Angelo J. Bell: Pitching and Planning

Plan

by Angelo J. Bell

November has begun with a bang and I’m scrambling to keep up with the momentum to close out the year and check-off every item from the 2014 To Do list. Earlier this year I decided to “turn up” and work overtime to get something — anything — in gear before the end of the year. I wanted to be able to look at 2015 with even more positivism and hope than the last few years.

Efforts resulted in four pitch meetings in the final quarter of 2014. Two were scripted shows geared for E! and Bravo. The third originated out of North Carolina where, XO5 compadre Paul, networked with author Kim Wiley over the adaptation of her self-published thriller books. NBC Drama liked the written pitch and invited us in to talk about the project. The fourth meeting resulted from an unscripted pitch I heard at The Great American Pitchfest (GAPF) by Dionna Bolarof Atlanta. I remember hearing her pitch and thinking, “This is perfect for Oxygen.” Lo and behold, Oxygen Network felt the same way. Dionna is flying in and we’re heading out on November 24th.

But it’s not over. Still on the go, there are other projects in development, namely an insanely cool and mysterious crime thriller, two contemporary sci-fi dramas and continued efforts to branch out with other unscripted producers and other networks, ie Virgin Produced and Joke Productions.

For January 2015 I’m happy to say that the quest for expansion continues with plans for a formal production partnership outreach to the CW Network and FX Network.

But for now, I simply continue to write and develop ideas for TV… oh, and there’s a cool action thriller feature film I’m working to put together too. It’s called A Perfect Weapon. Stay tuned for more info on that project…

Is Every Film Ever Made Becoming a TV Series This Year? Yikes!

Time now for all of us to get up to date so we can properly castigate one of the absolutely dumbest trends in current TV programming:

Devils-Advocate

by Oliver Lyttleton

Network TV is reaching the point of critical mass similar to the one that shook the music industry a few years ago: a crucible of absolute, sheer panic. Ratings plummet every year, very few shows work or connect on a big level, and even the biggest flagship series are watching their ratings matched or superseded by upstarts from cable TV and streaming services. The result is that executives are floundering desperately, and the next development season indicates that extant hysteria, with a slew of projects that aim to translate brand-name movies to TV.

The latest baffling announcement (via The Hollywood Reporter) is a TV series version of Gregory Holbit‘s 2000 sci-fi drama “Frequency” will be developed for some reason.  And with that project being revealed in the last couple of days, we thought it was a good excuse to round up all the similar productions in development; it’s an insanely long list that indicates a desire to take (semi-well-known) name properties that worked on the big screen and mine those ideas for long form narrative storytelling. At first, some of the ideas felt inspired; some of these basic movie ideas could flourish in a setting that can marinate on character and a slow build. But it’s starting to feel like the blind leading the blind, with execs simply trying to mimic what everyone else is doing. The TV process being what it is, it’s likely that a majority of these won’t make it to series (or even to the pilot stage), but it’s a pretty good indication of the creative bankruptcy that’s sinking the networks right now. Take a look below, let us know what you’re most dreading in the comments.

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Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age

Actually, the full title of this article is, “Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age to the Closed Loop of Pop Culture?” And know what? It’s a question that needs to be asked. So, appropos of our oh-so-recent previous post:

bruce-campbell-evil-dead

by Jason Bailey

Let us begin with three seemingly unrelated entertainment news items.

1. Starz Television has announced a new, ten-episode series titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. Director/producer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell will reunite for the series, which is a spin-off/continuation of their long-dormant original iteration of the Evil Dead movie series.

2. The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films will re-team director Peter Berg with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for a feature film adaptation of the ‘70s television series The Six Million Dollar Man — retitled The Six Billion Dollar Man, because inflation.

3. Showtime has ordered a nine-episode continuation of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential Twin Peaks, a full 25 years after the series finale aired on ABC.

Armed with these facts (and related forthcoming films and television shows, of which there are many), we can come to three increasingly alarming and generally depressing conclusions about film, television, and pop culture in general:

Conclusion #1: Pop culture is a closed loop.

Movies based on comic books. Movies based on other movies. Movies based on Broadway musicals. Broadway musicals based on movies. Movies based on television shows. Television shows based on movies. Television shows based on other television shows. Popular culture has always, to some extent, existed within its own echo chamber, but in the current climate, it’s hard to find anything that’s genuinely original, that’s not based, to some extent, on some other thing.

It’s particularly bad in movies; the list of the top ten highest-grossing movies of the year thus far includes one sequel, two new installments of long-running movie series, a film based on a fairy tale, a film based on a toy line, a sequel to a film based on a toy line, a movie based on a comic book, and three sequels to movies based on comic books.

Next year promises more of the same, with sequels to Taken, Hot Tub Time Machine, Divergent, Paranormal Activity, The Fast and the Furious, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Avengers, Pitch Perfect, Insidious, The Terminator, Ted, Magic Mike, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Maze Runner, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hotel Transylvania, The Hunger Games, Sinister, Kung Fu Panda, Mission: Impossible, Bond, and (of course) Star Wars. There will be remake/reboots of The Jungle Book, Frankenstein, The Fantastic Four, Point Break, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park, and Mad Max.

And aside from the aforementioned Six Billion Dollar Man, we’ll have big-screen versions of television shows like Entourage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Jem and the Holograms. But the loop also flows from film back to television, with the surprise success of Fargo, Hannibal,and About a Boy prompting a new rash of movie-based TV shows, including the Ash vs. Evil Dead, 12 Monkeys, Uncle Buck (again),Marley & Me (what?), and Big (noooooo).

Everything is based on another thing, in other words, which prompts the pessimist in me to wonder when we’ll reach “peak pop culture,” and simply run out of preexisting things to adapt and remake. I guess we’ll just have to start re-adapting and re-remaking.

So, how did we end up here?

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/20/14

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

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

  • Corinne Brinkerhoff (THE GOOD WIFE) is developing a creepy CBS drama about “a prominent Boston family who…struggles to redefine itself” while under suspicion that one of its members is a murderer. (Wow, the spirit of Shonda Rimes is everywhere, no? Where do they find these clones?)
  • Joe Caren (playwright and TV newbie) is writing a Fox drama series called The SYSTEM, about an ensemble of 20-somethings trying to survive their dealings with the criminal justice system. (Did I ever tell you guys about my close call with the criminal justice system? For reals. I was thisclose to a part as a “funny D.A.’s assistant” on LAW & ORDER back in my even younger youth. But then somebody saw my attempt at stand-up and they knew I was all wrong for the funny part. Sigh….)
  • Ali Wentworth & Jackie Clarke (stand-ups, the both of them) are writing the pilot for a semi-autobiographical comedy series based on Ali (cuz nobody knows Jackie or cares about his life, I reluctantly suppose.)
  • Chris Levinson (LAW & ORDER) has a new overall deal with Fox TV. (Which this particular munchacho figures must be exciting as all hell for her, but man does it bum me out. Cuz Chris hates me, you see, since that time when I…oh, right, TMI. You’ll have to wait for my autobiographical comedy series, gang. Wonder if I can get Jackie Clarke to co-write. I hear he’s hot right now.)

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….)

One Writer’s Diary for Television Pitch Season

That writer is Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, and her experience definitely has inspired the TVWriter™ minions. Read and learn, gang. Read and learn:

TV-PILOT1

Hatching a Pilot
by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

You with your feet up, remote in one hand and beverage in the other, being all judge-y about this fall’s new network dramas and sitcoms. Just take a moment, will you, and think of us writers gutting ourselves trying to create them. Think of us lumbering from lot to Hollywood lot, fingernails in our teeth and oil in our bowels, pitching what we hope you’ll be criticizing next fall.

The Big Four — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — have recently wrapped two months of listening to about 350 series pitches each. (I know what you’re thinking: Someone out there has to sit through five or six television pitch meetings a day, and there is no Nobel Prize in that category.) Each broadcast network will buy up to 60 pitches. Hallelujah for those lucky pitchers, who will then write their scripts for the pilots. At year’s end, each network will pick a dozen or so to produce. Those pilots will shoot in the spring. Next May in New York, in the ad-buying extravaganza called the upfronts, the networks will announce the precious few that will become full series.

I am a journalist and author who stumbled into writing pilots. I had an idea for a drama, called “The Ordained,” about a former priest trying to stop an assassination. I pitched it to networks. None bought it, so I wrote a script on spec.

In 2012, the script sold to CBS, which produced it. This is unusual. As Deadline Hollywood noted, by way of saying pigs are flying, I had no TV credits and live in New Jersey.

Then the 2013 fall lineup was announced — and my pilot wasn’t on it. After I stopped rocking in a dark corner, I told my clarinetist husband that we should buy a house. New beginnings, I told him. Besides, now that I had one produced pilot, surely the deals would be rolling in. We bought the house. The following pitch season, I didn’t sell anything at all. We sold the house. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

Why would any would-be show creator suffer the agony of pitching to networks, when everyone knows cable is where it’s at these days? Because money (still way more than cable). Because audience (ditto). Because creating a hit show for broadcast television — maybe one that even the critics like — still makes you an American hero.

So here I am again. This is my diary of the 2014 network TV pitch season.

June 10 The very start of pitch season is like dating; producers need writers for their projects, and writers need ideas. Producers have ideas, but more important, they have rights: to books, to foreign TV series, to whole entire lives. This is not as awesome as it sounds. I can’t make the colossal mistake I did last fall of believing that projects originating with producers are inherently better, and that I will be able to sell them. They aren’t. And I didn’t.

And now I’m desperate for a sale. Last week, I spent 10 minutes in the cereal aisle, choosing between Kellogg’s and the nasty store brand. Let’s face it: My family’s primary source of income is a total crapshoot. And in a crapshoot, it’s better to fail with an idea of my own. For my dignity or whatever.

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Web Series: THE LOUISE LOG

Earlier this year we ran an article about THE LOUISE LOG, one of our favorite web series. Since then, it’s gotten better and better. So today we thought we’d share what Anne Flournoy, the creator of THE LOUISE LOG has told us about the series, in the hope that it’ll prove inspirational to other peer producers.

Take it away, Anne:

THE LOUISE LOG Capture

by Anne Flournoy

LA Web Series WinnerHow did I get this going?

A few weeks ago, a friend went to the PGA’s “Produced By: NY”. The only thing she wanted to talk about was Harvey Weinstein. He’d said again what we’ve all heard a thousand times (paraphrased) : “The success or failure of a film depends largely on the quality of one element: the script.”

But because writers aren’t always good at selling their ideas and social stamina isn’t necessarily included in the writer DNA, it’s more than likely that scripts better than many which make it to the screen lie forgotten in drawers. Today, thanks to digital technology, there are options to this dark history. Here’s my story.

My first ultra low-budget feature was in competition at Sundance. Its reviews were good but not great and it had a very limited distribution. Determined that my next film would break out, I’d been rewriting the same script for seventeen years. It was a comedy, based on my experience of marriage and motherhood. And I wanted to direct it.

From time to time, I’d screw up my courage and give the latest version to one or more potential producers. You notice I said ‘give’. A more accurate way to put it would be ‘I’d send it’ … cause we’re talking about the mail here. I hate to pitch.

As you already know, this has put me at a huge disadvantage in the business and so greatly narrowed my chances at ever getting anything produced, that even I began to see the writing on the wall. In a frenzy of frustration and desperation, I decided to take matters into my own hands and picked up the family point-and-shoot camcorder.

It was 2007 and no self-respecting filmmaker was uploading to youtube, but that’s just what I was going to do. I’d seen “Charlie Bit My Finger” with its hundreds of millions of views and I’d loved it. And hey, I’m a parent and a filmmaker (unlike the father who shot “Charlie”). I can do that. I started shooting whatever was in front of me: a snake swallowing a mouse, kids, seagulls. I was going to make ‘viral videos’, one a month, and, with this bank shot, prove my relevance and get the attention of Hollywood executives. Hell, they’d be lining up to produce my second feature.

After spending the most miserable summer ever, charged-up camcorder in my hand and still just-missing every great moment, I realized that viral videos are not a sane expectation. But in the meantime, the thought of making short videos was like a drug: I didn’t need anyone’s greenlight to go into production and already had distribution ‘lined up’ (youtube). The mini-dv tapes cost three dollars each, there was a mic in the camera, daylight and friends/friends-of-friends willing to act. I learned the basics of video editing on imovie in about an hour and started uploading one video a month to youtube.

My plan was to increase my chances at virality by varying the content, one month something documentary a la “Charlie Bit My Finger”, the next month talking animals (dubbed), etc. After the first episode, people in my address book wrote back: “Do another one— with the same actor.” So, by the second video, I was making a series. Soon after, I read somewhere that this could be called a web series.

The first episodes were each less than two minutes long but even so, after six episodes, I was out of ideas. Everything I wanted to do was in my ‘feature script’, the one I’d been rewriting for seventeen years. No way was I going to shoot that with a camcorder and non-pro actors and throw it up on youtube for free. Or was I? With my husband’s encouragement, “You’ll get more ideas from doing this.”, I gutted the script of its juiciest scenes, found some pro but non-union actors, and continued, shooting and editing one video a month.

In 2009, How To Deal With A Hot Repairman: The Louise Log #13 (budget $13) beat out a politically correct, highly-produced, United Nations-backed short for a Saturday night slot on Reel Shorts, a show on New York’s PBS Channel 13.

By May of 2010, seventeen episodes were online, all produced for a sum total under $1000. Roger Ebert had tweeted about it and Eve Ensler had raved about it. Fans crowdfunded Season 3 to the tune of $22,000 and the last episode of that season (#44) is posting this month on Thanksgiving, oddly seven years almost to the day since the first shoot for this series.

Now for the promotion. Anybody know how I can get on Ellen?

Check out THE LOUISE LOG. You won’t be sorry.