So You Want to Create a Web Series

Step 1: Writing it
by Bri Castellini

Congratulations! You’ve decided to enter the exciting and stressful world of independent web series! It’s not going to be easy, but it will almost certainly be worth it.

Naturally, the first step in creating a web series is writing the script. Maybe you already have an idea, or maybe you have a longer-form script you want to adapt. Maybe you aren’t sure but just really like the idea of spamming your friends and family with week after week of YouTube links. In any case, let’s talk development, and what you need to remember when making the plunge.

Remember that your audience is young. Most web series audiences are going to be between 14-30. That doesn’t preclude writing more mature stories about adults with adult problems, but it does mean your show should be relatable across generations.

You also have to remember to respect the medium. You can’t just film a TV pilot and expect it to succeed as a web series. You almost certainly don’t have the money, and there’s nothing worse than watching 30-40 minutes of a low-budget film project to then discover it’s only the pilot.

Plus, it’s not like there isn’t a wealth of good TV anymore. Give them something new. This could mean making the medium itself a part of the story — the massive success of vlog and found-footage series demonstrates how audiences have an appetite for new storytelling formats. This can also mean a license to tell a more intimate story with fewer characters, allowing you to double down on their development.

Finally, remember to embrace diversity. Hollywood can get away with its straight white male ivory tower because it’s detached from its audience, but you aren’t. You are directly posting and marketing your content on sites that are built on engagement and viewer feedback.

I’m not advocating for tokenism (where you insert a minority character for the sake of diversity), obviously, but if your show has a narrow traditional perspective, you should ask yourself what you’re really contributing to the conversation. Many people seek out web series explicitly because traditional forms of media aren’t giving them the representation they need; by writing for those communities, you can tap into a passionate audience that will embrace you

Now, with all that in mind, if you don’t already have a script, to adapt or otherwise, it’s time to get brainstorming.

Aside from general brainstorming methods that I’m sure have be written about to death at this point, the thing about making a web series is that, more than likely, you’re on your own. You’ll have little to no money, so the actual resources to make the series a reality will be limited as well. As such, a good brainstorming tool is making a list of all the things you have available to you: locations, cast and crew, equipment, props, wardrobe, etc.

Made your list? Good. Now forget about it for the moment. The best thing you can do in a web series script is to write the story you want to tell, production and audience demographics be damned. The only reason I made two seasons of my TVWriter™-approved series is because I was naive and had no idea what I was doing at first!

Writing within your means is all well and good, but you’d be surprised by what you can come up with if you ask around. It’s incredibly easy at the indie level to talk yourself out of stories or ideas because they’re “too hard” or “not universal enough,” but don’t let yourself fall into that mind trap. At the end of the day, you’re a storyteller. So tell your story and worry about the rest later.

That’s it for this column! Now stop reading and go write, and when you’re done, come back, because we are far from done. In the next few columns we’ll explore pre-production, the bare necessities of a no-budget film crew, casting, the full time job that is crowdfunding, the constant panic of production, endless post-production, and promotion.

OK, so not a web series – but a wonderful series of webs found at dreamstime.com


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker and 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.

And, before we forget, learn more about Bri’s video work HERE

Peggy Bechko’s World of Story

by Peggy Bechko

Do you think about story? Do you write every day? Have you devoured every book on how to write scripts, novels, whatever, that comes out?

Well, this is going to be a very opinionated (mine) piece on storytelling, how it’s done and what it does to people. Don’t panic, it’s going to be fairly short.

Now, I can’t tell you how many people tell me, oh, I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t need to outline, research or any of that stuff, I just sit down and write.

Bravo.

Well, not really. Here’s where my very strong opinion comes in. You don’t have to listen to me. Frankly it doesn’t matter to me one way or another if you do, but here it is.
Writing without any kind of preparation is, um, well, idiotic.

I’ve loved storytelling my entire life. Started when I was about ten in fact. Doubleday published my first novel when I was twenty-one. I’m still writing, rewriting, editing, publishing…etc. And, after all those years, here’s the way I see it.

Movies (screen scripts) and novels are entertaining, no doubt about it. But they’re not JUST entertainment. It’s not JUST the fact that both came before the age of computers and virtual reality. When you sit through a great movie or get engrossed in a fantastic novel you find yourself in sort of time warp in that time seems to cease to exist. We enter other realities. It’s magic!

And here’s the interesting part for writers. We learn so much about story about story arcs, how to get there, how to create a story. There are books written on the subject, so many books, and yes, here I am writing about it as well.

Most of them are wrong.

Am I right? You decide.

I focus in on what is it in a story that makes the person wrapped up in a movie or a novel have to know what happens next. Everything follows that.

Really, do you want to spend your time breaking down structure? Is structure what it’s all about?
Is it possible that if you just follow the ‘pattern’ of a popular script or novel that you’ve really enjoyed and connected to that duplicating that pattern will produce a great story.

Probably not.

In my strong, personal opinion neither in depth plotting nor flying by the seat of your pants is the way to create great stories. I mean you may have a very good plot – but do you really have a story?

So here’s my big take-away. Backstory is your backbone. In a novel it’s pretty easy to weave it in, more difficult in a script. But, remember Faulkner’s statement, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even the past.” Yep, there it is. You need backstory whether you put it all in the book or script or not. It needs to exist,

Think about currently popular books like Game of Thrones (and the series) and Vikings the series. Those are stories. They’re about something. The characters are real because of backstory, both that which is told and that which is implied.

Yes, you need to follow form to present the story, but the STORY is key and key to the up front story is backstory. Know your characters and what makes them tick. Know what happened in the past (which isn’t actually the past according to Faulkner) that drives them to do what they do and find a way direct or indirect to use that backstory to grab your reader.

Stop reading all those books dissecting story structure and get in there and create your own.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her 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.

Dennis O’Neil: PI’s

by Dennis O’Neil

Now as I was young and easy and gentlemen still trod the Earth and politics still made sense (a little… sometimes) I held that private eye fiction was about righteous men who had the courage to be alone. I was, at the time, living by myself in a small Manhattan apartment and so I guess I was seeking identification with heroes (and maybe seeking an excuse for my isolation.) But I was, I now think, wrong.

Which fictional gumshoes did I have in mind? My two favorites were Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and they were, indeed, solitary beings walking the mean streets seeking truth. And there were others sprinkled through the pop culture regions of pulp magazines, radio, B movies. (Comic books? Patience, please, we’ll get to them.)

If you’re looking for antecedents, cast a glance at the King Arthur stories. Arthur’s knights mostly roved without companionship on their quests for the holy grail or whatever. But they did have a whole posse of clanky buddies waiting for their return at that round table, not to mention the odd fair maiden.

And from the very beginning of detective fiction, the heroes often had assistants, sidekicks, companions, homies – you pick the terminology – and these did a lot more than wait at home for the questers return. Edgar Allen Poe published the first private eye story way back in 1841. His hero was not a cop; he was a gifted amateur sleuth and here Poe established a much-imitated prototype, and not the only one. His good guy was a Gallic dilettante named C. Auguste Dupin whose exploits were related by an anonymous narrator whose name Poe did not share… and a mere 46 years later behold!

Dr. John Watson delighting us with the wizardry of his roommate and constant companion, the world’s first “consulting detective” and by now you know that I refer to the master, Sherlock Holmes. Then, a lot of others, some lone wolves, some with healthier social lives.

Comics have not been congenial hosts to the consulting detective crowd..There have been a few, including a pre-Superman toughie named Slam Bradley who, by the way, had a sidekick, Shorty Morgan. Slam was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the team much better known for Superman.

Superman did not have on-the-job companionship, at least not in his early days, when he was supposed to be the only survivor of a doomed planet. (That changed. Considerably.) But Batman, the character Superman’s publisher commissioned to repeat his success, though originally a loner, had, within 11 months of his debut, an official assistant, Robin The Boy Wonder. Costumed vigilantes thereafter often came equipped with young acolytes.

And that brings us to now. These days, the superheroic genre is evolving a new paradigm. There is a kind of boss hero and several attractive helpers who take an active part in the quelling of antagonists. They aren’t gathering dust at that stupid table, they’re doing stuff! This, I think, is to accommodate the needs of television, which reaches a much bigger audience than print media ever did , specifically, a certain demographic, millennials old enough to have disposable income and young enough to identify with having lots of friends and getting involved with romances and disapproving parents and such woes. Of the five comics-derived weekly shows, only Gotham violates this pattern; its creators are going with the earlier Holmes-Watson template.

And say! Did you hear about Sherlock’s girlfriend? Elly Mentary?


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

NBC’s Conjoined Triplets of Comedy

by Quetzelcoatl

Thought about Atlantis lately?  I hadn’t until Thursday night, February 16th.  NBC was airing an episode of “SUPERSTORE,” followed by “POWERLESS.”  For an island that sunk out of sight, Atlantis popped up like an atoll when the subject was raised in both sitcoms, broadcast back to back.

Starting at 8 pm, the crew and customers at “SUPERSTORE” felt a heatwave when the temperature control system broke.  Glenn, the oft befuddled manager, tried calling corporate to fix it but was brushed off in a perky, yet authoritative voice.

Enter Sales Associate Garrett, played by Colton Dunn.  Paralyzed from the waist down, Garrett enters Glenn’s office in his wheelchair.  Garrett might be the first physically challenged sitcom character who seems natural, adjusted to his situation and funny on his own terms.

Remarking that Glenn had turned his small office into a cool oasis with the one working air conditioner, Garret then encourages his manager to go outside to fix the main temperature control system with his own bare hands instead of pleading further with the corporation.

As newly empowered Glenn leaves the room, the opportunistic Garrett encourages him to take his time so he can literally enjoy chilling in Glenn’s office for as long as possible.

Glenn arrives at the roof, accompanied by ditzy, lovable, Cheyenne Taylor Lee, a teen-aged employee. Bracing the cold weather, Glenn embarks on rendering order unto the chaos caused by the infernal machine.

Back inside, Assistant Manager, Dina Fox, walks past Glenn’s office and can hear groaning coming from within.  She opens the door and finds Garrett, moaning with pleasure in air conditioned bliss.  She uses the situation to be offensively authoritative, but soon joins Garrett to chill out with him.

After some boredom, she languidly suggests sex to pass the time and the two co-workers pursue carnal knowledge with a tragic-comic lack of passion and anticipation.

Back outside, Glenn is feeling helpless, (dare I say “Powerless?”) as fixing the heater proves to be overwhelmingly complicated.  Cheyenne tries to boost his morale.  Searching for a means to make his life matter, 57-year old Glenn invites the blossoming young woman to accompany him on a trip around the world.

She makes valid excuses to reject the offer, but Glenn clearly feels hurt.  Guilt ridden, the good-hearted Cheyenne agrees to participate in the globetrotting adventure, after all.   Glenn mentions that it will mean obtaining plenty of vaccinations, causing Cheyenne to grimace with fear and loathing.

Still in Glenn’s office, Dina answers a phone call meant for Glenn in which corporate admits that the malfunctioning air conditioning system was indeed, caused by a glitch in their own all-encompassing computer and that the problem has been fixed.

Glenn and Cheyenne return inside and notice that it’s getting colder. In a celebratory mood, Glenn exposes his disconnect from reality by planning his world trip aloud.  Among his destinations is “Atlantis.”

Cheyenne backs out a second time from the trip, while still allowing Glenn to save face.  She says, “I really wanted us to travel the world together but I feel that the store needs you.”  This makes Glenn’s day.

His dignity is not restored for long.  He immediately slips on the yogurt that had been left on the floor due to heat related labor disputes.

It’s a rough ending for a character we liked.  It didn’t work for me.  Obnoxious Marcus, who had dodged his duty to clean up the yogurt several times should have fallen on his own mess.  Maybe it’s the show’s comment on the way good people at work often pay for the dereliction of others.

A few minutes later, NBC continued its Thursday night comedy lineup with the third episode of the new sitcom, “POWERLESS.” The teaser opens as a broadcast of news taking place in where else? Atlantis.

Coincidence? A certain TV writing guru once said, “There are no coincidences in Art.”  The peacock network has a proclivity toward carrying a joke from one show to another. In this case, the mention of Atlantis on “SUPERSTORE” was meant to whet our appetite for mythical places and heroes in the upcoming sitcom, “POWERLESS.”

The tradition of sharing segments between shows that are not related as spinoff and original series dates at least as far back as November 17, 1994.  On that last Thursday before Thanksgiving, two New York-based shows had a turkey of a time dealing with the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The “Seinfeld” episode entitled, “The Mom and Pop Store” started off on a high note where Elaine’s boss, Mr. Pitt, had finally won the chance to hold some of the strings for the Woody Woodpecker float.

Sadly, Jerry attends a party thrown by a dentist and his friends in a building overlooking the parade.  As a dentist tries to examine Jerry’s teeth, the comedian inadvertently knocks a replica of the Empire State Building out the window toward the parade below.  The statuette pierces the Woody Woodpecker float with Mr. Pitt beneath it.

On the same evening, Monica and Ross Geller try to have a quiet Thanksgiving celebration at her apartment on “FRIENDS.”  As various peoples’ plans go awry, they all end up crashing Monica and Ross’ supper.

Monica starts preparing a hodgepodge dinner to suit everyone’s sensibilities when Chandler interrupts to say the Underdog balloon had slipped away from its handlers.  The gang goes out to the roof for a better glimpse, causing themselves to be locked out while their meal burns in the kitchen.

Upon first seeing one theme carried over to another show, it came across as a cheap gimmick to make NBC shows seem like a parallel universe.  I wondered if other audience members were as critical.  Today I see it as an intrusion of network “suits” on the scripts to keep the viewer from reaching for the remote after the first show.

The newer shows, “SUPERSTORE” and “POWERLESS,” had more than Atlantis in common:  they both dealt with the powerlessness of the individual against such forces as bureaucracy and privilege.

Just as Glenn slipped on yogurt left on the floor by Marcus in “SUPERSTORE,” the grunt workers at Wayne Security might lose their jobs when “Da Boss,” Van Wayne, mishandles an email sent by the representative of their biggest account, ACE Chemicals.

Trying to apologize to his subordinates, it becomes clear that Van fails to grasp its full significance.  Emily Locke, his new Head of R&D, encapsulates one of the show’s major themes, scolding him with “It’s great that you can mess up and there’s never any consequences but the rest of us don’t have your dad to care for us.”

With further encouragement, Van uses hard work and ingenuity to win a sizable chunk of business from the Island of Atlantis, thus regaining his father’s respect and earning Emily’s admiration.

The episode ends on the reassuring note that seemingly powerless people can actually work with those at the top of the heap for everyone’s mutual benefit.

When I hear writers complaining about the encroachment of corporate interests into their creativity, I as an outsider can at least imagine the relationship between network executives and writers as similar to the Van Wayne/Emily Locke dynamic and hope for the best.


“Quetzelcoatl,” AKA “The Feathered Serpent of Snark” is a frequent TVWriter™ contributor who has chosen to use a pseudonym because why the heck not?

John Ostrander: “My Mysteries are Many for I am TV’s ‘Legion'”

LEGION
by John Ostrander

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

• Talking Heads, Once In a Lifetime

Okay, I’ve finally found a TV superhero show I like more than The Flash, which is saying a lot. It’s Legion, Wednesdays at 10 PM (ET) on FX, and it stars Dan Stevens in a role that’s world’s away from his stint on Downton Abbey. He plays David Haller, a man who may be the world’s strongest telepath and, because of his schizophrenia – their diagnosis, not mine – perhaps the most dangerous.

The show is from 20th Century Fox in association with Marvel TV and is the first to link with the X-Men movie franchise which, for contractual and bureaucratic reasons, is separate from the Mighty Marvel Movie Franchise over at Disney. It’s not only unlike any other superhero TV show out there. In fact, it’s different from any other TV show, period.

What makes Legion so different is the use of the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. That concept means the reader/viewer cannot trust the facts of the story as presented. The device is most commonly used in fiction with a first person narrator, but it can be used in film and television and it’s being used very effectively here in two ways.

The show’s creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley (who also wrote and directed the first episode), wants the show to be told from Haller’s perspective. The story is about him, but since he can’t trust his own memories neither can we. His perception of reality around him may be off as well. David is an unreliable narrator.

At the same time, Hawley skews the design elements so that they match Haller’s mindset and are disorientating to us. His way of presenting David’s life cannot be wholly trusted either. Hawley is also an unreliable narrator.

There’s a key moment in the first episode when David’s being held at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital (which itself seems to be a nod to A Clockwork Orange) where he is drugged, tested, questioned, evaluated. There’s a strong suggestion of a sinister governmental organization – as if there is any other kind – called Division 3 who seem ready to kill Haller.

David is eventually rescued by his sort of girlfriend named Sid and people connected with a place called Summerland run by Dr. Melanie Bird. There’s running and people shooting at them but, in the middle of the escape, David stops and begs of Sid, “Is all this really happening? Are you real?” She reassures them that it is happening, she is real, and they must run.

Those questions, for me, are the center of the episode and maybe of the series. Is this real? Is this happening? Can David trust it? Can we?

In the second episode, David – now safely (?) at Summerland, is being helped by Dr. Bird and her associates. Dr. Bird insists that David is not crazy; the voices he hears are part of his telepathic powers manifesting and always have been. One of her associates helps guides David through buried or forgotten memories but, again, we’re not certain how reliable those memories are and neither is he.

As I’ve been thinking about the show, I’m now questioning even what I think I know. What if Summerland is not the beneficial place we’ve been told it is? What if kindly Dr. Bird is not all that kindly and the evil Division 3 folks are really the good guys? What if David Haller himself is not a “hero” but more of an anti-hero or even an outright villain? He’s is the Legion of the title and I’m put in mind of the gospels of Mark and Luke where Jesus meets a man possessed of demons who says “My name is Legion for we are many.” David has a lot of voices inside him.

If you know my work, you can see why I’m fascinated by the show. It may not be for everyone; you may prefer your heroes and villains a little more clearly identified. Me, I’m fascinated by it. I like murky.

The character of Legion was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in Marvel’s The New Mutants #25 where he was the son of Charles Xavier, Professor X of the X-Men. The TV show doesn’t precisely follow the comics’ continuity but I think it’s very true to the concept, re-interpreting it for this day and age. I’m fine with that.

The show demands attention and some thought. I hope that it has some answers for the questions it poses, unlike such shows as Twin Peaks and The X-Files). Right now, I’ve settled in for the ride.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.


John Ostrander quite simply 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.

Peggy Bechko’s World of the Innocent, the Eager & the Doomed

“My hopes, dreams and aspirations were no match against my poor spelling, punctuation and grammar.” Red Red Rover

Okay writers, is that you? It might be, even if you aren’t aware of it. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the STORY that counts, right?

Hmmm, well, yes. BUT, if you can’t get anyone to read your story because you just can’t handle the basics then your STORY won’t mean much.

People are busy… editors and producers even more so. They don’t have time to mess around with your work if it’s littered with spelling errors, grammar that makes no sense and punctuation that throws everything into a tailspin.

You can sit there at your computer and argue with me all you want in your head, but facts are facts (no, there are no ‘alternative facts’). If your material is all but unreadable it won’t get read.

Readers for screen scripts don’t have the time to mess with it and it sure won’t reach a producer’s hands (unless you know him personally and put it in his hands, in which case he won’t read past the first few pages). An editor will pitch a fit.

So, what to do if your skills are lacking. You can take some courses, not a bad idea in any regard. But there are helps out there.

You can try Grammarly.  Sign up for an account and get the free version to test out. If it’s really helpful and you really like it, there’s a fee-based version you can go with

No, I’m not associated with Grammarly in any way. I don’t get paid. Your choice. I have used it and found it helpful. Be careful not to take what it tells you too literally as you’re writing fiction, not staid business correspondence.

There are some of my favorite books as well. They’re small, slim volumes by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Picked them up while working in a college bookstore so mine are kind of old and battered hardcovers:

The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Both of these books are amusing and helpful and have been on my writing shelf for years. Yes, you read that correctly. I can still get myself into a corner when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Despite the fact that it’s obvious and a lot of you reading this will groan, pay attention to whatever writing software you’re using.

MS Word, Scrivener (you can get a 30 day free trial on this one!) and most dedicated script softwares have features that highlight errors in some way.

I’ve just begun using Scrivener and despite the learning curve I’m coming to love it. And it even has a ‘script’ writing element. Check it out if you’re interested. (Again, I’m not profiting from mentioning it).

These are the tools I use. You may have discovered equally wonderful, or even more wonderful ones you use. If you have suggestions go ahead and post them in the comment box. It never hurts any of us to have new tools in the tool box!


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her 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.

David Perlis reviews ‘Rogue One’

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s begging a thousand pardons time as TVWriter™ acknowledges that we fucked up bigtime. We’ve had David Perlis’ review of Rogue One for months now but totally lost track of its place in our Secret Subterranean Vault, and it only re-surfaced yesterday.

Our apologies to David and Star Wars fandom as a whole for depriving them of David’s opinions back when they were timely. Forgive us – puhleeze!

Okay, David, we’ve abased ourselves enough, yeah? Over to you, dood:

Rogue One Review…Finally!
by David Perlis

THE ACCURATE AND NUANCED PLOT SUMMARY

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Young Ian McKellen blackmails bad-guy turned good-guy Galen Erso into building the Death Star. Fifteen years later, Captain-Rebel finds Galen’s daughter Jin (Jyn? Gin? Jen?), to help find Forest Whitaker (a sort of Che Guevara—whose name, I think, actually was Che Guevara), to find the pilot guy, to find Galen, to find the Death Star plans. Along the way, they pick up Donnie Yen and Donnie Yen’s friend. No one knows their names. Not even the writers. CGI Tarkin is taking credit for all of Sir Ian’s work, so Sir Ian complains to Vader, who has a mother fucking castle on Mustafar with a mother fucking BACTA TANK! That was cool. Vader calls Sir Ian whiney (I could have done without Vader’s puns), so Sir Ian flies to Deep Space 9. Galen dies. Jin flies to the planet that DS9 hovers over to steal the Death Star plans. Master switch and satellites abound. More rebels show up and botch everything. Master switch and satellite and a big battle—then Jin steals the plans. The Death Star arrives, and Sir Ian has this rather beautifully moment of realization that his life’s passion is about to pee all over him in the form of a big green Super Laser.

The entire cast is blown up.

And you think it’s over, right? NOPE! ‘Cause just as the rebels escape, Vader shows up, and I swear, it’s the best five minutes in cinematic history. Vader goes fucking ape shit, and even though you know they escape with the plans, you just keep thinking “Jesus Christ! They’re gonna lose! Vader is right there, and they’re gonna fucking lose!” And your concrete memories of exactly what happens in A New Hope are put into serious doubt, but then of course they escape, and the movie ends with a shot of CGI C-Fish saying “Hope.”

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE

Got it. But how did yesterday’s far superior and inspired post give a respectable B- to a film that you, yourself, suggested can largely be ignored for a good romp in the sack?

Rogue One is good. Sex is better.

WHY SEX IS BETTER THAN ROGUE ONE

Good sex is better. The kind you have in the back of a packed theatre. With Red Hots. And THX.

The final five or so minutes alone make this movie a blessing in mine eyes. Vader slaughtering the rebels? My oh my!  And there were other moments throughout that really lit me up…can’t think of ’em right now. Anyhoo!—overall, the movie just didn’t suck me in the way a good ole’ garbage chute getaway does. I doubt I’ll be watching Rogue One yearly, as I do with the Original Trilogy—and I chalk that up to a few different things:

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Forest Whitaker’s Che Guevera was cool. Cool like Luke—from Cool Hand Luke. A rebel extremist at odds with our familiar band of heroes. A paranoid, maybe even schizo, cyborg. Hell yeah. I tell ya, I was prepared to watch an anti-hero test our protagonist’s morals and start fucking up best-laid plans in Acts II and III before succumbing to his fatal flaws. Greek drama at its finest. Instead, he’s killed off on the fringe of Acts I and II, never serving more than a hiccup of an obstacle, and adding twenty-odd minutes of “so what?”

I’m not sure what writers saw as Che’s dramatic purpose, but every hope I had for him basically fizzled out with an anti-climactic death. Boo.

By the way, that “fatal flaw” is known as “hammartia” in pretentious drama-speak. Yeeeeep.

MEGO

It’s a criticism one of my 4000-level writing profs turned me onto back in college. MEGO: My Eyes Glazed Over. Like when your mind just won’t process the logorrhea served up to you, but fuck it, you’ll fake it later.

I’m afraid I had my share of Rogue One MEGOs. It usually happens when there’s a lot of lateral plot points, without going deeper into the complexity of existing plot points.

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE

Lateral plot points? Wut? MEGO, man! MEGO!

Just sayin, having to find this dude, to get to that dude, cause of this dude…it’s a set series of road bumps that I just want to get to the end of ’cause it could basically be condensed with no real change. I sorta ignored all of Rogue One‘s technical details for the same reason. Hyperdrive doesn’t work? Got it. Need to shut down a tractor beam? Right there with ya. But master switch, ’cause satellite, but the shield and oops tangled power cordwhatever, there’s laser beams, so I’ll just…Yeah. Hand me a Red Hot?

Miss a line of dialogue, and your understanding for the next ten minutes is reduced to “rebels vs Empire.” But it’s at least explosive.

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE

You’re bummin’ me out, man! Can’t you give me something positive?! I already bought my ticket!

No problema! (I’d also like to direct you to my lighter, more respectable post from yesterday).

GALEN ERSO: THE GALAXY’S FIRST SCIENTIST

I bet you never even noticed that Star Wars was scientist-free before now. Didja? Didja?!

Had he spent too much time onscreen, I might have lost interest in Mr. Erso. But oh how those crafty writers kept him elusive and mysterious, perfectly balancing his evil deeds with his misgivings. I love his stoicism. I love his empathy. I love that I remember his name.

Yes, Mr. Erso adds a lovely shade of gray to our “light” and “dark” Star Wars arenas. Gray—just like his beautiful, thick locks. His engineering genius is a welcome addition to our normal cast of philosophers, pilots, smugglers, knights, politicians, bounty hunters, farmers, salesman, and 1960s fry cooks. I wish he would have worn a space visor, but, I can forgive that one.

Galen Erso. Solid A+ for me.

Shit. I just remembered those Kamino cloner dudes. That was pretty sciencey. They’ve ruined my point, and now I hate that movie even more.

Moving on? Moving on.

PILOT GUY

That’s all he will ever be to me: Pilot Guy. Just like “Oversized Munchkin,” Or “Stupid Podracer Kid.” He got us from A to Z by filling gaps other characters couldn’t. But that’s about it. Pilot Guy: Licensed Gap Filler. (I swear, if anyone makes a lewd comment…) And it’s not just Pilot Guy. He’s just the poster child for the others, like Donnie Yen, and Donnie Yen’s friend. Just kinda there. No real dramatic intention. Sometimes you toss him a problem only he can solve—maybe something with the master switch!—but that’s about it.

No, I didn’t much care for Pilot Guy—But this comes with one very important caveat. (“Caveat” may not be the right word, but I can’t think of the one I want. So we’ll stick with “caveat.”)

THE IMPORTANT CAVEAT TO DISLIKING PILOT GUY (AND EVERYONE ELSE)

The capacity to forget Pilot Guys does work beautifully in one way: He may be nothing more than Pilot Guy to me, but you can’t help but feel that, in the long run, that’s all he was to the alliance, too. One of the many forgettable pilot guys. Ya don’t see portraits of him, or Captain-Rebel or Jin Erso lined up at the altar when Luke, Han, and Chewie get their shiny medals, do ya? In our decades long war, lots of people die, and lots of people are forgotten. Rogue One is the story of unsung heroes, and I appreciate that about it.

Rest in peace, Pilot Guy.

The Greatest Success of Rogue One

I think the prime directive (someone’s going to murder me for that one) for Rogue One was to bridge the prequels with the Original Trilogy. A piece of a greater puzzle. From all the small continuity nods (killing off Red Five, anyone?) to the fan boy moments (seriously—Vader in a bacta tank), it satisfies all those little questions we ever had with little complaint. If that’s it’s only job, it does it brilliantly, and I give it an A.

But I feel compelled to look at a movie’s ability to stand on its own two legs, no matter its primary purpose. And for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I’ve gotta take it from the A down to the B-. Maybe a B if I’m high.

And there it is, my friends. A much too long, and unnecessary review of Rogue One. Be sure to comment below.


David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist doing his best to break into the even Bigger Time.