‘6 Things I Wish They’d Taught Me in High School’ @BrisOwnWorld

Found at http://www.academiclearninglabs.com/2012/09/challenge-talented-children/

by Bri Castellini

Bri’s note: This post is originally from 2012, when I was a wee 20 year old. Because it randomly still gets a decent number of clicks, I decided to update it a smidge.

It’s been almost seven years since I graduated from high school, but even now, several full time jobs into adulthood, there are still some gaps in my education that I wished were better filled before letting me fly from the public school nest. So here are the six things I wish I’d been taught back in high school that would have benefited me greatly out here in the “real world.”

1. How to write a resume and cover letter. Resumes are, arguably, one of the most important things to know how to create, and cover letters as a concept are confusingly vague. The problem is that you can write them in a lot of different ways, and there’s no central, agreed-upon format that everyone can easily follow. As such, a comprehensive lesson on the basics of what a resume and cover letter have to include would have been incredibly useful. How long should they be? Should you have multiple versions of each? They could have mentioned it in my intro to business class my freshman year, or really any other time in any other class because while it’s debatable whether or not I’ll need sine or cosine ever again, I’m definitely gonna need to whip up a resume and cover letter if I want to continue paying my rent.

2. How to make a budget. This is another lesson that would have maybe taken one day out of my mindless, unnecessary memorization of geometric equations that I am literally -yes, I’m using that word correctly- literally never going to use.  I know a lot of people -including my little brother and one of my roommates- who have trouble controlling their spending simply because they don’t understand the limits of their balance. I eventually took a finance class in college, and honestly, it focused more on interest rates than how to properly compartmentalize your expenses. But not everyone can wait that long for yet another unhelpful semester. These are important life skills, public school system. Take note.

3. How to dress. I’m not talking fashion-wise, necessarily. If you want to wear combat boots and prom dresses to school, whatever. That’s your prerogative. But it would have been helpful if, again, once, someone in high school had taught us how to dress for, say, a job interview, or, maybe, any other event that isn’t strictly casual. Clothing choice is just as important, if not more, than a resume in an interview, because what you wear reflects the company for which you work, and sorry, but it’s gonna be hard to find a job that’s cool with your clothespin lip piercing and corset. Also, it would have been nice if, once, someone had concretely explained what the heck “business casual” or “semi casual” means.

4. Cheap, basic, healthy meals. There’s a reason the “Freshman Fifteen” exists. It’s because, in addition to having no idea how to manage a budget, new college students, or just new members of the post high school workforce, probably have no idea at all how to feed themselves. It would have been nice if, A. a half-semester home economics class was required (or even offered at all), and B. they would have taught us how to make a couple, reasonably healthy, inexpensive meals. Not everyone’s family cooks dinner together every night; if all you know how to make is ramen and mac and cheese, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend obesity, and his partner, type 2 diabetes. Enjoy your shorter lifespan, kids, because as long as you live long enough to receive a diploma, the public education system doesn’t care.

5. Metric system. I know we live in America where, for some reason, we have this asinine system of measuring that makes absolutely no sense and is more complicated than anyone can possibly decipher, but everywhere else, they use the metric system. In an increasingly global world, it’s going to be important to know how to use the arguably superior measuring system. Plus, if more people were taught the metric system here, maybe we can finally join the rest of the planet.

6. More diverse arts classes. Contrary to the public school system’s belief, art is more than drawing and rudimentary ceramics. Art encompasses film, dance, theater, music, graphic design, creative writing, and so much more. I know public schools are struggling with funding, but in a world where a diverse skillset and knowledge base might be the only thing keeping you one step away from the breadline, these classes are incredibly important. Performance-based art classes, like theater, teach confidence, memorization, and public speaking. Film classes teach collaboration, storytelling, and in a lot of cases, activism. Music has been proven to make you a better critical thinker and problem solver. It’s easy to write off classes like these as “frivolous”, as long as you aren’t paying attention to how the world actually works.

So there it is, my list of things I wished I’d had in high school. Do you have any additions to this list, or problems with mine? Let me know in the comments!

Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Watch her award winning web series, BrainsHERE

Writing Gigs: Writers Wanted in L.A.

Yeah, we know. Writers are always “wanted” in L.A. Except when you’re the writer and you try to sell somebody your work or your services.

Still, the L.A. Craigslist always seems to contain an awful (and they do often seem pretty damn awful) lot of showbiz writing gigs just waiting (or not) for your/our magic talents.

For those of you in L.A. trying to crash through the studio doors, here are a few potential gigs we found this week:

Coverage for TV pilots (LA) 

TV producers needs someone who can do extensive coverage for us.
Please send a couple samples, resume what TV genres/shows are you expert in?
We’ll need one page synopsis and couple pages analysis/story notes.
$25 for half hour comedy
$50 for hour long drama.
Seeking Hip Hop Comedy writer of TV Pilot (Hollywood)

Seeking Hip Hop Comedy writer of TV Pilot (Hollywood)

LA production company is seeking a fresh voice for African-American half-hour comedy pilot script gig (non-union pay)Please submit a resume, logline, and one to two-page synospis of your script.
We will contact you directly if we’re interested in reading your script.
Please be sure that your material is protected prior to sending it to us.
You can register it with the Writers Guild of America West Registry, or via the US Copyright office.

Seeking Creative Writer for Actress (West Hollywood)

We are seeking a writer who can construct everyday emails to writing creative articles.Ideally, a writer who has a major in English or equivalent
Need someone with excellent writing skills and flexible.
Looking to hire someone asap.
Please respond with two types of your favorite work that you would like us to review so we can get an idea of your writing style.
Per word or per project.

I am looking for a creative partner/scriptwriter (Hollywood Los Angeles)

I have a tv pilot that I have been working for a while now. I have a concept and story that I am very passionate about. It is unique and has something to offer that several other shows do not. I have most of the details worked out along with story arcs and plots, but I am not a scriptwriter. I am looking for someone to partner with to help write the pilot script. I would also be interested in a creative partner as well. This show has a little bit of everything: comedy, supernatural, romance, and some LGBT content in the mix. It is focused on a young adult and possibly teen audience. If you have any questions, advice or are interested in working on this with me please feel free to send me an email. Unfortunately at this time it wont be a paid position but I am willing to give credit where its due and maybe we can work out a payment option later.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do we believe that these are all good gigs? Are we recommending them? No. Not on your life. There are way too many variables in the showbiz employment spectrum for anybody here at TVWriter™ to be able to say, based on a Craigslist ad, “Here’s a good one.”

But we do think that looking into these further could be helpful to TV writing hopefuls, if for no other reason than to get a better feeling for the Hollywood mindset. And that will be helpful to your writing future.

Who knows? You might even find yourself writing your very own self-referential script based on what happens if you apply.

Oh, and, as always, if you do respond to an ad, we would love to hear what transpired. Either in a comment or an article. Yeppers, we’ll take an article on that for sure. (Won’t pay, but, hey, that’s showbiz!)

Break a leg! (Pencil? Keyboard? iPhone?)

John Ostrander: Wait. What Was I Thinking?

by John Ostrander

NOTE FROM LB: John Ostrander didn’t create the Suicide Squad, but he, along with various important partners, made it into something special enough to succeed as a film even though it starred Will Smith. I enjoyed John’s discussion of the evolution of the world’s most heinous super group and hope y’all will too!

On May 23, DC will release the sixth volume in their TPB reprint series of my Suicide Squad work. It’s sub-titled “The Phoenix Gambit” and, as is my wont, I’m going to share some thoughts about the stories therein. This might actually take a few weeks.

The volume covers issues 41 through 49 and, with one exception, was co-written with my late wife, Kim Yale. It was at this point that we shook up the Squad (and the book) to a large degree. When we last left the Squad in issue 40 (and the end of the previous TPB), the Squad had disbanded or dispersed. Amanda Waller was in jail as a result of her hand in executing the criminal gang calling itself the Loa; she just surrendered and, at the time, many people both within the book and without wondered why. Why didn’t she fight it? Why didn’t she scheme to get out of it?

In one of the stories in this issue, Amanda explains why to a friend – she felt she deserved to go to jail, that she had stepped over the line. This re-enforced the fact that, so far as I was concerned, Waller has always had a conscience of some kind, even when she crossed it. I think that’s the main difference between my Amanda and the film’s Amanda – mine is not a sociopath. Please note: this is not a criticism of the film; they wrote the character as they saw her, as they needed for their story. Mine is just a bit different. The first story starts with Waller in a prison cell in Belle Reve and the caption “One year later.”

This was slightly controversial at the time. There were fans who felt this now put the Squad out of sync with the rest of the DCU. Kim and I weren’t overly concerned about that; we figured over the run of the stories, they’d even up. It was important to Kim and I that the time elapse between the end of the last story and the start of this one. Not only did Waller need time out, some of the other characters need time to elapse as well.

Sarge Steel approaches Amanda in her cell. (Steel also works in the Intelligence biz and he and Waller have been at loggerheads since the Squad began.) He could use her help and advice with a problem and makes her the same deal she made others – do the job, succeed, survive, and get time off your sentence.

Amanda smiles at him; she’s been waiting for this or something like it. She has a counter-offer. She gets a presidential pardon; she gets to put a Squad together like before, they work without governmental ties or oversight, and they get a million dollars. Oh, and Batman has to help with the first mission.

This would be one of the big changes in the book; no more Belle Reve, no more supporting cast. Smaller Squad and, for the most part, no costumes. Every day clothes. They were free agents. More expendable than ever and the U.S. Government had less (or no) control over them (and especially Amanda).

These were significant changes. The book was over three years old and time, Kim and I thought, for a shake-up. While the new direction seemed to me at the time to be a good idea, in retrospect I’m not so sure. Fans can be a conservative bunch; they tend to want the same thing each time but different. That’s a hard trick to pull off. Don’t you need the characters in costume to really know who they are? It could be argued that Deadshot’s costume WAS the character. In losing the Belle Reve, we lost not only the Squad’s HQ but a genuine character in the series.

It could also be argued that having the characters running around in costume negated their being a covert action bunch. This seemed more “realistic” although realistic in this context is somewhat malleable. It also got Waller more out into the field as part of the operation rather than waiting at HQ and that seemed to me to be a better idea.

The Squad itself was a somewhat different group. Deadshot and Captain Boomerang were givens and Vixen and Bronze Tiger were regulars although we had messed with Tiger a bit, scuffed up his “good guy” image. They were joined by Count Vertigo and now Poison Ivy and the modern Thugee, Revan, who previously had been a Squad opponent, working with the terrorist group, the Jihad.

They were also joined by the Atom or, shall I say, an Atom. It appeared that Ray Palmer was killed in an explosion and a new Atom, named Adam Cray, had taken his place. Most the of the Squad members (and many readers) believed that Cray was actually Ray Palmer; they thought Palmer had, for some reason, faked his own death and was now assuming a disguise.

I always felt that the Atom would be an ideal member of an espionage team, especially the Squad. His ability to shrink could make him an ideal spy and so, when he became available to us, Kim and I jumped at the chance – albeit with our usual touch of twistiness.

The Phoenix Gambit also included the Russian equivalent to very early Superman crossed with Captain America, Stanoivolk (“Steel Wolf”). And Batman. Lots of Batman. In fact, the first chapter of The Phoenix Gambit could almost be thought of as a Batman story. He’d stick around for the other three issues as well. No great mystery there – Batman already had a history with the Squad and doing something of a crossover could be a nice way to boost sales, Especially at this stage of the Squad’s history.

Getting ready to write this column (and the next few) gave me a chance to go over the volume myself; I hadn’t read most of these in more than a decade. I think, as a whole, they’re among the strongest in the series. Kim and I were really hitting our stride and there are places where I can clearly see her hand and hear her voice. There’s a place where a drugged and deranged Count Vertigo gets all biblical while in battle. That was almost certainly scripted by Kim; her father was an Episcopal minister and she knew the well from which she drew.

The main artist at this point was Geoff Isherwood who had been one of our inkers for a long time. He gave the art a nice illustrative feel while, at the same time, keeping the down and dirty realism the book required. Luke McDonnell, our original artist, would return here and there but the bulk of the work is Geoff’s and he does a fine job.

Well, that does it for this week, my li’l Squadders. Join us next time when, among other things, we’ll talk about our Secret Origin of Captain Boomerang and how that came about. That’s next week – same Squad time, same Squad channel.

Or something.

John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Showbiz Agony Dept: ‘Smash’ Creator on Being Fired from Her Own Show

It happens sometimes – the dream turns into a nightmare. Getting a series on the air is a major high. Getting thrown off it, OTOH….

What Came Next
by Theresa Rebeck

So I’m walking to a rehearsal in Midtown, and my agent calls me.

He runs me through one thing and another, and then he gets down to it. Had I heard that Steven Spielberg had set up a project at Showtime, a TV series about backstage at a Broadway musical?

“They want you to write it,” he informed me. “Mr. Spielberg read one of your plays over the weekend, and he called this morning to say that he is infatuated.”

Let me tell you something. When Steven Spielberg calls your agent to say he is infatuated with your writing, that is a good day. The saga of what came next is so long and complicated it would take a book to write it all out. Sometimes I think of writ- ing that book and sometimes I think that writing that book and reliving the whole thing would be somewhat akin to shooting myself in the head. But we’ll get to that.

So I took the job, I wrote the pilot, I created all the characters, I nurtured it through a transition from Showtime to NBC, I produced the pilot, and the show got picked up for an order of seventeen episodes. I was the show runner of the first season, which got terrific numbers and established itself immediately as an international sensation. The show was called Smash.

At the end of the first season, I was fired without cause. No one likes being fired, and guess what, I am no exception. As the dust settled, it became clear that at the management level a lot of dastardly stories had been invented about my character. Sometimes I try to parse them and fit them all back together; I have been, at times, desperate to figure out what actually happened. There was a destructive and incoherent madness to it that resists interpretation.

Mr. Spielberg, to give him much credit, called me the day I was fired and apologized. He told me that he blamed himself. He felt that the politics had gotten way out of hand, and they wouldn’t have if he had been around more. He was probably right.

And, of course, as soon as I was fired, all the men who had conspired to have me removed from my post realized that the show wasn’t going to survive without me and so they slunk away and went off to do other things.

The network then hired a whole bunch of other people to run it in my stead, and it fell apart, and one year after I had made that show into a bona fide hit, it was canceled.

Everyone told me the best thing to do was ignore it and put it behind me.

Then I couldn’t get hired for three years.

Then I fired my lawyer and I fired my manager and I fired my agent…..

Read it all at Entertainment Weekly

Web Series: ‘Cannabis Moms Club’

Didja ever think that web video creators would become this good this fast? The writing, the acting, the directing, the whole production values thing – Cannabis Moms Club – has them all:

A tip of the TVWriter™ cap to an amazing series…even if you aren’t a pothead.

Toke a look at  See all the episodes so far HERE

You’re in Production! At Last! – @Stareable


So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 8
by Bri Castellini

Congratulations, friends, you’ve done it. You have gathered your troops, made battle plans, and now, the real run begins. It’s time… for production.

Depending on the size of your cast and crew, your experience on set might be totally different from every other person reading this column. Even so, there are rules of thumb every production should follow when approaching the filming process.

Before you get to set

* Send out a “call sheet” the night before. A call sheet is a document based on the shot list that lets cast and crew know what time they need to be on set and where the set is located. For indie productions where your actors are likely bringing their own costumes, the call sheet should also list exactly what clothing they need to bring, especially if they need to bring multiple outfits.

* Make sure everyone who has promised to bring something, whether that camera equipment, lighting equipment, or snacks, remembers what they’re bringing. This coordination should also happen the night before, so it’s fresh in their minds.

* Print out multiple copies of your shooting scripts and shot list, which should encompass every angle you need to film from that day. Plan for cast and crew to forget the copies you’ve already emailed them, because they will.

* People are going to ask you what time filming will wrap. Constantly. Don’t give them an answer, because the truth is, “who knows??” Obviously, try to give them a general idea of how long they’ll be needed, but be vague, and definitely advise against them making concrete plans for afterwards. Some days will go smoother than others, and what you don’t want is a promise to finish at 3pm and to then hold everyone hostage until 6.

Setting up set

* In general, schedule crew to get to set earlier than the actors. They’ll need time to assemble equipment, and you never want the “talent” (that’s film-speak for “actors”) to spend too much time waiting around.

* Schedule yourself to get to set even earlier than the crew. Leadership!

* If you don’t have an AD, or assistant director, designate one person to keep an eye on time. They’ll let you know when it’s getting close to lunch, or when you’ve spent too much time on one shot and need to move on.

* Also, if you have a hand to spare, designate one person to take behind-the-scenes photos. This content will be fun for cast and crew to see themselves at work, but it will also be useful for social media content later on. Everyone wants a peek behind the curtain, so plan ahead!
Filming on set

* The number 1 rule once you start production is never fight on set. It makes everyone involved look bad (even if someone is clearly in the right), it looks incredibly unprofessional, and it will slow you down, which you do not have time for. Trust me, there is nothing more uncomfortable than being in an enclosed space, surrounded by a bunch of people, after two or more of those people have been fighting. Save it for the post mortem after set (explained below).

* As always, don’t be precious. Sometimes, even when you’ve planned and labored over something, it just doesn’t work on camera. Be flexible and willing to change the game plan if a scene or line of dialogue doesn’t go over as planned.

* Don’t forget transitions, especially if you’re filming out of sequence. When you’re shooting a scene, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the beginning and end of it need to fit in with what you’ve already filmed, or what you’re filming next.

After set

* Have a post mortem with principal crew members, or a meeting once the day is done to discuss how it went. The best way to structure this meeting is to have everyone involved talk about what went well, what went poorly, and things to change for the next day of filming. This is when you should fight — away from talent, after the scenes have been filmed. Communication is absolutely key, since, say it with me, filmmaking is a collaborative process. Problems aside, a post mortem is also a great structure to discuss things that worked, and how to capitalize on those successes.

Next week, as I’ve mentioned, we’re going to go even deeper into the harrowing adventure that is production, by outlining some common problems you might encounter and how to deal with or fix 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.

Commas – Gotta love ’em! Well, Gotta use ’em anyway!

We’re writers. We used commas. A lot. Except this TVWriter™ minion. I use periods because…well, because I’ve never fully understood how the damn things are supposed to be used.

But that’s no excuse. Because now we have…these lovely and comma-loving videos:

Wow, look at me dance, sing, and jump for joy cuz now I knows commas, yessirree, Bob!