Troy DeVolld: Pay Your Dues, But Get a Receipt

Okay, okay… this was just a sad little residual from an archived lecture. I don’t exactly have a huge stock library of me holding checks.

Okay, okay… this was just a sad little residual from an archived lecture. I don’t exactly have a huge stock library of me holding checks.

by Troy DeVolld

Let me tell you about an eight-year lesson I learned in reality television: Don’t chase checks.

The first three years of my career, I worked for Cris Abrego and Rick Telles nonstop. I started as a logger/transcriber, spent time as a story producer, logged a few weeks with the locations gang looking for spots to film episodes of FEAR, and they kept me working. Three straight years of employment, those guys gave me.

Then, after The Surreal Life, I moved on to Next Entertainment and did two seasons of The Bachelor and one of The Bachelorette. I wasn’t part of the in-crowd there, and I had to prove myself to a new bunch of people all over again.

After The Bachelor, I worked on a pilot for a show that eventually led me to Dancing With the Stars in 2005. Guess what I did there? Proved myself again to a new group of people. If I hadn’t left after two seasons, I’d probably still be there now… but I turned down a third season for the chance to supervise a team and broaden my skill set. After leaving, I had to prove myself to yet another group of people at Authentic, heading up the post story team on Flipping Out.

Hopping from one opportunity to the next in an attempt to leap up the ladder or boost your rate means taking new risks. What if you and the EP don’t see eye to eye? What if you end up being scapegoated for the team’s troubles? A million things can go wrong… and the trolley might completely stop.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve survived minor nuisances along the way and continued to work, but I also, in the current reality environment, miss the heck out of the sense of job security that becoming a go-to producer in one place provides. Five seasons of Basketball Wives (and two of Basketball Wives LA) kept me going for three straight years at Shed Media.

What multiple seasons of several shows translates to on your resume is that you can be relied upon. You can jump from show to show to keep busy, but there’s nothing like being able to convey that you can be counted on to deliver.

Why work so hard to pay your dues over and over and over again when you can show people an extended period of reliability? I have one friend who’s been on the same show since she graduated from college 25 years ago, riding her reputation all the way to an Executive Producer slot.

Pay your dues, but try not to put yourself in the position to have to pay them again every time you jump to a new employer.  Looking for the exit door at the end of a single season over a tiny little $100/wk raise might hurt you more in the long run than it helps.

Troy DeVolld is a Larry Brody buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?

How To Make & Create A Web Series

There we were, roaming the web in search of a good illustration to accompany the article before this one, when suddenly – Wham! – not only did we just the right pic to run with an article about turning your indie feature film into a web series, we found it accompanying another terrific article on creating your own show.

So here, courtesy of TomCruise.Com (yep, that Tom Cruise) is more exciting info on one of TVWriter™’s favorite topics:


From Team Tom Cruise

We’re back with another installment in the #Aspiring2ActWriteDirect Series. This time TeamTC tackles the rapidly evolving world of web series and provides a primer on how to plan, prepare and produce your own original content. Of all our aspiring guides covering the entertainment industry—that list includes guides for actorsdirectors and filmmakersfilm editorsproducersscreenwritersstuntmen, cinematographers and visual effects artists—this one on how to make a web series delves into a field that is just now beginning to take shape.

Loosely speaking, a web series (also known as web originals, web shows, webisodes, and online series), is a show in episodic form released online or, in some cases, across various mobile platforms. The series is created to live on the web, and given the nature of online viewership, individual shows within a web series tend to run between 3 minutes and 6 minutes, with an entire season, from beginning to end, averaging an hour to an hour and a half. That’s both the appeal and complexity of the industry: Trying to say something engaging in matter of minutes. The hook, however, must come even sooner than that. According to the Youtube Creator Playbook, viewers decide within 15 seconds whether they are going to spend the next few minutes with your web series, let alone the next 90.

When making a web show, the question is what kind of web show will you make? While web series take many forms, will focus on scripted (fictional) episodic digital entertainment. Typical categories include sci-fi/fantasy (The Guild), comedies (Wainy Days) and dramas (Anyone But Me), but many shows are multi-genre experiments (The Crew). Regardless of where your web series falls, the lion share of information here can be applied across the board, and to content like talk shows, tutorials, documentaries and other reality-based programming.

Web series are attractive projects for filmmakers for many reasons—and the majority of content creators are experienced filmmakers. To begin with, the only restriction on content is your imagination. Unlike other more established mediums, web originals can be just that: Original. In fact, originality is encouraged. Online audiences tend to appreciate the diversity of content found there, and if they can find it, are likely to seek it out. And unlike television or even independent filmmaking, quality online programming can be achieved on a small budget.

In fact, the vast majority of web series are funded out of pocket by aspiring filmmakers looking for a way to highlight their talent in a crowded and fiercely competitive industry. In many cases, they aren’t concerned with making their money back. Instead, they make web series as a way to create a marketable portfolio piece at an affordable price. Creating your own web show could be the calling card you need to gain access to larger projects….

Read it all at TomCruise.Com

10 Reasons To Release Your Feature As A Web Series

This is such a great article. We hope that all of you read it, pay attention, and – we mean this – do it!

web series

by Kelly Hughes

You can now shoot a movie on a phone.

You can edit like a pro on a laptop.

You can share your work with a few billion people with just a few YouTube clicks.

The revolution is here.

So why are we stuck on old business models? Why do we still think the best way to further our indie careers is to make a low budget feature, do the film festival circuit and be discovered and signed like it’s 1999?

I’m over 50. (Yikes!) and it’s time to let go of decades-old indie filmmaking ideals. It’s time to take inspiration from the younger crowd. The teenagers and 20-somethings who embrace up-to-the-minute technology and modern viewing habits. I can feel them nipping at my heels. It’s time to nip back.

So my latest movie is in the can, but instead of editing it into a 90 minute marvel, I’m changing the rules and refashioning it into a web series.

This is a horrible idea because:

1.  It’s more prestigious for my actors to tell family and friends they were in a movie.

2.  I can’t use it to be next year’s darling at Sundance.

3.  My pacing will be shot to hell.

But I think it’s also a good idea and here’s why:

1.  A Kinder, Gentler Editing Process

I can edit it in little chunks. Causing less strain on my computer’s RAM, if not my brain.

2.  Instant Viewer Gratification

If I upload it to YouTube, people can watch it sooner and not have to wait for the festival/Netflix/DVD release cycle.

3.  Instant Feedback

Fans, reviewers, trolls…they can all have a go at it.

4.  Cast Gratification

Maybe it’s not the thrill of Cannes, but for actors who have had to wait a year or more to see their work edited and released, this could be a pleasant development and they could even use it to supplement their reels.

Peggy Bechko’s World of Conflict!


by Peggy Bechko

Writers know how important conflict is to a story; without conflict there simply is no story to tell. And, as we’ve all learned Conflict breaks down as Protagonist’s goal plus some kind of obstacle equals that coveted conflict. Yep, there it is. A character wants something…really really bad. He wants it in the overarching story and he (or she) wants it in every scene. Doesn’t matter if it’s script of manuscript – or for that matter advertising copy.

The thing that comes next is that obstacle or obstacles. Obstacles that are provided by the antagonist as a character or as a force of nature or whatever. It provides the stumbling block that keeps the ‘hero’/’heroine’ from achieving the goal that dangles out there like the proverbial carrot on a stick.

That’s it. That’s the beginning. That’s your story, but wait, is it?

Want to kick it up a notch? Want to make it really pop? Then next time you’re writing think about adding layers. Make it complicated. Amplify the conflict. Create chaos.

Think about it. A buddy story. A city copy is on the trail of a serial killer in a national park and is teamed up with a park ranger. The city cop is out of his element away from the concrete and the ranger has never dealt with law enforcement. The guys got a lead and they’re after him. He might double back and try to kill them both. That’s a story, right?

Well, what if there’s a big ol grizzly out there as well. One that the Park Ranger had to shoot some time back because it was attacking a campsite full of campers and had two toes blown off before it escaped and disappeared? It’s coming after the Ranger and anything that gets in its way is toast.

Now there’s a pot that really stirring. The pursuers are also the pursued.

Think about the Lord of The Rings movies. That exact tactic is used frequently.

Ponder the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz. The main character, Odd Thomas, is always seeing things he shouldn’t, trying to fix things and always endangered by something after him. Throw in a bunch of dark humor. Life is complicated.

And the more complicated it gets the more the main character is forced to improvise to work out new ways of getting to that goal…and those new ways can (and usually do) cause even more complications.

It’s plain that the hero’s actions will cause the main conflict of the story to inflate even further. The bubble grows larger and thinner and the reader or audience hold their breath awaiting the big bang. It can be emotional. It can be physical. Whichever or both, it must be breathtaking.

If the writer makes it a habit of never letting the hero or heroine off easy – if the character is hit from one side, then another while fighting to overcome those obstacles to reach the goal -then you’ve got a story that’ll grab the reader or watcher by the eyeballs and not let them go until the story skids to a complete stop with the culmination of pursue and pursuit in a big bang finish that’ll leave everyone, including you as the writer, breathless.

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

Diana Vacc Sees “Outlander” Episode 6 “Best Laid Schemes”

by Diana Vaccarelli

Outlander Season 2 2016

Outlander Season 2 2016

The “Best Laid Schemes”episode of “Outlander” finds Jamie and Claire trying to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from getting the funds necessary to start the Jacobite rebellion. If you haven’t viewed this episode yet be warned this review does contain some spoilers.


  • The writing of this episode was the most dramatic and emotional to date. Matthew B. Roberts writes an episode that made me both laugh and cry. The drama was so powerful that I don’t think I could have made it through the show without the funny moments Roberts gave the character Murtagh.
  • The hard-hitting dialogue gives the actors so much to play, and they went all the way with it. Caitriona Balfe’s Claire goes through a major betrayal in a performance that made me feel her pain as though it was my own. Sam Heughan’s Jamie is nothing short of fantastic. The scene where he makes Claire promise to go through the stones if anything happens to him would bring tears to, well, a stone.
  • I’m so glad that Black Jack is back! I keep saying there is no one better to play this well written villain then Tobias Menzies, and he proved it again this time out. During the crucial duel scene between Jamie and Black Jack, Menzies taunts Jamie with words far stronger than their swords. To me, that scene was perfect.


  • Once again, there was one scene I could have done without. That was a scene with Claire and her friends gossiping. It was unnecessary and brought nothing to the episode.


I’ve said it before and I must say it again. If you haven’t watched “Outlander” you truly need to start. It has everything.

Happy TV watching!

Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large. Learn more about her HERE

The Week at TVWriter™ – May 23, 2016

In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Diana Vacc Sees OUTLANDER Episode 5 “Untimely Resurrection”

Supernatural Season 1 Finale – Recap and Review

Frank Spotnitz on Creating Complex TV Series

LB: TV Series I’ve Given Up On This Year

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline


The Teleplay

The Logline


Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!