John Ostrander: Double Your Pleasure

by John Ostrander

When I was younger I would go to double features at the movies all the time; sometimes, even a triple feature. It was good value for the money; two movies for the price of one. We also had what was called second run theaters. These were more the neighborhood, smallish theaters that would show films after they had been in the larger theaters. There were even venues that would show old movies and change the program daily. This was before tapes or CDs were out and often were the only way to see old movies on a big screen (as God and Cecil B. DeMille intended).

Often the films were chosen randomly but every once in a while you’d get someone booking the films who knew what they were doing. I first saw Casablanca in a double bill with Play It Again, Sam, written and starring but not directed by Woody Allen. It was at the old 400 Theater on Sheridan Road not far from Loyola University and the place was packed with deeply appreciative fans. They cheered at every appropriate point. It was the best introduction I could have asked for to what has become one of my fave films.

These days it’s hard to find a double bill anywhere unless you’re possibly in NYC so Mary and I sometimes put together our own from the films we own. This isn’t the same as binge watching; we’ve done that as well with Downton Abbey or the Harry Potter films. No, we try to figure out which seemingly unrelated films might fit well together.

For instance, we finally got around to seeing Hidden Figures, which starred Octavia Spencer and told the story of black female mathematicians in the early days of NASA. Great cast, terrific story about something of which I knew nothing. What movie would go well with it?

The Right Stuff of course came to mind, covering the same era and some of the same events from a very different perspective. However, to my mind the film 42 – the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball — works even better. While they don’t cover exactly the same years, they do cover the same era when blacks were just starting to get some measure of equality and what it cost to do that.

When the live action version of Beauty and the Beast comes out on Blu-Ray, we may pair it with the animated version to compare and contrast. Or, possibly even better, pair either with Cocteau’s 1946 version.

I just watched Bull Durham again recently (it’s early in baseball season) and tried to think what would go well with it. Field of Dreams occurred to me, of course (another of my faves). Both films star Kevin Costner (why is Costner always better when he’s in films about sports of some kind?) and is about baseball but Field of Dreams is a little too mystical, I think. I’d rather go with Tin Cup. It’s about golf (which I largely detest) but it also stars Kevin Costner and is written (or co-written) and directed by Ron Shelton who also did Bull Durham. There is a similar sensibility in both films and a bawdy sense of humor.

I’d pair Disney’s Pinocchio with Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Both animators are at the top of their game in their respective eras and styles and there is a sense of the weird and wonderful as seen through the figure of a child (or a puppet who would be a child).

I might pair Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Both are tinged with darkness and loss. What would go with the first Rocky film (which is effective and touching and not bloated like the sequels)? I might pair it with Creed which could also be described as the last Rocky film. Seeing the character at the beginning and the end of his story arc could be very instructive.

Anyway, there’s a lot more and I‘m sure all of you can think of some. To me, it’s not just about naming two films but finding the connective tissue between them, an artistic DNA that suggests a relationship. That’s what makes a good double bill so interesting and so satisfying.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the TV is calling my name. “Johhhhnnnn, Johhhhnnnnyyyy. . .!”

Okay, okay I’m coming. Keep your cathode ray tube on.

 

 


John Ostrander 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. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Words That are Actually Hidden Phrases

Know those cryptography apps that let you hide a whole hard drive’s worth of files in, like, one gif or somesuch?

Turns out the English language has had that very feature for a very long time. (Patent trolls: Go ahead. Sue everyone who uses English words. C’mon. We dares ya!)

Anyway:

Arika Okrent does it again! Check out her very helpful channel.

You Won’t Believe How Rich These Self-Publishing Authors Are!

by TVWriter™ Press Service

Illo found at AlanRinzler.Com. Check out the site!

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s a little clickbait between friends? Especially when it’s for a worthy cause. No, the reason we gave this article this heading isn’t so that it would make us rich. It’s because we believe so strongly in what it means to writers to be able to at least be the prime beneficiaries of working the wordsmithing craft.


‘Show me the money!’: the self-published authors being snapped up by Hollywood
by Danuta Kean

After watching Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, self-published author Mark Dawson was inspired to create his own answer to the film’s heroine Beatrix “Black Mamba” Kiddo. And now Dawson – and his character government-employed assassin Beatrix Rose – are set to take on Hollywood, with his series on the verge of a major television deal, complete with a “triple A” producer.

Admitting he had a “‘holy shit’ moment” when he was told who the producer was, the Salisbury-based former lawyer said he had initially signed a “shopping agreement” after an approach through his website. “They have attached a writer and an extremely well-known Hollywood figure and director to it,” Dawson says. “The people linked are all serious players – household names – and they have pitched it to half a dozen studios and from that they have got an agreement [to develop it] for television.”

Dawson wasn’t always Hollywood fodder. Sales of his first self-published novel, 2012’s Black Mile, only trickled in – until he took Amazon’s advice and offered it to readers for free. In one weekend, his novel was downloaded 50,000 times. Dawson built his audience from there, spending hundreds of pounds a day on Facebook advertising and writing on his commute. After writing 23 books in four years, he says his annual income is now in the “high six figures”.

Details of Dawson’s TV deal are under wraps, and he says it is expected to be finalised in the next few days. But his is just the latest in a line of deals between studios and self-published authors, including AG Riddle and Hugh Howey, who have been targeted by studios after the successes of Andy Weir’s The Martian and EL James’s Fifty Shades franchise. AG Riddle’s Departure series was scooped up by Fox-based producer Steve Tzirlin in a six-figure deal, while Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel Wool was signed up by Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox.

Bestselling self-published authors attract producers because they have a proven track record if they stay on Amazon sales charts over time, Howey said. “Hollywood is always looking for a built-in audience. They want to know they’ll recoup their investment,” he says. “Modern films easily cost $100m to make, usually more. There isn’t much room for risk here.”

Another attraction in the litigious world of film, according to producer Doreen Spicer, is that these self-published books provide insurance. “There’s a level of security that the story is original and not based on a pitch or idea from a writer in the room,” said Spicer, whose credits include US sitcom The Wannabes and animated series The Proud Family. “A producer can safeguard themselves from lawsuits by purchasing or licensing copyrights.”

One of the most high-profile successes is Andy Weir’s The Martian: a sci-fi thriller set on the red planet that the author self-published as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents. The 2015 film adaptation, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as Weir’s leading astronaut Mark Watney, made $630m worldwide….

Read it all at The Guardian

Web Series: We aren’t featuring this series because it’s made by Larry David’s daughter

Let’s say it again. We swear up, down, and sideways that we aren’t writing about this web series because its creator/star/all around boss is Cazzie David, daughter of world famous grumpy guy Larry David. We aren’t.

We’re featuring this series because it was highly recommended by another site that wrote about it because Ms. David has that certain close connection with Mr. David.

And, unlike that certain other site, we’re making no excuses for it. Because we don’t have to. Sure, it’s about “first world problems.” But first world probs are real, y’all. Many of us have them. And many more of us aspire to having them. Let’s face it, if we could afford those kinds of problems it would mean we weren’t in the genuinely deep shit we’re slopping around in right now.

So, no excuses or apologies, we’re saying it loud and clear:

We like Eighty-Sixed and here’s why:

That’s it, the whole megilla. Let us know what you think!

WGA-AMPTP Ratification Vote Results are In

This just in from the Writers Guild of America:

The good news: 99.2% of the voters said yes, so this now is an official, done deal.

The puzzling news: Only 38.63% of those eligible actually voted.

What does the size of the turnout mean for the future? We’ll know eventually, but for now…?

Releasing Your Web Series into the Wild Web! – @Stareable

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 12
by Bri Castellini

You’ve done it. You’ve made a web series. Before we go any further, from the bottom of my soul, congratulations. Writing is hard enough, but you have gone above and beyond. No matter what happens, this is something to be proud of. And now, it’s time to show it to off.

I’m writing this with the assumption that you’re uploading your series one episode at a time to a site like YouTube of Vimeo. I prefer YouTube, because of its playlist functionality and its prominence as the go-to video site online, but whatever floats your boat[a][b]. There are distributors you could also reach out to, who host your content and potentially get you a higher return on investment with advertising, but for your first time, self-distributing is probably your best bet.

So what should your individual web series episode look like? I have a couple suggestions, all centered around the concept that people should know your videos are a part of a narrative series, not just a random vlog or one-off.

Video Title

There are a bunch of ways to indicate that your show is, in fact, a show, using only the title. For example, “Brains S1E1: Alison 101.” We have the title of the show, the season number, the episode number, and then the episode title. This information being available immediately to a potential viewer puts them in the mindset of watching a narrative show, not a compilation of cake decorating videos. It’s also more professional.

Thumbnail

People should also be able to tell from your thumbnail that this isn’t any ordinary video. There should be a consistency to the way in which you visually brand the series so that your playlists look organized and uniform. Below are some of my favorites:

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Description Box

Once again, consistency is key, so no matter what you decide to put in your video description boxes, make sure it’s the same every time. In general, I recommend the following structure:

1. A one to two sentence description of the episode
2. A link to the full playlist of episodes
3. Principal cast/crew credits
4. Music credits (if applicable)
5. Links to the show’s website and social media

Playlists

Always have a playlist, even when you only have one episode online. People are easily confused and having an easy way to organize the episodes in sequence will only ever help you out. A few notes, though:

1. Links to the same videos are different in and out of a playlist. A link to a video inside of a playlist will bring the viewer to the playlist, whereas a video outside of a playlist might not have the next episode in sequence show up as the automatic suggested next video.
2. If you want to embed a mid-season episode on a web page individually, don’t use the link of the video from the playlist. It will show up as the entire playlist, not the individual episode.
3. Even within a playlist, make sure you have an end screen that points people in the direction of the previous and next videos in the series, just in case someone finds an individual video rather than the full playlist.

Make sure to have a consistent uploading schedule, and stick to it. If you upload your first episode at 10 am on Monday, every subsequent episode should go live within an hour or that time. Also, when you post about new episodes on social media, don’t just post when the episodes go live, because different people get online at different times. You should post about new episodes at least three times on the days they’re released, and then remind people a few times more throughout the rest of the week. Views don’t just happen, especially when you’re starting out.

I only have one more column planned for you guys, about submitting to film festivals and the anxiety-inducing adventure that is networking. However, if you have questions about any of the columns I’ve written before, or if you think I’ve glossed over something, please let me know, and I’d be happy to keep writing for you all! Leave a comment on this post, or tweet @stareable and @TVWriter with suggestions or questions.


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

Cartoon: ‘Problem Solving’

For some of us, thinking is more concrete than for others. Provided that you think of the act of writing is concrete – which some jocks, cheerleaders, and coaches failed to appreciate back in this TVWriter™ minion’s high school days.

But that’s ancient history. Our favorite cartoonist, Grant Snider, exists in the here and now, and so does his latest bit o’brilliance:

 

There’s lots more just like this (well not exactly, but you know what we mean, hey?) in Grant’s new book, HERE

Oh, and don’t forget to buy it HERE

And visit Grant’s website HERE