LB: TV Writer University July Update

by Larry Brody

Gang,

The 150th TVWriter.Com Advanced Workshop ended last week, and next week we’ll start the 151st.lbwriterbigger

As things stand, I’ve got an amazing 3 places to fill. It’s very unusual to have this many openings, so I hope that you’ll take advantage of the opportunity. (Well, I’m hoping that 3 of you will anyway.)

If you’re a former Basic or Advanced Workshopper, or a writer who knows screenplay format, plotting, and characterization, and have a project you’re working on or about to begin, give me a holler ASAP and we’ll see if we can make something wonderful happen.

Similarly, the Summer-Fall edition of the Fundamentals of TV & Film Writing Workshop is scheduled to start Tuesday, August 18th, and it’s starting to fill up. Only 2 spaces remain, so get in touch and let’s close this educational deal.

As for my Master Class, looks like I’ll be having the next one in late July or early August and there may be an opening or two. If you’re a professional level writer working on the kind of spec that you want to make you rich and famous, you definitely should be investigating this particular learning experience.

More info about the Advanced Workshop is HERE

More info about the Fundamentals Workshop is HERE

More info about the Master Class is HERE

Feel free (within limits, that is) to email me HERE

LYMI

LB

Leesa Dean Answers Your Question, “Does size matter?”

Adventures in Digital Series Land #105
Does Size Matter?
by Leesa Dean

Ah, the age-old question: Does size matter?  Maybe not, according to the IAB.  And yes, I’m talking about online content. Specifically, how long episodes should be. This is a REALLY important consideration when you’re putting together a digital series.hmo-room-sizes-does-size-really-matter

For the past few years, the going practice was to have each episode be between 2-5 minutes long. Anything longer: a death knell.  And I kinda learned that the hard way.

When I started, I had absolutely no idea how long to make my episodes so each one ended up being between about 6-8 minutes. Or longer! My thinking was, it makes sense for vlogs to be shorter, but I wanted to show off my work. I was still thinking with a tv/cable mindset vs. a YouTube one.

On YouTube you can gauge viewer retention and see where people drop off. In fact, that’s the biggest way YouTube rates your videos. Episodes that have longer retention (and yes, huge views) are more searchable on the site. But retention trumps views in the YouTube world.

It makes sense to have shorter episodes, solely to keep eyeballs on your show. And to bulid up a fanbase. I believe shorter episodes lend themselves more to being shared. For a small indie series, my first time around, I didn’t get huge drop-off but I’m convinced that if my episodes were shorter, they would have been more shareable.

And while these new statistics show that people are are willing to watch longer episodes on mobile, I still don’t think it’s a great idea.  Especially if you’re a beginner.

This week my production partner and I had a strategy session with someone at a a major network.  He reinforced the smaller is better concept for digital but even he admitted some of this stuff is very hard to predict.

Either way, for the new series, I’m making the episodes shorter than I did the first time around. They’re all less than 5 minutes.The good things come in small packages model. Aside from trying to have something be funny and engaging, I’m hoping for more shareability this time around.

Why Midseason ‘Finales’ Are Bad for TV

Another compelling case against the TV status quo, propounded by a knowledgeable and talented writer – with whom, we hasten to add – we here atTVWriter™ thoroughly agree:

the-walking-deadby Nick Cannata-Bowman

We’ve all seen it: Our favorite show finally returns after months off the air as we eagerly tune in every week. Then as quickly as it came back, it disappears for another two months, only to return again to finish out the season. Here we have the odd new-ish trend of the “midseason finale,” taking over the most popular shows on virtually every major network. For the networks themselves, it’s a slam dunk. They get to drag out their most-watched properties, and then rebuild hype for a “midseason premiere.”

It’s a strange game of cat and mouse that has these shows dangled like a carrot in front of viewers for weeks at a time. Long hiatuses are generally designed to allow more time for production, but in the end, all they do is interrupt the flow for both viewers and the show. It creates a disjointed storytelling structure that makes it hard to get into anything that resembles a creative flow. Some series and networks are more guilty than others, but it would appear as though the days of running through a season in at least semi-consecutive weeks are long since over.

No show represents this trend better than Fox’s New Girl, having gone far beyond simply airing half its episodes in the fall and the other half two months later. Its fourth season that concluded in May of this year took four breaks that lasted two or more weeks, going so far as to take a half-month hiatus after returning for only two episodes following a one-month layoff. If your head is spinning trying to make heads or tails of this, know that you’re not alone. It’s become a whirlwind adventure trying to figure out whether or not this will be a week one of our favorite shows airs.

Read it all

munchman sees MR. ROBOT

…And I love this show so much that I feel like I should disqualify myself from writing a review.

Fortunately, MR. ROBOT’s side is far from lacking adherents. In fact, I’ve only seen one review that knocked the show, and it was one that took exception not to the series but to the worldview it represented.

No, yer friendly neighborhood munchero isn’t going to reblog that review. Fuck ’em if they can’t stand the truth.

Here’s the munchman side, written not by moi but by a writer I’ve learned to respect a great deal. Mostly, I admit, because of this:

Robot1by Sandra Gonzalez

t’s not a world where you meet characters, and check in with the gang each week. It’s not a show that aims to be like any other technology-centered drama on TV.

And that’s exactly how creator Sam Esmail intended it to be.

Originally conceptualized as a movie, Esmail realized he had a TV show on his hands when writing the initial script. Then around page 90, it occurred to Esmail that he had not yet gotten past the first act of the story he wanted to tell.

Luckily, the timing was right for Mr. Robot — even mores o than Esmail could have predicted when he started writing the script.

Timing is everything

Just before Thanksgiving 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered an unprecedented hack on its technology systems. Highly damaging emails were leaked, confidential documents were made public, and like never before, lessons about the importance of technology security were learned.

Over at USA, Esmail had just turned in the pilot episode of Mr. Robot to executives.

It was the story of an emotionally, socially and psychologically troubled man named Elliot (Rami Malek), who works as cybersecurity expert by day, and turns into a hacking web vigilante of sorts at night. Elliot’s voice — full of paranoia and distrust — helps viewers navigate the world through his eyes, and at times, it is an unsettling ride.

Getting it right

USA held its first screening of Mr. Robot in March during South by Southwest in Austin; it was a time when TV shows with a technological twist were more prominent — and more criticized — than ever.

But the show, which got a Season 2 order from USA hours ahead of its premiere, received glowing reviews and won the SXSW Audience Award.

Read it all at Mashable

John Ostrander: Paving The Way

will-and-graceby John Ostrander

Friday was a landmark day for this country. The Supreme Court effectively said that same sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. In doing that, they reflected the views of American citizens: 63% of us have said they think same sex marriage should be legal. It’s been a majority opinion since 2010 when a CNN poll first reported it.

This would have been unthinkable just a few years before that. Part of the change is due to our own pop culture. Depictions of LGBT individuals have proliferated over the years. Think of the uproar when Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian back in 1997 with her character on her sit-com, Ellen, also coming out a short time later. The uproar that followed!

Contrast that with her talk show that started seven years later. She has also hosted the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and the Primetime Emmys. She’s been a hugely successful stand up comedienne. She was the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo. She’s beloved today.

And she changed peoples’ perceptions of LGBT. She was in peoples’ homes, in their living rooms, on the TV. TV is a member of the family in most households and, by extension, so are the people who are on it. She wasn’t alien; she was human and she made us recognize that.

In 1998, Will and Grace premiered on NBC starring Eric McCormack and Debra Messing as a gay man and his straight female friend. (McCormack, it should be noted, is not gay; that’s why they call it acting, folks.) It was hugely successful during its eight seasons. And it dealt with many LGBT issues, dramatizing them for the American audience. It made people aware of LGBT people and the fact that they were people. The sexual orientation might be different but so many other concerns and likes mirrored everyone else.

In 2003, Queer Eye (for the Straight Guy) debuted in which five gay men would do a make-over of a straight man, including where he lived, what he wore, what he ate, how he looked, and even how he acted. Some felt the Fab Five (as Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez were collectively known) were stereotypes and it’s true that the show never got into the Fab Five other than their on-air personalities. Nor did we see them with significant others.

I think that misses a big point. Queer Eye, like the other two shows, was welcomed into the general public’s living room. So many people didn’t know anyone who was gay (or didn’t know that they knew someone who was gay) suddenly knew a few. And liked them. And weren’t threatened by them.

They – as well as Ellen and Will and Grace – also gave to other LGBT, including young ones, people to admire and look up to. Someone to identify with. They were no longer alone.

There have been gay and lesbian characters in comics, though not as prevalent as other media. I worked in some gay issues and characters in both The Spectreand Suicide Squad. In the latter, a mechanic in the support team for the Squad (Mitch Sekofsky) was a gay father.

There have been LGBT characters at different companies. Marvel has had Northstar, Wildstorm/DC has Midnight and Apollo, Batwoman, Rene Montoya, and many others. Archie Comics (Archie Comics?!) famously introduced an openly gay character in Kevin Keller in his own mini-series and digests and the issue where he got married to his boyfriend sold hugely. The Buffy comic series, following up on the very popular TV series has several lesbian characters. Buffy herself experimented in a one-night stand with another woman.

There have also been any number of open LGBT creators, artists, and writers in comics. Some, like Howard Cruise, have openly explored gay themes in their work. Others simply work in comics and write all kinds of characters with all kinds of themes. Their life experience, who they are, informs their work, as my life experience informs mine. That’s called being human.

Pop culture has had a significant role in changing public perceptions of LGBT. Not perfectly. Pop culture more often reflects public perception rather than shapes it. However, it can open eyes, not by confronting but rather by showing us that LGBT people are, well, people like you and me.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. This post originally appeared in his blog at ComicMix.

The Most Important Article You’ll Read Today

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a writer on what probably is (or was) the most popular “reality” show on television? Wonder no more, fellow TVWriter™ites, cuz we just found the skinny:

topgearby Richard Porter

The very last Clarkson, Hammond & May edition of Top Gear will be broadcast this Sundayand sniffpetrol – by day, mild mannered former Top Gear script editor Richard Porter – explains how they used to put the show together and what it was like to be at the cutting edge of cocking about.

There we go then. The sun has set on what I imagine we will one day call Old New Top Gear.

Now we sit patiently with seatbelts fastened and backrests in the upright position, awaiting developments from New New Top Gear / The Jeremy Clarkson Car Hour / James May’s Amphitheatre Of Cheese.

Whatever happens next, it’s going to be quite different from what I like to think scholars will one day call Top Gear Classic. It might be made in quite a different way too. I don’t know. I only know the way we used to make the show, which was with a mixture of sweat, panic, disagreement and potato snacks.

On the programme I hope historians will soon refer to as Top Gear – Original Taste the most important thing for any given item was, unsurprisingly, the idea. If we’re talking about a track test, that idea was always pretty simple; is it an interesting car and can we say moderately entertaining things about it while slithering around a runway for six to eight minutes?

Ideas for the big, three presenter films were rather more difficult. Coming up with suggestions wasn’t the hard part, it was the process that followed in which the idea would be prodded and dismantled and subjected to the same line of questioning it might receive from a four-year-old; Why? Why? No really, why? Why were we going there? Why were we taking those cars? Why were we doing this at all?

For those items in which we bought old rotboxes or built something of our own, it was important to have some headline question we were answering or some logical problem we were setting out to solve. Can you buy a car for £100 or less? Can you build your own amphibious car? Can we alleviate travel chaos brought on by snow using machines that normally sit idle in winter?

You needed the question for the studio introduction to give some line of logic, some small reason why we were craving your attention for the next half an hour or so. Once the item was up and running you could drift away from that original point, though I believe the best Top Gear stories never forgot it.

If the idea couldn’t pass muster in the office, in particular at the hands of chief scrutineer Clarkson who worried about this stuff more than anyone on the team, then it didn’t happen. Case in point, we once had this notion that we would re-invent the fire engine. Why were we doing that? Because it seemed like they were too big and too slow and therefore took too long to get to emergencies. The solution was obvious; Top Gear would build a small, high performance fire truck.

The trouble is, if you make a fire engine smaller there’s no room on board for all the ladders, hoses and burly men it needs to do its job. So it has to be big. And then it can’t get through gaps in traffic. So you make it smaller. And then it can’t do its job. And then…

Read it all at Jalopnik