TVWriter™ Alum Danny Thomsen Gets Some Well-Earned Glory

That’s Mr. Thomsen in the middle, flanked by director Marcos Siega and actor Josh Bowman on the set.

Writer and Executive Producer of the recent ABC pilot based on the s-f classic novel and film Time After Time, Danny Thomsen’s  career has been a source of great joy for Our Beloved Leader, LB, and many other long-time TVWriter™ers.

If memory serves (and we can’t promise that it does) Danny started his writing career in one of LB’s Online Workshops, continued with a TVWriter™ Spec Scriptacular Semi-Finalist finish, and then shifted into high gear after he graduated from college and made the move from his East Coast home to L.A. (and LB’s guest room for awhile, or so we hear.)

TVWriter™ minions have long wanted to do a feature on Mr. Thomsen and his enviable career, but when we finally had the chance to go for it a couple of months ago, lo and behold, it turned out that a site called Syracuse.Com had beaten us to it.

The Syracuse.Com article is about as complete as you can get it, so, lazy larcenous bastards that we are, the only thing further that we’re going to write ourselves is…Here it is!

TV writer from Syracuse explains Hollywood’s obsession with reboots, remakes
by Geoff Herbert

Why are there so many movie remakes and reboots, television sequels and prequels, or spinoffs and revivals? A TV writer from Central New York not only has the answer — he’s been a part of many shows that are familiar to audiences even before they air.

Daniel T. Thomsen co-wrote an episode of HBO’s epic sci-fi series, “Westworld,” worked on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” The CW’s “Melrose Place” reboot and ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” which reimagines classic Disney fairytale characters in a live-action drama. He’s also writing and co-executive producing the upcoming “Time After Time,” based on the novel and film about author H.G. Wells going on a time travel adventure to try and catch Jack the Ripper.

Every single one of those has been “done” before, so to speak. But that’s not new, either.

Hollywood has always been obsessed with adapting well-known titles for new audiences, from 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” (based on Chittenango native L. Frank Baum’s books) and Al Pacino’s “Scarface” (a remake of a 1932 film of the same name) to Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” (see China’s 2002 film “Infernal Affairs”) and 1999’s “Cruel Intentions” (1988’s “Dangerous Liaisons” and the French novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”).

Now, Disney is doing live-action adaptations of animated classics (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book”) and Universal is rebooting all of its iconic monsters (starting with Syracuse native Tom Cruise in “The Mummy” next summer), while TV has turned to revivals (“Fuller House,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The X-Files,” “Twin Peaks”) and adaptations of movies (“Limitless,” “Shooter,” “Minority Report,” “Scream”).

“I think the reason is because every studio’s trying to financially help shows out so it’s just safer to invest in a new piece of programming that people are already familiar with,” Thomsen tells syracuse.com. “When you’re going out to pitch ideas, studios are willing to hear original ideas but they’ll also have a book or comic book that they’re looking for a writer that’s interested in writing it because they know people are interested in it and see it again.”

“It can be a good thing because if you know some audience is going to tune in and probably like it because they’ll see characters they haven’t seen in a while in different versions,” he continued. “As a storyteller, you can use that goodwill to tell a more ambitious story, I think. Sometimes if you have a brand-new character or story, you have to spend a lot of time explaining who they are…”

But Thomsen still loves seeing “wildly original” shows like “Breaking Bad” and FX’s new Donald Glover series “Atlanta.” He once sold his own pitch for a TV series about how lobotomies were used as mental healthcare in the 1930s — “a world that was not too long ago but so scary” — but it has yet to see the light of day.

“As someone who writes for a living and tries to come up with new stuff, I’m always interested in falling in love with something unexpectedly. ‘Breaking Bad,’ where all I knew about that going into it was it had the dad from ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and the dentist from ‘Seinfeld’ — I did not know what to expect and I was completely blown away by the storytelling and this world that, you know, is technically a real world but just felt like a different planet and this epic story. I love that.”

“Something like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Mad Men’ – these are all shows that in the first season had very minimal viewership that required the studio to believe in it even if it wasn’t going to be a financial winner. And then people tell each other, ‘hey did you watch?’ and then it becomes a good business decision.”

Thomsen, 36, was born in Syracuse, where his parents went to Syracuse University together, but grew up all around Upstate New York. His father Fred Thomsen’s job as a school superintendent took the family to Geneva and Tonawonda before settling back in CNY, where Daniel attended Fabius-Pompey School District from grades 3-6 and Christian Brothers Academy for high school.

After graduating from CBA in 1998, Thomsen went to Babson College’s business school in hopes of joining the early dotcom startup craze.

“I really thought I wanted to work in that field, computers and all that,” he recalled. “But when I graduated the bubble had completely burst… The only silver lining to that is this was the perfect opportunity to try something else.”

Thomsen loved writing, so he headed to Los Angeles and tried out apprenticeship-style work as an assistant. He eventually landed his first job writing for “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” starring future “Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey as Sarah and Summer Glau (“Firefly”) as the cyborg set back in time to protect her son, John.

“That was fun, that was my dream. ‘T2,’ growing up, was one of my favorite movies,” he said.

The series was nominated for four Emmys but canceled after two seasons due to low ratings. Thomsen relied on writing spec scripts — unpaid work — to land more gigs, including co-writing three episodes for “Melrose Place” before landing at “Once Upon a Time.”

“There was always that anxiety that your show could end at any moment” on “Sarah Connor,” he recalled, but “Once Upon a Time” was a hit right off the bat in late 2011. He picked up writing credits on six episodes and producer credits for two seasons, but success brought a new set of challenges.

“You can’t have a bad week – there are no excuses. You have to come up with new episodes and you want them to be good. It’s really disciplined and dedication,” Thomsen said. “I was really proud of that show, especially that first season arc [on ‘Once Upon a Time’] — it’s really hard to do over 22 episodes.”

Even a show like Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s “Westworld,” with HBO’s reported budget of $100 million, had issues. The remake of the 1973 film based on Michael Crichton’s book underwent numerous delays and reshoots, to nail down the futuristic, western-themed amusement park where visitors indulge on nefarious desires with robotic hosts. But with a cast like Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton and Anthony Hopkins, plus backing from executive producer J.J. Abrams, HBO wasn’t afraid to bet big.

Thomsen, who co-wrote the third episode, said he was attracted to the project early on because the movie was a “futurist’s dream,” but had a simple storyline.

“I thought there was a way to tell the story that was surprising and emotional in a way that people haven’t considered before,” he told syracuse.com. “For me, in the pilot, the scene that was a gut punch was when Dolores (Wood) gets a new dad at the end. There’s something incredibly tragic about it that really spoke to me…”

“Westworld” has already been renewed for a second season and is reportedlyaveraging nearly 12 million viewers across all platforms — more than “Game of Thrones” in its first season.

But Thomsen says he won’t be back on “Westworld” because he’s too busy with “Time After Time,” which is expected to premiere this spring on ABC.

Freddie Stroma (“UnReal,” “Harry Potter”) will star as science fiction author H.G. Wells, traveling through time to chase famed serial killer Jack the Ripper, played by “Revenge” actor Josh Bowman. Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries,” “Dawson’s Creek”) uses the 1979 movie that starred Malcolm McDowell as inspiration, sending Wells to present day New York City and adding Genesis Rodriguez (“Identity Thief”) to help him.

Every show needs something to help it stand out, especially in the era of peak TVwith more than 500 scripted series this year alone. AMC is looking for the next “The Walking Dead” and HBO needs the next “Game of Thrones” — both based on books with a built-in fanbase — and viewing habits have changed thanks to streaming and binge-watching.

“You have to be noisier and make a bigger splash,” Thomsen said.

Will “Time After Time” make enough noise to be Thomsen’s next hit this spring? Stay tuned.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can find the original version of this post, with more images and tons of comments, HERE

Best Puppet Show You’ll Ever See

The puppet series for those who hate puppets. Don’t believe us? Check this out:

See what mean?

Now are you getting it?

Two seasons of Callie & Izzy await.

See ’em HERE

And HERE

Read a very cool analysis HERE

THINGS THAT A NEW WRITER SHOULD BE DOING

N.T. Sexton, a frequent contributor to sites like Good Reads and YouTube, and an aspiring novelist who knows how to command a video or three has uploaded a series of videos called – aw, you guessed it – “Things That a New Writer Should Be Doing.”

The dude has some interesting thoughts, and an even more interesting way of communicating them, so, hey, we think it’s worth taking a look:

Check ’em out and let us know how helpful they are!

John Ostrander: “My Mysteries are Many for I am TV’s ‘Legion'”

LEGION
by John Ostrander

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

• Talking Heads, Once In a Lifetime

Okay, I’ve finally found a TV superhero show I like more than The Flash, which is saying a lot. It’s Legion, Wednesdays at 10 PM (ET) on FX, and it stars Dan Stevens in a role that’s world’s away from his stint on Downton Abbey. He plays David Haller, a man who may be the world’s strongest telepath and, because of his schizophrenia – their diagnosis, not mine – perhaps the most dangerous.

The show is from 20th Century Fox in association with Marvel TV and is the first to link with the X-Men movie franchise which, for contractual and bureaucratic reasons, is separate from the Mighty Marvel Movie Franchise over at Disney. It’s not only unlike any other superhero TV show out there. In fact, it’s different from any other TV show, period.

What makes Legion so different is the use of the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. That concept means the reader/viewer cannot trust the facts of the story as presented. The device is most commonly used in fiction with a first person narrator, but it can be used in film and television and it’s being used very effectively here in two ways.

The show’s creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley (who also wrote and directed the first episode), wants the show to be told from Haller’s perspective. The story is about him, but since he can’t trust his own memories neither can we. His perception of reality around him may be off as well. David is an unreliable narrator.

At the same time, Hawley skews the design elements so that they match Haller’s mindset and are disorientating to us. His way of presenting David’s life cannot be wholly trusted either. Hawley is also an unreliable narrator.

There’s a key moment in the first episode when David’s being held at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital (which itself seems to be a nod to A Clockwork Orange) where he is drugged, tested, questioned, evaluated. There’s a strong suggestion of a sinister governmental organization – as if there is any other kind – called Division 3 who seem ready to kill Haller.

David is eventually rescued by his sort of girlfriend named Sid and people connected with a place called Summerland run by Dr. Melanie Bird. There’s running and people shooting at them but, in the middle of the escape, David stops and begs of Sid, “Is all this really happening? Are you real?” She reassures them that it is happening, she is real, and they must run.

Those questions, for me, are the center of the episode and maybe of the series. Is this real? Is this happening? Can David trust it? Can we?

In the second episode, David – now safely (?) at Summerland, is being helped by Dr. Bird and her associates. Dr. Bird insists that David is not crazy; the voices he hears are part of his telepathic powers manifesting and always have been. One of her associates helps guides David through buried or forgotten memories but, again, we’re not certain how reliable those memories are and neither is he.

As I’ve been thinking about the show, I’m now questioning even what I think I know. What if Summerland is not the beneficial place we’ve been told it is? What if kindly Dr. Bird is not all that kindly and the evil Division 3 folks are really the good guys? What if David Haller himself is not a “hero” but more of an anti-hero or even an outright villain? He’s is the Legion of the title and I’m put in mind of the gospels of Mark and Luke where Jesus meets a man possessed of demons who says “My name is Legion for we are many.” David has a lot of voices inside him.

If you know my work, you can see why I’m fascinated by the show. It may not be for everyone; you may prefer your heroes and villains a little more clearly identified. Me, I’m fascinated by it. I like murky.

The character of Legion was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in Marvel’s The New Mutants #25 where he was the son of Charles Xavier, Professor X of the X-Men. The TV show doesn’t precisely follow the comics’ continuity but I think it’s very true to the concept, re-interpreting it for this day and age. I’m fine with that.

The show demands attention and some thought. I hope that it has some answers for the questions it poses, unlike such shows as Twin Peaks and The X-Files). Right now, I’ve settled in for the ride.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.


John Ostrander quite simply is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared.

Prominent fortune cookie writer retiring due to writer’s block

Not a Wonton Food Inc fortune cookie, just a sort of clever facsimile

by TVWriter™ Press Service

Word has it that the United States’ pre-eminent fortune cookie writer has retired, and it’s all because of a case of writer’s block.

According to Channel 25, the ABC network affiliate in Waco, TX:

Donald Lau has worked at Wonton Food Inc. for 30 years as both a fortune writer and chief financial officer.  But he’s retiring from at least one of his roles after a linguistic dry spell.

“I have writer’s block. I used to write 100 a year, but I’ve only written two or three a month over the past year,” Lau told Time.

But hungry diners across the country need words of affirmation, life-guiding wisdom and the occasional lotto number sequence.

So, Lau wrote himself out of the job by training a replacement. James Wong, 43, is now chief fortune writer for the company.

“I passed the pen to him,” he said. “It’s his responsibility now.”

The Channel 25 article goes on to let us know that the good news for Lau and his family is that the blocked writer is holding onto his CFO gig and will continue overseeing the production of a staggering – to us anyway because what do we know? – 4 and a half million fortune cookies a day.

That’s it, kids. Let this be a lesson in The Vulnerability of Writers – All Writers.

God, we hope this story is true!

Learn more at KXXV

Diana Vacc sees ‘Fifty Shades Darker’

Not sure about this pic. Maybe it’s Ms. Vacc holding on the gun this film?

by Diana Vaccarelli

No spoilers here because it’s already spoiled!

On February 10, 2017  Universal Pictures released the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, the not-so-cleverly-titled Fifty Shades Darker.  This film follows the continued relationship of Anna Steele and Christian Grey and their constant struggles to be completely honest with one another and how sex drives their relationship.      

THE GOOD:

  • After the battles behind the scenes of Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel were not asked to return for the sequel.  Instead the writing went to novelist and writer of the Fifty Shades trilogy E.L James’ husband Niall Leonard.  Leonard has written several television series and films such as Horatio Hornblower.  I mention this because this change from the first film to the sequel was a great success.  Leonard has shown that the characters have a relationship outside of intimacy. Better yet if you’re into this sort of thing, he also gives us some very real-seeming B &D. 
  • Director James Foley of House of Cards and Billions, brings the book more to life then Taylor Johnson did.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much Fifty Shades Darker film followed the book. Looks like sometimes it pays to leave control of a property in the hands of the creator.
  • The music continues in this franchise to be excellent.  It shows Christian Grey’s inner darkness and how his emotions change when he is around Anna.

THE BAD:

  • The main issue I continue to have with this series of films is the casting of Anna Steele. Dakota Johnson is, in a word,  drippy and doesn’t give the character one single ounce of personality.  On top of that, she speaks in the kind of monotone that would make anybody want to tie her up, preferably in another room…or city…or country.
  • It’s based on one of the most justifiably reviled novels of this century, which means that no matter how well made this film may be it still may make your skin crawl.

THE REST:

  • If you’re a fan of the books you will definitely appreciate the changes from the first film to the sequel.  If you’re a fan of films that have great music this film might make you smile…but a copy of the soundtrack would be a better choice. For my part, I give Fifty Shades Darker an overall two stars out of five, but my friends have always said that I’m generous to a fault.

    Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and one of the best people we know. Find out more about her HERE

 

Pixar Tells Us All We’ll Ever Need to Become Animation Mayvens

The greatest and most educating series on film and video-making evah!

There’s whole lots more where this sweet and salty goodness comes from. Find out more HERE