“Good writers are hard to find”

So sayeth the television industry. No, not the U.S. industry but worldwide. Everybody in power says they’re looking for good writers but just can’t find them. Over here at TVWriter™ we think it’s all about definitions, as in “What are those so eagerly seeking “good writers” really looking for?

Sparing no expense, we’ve scoured the globe for more info on this situation. Here’s what we think is the most interesting take, direct from…Mumbai:

film-tv-production-manager-job-in-mumbai-123962457-1402411456by Ritwika Gupta

MUMBAI: The heartbeat of any television programme lies in its story and content. Developing good content through various ideas and imagination is a significant priority for television channels and producers. Story-telling, as they say, is an art and the small screen is constantly looking for compelling scripts that tell stories which entertain, engage and enrich the audience. Over the past few years, the Indian television industry has been exploring new formats and series of programmes in order to give the viewers an excellent TV viewing experience.

Television director and creator of the unique chat show Satyamev Jayate, Satyajit Bhatkal says, “To be honest, we did not have any preconceived model for content creation or the kind of show we hoped to do. We made 6-7 documentaries on real life people and we realised that there was so much happening in the country. The common man faces so many problems and we needed to address these serious issues and give a 360 degree look to the matter.”

However, except for a few who are willing to take up the challenge of creating something new, many are still stuck with the tried and tested.  According to Bhatkal, television, today, is way too cautious.  He elaborates, “It is a challenge that we have to cater to people of various education levels and social backgrounds. However, I feel we are not willing to move to a different level of aesthetics.”

Director of many popular television series like Amanat, Kyunki Saans bhi kabhi bahu thi, and the current hit show Jodha Akbar, Santram Verma believes that there is a division amongst the audiences today as while some of the viewers want to watch fresh content, the older generation wants to stick to the same stories that were showcased years back. As a result, he feels that it is hard for the industry to evolve.

Read it all

 

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/23/14

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

  • David Arata (CHILDREN OF MEN) is adapting yet another comic book into a TV series. This one’s called FROM HELL and is going to FX. (Yeppers, comic book nerds, the print version of FROM HELL was written by Alan Moore. Anybody know if he signed off on this? If they’ll be using his name? Yer pal munchikins really wants to know.)
  • Jeff Eastin (WHITE COLLAR) has renewed his overall writing and producing deal with Fox TV. (So we can expect more mediocrity to land on our teeny little cellphone screens. Ain’t showbiz grand?)
  • Bill Martin & Mike Schiff (GROUNDED FOR LIFE) are the new showrunners of TV Land comedy THE SOUL MAN. (Showbiz and TVWriter™ vets know the drill: If you know these guys, call ‘em, take ‘em to lunch. Pitch your heart out so your agent can jump for joy and tell you how he got you staffed!)
  • Clifton Campbell (THE GLADES) is writing an ABC drama pilot based on a series of books by Ingrid Thoft who basically sound like refugees from a Shonda Rimes show. (Which ain’t bad, really, if, like a certain muncher, you like to get stoned and watch primetime soaps.)

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….)

Humanitas Prize Finalists Announced

From the lips of the Humanitas Foundation to, um, God’s ears? (Well, ours anyway.)

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by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

40 years ago, the Humanitas Prize was created to honor television and film writers “whose work explores the human experience in a way that both entertains and enlightens.” A worthy goal if ever there was one. This year, 31 writers, including some genuine Big Names, are finalists in eight interesting – and quite specialized – categories for the 40th annual Humanitas Prize. These writers are competing $90,000 in prize money to be handed out at the annual luncheon January 16 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Wow, that’s even better than the Spec Scriptacular!

Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s nominees:

Feature Film
12 Years A Slave
Written by: John Ridley

Belle
Written by: Misan Sagay

Nebraska
Written by: Bob Nelson

Sundance Feature Film
Camp X-Ray
Written by: Peter Sattler

Hellion
Written by: Kat Candler

Love Is Strange
Written by: Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias

Whiplash
Written by: Damien Chazelle

Documentary Category
Finding Vivian Maier
Directed by: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel

Merchants Of Doubt
Directed by: Robert Kenner

The Case Against 8
Written by: Ben Cotner & Ryan White

90 Minute TV
Mary And Martha
Written by: Richard Curtis (HBO)

Ring Of Fire
Written by: Richard Friedenberg (Lifetime)

The Normal Heart
Written by: Larry Kramer (HBO)

60 Minute TV
Homeland “The Star”
Written by: Alex Gansa & Meredith Stiehm (Showtime)

Parenthood “The Pontiac”
Written by: Jason Katims (NBC)

The Killing “Six Minutes”
Written by: Veena Sud (AMC)

True Detective “Form and Void”
Written by: Nic Pizzolatto (HBO)

30 Minute TV
How I Met Your Mother “Last Forever, Part 2”
Written by: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas (CBS)

Modern Family “Under Pressure”
Written by: Elaine Ko (ABC)

The Middle “Happy Halloween IV: The Ghost Story”
Written by: Roy Brown (ABC)

David & Lynn Angell Comedy Fellowship
Nora Sullivan, USC
Han-Yee Ling, UCLA
Jessica Blaire, UCLA

Drama Fellowship
Emily Brochin, USC
Kendell Klein, AFI
Mike MacGillivray, LMU

Good luck, everybody!

Are TV Showrunners Paying Too Much Attention to Fans – or Too Little?

Well, well, lookee here, kids. The interwebs, which we’ve always seen as empowering fans, may in fact be taking away their power instead. Seems that all this fan attention has turned showrunners into diva-like creative gods. Personally, we don’t see anything wrong with writer-auteurs…but we may be a little biased:

house of cards

TV Writers and Showrunners Increasingly ‘Mute’ the Fans
by Drew Grant

Back in the day, television writers would get feedback about their shows in one of two ways: from the occasional review in a publication, or from the ratings. Then around the late ’90s, shows like The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ushered in an era of fandom; viewers were empowered by the Internet and its burgeoning fandom communities. Note that the people who were early adopters to message boards and listservs had a certain bias in what they favored: geeky, cerebral shows that rewarded vigilant, and recurring, viewings. Think Twin Peaks. Think, later, and for another generation,Lost. Think what we’ve come to understand as the (new) Golden Age of Television, co-created equally by its writers and its most passionate fans.

Today, the Internet is full of such super-fans, and sites like Tumblr make it easy to share fan art and fiction about favorite characters. You can’t go a day on a blogging platform without seeing a short loop of images from Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural or Hannibal, if not all of them. Dozens of newspapers and websites, including this one, publish recaps that dissect the previous evening’s best programs. But do these fandom communities actually translate into better ratings? And how much do the creators of these shows take their fans, and what they want so vocally, into account?

The surprising answer: Not much. While television viewers have never had an easier time banding together and voicing their opinions on the programs they love, TV writers and showrunners say sweeping changes in the way that television is being delivered are actually drowning out those voices. For good or ill, keep typing—but nobody may be listening.

Surprisingly, new formats and new ways of delivering story are actually taking power out of fans’ hands. House of Cards issues an entire season all at once, on Netflix; when viewers see the first episode, the last is already finished. “Usually by the time we launch a season, I’ve already poured over these episodes dozens and dozens of times,” said Beau Willimon, showrunner for House of Cards. Though he frequently engages with fans online on social media, he said he rarely reads the increasingly ubiquitous recaps. “One thing I definitely don’t do is look to connect to any social media or articles or commentary in a prescriptive way as in, ‘We should add X.’ That has to be a discovery, and to approach it in any other way is pandering or schematic. We have to do exactly the opposite of what the audience is expecting.”

Since House of Cards is a long-format show not beholden to pressures from advertisers, Mr. Willimon may be speaking from a uniquely privileged position; one that bears more resemblance to the film industry than to the traditionally populist medium of television. TV—or whatever you want to call it—is no longer the bastard cousin of cinema. Series creators and showrunners are now their own form of auteurs, spoken about reverentially in hushed tones once reserved for Coppola and Von Trier. And auteurs don’t write by group consensus.

Read it all

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 11/21/14

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Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts during the past week:

LB: Glen A. Larson Prolific TV Series Creator RIP

Peggy Bechko: Pop! Goes the Writing

The Horrible Bosses of Hollywood

Peggy Bechko: The Wounds Our Characters Carry

Cassandra Hennessey: The Meaning of “Too Many Cooks”…?

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR

The Teleplay

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR: Enter

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

Big thanks to everyone for making this such a great week, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

JOHN OSTRANDER: BELIEF SUSPENDED

by John Ostrander

There’s the concept in fantastic literature known as the “willing suspension of disbelief” by which the reader/audience accepts fantastic elements in a story that are not found in reality, suspension-of-disbeliefsemi-believing them for the moment for the sake of the story. If the creator is invoking it, he or she must be careful not to jar that suspension of disbelief.

It’s an important concept for those of us who labor in the fields of SF, fantasy, horror, and comics. Two things I find crucial to make the concept work – an internal consistency within the story and a consistency within the continuity. By an internal consistency I mean that something that was given as true on page five remains true on page thirty. If the character knows something they can’t suddenly un-know it just for the convenience of the plot. Likewise, if something has been established as part of the continuity, you can’t just disregard it willy-nilly. It doesn’t mean that continuity can never change but there needs to be reasons that it changes unless you’re going to do what DC does and just throw the baby out with the bathwater and start continuity over.

Something else that confounds my suspension of disbelief is when something in the story just ignores reality. I went to Independence Day and I wasn’t expecting much, just a good mindless action film. Unfortunately, there was incident after incident of things that were just patently impossible that it threw me right out of the story. To wit: Air Force One is taking off despite explosions going on all around. In fact, one explosion almost engulfs it. It comes up the tail of the plane before the aircraft manages to speed away. Never mind that the shock waves would have torn the plane apart – it was a Cool Visual.

Take an episode of Doctor Who this past season, Robots of Sherwood. Aliens are escaping Sherwood Forest on a ship that uses gold to power its furnace. A little more gold will cause the power plant to overload and explode. With the help of the Doctor and his companion, Robin Hood shoots a golden arrow at the ship that causes the ship to go boom. Never mind that the arrow would have just hit the hull and never come near the power plant. Never mind that the weight of an arrow made of gold would cause it to fly about three feet.

It’s too bad, too; I actually really enjoyed the episode up until then.

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief; after all, I was raised Roman Catholic and you’re told by the Church to believe that a wafer of bread becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ and that you are supposed to eat it. As a kid, I just accepted that. I’m open to all kinds of things.

Every time I open a book or enter a movie theater or turn on the TV, I’m willing to accept the premise as possible at least for the duration of the experience. It’s when I’m not allowed to stay in that moment because I’m jarred out of it by something stupid that violates the premises listed above that I actually get a bit pissy about it. My time has been wasted and I do not take that kindly.

My own rule of thumb is to always ground the fantasy in as much reality as I can. The more accurate and real the non-fantasy parts of the story feel, the more the reader can identify with it and the more likely it is that they will accept the fantasy elements. Earn your readers’ trust and they will follow you anywhere. I know I do.


John Ostrander is the creator-writer of the comic book character GRIMJACK and, yes, it’s true, one of LB’s favorite writers.