Herbie J Pilato: Out of the Shadows

Yesterday, Herbie J returned to the metaphorical pages of TVWriter™ with an article on the origins of the great Golden Age TV series, Dark Shadows. Today he’s back with this new insight into what made the show work so well.

by Herbie J Pilato

Prolific and charismatic, charming and disarming, actor Jim Storm is probably best known as the mysterious Gerard Stiles from classic TV’s legendary gothic soap opera Dark Shadows.

Shadows, originally airing on ABC from 1966 to 1971, dramatized the lives and deaths of witches, warlocks, werewolves, specters, and vampires interpreted by a cast of respected actors including Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker, Grayson Hall, and countless others.

In its final season, the cult-classic was injected with a troika of new blood in the way of eclectic on-screen performers such as Kate Jackson, Virginia Vestoff, and Storm.

Storm’s Gerard, like Jackson’s Daphne, initially debuted as a silent ghost in one era (1970) of the time-shifting show, only to speak in another period (1840) when he was party to a love triangle with Vestoff’s Samantha and Selby’s Quentin Collins.

Storm recalls how he was cast into the Shadows: “I had sublet my apartment and I was on my way to Munich to play guitar in the streets, and the phone rang, and it was my agent and she said, ‘You can’t go anywhere because [casting director] Linda Otto wants to see you for this TV show.’  I met Linda and then she said, ‘You have to meet Dan Curtis, and read for him.’

“So, I go to meet Dan at his office, where he’s sitting with his feet up on the desk, and twirling his hair…which is something he always did.  And he’s just looking at me with this demonic look on his face, and said, ‘Ok.’

“I then left his office, went out the door, down the hall and onto the elevator, got home, and the phone rang, and my agent said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.  They want to sign you for Dark Shadows.  So I had to get my apartment back, and then that’s how I started.”
“For about six weeks I was lit in green-light, and raising my eye brow, which I learned to do in mime class.

“It was a great show to do, and a lot of fun.  And the women were so sexy, and the guys were fun.  I was there for Kate Jackson’s audition, which included three other women, and I looked at Kate and said to myself, “That’s the one they’re going to choose.  She was so wonderful, and naïve and sweet as could be. from South Alabama, a beautiful girl.  And we hit it off.”

As he did with others in the cast, including Frid, who portrayed the famed-vampire Barnabas Collins, and Grayson Hall, who played Dr. Julia Hoffman, and with whom Storm later performed in Night of Dark Shadows.

“They were all great,” he says, “…and I had a wonderful time with each and every one of them on the show.”

Storm has the distinct honor of playing the only character on the series that actually said the show’s title on the air. In an 1840 scene with Jerry Lacy, as Lamar Trask, Storm’s Stiles says, “I would think it best if I just remain the dark shadows.”

Years before Shadows, Storm made one of his earliest TV appearances with another daytime serial, aptly-titled, The Secret Storm.

From 1987 to 2009, Storm was Bill Spencer, Sr. on another afternoon soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, while his long list of credits also includes daytime dramas like The Doctors and One Life To Live, the latter on which he made his TV debut in the 1968-1969 season (as Dr. Larry Wolek).

Additional television appearances included guest-star stints on several prime-time series from the 1970s like Barnaby Jones, The Rockford Files, Police Woman, Kung Fu, and the short-lived small-screen edition of Planet of the Apes.

His TV-movies are The Healers (1974), and horror flicks like Trilogy of Terror and Scream of the Wolf, both directed by Shadows creator Dan Curtis, while his feature film list includes everything from 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows to the more recent American Troubles (2015), Benjamin Ghandi (2016), and the upcoming 4/20 Massacre (directed by Dylan Reynolds).

A stage-trained actor, dancer, and mime, Storm is also musician (with a penchant for folk music), and recently stretched his artistic wings as a professional photographer.

Storm was born in Highland Park, Illinois to actress Margaret and writer John Platky, who changed his name to Storm shortly before he married.  “It had more a writer’s sound to it,” he explains of father’s decision to switch surnames.  “At least that’s what we were told while growing up.

“Later, I realized he changed his name because he was Jewish and was in fact harassed so much at Brown University, he left.  The film studios wanted my Mom but she didn’t want to be involved with acting.  She spent her younger days illustrating for Walter Lanz and a guy named Walt Disney,” Storm adds with a wink.

The Storm family moved in 1958 to La Jolla, within the city of San Diego, where he attended La Jolla High School.  His maternal grandparents were silent film stars John and Martha Steppling, his brother, Michael Storm, is also an actor, and his cousin his playwright John Steppling who, as Jim says, “…introduced me to the theater.”

Throughout it all, Storm remains humble, down-to-earth, and unaffected by the Hollywood machine.  What’s his secret to success in life and work that continues to take his fans by storm?  “Truthfully,” he says with his trademark modesty, “I think it comes through studying,” as in his core theatrical craft of acting.

Storm has always invested in perfecting his theatrical craft, specifically in the last 10 years, with acting coach Salome Jens.

“What we’re always going for in the scene work,” he clarifies, “and this may sound cliché and a little pretentious, but we’re always going for in scene work is what’s happening [off-screen], which allows the actor to retain a sense of reality in the performance.  It all carries over from work into life.”

Storm also credits his grandparents and their background in the entertainment industry as contributing to his grounded sense of self.

“They worked in silent films in Santa Barbara long before Hollywood came into being.  My grandfather, who I never knew, as he died before I was born, was a classically-trained Shakespearean actor, and one of the first to graduate from the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York.

“And my grandmother was a Floradora dancer, one of the first before the famous Ziefield girls – and they performed throughout the United States and the world in places like Cuba and South America.”

Storm’s mother, whom he describes as “beautiful,” was groomed by the studios as competition for Mary Pickford, known as “America’s sweetheart,” the first female star of the screen (alongside Charlie Chaplin, the screen’s first male star).

Storm’s uncles were actors, as well, as was his father, who was also a director who, “…worked with Will Geer [The Waltons] to form the famed WPA Theatre in Los Angeles.  And he later turned to writing, as that’s where his passion was.”

As to Storm’s own passion for his various artistic crafts, those stem from what he defines as “a gene of creativity, and thinking.”

In the process of such genetic transference, environmental guidance also comes into play regarding his social graces, family values, strong work ethic, and solid understanding of general life priorities all of which, he professes, develops with time and experience.

“Certainly,” he begins to explain, “when at just 21 years old, you go to New York and, then, only five days later, you find yourself on Broadway…that’s an accomplishment.  But there were times when I was very full of myself, and would say things like, ‘What’s so difficult about this acting stuff anyway?’

“But through the years, you mellow out, after the hard hits, which is when you learn humility.  That’s when you come down to earth.”

Once more crediting his upbringing, he adds, “My parents gave me a very strong sense of identity.”

Storm never attended formal acting school but, instead, “built theaters,” while he received his stage training in regional theaters, then New York, and on to Broadway.

“But I was always working with coaches for acting and voice,” he conveys, “and then studied mime in Paris.  And I was very much interested in dance.  So I studied that, too, because I knew as an actor you had to have the body control.”

Storm eventually studied with the sophisticated likes of New York’s leading acting teacher Lee Strasberg, with whom he attained “a professional observership,” and John Stix, an acting coach from the Juilliard School of Dance, Drama, and Music.  When those sessions were completed, Storm journeyed west, and studied with Jeff Corey in Los Angeles, and auditioned for the Actors Studio.

Storm’s time on One Life led to his studying acting with coach Salome Jens, whom he watched and respected as a young actor, and with whom he now remains because “it helps to keep [one’s craft] well-oiled.”

At the same time, he says, “I’m kind of stretching out in other areas,” namely music. “I’m not qualified to be a musician.  I don’t know music that well.  But I play by ear…and what I like.”  He does so, for example, at Dark Shadows conventions, and in other arenas where he feels comfortable.

“I don’t enjoy performing music in unfamiliar venues,” he admits.  “I don’t mind performing at Dark Shadows conventions because it’s kind of a built-in audience, and I can play what I want to play.

“I’ve done gigs with bands and stuff, but that’s not something I’m real comfortable with.  But I love folk music.  I was raised with long hair.  Rock-and-roll wasn’t even in the spectrum for me.  But when the folk period arrived, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, and music was just such an influence that it just simply changed my life.

“So, like everyone else my age, I had a guitar and bongo drums,” he laughs. “Then I played in coffee houses, and my brother became a pretty notable folk singer with a duo called ‘The Other Singers,’ and then he went on The Andy Williams Show with the Good Time Singers, who replaced the Christy Minstrels.  And he did that for years, while I was off in New York, being an actor.”

While his brother, too, has been a painter, and is presently a ceramicist, Storm’s guitar has never left his side.  “I’ve always had it with me,” he affirms.  “I’ve always played music.”

“Now, my sister, Martha” he adds, “she’s the brains.  She’s a fiber artist…she weaves and does tapestries and quilts.  She’s a very gifted seamstress, which she inherited from my grandparents.”

Beyond his Shadows performance, and his various talents, it’s Storm’s appearances in several classic TV favorites, alongside some of television’s most notable stars that remain standout memories from his vast career:

Kung Fu, starring David Carradine:  “One of the greatest jobs I ever had, and the first job I got in Hollywood.  And my brother was played by Slim Pickens, and he was a trip.

“He was the biggest, gentlest guy…every day he’d say, ‘I’ve got a hamburger joint in Burbank.  Come on, let’s go.’  And we’d jump in his beat-up Bronco truck, and drive over there and sit and have these great burgers.

“He was a big joke-teller.  He had worked with Marlon Brando, and he said, ‘You know, that’s when I started learning what this acting stuff is about.’  He was a bronco-rider and road the rodeos for years, and that’s how he was discovered.  He said, ‘Hell, I can make more money doing this acting stuff then going bare-back on a bronco.’  He was just a wonderful guy.”

Unfortunately, Storm’s experience with Carradine was not as pleasant.  “He was very cold, aloof, and difficult.  He would sit right in front of the camera when I was working, and crouch right down in front of the camera, and try to intimidate me.  He was a wonderful actor, and he loved music, too, but he was not a very gracious guy.

“And that’s okay.  I wasn’t there to be his friend, and I didn’t want to be his friend.  His wife, on the other hand, Barbara Hershey, was just delightful.”

Barnaby Jones, starring Buddy Ebsen:  As Storm recalls, “The first thing Buddy said to me was, ‘So, you’re in show biz, eh?’ We had the same agent, Jimmy McCue.  And Buddy was like, ‘Oh, Jimmy.  Yeah, well – good luck to you.’  And that was about it,” Storm smiles.

Police Woman, starring Angie Dickinson:  “Now, on the other hand,” he adds, “Angie was just the best.  She came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Angie Dickinson.  Welcome to the show.  What’s your name?  Jim Storm?  Oh, that’s nice name.  I like that name.’

“And then every day for about a week, she was like, ‘Hey, Jim…how are you?  How’s the show going?  Are you comfortable?  Is everything okay?’  And it was the same way with Earl Holliman, her co-star on the show.  Those two are what made that series a success.  Earl was fantastic to work with…a wonderful guy.  I mostly worked with Earl, but I just adored Angie.”

The Rockford Files, starring James Garner:  Storm worked mostly with Noah Berry, who played Rocky, Rockford’s father, and who was, as Storm says, “a tremendous character-actor for years before that.  He was a great guy.”

As to Garner himself, Storm says, “Jim was as charming as could be, and always pleasant.  I’d go across the street at Universal [Studios, where Rockford filmed] to have lunch, and he’d be standing there, having a hot dog, which he called the best hot dogs in town.  Bottom line, he was Jim Rockford.  There was no acting involved.  He really nailed that part.

“He was a major star and I can see why Maverick [Garner’s previous TV series] was such a major hit.”

Storm also performed on St. Elsewhere, starring, among others, Denzel Washington, who directed the episode that featured Storm, who recalls the crew on the set asking, “Well, Denzel – how do you want to set this shot up?”  To which Washington replied, simply, “Just do it.  Just set it up.”

“He was very laid back,” Storm recalls of Washington on Elsewhere, which also featured Christine Pickles, whom he had worked with in New York.

As to his TV-movies, the most well-known is Trilogy of Terror, in which played a character named Eddie Nells in one of three different horror tales that starred Karen Black.  Storm recalls the events that lead up to his being cast in Terror, which aired four years after he ended his stint on Shadows.

“I was visiting my Mom in Los Angeles, thought to call Dan Curtis, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Where are you?  I’m in the Playboy building on Sunset.  Get your butt down here!”

Shortly, thereafter, Storm met with Curtis, who said he wanted him to appear in Trilogy of Terror, and then introduced him to casting director Hoyt Bauers.

Curtis instructed Bauers to “get this kid an agent – I mean, a GOOD agent.  This kid can act!”

“Dan had guts,” Storm says.  “I mean, you never wanted to mess with Dan.  He knew what he wanted, and he got it…and he wasn’t going to be denied.  And I owe the beginning of my Hollywood career to him.”

In addition to his theatrical mix, Storm’s career in photography is flourishing.  As was recently explained in Cultural Weekly, Storm desired a first baseman’s glove for his eighth birthday, but instead his father gifted with a darkroom kit.  From that moment Storm envisioned images on photo paper.

Influenced by photographers of the WPA era, such as Walker Evans, Marion Post Walcott, and Dorothea Lange, as well as mid-century maestro Robert Frank, Storm, with camera in hand, has journeyed by bus from his home in Los Angeles to places like Nebraska, and Montana where he first encountered a rodeo while making a film.

Intrigued with the physical and mental preparation necessary to compete in such an arena, Storm was also impressed with the camaraderie amongst the participating cowboys.  “No matter what the event,” he says, “these people have each other’s backs.”

Storm went on to take photographs of “these extraordinary athletes and their animals” on the Professional Rodeo Circuit throughout Montana, and Nebraska, as well as in South Dakota, a destination that soon provided another kind of opportunity: frequent and particularly poignant visits of support for the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

In the midst of his busy life and career, Storm donates much of his time to various charities, fighting the good fight, and advocating against, for example, any pipeline development at Standing Rock.

“The heart of America is the open road,” he says. “Coming to Standing Rock as an observer and volunteer is a life time experience and knowing that being involved with an historical event in some way changes my outlook of the world and offers such hope and optimism in a world that sorely needs it.”

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared at Emmys.Com. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

Herbie J Pilato: 50 Years of Dark Shadows

by Herbie J Pilato

The haunting theme music plays as the lilting gothic graphic title floats across the crashing waves, and it all becomes poetic, romantic and terrific, with an emphasis on “terror” – and yet not.

Such is the opening credit sequence for Dark Shadows – a television show ahead of and before its time, present, past or parallel time.

Initially screened on ABC-TV from 1966 to 1971, Shadows was a spooky weekday soap opera that took the world of afternoon viewers by storm — literally, thanks to its coastal New England setting.

The brainchild of prolific producer/director Dan Curtis (The Night Stalker, The Winds of War), the series gained a massive following (peaking at 20 million viewers) that originally consisted of the era’s then-significant population of stay-at-home moms.

Joining these early home-engineers were countless new-color-TV-buying members of America’s work and education force, including droves of elementary, high-school and college students who hurried home at day’s end to gaze into the Shadows.

Loyal fans of the show (dubbed “DS” in certain Shadows circles), young or older, made certain not to miss one bit of the melodramatic bite provided by its expansive cast, which served as a repertory group playing multiple roles over a compelling five-year-run.

What began as a Gothic suspense serial, embellished by murders and mysteries, morphed into strikingly unusual territory, especially for daytime TV: the periodically horrific but somehow always inviting lives, demises and curses of various vampires, witches, Frankenstein-like monsters, werewolves, and assorted other supernatural beings.

Such unique ghouls and goings-on were set within the isolated confines of their own little world:  Collinsport – a fictitious seaside community in Maine named for the wealthy, eccentric and eerie Collins family whose ominous cliffside estate – Collinwood – consisted of a large mansion and a smaller, creepier, abode referred to as the “Old House.”

The elaborately engrossing plots switched centuries from then-contemporary 1960s/1970s existence to life in 1795 to 1897 and back again, with the added wrinkle of alternate-time frames in later episodes.

The mainstay of the brooding Collins family included the 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins, rivetingly performed by the late Jonathan Frid, who joined the series in 1967, and whose presence sky-rocketed the previously-light Dark Shadows ratings from cancellation to salvation.

Viewers soon became captivated with Barnabas, who they eventually learned was stricken with his undead lot in life beginning in 1795 by the jealous witch Angelique, a resourceful French sorceress of a servant girl played by the moon-eyed beauty Lara Parker.

Barnabas had spurned her heart due to an obsession of his own…Angelique’s ruling superior – the raven-haired and oh-so-innocent Josette DuPrés, portrayed with affectionate aplomb by Kathryn Leigh Scott, who also played Maggie Evans, the Collins family governess (and 20th Century twin to Josette); Rachel Drummond, the gentle school teacher, and Lady Kitty Hampshire, the recently-widowed, and slightly money-hungry American-British import (the latter two of which were Josette’s twin 19th Century incarnations).

Into this double toil of trouble eventually arrived Quentin Collins, as dashingly delivered by the swashbuckling David Selby, adorned with lengthy debonair sideburns and a full-length frock coat, both of which became trademarks adored by fans.  Quentin first materialized in late-1968 as a silent apparition who communicated with the young David Collins (David Henesy) by a mystic phone connection.

In the 1897 storyline he, like Barnabas, became forever linked with Angelique. All three were immortal, and remained essentially the same characters throughout the show’s middle -to-late episodes.

While Scott’s quadruple treat of characters churned the passion of Frid’s ravenous Barnabas, Selby’s daring Quentin became enamored with his own share of strong-willed women, including Angelique.  Says Parker: “David is an amazingly charismatic actor…who brought to Quentin a wonderful brooding countenance…and the twinge of Kentucky [in actuality, West Virginia] in his accent.  He always takes his work very seriously.”

Selby, who later became a series-regular on two of the era’s most popular prime-time soaps (Flamingo Road, 1980-1982; and Falcon Crest, 1981-1990), was indeed serious about playing Quentin, so much so he at first feared mainstream TV watchers might not embrace his slight Southern drawl once the character began to speak in 1897.

“Oh, no,” he thought, “The audience will hear my voice, and that will be the end of it.”  But such was not the case.  The viewers’ ensuing romance with Selby soon rivaled that of Angelique’s interest in Quentin, as well as the increasing respect from his peers.

“I just love David,” says Scott who, while on Shadows, had performed a scene with Selby from August Strindberg’s play, Miss Julie, while both attended the Actor’s Studio in New York, circa 1968.  “We loved working together and we still do,” Scott declares.

The actress makes reference to various reunions with Selby, Parker and Frid including their cameos in Tim Burton’s big-screen Shadows re-do in 2012, in which Johnny Depp resurrected Barnabas Collins, as well as at annual Dark Shadows Festivals.

The 50th Anniversary edition is set for June 24 to 26 in Tarrytown, New York on the grounds of Lyndhurst estate, the location for the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows, and it’s 1971 sequel, Night of Dark Shadows.

Scott has penned several popular nonfiction books about Shadows, as well as three non-DS novels, and, as she assesses, Frid brought “a certain vulnerability” to his portrayal of Barnabas on the original TV series, which was remade as a prime-time weekly series by NBC-TV in January 1991 with Ben Cross in the lead.

He played a seemingly unsavory fellow whose relationship with the other characters became “very specific because of Jonathan’s ability to add different layers to Barnabas.”

Due to Frid’s increasing popularity, the actor’s presence was sometimes requested four to five days a week, a hectic work-load then-unheard of for daytime soaps.  Subsequently, he was at times overwhelmed, and would periodically – and understandably – forget his lines.

Parker, like Scott, was a loyal friend to Frid, and explains how not knowing certain scary words worked in his favor.  “Jonathan’s slight anxiety of sometimes missing a cue translated so perfectly into the character of Barnabas, who was racked with guilt and anguish because he was compelled to take blood and often kill his victims.”

Consequently, Parker says Frid (who died at 87 in 2012, only months before the Burton-Depp DS debut) accomplished what actors of the 1960s-burgeoning “method” form of acting strived to achieve.

“He brought a personal emotion into the moment he was playing.  He was a Shakespearean actor with a marvelous voice and a great presence, and he gained an amazing kind of dour seriousness in his performance due to his extensive experience in live theatre, [including roles as Macbeth and Richard III].”

As Frid himself once assessed, his classical training helped make Barnabas “larger than life.”  Meanwhile, too, he frequently searched for “other values” when playing any role.  “I always pick two poles with a character and dance in between,” he said.

Off-stage or screen, Frid was as elegant as Fred Astaire.  As Parker maintains, “Jonathan was a sweet, congenial man…very kind, gentle, and gentlemanly…the absolute opposite of Barnabas, at least in the beginning, when the character was more sinister.”

“Barnabas longed to become human again…to rid himself of his curse,” continues Parker, who has authored several Dark Shadows-based novels, including Angelique’s Descent.  “He wasn’t like [the Dracula character] who was just a pure evil vampire with no motivation. Underneath the evil, there was a reality of agony and heartbreak, and that made his character, and Jonathan’s performance, so rich.”

In like manner, Parker says “Angelique was a witch but she had had her heart broken as well. And all of her machinations and spells were weaved to win back Barnabas’ love.  That was a very strong motivation that came from love rather than hatred,” as the seemingly most evil characters were “also very were understandable and comprehensible.”

Conversely, additional characters may have merely appeared to be good souls, when in fact they were no good at all.

Case in point:  Jerry Lacy’s praised fire-and-brimstone portrayals of the abhorrent Reverend Gregory Trask (a foil to Barnabas in both the 1795 and 1897 storylines).  Such not-so-obvious diabolical characters swirled in hypocrisy, which Parker calls “the worst evil of all,” while it was Barnabas and his “personal turmoil that drew in the viewers, and made the show so intriguing.”

Before Parker was cast as Angelique, she desired to play Josette.  “I wanted to be the heroine,” she wistfully recalls, “…the ingénue…the fairy princess.”

At which point, Frid, whom Parker credits as helping her win the role as Angelique, took her aside one day, and said, “You have the plum role.  You’re the heavy on the show.”

“I am?!” she said incredulously.

“Yes!” he insisted.  “You can make everyone miserable!”

Parker, however, wasn’t so sure she could relate to Angelique’s main character flaw.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been jealous,” she told Frid, who mused, “Dig deep, darling!  You’ll find it!”

Parker eventually found her peace and perfect pitch with Angelique while, for Scott, Josette was “the blushing bride to Barnabas,” Evans, the “sweet, chatty Maggie,” Rachel Drummond was “caring, capable and steadfast,” while Lady Kitty Hampshire possessed “a certain edge,” granting the actress “a wonderful opportunity to play four unique characters.”

When it came to Hampshire, in particular, “there was a bit more sophistication about her.  She was much-more worldly and elegant in comparison…she had the added benefit of knowing royalty in Europe and traveling in more exalted circles.”

Additional members of the cast performed as other characters in richly-constructed tales of conflict, romance and fantasy.

The roster of actors included the legendary film actress Joan Bennett (as matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Naomi Collins, Judith Collins), Louis Edmonds (Roger Collins, Joshua Collins, Edward Collins), the Oscar-nominated Grayson Hall (Dr. Julia Hoffman, Magda Rakosi, Natalie DuPres), Thayer David (Professor Stokes, Ben Stokes, Count Petofi), the versatile Nancy Barrett (Carolyn Stoddard, Millicent Collins, Charity Trask/Pansy Faye), Alexandra Moltke (as Victoria Winters, who drove the show’s initial storylines), John Karlen (Willie Loomis, Carl Collins), Dennis Patrick (Jason McGuire, Paul Stoddard), Humbert Allen Astredo (Nicholas Blair, Evan Hanley, Charles Dawson), Michael Stroka (Aristede), Burke Devlin (Mitchell Ryan), and Joel Crothers, who early on played Joe Haskell, boyfriend to Maggie Evans.

Of Crothers, who died at only 44-years-old in 1985, Kathryn Leigh Scott laments, “He was the kindest, most marvelous actor.”

The show’s production team, headed by Dan Curtis (who died in 2006), was just as revered, including veteran producer Robert Costello (Armstrong Circle Theater, The Patty Duke Show), pioneering female director Lela Swift, writers Sam Hall (husband to Grayson), Gordon Russell, and Violet Welles; future 7-time Emmy-winning production designer Sy Tomashoff;  inventive music composer Robert Cobert; wardrobe supervisor Ramse Mostoller; and make-up wizard Vincent Loscalzo, and again, several more.

Each added to their own creative spark to the show’s vast wheelhouse which has for decades been painstakingly documented by the dedicated producer/writer Jim Pierson, who has helped to compile, compose, and/or cheerlead several of the acclaimed Shadows-related books, videos, audio-recording, and live presentations with, by and/or involving Scott, Parker and Selby, who has authored tomes of poetry, and recorded a particularly touching tribute to Frid upon his passing.

A trusted colleague and confident to Curtis, Pierson served as a producer and marketing director at Dan Curtis Productions from 1990 until the founder’s death, and has remained the keeper of the flame of the Shadows legacy.  Now the official representative for the Curtis estate, Pierson played a pertinent role in packaging of all 1,225 episodes of the series (released in an elaborately-designed DVD box set shaped as a coffin), and credits Curtis the “master storyteller who had a keen eye for casting.”

Scott agrees, and compares Curtis to Gene Roddenberry, architect of the legendary Star Trek franchise, which was ignited with another original series that debuted in 1966, and which also spawned subsequent sequels, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, on which Scott made a guest appearance.

As she sees it, Roddenberry told hopeful stories of the future, Curtis journeyed to the past for love-torn tales, and “both were geniuses.

Star Trek went ahead of time, and Dark Shadows went back in time.  Both shows told parables…universal fables.”

With DS, Scott adds, “We did our versions of The Scarlet Letter, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinThe Pit and the Pendulum, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Turn of the Screw…all wonderful classic stories with proven appeal.”

As Curtis told Pierson in the book, Produced and Directed by Dan Curtis (published in 2004 by Scott’s publishing company, Pomegranate Press), “Dark Shadows came from my mind as the way I remembered classic horror films that were around when I was a kid, even though they weren’t that way.  That was my memory of them.  It was that same haunting quality we were after.”

“There was something legendary about it,” Frid said in 1987, when the show experienced one of its many revivals (which also later included a potential new prime-time edition for the CW network in 2004).  “It’s become part of American folklore.”

Into this mix, David Selby believes the Shadows soundtrack contributed to its success, adding “so many elements to the series. I just love the music,” which was accented by the subsequent pop-hit “Quentin’s Theme, also known as “Shadows of the Night,” composed by Robert Cobert, with lyrics by Charles Grean.

Echoing the sentiment of many associated with the series, Selby says, “I feel very fortunate, blessed and privileged to be a part of a show as marvelous as Dark Shadows.  I’ve always felt that way, and continue to feel that way today.”

He remembers in particular the “instant feedback” that he and fellow cast members experienced outside the Shadows studios every day while taping the show, and embraces the continued appreciation still displayed including celebrity accolades.

“Whoopi Goldberg once told me how much she loved the show as a kid,” he recalls with a smile, “as did Harry Shearer [from The Simpsons].”

Other validating moments occurred from more mainstream circles, as when Selby had recently performed at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C.

While on a walk close to the facility, he heard someone from some 15 yards behind him, holler, “I loved you as Quentin on Dark Shadows!”  The actor turned to identify the caller with the adoring voice and, to his astonishment it was “a policeman on his motorcycle.  That was just amazing to see.”

Another time, while renting a car on vacation in Hawaii, the attending clerk completed the given the transaction, and told Selby, “Hey, thank you so much for Dark Shadows.”

Of the show’s on-going bewitching appeal, Lara Parker also fully appreciates the fans (who she prefers to call “friends”), and concludes,“A lot of the magic is the invention of the observer.  It’s a combination of relating…wishful thinking…finding something in common…a sense of connection.  Something takes place in the imagination and emotions of the viewer that the actor doesn’t really do at all.  I think the person in the audience at home does a great deal.

“The audience gets to know you better than you know yourself….they see things in you that you never saw in yourself.  They weave a spell around you of their own making, and it’s nothing less than charming.”

Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared at Emmys.Com. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

The Hudsonian’s GLOWing Review

Gotta love GLOW, if for no other reason than Marc Maron looks and sounds like a younger (i.e., middle-aged) Stan Lee

Glow Season 1 Review
by Joshua Hudson

(This article contains spoilers!)

Doesn’t the word “comedy” mean I should be laughing? Why do people think that because a show runs for a half hour that it automatically means it’s supposed to be funny? Or better yet, when you only write one legitimate joke and pack the rest of the script full of awkward moments, why would you say your show is a comedy?

This was my initial impression of GLOW, or Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the latest in the Hollywood trend of shaming original ideas for tired concepts and reboots of classics. Through four episodes, this show had little to nothing to offer me. The actors are great and as someone who watched wrestling growing up, I had to see how the first season would play out. Episode five finally made me laugh. Once.

How can that mean this show is a comedy?!?!

I’m struggling to find that meaning. Meanwhile, here’s what you need to know about GLOW, especially if you’re old enough to remember the original: In this series, Gorgeous Ladies, um, Wrestle. Yeah.

Episode five introduces more of the wrestling the show touts. Yes, it took five episodes to get these ladies wrestling outside of wrist locks and the occasional clothesline. But when they start wrestling and showing off moves, it felt like I was watching 80s WWF. It was cheesy, gimmicky, and downright enjoyable. The personas were so stereotypical that social justice warriors will have a field day with it. To that I offer this: lighten up. It was the 80s for crying out loud!

The show also got funnier. Like, I found myself laughing at some of the gimmicks and even some of the dialogue. (Still not enough to categorize as a comedy, but I’m tired of fighting that battle.)

Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin as Ruth and Debbie truly carry this show. Their story, packed full of exciting drama that can make you love and hate them both throughout the season, is awesome. And Marc Maron as Sam brought a dry, lethargic sense of energy to compliment all the moving parts. Crazy to think on the surface, but it works. I promise.

If you have patience, give it a try. If you don’t, it’s not exactly groundbreaking television so you’re not missing anything. But if you like wrestling, definitely check it out as episodes 5 through 10 will bring a smile to your face.

NOTE FROM LB: I too have watched all of  GLOW. But my perceptions differ from Josh’s.

I didn’t expect it to be funny because it’s done by the same women who do Orange is the New Black, which also seems to me to be a so-called comedy in spite of having very few laughs.

I loved the first episode of the series because wrestling be damned –  it was dead on about showbiz and the personalities in it, especially Mark Maron’s director character. For me, the series gets weaker as it goes along, but I stuck with it for the ’80s feeling it duplicated so well…and was rewarded by the big Episode 10 finale, which totally overwhelmed me because of all the perfectly orchestrated heroic moments of “victory” for the group of dauntless young women.

Another thought re the “Where’s the funny? problem here. I seldom find any of today’s new “comedies” funny. I think that in our current cultural climate we have to redefine the word into something more Shakespearean. Shakespeare’s comedies weren’t very funny either. They were called comedies simply because they weren’t tragedies. They had happy endings. Their protagonists didn’t die. So it is with GLOW. 

In other words, even if you don’t like wrestling, I think you should give GLOW a try for a very basic human reason: It’ll make you feel good. And feeling good isn’t something we come by all that easily these days.

Joshua Hudson is a producer, writer, and actor. Find out more about him at Hudsonian Productions. Hi, Josh!

TV WRITING: Your First Years In The Writers Room

Photo Courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation

by Kelly Jo Brick

From finding representation to landing the first staff writing gig and navigating the writers’ room, everyone’s path to breaking in is different. The Writers Guild Foundation brought together Polina Diaz (FULLER HOUSE), Kay Oyegun (THIS IS US, QUEEN SUGAR), Robert Padnick (THE OFFICE, MAN SEEKING WOMAN) and Britta Lundin (RIVERDALE) to talk about the highlights and challenges of their first years writing for television.


Write the script you’re really scared to write, because it’s probably the one most personal to you and will resonate the most with other people. It doesn’t matter if nobody’s going to buy it or it’s too expensive. Just write what you want to for your sample.


It’s totally fine if you move to Los Angeles without knowing anybody, you’re just going to meet those people naturally. Work backwards from what you have and build on that. Do you have friends who are in the entertainment business? Do you have friends who have friends in the industry? Just be really thoughtful.

Meet people who you maybe want to be friends with. It’s so not schmoozing people at a mixer and handing them your business card. It’s like going to a birthday party and talking to someone and learning about them and caring about them. Later maybe they’ll be like, oh, I like your project, maybe I want to read your script. That’s the kind of networking that’s going to be most helpful.

Go out to drinks once or twice a week just to chat with people and see what’s up with their lives and exchange scripts. You meet a lot of people through writing groups and reading their work. Doing that long enough, you build up a group of friends and people who care about you as a person and want to see you succeed.

If you’re a comedy writer, there are definitely comedy communities that you can be part of like Upright Citizens Brigade or Groundlings. While you’re doing that, do things to get noticed, Twitter feeds, web series. People notice funny people all the time. There are ways to stand out if you’re just really creative or working really hard at it.


The question of how good I am versus how people are receiving me is going to haunt us for all of our careers. One thing you should have in your life is really honest critique partners who will tell you the truth. Hopefully you have a writing group or a friend who will be like, this needs more work or this isn’t your script, you have to write something else. If you have people who seem really smart and know what they’re talking about and they say it’s good, then maybe it’s good and you’re just sending it to the wrong person. It’s important to do your research and know what kind of stuff that manager or agent represents or what their other clients are doing. If they only do genre stuff and you’re sending out a romantic comedy, it might not be the right match.

It’s really important to know your brand. Before you think of yourself as a brand or as a business, which you really are, you have to know what you love and what excites you. Hone in on your craft and make sure what you’re writing is solid. Send the best thing you have. You have to fight for it. If they’re not into you, they’re not into you. Move on to the next person.


You change so many things and you move things around. You apologize to the author constantly, because so much of the book is changed. We try to be truthful to the core essence of the book and also be respectful to the fans who read and loved the book. You do your best and try to be truthful to it, but you don’t have to be married to it.


Read the room. Am I talking too much? Does anyone look annoyed by how much I’m talking? Do they look annoyed by how little I’m talking? Definitely when you’re a staff writer, it depends on the showrunner and the staff for how much you should speak.

Some people don’t really care about the politics, they say if you have a good idea, just say it. For some shows there definitely is a hierarchy and you have to read that out. When you’re a staff writer, you’re never going to go in the room and be like, I know what the A story is or this is what your show is. For comedy, you’re there to pitch jokes when they’re stuck on something or pitch ideas, but don’t command the room.

Be overly prepared. That is very helpful. You are a facilitator of someone else’s vision. Know the world, at least to an extent of what they’re planning on doing. If the show deals with a specific subject, research it. Nobody else, especially the higher ups, wants to do that work. Do it on your own without anyone asking. When it comes up in the conversation, you’re able to bring the world there.

Different shows have different processes. Some like story pitches that have a beginning, middle and end of a pitch. That can be overwhelming for certain people. It’s a skill you have to continue to develop. Sometimes your pitch doesn’t work, but at least there’s something in the space and world you did that allows for another idea to be generated off of that.

Find a senior writer in the room, be friends with that person and just check in off the record to ask for feedback. Different rooms have different vibes and landmines to watch out for. Have someone that seems sympathetic. Just pull them aside during coffee or lunch and be like, hey, how am I doing. Usually there’s a sympathetic soul that totally gets it, but they’re not going to give advice out of the blue if you don’t ask.

The Writers Guild Foundation regularly hosts events that celebrate the craft and voices of film and television writers. To find out more about upcoming events, go to wgfoundation.org.

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.


Gerry Conway’s Alex Kurtzman Story

by Gerry Conway

Alex Kurtzman today, at almost this very moment

Alex Kurtzman is in the news right now, obviously, because he’s the director of the much-reviled “The Mummy” reboot. For what it’s worth, I kinda liked the movie, probably because my expectations were lowered by awful reviews, possibly because I generally like popcorn movies, and possibly because I worked for a year with Alex and his former partner, Bob Orci, when we were a lot younger and far less grey. But I’m not here to discuss the merits of The Mummy. I’m here to relate a story about Alex Kurtzman at 25 which proved to me that he and Bob were (and are) blessed by the Goddess of Good Luck.

In 1998 I’d been working in TV about nine years, and had experience as a mid-level producer on a number of network TV shows, most recently, at that moment, on an NBC show called “Players,” which introduced Ice-T as an actor in the Dick Wolf universe. I’d worked on the pilot for the show, though I ended up receiving no credit, and as a result I developed a relationship with the head of TV development at Universal TV. When the show ended, Universal wanted to keep that relationship alive, so they offered me a pilot deal, along with a role as consulting producer on “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.”

Ostensibly, the reason I was hired as consulting producer was to provide “guidance” to the two new, and very young, co-executive producers who were acting as writer-show runners: Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci. This was ridiculous on several levels. First, at that point, Alex and Bob had been on the show for several years and already knew more about it than I ever would. Second, though I was older than Alex and Bob, and had worked in TV a few years longer, I was by no means better qualified than they were: Alex and Bob had been to film school, knew the technical end of filmmaking much better than I did, and Alex, at least, had been part of the film community his entire life– his father was an agent. Third, while I’ve always been realistic about my particular set of skills (I’m a skilled craftsman possessed of moderate talent), Alex and Bob were extremely bright and talented, and already as skilled at the craft of TV writing as anyone I ever worked with. So, despite my ostensible “leadership” position I recognized immediately the only guidance I could provide Alex and Bob was the reassurance that yes, indeed, they knew exactly what they were doing.

I could also introduce them to the concept of playing hooky as a team-building skill.

Let me explain. Producing television, under the best of circumstances, is an all-consuming, life-draining and time-sucking enterprise. People who don’t work in TV imagine it to be a fun, glamorous, and joyful experience. And so it is, maybe fifteen percent of the time. The rest of the time it’s hard work. Long hours (especially if you’re a show runner) are the rule, not the exception. When I ran a show called “The Huntress” I typically put in ten-to-twelve hour days, five days a week, and another ten hours over the weekend. Family life disappears. Relationships strain. Tempers flare. If you don’t find a way to make those ten hour work days fun, you burn out. There has to be more to your life than just making television.

Alex and Bob, I thought, were two very serious, very dedicated, very driven and ambitious young men (they were both about 25) in positions of incredible responsibility. They were writing all the time, pursuing both their TV career and outside screenplay work (they’d written a spec script with one of the best premises I’d ever heard and were shopping for a new agent). Without realizing it, they were on the verge of burning out– at least, that’s how it seemed from my point of view.

Alex was friendly and open, comfortable as a long-time member of the film community, a good-looking and smart young man. (I briefly wondered if I could set him up with my daughter, but she was in college in Washington, DC.) Bob was a bit more reserved, a bit more intense, but equally smart and equally good-looking. They were very much Generation X types– self-contained, achievement oriented, earnest and, in my opinion, a bit tightly wound.

So, as their ostensible guidance counselor, I decided to encourage them to do something completely useless and irresponsible.

The first script I worked on for “Hercules” was based on an outline by another writer on the show, Paul Coyle. Paul really was a senior writer– his career extended back to “The Streets of San Francisco” in the mid-Seventies. During a conversation at a story meeting with Bob and Alex, Paul and I discovered we were both fans of Las Vegas, though for different reasons. I liked Vegas for the night life, great restaurants, and relatively inexpensive hotels– I don’t gamble, so I always feel like I’ve taken advantage of the casinos underwriting the hotels, restaurants, and shows. Paul, on the other hand, was almost a professional poker player– he paid his bills during slow periods by spending weekends in Vegas, picking up several thousand dollars a visit. The two of us, and a few of the other writers at the story meeting, waxed enthusiastic over the joys of Vegas, entertaining ourselves for a few minutes until we realized Alex and Bob were staring at us blankly.

Alex and Bob, it turned out, despite growing up in Southern California, had never been to Las Vegas.

I knew immediately what had to be done.

“Road Trip!!!”

Yeah, well, that’s not what I said, but it’s what I thought, and over the next couple of weeks I made the case that Alex and Bob and Paul and me (the other writers demurred) should take an afternoon flight from the nearby Burbank airport to Las Vegas, spend a night in the City of Sin, and return to Universal Studios the next morning, refreshed and less likely to burn out by avoiding, for one Tuesday at least, yet another ten-hour work day.

After only a slight hesitation, Alex and Bob agreed.

A week later we were on our way. Paul spent the flight explaining the in’s-and-out’s of gambling in Las Vegas to Alex and Bob, who said they never gambled before. Which games to avoid, which casinos had the fairest slots and best tables, how to bet and under what circumstances. Paul himself planned a night of poker at downtown casinos where the house took the smallest cut. From past experience he figured he’d clear two or three grand. For my part I advised Alex and Bob to catch a show. Don’t bother gambling, I said, or if you do, just set yourself a loss limit – in my case I allow myself to lose a hundred dollars at blackjack, then I’m done. The boys– to me, they were always “the boys”– thought that sounded sensible.

After a great dinner at a first class restaurant, we split up and agreed to meet for breakfast the next morning before flying back to Burbank.

I saw a show, played blackjack for thirty minutes, quit when I was up by twenty dollars, went to bed.

Next morning, the four of us met for breakfast as planned. I felt relaxed and content. Once again I’d beaten the Las Vegas system by not playing along. I hoped Alex and Bob had done the same. The point of this adventure, after all, was to help them unwind a bit. Losing a lot of money wouldn’t exactly achieve that goal. So when we met up I was a bit apprehensive– especially when I saw the glowering expression on Paul Coyle’s face. He looked like a man who’d eaten the outside of a pineapple.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered. “Son of a bitch.”

“Uh… How much did you win?” I asked.

“Eight hundred,” he said. He glowered. “I lost eight hundred. Son of a bitch.”

I turned to Alex and Bob. They were grinning. I’d never seen them so happy. “We won five hundred,” said Bob. “Each,” said Alex. “About. Maybe it was more. I think it was more.” “We should come back,” said Bob. “Definitely,” said Alex. “This is great. This place is great.”

“Son of a bitch,” said Paul.

A few months after I left “Hercules” there was an article in the trades announcing Alex and Bob had sold their spec script to Richard Donner and were currently in negotiations with Donner and Steven Spielberg to write a sequel to “The Goonies.” I sent them a bottle of champagne with a note of congratulations. Alex and I met for lunch. He was excited and happy and I was happy for him and Bob both. “It’s amazing,” he told me. “Donner took us in to meet Spielberg and pitch him our idea for the sequel. Spielberg liked it and right there said, let’s do this, picked up the phone and told his producer to make a deal with us. Like he was ordering a pizza. Just amazing.”

I wasn’t surprised. Like I said, Alex and Bob had written a terrific spec script with what’s still the best premise I’ve heard for a thriller (so, naturally, it’s never been produced). They were hard working, driven, talented and ambitious. And as their night in Vegas proved, to me at least, they were and are two very lucky sons of bitches.

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.

What else do people do again? – @BrisOwnWorld

by Bri Castellini

La La Land was ok. I mean, don’t get it twisted, I cried at the ending. That’s not particularly surprising- I cry a lot at TV and movies. I’m wired to care more about fictional narratives than actual human people. That’s not the topic of this blog. The topic of this blog is the sometimes inescapable self congratulatory subjects of media- ourselves.

Most hack writing books and teachers will tell young writers- write what you know! And to an extent, that’s good advice. To an extent. But what this has really done is encourage basically every other writer in the world to write about, well, writers. Screenwriters write about screenwriters, about actors, about Hollywood. Novelists write about novelists. Web series creators write about making web series, or wanting to get into the film industry, or living with too many roommates because we’re all poor and want to get into the film industry.

Every once in a while, there’s a really great piece of media about the media industry. 30 Rock. Submissions Only. La La Land. But here’s the thing- most people are not writers, actors, playwrights, artists, etc. So there are only so many narratives you can tell about the artistic lifestyle before people are like “we get it. You eat a lot of ramen and argue about dishes with the revolving door of kooky 20-something roommates, and someday want to see your name in lights. Cool. What else you got?”

I don’t know. I don’t know what else I got. About a month ago I was trying to force inspire myself to write something new, having written ten pages of a TV spec pilot about making a web series and then realizing that it’s the least inspired thing in the world. And I genuinely had this thought- “what else do people do?” For the life of me, I could not remember what else people do in the world, other than write and want to be filmmakers or actors. Sure, the service industry was an option too, but there are already some really great service industry shows out there (Superstore in particular) and I don’t think my perspective is unique enough to try my own hand at it.

I am surrounded by creative people, and on a day to day basis, that’s great. We all get each other, and we’re all doing our best to make it in this often debilitating depressing entertainment industry. But when it comes to developing new shows and projects for us to make together, because all I do is talk about making new shows and projects with people, all I can think to write is- that. Writing about being a writer stuck as a barista. Writing about being a writer living with her creative partners and intermingling friendship and business in hilarious and detrimental ways. Writing about being a writer with two actor best friends. Do you see the problem?

A few years back, I was midway through a creative writing degree at the best place in the world (Pacific University) and one of my favorite authors (Maureen Johnson) wrote a blog about doing just that. If I was smart, I would have bookmarked it and read it once a month, but I was young and cocky, and now it’s lost to the ages (unless I find it again, in which case, I will link to it HERE!).

The basic premise of the blog was an argument against getting writing degrees- especially graduate or doctorate level writing degrees- if your eventual goal was not to become a teacher or professor. Her argument was that if all you ever do is study writing, what the hell are you going to write about? This was, and remains, a very good point.

At the time, I wasn’t concerned. I was in college, I had lots of other shit going on, and I was mostly writing genre stuff anyways, and my imagination wasn’t going to go away, so who cares if all I studied was writing? I’m glad I got my BA in Creative Writing, because I genuinely did become a better writer, but then I moved to New York City for an MFA, and if the goal was to have experiences outside of being a writer, well, I shouldn’t have moved to New York City to become a screenwriter, because once you’re in that world, it’s all you do. You only ever meet people in the acting or writing or filmmaking world, because it’s all about networking and who you know, and knowing someone outside of that world doesn’t do shit for your career, so the cycle begins again. There’s insulated communities, and then there’s the film and television industry.

All this is to say, boy howdy is it difficult to come up with honest, complex narratives (that I could also theoretically produce myself, so genre is mostly out) that aren’t about the thing I do- writing and making indie media. And yet, I don’t have a ton of time to cultivate other interests, because if I take my eye off the ball for even a second, I might miss my one sliver of a shot.

Intellectually, I know I have other interests. My speech and debate pilot has gotten relatively good responses, and obviously my short film Ace and Anxious (about asexuality and anxiety) is doing really well in the festival circuit, at least as a script. But what’s next? I keep asking myself: what else am I? What other stories do I, Bri Castellini, have to tell? (that aren’t too personal so as to embarrass or upset people in my life, that are interesting, that are active and not passive, that are not about an inability to “adult”.)

I guess we’ll see?

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. This article originally appeared on her blog. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE

Peggy Bechko: Resuscitating Your Draft

by Peggy Bechko

As writers, we’ve all written screenplays or novels that sit around in our drawers for years. Something’s wrong, but what? Being a pro, you’ve already decided that script or novel needs major rehab, and you sure aren’t clinging to a story that just doesn’t work. BUT, what to do? How to approach the rewrite and the rehab?

Since you’re ready to do some major revisions I’m glad you asked. Let’s think about this and ponder a couple of radical methods for that revision.

First thoughts…

Have you considered that maybe your script or novel is focused on the wrong protagonist? You know, the guy/gal who gets all the action. For example, in animated world, were you aware that Frozen’s main character, Elsa, started out being a villain? If you’ve see it you know she ain’t a villain no more, she morphed into a ‘Disney Princess’. That was one major overhaul.

Another example: remember reading Ripley in Alien was originally written for a male lead? Could you see anyone else in that part now? Another new direction, another major rewrite.

So, is there someone in your story that could do the same? Some character you may have misunderstood? A character who could change from villain to hero? One that could move up from supporting character to main protagonist?

Take another hard look at that novel or script. Think about the motives behind the actions of your protagonist, supporting characters and villain. If those motives aren’t clear and your character’s desire to move forward strong, then your focus might be misplaced when it comes to your ‘hero’. Maybe reconsider? Perhaps a shuffle of your characters?

Will this take a lot of work?


Is it worth it?

You better believe it.

Another idea. Have you considered the genre you’ve written the script or novel? Did you label it from the get-go, then trap yourself inside?

Is it a Romance, a thriller, a SciFi action flick? Whatever it is now, you might consider changing it. Could that romance become a thriller? Should your thriller morph to SciFi? Maybe your SciFi is actually Horror. Take a little ‘what-if’ trip and consider all the angles.

It’s possible that you’ve locked your story into a genre where it doesn’t fit. It’s possible that you, as writer, were uncertain as to what your genre could be and cubbyholed it before it was ready. If the story is ‘misplaced’ it’s very possible that you, as the writer, are trying to be funny when you shouldn’t. Or maybe whatever stakes you’ve chosen for your hero just aren’t powerful enough and great humor could result if you pulled that string.

You probably didn’t think much about the genre as you wrote the first draft unless you were writing ‘to genre’. That’s good. Great even, but once you have the basics laid down for your story you need to make sure your work is in the right genre. If that element is wobbly it’s just not going to fly.

What’s the take-away? If you have a story that’s been languishing somewhere, now is the time to get it out, dust it off and reread with a clear eye toward what the problem might be. And one last tip. Think about where the story belongs. Is it a novel? Is it a feature script? Maybe it should be a TV series or a mini-series. Don’t close your mind to any possibilities.

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.