“Mary Richards,” Feminist Icon?

Noted comedy writer Earl Pomerant (THE BOB NEWHART SHOE, TAXI, MAJOR DAD, BEST OF THE WEST, etc) has been thinking, and we here at TVWriter™ are happy indeed to share this recent thought:

Do you know this woman?

Do you know this woman?

Looking for Heroes
by Earl Pomerantz

Was the “Mary Richards” character from the beloved The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) a feminist icon?

It seems to me she’s been called one.

But does she actually deserve to be?

It was a question that interested me.  I don’t know why.  I guess it troubles me when people believe stuff that is not accurate, even if it’s fictional characters achieving unearned recognition.

“So Hansel and Gretel were not heroes?”

They burned a woman in a stove!

Okay, so I’ve got too much time on my hands and I’m looking for controversy.

Anyway and whatever…

Before DVD’s and before Hulu, if you wanted to find out something about a TV episode, you had to find the original script and actually look at it directly.  So that’s what I did.  I dug up the pilot episode ofThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, because I wanted to verify something for myself.

That “something” being…

Mary’s intention when she appeared at WJM for her job interview.

My recollection was unclear on the matter.  Was Mary Richards alwaysinto television news?  Did she study journalism in college?  Now unencumbered from her long-term relationship, was she now taking the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream of investigating malfeasance and wrongdoing, exposing sordid transgressions to public scrutiny?

It turns out that she wasn’t.

Reading the script reminded me that Mary had come there to interview for a secretarial position, which had already been filled, and after a marginally appropriate interview with Lou Grant, she was hired as an associate producer – the joke being that the associate producer job paid ten dollars less than the secretarial job….

Read it all at Earl Pomerantz’s fine blog

Get ‘Em While You Can Dept: Free Screenplays


No, we aren’t talking about scripts that the writers haven’t been, or aren’t being, paid for. We’re talking about publicly posted and seemingly authorized copies available online for your – and our – entertainment and edification.

There’s some mighty fine stuff on this list of recent screenplays over at Adelaide Screenwriter. Our thanks to Adelaide Boss Blogger Henry Sheppard for making all this available!

A Most Violent Year
Big Eyes
Dear White People
Get On Up
Gone Girl
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Woods
Kill the Messenger
Love is Strange
Mr. Turner
St. Vincent
Still Alice
The BoxTrolls
The Fault In Our Stars
The Gambler
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Wild Tales

How to use TV writing techniques for a serialized story

What’s that? Some of you still write real stories and not TV or film scripts? Genuine, polished prose? Who’d a’thunk?

Well, if you’re one of the last remaining yet still new “real writers” (as such peeps used to be called long, long ago), this one’s for you:

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by Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint came out in 1987, subtitled, “A melodrama of manners.” Combining swashbuckling duels, queer romance, and political intrigue, it’s since become a cult classic, kicking off the fantasy subgenre of “mannerpunk” and spawning two other novels set in the same nameless city.

Now the series is moving in an unexpected direction: online serialization. Unfolding in weekly installments from authors including Malinda Lo and Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tremontaine is published in text and audio episodes by the subscription service Serialbox.

Kushner takes the role of showrunner, writing a couple of episodes and then collaborating to shape the rest of the series. And while much of Tremontaine‘s audience already knew Kushner’s earlier work, it’s perfectly accessible to new readers. Set 15 years before Swordspoint, we meet an intriguing new cast of characters in the pilot episode:

“A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution.”

Speaking to Ellen Kushner in a phone interview, we discussed the longevity of theSwordspoint series, and why she decided to experiment with serialized publishing.

Swordspoint came out almost 30 years ago, but it still has this following where people are willing to wait decades for another book. What makes you keep coming back to this story after so many years?

It’s funny, when I wrote the novel at first, people kept saying, “Well, where’s the sequel?” And I said, I’m not going to do a sequel, it’s just a novel. Everybody dies of typhoid the next year, go away, there’s no sequel!

But the fact is that I’d created a city, and I’d created characters whom I loved deeply, and I thought about them a lot. I wanted to see not what happened to them immediately after the novel ended, but later in life. And since [Alec and Richard from Swordspoint] are both fairly powerful people, to watch how they change the city.

So I allowed myself little treats, I would write a little short story here or there to fill in the gaps, and eventually that slid into a novel. My bargain with myself was that I would only write it if it were a new viewpoint, a new way of looking at it.

The other thing I love to do is to collaborate. One novel was written with my brand new partner at the time, and that extended my sense of the city and what it could be. Tremontaine in some ways is the logical extension of that: let’s get everybody in to play. But in terms of why [Swordspoint] is still—you know, why it hasn’t hasn’t aged out—I think it was before its time, to be honest, and people are just catching up to it….

Read it all at Daily Dot

Peggy Bechko’s 3 Tips for Serious Writers


by Peggy Bechko

The catch here is that you have to be as serious about your writing work as I am.

So what ‘rules’ am I going to show you? What rigid ‘do it this way’ ideas will I present?

I’m going back to basics and nothing is written in stone, ever. I read tips all the time and I admit I’m guilty of writing them. Rules though, even suggestions are tricky. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. But, there are some strong basics I suggest. Simple, but powerful.

  1. Wake up and bring energy to the time you write. Really, face the day with enthusiasm, joy and energy and you’re going to write much better. So, how do I do this you say? It’s a mental thing (yes you can add caffeine) and a body thing. Maybe take a walk before you write (I walk even when the snow is knee-deep and the chill considerable). It wakes the body and stimulates the mind. If that’s not for you, just move, maybe walk up and down stairs a couple of times if you have them, play with the dog, do some stretches, whatever it takes to get the blood flowing a bit. If you have challenges and can’t do that kind of movement, THINK about it. Seriously, picture yourself doing it. Wake up, center, really feel enthusiasm for what you’re about to undertake. Creativity is dampened by boredom, exhaustion and low energy. Act first to bring yourself up to speed. You’ll see a definite difference in your writing.
  1. I’ve found more and more that a to-do list or some sort of planner really does smooth the way. It helps me keep organized and know what’s up next on my calendar of projects that need to get done. And, planning out the next day or at least the beginning of it means when I sit down (or stand up) at my desk I know exactly where to start and am far less likely to find myself cruising the web or checking endless email and social media. Those are fun, yes, but they can be terrible distractions. Also, if you have recurring deadlines of any kind a simple ‘month-at-a-glance’ calendar is a great help. I have both on my desk, the calendar and a simple list of things that are coming up that I need to get done. Try it, see how much more you get accomplished.
  1. Finally do the most important things first. If you want to get some wordage out there, do that first. Write. If you’ve promised a guest blog post somewhere, get that done. Whatever it is, prioritize. I keep a highlighter handy in a couple of colors and when I create my list for the next day’s launch, if there’s something that really needs my immediate attention I highlight it with one of the colors. There may well be more than one, so I keep one color for the most important, highlighting that most important with one color and something of less importance with another. Then I check things off as I get them done.

Try out these three tips and you’ll find the simple approach with propel you forward in creativity as well as productivity.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. This post first appeared on her outstanding blog.

And don’t forget Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle.  Grab your copy of Book 2 now! And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page

12 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a TV Writer

It’s a hard world out there in TV Land, boys and girls. The following advice is addressed primarily to wimmens, but no matter what your gender do yourself a favor and listen to what Jessica Gao has to say:

some tv showby Jessica Gao

1. Job titles are varied and confusing. If you ever look at TV credits, it’s hard to find “writer” anywhere. Because of the writers’ union’s rules (more on the union later), there are several different titles for writers based on their level of power. Upper-level writers have the word “producer” in their title (e.g. co-executive producer, supervising producer, etc). Lower-level writers are executive story editors, story editors, and staff writers. In movies, the director is the king of the project. In TV, it’s a writer called the “showrunner,” which is exactly what it sounds like: the person who runs the show. It’s commonly the show’s creator but not always. The showrunner is credited as “Executive Producer,” and while most shows have several executive producers, only one is the showrunner. (To add to the confusion, not all producers are writers.)

 2. It’s really, really hard being “the only one” in the room if you’re a woman or person of color. I’m often the only person of color and the only woman in the writers’ room. I feel I have to (and want to) represent everything that otherwise won’t be represented if I don’t. These are things the white male writers don’t have to worry about. They can spend their time only focused on jokes and what to order for lunch, but I can’t. On the one hand, I don’t want to be the PC police or a constant naysayer — I will be the only person who objects to something, like yet another tired arranged marriage storyline given to a South Asian character, or that the main female love interest has no defining character traits other than “really cool and nice.” On the other hand, those stories/characters legitimately suck balls and I hate to see them happen over and over again, so I have to speak up. I’ve learned the best (and only effective) way to shoot down a sexist or racist story/joke is to beat it with a better pitch.

3. Everyone has a hand in every script. Even though an episode of a show says “written by so-and-so,” every single person on that writing staff contributed to the script. On comedies, all the writers talk out each episode’s story and outline together. Then the person assigned to that episode will refine the outline to turn in to the network for notes. After getting the network’s notes, the assigned writer turns in a “writer’s draft” of the script, which then gets additional notes from the showrunner or head writer. At some point, the whole writing staff will pitch in, going page by page and line by line together to make every bit of the script better.

4. Don’t feel pressure to be one of the guys. The whole room is already filled with guys. They don’t need another one. But what don’t they have in the room? Statistically speaking, another female writer. According to the Writers Guild of America’s staffing brief for the 2013-2014 TV season, only 29 percent of staffed writers were women. So doesn’t it make more sense to fill the role that is severely underserved in the room? The sole woman in the room offers a perspective that no one else in the room has. That’s incredibly valuable and it shouldn’t be hidden so a bunch of dudes are more comfortable.

Read it all at Cosmopolitan

The Man Behind 12 ANGRY MEN

Some observations about 1957’s 12 ANGRY MEN, one of the most powerful films in, um, well, in history, actually. If you haven’t seen it, get to any one of a zillion sites and make the time to do it. And then, read on:

klugmanandfondaby Jerry Peterson

I watched the 1957 film 12 Angry Men on Turner Classic Movies the other night. It was dynamite . . . or as a line on one of the movie posters of the time proclaimed, the film “explodes like 12 sticks of dynamite!”
It is one powerful courtroom drama, except 93 of the 96 minutes takes place, not in a courtroom, but in a jury room.

Now you know who the 12 angry men are, the jurors who must decide the outcome of a murder case.

A lot of firsts here.

– Reginald Rose wrote the film script, his second. He adapted for the big screen his television play, Twelve Angry Men, that aired on CBS’s Studio One in 1954. Rose won an Emmy for that script, his first Emmy. He also co-produced the movie, the first time he had taken on that job.

– Henry Fonda, the star of the movie as Juror Number Eight, so liked the television script that he bought the film rights, then talked Rose into both writing the screenplay and co-producing the movie. 12 Angry Menwas the first and only movie on which Fonda ever served as a producer.

– Fonda and Rose hired Sidney Lumet to direct the film, Lumet’s first job in Hollywood. Up to that time, he had been a television director and a very good one.

The movie received three Oscar nominations . . . for Lumet (best director), for Rose (best writing of an adapted screenplay), and for the movie itself (best picture of the year).

Now you’re wondering, did any or all win?

They didn’t.

The Bridge on the River Kwai won all three categories that year plus four additional Oscars….

Read it all at Jerry Peterson’s blog