Warner Bros. Turns A Kickstarter Success Story Into A Flaming Mess With Proprietary Platforms And DRM

We hate discussing failures. But dishing is a whole nuther thing. Big thanks to Techdirt for giving us the discussion to dish about. (That kinda makes sense, yeah?) Anyway:

by Mike Masnick

veronicamarsfrom the how-not-to-do-it dept

Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote about a rather encouraging development in filmmaking, highlighting the story of Warner Bros. film studio working out a deal with the producer and actors of the popular Veronica Mars TV show, that if they could prove demand for a film via Kickstarter, Warner Bros. would fund the rest of the film. Basically, Warner Bros. had been unconvinced that there was enough demand for a movie to finance it upfront. But, with tools like Kickstarter today, you can prove demand upfront, taking away a big part of the risk. And that’s exactly what happened, as the project raised over the $2 million target very quickly, and eventually brought in $5.7 million. Part of what was interesting about this was it showed how movie studios could actually embrace crowdfunding as well, creating some interesting hybrid models that don’t always involve some studio head deciding what people will and won’t like.

The movie came out last week to very good reviews… but leave it to Warner Bros. to totally muck it up, screw over the goodwill from all those backers and scare people off from such future collaborations. That’s because one of the popular tiers promised supporters that they would get a digital download of the movie within days of it opening. But, of course, this is a major Hollywood studio, and due to their irrational fear of (oh noes!) “piracy” they had to lock things down completely. That means that backers were shunted off to a crappy and inconvenient service owned by Warner Bros called Flixster, which very few people use, and then forced to use Hollywood’s super hyped up but dreadful DRM known as UltraViolet.

The end result? A complete disaster for the film’s biggest fans and supporters:

“My first and last time using Flixster or Ultraviolet,” Jennifer Gottried wrote. “Not happy about what a pain the digital “download” is, but loved the movie!” Carolyn O’Neill said she felt “ripped off,” adding “I will not be supporting anything VMars related in the future, and may never support a similar Kickstarter project again.”

Others labeled Flixster “unreliable,” “crap,” “slow” and “punishing.” There are those who downloaded the movie without a hiccup, and those who did have been effusive in their praise. Yet the majority expressed dismay….

Read it all at Techdirt

Gerry Conway: The Ultimate Early Adopter

by Gerry Conway

beautifulsightI’m a radical technologist.

By this, I mean I love tech– all tech, any tech, indiscriminately. I’ve always been intrigued and often infatuated by each new gadget that promises to bring me a taste of that ever-receding tommowland of the mind, The Future. I am the ultimate, hopeless early-adopter. (Though not as much lately, I admit, as I was in my youth.)

In the early 1970s, I owned a ridiculously expensive Digital Watch that told the time in glowing red numerals when you pushed a button on the side. I owned a Texas Instruments handheld electronic calculator when professional accountants were still using the old type-and-crank manual machines. I wrote on an IBM Selectric when the only way to buy one was to make an appointment with a corporate salesman at the IBM office on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I bought a Sony Betamax video recorder the week it went on sale. I was the first person in my family and among my group of friends to use an answering machine. (It drove my mother crazy; she never quite learned how to leave an impromptu message, and for a couple of months she was afraid to call me because she didn’t want to speak to a “robot.”)

I had a TRS-1000 portable computer, an Atari 800 personal computer, a US Robotics 300 baud modem, an Osborne, a Kaypro, a dot matrix printer. I used Wordstar, I signed up for Compuserve and Prodigy (but drew the line at America Online). I played Myst-like CD-Rom games before Myst. I played Doom. I bought a Playstation One, and a Playstation Two, and a Dreamcast, a Sega Genesis, and several Nintendoes. I had a PSP. I hand built my own computers– at least six over a ten year period– until I got one of the first iMacs and Macbooks and left the PC world behind (at least partially– I usually had at least one self-built high level gaming rig, along with several Alienware portable gaming laptops). I owned a Palm Pilot, and a Windows CE smart phone. I had Direct-TV and TiVo and a house wired for sound and security with automated power switches run from my (PC) computer. I bought a laser printer, a photo scanner, a portable scanner, a desktop scanner. Gaming mice, gaming keyboards, ergonomic typing keyboards. A Rocketbook eReader. A Sony eReader.

Headphones. So many many headphones. Headphones with surround sound amplifiers, headphones with noise cancellation, headphones with molded earpieces, cam-style headphones, gaming headphones, wireless headphones for my home theater system.

The first generation iPod. Second generation iPod. iPod classic. Video iPod. The first generation iPhone. The iCube. iPhone 3, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6. The iPad. The iPad II. The iPad mini. The Nexus 7. The Nexus 10. The Kindle. The Kindle HD. The Kindle HD-9. The Kindle Paperwhite. Kindle HDX.

The Apple Watch. It’s on my wrist right now, as I type these words on my iPad Air.

Why does all this technology fascinate and entrap me? I don’t honestly know, but I have my suspicions. I think I’m a product of a particular moment in time, the convergence of my coming to conscious identity around the age of eight or nine, and the beginning of the U.S. space program.

In my storage unit I have a rusting file cabinet that contains some of my earliest writing, yellowed pages of half-finished short stories and abandoned novels, dating back to my teens. In the bottom drawer of that cabinet I keep a small stack of old magazines and a slim hardcover book. Those magazines and that book are probably the personal possessions I’ve had longest– predating my faded Boy Scout neckerchief ring, predating the keepsake book from my Catholic Confirmation ceremony, and only slightly less aged than the crumpled blue report card from my first year at Our Lady of Angels elementary school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Those magazines? Copies of “Life” and “Time” from 1961 featuring photos and articles about Alan Shepard, America’s First Man in Space, and more from 1962 promoting NASA’s plans to reach the moon by 1970, and build a moonbase by 1980, and reach Mars before the year 2000. The hardcover book, probably purchased on a school field trip to the Hayden Planetarium, featured artwork by NASA designers and engineers of the crafts that would take us into space, the habitats we would live in on the moon– the Future that was waiting for me, just a few short years away. (Though, to my eight and nine year old self, the 1970s seemed so distant, it was almost unimaginable. I did the math: by the time we had moon bases, I’d be almost 30!)

I grew up in a time and a place when The Future wasn’t threatening, when it wasn’t a depressing vision of decreasing opportunity and crushing limitations, of global climate crisis, of disappointment and disillusionment. To some extent, the dreams of childhood are always crushed by the realities of adulthood– but I think, for me, personally, and perhaps for others who came to consciousnesses in that tiny window of boundless hope and national ambition, from 1960 to 1963, the bleak realities of the late 1960s and 1970s hit us particularly hard. We were shown a vision of extraordinary optimism involving the transcendent possibilities of technology and human imagination; we were told it was only a matter of time before The Future would fulfill all our greatest fantasies; we were presented with heroes to admire, an epic quest to join. And we watched, in horror, as the dream was crushed, the heroes were forgotten, the quest was abandoned, and The Future disappeared.

I think that’s why I became obsessed with technology– with gadgets and gizmos and toys that offered a small, diminished participation in The Future I felt I’d been promised as a child. I may have been denied a moonbase by the time I was 30, but at least I could have a Sony Betamax. No manned mission to Mars– but what the hell, I’ve got an Apple Watch.

The loss of childhood dreams and illusions affects us all. I think it’s the original human tragedy– the reality behind the metaphor of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The need to recapture the lost dream of a secure and optimistic and “special” Future probably motivates much of human activity– both positive and negative. Humanists try to regain their lost sense of childhood possibilities by pursuing progressive plans to reform and perfect society, as do religious conservatives when they try to recreate an imaginary perfect past. I think the desire to regain childlike wonder is the root of most conflict in the world. But it’s also the source of creative effort– the drive to remake reality to conform to an imagined ideal.

As a writer, that drive to remake reality empowers my creativity.

As a person, and as a child of early-Sixties techno-optimism, it makes me a radical technologist.

The Apple Watch may not be The Future I imagined I was promised when I was eight years old, but until The Future comes along, it’ll just have to do.

Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.

Check Out “MewNowTV”

Are you watching MewNowTV? The gang at Snobby Robot is, and the reaction over there definitely piques TVWriter™’s interest. (And you thought we were cynical and jaded, right?)

Whoa, lookit all these peeps - who may or may not be part of MewNowTV.

Whoa, lookit all these peeps – who may or may not be part of MewNowTV.

by Chris Hadley

Having launched Wednesday, September 9th, the new web series content hubMewNowTV features 10 different online series; shows that represent both a commitment to quality online entertainment, while emphasizing viewer interactivity through its 9 specially designed apps.

Furthermore, each of these shows are guaranteed to attract a diverse range of audiences, with incredible young acting, writing and producing talent in front of – and behind – the cameras.

From side-splitting comedy, to suspenseful sci-fi, to reality programs that will inform, educate and inspire, MewNowTV features shows that truly put the viewer in control in various ways through each of its 9 different interactive apps; apps that are specifically tailored to fit the framework of each series.

With existing social media networks like Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and the increasingly popular video app Periscope also playing a huge role in MewNowTV’s content, those who visit the network’s official web site(see more links below) will experience what could very well be a major step forward in the continuing evolution of online entertainment.

MewNowTV’s founder, Kyle Valle, discusses each of the 10 different shows that make up the network’s impressive lineup, what viewers can expect to see in them, and most importantly, how each series will benefit the viewer through their unique interactive elements.

In addition, Valle illustrates how each of MewNowTV’s impressive and versatile performers (himself included) spread their talents across all of the network’s programs.


Johnson Creed and his guides, a psychic with super natural gifts, a former Navy Seal and a Nordic Blonde alien, set out to restore balance against a dark alien force. This sci-fi adventure series showcases our commitment to creating stronger, more diverse and unique roles empowering women in film.

The ‘lead’, Johnson Creed (played by yours truly), is guided and instructed by 3 women, who are the real heroes of the first season. Quirky, downright lovable Melissa Rodriguez as Plebo, the super psychic, plus fierce and funny Punkie Johnson as Kit, the Navy Seal, and, last but not least, intuitive and sharp Sandra Seeling as Q, the Nordic Blonde.


Completely in Spanish, always subtitled and loosely scripted — Hosts CZR, Don Juan, and Valeria spotlight the American-Latino experience, debating hot button issues, common misconceptions, and life tips from a refreshing, witty angle.

As is often the case with our series, one of Tremen2’s co-hosts is also producing: Christian Casillas, who plays CZR. Carlo Mendez performs as Don Juan and Mariel Chantal as Valeria. The three actors have amazing chemistry, ideas and often improv lines in the hilarious debates….

Read it all at Snobby Robot

Stereotyping: Lazy Writing or Necessary Evil?

THE GRINDER: THE GRINDER premieres this Fall on FOX.  Pictured L-R:  Rob Lowe and Fred Savage.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ray Mickshaw/FOX

by Diana Black

Stereotyping – Laziness or Necessity?

You’ve written ‘the great’ teleplay – an ensemble cast that’s sure to please everybody, a tight, compelling narrative arc, characters put through hell, the ‘flavor of the month’ genre – sounds great – more power to you, but how many of those beloved characters you’ve slaved over are stereotypes?  And if so, why do you deem them necessary – what purpose do they serve?

Perhaps we’d better define ‘stereotype’. Broadly speaking, it’s the presumption or presupposition of character. In film, it’s closely associated with the notion of typecasting, labeling and/or pigeon holing – take your pick, they all apply. This is not to be confused with ‘archetype’ – (which will be explored in another article.

Unfortunately ‘stereotype’ is not a particularly lofty or noble concept, at least in comparison to ‘archetype,’ but current television programming appears awash with it. Here’s an example where stereotyping may be acceptable because it’s being self-reflexive – drawing attention to itself. Fox’s new comedy, The Grinder (2015 – ) is considered to have the potential to be the best comedy of the season; at least by most reviewers. I make mention of it here because it’s mocking the stereotypes it shows us.

The premise – two brothers: the savvy, handsome television actor who’s played at being a lawyer versus the socially awkward and dreadfully serious, real one. Dean Sanderson (Rob Lowe), the lawyer on a popular television courtroom drama series – “The Grinder” – decides to come home after the Season finale – to Boise, Idaho; not exactly Downtown Hollywood. There, he nobly offers his services to ably assist his younger, real lawyer brother, Stewart (Fred Savage) with the family law practice. How can he (Stewart) possibly compete, with this savvy but, in his opinion, know-nothing actor, who everybody adores?

While the courtroom is satirized and the brothers are juxtaposed in a stereotypical manner, there are already glimmerings of what the show is really about – the relationship between two brothers. Nice work! The writers – Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul along with Director Jake Kasdan have delivered a clever comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously (it is a sitcom after all). The principals – Rob Lowe, Fred Savage and Mary Elizabeth Ellis – being the intelligent and talented artists that they are, don’t dissolve into stock characterization. They flesh out their respective characters via intelligent choices and sensitivity.

Fred Savage is the ‘quiet achiever’ here – it must be tough to command screen time away from the likes of the adorable and savvy Rob Lowe, but Fred’s ‘Stewart’ is courageous and sincere; making him all the more endearing and compelling to watch.

So are ‘the suits’ getting cleverer? Are writers lifting their game? Well no, not entirely. There are plenty of other TV shows currently being aired that go in for stereotyping and in a less flattering way, such as cultural stereotyping in 2 Broke Girls (CBS, 2011- ) with Han Lee (Matthew Moy) remaining the lovable but geeky Asian dude. Then there’s Modern Family (ABC, 2009 – ) where every single character is a stereotype, lovable though they may have become.

So why do it? As writers – established and emerging, we’re all quite capable of creating interesting, compelling characters, so what’s the issue here? Well, in a word, laziness – and not necessarily on our part but on behalf of the viewer. We’re a social animal and Nature (including us) is lazy. If a joule of energy can be saved and still deliver the same outcome, fabulous!

We stereotype all the time – ‘the’ doctor, lawyer, car salesman, garbage collector, prostitute etc. We only have to mention the occupation and we immediately envision ‘the type’ in terms of education, mannerisms, ethics, even down to the nuances associated with their dialogue. So when TV time slots and air time are limited – maybe we’re being forced into taking psychological ‘short cuts’ but in so doing, are we selling the craft short?

Diana Black is an Australian actress and writer in Larry Brody’s Master Class.


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If you like Britcoms – and we do – you’ll definitely enjoy THE AWAY MISSION. Think about it for a second: All the attitude, both silly and cool, of the average half-hour UK comedy episode compressed into glorious 5 minutes and under wackiness.

As you enjoy these first two episodes, keep in mind that the show gets even better as it goes along. (Assuming you define “better” as “crazier,” which, yes, we do.

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See ’em all – one Acme Bunch o’Episodes and Other Cool and Gloriously Tasteless Stuff

“Writers? We don’t need no steenkin’ writers!”

Is another proudly human occupation about to go the way of gas station attendants? By which we mean our occupation?


EDITOR’S NOTE: Is the text we’ve bolded below in the article below really saying that the CIA is helping develop this attack on creativity? Forget “oh-oh.” This is “Kee-rap!” time:


Robot Journalist Finds New Work on Wall Street

Software that was first put to work writing news reports has now found another career option: drafting reports for financial giants and U.S. intelligence agencies.

The writing software, called Quill, was developed byNarrative Science, a Chicago company set up in 2010 to commercialize technology developed at Northwestern University that turns numerical data into a written story. It wasn’t long before Quill was being used to report on baseball games for TV and online sports outlets, and company earnings statements for clients such as Forbes.

Quill’s early career success generated headlines of its own, and the software was seen by some as evidence that intelligent software might displace human workers. Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel says that the publicity, even if some of it was negative, was a blessing. “A lot of people felt threatened by what we were doing, and we got a lot of coverage,” he says. “It led to a lot of inquiries from all different industries and to the evolution to a different business.”

Narrative Science is now renting out Quill’s writing skills to financial customers such as T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse, and USAA. One of its main tasks is to write up in-depth, lengthy reports on the performance of mutual funds that are then distributed to investors or regulators.

“It goes from the job of a small army of people over weeks to just a few seconds,” says Frankel. “We do 10- to 15-page documents for some financial clients.”

An investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment division, led the company to work from multiple U.S. intelligence agencies. Asked about that work, Frankel says only that “The communication challenges of the U.S. intelligence community are very similar to those of our other customers.” Altogether, Quill now churns out millions of words per day.

The software’s output can be impressive for software, but it can’t write without some numerical data for inspiration. It performs statistical analysis on that data, looking for significant events or trends, and it draws on knowledge about key concepts such as bankruptcy, profit, and revenue, and how such concepts are related….

Read it all at the MIT Technology Review