Words That are Actually Hidden Phrases

Know those cryptography apps that let you hide a whole hard drive’s worth of files in, like, one gif or somesuch?

Turns out the English language has had that very feature for a very long time. (Patent trolls: Go ahead. Sue everyone who uses English words. C’mon. We dares ya!)

Anyway:

Arika Okrent does it again! Check out her very helpful channel.

You Won’t Believe How Rich These Self-Publishing Authors Are!

by TVWriter™ Press Service

Illo found at AlanRinzler.Com. Check out the site!

EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s a little clickbait between friends? Especially when it’s for a worthy cause. No, the reason we gave this article this heading isn’t so that it would make us rich. It’s because we believe so strongly in what it means to writers to be able to at least be the prime beneficiaries of working the wordsmithing craft.


‘Show me the money!’: the self-published authors being snapped up by Hollywood
by Danuta Kean

After watching Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, self-published author Mark Dawson was inspired to create his own answer to the film’s heroine Beatrix “Black Mamba” Kiddo. And now Dawson – and his character government-employed assassin Beatrix Rose – are set to take on Hollywood, with his series on the verge of a major television deal, complete with a “triple A” producer.

Admitting he had a “‘holy shit’ moment” when he was told who the producer was, the Salisbury-based former lawyer said he had initially signed a “shopping agreement” after an approach through his website. “They have attached a writer and an extremely well-known Hollywood figure and director to it,” Dawson says. “The people linked are all serious players – household names – and they have pitched it to half a dozen studios and from that they have got an agreement [to develop it] for television.”

Dawson wasn’t always Hollywood fodder. Sales of his first self-published novel, 2012’s Black Mile, only trickled in – until he took Amazon’s advice and offered it to readers for free. In one weekend, his novel was downloaded 50,000 times. Dawson built his audience from there, spending hundreds of pounds a day on Facebook advertising and writing on his commute. After writing 23 books in four years, he says his annual income is now in the “high six figures”.

Details of Dawson’s TV deal are under wraps, and he says it is expected to be finalised in the next few days. But his is just the latest in a line of deals between studios and self-published authors, including AG Riddle and Hugh Howey, who have been targeted by studios after the successes of Andy Weir’s The Martian and EL James’s Fifty Shades franchise. AG Riddle’s Departure series was scooped up by Fox-based producer Steve Tzirlin in a six-figure deal, while Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel Wool was signed up by Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox.

Bestselling self-published authors attract producers because they have a proven track record if they stay on Amazon sales charts over time, Howey said. “Hollywood is always looking for a built-in audience. They want to know they’ll recoup their investment,” he says. “Modern films easily cost $100m to make, usually more. There isn’t much room for risk here.”

Another attraction in the litigious world of film, according to producer Doreen Spicer, is that these self-published books provide insurance. “There’s a level of security that the story is original and not based on a pitch or idea from a writer in the room,” said Spicer, whose credits include US sitcom The Wannabes and animated series The Proud Family. “A producer can safeguard themselves from lawsuits by purchasing or licensing copyrights.”

One of the most high-profile successes is Andy Weir’s The Martian: a sci-fi thriller set on the red planet that the author self-published as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents. The 2015 film adaptation, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon as Weir’s leading astronaut Mark Watney, made $630m worldwide….

Read it all at The Guardian

Releasing Your Web Series into the Wild Web! – @Stareable

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 12
by Bri Castellini

You’ve done it. You’ve made a web series. Before we go any further, from the bottom of my soul, congratulations. Writing is hard enough, but you have gone above and beyond. No matter what happens, this is something to be proud of. And now, it’s time to show it to off.

I’m writing this with the assumption that you’re uploading your series one episode at a time to a site like YouTube of Vimeo. I prefer YouTube, because of its playlist functionality and its prominence as the go-to video site online, but whatever floats your boat[a][b]. There are distributors you could also reach out to, who host your content and potentially get you a higher return on investment with advertising, but for your first time, self-distributing is probably your best bet.

So what should your individual web series episode look like? I have a couple suggestions, all centered around the concept that people should know your videos are a part of a narrative series, not just a random vlog or one-off.

Video Title

There are a bunch of ways to indicate that your show is, in fact, a show, using only the title. For example, “Brains S1E1: Alison 101.” We have the title of the show, the season number, the episode number, and then the episode title. This information being available immediately to a potential viewer puts them in the mindset of watching a narrative show, not a compilation of cake decorating videos. It’s also more professional.

Thumbnail

People should also be able to tell from your thumbnail that this isn’t any ordinary video. There should be a consistency to the way in which you visually brand the series so that your playlists look organized and uniform. Below are some of my favorites:

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Description Box

Once again, consistency is key, so no matter what you decide to put in your video description boxes, make sure it’s the same every time. In general, I recommend the following structure:

1. A one to two sentence description of the episode
2. A link to the full playlist of episodes
3. Principal cast/crew credits
4. Music credits (if applicable)
5. Links to the show’s website and social media

Playlists

Always have a playlist, even when you only have one episode online. People are easily confused and having an easy way to organize the episodes in sequence will only ever help you out. A few notes, though:

1. Links to the same videos are different in and out of a playlist. A link to a video inside of a playlist will bring the viewer to the playlist, whereas a video outside of a playlist might not have the next episode in sequence show up as the automatic suggested next video.
2. If you want to embed a mid-season episode on a web page individually, don’t use the link of the video from the playlist. It will show up as the entire playlist, not the individual episode.
3. Even within a playlist, make sure you have an end screen that points people in the direction of the previous and next videos in the series, just in case someone finds an individual video rather than the full playlist.

Make sure to have a consistent uploading schedule, and stick to it. If you upload your first episode at 10 am on Monday, every subsequent episode should go live within an hour or that time. Also, when you post about new episodes on social media, don’t just post when the episodes go live, because different people get online at different times. You should post about new episodes at least three times on the days they’re released, and then remind people a few times more throughout the rest of the week. Views don’t just happen, especially when you’re starting out.

I only have one more column planned for you guys, about submitting to film festivals and the anxiety-inducing adventure that is networking. However, if you have questions about any of the columns I’ve written before, or if you think I’ve glossed over something, please let me know, and I’d be happy to keep writing for you all! Leave a comment on this post, or tweet @stareable and @TVWriter with suggestions or questions.


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

And Now for the Drawbacks to Crowdfunding (& Other Indie Pitfalls)

Long time TVWriter™ visitors know that we are Big Believers in crowdfunding as a terrific way to get your work and yourself before an audience. And, yeppers, we recommend that you use the search bar in the righthand column of each and every post on this site to see what we’ve said in the past.

But even we, as crowdfunding’s staunchest advocates, know very well that it isn’t perfect. Recently we came across an article that points out several of the biggest problems indie film (and TV) makers face in the current world, and guess what the writer says is Number One?

Knowledge is power. We would be remiss if we didn’t share this…and the rest of Joe McClean’s cautions. Brace yourselves:

5 Things Every Indie Filmmaker Should Know: Beware of Crowdfunding and Free Tickets for Grandma (Guest Blog)
by Joe McClean

I’m an indie filmmaker who’s made two low-budget features in the last four years: “Life Tracker” starring Matt Dallas in 2013 an the upcoming “The Drama Club.” 

Along the way, I’ve learned some things that I wish I could go back and tell my younger self. Here are some of the biggest lessons:

1. Crowdfunding can hurt you.

This isn’t a cow that keeps giving milk. You basically have one shot, so make sure you choose wisely, if you choose to do it at all.

Unless you have an above-the-line attachment capable of generating press and who can point strangers back to your campaign, you’re making a mistake. No attachment? Just you and some buddies? Fine, but the only people who will give to your campaign will be those connected to you already. If Grandma’s going to give you a thousand bucks, she should just give it to you. Don’t pay the crowdfunding site’s fee (around 7 percent on average) or the fee tacked on for using plastic. If you go through a site, you just lost $60 to $100 of Grandma’s money before you even started shooting — all because you needed a link from a company to work up the nerve to ask her.

 If you’re a filmmaker without the nerve to ask someone for money, you better hope you find a good producer. Think of those people you’re asking to work for free — that 7 perecent could go to feeding them better on set! Yum. Craft services.

2. Cast recognizable actors.

OK, you’ve probably heard this one before, but think there’s no way to do it with your lack of funds. I’m telling you to do all that you can to get some familiar faces on board, no matter your budget.

I made an indie feature called “Life Tracker” for $150,000. A good chunk of that money came in because an investor loved one of my leads, Matt Dallas, who starred on an ABC Family show. Others gave money because a sports star invested. My great aunt genuinely thought I’d “made it” when she saw Jay Thomas in a small scene in my movie. The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, ComingSoon, MSN and others gave us press before, during and after production. Getty Images showed up to our self-thrown premiere party because Matt Dallas was there.

Fast forward to my next feature, which had no recognizable faces, and no one of note kicked in money. We were able to raise less than half of my first film’s budget and the press won’t touch us. Well, that’s a lie — the L.A. Times came to see the movie when we four-walled for a week…and hated it. So I guess there’s that.

Read it all at TheWrap

Attn. Film Fests – Enough is More than Enough

Nope, this isn’t a festival our whistleblower is talking about, just a lovely bit of generica. No liability here, folks. Move on…

by Hank Isaac

I have to begin this by saying, “I’m not an attorney.”

However, that does not indicate in any way that I can’t read, write, or think.

So I was invited to enter my web series pilot episode into an awards competition. All a-twitter, I started going through the online submission process. Everything was great until I got to their agreement/release. Which I actually read, by the way (more later on why you should always read those).

Oh, and out of some old-school and likely misguided sense of professional courtesy, I’m redacting names and all identifying marks about anything that isn’t me or mine. It won’t make any difference ’cause if you get where I was and read what I read, you’ll know anyway.

Threading off for a sec… Good screenwriters that we all are, we’re often admonished to not put WGA registration or Copyright info on our submitted works. It kind of makes sense. Like, we don’t walk into a meeting carrying an AR-15 and say, “I just carry this with me. No plans to use it.”

So, yeah, the reason not to put that stuff on the cover is, well, to just be one of the “cool kids.”

Really.

But as screenwriters, we’re not one of the cool kids. We’re really more like the wimpy kid on the playground and all the agents, managers, production companies, and competitions are the big bully who steals our lunch every day. If we complain to a grownup, we get beat up. If we resist, we get beat up. If we eat a humongous breakfast so we don’t actually need to bring a lunch, we get beat up. The endgame here is: We lose.

Okay, back.

So I’m reading through this release and then come to the most dangerous wording ever written. I won’t paste it in here, but it can be found in various degrees of virulence in releases everywhere. Now bear in mind, I’m talking only about competition entries, not submissions to production companies, agents, or managers. Just competitions.

And the wording begins by having me agree to allow them to look at the work (this happens to be a produced product, not a screenplay), to show it on their website, and to show it to other people.

So far, so good.

But then they want to be able to edit it. Not merely show an excerpt (which is indeed a form of “editing”) but actually edit the work. Without qualifying that statement, it can mean they could create an entirely different version of my work and show that around town instead.

Oh, it gets better.

Then, they want me to grant them what’s known as “derivative rights.” This is essentially the right to take my work and create a sequel or prequel. Or they could take a scene and make an entire franchise from it. Or they could make a spin-off using one or more of my characters. Pretty much anything, really.

Reminder: This is just an awards competition!

Why are they asking for all this? According to them (from a brief email exchange) this is “standard language.” So in what universe is this standard language for a competition entry? They say they need “protection.” Protection from what? They’re asking to be able to use my work however they wish. Somebody please explain the “protection” here.

“Well, we use this same language in all of [hugely famous name]’s productions.” Fine. This isn’t a production, it’s an awards competition. And you invited me.

Why would I ever give you permission to mess with my work? Isn’t that sort of like inviting your friends over for dinner then presenting them with a bill at the end of the evening?

A few years ago [even more famous filmmaker] lent his name to a competition. I heard they received over 7,500 feature film screenplay entries. The winner was to have his film made and I think he could direct it, too. So as I read through the twenty-five page release – yes, a twenty-five page ENTRY SUBMISSION release – I finally got to the eightieth paragraph and, guess what, nearly identical language was there. I won’t copy it here, but the upshot was that they would own not only my screenplay, but also all derivative works. So I was going to have to give up all rights to the story, the characters, and anything that would ever evolve from them anywhere, forever. EVEN IF I DIDN’T WIN! That was the kicker. It wasn’t just for the winner, it was for EVERY SINGLE ENTRY.

I wonder how many entrants actually read the release they signed?

Now if you’re thinking, “Geeze, this guy is really paranoid,” I’d like to add that every time I encounter language in a release like this, I run the text past my entertainment attorney. I ask him quite simply, “Am I reading this the way I think I am?” And every time, he comes back with, “Yes, you are.”

When I question the language as I did in these two instances, the response I always get back – after all the meaningless reasons – is, “This is the language our legal department created.” No it isn’t. It’s English. It evolved over many centuries. Your “legal department” is making sure you are in the superior position every step of the way. It’s not a release, it’s a sacrifice. And a human one at that.

“You don’t have to enter the competition,” is often the next line I hear.

“Yeah, I know. I won’t. But you know you’re essentially daring people to enter, then punching them in the gut when they do.”

“It’s standard language.”

“Uh, huh.”

They try to call it a contract but it’s not. A contract is supposed to benefit all parties. Releases like this do not. Then – and this is one of my favorite parts – they say, “Well that’s what it says, but that’s not what it means.”

Eh?

Listen, Bub, what it says is what it says. Push comes to shove, what it SAYS is what it MEANS. Wow! The nerve.

So, many people will tell you, “Man up. If you want to get your work out there, you have to agree to stuff like this.”

Really? How’s this, then, from my own recent (as in contemporary) experience:

One of my films, Lilac – Pilot Episode – “Getting the Point Across – has been an official selection in 53 international film festival and awards competitions with 37 awards for writing, directing, acting, cinematography, production design, costume design, original score, original song, and sound design, and 6 additional nominations – awards in the venues of WEB Series Pilot, WEB Series, TV Series, TV Series Pilot, and Short Form Dramatic Narrative. Seen in 87 countries, on 6 continents and in 9 different languages.

Never signed one single release like the ones I’ve described here.

The somewhat ironic part of all this is that the holders of power know that even when they misuse or misappropriate our work, we are truly powerless to do anything about it. “You can always sue us,” is their ongoing mantra. But the reality is: No we can’t. Anybody know how much it costs to mount a copyright infringement lawsuit? “Excuse me Mr. Lawyer, Sir, my name is David and there’s this really big guy… Goliath somebody-or-other… Well, let me tell you, he’s so big you can’t even see his head, it’s up there so high…”

And don’t think for a moment Goliath doesn’t know this. We’re dust and he’s got a bazillion vacuums just sitting on the shelf with nothing better to do.

And yet…

…he shoves a fifteen-thousand-word release in our faces, often with the excuse that they’ve “encountered problems in the past.”

Would you buy a car if, in the buying, you had to sign away all rights to assert a claim against the manufacturer if, say, the car blew up while it was being driven and killed your mom or your kids?

To all competitions: Look, I’m asserting this is my work. Mine. I’m the owner and I have the right to do with it what I wish. I give you permission to look at it, share it with others, evaluate it, exhibit it in its entirety or a partial contiguous clip, and to use some or all of it to help advertise your competition now and in the future (cause I’m a nice guy and I like your competition). But I do not give you the right to show it for purposes other than for your competition or to make other films based on my film or my characters or their story or sell or otherwise transfer the ability to do that to anyone else in the entire universe forever.

And if you ask for that, you’re just not going to get it.


Hank Isaac is an independent filmmaker in the Seattle, WA area. Not only does he know right from wrong and good from bad, he knows excellent from meh…because that’s what his work has proven to be over and over – excellent. Check him out on IMDB

Dan Harmon on Overcoming Writer’s Block

The creator of Community and co-creator of Rick and Morty was on Reddit last week, and for the first time that we here at TVWriter™ are aware of he actually made a public statement that was true/valid without being annoying/controversial.

New writers need all the help and advice they can get on the subject of writer’s block. (Experienced writers not so much because they have an inspirational ace in the hole known as “the mortgage is due!”) So without stalling any longer, here’s what dude said:

My best advice about writer’s block is: the reason you’re having a hard time writing is because of a conflict between the GOAL of writing well and the FEAR of writing badly. By default, our instinct is to conquer the fear, but our feelings are much, much, less within our control than the goals we set, and since it’s the conflict BETWEEN the two forces blocking you, if you simply change your goal from “writing well” to “writing badly,” you will be a veritable fucking fountain of material, because guess what, man, we don’t like to admit it, because we’re raised to think lack of confidence is synonymous with paralysis, but, let’s just be honest with ourselves and each other: we can only hope to be good writers. We can only ever hope and wish that will ever happen, that’s a bird in the bush. The one in the hand is: we suck. We are terrified we suck, and that terror is oppressive and pervasive because we can VERY WELL see the possibility that we suck. We are well acquainted with it. We know how we suck like the backs of our shitty, untalented hands. We could write a fucking book on how bad a book would be if we just wrote one instead of sitting at a desk scratching our dumb heads trying to figure out how, by some miracle, the next thing we type is going to be brilliant. It isn’t going to be brilliant. You stink. Prove it. It will go faster. And then, after you write something incredibly shitty in about six hours, it’s no problem making it better in passes, because in addition to being absolutely untalented, you are also a mean, petty CRITIC. You know how you suck and you know how everything sucks and when you see something that sucks, you know exactly how to fix it, because you’re an asshole. So that is my advice about getting unblocked. Switch from team “I will one day write something good” to team “I have no choice but to write a piece of shit” and then take off your “bad writer” hat and replace it with a “petty critic” hat and go to town on that poor hack’s draft and that’s your second draft. Fifteen drafts later, or whenever someone paying you starts yelling at you, who knows, maybe the piece of shit will be good enough or maybe everyone in the world will turn out to be so hopelessly stupid that they think bad things are good and in any case, you get to spend so much less time at a keyboard and so much more at a bar where you really belong because medicine because childhood trauma because the Supreme Court didn’t make abortion an option until your unwanted ass was in its third trimester. Happy hunting and pecking!

If you’re into Reddit but didn’t know about this Reddit AMA, check out the whole  thing HERE

Peggy Bechko Wants You to Throw Your Hero Under a Bus

 

by Peggy Bechko

Seriously writers… storytelling isn’t a bed of roses for you, the writer, or for your protagonist – you know, the hero or heroine of the thing.

Oh, wait, you’re telling me that actually it IS a bed of roses? That everything is going honkey-dory? Nice? Cool?

So you’re telling me your manuscript or movie script is b.o.r.i.n.g.

Don’t sit there and squirm and try to deny it. If you don’t know it already (and you should, actually) you don’t grab a reader, whether script reader or manuscript editor, by the eyeballs by painting a bucolic picture of joy and happiness. I mean, really, who wants to read about, or spend two hours in a theater watching a ‘nice’ guy or girl trying to decide on which outfit to wear to prom?

But wait, we’re all guilty of it, we like a character we’ve created. And, well (stub toe in dirt) it is your story after all, right?

Right! Of course you won’t be able to sell it until an alien kidnaps the prom queen or her boyfriend literally gets thrown under a bus by a rival or… well, you get it I hope.

Oh, and the prom queen? She needs to be a closet bitch who schemes to destroy her boyfriend’s future because she’s actually a psychopath and thinks it would be funny. And her boyfriend? Maybe he has a shaved head, multiple heavyweight earrings and a huge tattoo across his chest and is a member of a gang, but he’s unsure of his place with them.

Make your characters interesting and even if they’re vile jerks, they won’t be boring and people will want to follow them to find out what comes next. They’ll hang on every word, locked in with a desire to know what comes next.

But still you resist? Don’t want to ‘hurt’ your characters? Why would that be? Well, for most writers, a little bit of him or herself is in those characters, every one. Even the villains. So, poking at them is, in effect, poking at ourselves. BUT, the good news we can use our old wounds to create mesmerizing characters. And drawing from that well of painful experiences you, as the writer, make people feel. And when you make them feel you have them hooked.

So let’s circle back to the prom queen psychopath. Why is she where she is? What propelled her to this? Destruction for destruction’s sake. Can she be saved? Is she actually the villain? What do you need to pull up from your depths to make her a truly stunning character? Be brave.

Create situations people don’t expect. I watched the movie Life a while back. It was interesting until that tiny (spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it) space thing reared back and attacked. Then it was gripping. Where was this going? What issues were the crew members of the space station grappling with to bring their experience to bear on corralling this thing?

Get inside your characters.

Get inside yourself.

Be uncomfortable while using your own personal demons to pump extraordinary life into those characters. Do it. Push your characters. Throw them under a bus. The bar for writing is rising all the time. Gather your courage and reach higher.


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.