Javier Grillo-Marxuach Wants Us To See His Portfolio

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

“…an over-the-top, sixteen-car-pileup-sugar-popped-cereal-bowl of a series that’s not afraid to be everything your mother warned you about television: a cartoonishly extreme, randomly fantastic, special-effects laden, three-fisted walking-and-talking toy-line advertisement of an action-adventure-sci-fi comic book in which the fabric of reality barely survives in the end, and the journey invariably reveals a completely surreal strangeness behind everything we hold to be true.”

Javier Grillo-Marxuach pitch for The Middleman. as quoted on TV Tropes

JAVIER GRILLO-MARXUACH is a prolific writer of television, movies, comic books, essays, and interactive media. Javi probably is best known as one of the Emmy Award-winning producers of Lost or as creator of the the comic book and ABC Family television series The Middleman.

Having just wrapped work as consulting producer on season 2 of MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, Javi is currently developing projects for both broadcast and cable, as well as feature film, and in effort to reach out to newbies and, you know, teach us all a something or five, he has created a website filled with samples of his work and nutritious, delicious downloads of same.

If this appeals to you half as much as it does to us, you definitely should hie thyselves over to The Grillo-Marxuach Experimental Design Bureau, aka okbjgm.weebly.com NOW. Tell Javi TVWriter™ sent you. That’s probably not something he’ll give you a prize for, but maybe we will…and if so we’ll be sure to sendja a great big thanks.

Meanwhile, we’re happy to send our own Great Big Thanks to Javier Grillo-Marxuach for putting up his wonderful website…oh, and for The Middleman too. Big fans here, know what we mean?

Peggy Bechko’s World of Editing Your Writing

Cool image found at http://www.kristinethornley.com/about.html

by Peggy Bechko

Fun, isn’t it?

Not really.

In this post I’m going to talk about a new way of editing I’ve discovered. Yes, we all have spellcheck, some of us use Grammarly. Go ahead, Google that one if you’re interested. It nicely underlines perceived spelling and grammatical errors. Very helpful.

But here’s what I’ve discovered. Who knows, I may be behind the times and you may have already stumbled onto it. For Word, there’s a text-to-speech function called Speak. It really is well hidden. What the heck is that you ask? Well, you can highlight any text and the program reads it back to you. Not only that, but reads it to you in a clear, understandable voice. The voice I get is male, but I’ve heard some get female.

No matter.

To get it functioning go to top left of your Word program. It’s on the very top tool bar. There’s a very small downward pointing arrow which, when you hover over it says, “customize quick access toolbar”. That’s what you want to do. For instructions clearer than mine you can watch this quick YouTube video:

If you think my instructions will suffice, then click on that downward arrow I mentioned. When the dropdown window appears, click on More Commands. Then, in the window change the Popular Commands to Commands Not In The Ribbon. Then scroll down (alphabetically) to “Speak”. Highlight Speak and click the ‘add’ button in the middle and see it added to the list to the right. That’s it. A new small icon should appear on that top ribbon just to the left of the downward arrow you clicked earlier.

Now what?

All you have to do is highlight the section of text you want read out loud, click the icon and it will read your writing back to you.

If I’m not working in word (I use Movie Magic Screenwriter for my scripts) I copy and paste the section of the script I want read back to me into word, highlight and click the Speak icon. Works great!

Why? What good is this you ask. Hearing words spoken while seeing them utilizes different parts of the brain and you catch many ore errors and glitches. It really makes errors pop much more efficiently than simply proofreading visually. All in all, a big help. And you can stop the reading by clicking the Speak button again.

The downside? If you’re working with accents, it’s not going to pick them up. Occasionally you can run into context problems such as using a phrase like “run like the wind” vs. “wind the clock”. And it can mess up abbreviations such as St. John or money St. Still, I’ve really liked using it and it has made editing much easier.

For the script writer it’s great to hear the words spoken, to get a feel for the rhythm and cadence.

Oh, and it’s possible to adjust the pitch, speed and volume of the voice in your computer by getting into the settings through your control panel. Find your Narrator by using the search bar (in Windows 10 the “ask me anything” search bar bottom left). When the window opens click on “Narrator Settings”. You can choose the voice – mine is “David”. I can adjust the speed, volume and pitch of ‘David’s’ voice there. Oh, and I have ‘intonation pauses’ turned on.

Really. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how many more errors you pick up and clean up when you have your work read back to you.

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.

Life Scripts

Speaking of everything in TV being scripted, as we did the other day, the most excellent writer about a great many different things, including writing, Nathan Bradford makes a great case for our Very Own Actually Real Lives following a script as well, and how that affects us. (No, he isn’t saying that we aren’t real. He’s saying, well, you’ll see.)

by Nathan Bransford

Whether you realize it or not, you and I and everyone else walks around with scripts that we deploy in common social situations.

When someone dies, we express sympathy, and they say, “Thank you.”

When someone gets a promotion, we express excitement, and they say, “Thank you.”

When someone keeps making the same relationship mistakes, we express bewilderment, and they say, “I know, why do you think I drink so much.”

This is all well and good and natural. They’re frameworks that help us from having to start from scratch every single time we encounter an emotion in the wild.

But there’s an unintended consequence to these scripts: they are rote, they are unthinking, and they don’t allow for nuance or complexity.

When people direct “the script” at you, it can feel as if they’re boxing you into feeling a certain way. You start to think you’re *supposed* to feel in the exact way they think you should feel. And when you deviate from “the script,” people may react with confusion or even outright hostility.

When someone dies, what if you also feel some relief?

When you get a promotion, what if you secretly want to quit your job?

When you keep making relationship mistakes, what if you secretly love the drama?

Authors can feel this acutely when you ascend a rung on your publishing journey. You spend so much time writing a novel, so much time trying to find an agent, and then when you find one, according to “the script” you should be filled with unbridled joy, not, well, joy mixed with terror and doubt.

Then when you find a publisher, according to “the script” your problems are *really* solved. And good luck trying to complain about anything ever again when you’re a bestseller.

The best people in your life will give you the freedom to deviate from the script and see you with all the nuance and complexity you possess. Because it’s *OKAY* to feel something other than what you’re “supposed” to feel. You’re a human being, not a robot.

Seek out these good people who will let you complain when you’re “supposed” to be happy and let you be happy when you’re “supposed” to be sad….

Read it all at NathanBransford.com

Did You Know You Can Learn Screenwriting via YouTube?

Found on the interwebs last week:

These are just two of the helpful “hints” posted on YouTube’s “Lessons from the Screenplay” channel. There are lots more, and we surprised and delighted by what we saw there. You will be too.

The creator of this series is Michael Tucker, and if you like what you see here and on his channel, you should consider visiting his Patreon channel and helping him meet his modest goal so he can give us even more good writing tips.

Tell him TVWriter™ sent you.

Or not. What’s important is what you learn, not who referred you.

All TV Shows Need Writers

TV reality is really fiction. Ain’t no such thing as wingin’ it before the cameras anymore. Case in point:

The Secrets of a TV Quiz Question Writer
by Siobhon Smith

Q: How do you write questions for some of TV’s hardest quizzes?

A: Ask Jo Dean.

For 20 years she has been a question writer on TV quiz shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link and – her current job – Eggheads.

She got into the business of question-setting after taking part in a pilot for a new quiz show – as a contestant.

Dean was approached by the producer who – impressed with her knowledge – suggested she try her hand writing some questions for the series.

A day in the life of a question writer

In her current job on BBC Two’s long-running Eggheads, Dean explains that one writer will aim to write around one show per week, which amounts to 70 questions.

“I try to focus on a category a day, so I’ll think, right, I’m researching history today,” she says.

“I find sports is really challenging and we have a guy in the question team who is really strong on sport, so he might swap me for arts and books.

“So you can write to your strengths. I’m a big fan of musicals so, for me, those questions are really easy. And I need to remember that a lot of people don’t like musicals!”

Lisa Thiel on Eggheads – probably answering one of Jo Dean’s questions (Photo: BBC)

Shows like ITV’s The Chase have nearer to 200 questions per show, and a team of around 20 writers.

Dean estimates they are more likely to have a daily quota of around 30 questions.

How hard is too hard?

Questions go through several processes before they are approved to be used on any quiz show.

“Gauging the level is difficult,” explains Dean. “It’s quite subjective depending on an individual person’s knowledge.

“But over time, you get a feel for what people tend to know. You’ll realise people are better at countries in Europe than countries in South America, generally.

“With music, for example, you might think something is really obvious – a pop question from the ’80s. But you get a 70 year old and they haven’t got a clue, but they might love a classical music question….”

Read it all at INews UK

@Stareable – Yep, Pre-Production IS a Thing

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 7
by Bri Castellini

We’re almost there, folks. Almost to the actual shooting of your web series, with someone calling “action!” and “cut!” and good-looking people bringing your words to life. But we’ve got one more step: pulling together everything you’ve done and everything you’ve gotten during the first six steps of this process and making a plan of action. That’s right, it’s officially pre-production time.

Technically, most of what we’ve talked about so far in this column has been pre-production, since pre-production is literally everything that happens before a camera starts rolling. Semantics. Onward!


By this point, you should have your script, your people, and your equipment, so the final piece of the puzzle is determining where in the world you’re actually going to film. In order to find these places, you’re going to have to location scout, or go to a series of locations, take pictures, and make decisions. Bring at least one other person along on these excursions, and if possible, bring the director, the director of photography, and the sound person, because all of them will provide valuable insight beyond how something looks in frame.

A few things to keep in mind when location scouting:

  • How easy is this location to get to? How close to public transportation is it, or is there sufficient parking availability?
  • Is there ambient sound that will cause problems? This means everything from crowds to a refrigerator you can’t turn off, to traffic, to a construction site nearby.
  • Is there enough space for the camera and crew? Remember, there will be quite a few people behind the camera as well as in front of it, all of whom need to be hidden from view. Sometimes these problems can be addressed if you’re able to move the furniture around to accommodate, but if the space isn’t yours, ALWAYS ASK.
  • Where is the nearest bathroom? This is especially a concern for outdoor shoots.
  • Is there another area nearby you can use for “holding?” Holding is just an area, preferably away from where the actual filming is taking place, for cast and crew to hang out when they’re not needed. Even during breaks, try to take them away from set, otherwise you risk production design or continuity.
  • Will this location be available again for reshoots or for multiple shooting days? You’ll frequently end up filming multiple days in a single location, so you need to make sure a location is available for as long as you actually need it.How much control do you have over the space? Can you control lighting/rearrange furniture/put up posters and set decorations? Can you redirect traffic or tell people in other rooms to pipe down? Does one need licenses or other approval for outdoor scenes? Do they need to be prepared to lie to cops? The more control you have over the variables, the better a location is going to be. Otherwise, you better be good at improv.


You’ve already made breakdowns for your props, characters, and locations, so now it’s time to do one last round. This time, you’ll be breaking down your script into filmable chunks. I’d suggest starting by breaking the scenes into locations, then breaking those down by which actors need to be there.

I polled Twitter for the average number of script pages different web series creators ended up shooting, per day. The results may surprise you, because they definitely surprised me. In general, on a traditional feature film shoot, you can expect to shoot 5 pages a day. This accounts for all the lighting changes, filming angles, and takes.

However, according to Twitter, the average web series shooting day (at least for low-budget, often vlog or found-footage projects) is closer to twenty. Kate Hackett, creator of the award-winning series Classic Alice, told me she averaged about sixteen pages a day, and RJ Lackie’s award-winning show Inhuman Condition averaged closer to forty.

Keep these things in mind when you go about planning your own shooting days, and make sure that you leave yourself enough time for actors to mess up, for multiple takes, and for more complex set-ups like stunts, motion shots, or changing locations midway through the day.

Then, once these are done, make “shooting scripts,” or scripts broken up by shooting day. That way, actors can focus on memorizing those particular lines, and your crew gets a better idea what they need to be prepared for, instead of needing to jump around the full season script.


It’s time for the absolute worst part of any film project! Some have compared scheduling cast and crew for low-budget film shoots to herding cats, but I bet those cats don’t all work retail with alternating shift schedules and no flexibility. Some suggestions:

1. Ask for actors’ schedules as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re shooting in the winter or summer, when people are likely to be going on vacation. This will give you a general idea of their availability.
2. Have three different schedule plans based on your shooting day breakdowns, but only share the preferred one with the actors. Don’t give them a choice — tell them “these are when we want to shoot these scenes. If you have conflicts, let us know.” People are less likely to flake if they feel like there’s only one option, but if there are unavoidable conflicts, you have an alternative to offer without fuss.
3. Send out the final schedule, including who’s on set, how long the days will be, what scenes will be filmed, and the complete shooting scripts as far in advance as possible. Then, a week before each shoot, email the people involved to remind them, and again the night or days before.
4. Seriously, remind people CONSTANTLY, because they will forget.

Purchase, steal, or borrow the rest of what you need for props, wardrobe, and equipment. Remember to write down everything you spend, whether it’s food for a production meeting or a set of fake throwing knives. Knowing what you’re spending the most money on will help make smarter financial decisions in this production and all future ones. Pro tip: most of your money will go towards food.

My friends, with all this complete, you are now ready to go into production! The most exciting and terrifying part of any film project. Next week, we’ll go over the basics of production, how to prepare and run your set, and the week after that, we’ll go through the most common production disasters and how to solve them.

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.

Stuff You Need to Know About Agents

How many of you think this is a writer? How many of you know this is an agent?

The first question most aspiring writers ask most post-aspiring writers is, “How do I get an agent?”

This indicates two things. First, of course, it shows that the aspiring writer doesn’t have an agent. But second, it also indicates that the aspiring writer probably doesn’t really know what an agent does, or why s/he needs one.

Fortunately for all concerned, this TVWriter™ minion has found a couple of articles that address these important issues. So, without further ado:

What Do Literary Agents Do
by Nathan Bransford

Updated! Revised! With more links!

It’s been a long time since I originally published this post on what literary agents do.

For context, I was a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002-2010, so posts that written during that time will sound as if I’m currently an agent (which, again, I’m not).

Behold! This is organized in the form of tracking one project from query to post-sale:

The Filter

Literary agents are the baleen to the publishing industry’s whale. The Brita to the publishing industry’s drinking water. The pan to the publishing industry’s gold. (I could go on)

Basically: agents serve as a filter. Because editors are so busy, it’s rare for publishers to consider unagented submissions and they instead rely on agents to filter through the tens of thousands of aspiring writers and present editors with only the very best projects.

This means that agents open the floodgates to submissions. Most agents receive between 5,000 and 20,000 or more submissions a year and choose only a few carefully selected projects to send to editors.

Agents may specialize in certain areas or they may be generalists, but all have to reject way way way more projects than they are able to take on.

For further reading:
A day in the life of an agent
Query stats: Salutations!
Digging for mushrooms
You’ve got 30 pages, pal
In praise of reading slush

Pre-submission Editing

Because the marketplace is so difficult, many agents will work with clients or prospective clients on their manuscripts or proposals prior to submissions.

I was a hands-on agent and would often work with authors on revisions before offering representation so that we could both get a sense of how well we would work together….

Read it all at Nathan Bransford’s blog

Screenwriting Agents: The Top 23 Hollywood Literary Agencies
by Stephanie Palmer

Much of what is commonly known about screenwriting agents has “truthiness” but isn’t true. Misconceptions persist because the agency business is somewhat secretive. There are lots of very powerful agents and agencies that keep a low profile on purpose.

When you watch Entourage, The Player, Ray Donovan, Californication, or Swimming With Sharks – you see the intelligence, high-stakes strategic thinking, aggressive mindset, sense of humor, and more.

But you miss the personal elements, factual backstory, and real-world situations that are crucial to understanding agents and persuading them to represent you. Hopefully this will help you sound like a professional when the topic of agents comes up and perform well in meetings with these influential decision-makers.

Screenwriting agents and their agencies tend to fall into two main categories:

  • The “Big Four” Agencies
  • Boutique Agencies

The Big Four (and we will talk more about them in a moment), are WME, CAA, UTA, and ICMP. Everything that’s not these four I’m calling a “boutique.”

Now, some may dispute this categorization scheme because there are a number of what I’m calling “boutiques” that are more like a mid-sized agency such as Gersh, Innovative, and Paradigm.

Sometimes, these three agencies are referred to as part of “The Big Seven.” As you become more of a Hollywood insider, these distinctions become important. For now, what I really want you to understand is this: Most of the deals in Hollywood are handled by The Big Four. You need to be very familiar with these companies.

William Morris Endeavor (WME)

Founded in 1898 as a vaudeville booking service, the William Morris Agency is Hollywood’s longest running talent and literary agency. There are 273 agents at WME.

In 2009, William Morris merged with Endeavor Talent Agency to form William Morris Endeavor. In 2012, Silver Lake Partners acquired a 31 percent stake in WME and that has been subsequently upped to 51 percent.

William Morris Endeavor became Hollywood’s biggest agency when it acquired sports and media talent agency IMG for $2.4 billion in 2014, so now the combined WME-IMG comprises more than 5000 employees.

“Working at a talent agency is like working for the CIA. You get to know what’s going on at the networks, at the studios, you have access to all this talent, on-screen and off. At Sony or Disney or NBC they only know about themselves. At an agency you know everything about everybody — even in the mailroom.” – Rob Carlson, WME Agent

Read it all at The Script Lab