by the 2000s he spent much of his time in a wheelchair. He also had taken up painting and sculpting, though, and he didn’t let his illness stop him. When we exchanged e-mails, he wrote about sculpting with more fire than I’d ever heard/read from any other artist, literary or visual. The quote in the pic at the beginning of this post is, in fact, the mildest expression of his feelings on the subject I know of. (Another great, BARNEY MILLER-esque understatement, perhaps?)

That image, BTW, comes from his website, tedflicker.com. I didn’t know the site existed until this morning and couldn’t wait to get to it and see his work. Sadly, tedflicker.com is unfinished. The links from it don’t work, so all that’s available is a front page. But you can see several of his strong, visceral pieces HERE. They’re filled with all the strength he demonstrated throughout his life and career.

I wish I’d stayed in closer contact with Ted, and I’m greatly saddened by his death, which isn’t a feeling I have all that often. But I mean what I said on my Facebook page:

“Hope you enjoy your new surroundings, Ted. Showbiz, it ain’t, and I know that to you that’s paradise!”