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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

@BrisOwnWorld – ‘I’m in my head’

by Bri Castellini

I talk a big game about being an indie filmmaker, but the truth is, at this moment in time and space, I’m struggling with it. There are two reasons for this: Trump and knowing what the hell I’m doing. Let’s, as they say, explore!


One of my favorite descriptions of the person (source?) currently in charge of this country is “screaming carrot demon.” Thank you, Samantha Bee. The country is in chaos. We thought it was bad that he was a nominee for the presidency, and now we’re really seeing what this baby-fisted garbage cheeto is willing to do with his newfound power, people are understandably afraid and enraged and compelled to action. In particular, artists and comedians.

This administration is crippling my creativity and my confidence in my work, but not for the reasons you’d think.

I am not an apolitical person. I have a lot of opinions and a lot of friends in underrepresented demographics and I am absolutely horrified by the state of the country I was taught to all but worship during my childhood. But I am not a particularly political writer, at least not up front.

I’ve tweeted about Brains seasons 5 and 6 being incredibly political, but that’s because they’re the fifth and sixth seasons of a show that started with a girl getting horny post apocalypse and shoving her camera in unwilling faces. I couldn’t have done a political first or second season of that show- it had to get there naturally.

The thing is, I’m not able to produce any more of Brains. It’s too expensive and time consuming at my current level, and that’s ok. But it means that I need a new project, and in this current climate, writing anything that starts out less political seems like a slap in the face to the millions of people attending marches every weekend and the millions more in literal mortal danger because of the diapered citrus baby’s fifteen thousand executive orders. If I, a person with incredible privilege in our current system, don’t write a show or a film that scathes and enrages this administration, then what’s the point? Why is my voice valid? Why don’t I care about anyone other than myself? God, how selfish this cis white girl is.

On one hand, I understand this is irrational, at least to a point. There’s an incredible value in creating art that isn’t about our current dumpster fire of a world, to give people a little bit of a reprieve. I know I need that reprieve myself. But it’s hard to detach myself from how selfish and inconsequential it feels to write something silly about a spaceship or an overly analytical female character struggling to navigate the complexities of “normal” human relationships while cracking jokes with her male best friend/roommate.

In conclusion, the diseased peach president of my country of origin is cramping my style and the effort to overcome the guilt of not attacking him directly with my art is actively impeding my efforts to make art at all.


All things considered, Brains should not have happened. It’s insane that we made it, insane-er that we made a second season, and insane² that we have two extended universe projects. And in all honesty, we only made it because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’d never been on a real set before. I didn’t know what the difference between an executive producer and a pooper scooper was. But in our ignorance, we plowed forward, and managed to do some pretty impressive things. That was then.

Now, I know too much. I know what a pain it is to location scout, and to ask friends to volunteer their time and talents and give up days off or picking up extra shifts to pay their exorbitant NYC rents. I know how much of an imposition asking for a multi-day commitment is, and how difficult it is to find music for traditionally filmed scenes and how useless found footage is for actors who want to use the scenes they pour their hearts and souls into for their reels.

I’ve written like 6 different web series pilots in the past few months, and I can’t commit to any of them. This one has too many locations, this one requires a cafe that I no longer have free access to, this one has too big of a cast, this one has too many props I don’t already own, etc etc etc on and on. Are these things I could overcome if I concentrated and plowed ahead? Of course. Does that knowledge matter when I’m trying to write? Not at all.

I’m in my head. In order to respect the time and effort of my wonderful and talented friends, I am attempting to write the cheapest possible web series that is still good and still something they’d want to work on that I can then show to my new web series community friends on Twitter to raise my indie film profile and eventually make a career out of all this free work I do because I “have dreams.” That’s a tall order. And it’s killing me.

I have no shortage of ideas. I know I can survive this industry, because it is the only thing I’ve ever done that completely fulfills me creatively. But some days and weeks and months it’s easier than others.

Also, like, fuck Donald Trump and Mike Pence and President Steve Bannon. Seriously.

Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out her award winning web series, Brains, and the rest of her stats on IMDB.

This article was first published on her very informative blog.

@Stareable – “I’ve got to have contracts for my web series?! Oh nooo!”

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 6
by Bri Castellini

Filmmaking, especially at the indie level, is a largely unglamorous process. There are glamorous aspects, of course: hearing your words read aloud and performed by talented actors, the thrill of a well-composed shot that raises the value of the entire project, and your first film festival acceptance email. But this step in the process, focusing on cast and crew contracts, is not one of those. It is, however, one of the most important and vital things you will hate to do.

Stareable recently published a great article from an actual lawyer about all the legal considerations you should keep in mind when writing up contracts. For this column, I, a non-lawyer whose mother really wanted her to be a lawyer, will give you a pragmatic perspective based in experience, not legal expertise.

The first thing you need to know is that, regardless of whether you are paying people, you need a contract signed (and backed up in two places) from every member of your team, even if they only work a single day.

Not because your friends are going to take advantage of you or because people are basically rotten, but because you cannot expect other people to take your project as seriously as you do, especially without significant monetary compensation. As such, their thought process is different than yours, and you’re going to want to be as clear as possible about what is expected of them.

Every good web series or indie film contract should have at LEAST the following:

Clear and reasonable expectations and responsibilities

If they’re an actor, how many episodes are they acting in, how many shooting days will that require, and how long can you require them to be on set per shooting day? If they’re crew, same questions, plus how long will you need them on set before and after filming wraps? Are they expected to get there earlier than the actors and stay after the day is done to break down equipment?

Write down, in as specific wording as possible, everything they could conceivably be expected to do. It sounds inane, because it is, but these sorts of things will save your butt down the line if something goes wrong.

Furthermore, what about after principal filming is over? Is there flexibility if you need a reshoot, or if a day takes longer than expected and needs to be split up into two? How about ADR sessions, or additional dialog recording, for when you just need them to record a few lines of dialog later?

Will you be filming promotional videos with them, to hype up the season? Do they need to be involved in your crowdfunding campaign, and if so, what level of involvement is needed? Does one of the perks involve work on their part, are they in the initial pitch video, or do they need to be in a fundraising live-stream?

All of these questions and contingencies need to get decided, otherwise they have free reign to say “it’s not in my contract, so I’m not doing it.” They probably won’t, but you never know, and that’s the point of a contract. It’s preventative.


If you can pay your cast and crew, this is where you outline exactly how much, as well as if it’s a flat fee, if it’s based on how many shooting days they’re participating in, or some other equation. You can also opt to “defer” payment, meaning that your cast and crew agree to wait for payment until the production makes x in profits from the project, at which time they’ll receive a pre-agreed-upon rate.

More than likely, though, you’re broke because you’re self-producing a web series and we’re all broke. At least you’re in good company! In this case, even deferring payment might not be an option, but you still need to offer something. Sometimes the compensation for work will be as simple as craft services (on-set food) and IMDb credit, but you still need to outline that. “For the work agreed upon in the previous section, you will receive x by [date]”


Once the web series is completed, where does it go? Are you considering approaching distributors or are you uploading directly to YouTube? Are you submitting to film festivals and live screenings?

Make sure you have an agreement up-front about where you’re allowed to post episodes and if you, the creator and producer, have total authority over the final product and where it ends up. If you end up making a distribution deal, it’s going to be helpful to have signed contracts from your actors giving you the legal authority to sign over the rights to the show and to their performances or work in it.

Social media

We’ll talk about this more once we get to the column about promotion, but it’s worth noting early on that even actors with their faces all over your project will be bad at posting about the show to social media.

You’re making a web series and your audience is 100% online, so the more people posting about it, the more likely it is to get seen. As such, I recommend having a clause in the contract about how frequently cast and crew are expected to post about the show or about new episodes, and to which platforms.

Once again, you can’t expect anyone else, even your lead actors, to take your show as seriously as you do. Sometimes you’re going to have to lay it out for them, especially once the show’s been out of production for a while and they’ve moved on to other projects. There’s a completely understandable promotional fatigue that sets in as you go, which you might even run into yourself, so having set expectations from the very beginning will be incredibly helpful.

And another thing:

Never written a contract before? No problem! Just Google “film contract” and mash up a couple that you find until you’ve got something you’re happy with. The most important thing is that it clearly lays out everything involving expectations, responsibilities, and compensation, so that everyone comes away from the project happy and fulfilled.

Now that you’ve conquered the legalese of contracts, we can finally move into actual pre-production, where we’ll discuss scheduling, having a plan B for everything, and the indescribable beauty of color coding.

Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out 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.

John Ostrander: No Trespassing

by John Ostrander

My Mary will sometimes pop into the office to chat a bit. If I’m just goofing off (a lot of my work day consists of goofing off), that’s fine but if I’m actually working she has to leave. She understands and doesn’t take offense; she can get the same way when she’s creating.

I don’t want anyone looking over my shoulder when I’m working, especially with the initial draft. I get self-conscious and everything freezes up and goes away. Oddly enough, Kim didn’t always understand that. It bothered her that there was a private place inside me to which she was not invited. She felt a couple should share everything and, for the most part, I agree – except when I’m writing.

I suppose that, with most couples that’s also true to some degree. Perhaps it’s even desirable that the person with whom you’ve spent a good long time can still surprise you, hopefully in positive ways. I once wrote a Wasteland story in which the husband challenges his wife when she claims she knows him completely. He suggests that he could, in fact, be the serial killer they’ve heard about. The claim that he could be eats away at his wife and, by the end of the story, she’s ready to leave him because she realized that the doubt she is feeling indicates she doesn’t really know her husband at all.

It is a big question. How much do we really know another person – even someone that we know intimately? We start off the relationship by being attracted to someone which may lead to falling into what we think of as love. I would suggest that, in fact, what we’re really falling in love with is our construct of the person. Someone we’ve invented that’s based on the other person but is as much or more really based on us as it is them. Hopefully, as time goes by, our perception deepens as we see more of the actual person and, again hopefully, fall into more of a true love.

That gets chancy. As you wind up really seeing more of the other person, you have to let them see more of the real you. Brrr! Pretty scary, boys and girls! It does necessarily involve opening up.

However, when you’re doing something creative – writing or art or what have you – the process can be very private. It’s a mysterious business to begin with; you don’t always know where the initial impulse comes from and you may not want to know. For a long time, I resisted any idea of going to a therapist because I felt that, if I knew more about my creative instinct, it would vanish. In reality, therapy turned out helping quite a bit. I understood why I did or thought some things and that understanding actually helped me creatively.

Still, I don’t want someone watching me create. I may need to dig around in parts of my psyche that can get a bit dark. (Those of you familiar with my work can probably appreciate that.) Nietzche said in Beyond Good and Evil: “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Kim and I used to describe the creative process as bungee jumping into the abyss and pulling out something. Usually it’s squirming.

I don’t need observers when I do that.

I do wind up revealing aspects of myself in my writing; you have to. Every character you write must in some way be you. However, you’re in disguise; you can always claim a given aspect of a given character is that character and not you. Keep in mind, as I’ve warned some people in the past, that I may appear to be a nice guy but GrimJack comes from somewhere in me.

And visitors are not welcomed there.

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

Peggy Bechko’s World of Free Resources for Writers & Readers

by Peggy Bechko

I admit, usually I try to pry writers off the net, off the computer, except for a good word processor or scriptwriting program. You know, a blank screen and all that. Get the juices flowing and for God’s sakes write something!

Well, yeah, that’s good – most of the time. I’m not backing off. BUT, and it’s a big but, there are times when we writers just need to read. Maybe we need to do some research. Maybe we just need to relax. Maybe we just have a curiosity that could lead to a story.

Whatever the reason, the plain fact is writers must read. A lot.

Another fact is, writers frequently are broke. Certainly at least the ones who are just beginning, or doing it in their spare time until such time as they can make a living writing.

So, this go round I’m going to share with you some sites where the book downloads are free. And they’re not just fiction downloads, though some of those can be very good as well.

Nope, these sites include things like reference books, papers, maybe magazine, text books, that fiction I mentioned and some even provide links to more sites with more free e-books.

Yes, there’s a lot of ‘junk’ out there, but if you pay attention and are selective it’s possible to find gems without spending too much time doing it.

So read, my brothers and sister of the page, read!

In no particular order of preferen:

Free – i.e. Free Ebooks for Life!

There’s a sign up requirement but it’s free and you can either fill out their form or sign up through Facebook. They offer quite a ‘library’ from fiction, non-fiction, academic texts and audio books. I’ve poked around here more than once. This one is very well organized and pretty easy to browse categories and are presented in list form.

Get Free EBooks

It’s not quite a straight-forward to navigate as the first one above, but it certainly isn’t difficult either. They offer an assortment of fiction, nonfiction, etc. And be advised, some turn up as ‘no good’ (as in you can’t download it and that’s their message) and I’ve spotted a couple that were done in a video format as in text that displays on a screen via YouTube. Still, again, worth a quick swing through if you’re looking for something to read.

It’s pretty easy to navigate and offers a wide variety. There are classics to download as well if that’s your thing. Many are also available in a number of languages – just click “languages: on the site navigation bar to get a list.

The Online Books Page

The site is pretty bare bones, but it’s interesting. You can search the site in a variety of ways and what I find fascinating is they frequently come up with very old texts that have been put online for free access. These can generate some fun story ideas. They draw from many sources.

For example, there was a pamphlet available lately from the US Library of Medicine digital collection titled – “Man and woman their own doctor, or, a salve for every sore: being a book full of rare receipts for the most dangerous distempers incident to the bodies of men, women, and children : and very fit to be in all families, in this crasie, sickly, and bad times : gathered out of the library of that famous traveller, Docter Ponteous ; and now published for the good, and benefit of all people whatsoever” published in London in 1676.”


The Bottom Line:

When you feel the need to read. These can be pretty good resources. I’d recommend using a bit of free time to explore these free sites and trim the time needed to find what you need at a later date.

Hope the sites are helpful for explorer-readers everywhere. Enjoy!

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.

What I’ve Learned as an Indie Producer

by Bri Castellini

Now that I have two complete seasons of Brains online, a short film about to be sent off to festivals, two spin offs of Brains (that I wrote/ co-wrote and helped produce), and my friend Chris’s web series Relativity (that I produced, among other things), I feel confident in calling myself an “indie filmmaker/producer.” As such, I thought I would impart some things I’ve learned in reaching this new level of broke artist, both tangible and intangible.

    1. If you can do it yourself, do it, but also sometimes it’s ok to delegate.
    2. Only delegate after having more than one conversation with someone about what said delegation entails. You cannot expect someone you’ve just met to do things the way you want them to, because you just met them and how are they supposed to know all of your insane rules??
    3. Good audio is worth taking time on/throwing money at
    4. Good audio is the hardest thing to attain with no time or money, but it is more important than almost anything else
    5. Ask for help, even when you don’t think you need it
    6. Be prepared to do everything yourself, but try not to
    7. Always have food available
      1. Bonus lesson: people really like fruit snacks
    8. Write within your means, but remember that your means can expand the more people you meet
    9. Latch on to talented people, continuously thank them for their help, and praise them incessantly so they’ll be inclined to help out again in the future
    10. Be nice to everyone. Not only should you do this anyways because common decency, but also because the indie film world is small AF and you can’t afford to burn bridges
    11. Don’t start production before you’re ready- a healthy and thorough pre production process will make everything better and smoother at every step.
    12. Sometimes you’re going to have to start production before you’re ready.
    13. Communication is more important than anything, even audio.
    14. Don’t fight on set.
    15. Fight after set, then make an effort to fix the problem. It’s not about winning, it’s about effectively solving issues and finishing the project.
    16. Press releases are super important. They are also a bitch to write.
    17. Reaching out to press is super important too, and it’s the most awkward thing in the world.
    18. Create a project-specific, production company-specific, or otherwise seemingly third party email address with which to reach out to press with. This way you don’t have to send emails like “Hi my name is Bri Castellini- please write about me and my show. I am amazing and you should promote me”
    19. Learn to say “ok- how?” instead of “we can’t do that/that won’t work.” I’m bad at this but I’m working on it.
    20. Schedule people as far in advance as possible, then periodically remind them about it.
    21. Have a plan B for everything, from locations to cast/crew. As Kate Hackett once told me on Twitter, “anyone can be written out.”
    22. Don’t tell people you didn’t sleep before coming to set until after you wrap for the day.
    23. Learn how to do your makeup so it doesn’t look like you didn’t sleep before coming to set.
    24. Love what you do
    25. Only say yes to things you actually want to do/make
    26. Fake it ’til you make it, because no one actually knows what they’re doing so you may as well throw your hat into the ring.

Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out her award winning web series, Brains, and the rest of her stats on IMDB.

This article was first published on her very informative blog.

Dennis O’Neil: Iron Fist and the Costume Unseen

by Dennis O’Neil

In peril, poor Polly Pearlwhite plunges from the pinnacle… And I, a superhero, really should fly up and save her and so I shall as soon as I change into my hero garb and… But what is this? I don’t seem to have worn the cape and tights under my Brooks Brothers suit and how could I forget such a thing? Well, come to think of it, I didn’t have my morning coffee and I’ve been Mr. Cottonbrain all day and… Never mind. Sorry, Polly.

So there I was – this is me taking now and not the fictitious person in the previous paragraph – and I’m about to reveal that early this morning, at about one, I finished watching the Iron Fist television serial and can report general satisfaction with it. But during the final minutes of superhero action I wondered if the film makers were going to give Mr. Fist a costume. He had one in the comic books where he first came to life and back when I was editing his monthly biography I regarded him as another one of Marvel Comics’s costumed dogooders, in the same area code as Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Hulk, et cetera: not as popular as some of Marvel’s output, but clearly of the same ilk.

The show I was watching earlier today ended – mild spoiler-alert, one you needn’t pay much attention to – with Mr. Fist and a companion climbing to the top of a mountain and finding… not what they expected but rather things that must certainly have ruined their day and, not incidentally, provided a hook into another story. That, we will probably be seeing soon. Mr. Fist was wearing clothing appropriate to climbing snow-covered peaks, but it was just clothing, not a costume.

Marvel’s last adaptation of one of the company’s characters to television went costumeless too. This was Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man, who, in the comics I worked on, was Iron Fist’s partner. Coincidence? Probably. But might it not also be the harbinger of a trend?

The costume trope has been a part of the superhero narratives ever since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced it with Superman in 1938. But they didn’t give us the first costumed hero. That honor goes to Lee Falk who began syndicating a newspaper strip titled The Phantom a couple of years before Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics #1. The Phantom wore a skin-tight costume and a pair of holstered automatics. He lived and operated in the deep jungle, which makes the costume a bit puzzling: it doesn’t seem appropriate. But we won’t be foolish enough to quarrel with success.

Back to Mr. Fist. There’s no reason why action folk have to wear odd suits and a reason or two for them not to. The reasons usually provided are, well… as much excuses as reasons and I don’t completely buy them. It might be that they’ve outlived their time.

Certainly, Iron Fist did just fine in something he could have gotten at a mall.

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.