WGA-AMPTP Negotiations Start the 2nd Week in March

Our fingers already are crossed for this, just in from the WGAW:

Dear WGAW Member,

We’re writing to let you know that the Writers Guilds of America, West and East are beginning formal contract negotiations with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Monday, March 13, 2017.  The talks will take place at AMPTP headquarters. The current Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) expires on May 1, 2017.

Executive Director David Young will serve as Chief Negotiator.

The members of the 2017 Negotiating Committee are listed below.

Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair

Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Andrea Berloff
Adam Brooks
Zoanne Clack
Marjorie David
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Howard Michael Gould
Susannah Grant
Erich Hoeber
Richard Keith
Warren Leight
Alison McDonald
Luvh Rakhe
Shawn Ryan
Stephen Schiff
David Shore
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Eric Wallace
Beau Willimon
Nicole Yorkin

Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio

We will keep you posted about any significant developments.

In Solidarity,

Howard A. Rodman, President

David A. Goodman, Vice President

Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer

How the worlds of TV and video game writing are moving closer together

Further proof that it ain’t yer father’s TV biz anymore. Who sez this isn’t the Golden Age of Electronic Media and, you know, writing for same?

Opportunity awaits. Time to make a move, yeah?

by Jimi Famurewa

When considering video games and television shows, it’s tempting to view them as rivals. Logic tells us that they are two distinct mediums competing for eyeballs and, in practical terms, the HDMI cable privileges for the big telly.

But now, thanks to a free transfer of creatives and a general cross-pollination of ideas, these two worlds are converging in dramatic style. Hold onto your moth-eaten Lund jumpers, box set snobs: the gamers are taking over prestige TV.

Fittingly, a series that explores the intersection of the past and the future is leading this trend. Westworld’s first series may have riffed intriguingly on the mechanics of virtual worlds and the lax morals within a Grand Theft Auto-ish playscape on screen but, behind the camera, there was a direct link to the world of video games.

Halley Gross, a California-based screenwriter who co-wrote two of those first 10 episodes, also works for lauded game studio Naughty Dog and will be one of the script masterminds helping to concoct their upcoming survival blockbuster The Last of Us Part II.

the Netflix-stoked age of Peak TV. The Beach author and film-maker Alex Garland — who scripted innovative platformer Enslaved: Odyssey to the West — is currently developing a mystery-shrouded show with the production team behind his cult hit Ex Machina. Rise of the Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett is working on The Watch, a fantasy police procedural based on some of the stories from her late father Terry’s Discworld series. Ken Levine, the auteur behind stylish first-person shooter Bioshock, is making things difficult for himself by attempting an interactive reboot of The Twilight Zone. The list goes on.

So what’s prompting these writers to leap between industries?

“The potential for narrative strength and complexity in games has increased,” says Richard Morgan, a sci-fi author who has written games such as Syndicate and Crysis 2 for EA and is now acting as a consultant on Netflix’s adaptation of his futuristic thriller Altered Carbon….

Read it all at Standard

Indie Filmmakers – Amazon Wants You!

And this time it looks like they really mean it:

Check out Amazon Direct!

by Jason Guerrasio

With the Sundance Film Festival just finished, filmmakers whose films didn’t get sold during the festival are now trying to come up with a strategy to stay relevant in the eyes of buyers.

In the hopes of attracting some of the movies that aren’t having distributors knocking down their doors, Amazon announced before the festival began that any feature film that played at this year’s Sundance can join its Amazon Video Direct platform, a service that Amazon touts as being a “self-service publishing interface, without the need for complex negotiations or contracts.”

But numerous filmmakers and producers at Sundance who talked to Business Insider expressed uncertainty about how beneficial the service would be not just to titles at the fest, but for independent films that are desperately looking for some kind of release.

Amazon launched the self-distribution platform Amazon Video Direct (AVD) last May with the intention, as AVD head Eric Orme told Business Insider, to give filmmakers “another avenue if they don’t feel they will secure distribution.”

It’s free of charge to upload any film to the platform. The only requirement is that it must meet the Amazon Video guidelines and contain captions or subtitles. You then select the options on how the movie will be viewed — rent, buy, available for free on the site with ads, or available on Amazon Prime. Then the movie is on the service for potentially millions to see.

A filmmaker can track how it’s performing by using their AVD dashboard to see how many people are viewing the content and where in the world it’s being viewed.

But because of the prestige that comes with being selected to show at Sundance, Amazon is dishing out upfront cash to entice filmmakers there.

In a program touted as “Film Festival Stars,” AVD (not to be mistaken with Amazon Studios, which acquires films for theatrical/streaming and produces projects in house) will provide Sundance 2017 titles that join by February 28 a publishing bonus as well as enhanced royalty rates.

The non-recoupable, onetime bonus is $100,000 for titles that were in this year’s US dramatic or premieres categories at the fest. It’s $75,000 for US documentaries and documentary premieres. And $25,000 for titles that were in the world dramatic, world documentaries, NEXT, Spotlight, Kids, Midnight, or New Frontier sections….

Read it all at Business Insider

Time to Enter the Turner Writing Contest

by TVWriter™ Press Service

The American Black Film Festival has joined with Turner Broadcasting to launch a TV Writing Contest for new diverse writers and invites them to submit an original drama or comedy (or both) pilot script.

Five finalists will be selected in each category, and the two winning entrants will receive a trip to the 2017 American Black Film Festival in exotic Miami Fla June 14th through June 18th of this year. Each will receive a cash prize of $500 and a meeting with Turner Original Programming execs.

This looks like a good chance for talented people to make some excellent contacts and take home a bit of $$$ while they’re at it. The only catch is that entries close April 5th…oh, and “only the first submissions will be accepted for review.”

In other words – Hurry!

Click here for the official contest rules.

Click here for the submission agreement.

Meme: ‘The Writing Life’

Image by Tina Mailhot-Roberge

Wisdom attributed at various time and by various people to

Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut

Things I Learned From One Season Writing on a Show

It takes talent, chutzpah, and more networking than just about any writer in the universe is comfortable with to get started as a TV writer. No one owes you a gig no matter how talented you may be.

In spite of the difficulty – well, probably because of it – few new TV writing pros do all that much to help other noobs into the game. (Gotta watch out for “rivals,” don’tcha know?) Which is why our TVWriter™ hats are off to the “Watching Cartoons in Your Underwear” tumblr blog and its proprietress Gina for posts like this:

by Gina

So, as some of you may know, I got my first real staff writing job a little less than a year ago. In exactly one week, my job writing for season 8 of Regular Show will be over, and, as of right now, I have no idea whether there will be another season. If there is another season, there’s always the question of whether or not they’ll hire me back. I hope they do! I THINK they will. But nothing is 100%, and it’s possible I’m not QUITE as talented and charming and smart and wonderful as my parents would have me believe.

I’ve never been super worried about getting jobs. I’m an eternal optimist, and I’m pretty good about keeping the mindset of “something else will come along,” in all aspects of my life, and now is no exception. I would love, love, love to be hired back, but if I’m not, I’ll continue to do what I’ve done for the past 12+ years in LA and plug away like a tiny, Italian, little engine that could.

I really dug my time working on the show, and not being picked up for another season wouldn’t dampen that enjoyment at all. If anything, I can take what I learned to my next job, and so I decided to write this about some of the lessons I’ll take away from this, if only to remind myself of them again at some point down the line. Maybe these things will help give a few aspiring writers some perspective, or help them when they find themselves falling into some of the same traps. Maybe it won’t, and I’m just a super egomaniac whose sense of self importance could rival Donald Trump’s. Either way, at least I’ll have accomplished something today other than taking too many photos of my cat!

1.) Stop it with the self doubt

When i first got hired on Regular Show, I was ecstatic. Such a cool show to work on! Such an awesome place to work! Such rad people to work with! Then the self doubt started to creep in. The biggest one, which is often in the back of my mind, and which I blame on a combo of societal bullshittery and a few assholes I’ve encountered in the past for, is always, “Did I get this because I’m a woman?” Someone once told me, “You’ll never be able to be completely sure you didn’t get hired for something just because you’re a cute girl.” Yeah, it’s a crappy thing to say, and basically discounts any talent I may have, but he was just echoing something that a lot of women in entertainment are afraid of, and a lot of men legitimately believe….

Read it all at Gina’s blog

NBC’s Conjoined Triplets of Comedy

by Quetzelcoatl

Thought about Atlantis lately?  I hadn’t until Thursday night, February 16th.  NBC was airing an episode of “SUPERSTORE,” followed by “POWERLESS.”  For an island that sunk out of sight, Atlantis popped up like an atoll when the subject was raised in both sitcoms, broadcast back to back.

Starting at 8 pm, the crew and customers at “SUPERSTORE” felt a heatwave when the temperature control system broke.  Glenn, the oft befuddled manager, tried calling corporate to fix it but was brushed off in a perky, yet authoritative voice.

Enter Sales Associate Garrett, played by Colton Dunn.  Paralyzed from the waist down, Garrett enters Glenn’s office in his wheelchair.  Garrett might be the first physically challenged sitcom character who seems natural, adjusted to his situation and funny on his own terms.

Remarking that Glenn had turned his small office into a cool oasis with the one working air conditioner, Garret then encourages his manager to go outside to fix the main temperature control system with his own bare hands instead of pleading further with the corporation.

As newly empowered Glenn leaves the room, the opportunistic Garrett encourages him to take his time so he can literally enjoy chilling in Glenn’s office for as long as possible.

Glenn arrives at the roof, accompanied by ditzy, lovable, Cheyenne Taylor Lee, a teen-aged employee. Bracing the cold weather, Glenn embarks on rendering order unto the chaos caused by the infernal machine.

Back inside, Assistant Manager, Dina Fox, walks past Glenn’s office and can hear groaning coming from within.  She opens the door and finds Garrett, moaning with pleasure in air conditioned bliss.  She uses the situation to be offensively authoritative, but soon joins Garrett to chill out with him.

After some boredom, she languidly suggests sex to pass the time and the two co-workers pursue carnal knowledge with a tragic-comic lack of passion and anticipation.

Back outside, Glenn is feeling helpless, (dare I say “Powerless?”) as fixing the heater proves to be overwhelmingly complicated.  Cheyenne tries to boost his morale.  Searching for a means to make his life matter, 57-year old Glenn invites the blossoming young woman to accompany him on a trip around the world.

She makes valid excuses to reject the offer, but Glenn clearly feels hurt.  Guilt ridden, the good-hearted Cheyenne agrees to participate in the globetrotting adventure, after all.   Glenn mentions that it will mean obtaining plenty of vaccinations, causing Cheyenne to grimace with fear and loathing.

Still in Glenn’s office, Dina answers a phone call meant for Glenn in which corporate admits that the malfunctioning air conditioning system was indeed, caused by a glitch in their own all-encompassing computer and that the problem has been fixed.

Glenn and Cheyenne return inside and notice that it’s getting colder. In a celebratory mood, Glenn exposes his disconnect from reality by planning his world trip aloud.  Among his destinations is “Atlantis.”

Cheyenne backs out a second time from the trip, while still allowing Glenn to save face.  She says, “I really wanted us to travel the world together but I feel that the store needs you.”  This makes Glenn’s day.

His dignity is not restored for long.  He immediately slips on the yogurt that had been left on the floor due to heat related labor disputes.

It’s a rough ending for a character we liked.  It didn’t work for me.  Obnoxious Marcus, who had dodged his duty to clean up the yogurt several times should have fallen on his own mess.  Maybe it’s the show’s comment on the way good people at work often pay for the dereliction of others.

A few minutes later, NBC continued its Thursday night comedy lineup with the third episode of the new sitcom, “POWERLESS.” The teaser opens as a broadcast of news taking place in where else? Atlantis.

Coincidence? A certain TV writing guru once said, “There are no coincidences in Art.”  The peacock network has a proclivity toward carrying a joke from one show to another. In this case, the mention of Atlantis on “SUPERSTORE” was meant to whet our appetite for mythical places and heroes in the upcoming sitcom, “POWERLESS.”

The tradition of sharing segments between shows that are not related as spinoff and original series dates at least as far back as November 17, 1994.  On that last Thursday before Thanksgiving, two New York-based shows had a turkey of a time dealing with the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The “Seinfeld” episode entitled, “The Mom and Pop Store” started off on a high note where Elaine’s boss, Mr. Pitt, had finally won the chance to hold some of the strings for the Woody Woodpecker float.

Sadly, Jerry attends a party thrown by a dentist and his friends in a building overlooking the parade.  As a dentist tries to examine Jerry’s teeth, the comedian inadvertently knocks a replica of the Empire State Building out the window toward the parade below.  The statuette pierces the Woody Woodpecker float with Mr. Pitt beneath it.

On the same evening, Monica and Ross Geller try to have a quiet Thanksgiving celebration at her apartment on “FRIENDS.”  As various peoples’ plans go awry, they all end up crashing Monica and Ross’ supper.

Monica starts preparing a hodgepodge dinner to suit everyone’s sensibilities when Chandler interrupts to say the Underdog balloon had slipped away from its handlers.  The gang goes out to the roof for a better glimpse, causing themselves to be locked out while their meal burns in the kitchen.

Upon first seeing one theme carried over to another show, it came across as a cheap gimmick to make NBC shows seem like a parallel universe.  I wondered if other audience members were as critical.  Today I see it as an intrusion of network “suits” on the scripts to keep the viewer from reaching for the remote after the first show.

The newer shows, “SUPERSTORE” and “POWERLESS,” had more than Atlantis in common:  they both dealt with the powerlessness of the individual against such forces as bureaucracy and privilege.

Just as Glenn slipped on yogurt left on the floor by Marcus in “SUPERSTORE,” the grunt workers at Wayne Security might lose their jobs when “Da Boss,” Van Wayne, mishandles an email sent by the representative of their biggest account, ACE Chemicals.

Trying to apologize to his subordinates, it becomes clear that Van fails to grasp its full significance.  Emily Locke, his new Head of R&D, encapsulates one of the show’s major themes, scolding him with “It’s great that you can mess up and there’s never any consequences but the rest of us don’t have your dad to care for us.”

With further encouragement, Van uses hard work and ingenuity to win a sizable chunk of business from the Island of Atlantis, thus regaining his father’s respect and earning Emily’s admiration.

The episode ends on the reassuring note that seemingly powerless people can actually work with those at the top of the heap for everyone’s mutual benefit.

When I hear writers complaining about the encroachment of corporate interests into their creativity, I as an outsider can at least imagine the relationship between network executives and writers as similar to the Van Wayne/Emily Locke dynamic and hope for the best.

“Quetzelcoatl,” AKA “The Feathered Serpent of Snark” is a frequent TVWriter™ contributor who has chosen to use a pseudonym because why the heck not?