LB: Time is Running Out to Enter the 2015 People’s Pilot Competition

PeoplePilotby Larry Brody

Time to bear down on your spec pilot script because only a few weeks are left to enter the People‘s Pilot, one of the oldest and most respected television writing contests on the interwebs.

Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of the TVWriter™ contests have been on the staffs of CHICAGO PD, CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, ROME, NTSF:SD:SUV, KILLER WOMEN, ANIMAL PRACTICE, and FX’s upcoming THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER. And those are just the most recent shows.

The People‘s Pilot offers $10,000 worth of prizes and entry bonuses, including free feedback from TVWriter™’s headman, Larry Brody, on where your entry ranks in terms of professional standards and its competitors.

Hurry! Here are the links you need:

More about THE PEOPLE‘S PILOT HERE.

More about the prizes HERE.

Enter the 2015 PEOPLE‘S PILOT HERE.

What I Learned Watching 10 Seasons of ‘Supernatural’ In 6 Months

Um, let us guess – that the show – like every show that isn’t on Netflix – wasn’t made to be watched that way and can’t stand up to scrutiny?

Well, let’s find out:

Supernatural-50

by Alisha Grauso

Last fall, I set out to do something I should have done ten years ago: watchSupernatural. People had told me for years that it was “right up my alley” and hugely entertaining (if not wholly cerebral), but still, I resisted. It was, well, the CW, and there were just so many seasons. It was hard enough for me to keep up with shows that had just started, let alone get through the backlog of a series that had been running for the better part of a decade. How would I ever catch up?

But it came to pass one night that I found myself curled up on the couch under a blanket, doing my best to fend off a sinus infection and in need of something that would entertain but wouldn’t be too long or complex for my cold-medicined brain to handle.

So I started my first episode of Supernatural, and I haven’t looked back since. Last week, I finally clicked play on the most recent episode, and when it was finished, I realized…I was done. Caught up. There were no more episodes until the next week. Ten full-length seasons of a series in half a year.

I am nothing if not a completionist.

Yet obsessive binge-watching has given me a unique perspective, a bird’s eye view of the show in its entirety instead of it being revealed in bits and pieces. It’s standing on a ladder and looking down at a mostly-completed puzzle rather than sitting cross-legged on the ground and assembling a puzzle a piece at a time to reveal the full picture. Neither way is better, but watching that many seasons of a television series all in one go has taught me a few things about what it takes to create a cult hit — that doesn’t get canceled too soon.

The first thing Supernatural got right was that it aimed small, and in a good way. The decision to pitch it to The WB network (later became The CW) is probably the one reason that Supernatural has been able to ride out the choppy waters of waxing and waning ratings. Dipping to an all-time low to an average of only 2.03 million viewers per episode in 2007 would have seen the plug pulled quickly had the show been on a larger broadcast network. But it’s all relative. With The CW pulling in a smaller audience, 2.03 million isn’t as low by comparison.

Niche and genre shows, until very recently, have tended to not fare as well with the larger, more general audiences of broadcast networks. One need look no further than to shows like Joss Whedon’sFirefly and Dollhouse or Dan Harmon’s Community for evidence of that. Now, genre rules the airwaves, from Game of Thrones on HBO and The Walking Deadon AMC to Once Upon a Time on ABC. But back in 2005, when Supernatural first aired, genres too fantastic weren’t yet de rigueur; airing the show on a cable network devoted to a younger demographic was the smartest move.

Being on a smaller network also helped shield the series from the damaging writer’s strike in 2007-2008 that saw many other shows unable to recover: Those who watched each will remember the brilliant Scrubs coming to an undeserved, limping finish in its ninth season, and the promising Heroes being derailed in its second season due to the strike.

Read it all at Movie Pilot

2 Joss Whedon Writing Secrets, Revealed by BUFFY’s “Spike”

An actor’s eye view of a legendary writer-showrunner. For that alone, we here at TVWriter™ find this insider type article fascinating:

James Marsters

by Doug Elfman

James Marsters, who played Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” has still got it. Recently, I saw an online photo of a woman at a fan expo holding her underwear which read, “Marsters can Spike Nicole.”

Marsters is in Las Vegas this week for the WizardWorld.com convention ($75-$85), which also features David Morrissey, Emily Kinney, Seth Gilliam and Steven Yeun from “The Walking Dead,” Tom Mison from “Sleepy Hollow,” Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, Lou Ferrigno, Kevin Sorbo, Elvira, RJ Mitte from “Breaking Bad” (he’s also DJing Saturday at Chateau), and a ton of other actors, composers, and animators.

When I got Marsters on the phone to ask about this lady’s underwear, he laughed, like he couldn’t believe he was still a sex symbol. Then he put down his game controller (he was playing “Far Cry 4”), and I confessed my super fandom.

“Buffy” was my all-time favorite show, and Marsters is one of my all-time favorite TV actors. (He was terrific on “Torchwood.”)

Marsters told me two things that blew my mind.

First: Marsters played Spike as a three-dimensional vampire with a soul from the beginning of the series, against “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon’s desire for Spike and other vampires to be soulless not seductive.

“I’ve never told Joss the truth,” Marsters said. “For Joss, evil is not cool. Evil is not three-dimensional. You’re not supposed to feel bad for evil people. For Joss, vampires are metaphors for the things you get over in adolescence.”

In other words, vampires represented the unjust in society, and the show wanted disillusioned people not to lose all hope.

Marsters had a family to support, so his hope was to stay on the show, and he made Spike as fully realized of a character as he could.

“I was poor, and I did not want to be killed off. I was of the opinion Joss could make me do whatever he wanted me to do, but how the audience reacted to me — that was up to me.”

Second: Here’s the secret to how Whedon, a genius, got the best out of his great script writers:

Read it all at the Review Journal

Creating your own comedy competition

Cold Cut Logo - NUEA flag 2Cuz why not?

A little “cold marketing” never hurt anybody, right? Just ask TVWriter™ bud Jeff Burdick, an aspiring TV comedy writer who puts as much thought into  marketing himself as he does into his scripts. With his wife and adopted son, he moved last year from Chicago to Los Angeles. He soon landed a literary agent after renting theater space and staging a showcase of three of his original sitcom pilot scripts.

As he works to land his first staff gig, Burdick continues to write and raise his industry profile. This includes creating a unique new live comedy competition for original TV pilot scripts. Called “The Cold Cut,” the June 3rd event will stage the Cold Opens from nine original comedy pilots. Battle of the Bands-style, the audience will vote for their favorite. After intermission, the one that makes the “cut” wins an immediate staged reading of its full script and other prizes.

But enough from us. Let’s hear from Jeff:

How did you conceive The Cold Cut?

I’m fortunate my alma mater has a very active alumni base in LA. This includes an entertainment-focused alumni club, the Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance (NUEA), which comprises hundreds of actors, writers, directors and producers. They regularly mount talent showcases, but had never geared one toward TV comedy writing. 

But where did the idea for a live pilot script competition come from?

All good TV scripts must grab a reader in the first few pages, so why not a rapid-fire staging of just the Cold Opening scenes from multiple comedy scripts, with all scripts available online afterward. For a more interactive live experience, I also opted for a Battle of the Bands-style audience vote over the standard judging panel.

What has been the response?

Pretty stunning. To our Reading Committee’s surprise, we received more than 40 scripts, from which we selected nine finalists. More than 40 alumni actors submitted for casting. The Black List came on as an event sponsor, and we were able to recruit a pretty impressive group of recent showrunners, staff writers, and active producers to provide expert script feedback to our writers.

How did you get The Black List and your industry readers?

It’s as simple as having a solid professional pitch, reaching out, and then finding some people interested in both your project and hutzpah. I have a journalism background so I’m used to reaching out to people not expecting my call. I know some say “cold-calling” doesn’t work in this town, but I’ve cold-called my way into a general at WME and a pitch meeting on the Fox lot Also my relationship with my current agent also began with a cold call. So in general, if you have a smart and unique angle, you can usually find some people willing to hear you out.

Have you received any industry feedback yet?

Yes, very positive feedback. Early on, I and my two co-producers – Liz Kenny and Michael Yawanis – solicited feedback on our concept from different industry pros. Some were alums; some not. These ranged from Key & Peele Executive Producer Ian Roberts to staff writers and studio executives to agents and managers. Everyone was terribly generous with their time and tips. Plus their uniform enthusiasm confirmed we had a winning format.

Yours is an alumni competition, but do you expect wider interest?

We hope so. Through our partnership with The Black List, the finalist scripts will be posted for review after the live June 3rd competition. We will be reaching out throughout the industry to publicize the event, the script loglines, and Black List links. We’ve also created a general interest Facebook “Cold Cut” page at which we post weekly links to great Cold Opens a week from classic and current TV shows. We hope this appeals to other writers.

I see your own script is a finalist. Since you created the competition, isn’t this a bit like a movie producer giving his girlfriend a plum role in his film?

Ha! Not in my case. All script judging was blind, and no judge could read a script with which they were already familiar. So I had no guarantee my script would make the cut. A couple of our judges also submitted scripts blind, but they did not make the cut.

What are your tips for other writers looking to uniquely market themselves?

I first recommend doing a self-audit of what makes you unique, what tools and resources are at your fingertips, and then how to leverage these to crack open more doors. I’m a big fan of re-using existing quality content in creative new ways, such as creating your own sizzle real or staging your own multi-work showcase. Also consider how to partner with others to create win-win opportunities and expose your talents to new networks.

For instance, I have friend who recently created a funny Web series about magicians. My suggestion for him was to approach some Hollywood magic shops to see if any would like to host a screening in their shop. The writer invites his circle and the magic shop promotes to its customer base. Then you also have a unique “happening” to reach out an invite potential agents, managers and producers.

What’s next for your own self-marketing?

Back to basics. Never forget the best marketing tool is always your next quality script. So I’m polishing my half-hour comedy pilot script that got me my agent and is in The Cold Cut competition. I am also doing final revisions to a new first hour-long dramedy pilot called “Assistants.” (Yes, it is about a group of 20-something college friends who are all different kinds of assistants trying to climb the Hollywood ladder.)

Contact Jeff Burdick through his writer’s Web site BurdickComm.com.

Need a new home? For free? Forever? It can be arranged.

writeahouseCapture…In Detroit, anyway. Write-A-House is a new wrinkle on the traditional writers-in-residence thing because in this case the writer is just given a house. For your very own. For, like, ever.

According to the Write-A-House web page:

Write A House [is] the nonprofit organization that takes the idea of a writer’s residency quite literally. We provide writers with the unique opportunity to own a home in Detroit.

The Detroit writers and activists who founded the organization in 2012 did so with the intent of providing vocational training to local youth who would renovate vacant foreclosed homes. Then the homes would be given away to writers. This wild idea has taken flight since its conception. In September of 2014, we awarded our first home to a poet & historian named Casey Rocheteau, who has since settled in to what she calls The Brave New Home.

Write A House’s homes are located in an active, creative and diverse neighborhood of Detroit. This neighborhood was chosen with great care and deliberation. We’re not seeking to push current residents out, or drive up rental costs; we’re looking to invest in and help stabilize the area. This city has seen enough displacement, and we seek to build with conscience. We’re looking for writers who want to live and take root in Detroit and become a part of its rich creative landscape. It doesn’t matter where you come from, even if you already live in Detroit. If you are a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid Green Card, we encourage you to apply.

TVWriter™ thinks this is so cool that we encourage as many visitors as possible to not only apply but also to contribute to the cause with a tax deductible contribution. Cuz if writers don’t help writers, who will?

More info on this whole magilla is HERE

Don’t Let Fans’ Silence Fool You. ‘Community’ is as Great as Ever

Last week we ran a post called Why Nobody’s Talking About Community Anymorewhich came to certain conclusions about the quality of the series this year and raised a bit of a ruckus. In keeping with our equal time policy – which just started today, but hey – we’re pleased us, um, punch to present another point of view:

More COMMUNITYby Pilot Viruet

The sixth season of Community should have been its biggest and most celebrated. Long before it existed, before it was even a real possibility, it was already the subject of a joking-but-not-really-joking hashtag that began in Season 2’s “Paradigms of Human Memory,” with Abed’s passing reference to The Cape. “Six seasons and a movie” was the rallying cry of fans who believed, accurately, that Community was good enough to run for several more years, despite what NBC (and the ratings) said. And against all odds — Dan Harmon’s firing and subsequent rehiring, a gas-leak season, and even a cancellation — that sixth season did happen and is currently airing. But the fanfare around the series seems to have died down.

It’s a curious development, albeit one that is easy to explain. There is, of course, the fact that Community now airs on a streaming site, Yahoo Screen (which is difficult to navigate and features a less-than-stellar video player), rather than on a broadcast network. But Community has always been fueled by the Internet — I can’t imagine it would have lasted five seasons on NBC, let alone been rescued by Yahoo, if not for the intensity of its fans on social media, who delighted in hashtags and quoted every line and took over A.V. Club comment sections. So it should be just as equipped as any other show to thrive online.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that we’ve been conditioned to consume Internet-only shows in one particular way: the binge-viewing model, in which every episode of a season is released at once for quick, obsessive, mass consumption. The Fridays when Netflix unleashes a new season are some of the most fun and communal moments on TV Twitter, as everyone watches and comments in real time, inviting others to join in the conversation. (These Fridays are also probably the worst for those who can’t drop everything and binge-watch, as they have to deflect spoilers all day.)

Community, unlike Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or even Yahoo Screen’sother comedies, is releasing its episodes in a decidedly more traditional style that replicates the way viewers consumed the show on TV: one a week, every Tuesday. It’s almost easy to forget that there is a new episode every week — the 3AM release time doesn’t help, either — and because we’re all watching it in our own time, there’s no more of the collective Twitter love that we used to experience while live-tweeting episodes on NBC. We’re watching the episodes at a different pace, viewing jokes at different times, or maybe even waiting to binge on all of them at the end of the season.

Read it all at Flavorwire