Writer? – @BrisOwnWorld

by Bri Castellini

NOTE FROM LB: The following column by Bri Castellini was originally published last April, so if it reads like it doesn’t fit properly into the current context of “Bri’s Own World” articles we’ve been bringing you, that’s because, hey, it doesn’t.

The good news is that although the column may sound, as Bri herself has indicated, a bit “dismal,” things actually are pretty darn rosy for her now. The truth is that whether you’re a beginner, an established pro, or a writer on the way out, this is a tough game to play, filled with lows as well as highs.

We’ve all had to learn to live with it. To put this another way, knowledge is power, and after you read what’s below those of you who are just getting started will know a whole lot more about what to expect. I, for one, am grateful for Bri Castellini’s openness as well as her talent:

by Bri Castellini

I’m a very picky writer, and that’s starting to bite me in the butt as I go back on the job hunt, desperate not to end up as a barista again. I’m also a jumble of confusing and sometimes unrelated skill sets and strengths as a human in the workforce, which means my poor butt is not looking forward to the end of this metaphor. Moving on. Apologies to my butt.

Let’s talk about the jumbled skill sets first. I recently realized that, other than when I was a barista and camp counselor, every job I’ve ever had has been one I’ve created for myself, at least to an extent. For a good amount of time, I bounced around from small business to college department branding myself as a “Social Media Consultant.” Essentially, because I was young and on the internet a lot, I would make social media accounts, propose what each platform should be used for, and then run them until the person who hired me realized they didn’t know what to do with me or I graduated from the college and no longer applied for work study. These gigs were great, because they weren’t super time consuming and because I was the “expert” compared to people who didn’t even have a Facebook page, meaning that there was very little oversight and I could do whatever I wanted. I never had to look at analytics, or concern myself with engagement on the posts. The fact that I had made them a few accounts was such a huge improvement to their previous status quo, I was largely left to my own devices.

My full time job at MTV (which ends at the end of this month), as Associate Producer for Digital Development, was created specifically with me in mind. They needed help with a few very specific things and were passed my resume from the women who ran my internship in the research department, so when I interviewed with the SVP, we talked about my specific strengths and based the position around them. I organized and created extensive spreadsheets, did research, made PowerPoint presentations, and helped develop and pitch ideas. All things that were in my wheelhouse before the job.

Most recently, I started working (for equity, not pay) for the start up Stareable.com, which is a hub for web series discovery and reviews. After writing a few guest posts for their blog and offering advice about a few random things whenever I attended a happy hour for filmmakers hosted by the CEO, Ajay, he and I sat down and agreed I should join their team in a more official capacity. Once again, the job was created specifically for me. I write for their blog, acquire content and guest posts for their blog, offer advice, consult on social media, and help organize and run their physical, in person events like the filmmaker happy hours and their new screening series. All things I already know how to do.

Most jobs, however, are not designed for me. At least not when you job hunt in the traditional sense, trolling the internet for job postings. I’ve got almost eight years of social media consulting experience, but I don’t know SEO or any of the fancy analytics programs, so for most established companies who already have accounts, I’m not qualified for anything past maybe a copywriter, which is generally an entry level grunt gig. I also have experience as an “Associate Producer” but don’t know a lot of the software required for most positions under that same title. I’ve done a lot of independent film projects in a variety of roles, but I don’t know anything about paperwork or insurance or SAG waivers so I’m not qualified as a producer of any level, I’ve never technically been an assistant (though I’ve stepped in as one in a variety of other positions) so I’m not qualified for a lot of those jobs ether.

What I’m saying is that I’ve lived a blessed work life, in terms of the non food service gigs I’ve had, and that’s screwing me over right now as I rush to find a new position to pay my new apartment’s rent.

Now back to the picky writer thing. Writing, in most of its forms, is the one thing I’m 100% qualified to do in any role, right? Well… kind of. I knew all the way back in middle school that I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I knew by high school that I didn’t want to be a journalist. As such, I’m qualified to be a reporter or freelance writer in every way except for one- I don’t have a knack for finding stories. I have always erred on the side of personal essays and commentary stories, I hate interviewing people, and I have no vocabulary or confidence when it comes to pitching publications. I’m a writer… I guess. And I’ve done a lot of freelance and article writing, as evidenced by this alarmingly full page on my portfolio.

But if you actually look at that alarmingly long list of places I’ve written for, you’ll notice yet another trend- they’re mostly personal experience posts. I wrote about crocheting for a knitting blog, speech and debate advice for a speech and debate blog, and now most of my online blogging centers around the world of web series. All of these things, again, are things I’m already good at, written for people I already know. I’ve never been paid to blog, or to freelance- usually I do it for the “exposure.” I have no idea how to value my writing, or how to pitch a publication a story about myself when I’m a nobody.

It’s like… I have 75% of the skills needed for a bunch of jobs, but that 25% is really important and I have no way of bridging the gap, not in a way that wouldn’t be straight up lying. I have never taken any of my jobs for granted, because I knew how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to do all these things that are specifically created for me and my existing skill sets.

But those #blessed opportunities didn’t do me a lot of favors when it comes to developing new skill sets and learning things that will make me more qualified or hireable in the future. I have 7 years of social media consulting under my belt, but I do not qualify for jobs that require 7 years of social media consulting experience, because each subsequent consulting gig I took on was me doing the exact same things over and over again. I’d create a detailed proposal about which platforms the company should exist on and what kinds of things we should post to each platform, then I’d make those accounts, run them for a while, and eventually get dropped because the lack of oversight isn’t very useful when I need the boss’s participation in creating content. I am experienced, but I am not experienced. It’s very frustrating.

This is gonna be another one of those really long blog posts that doesn’t really have a point, or a solution. April is gonna be a rough month for me: I’m moving to a new apartment and losing my job at MTV by the end of it, at least two full weekends will be taken up by helping produce and direct the second season of my new friend Jack’s web series, and I’ve promised to help out on two other productions, plus my friend David’s new outdoor product review video series. None of that has anything to do with any of my personal projects either, because I don’t really have time or mental clarity to develop any personal projects because 2017 is hell bent on reversing everything good that happened to me in 2016.


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

Indie Video: Key Elements to Successful Web Series

It’s no secret that TVWriter™ believes wholeheartedly in web series as a way of getting new writers and other filmmakers seen by the largest possible audience without being at the mercy of Big/Old Media gatekeepers. But no web series is a guaranteed success. Here are some tips to help you get some added oomph:

Not exactly a series of webs, but definitely a cool web, yeah? (Well, WE think that’s pretty damn funny, Mister!)

by Afiqah Rozeli

The growing pervasiveness of the internet means more creators than ever are now turning to the digital space to display their work and build their audience. So, in a time where everyone is making videos, how do creators set themselves apart from the competition?

1.They produce original work

The growing number of quality web series has made it increasingly difficult for creators to differentiate their work from the masses.

However, “what separates a ‘good’ series from a ‘great’ one is originality of idea,” says Alyce Adams from Screen Australia.

“A series about four friends living in a share house together will struggle to find an audience unless there is a fresh hook to it, as there are so many shows like that already online.”

2. They value the audience

A strong relationship with the audience is the key to the success of a web series. They are the ones who will “support you and elevate your online status,” says Paul Walton, the Head of Production at Princess Pictures.

However, a web series can only grow and maintain their audience “if they are remarkable and people want to talk about them with their networks. To achieve this, you have to give them what they want”.

“My main mantra that I repeat to anyone when discussing web series is that ‘niche is king,’” says Adams.

“Many successful web series are aimed at a very specific target audience, because online that ‘small’ audience can actually be millions of people.”

These niche audiences “are more likely to share your show, because you are giving representation to something they are passionate about but rarely see in traditional media.”

3. They do their research

A creator’s ability to learn and utilise their knowledge is crucial to the success of any web series. Despite this, “there are many creators who make their own show but haven’t watched much online content,” says Adams.

As a result, they are unable to identify the right target audience and video-sharing platform for their content, she says.

Ultimately, the sustained success of a web series is determined by long-term planning and research. According to Walton, “If you want to be noticed on a regular basis, have goals, have a plan, be consistent executing the plan, constantly assess how you are progressing and don’t be afraid to change your plan based on the feedback you get from your valuable audience (and the data).”

4. They respect the format

Successful web series creators understand and adhere to the “language and structure of web content – it cannot be short form TV, “says Walton.

“I can always spot a web series that has been created as a fall-back to not being able to make a TV series of the same idea. Online audiences see through this too, which is why they choose not to invest themselves in it by watching and sharing.”…

Read it all at Melbourne Web Fest

The Indignance of “Indie” Film Festivals – @BrisOwnWorld

by Bri Castellini

I have made no secret of how proud I am of my web series, Brains (2 complete seasons plus extended universe projects online now!) or my friend Chris’s web series, Relativity (complete miniseries online now!), which I produced. But the thing about making films or series, particularly in the independent sphere, is that no one cares without them laurels.

These are laurels:

 

Essentially, laurels are the fancy little images you get if chosen to be in a film festival, to promote their festival as well as promote that you got in. They’re a badge of honor for any filmmaker, because it means your film/series was chosen out of many other submissions to be screened or highlighted or otherwise. It adds prestige and viability to your image and is an invaluable way to build credibility to continue in the industry.

The image above is a collection of all the laurels my web series, Brains, has collected thus far. It’s incredibly gratifying to look at, although many of the festivals we’ve been in were online only (meaning no live screening with an audience) and none of them are eligible to add to our IMDb page, because they don’t qualify as “legit” in the eyes of the people who make those kinds of decisions. And here’s the major thing I want to talk about today:

The entry fees are too damn high!

I appreciate and love every festival who has let our weird little series into their ranks, but most of them are low prestige and were either free or very cheap to submit to. That’s good and bad for us: good because we can afford them and because more people will see our content, bad because many of these festivals are small enough that we can’t leverage our inclusion for funding or respect in the larger, more prestigious world of “legit” indie filmmaking.

Why not submit to an award show like the Webby Awards? It’s literally designed for content like ours!

THE WEBBY AWARDS IS THE LEADING INTERNATIONAL AWARD HONORING EXCELLENCE ON THE INTERNET. (via)

Well….

 

Even if we chose to only submit for comedy series, a single entry submission for the Webbys is $385That’s 1/6 of the money we made from IndieGoGo to make the entirety of season 2. For 3 entries, the total submission cost is OVER HALF OUR BUDGET.

How can you honor excellence on the internet, a place where anyone with a camera and a dream can make content, by charging this submission fee? You know who you’re ACTUALLY honoring?

 

Don’t get me wrong- Krysten Ritter was incredible in Jessica Jones. But talk about unfair competition. She probably makes more in an hour than we spent on BOTH our seasons. Good god.

This is bigger than one festival, though. The Streamys, another online-specific award show, at least have a flat fee when submitting one project for multiple categories, but that fee is still a non-refundable $95. And to get ahead in the world of indie filmmaking, or entertainment in general, you can’t just submit to one or two. Here is Brains’s track record just from a single submission site (FilmFreeway, which I would absolutely recommend)

 

as of 12/15/16

And that’s just for the first season.

Bottom line: if your film festival is specifically for independent projects or online projects but your submission fee is over $30/$50 (per category especially, but also per project), maybe you should reconsider who you’re doing it for.

We cannot compete in this market. We cannot afford to, and that’s insane. The whole point of creating things independently is doing cool things with fewer resources on your own terms, but this process of paying insane fees to submit our hard work for consideration and viewership is disheartening and unfair.

If I had $385 (the fee to submit to a single category at the Webbys, I’ll remind you) I’d use it to make more projects, not submit it to your elitist “indie” festival, because apparently, it’s “make things” or “maybe get considered for an award that could bring new credibility and prestige to your cast and crew.”

Call me crazy, but I think it should be both.


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

How to Write for TV

This is a good, solid breakdown of useful info for fledgling TV writers. Especially for those who haven’t yet read TVWriter™’s own Writers’ Bulletins and The Basics of TV Writing right here on this site.

Oh hell, read ’em all! Learn everything you can! And then don’t forget, ahem, THIS.

Anyway:

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO STARTING YOUR CAREER
by Script Reader Pro

In the world of TV script writing, a “spec” usually means a sample episode of an existing show. It’s also known as a “TV spec”, “sample episode”, and “spec episode”, and for the sake of clarity we’re going to use the latter.

Writing a spec episode is the traditional way writers use to break into television writing, but it’s less in vogue now than a few years ago. This entails writing an episode of an existing TV series that showcases your ability to write current characters that people know and love, in a way that feels real and familiar, yet fresh.

It means writing characters with pre-set voices and personalities in order to demonstrate that you are not only a powerful writer with an imagination, but also one who can follow the rules, and this means following the show’s formatting structure and overall “voice” of the show.

Writing a spec episode of, say, Modern Family, would require you writing all the families as we know them now, with their quirky character personalities, breaking the fourth wall, documentary style, etc. and all within intertwining, compelling and funny stories.

A while back, this was by far the best way to break into writing for television. You’d write a spec episode of a series you loved, and then submit that work through your agent or manager for consideration for a staffing position.

 

If you “totally got” the way Ross and Rachel bounced off each other, or had a terrific take on an episode of Law & Order, and you were able to execute a sample script of those shows with confidence, then chances were pretty good that you would be happily considered for a staffing position on that show, or a similar one.

Executives and showrunners would hire writers who could effectively emulate the tone and voice of the show they were staffing, and a spec episode was the best way to measure that ability.

But times have changed, and so too has the professional strategy for breaking into television writing. In Hollywood today, spec episodes are much less popular than they used to be, and some showrunners now only read spec pilots for original shows.

This is not to say, however, that writing a spec episode is a complete waste of your time as you’re still building your writing chops, and will also be able to use it as a sample of your writing ability that could get you noticed.

Fellowship season (more on this later) is a prime example of an avenue you can pursue that looks exclusively for spec episodes from exceptional aspiring writers. But let’s bring things up-to-date with another strategy you can use to begin a career writing for television…

How To Write For TV: The Spec Pilot

 

This is a TV script written on spec for an original show you’ve created from scratch and is also known as an “original spec”, “sample pilot” or simply a “pilot”. Again, for clarity, we’ll be sticking to the term “spec pilot”.

It’s easy to imagine that writing a TV show that’s compelling and original is as simple as writing a feature screenplay, but shorter. Unfortunately, you’d wrong on two counts: not only is writing a feature about as difficult as it gets, but writing a television pilot is in some ways even more difficult….

Read it all at Script Reader Pro

Illustrated Guide to Dynamic Characters

Every once in awhile even the old-timers get something right. Case in point, this infographic from Reedsy via Writer’s Digest. Anyone out there who hasn’t spent time learning a ton from that Grande Dame of writers’ mags (and websites)? 

Find out more about crafting dynamic characters at reedsy.com/dynamic-character.

Peggy Bechko on What Writers Eat – or Should

by Peggy Bechko

Okay, writers. I know I usually write about writing but today I’m going to write about food – food that’s good for your brain in particular. We’re all writers – we love our brains and want to take good care of them, right?

I thought so.

So I’m dedicating this week’s blog post to the foods that can do you great good in that area.

Don’t think this is silly, it’s for real stuff, backed up by research and everything. I do my share of writing and I do my share of eating, so follow along and think about how you might alter your diet to pep up that brain so it’ll come up with even better new ideas!

Memory!

Pomegranates. Yep, those things with all the seeds. The juice provides a potent antioxidant boost. And that means it’s great to eat to give your brain health a boost. Some studies even believe all those antioxidants are beneficial in treating animals with Alzheimer’s disease (we’re animals, right?).

And, if that’s not enough for you, eating pomegranates regularly can protect kidneys and liver not to mention boost your immune system (who has time to be sick when writing or when writing AND holding down a full-time job?). Then just for fun toss in they help reduce allergic reactions, balance your blood sugar, fight infections and aid in the protection against several cancers. All that in addition to your brain boost.

Sage is an herb, not a ‘food’, don’t leave it out of your seasonings. It also supplies a powerful brain boost. Hey, I’m not a chef here, but I sautee it in olive oil and toss it on pasta dishes. Yay fresh sage! Then there’s Rosemary with the proven ability to improve blood flow to the brain. Ahh, new blood, that’s a good thing.

Now here’s a great one – a least for me. I’m a blueberry lover. Used to pick ‘em in Michigan and sit under the bushes and eat them when I was a kid. These little guys are brain-healing powerhouses and recent research show blueberries can prevent or reverse age-related memory loss. That’s good news for writers for sure.

And to top it off, if you eat blueberries regularly (recommended at least ½ cup daily, five days a week) they boost the body’s production of Dopamine, the feel good chemical that helps us keep going.

Now I want to take a moment to mention celery. Bet you wouldn’t have thought of that. And here I’ve been snacking on the stuff for years. Turns out it’s a brain superfood. James Duke, who’s a world-renowned botanist, discovered celery and celery seeds contain more than 20 natural anti-inflammatory compounds including an extremely potent one.

The compounds help reduce brain inflammation that can occur as you get older which can result in memory lapses and brain decline. (Isn’t memory lapse a brain decline? Well, whatever, eat your celery.)

I know this could be sacrilege but writers, for the sake of your brain, you might consider replacing a little of that coffee with tea – yes, black, green and white tea all can contribute to a healthy brain.

Since we, as writers, are talking about brain health here, I can’t skip over walnuts. They’ just plain all around healthy for you. But did you notice the little guys look sorta like brains? Here’s the thing, eating only 1 to 1.5 oz of walnuts each day improves memory and learning ability – and at the same time stress levels are reduced (and writers can certainly benefit from stress reduction).

Research is additionally showing walnuts are possibly a preventive against Alzheimer’s. No doubt we’ll hear more on that. But for the moment improving memory and learning abilities is good for me.

Grab some grapes, spinach and olives too. Don’t forget the broccoli and avocado.

Did I mention fruit with stones in the? You know, like peaches, apricots, cherries and plums? Flavonoids protect and heal your brain and those babies have lots of them.

Then there’s salmon. I hate it. You might love it. For the writer’s brain it’s a real boost. The omega-3 fatty acids keep your brain running smoothly and brain fog at bay. Just 4 ounces does the trick. I still hate it.

On the other hand I love dark chocolate. A minimum of 70% cocoa is no problem for me. Love the stuff and the benefits are helping to keep blood pressure down and increasing the amount of blood that flows to brain and heart. Sounds good to me!

And lastly I’m going to mention beets here. Many people feel about them like I feel about salmon, but here it is. Beets reduce inflammation and cut your odds of getting cancer. They clean toxins from your blood and at the same time increase blood flow to your brain. They increase mental abilities and raise energy levels. Seriously, time to find ways to eat these things that taste really good.

So I guess the take-away here is improve your diet, improve your brain…and all the rest of you too.


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.

Every once in a while I need to smack myself upside the head

by Gerry Conway

Every once in a while I need to smack myself upside the head. (I’m pretty sure other people think I should do this more often than I do, but bear with me.)

This morning I was about to do the laundry (I do the laundry in my house because I’m a Woke Husband; the fact I’m also hopelessly OCD about how the laundry should be done has nothing to do with it) when I discovered that our housekeeper had left some rags in the washing machine several days earlier without telling me, and now they smelled of mildew. I was annoyed and started to complain about it to my miraculously tolerant wife Laura when I paused and mentally smacked myself upside the head.

Really? This is what I thought was important enough to become annoyed about? Wet rags in a washing machine left by a housekeeper? Let’s parse the several layers of entitlement contained in that flash of annoyance, shall we?

First of all and most obvious– I have a loving wife to complain to who doesn’t tell me I’m an insufferable idiot for complaining.

Second and almost equally obvious– we have a housekeeper.

Third and less obvious– I’m retired and have enough free time to indulge my OCD.

Fourth and not as obvious– we have a washing machine and a drier.

Fifth and implied– we have a house for the housekeeper to clean and a place in the house for a washer and drier.

Sixth and unspoken– we live in a part of the world and at a time in human history when both of the items in number five are not remotely unusual.

Seventh and personal– my parents only achieved the goal of number five after fifteen years of marriage.

Eighth and personal– my grandparents never did.

Ninth and personal– my great-grandparents wouldn’t have understood what the hell I was talking about in points one through five.

It’s easy to take our present reality (whatever it may be, good or bad, privileged or persecuted) as the way things have always been, and may always be. It’s important always to remember that we stand at one brief moment in history (world history, American history, personal history) and that if we’re lucky, we’re much better off than those who came before us– and if we’re currently unlucky, our situation can always become much better than we can imagine at the moment.

See? Even the ordinary and prosaic chore of doing laundry can be an opportunity for personal insight and a smack upside the head.


Proof that writers don’t always feel the need to write about writing from Gerry Conway, 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.