Peggy Bechko’s World of Editing Your Writing

Cool image found at http://www.kristinethornley.com/about.html

by Peggy Bechko

Fun, isn’t it?

Not really.

In this post I’m going to talk about a new way of editing I’ve discovered. Yes, we all have spellcheck, some of us use Grammarly. Go ahead, Google that one if you’re interested. It nicely underlines perceived spelling and grammatical errors. Very helpful.

But here’s what I’ve discovered. Who knows, I may be behind the times and you may have already stumbled onto it. For Word, there’s a text-to-speech function called Speak. It really is well hidden. What the heck is that you ask? Well, you can highlight any text and the program reads it back to you. Not only that, but reads it to you in a clear, understandable voice. The voice I get is male, but I’ve heard some get female.

No matter.

To get it functioning go to top left of your Word program. It’s on the very top tool bar. There’s a very small downward pointing arrow which, when you hover over it says, “customize quick access toolbar”. That’s what you want to do. For instructions clearer than mine you can watch this quick YouTube video:

If you think my instructions will suffice, then click on that downward arrow I mentioned. When the dropdown window appears, click on More Commands. Then, in the window change the Popular Commands to Commands Not In The Ribbon. Then scroll down (alphabetically) to “Speak”. Highlight Speak and click the ‘add’ button in the middle and see it added to the list to the right. That’s it. A new small icon should appear on that top ribbon just to the left of the downward arrow you clicked earlier.

Now what?

All you have to do is highlight the section of text you want read out loud, click the icon and it will read your writing back to you.

If I’m not working in word (I use Movie Magic Screenwriter for my scripts) I copy and paste the section of the script I want read back to me into word, highlight and click the Speak icon. Works great!

Why? What good is this you ask. Hearing words spoken while seeing them utilizes different parts of the brain and you catch many ore errors and glitches. It really makes errors pop much more efficiently than simply proofreading visually. All in all, a big help. And you can stop the reading by clicking the Speak button again.

The downside? If you’re working with accents, it’s not going to pick them up. Occasionally you can run into context problems such as using a phrase like “run like the wind” vs. “wind the clock”. And it can mess up abbreviations such as St. John or money St. Still, I’ve really liked using it and it has made editing much easier.

For the script writer it’s great to hear the words spoken, to get a feel for the rhythm and cadence.

Oh, and it’s possible to adjust the pitch, speed and volume of the voice in your computer by getting into the settings through your control panel. Find your Narrator by using the search bar (in Windows 10 the “ask me anything” search bar bottom left). When the window opens click on “Narrator Settings”. You can choose the voice – mine is “David”. I can adjust the speed, volume and pitch of ‘David’s’ voice there. Oh, and I have ‘intonation pauses’ turned on.

Really. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how many more errors you pick up and clean up when you have your work read back to you.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

‘The Cursed Object: a short documentary’ @BrisOwnWorld

TVWriter™ has been  running articles lately by Bri Castellini, one of TVWriter™’s favorite Indie TV creators. (Well, that’s what you call people who write, produce, direct, and promote all their own stuff, right? Fucking creators, for sure!)

Right now, we’re happy to say we’ve entered the ‘Found Footage’ racket by, literally, finding this footage by Bri. Sit back, relax, and remember, life is always – always – more interesting, exciting, terrifying, and wonderful than the greatest fiction. And this, friends and visitors, is the life of Bri:

Find out more about Bri Castellini award-winning filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series and watch her award winning web series, BrainsHERE

Which reminds us. We have one question about this short. Is it “The Curst Object” or “The Cur-said Object?” God, that’s such a difficult word!

Showbiz Mind Games

Say hi to the Id Monster

by Gerry Conway


LB’s NOTE: Convincing ourselves that whatever show or film etc. we’re making is worth all the time and effort we put in is a show business way of life. Writer-producer Gerry Conway, whom I’ve known since we both were wee tadpoles swimming in Harlan Ellison’s Wonderland pond, brilliantly puts it into real-world perspective:


Hollywood is a weird small town.

That’s hardly a new observation, but new or not, it’s true. And because Hollywood is a weird small town, that’s how I came to know and befriend the man who directed one of Steve Bannon’s alt-right documentaries.

For twenty years I made my living as a TV writer-producer in “Hollywood” (which is less a place than a set of business and social connections) and it really was like living in a small, tight community. Everyone either knew everyone or knew someone who knew someone. There were cliques and in-and-out groups, the cool kids and the nerds, the crazy Old Man who lived in the big house on the hill, the rough neighborhood and the new money arrivistes, the rundown homes of the formerly great…

And the schools. In “Hollywood,” there are several “industry” schools favored by parents with the financial resources to keep their kids out of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

(Before the tax-decimating years that followed the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, California had a top-ranked educational system; today it’s the 10th worst. That decline can be traced entirely to Republican tax-cutting fervor. But I digress.)

For the Hollywood parents of a K-6 child there are a number of options, ranging from schools in LA’s West Side for “artsy” kids, to more “academic” schools in the Hancock Park area and the Santa Monica mountains, to “nurturing” schools in the Valley, and “religious” schools in Bel Air and Beverlywood. My wife at the time and I decided to send our daughter Rachel to one of the “nurturing” schools– a terrific family-run K-6 school in the mid-Valley that, until recently, had slipped under the “Hollywood” town radar.

(That changed the year our daughter arrived when Peter Guber decided to enroll his child. Shortly afterwards his competive ex-partner Jon Peters enrolled his child. Then Kate Jackson arrived, and Al Pacino, and Ben Stiller, and within a few years our little family-run K-6 in the mid-Valley was buying property and expanding and had become one of the hottest places for actors and producers to send their kids and network at father-daughter dances and school wide fundraisers. But again, I digress.)

Rachel has an outgoing and social personality. She’s in college now, where she’s well-liked and respected. All likeability and respect was also present during her years in K-6 , where she made friends with whom she’s still in touch now, years later. Since I’m not the most eagerly social person myself, many of the people I befriended during that time were parents of Rachel’s friends. One of those was a man I’ll call Harry.

Harry was (and is) a director of documentaries. That’s a tough business to make a living in, unless you find a gig working in “reality TV”, which, for anyone with an ounce of creative talent must be a soul-crushing experience. Harry had worked in TV for various light-entertainment shows but he wanted (and needed) to branch out into the world of independent documentary film. Like I said, a tough business, especially for a first-time director. Most independent documentaries are either self-financed or funded by foundation grants, because documentaries aren’t profitable for investors. Pursuing such funding can be a full-time job in itself. But at the time we met Harry had lucked into a financing network that promised almost unlimited funding resources– all because of an unlikely accident.

Remember Michael Moore’s post-9/11 anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 911?” It’s one of the few documentaries that actually crossed over into near-blockbuster territory. The success of “Fahrenheit 911” infuriated conservatives, including the handful of conservative filmmakers who occupied Hollywood’s right-wing fringe. One of those conservative right-wing filmmakers decided to make his own pro-Bush 9/11 documentary in response.

(Another digression: there is a vocal right-wing creative element in Hollywood, though it’s much smaller and less vocal than during the days of the Hollywood Blacklist. As a practical matter, Hollywood is culturally progressive, though upper management is often fiscally conservative– particularly when it comes to paying talent. That’s a different rant, though.)

Despite his powerful desire to outmatch Michael Moore’s liberal outrage with his own conservative outrage, however, the filmmaker/director who wanted to make a pro-Bush documentary wasn’t an actual documentary director. After raising funds for his project from right-wing financiers, he discovered he couldn’t make a documentary on his own. So he asked around–like I said, Hollywood is a weird small town–and Harry’s name came up as someone with the skill set to assemble a documentary who might be willing to take on the project as a way to showcase his own talents.

As far as I know, at the time he took the job, Harry wasn’t a conservative, let alone a hardcore right-wing conservative. When we first met at a K-6 social event I felt we had a lot in common politically. We both expressed contempt for Bush’s idiotic jingoism, we were both socially progressive, we liked the same kinds of movies, and we were both doting fathers. Our wives liked each other. Our families hung out. Barbeques, movie nights. Good times.

First time directors often don’t get to pick their projects: if an opportunity presents itself, you jump and try to make if work. If you don’t grab the brass ring the first time around you might not get a second chance. When that right-wing filmmaker offered Harry a chance to get his name on a feature length documentary, Harry grabbed it. He told himself he wouldn’t make a conservative propaganda film. Like most fair minded observers he saw Moore’s film for what it was– a scream of liberal outrage. (I like Moore’s film, but let’s be honest, it’s as fair and balanced as an episode of Sean Hannity.) Harry convinced himself his documentary would be a counterweight to Moore’s film. He wanted it to be fair but strong, passionate but not strident. He seemed to think his own desire for objectivity would influence the final product and make it less a piece of conservative propaganda than it might be otherwise.

He was wrong, of course. As a first-time director working under supervision by a right-wing ideologue he didn’t have any power to influence anything. The film that resulted, the film he was credited with directing, was the film the writer-producer wanted it to be, not the film Harry hoped it would be. Yet that creative defeat was a career-making triumph. Harry was now on the radar of right-wing financiers who wanted to make more “documentaries” like the one skewering Michael Moore which Harry had just “directed.”

People like David Bosse, President and Chairman of Citizens United (yes, that “Citizens United”) and future Deputy Campaign Manager of Trump’s Presidential campaign; and the Dark Lord of Breitbart himself, Steve Bannon.

Over the next few years, as our daughters moved through K-6 together, Harry and I had several interesting conversations about his work. I hadn’t seen his first film, but I understood from what he said that he wasn’t happy with how it turned out; he seemed to feel he’d been thwarted in his effort to put together an honest criticism of liberal attacks on Bush. Like I said, Harry and I shared similar progressive beliefs, though he tended to be slightly more moderate. But as time went on I noticed a subtle change in how Harry spoke about his projects.

While making his second film, Harry described it as a serious appraisal of international politics. He said he was discovering things he never knew that surprised him and that he felt were important for Americans to understand. Of course, he said, he knew his backers had an agenda, but he was steering the film down a middle course. While the movie didn’t entirely express his viewpoint he felt it was less biased and more balanced than his first film. He seemed happier with the outcome. I felt pleased for him – though I was also skeptical, considering how the film was financed as well as the obvious political agenda of the subject matter. Since the film was only available to conservative audiences at conservative conventions and gatherings, I never saw it myself so I can’t judge whether Harry was correct in his assessment.

I did see his third film, however, the one financed and produced by Steve Bannon… and that was an eye-opener.

Harry was proud of this film, so proud he invited my then-wife and I to the “premiere,” a special screening at a theater in Burbank. In conversations leading up to the showing he talked about how he’d worked to create a legitimate documentary about a crisis in American politics, a failure of government to address a growing and horrific problem that threatened the nature of American society– the criminally weak Washington response to the threat of illegal immigration.

My wife and I went to the premiere, expecting to see a documentary on the problem of undocumented immigration told from a moderately conservative viewpoint–a reasonable expectation given how Harry described the film in contrast to how he’d talked about his previous films.

Remember that scene in “The Producers” when the curtain goes up and the unsuspecting theater audience experiences the opening number, “Springtime For Hitler?”

Yep, it was like that.

The documentary Harry had described as a serious examination of the problem of undocumented immigration was a ninety-five minute diatribe against Mexicans and Mexican immigrants, told almost entirely from the viewpoint of hardcore right-wing Arizona border patrol guards and civilian vigilante Minutemen, interspersed with interviews of wives whose husbands had been killed by illegal Mexican immigrants and subtitled interviews with “illegals” who were drug mules or who had been left to die in the desert by “coyote” smugglers. The only “pro” immigration interview was with a radical Mexican nationalist who argued that America’s possession of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico was an illegal occupation and it was Americans who should be kicked out.

We were, to put it mildly, flabbergasted. After the showing we made polite noises about the documentary being “very effective” and fled quickly while the rest of the invited audience heaped praise on Harry and the producers.

After that, though we stayed friendly with Harry and his family because our daughter and their daughter were friends, I made a point of discussing work and politics as little as possible with Harry. Even so, I found myself wondering if Harry was conscious of the dramatic change in his self-perception.

This was the same man who recognized his first documentary was manipulated by his writer-producer into a blatant right-wing propaganda, who’d known he made compromises in his second film to accommodate the financier’s point of view, and who, nevertheless, had tried – and failed – to produce a balanced piece of work. He’d been aware of the compromises he made. I liked to think he was unhappy but resigned to the financial reality of an independent documentarian’s life. He was also constrained by the fact that after his first film–so much right-wing propaganda–he found financing from less conservative sources closed to him. His only recourse was to make films backed by conservatives. That was the reality. What surprised me, though it shouldn’t have, was the extent to which he rewrote his reality to fit the films he made into his self-concept of being a fair and moderate voice of reason.

The reason Harry’s self delusion about his work shouldn’t have surprised me is simple: I’ve been there. I’ve done it myself and seen many others do it. In Hollywood, it’s a way of life. It’s how people who should and often do know better convince themselves the project they’re working on is brilliant and insightful, when, in truth, the show or movie they’re devising is often a piece of crap.

William Goldman, master screenwriter, once said, “No one ever sets out to make a bad movie.” There’s a corollary to that observation: Very often, no one knows they’re making a bad movie.

When you devote ten hours a day, six or seven days a week to a job–making a film or a TV show– for the sake of your own sanity you must believe the effort and sacrifice is worthwhile. Not just financially worthwhile–in Hollywood, that’s an easy call–but creatively worthwhile. Go talk to the writer or producer of the worst dreck on TV and often you’ll come away astonished by their belief in the worth of their own shitty show. “We’re doing something special here,” says the writer of every predictable family comedy. “We have a great cast and we’re telling important stories,” says the producer of yet another teen drama. These people aren’t lying to you; they’re lying to themselves. They have to lie to themselves– otherwise they’d be forced to admit they’re wasting valuable and irreplaceable hours and days and months making mindless and forgettable entertainment at the cost of marriages, families, health, and sanity. Lying to ourselves under stress is a human defense mechanism. I’ve done it, everyone in Hollywood does it who isn’t a sociopath, and it’s one reason I was happy to leave the business behind more than a decade ago.

So, I understand Harry’s self-delusion. He’s in a tough spot. To make a living doing what he wants to do, he has to convince himself he wants to do what he’s doing. To see himself as a serious documentarian he needs to believe he’s making serious documentaries. To see himself as a progressive moderate he has to ignore the reality he’s promoting a fringe right-wing agenda.

It’s tragic, really. Unfortunately it’s the current reality of the small weird town that is Hollywood, and the much larger, much weirder nation that is Trump and Bannon’s America.


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.

@Stareable – Yep, Pre-Production IS a Thing

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 7
by Bri Castellini

We’re almost there, folks. Almost to the actual shooting of your web series, with someone calling “action!” and “cut!” and good-looking people bringing your words to life. But we’ve got one more step: pulling together everything you’ve done and everything you’ve gotten during the first six steps of this process and making a plan of action. That’s right, it’s officially pre-production time.

Technically, most of what we’ve talked about so far in this column has been pre-production, since pre-production is literally everything that happens before a camera starts rolling. Semantics. Onward!

LOCATIONS

By this point, you should have your script, your people, and your equipment, so the final piece of the puzzle is determining where in the world you’re actually going to film. In order to find these places, you’re going to have to location scout, or go to a series of locations, take pictures, and make decisions. Bring at least one other person along on these excursions, and if possible, bring the director, the director of photography, and the sound person, because all of them will provide valuable insight beyond how something looks in frame.

A few things to keep in mind when location scouting:

  • How easy is this location to get to? How close to public transportation is it, or is there sufficient parking availability?
  • Is there ambient sound that will cause problems? This means everything from crowds to a refrigerator you can’t turn off, to traffic, to a construction site nearby.
  • Is there enough space for the camera and crew? Remember, there will be quite a few people behind the camera as well as in front of it, all of whom need to be hidden from view. Sometimes these problems can be addressed if you’re able to move the furniture around to accommodate, but if the space isn’t yours, ALWAYS ASK.
  • Where is the nearest bathroom? This is especially a concern for outdoor shoots.
  • Is there another area nearby you can use for “holding?” Holding is just an area, preferably away from where the actual filming is taking place, for cast and crew to hang out when they’re not needed. Even during breaks, try to take them away from set, otherwise you risk production design or continuity.
  • Will this location be available again for reshoots or for multiple shooting days? You’ll frequently end up filming multiple days in a single location, so you need to make sure a location is available for as long as you actually need it.How much control do you have over the space? Can you control lighting/rearrange furniture/put up posters and set decorations? Can you redirect traffic or tell people in other rooms to pipe down? Does one need licenses or other approval for outdoor scenes? Do they need to be prepared to lie to cops? The more control you have over the variables, the better a location is going to be. Otherwise, you better be good at improv.

SHOOTING DAY BREAKDOWNS

You’ve already made breakdowns for your props, characters, and locations, so now it’s time to do one last round. This time, you’ll be breaking down your script into filmable chunks. I’d suggest starting by breaking the scenes into locations, then breaking those down by which actors need to be there.

I polled Twitter for the average number of script pages different web series creators ended up shooting, per day. The results may surprise you, because they definitely surprised me. In general, on a traditional feature film shoot, you can expect to shoot 5 pages a day. This accounts for all the lighting changes, filming angles, and takes.

However, according to Twitter, the average web series shooting day (at least for low-budget, often vlog or found-footage projects) is closer to twenty. Kate Hackett, creator of the award-winning series Classic Alice, told me she averaged about sixteen pages a day, and RJ Lackie’s award-winning show Inhuman Condition averaged closer to forty.

Keep these things in mind when you go about planning your own shooting days, and make sure that you leave yourself enough time for actors to mess up, for multiple takes, and for more complex set-ups like stunts, motion shots, or changing locations midway through the day.

Then, once these are done, make “shooting scripts,” or scripts broken up by shooting day. That way, actors can focus on memorizing those particular lines, and your crew gets a better idea what they need to be prepared for, instead of needing to jump around the full season script.

SCHEDULING

It’s time for the absolute worst part of any film project! Some have compared scheduling cast and crew for low-budget film shoots to herding cats, but I bet those cats don’t all work retail with alternating shift schedules and no flexibility. Some suggestions:

1. Ask for actors’ schedules as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re shooting in the winter or summer, when people are likely to be going on vacation. This will give you a general idea of their availability.
2. Have three different schedule plans based on your shooting day breakdowns, but only share the preferred one with the actors. Don’t give them a choice — tell them “these are when we want to shoot these scenes. If you have conflicts, let us know.” People are less likely to flake if they feel like there’s only one option, but if there are unavoidable conflicts, you have an alternative to offer without fuss.
3. Send out the final schedule, including who’s on set, how long the days will be, what scenes will be filmed, and the complete shooting scripts as far in advance as possible. Then, a week before each shoot, email the people involved to remind them, and again the night or days before.
4. Seriously, remind people CONSTANTLY, because they will forget.

Purchase, steal, or borrow the rest of what you need for props, wardrobe, and equipment. Remember to write down everything you spend, whether it’s food for a production meeting or a set of fake throwing knives. Knowing what you’re spending the most money on will help make smarter financial decisions in this production and all future ones. Pro tip: most of your money will go towards food.

My friends, with all this complete, you are now ready to go into production! The most exciting and terrifying part of any film project. Next week, we’ll go over the basics of production, how to prepare and run your set, and the week after that, we’ll go through the most common production disasters and how to solve them.


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.

WGA Negotiations Update: Striking a Pose

by Mark Evanier


LB’s NOTE: This article written by the legendary Mark Evanier is the most enlightening discussion I’ve seen yet of the current state of the contract renewal negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP. Things are getting heated, gang. And Mark is here to tell us why:


very few years, the contract between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires and a new one must be negotiated. Sometimes, the negotiations are simple and sometimes, they are not. When they are not, it is because someone at the A.M.P.T.P. — or at at least one of the member companies that comprise the A.M.P.T.P. — decides he or she can be a hero and advance his or her career by engineering a deal that pays the writers less or at least denies us cost o’ living increases.

I joined the W.G.A. on April Fool’s Day of 1976 so I have been through many of these and sometimes been fairly close to the negotiations. It is my observation that these dust-ups are never about what’s “fair,” at least from the Producers’ standpoint. And when they say things like, “The business is hurting…everyone needs to understand that and accept some cuts,” that is always, 100% of the time, horseshit. For them, these dickerings are only about one thing: Getting as much as possible. The less we get, the more they get.

Whenever Renegotiation Time rolls around, my guild assembles something called the Pattern of Demands — a wish list of things we’d like to discuss. Many times, it is a waste of time because the studios simply refuse to address anything on our list. Their negotiators literally end the meeting if our reps bring out the list. One of the Producers’ lawyers in years past liked to say things like, “We are never going to let these sessions be about what you want. They will only be about what we are willing to give you.”

If anyone does look at our Pattern of Demands, they’ll see items about increased compensation but they will also always see issues that are not directly about money. We want our work to be respected more. We want to be listened-to more on creative matters. We want minorities (including older writers of any color) to be given more consideration. We want our credits to be protected and so forth. Call these the non-monetary issues.

There are people in management at the studios who care about such things but we tend to not negotiate with those folks. The people we deal with only care about the money and with keeping as much of it as possible for their employers. If they address the non-monetary issues at all, it’s because they think they can trade one of the unimportant non-monetary issues for an important monetary one. In the ’85 negotiations for instance, the Producers demanded a change in credit procedures that would have gutted the WGA’s ability to control who received screen credit. They didn’t really care about that. They just wanted to be able to say, “Okay, we’ll drop our demands about credits if you drop your demands about money.”

Because we care (somewhat) about the non-monetary issues and they don’t, sometimes that works. Indeed, in ’85, they dropped those demands but in the same bargaining sessions, we accepted for other reasons a lowering of the fees we were paid when films or TV shows we wrote were put out on home video. The former cost them nothing. The latter cost us billions. From the Producers’ standpoint, that was a wildly-successful negotiation. That year, I don’t think they ever even listened to anything we had in our Pattern of Demands.

Even factoring in that our brief strike that year cost them some cash, the guys who engineered that deal for them were superstar heroes. It was like they’d made a dozen movies as lucrative as Star Wars or Titanic. Each time we embark on a new negotiation, there’s someone there who dreams of doing that again….

Read it all at News From ME (Mark Evanier’s truly enlightening blog)

John Ostrander: Sidekicking Around

by John Ostrander

Holmes and Watson. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Batman and Robin. Lucy and Ethel. Hamlet and Laertes. The list of heroes and their BFFs is long and overall an honorable one… and usually necessary.

A sidekick, at base, is a supporting character and a supporting character’s main function is to bring out aspects of the protagonist. In most cases, the sidekick is there so that the protagonist isn’t constantly monologuing. Granted, Hamlet is a champion monologuist but when Laertes is there he can be engaged in a dialogue. Holmes needs Watson so the reader can see how brilliant the Great Detective is. Whatever his other character traits may be, Watson’s prime one is to be surprised and amazed by Holmes and, in that, Watson represents us, the readers.

There are many different ways of interpreting a sidekick. Watson, for example, can be Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Colonel Blimp character or Jude Law’s testy and acerbic put-upon friend or Martin Freeman’s occasionally explosive but loyal best man. In the Harry Potter films, Ron Weasley, in the first film, is at one point both brave and self-sacrificing. In later films, however, he becomes cowardly and mostly comic relief, very like Nigel’s Bruce’s Watson.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one – Jason Todd – who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

Moral and ethical questions have been raised about the whole idea of the adult hero having child/teen sidekicks. The lifestyle, after all, is inherently violent and rather dangerous. Frederic Wertham, in his suspect 1954 treatise Seduction of the Innocent, postulated Batman and Robin were gay which, given those times, was thought to be profoundly deviant. Wertham was blowing it out his ass but the damage was done at the time. Still, one can see that it was a dangerous life style to include the kids in. The questions remain.

For me, I’ve sometimes identified more with the sidekick than the protagonist. I love Holmes but I’ve always identified more with Watson (except for Nigel Bruce). Batman (and Bruce Wayne) is difficult to like but Dick Grayson (especially in his adult incarnations) is someone with whom I can more easily relate. I think sidekicks are designed that way. They put more human into super-human.


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

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With SCANDAL’s Raamla Mohamed – Part Two

A series of interviews with hard-working writers
– by another hard-working writer!

by Kelly Jo Brick

Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence, hard work and not giving up.

Writer Raamla Mohamed’s career is a prime example of what can happen when a person puts in the hard work to make the most of every opportunity. After attending grad school at USC, Raamla landed a job as a writers’ PA on GREY’S ANATOMY. She went on to become a researcher on OFF THE MAP and SCANDAL. Selection to the Disney-ABC Writing Program got her a writing position on SCANDAL where she has risen from staff writer to producer. She was also a writer on the upcoming ShondaLand show STILL STAR-CROSSED.

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET REPRESENTATION?

I had written the SHAMELESS spec and I asked one of the writers on GREY’S ANATOMY to read it. I just wanted to get notes, because I knew I’d be submitting it to Disney as my second sample if they needed it. I had heard that if they asked you for it, they wanted it immediately. I learned from my mistake before of not being prepared, so I asked if he’d give me some notes. He did and he really liked the script. He started telling other writers that I wrote a good script, so Jenna wanted to read it. She read it and then she passed it on to her agent who then became my agent. I was already working in ShondaLand. I had good referrals. I had gotten into the Disney Program by the time all that happened, so I think I was in a better place to choose the agency I wanted to go with. I love UTA. I’ve been with them since the beginning.

I don’t have a manager. I don’t have anything against managers in general. I believe you connect with people and my agents are great. I think you should have representation who believes in your writing, whether it’s an agent or manager, someone who is really going to fight for you.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE STARTING OUT?

There’s always a writer on set and sometimes you have to cover for other writers. I had to cover and I was very nervous, because it was the director, and directors have different personalities. You have to stand up for yourself. You have to talk to the actors and explain stuff if they don’t understand it.

Someone said to me, “I promise you, you’ll know when it’s wrong.” Like you don’t have to worry about is this okay. You’ll see it. As a writer, as someone who’s been in the room, as someone who knows how it should go, you will know. Obviously you don’t always get it right. There have been times where I have been wrong and I thought something was going to be horrible and it turned out fine or the other way around, but 95% of the time you’re watching it and you’re like, something’s weird. Sometimes you don’t really know exactly how to fix it, sometimes it’s about talking to the director and they can figure out okay, yeah, I think I can see that and get you what you want. But that was very helpful because it kind of is an instinct thing.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR TAKING MEETINGS?

When I take any meeting, I watch the news that morning so that I know what’s happening that day. I watch MSNBC or GOOD MORNING AMERICA just to get highlights of what’s going on. A lot of times in the ten minutes or five minutes in the small talk portion of the meeting, it really helps out. It helps out either way. If they didn’t see something, and it’s not necessarily getting into politics or whatever, but it could be a YouTube or general thing. Either they don’t know about it or they didn’t see it and you’re informing them or they want your opinion on something. It eases the banter. Also it makes you seem like a well-informed human being.

The other thing is that when you have a meeting with anyone, being normal goes a long way. People like someone who feels comfortable. You can relax. It’s a long day to be in the same room with people. You want people who are fun and interesting. That’s kind of what they’re looking for. They’ve read your sample and you’re sitting down in a meeting, so obviously they like your writing enough to bring you in. So you’re good. You’re fine. They’re basically meeting to see if you are someone they want to be around for 8 hours.

AS A WRITER, WHO INSPIRES YOU?

People like Donald Glover, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham. People who have an idea, they act in it, they write, they have a vision. It’s not always perfect, but they go for it and they push the envelope. They have a clear point of view. I find that so cool.

I’m always impressed when I watch something and I’m like how did they come up with that. How did they think of that? There is a really cool new wave of people coming in who are in some ways like TV auteurs who are making such great TV. People are making these 8 to 10 episode stories about lives and characters that you love.

THE PATH TO BREAKING IN.

I would say there’s not one path, which can be comforting, but also scary. I wouldn’t be afraid to go to grad school, but I wouldn’t be afraid not to go to grad school. I was someone who needed the discipline of grad school to write, so I went to grad school. You should know yourself. What do you need? If you’re someone who can work at a coffee shop and write at night and submit to festivals or you want to do your own web series, that’s a path too.

Are you someone who’s good at desk work, then go work on a desk to prove yourself. Everyone should pick the path that they think is going to get them to where they need to be in the best way possible. I have no interest in acting, but if I did, then I’d write things to act in and put them up on something. There’s a lot of ways to do it, but you have to find your thing.


Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.