How I’m using my writing gig on TRANSPARENT to make sure the T in LGBT isn’t edited out of tv

TV series writers can have a huge effect on not only their shows but also our culture. But it takes courage. You’ve got to take a stand:


by Ali Liebegott

I was born in 1971, and came of age watching soap operas. This was pre-internet, before gay marriage was even a thought, when homosexuality was still a mental disorder in the DSM. When I remember back, the only images I can recall of LGBT people on TV involved people who were white and showed up only to hang themselves, or be runaway hustlers, or die slowly of AIDS, with their mothers crying at their bedside and their fathers brooding silently in hospital hallways.

I’ve been writing and publishing for over 25 years and many moons ago I bitterly “accepted” I’d never make a living solely as a writer. I hadn’t even made one-hundredth of my living as a writer, yet I trudged on with my little stories, all but sewing them into booklets in my bedroom a la Emily Dickinson.

When I did get the rare opportunity to be paid well for my writing, I had to completely edit out my life as a butch dyke to make it palatable/publishable to the outside world—or so was the expectation of nervous editors. And after so many years of just doing my own thing—I just trudged on, writing my novels and hosting an annual writers’ retreat in Mexico with RADAR Productions, a San Francisco literary non-profit. I met Transparent creator Jill Soloway when she attended one year.

I’d seen Jill a few times at readings after that but I had no idea she was even familiar with my work. So I was surprised and excited when she wrote to me and said, “Have you ever thought of writing for TV?”

Why, no I hadn’t. I was entering my seventh year as a cashier at a grocery co-op because after many different jobs and life configurations the co-op best suited my life as a writer. It gave my girlfriend and me health insurance and allowed me the most freedom to travel when I needed to.

“There’s like four shows coming out with trans content this year,” Jill said, when she first contacted me. One of those shows was her creation,Transparent, a dramedy that centers around an affluent Los Angeles family and their lives following the discovery that their father, whom they’d known as Mort, is a transgender woman named Maura.

I wanted to get it right, and recognized the dangers of a bad representation. I’ve lived a good part of my life in a gender non-conforming body. As a butch who is constantly misgendered and regendered throughout the day by strangers, I have some crossover with a trans experience especially when it comes to using public restrooms, navigating airports, getting wanded by security detail on entering a sporting event, so I felt like I could use my experience to add to the conversation.

I’d never counted how many of my friends were trans, because why would I, they were just my friends. And my friends’ histories were as diverse as the breadth of genderqueer and trans’ characters on the show: trans men, trans women. On hormones. Not on hormones. Electing surgeries or not. Early, middle and late transitioners. Concerned with passing  or not passing. And while Jill is not trans herself, I knew she was personally invested in trans visibility, as her parent had recently come out to her as transgender. Plus, the time was right: Laverne Cox’s character, Sophia Burset, on Orange Is the New Black had set a new precedent for respectable depictions of transgender characters on TV.

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14 Showrunners Reveal How They Named Their New for 2014 Series

Okay, so maybe this isn’t as exciting as yesterday’s foray into how these new shows were pitched. But it’s just as important. Maybe even more:

by Lesley Goldberg & Bryn Elise Sandberg

HARG2927Another year, another batch of potential breakouts looking to lure the mix of viewers and buzz that NBC’s The Blacklistgenerated a season earlier. Garnering early attention among the 2014-15 season’s two dozen new offerings is theShonda Rhimes-producedHow to Get Away With Murder(ABC), telenovela Jane the Virgin (The CW) and genre plays Gotham (Fox) and The Flash (The CW).

There are recognizable works — comic adaptations, romantic comedies and, in the case of ABC, diversity — and a new cadre of film stars, led by Viola Davis (Murder) and OctaviaSpencer (Red Band Society) making the leap to TV. “I’ve never been the show before and with this, I wasthe show … what was there to refuse?” Davis says of TV’s appeal.

But if history is any indication, stars don’t guarantee viewers — and second-season renewals are hard to come by. Not that cancellation scars have stopped talent from attempting new hits — the fastest rebounder of late being Dylan McDermott, who is returning to CBS with psychological thriller Stalkeronly a few months after the same network axed his 2013 starrer Hostages.

The Hollywood Reporter quizzed the producers behind several of the new fall offerings to find out how they pitched their series — as well as the stories behind the show titles and how they netted their stars.

Jeff Lowell, Manhattan Love Story (ABC)

The original title was My Thoughts Exactly. ABC never loved the title, so during pilot production it was “Untitled Jeff Lowell Project.” It was great for my ego to walk around for weeks hearing everyone say my name, until one day I saw them towing away cars on a street we were shooting on, and I realized there were a dozen fliers with my name on them that some very angry drivers were about to find. ABC came up with Manhattan Love Story, and it was one of three finalists. … The thing that put it over the top was them commissioning artwork showing how they’d use the title to sell the show. It was tonally perfect — I immediately signed off, and that artwork is the main title card for our show.

Peter Nowalk, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

A show that takes place in law school doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, so I knew the name Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gave to her class had to be sexy and attention-grabbing. How to Get Away With Murder worked on all levels. It gives you a great first impression of Annalise as a character — that she’s bold, irreverent and controversial — and also describes the fun, dark, twisted tone of the show.

Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin (CW)

Jane the Virgin came with the show when I was asked to adapt the format from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen. I didn’t think too much about the title at the time; I was focused more on the question: “How on Earth does a virgin get accidentally inseminated?!” Then, once the show was picked up, I started to hear that the title was a little controversial, which honestly I didn’t get at first — especially because Jane, as a character, is such a role model. Then, my 4-year-old son asked me what my new show was called. I started to answer: “Jane the …” I hesitated. Sucked it up. “Jane the Virgin.” He looked at me, confused, and asked me what a “vermin” was. So, I told him the truth. It’s a small pest.

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Thai Leader Threatens TV Soap Opera Takeover

And we thought TV execs were too hands on! The following article just might prompt a re-think in any plans you have for writing in Thailand. (But then again, a gig’s a gig, so…):

by Scott Neuman

Thailand’s coup leader turned prime minister is not happy with the daily fare of infidelity and violence that is a staple of the country’s television soap operas — and he’s prepared to351774646 write the scripts himself if that’s what it takes.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who staged a coup in May against the elected government, says he wants scripts that encourage harmony in society.

“I have ordered that scripts be written, including plays on reconciliation, on tourism and on Thai culture,” Prayuth told reporters on Friday, according to Voice of America. “They are writing plots at the moment and if they can’t finish it I will write it myself,” he said of a team of government-appointed writers.

Taking a personal interest in the country’s entertainment programming is only the latest in a number of moves by Prayuth since the coup that have struck many as ranging from heavy-handed to downright odd.

It’s not even the first time that Prayuth has sought to put his artistic stamp on the country’s cultural life. Soon after seizing power from the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, he ordered a campaign “to bring happiness to the people,”complete with a patriotic ballad he wrote himself, featuring the reassuring lyrics: “We offer to take care and protect you with our hearts” and “give us a little more time.”

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 9/30/14

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

  • Akiva Goldsmith (A BEAUTIFUL MIND) & Marc Haimes (THE LAST WORD) are closing a deal to develop TITANS, a TNT series based on DC Comics Teen Titans superhero group. (Cuz we can never have too many superheroes on TV right? Especially young ones. Dunno about you, but I’m thinking that this deal, if it goes through, will officially mark the jumping the shark moment in the superhero-television relationship. Jeeze, folks, the munchmaller loves comics as much as the next geek, but c’mon!)
  • Julia Brownell (PARENTHOOD) is adapting an article from The Atlantic called “Two Couples, One Mortgage” into a comedy for NBC. (And as somebody who’s pretty much resigned to never being able to afford my own home – especially if I keep on butting my head and hanging my hat in L.A. – I’m intrigued and ready to identify. But will it play in Peoria?)
  • Josh GoldinRachel Abramowitz (Outlaw Country) are adapting Dan Brown‘s novel Digital Fortress into a series at ABC. (It’s described as “an international thriller set in the world of the NSA during a global threat.” Wow. Haven’t seen anything like that since the – terrible – NCIS season opener last week.)
  • David Slack (PERSON OF INTEREST) is writing the pilot for ABC’s PROTECT & SURVIVE. (And unlike so many projects that have loglines but no title, this baby has the title but no logline. I’m thinking it’s another cop thing about trying to keep order in a tough part of town, but who knows? Maybe it’s about a poor little mousey, trying to keep her babies safe in a hole in the wall while evil humans keep setting traps. Or an adventurous prostitute trying to earn a living while dealing with johns who refuse to wear condoms, or….)

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….)

Peggy Bechko: Trippin’ Out


by Peggy Bechko

So, when you’re a freelance writer, and making your living that way, maybe not yet top of the heap, how do you plan for a vacation (which believe me you’re going to dearly need)?

Like me, I’m about to head off to Las Vegas with my husband to celebrate our anniversary.

You just go, right? Nobody to tell you you can’t. No boss, no nine to five, no restrictions on your time. It’s okay, pack your bags!

Ah, but wait, not so fast. The down side is the obvious one, no workie no pay! You don’t have the restrictions of a regular job, but neither do you have paid time off or sick leave or insurance or any of those other perks many jobs come with. What you do have are projects that probably have deadlines. And, if you’re away from your work space any contacts for new gigs will be delayed or evaporate in your absence.

Well, the being away and losing contacts can be remedied these days with a cell phone and/or tablet (providing you can get a connection wherever you go) but that means you have to be ‘in touch’ even when you’re trying to relax on vacation.

Hmm, troublesome, but not overwhelming.

I used to do the cell phone and tablet thing. I’ve reached the point where I don’t any more. I pretty much cut myself off from electronics when I take a break. Because isn’t that what makes the break real?

But if you haven’t reached that point yet, remember, most things can be politely and temporarily put off. You can do a juggling act online. Or you can just cut yourself off like me and let things fall where they may. And if you lose a gig because of a vacation, well that’s life, you DO need time off occasionally despite what others may tell you and despite the rather peculiar ‘work ethic’ we’ve developed in this country. 24/7 is great!

Uh, no, it’s not.

But what about that money thing? Especially if you’re on a vacation where expenses are involved and not just visiting relatives and staying free at their house. You DO need money and that ‘no pay for no work’ gap is going to hit you some time. It probably won’t be right away when you’re actually enjoying yourself, but it will later so you better plan for it.
Until you’re a very highly paid freelancer these are the things that can really pinch.

I mean hell, Stephen King doesn’t have to worry about these things, either does M. Night Shyamalan or Peter Jackson (presuming none of them throw their money away as fast as they make it). But if you’re not them and you may be willing to live on beans, rice and corn to plan a fun vacation, you still better have the money tucked back to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Your work will REALLY suffer if you lose your WiFi connection. Hanging out at coffee shops just doesn’t do it for me. Reality bites.

Maybe it’s not worth it you say. Keep the nose to the grindstone seems the best path. Just keep writing, everything else will take care of itself. I’ll be able to afford a break/vacation later.

Not really. If you don’t make it happen, it won’t. It really is worth it and if you’re not a single hermit your family will tell you the same. Especially if you juggle a job and your writing as you work toward independence.

Just pull your head out of wherever and do some planning.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.


Brannon Braga’s Hometown Paper Gives the Man His Due

Gonna go way out on a limb here and say that Brannon’s high school buds are probably totally creaming from his. Or, you know, not:

 Brannon Braga: Canton’s own TV guru
by Dan Kane

Brannon Braga, who’s had enduring success as a television-series creator, writer, executive producer and director, spent a chunk of his formative years right here in Canton, AR-140929594graduating from McKinley High School in 1983.

Next weekend, he’ll be heading back to town for the Canton Film Festival. On Oct. 4 at 6 p.m., Braga will participate in a Q&A onstage at the Palace Theatre, following the 5 p.m. screening of an episode from his recent series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” Admission is $5.

A busy guy, Braga was a producer and director for the newest re-make of “Cosmos,” the acclaimed science-education series that aired internationally earlier this year. He’s currently writing season two of “Salem,” a horror-drama series he co-created about the Salem witch trials that airs on WGN America.

Braga’s two-decade career is almost mind-bending in scope. He was executive producer for the series “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise,” and he co-wrote the feature films “Star Trek Generations” and “Star Trek: First Contact.”

He was pivotal in the development of three additional science-fiction network TV series: “Threshold” (CBS), “Terra Nova” (Fox) and “FlashForward” (ABC).

And he was a writer for seasons six and seven of the Fox real-time action hit “24.”

Here are some highlights from a recent conversation with the 49-year-old Los Angeles resident.

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