Summer TV Hit “Stranger Things” was Rejected “10 to 15 Times”

Further proof that nobody knows anything:

In other words, girls and boys, all those people (like us) who keep telling you not to give up know what we’re talking about. We may not all be speaking from our own experience, but anecdotal advice can still be valid, as the above case in point shows.

Keep writing!

And keep fighting too. The world needs entertainment, maybe now more than ever!

Dennis O’Neil: Superman – What Do We Really Know?

lois_lane_1964_by_-shawn-vanbriesen

Art by Shawn Van Briesen

by Dennis O’Neil

“Someone has just thrown Lois Lane from an airplane and she’s plummeting Earthward. But today is Humtyglumf Day, the most sacred day in the Kryptonian calendar – a day on which it is absolutely forbidden to rescue falling females. But if I do nothing, in about a nanosecond Lois will squish…”

Full disclosure: I don’t really know if Kryptonians celebrate Humptyglumf Day. On the other hand, I don’t really know if they don’t. Superman seems to have a lot of information about his shattered home world – he seems to knows a lot more about Krypton than I know about, oh…McCausland Avenue where, I have it on reliable authority, I spend the first four years or so of my life. But nothing about politics or religion.

The profit motive partly explains this. I’m thinking of one of my favorite novelists, now deceased. His name was John D. MacDonald and his best known character was/is Travis McGee. McDonald and McGee were, for me, buy-immediately-upon-sighting as I checked out the fresh paperbacks. I don’t know how many McGee novels I read before I realized how little I really knew about our hero. McDonald gave us what seemed to be a heap of personal data about his creation – his friends, his houseboat, his car, his workouts, his opinions of certain cities, his party-timing, all this and more well covered. Yessir, after reading two or five of the books you knew ol’ Trav. But did you? Tell me about his parents, his siblings (isn’t a brother mentioned somewhere?), his home town, the schools he attended, his political preferences, where, if anywhere, he worships…You might be tight with Trav, but you couldn’t fill out his census questionnaire.

I think what McDonald was doing, consciously or not, was employing a bit of literary legerdemain – what Penn and Teller might call “misdirection.” He gives you lots of detail and maybe you don’t notice that he withholds anything that is crucial – anything that might prejudice you against the character. (You don’t like Presbyterians? Well, he’s no Presbyterian!) It’s fair to say that most, if not all, writers of mass-consumption worked a similar dodge. The radio programs and television shows and movies were populated by…well, Americans! Probably ate white bread. Probably went to church (though which church we didn’t have to know.) Probably voted. (But which lever they turned is really none of our concern.)

Comic books? Let’s see…there’s Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker and Tony Stark and Steve Rogers…Nope – not an ethnic name in a truckload. And none of these guys have lapel pins indicating political preference, either.

I can’t decide if this pop culture homogenization has been helpful or harmful to the general welfare. Maybe a bit of both? I have a hunch that its time is almost past, but that’s not today’s topic. Nor is Humptyglumf Day.


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

Peggy Bechko’s World: Changing Directions of a Writer’s Life

by Peggy Bechko

mary-poppins-weather-vaneNamely – mine!

Some writers pretty much stick with what they began with whether it’s novel writing or scriptwriting or journalism for an entire career. That’s great for them, or, if you’re a writer and that’s the way you go, for you.

For me, things keep on a’changin’. It’s not that I move away from one type of writing to another and leave the ‘old’ behind, it’s more like I add to what I’m doing. That can get a bit crazy, but it’s the way I Iike it. Spices things up for me, keeps the fresh and the new ideas rolling.

I began with novels, published with Doubleday, Harlequin and others.

Then I added script writing and I loved it. Had a wonderful mentor in Larry Brody of TVWriter.com (for whom I’m a Contributing Editor), sold a script, optioned some others and am still working with scriptwriting having completed one a short time ago. All I had to do was know how to type and be creative…and learn the formatting.

But that’s not where it stops for me. I’m also creating a novel from a previously written script. Its great fun and I intend to publish.  I have a romance novel I’m working on finishing up as well. Still typing, still milking the creative juices.

What’s the newest? Comic books. Kid’s books. Yep, an unusual undertaking for me. I’ve partnered up with a great friend and we, together, write and illustrate the comic series Planet Of The Eggs with five adventures published so far and more in the works.  As an off-shot we’re now creating our first ‘read-to-me’/’young readers’ picture book based on the fun characters ofPlanet Of The Eggs. The first is celebrating the differences in us all, as well as what brings us together, and is as yet untitled, but that’s coming!

The learning curve was pretty steep on comic creation. We’re still using a combination of photoshop, powerpoint and comic life software. Now we’ve also thrown in the free photo manipulator from Paint.net and got a couple of special effects packs so we can create cool pen sketches and other kind of amazing effects.

The results so far is the near completion of the first volume (six issues) of thePlanet Of The Eggs comic book series. But wait, there’s something afoot!  The series is about to find itself in a reboot as we evolve from the very young adventurous eggs to the more confident, determined Superhero eggs and their friends, companions and arch enemies. We’re on the very cusp as we complete the first picture book and dive into plotting for the sixth adventure to complete our first volume.

Oh, and the fifth, Planet Of The Eggs-Eruption 2, Saving Dot has just released in Kindle format and paperback will follow in the next couple of weeks.  Want to keep up with it all?

Go to our facebook page for Planet Of The Eggs, tell us your thoughts, which heroic egg is your favorite, what villains you would like to see, whatever comes to mind. We love to hear from fans. Oh, and there’s a monthly newsletter as well – just click the sign up button near the top of the page and get access to the first adventure in PDF FREE! Or sign up directlyhere.

So, my personal writing career has become a fantastical juggling act and I love it. Yep, I’ll be finishing that romance novel, probably creating more novels from scripts and the reverse as well as finding new and exciting things to pursue with my writing.  I’ll let you know what I come up with next.  Meanwhile, happy reading and writing.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget Peggy’s wonderful blog, where this article first appeared. Whew! Busy woman!

LB: At Last! A Question I Can Answer!

Glad You Asked Department 8/17/16
by Larry Brody

question_ditkoRegular visitors to TVWriter™ may remember that once upon a time I promised to answer TV and film writing and production questions on a regular basis and that I tried but, well, erm…

My promise kinda fizzled out in the Summer of 2013.

That’s three years ago, I know. Three years of hanging my head and going, “Oy…oy…Oy…!

Three years of guilt!

Angst!

Despair!

Today, however, I’m filled with Q and A joy because last week I was asked a question about something that has bugged the hell out of me for years. To be more specific, what’s been bugging the hell out of me is the answer, which I’ve known and understood and have had no reason to ever tell anyone.

So it’s with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and a new sense of old purpose, that I take advantage of the situation and share with you, the TVWriter™ Crew, the following email exchange:

First, the query, from JW:

Hi:

I’m writing a short article for Maclean’s magazine…about “Macgyver,” and I was wondering if you would be able to comment for it.

What I wanted to ask about is why you think the TV subgenre of the action show – as opposed to mystery shows that don’t have as much stunt work or chases – seemed to become less prevalent since the 1990s. Were there any reasons – in terms of the costs or who watched these shows – given as to why they were harder to sell?

Let me know if you can help or if you need more information about the article. I have to file it by Friday.

I’m proud to say that I responded well before Friday, and I encourage Maclean’s Magazine readers everywhere to keep an eye out for JM’s article (which may already be out. Dammit, why don’t I know?”).

Of course, after Friday had passed, I found myself thinking about the issue again and – of course – coming up with a much more complex reply, because that’s what people do, right? JW already has what I wrote. Here’s my revised draft, featuring what I should have written:

Thanks for contacting me, JW.

In a nutshell, the reason for fewer action shows is indeed financial. The various action shows I produced all had significant budget deficits and problems, mostly caused because all the action necessitated at least one and more often two days of second unit filming per episode, which means having a second film crew, a second director – usually the stunt coordinator – various stunt people and duplicate vehicles, extra insurance, permits, permissions, security, and more.

Add to that the fact that for some strange reason second unit filming always seemed to go into overtime, adding to the expense even more. The studio suits always thought it was the stunt crew taking advantage of the lack of supervision of most second unit shoots (because there simply was no one around to perform that task), but I’ve never bought into that POV. The way I see it, choreographing and shooting and reshooting and adjusting and re-reshooting are absolutely necessary as well as, yes, time-consuming as all hell.

In the ’80s, on THE FALL GUY, we estimated that the action sequences were adding another 20% to our total working budget for the series and started looking for less $$$-gobbling alternatives. One of them was to buy previously unseen stunt footage shot for major films (think various productions of James Bond) but cut out before the final release. We would put our stars into matching costumes and behind the steering wheels of matching vehicles, roll ’em out of frame, and let movie magic take its course.

It worked for awhile, but I felt like we were cheating the audience, and the stunt co-ordinator was inconsolable. Moping around, weeping a bit now and then, threatening my family, you know how men of action get when they don’t have enough to do, so the bought footage experiment didn’t last all that long and soon we were back on the ever-sharpening edge of fiscal disaster.

An edge that today is skirted by watching lab work and autopsies instead of careening vehicles and monstrous explosions. (Oh, and the stunt co-ordinator didn’t really threaten my family. But I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.

And that’s it. This was fun for me to write, and I hope equally enjoyable (as well as informative) to read. Now let’s all send out good energy and clap our hands for Tinkerbelle – and for yours truly finding the time and space to address things like before another three years zoom by.

As this department used to say – and, I hope, will again, “My purpose here is to help as many undiscovered creative geniuses as possible. But I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!”

Peggy Bechko’s World: “What do I need to Write?”

kneadingbread

Definitely not the kind of “need” Peggy’s talking about here, but we couldn’t resist!

by Peggy Bechko

What do I need to Write???

Hmm, an interesting question. One that needs a bit of context. Is that question on the literal, referring to the tools we need like pen and pencil or computer or is it more subjective as in atmosphere, surroundings or story elements?

For me, as a writer, the first impulse would be to say I need a good character to pop into my mind, someone who I can wrap a story around. So that would boil down to ideas. Ideas and characters that excite me and make ti so I can hardly wait to sit down at my desk and begin the process.

And along with those ideas I’d need to decide what my end game is. What medium would best suit those ideas? Will I focus on writing a novel? A screenplay? A Short story?

And, in what context do I want to present it? By that I mean does this idea and these characters lend themselves to Science Fiction? Romance? Comedy? Thriller? Paranormal? Some interesting combination?

Sometimes I contemplate these things separately and at other times they sort of congeal and come together all at once like jello with fruit setting up. (ack! I hate jello with fruit in it).

Whatever.

Once I’m there I can tell you the basic hardware/software kinds of tools I prefer.

First is my office. I love my office. It’s a place to relax, to create and it took me a number of years to be able to have the space I wanted, the privacy and the furnishings (i.e. desk, chair, etc.) that I wanted, the way I wanted them. Now it’s heaven.

Next is my computer. Yep, I just got a new one. It’s a PC. It has a nice large screen, is an all in one so I don’t have all the clutter on my desk and it works great. Figure I’m good for years now. And just as important is my portable hard drive I use to back up. I’m absolutely, insanely, passionate about backing up frequently while I write. It’s programmed with an automatic backup. And, I back up once more at the end of a writing session. I also unplug it and hide it away when I’m out of the house. We’ve had a couple of break-ins over the years and I’m not risking losing it. Folks tell me I should use the cloud, but that’s not where I place my trust. Don’t judge. Well, okay, you can judge, but I don’t want to hear about it.

I’d like to have a voice recorder and I keep intending to get myself one but I keep forgetting. Maybe that means I don’t need one?

Software is next. Basic Word does it for my novel writing and prep when I want to self-publish something. Formatting works well. Again, I have people telling me I should check out Scrivener and I might if I ever get enough time between projects for a learning curve and to download the free test version. For now. No.

For Screenwriting I use Movie Magic Screenwriter most of the time and as a back-up I have an account with Adobe Story https://story.adobe.com/en-us/index.html I’ve used it to change formats a few times. Don’t get there very often so I hope they remember me.

I do have some software I use when creating illustrations for kids books and comic books, but we’re talking about sheer writing here, so let your imagination run wild.

My dogs. Yep, my dogs. When I settle in to write for a few hours my three dogs are scattered around the room. Briget the very insecure heeler/whippet mix usually tucks herself in a corner and tries to pretend she’s invisible. Buddy, tender little soul, snuggles into a bed at my feet and Hans kid of spills out of a bed behind my chair. I’m surrounded by doggie love and I’d miss that comforting presence if it wasn’t there.

Only other thing I might need is a Krispy Kreme donut, but unfortunately though a store opened here locally not too long ago, it’s all the way across town and I’m not about to get out of my comfy writing clothes to jump in the car and drive across town to get one. So that’s not happening. Probably for the best.

In conclusion I’d love to hear about what you need (or think you need) to write. It’s amazing how little we can get by with actually, but there are some things we just can’t do without. Spill it, fellow writers, what do you NEED to write?


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget Peggy’s wonderful blog. Whew! Busy woman!

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

Here it is, writing fans, an educational video that’s even more educational than the last educational video we, the educated minions of TVWriter™, put before you. In other words, it’s a TED Talk given by Andrew Stanton, the main dude behind Toy Story and Wall-E.

Find More Talks HERE

Interview with Jeane Wong Part 3: Breaking In

networking

by Kathryn Graham

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeane Wong, a friend of TVWriter™ and previous People’s Pilot winner, recently won the First Universal Cable Pitchfest with her pitch for The Thin Line! Don’t miss the first two parts of this interview with this rising star HERE and HERE.

You worked in politics before entertainment, right?

I worked briefly (in politics) then I went and interned in film and television. I worked at an agency and management company briefly, and then I landed on a TV show. I’ve been working in TV for several years now. That’s been my trajectory.

So you’ve been a script coordinator and a writer’s PA, right?

I’ve worked on several shows as support staff. Everyone’s experience is different, but for me it’s helped me tremendously for gauging personalities and being in the room. In the pitch process, it was helpful to be able to say I’ve worked on these shows and been in the room, even though I haven’t been staffed. Depending on the shows I might have more room experience than a staff writer. I’m familiar with different personalities, names, and talent.

It’s been super useful because I’ve come to a point where I can utilize my contacts for something. Because of this (winning Pitchfest) happening, I have been able to reach out to people and ask for help in the right ways. Because I guess UCP validated me.

What was the best part of being a writer’s PA or a script coordinator?

You learn the most by being a fly on the wall. There were a lot of times, when I was writer’s PA where I asked to read for staffing. I learned that asking to do stuff of your own initiative means you get to overhear conversations about why a writer is staying or not staying, join meetings for staffing, and see how they put together the room. It was super valuable. You get access to something you wouldn’t get to otherwise.

What was the most fun?

Open bars at wrap parties. That’s the best part of life, when there’s an open bar, let’s be honest.

There’s this idea that there’s a hundred million different ways to break in. Is that true?

I feel like the path that I’ve seen with the most success is being a writer’s assistant. Script coordinator sometimes. Like I said I’ve seen instances where the writer’s PA gets staffed. It’s rare.

There’s a few instances where people break in from features because they have a film at Sundance. Everyone is very different. Half the people are in programs. There are a few who do it the old fashioned way, get representation, and get staffed. The rest would be through working as support staff on shows. Then there’s a small percentage that’s ‘other’. That’s been my experience. Out of twenty people I know, that’s the breakdown I see.

What’s your advice for getting a first job as a writer’s PA or assistant?

Network effectively. You throw a penny in the air you’re bound to meet someone who works in TV in this town. I would say when you’re meeting with people, really know how to work that contact. I’ve had people who would just e-mail me once a year after having met them once and just ask for a job. Not say or do anything else throughout the year. That person I’m less likely to recommend as opposed to the contact who’s like ‘hey, let’s grab a coffee’ and seems genuine and interested in getting to know me.

You have to know how to play the game a little bit with your contacts. I’ve been on shows where I never met the showrunner, and I was hired. Really know how to savor that contact. Don’t make it that every time you reach out to someone that you need something.

I remember there was this one contact who was so smart who would e-mail me, and be like ‘hey, I got free tickets to this screening, do you want to go?’ So every time they were reaching out it wasn’t about work, and it wasn’t about something they needed. It almost sounds fake, but it isn’t. It’s about being genuine, for me. I’d rather help someone who’s genuine and socially intelligent. People who know not go to ‘Hey, do you have a job? Bye.’

Unfortunately it is who you know. Some of those jobs get posted on tracking boards. Most of those jobs are word of mouth. If you stayed on someone’s radar and were not annoying, those are the people who get jobs. That’s the best advice. Network effectively. I’m actually really surprised because I feel like not a lot of people do that.

It sounds so on the nose, but it’s true. It’s hard because writers are naturally introverted, and not everyone, but me, I’m neurotic. So it’s not natural for everyone to be extroverted.

Networking seems very simple but mysterious at the same time.

I can tell you one thing I did that was effective for me was I used to throw on TV assistant brunches or get-togethers. I would invite thirty people who work on shows and twenty people who are looking for jobs. That’s actually how I landed a lot of my first interviews on TV shows. I was like, how do I meet these people? Alcohol! Great! I didn’t have those contacts, so I had to think outside the box.

At the time I had a friend who worked at an agency. I knew a handful of people, and those people invited other people, and you wind up having a good group. If you’re right now looking for a job in TV, just get brunch with five or six people. Group outings. Whatever. It’s about making those contacts.

Writers’ groups are a good way to meet people too.

What would you say to people who feel like networking is superficial?

A lot of people who I’ve met, I’ve become friends with for years now, some are really good friends. I’ve never gotten a drink with someone I didn’t like. Even if I want a job from them, I wouldn’t do that. I’ve always considered myself a sincere person. Some of the people you meet might become some of your greatest allies in the industry.

I think the way to bypass thinking that it’s fake is that you’re meeting people at your level who are going to bat for you, will be your friends, and be supportive. Just to have a network of people who will be just as annoyed when you don’t get into that writing program. I wouldn’t look at it as a completely fake thing. One or two of those people have wound up being close friends of mine who I can talk to. I can say to them: ‘something annoying happened in the room and I need to vent’. They get it because they work in the same business.

I have a couple industry friends who are genuinely my friends. I have a friend who left the industry because our friendship goes beyond whether I need something from her. When you work in this town there’s a lot of people who you wind up connecting with. On a larger life scale, bird’s eye view, I would look at networking as the stage in your life where you’re finding your work friends, rather than college friends or childhood friends.

I’ve heard from an agent that you should never hand an agent something that’s not brilliant because you will never get a second chance.

That is true to an extent. This pilot was passed on. Most agents in my opinion sign you once they know you have some momentum. When the news hit Deadline, they reached out to me again even though they passed.

Agents don’t pass because the material isn’t good. I would say that because I’ve worked at a management company. 80% of the time it’s because you need momentum where you’re about to get staffed or you’re in a writing program. Then they’ll look at you.

Unfortunately that’s really cynical. I have a friend who has a deal now, but when I was working at a management company, I tried to get them to look at her. She’s so good. They didn’t sign her because she wasn’t known. Then she got Warner Bros. two years later and everyone wanted to sign her. I’m like ‘What was the difference?’

For me it was a two week difference. Someone said ‘we’re not looking for clients right now’ and two weeks later, I was announced on Deadline, and they reached back out to me. I have nothing against that. It’s the business. I just think it’s the process. It’s not personal. It just means you have to create the momentum. If you’re a comedy writer, you can make Youtube videos and get a lot of hits. With social media there’s a lot more you can do now — especially in comedy.

If you had to break into the industry now instead of when you did, what would be the first thing you would do?

Someone else gave me this advice. You can either work on a show and move up or go do something in the industry and jump on a show. Get a job. It doesn’t have to be in the industry. Get something that you can do so mindlessly that it doesn’t emotionally drain you so you can write and live your life.

Survive. Get a job. Always write. Even before you come to LA, if you were writing and you have your samples ready, get a job,  and then network. Gotta make sure you pay that rent.

A lot of people are hard on themselves when they can’t get an industry job. I would say if you have a job you can do in your sleep outside the industry, that’s great because you’re not drained. I know a lot of people who work on shows who don’t write because their mind is so discombobulated.

Some people with corporate jobs, they work and then take a year off to pursue writing. There’s a path where you don’t do the TV support staff route. Get an agent. Place in a contest. Get momentum going.

Stay positive. It’s such an annoying thing to hear. It really is. Surround yourself with people who give you that energy and momentum. There may be days you think “What am I doing with my life? WTF?” There may be days like that, but move on. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, but don’t suffer with it. That’s something I generally try to live by. Try not to dwell on things so much.

People forget in this town too. People make comebacks all the time. You can be up one moment, down the next. Don’t let things get you down.

I worked for a boss where the head of the studio told them that they’d never work in this town again. A few years later this person got a show. People have a short memory in this town, so you should too. If you had a shitty day, live it and let it go. It’s harder to remember when you’re in the moment.


Kathryn Graham is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE