Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

just-say-noChapter 54 – Navigating Hollywood 101: Just Say No
by Leesa Dean

Last week, a print issue of The Hollywood Reporter showed up in my mailbox. I didn’t subscribe, yet somehow got on the list. That’s right. For FREE!! The comedy gods are either smiling at or mocking me.

The first article I noticed really hit home.  It was about the nearly universal way Hollywood executives reject pitches (or you, for that matter).  Versus saying “no” or the old school standby, “Wow. This is great!  We really really love it.  Unfortunately, we’re not doing, uh, anything that involves writing this year”, instead, they just POOF! vanish into thin air.  That’s right.  You never hear from them.  Possibly ever again.  You know, kinda like, “He said (sob), he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and I NEVER HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN.”  Only worse, cause it’s your career.  Or, in some cases, “career”.

This applies to phone calls, emails, texts and, most notably, flinging yourself into someone’s office and begging (i.e. pitching.)

The article said that most execs don’t want to burn any bridges so their logic is, if I don’t reject you, I can always hire you sometime in the future (translation: after everyone else on planet earth realizes you’re bankable). They even interviewed a therapist, Philip Pierce, who said, “Saying no without saying no is an avoidance technique that ultimately results in increased negative emotions.”  Gee, ya THINK?!

Well, I’m a pro at being rejected.  I’ve been rejected so many times, I lost count a long time ago. But you know what?  I’ve also had quite a few successes.  Rejection is part of the gig.  Bottom line: in order to get to that yes, you have to go through a million no’s (you know, the word that can not be uttered).  And most people can handle it.  Most people don’t lose sleep over it.  At worst, it merits a couple of swigs of a good stiff drink (and, possibly, sobbing into a hanky).

It’s far far worse, and yeah, even a little humiliating to not get any response.  It makes something that shouldn’t be personal, well, a little personal.  Like you don’t even rate a quick email or call back…to tell you you suck.

I learned a long time ago to give people a couple of weeks. If I don’t hear anything by then, it’s time to move on cause that’s when the metaphorical expiration date happens. The one that says: Don’t call us.  We’ll call you.  And by “call” we mean “you’ll never hear from us again.”

So Dear Hollywood Execs, next time you feel like consciously uncalling, do the humane thing and Just Say No.

5 Writing Lessons We’ve Learned From ‘Suits’

Some people have nothing but praise for the writing on SUITS. We aren’t among them. And yet…

suits-96by Brittany Frederick

[April 10th was] the Suits season finale, wrapping up its third season as the best show on television. One of the biggest reasons it has that title is the writing. Series creator Aaron Korsh and his staff are teaching a master class on how to write TV every Thursday night. Here are five writing lessons that we’ve learned from watching Suits - and be sure you tune in tonight to learn even more about how television should be done.

Lesson No. 1: Don’t BS your audience. It’s so hard to really get sucked into TV drama anymore, because most shows don’t actually follow through on the threats they make. The main cast won’t break up, because if they did, there wouldn’t be a show. That character isn’t really going to get killed off (unless you’re on The Good Wife), because if they were, the Internet would’ve probably spoiled it weeks ago. That problem you’re worried about is most likely going to get resolved in 42 minutes, or if not, it’ll be forgotten about next week. That’s not the case if you’re watching Suits. The show threatened to fire Donna and then actually fired Donna. True, she came back, but she was gone for awhile, and when she came back, it was earned. Now it’s threatening us with Mike being caught and it looks like Mike is actually busted. A show is so much more suspenseful when you know that any obstacle in the way actually means something.

Lesson No. 2: Continuity is your friend. We haven’t seen a series stick to its continuity like this in a long time, and don’t think any show’s ever used it to its advantage as well as Suits does. So many shows retcon previous facts about their characters to fit the episode of the week, or just produce something that sounds cool and justify it later. Suits, on the other hand, has been remarkably consistent – and has made active use of its history books. The character Jonathan Sitwell, who recently offered Mike a job, was part of the Hessington Oil storyline earlier this season. We’ve also seen the return of other characters like Harvey’s now-girlfriend Dana Scott and Clifford Danner, the young man who was wrongfully convicted when Harvey was with the DA’s Office. These returns, mentions to past events – it’s rewarding for the long-term viewer, and it makes the Suits universe feel like a real world, rather than a show where parts are discarded when their use is outlived.

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This article makes some very good points. It definitely has us thinking:

 

What famous writer do you write like?

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Why are we asking?

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Cus there’s a new website, I Write Like, that wants to analyze your style and then tell you what it’s learned. munchman pasted in a chapter of a book he’s been wanting to write. It took him 5 days to write it, and I Write Like gave him the news about his style in – we swear! – under 10 seconds: Cory Doctorow.

No, munchman hasn’t pressed the delete button on his work. Seems he likes Cory Doctorow’s writing. But he’s a wee bit disappointed cuz he was working like hell to imitate Carl Hiaasen.

Live and learn. And have some fun HERE.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Part One)

One of our favorite sites is Stephen Bowie’s Classic TV History Blog. We like it so much that the only reason we aren’t constantly posting its articles here on TVWriter™ is that, well, erm, Stephen doesn’t want us to. So now it’s our job to get as many of you as possible to go over there and slurp up the savory goodness that is his writing-reporting. If you love “old” TV shows, this short sample should send you to heaven!

dobietitleby Stephen Bowie

Rescued from obscurity last year with an essential complete-series DVD release,The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis remains one of the most distinctive and intelligent American situation comedies.  Conceived and successfully marketed as a youth-oriented enterprise – the everyday life of the ordinary teenager – Dobie expanded its vision, as all great television does, to articulate an overarching point of view on existence itself – a wry, wise one, with a strong undercurrent of melancholy.  Verbally witty and tonally unpredictable, it was probably the most sophisticated sitcom to debut before The Dick Van Dyke Show – although its sharp edges and complicated relationship with realism (and reality) make Dobie Gillis more relevant as a precursor to the spirited insanity of Green Acres.

Dobie Gillis was one of the earliest television comedies to embody the unmistakable voice of a single, brilliant writer – from the fifties, only Nat Hiken’s The Phil Silvers Show and arguably David Swift’s Mister Peepers come to mind as fellow members of that fraternity.  Though he had successes on Broadway (The Tender Trap) and in films (adaptations of The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953, with Bobby Van in the title role, and his novel Rally Round the Flag, Boys! in 1958), Max Shulman began as a prose writer who took on college life in his first book (Barefoot Boy With Cheek, 1943) and introduced the character of Dobie in a series of short stories.  Although the unity of tone in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis is self-evident, Shulman asserted his control over the television series in no uncertain terms: “In Dobie Gillis, every script in the end went through my typewriter, sometimes for minor changes, sometimes for major ones.  Out of 39 or so episodes, I’d write maybe 10 – anywhere from 6 to 12 – but I would polish or tinker with every one of them, because I wanted to keep the same tone.”

A TV pilot script for Dobie had been around for a couple of years before it coalesced at Twentieth Century-Fox in 1958, when Martin Manulis (the legendaryPlayhouse 90 producer) became the studio’s new head of television production and revived it from the dead.  Although Manulis quit after less than a year in the job, before the series debuted, his production company’s logo appeared at the end ofDobie Gillis for all of its one hundred and forty-seven episodes.  The Dobie series was also an early agency package, from General Artists Corporation (GAC), the forerunner of ICM.  A “package” was a situation where the key talents, usually all clients of the agency in question, were assembled by the agency and presented as a bundle to the buyer.  It was probably GAC that put Shulman together with his key collaborator, producer-director Rod Amateau.

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Peggy Bechko: You’re a writer? Do you trust your gut?

Positive-Gut-Feelingby Peggy Bechko

You’re a writer? Do you trust your gut?

Really.

It’s amazing how many writers might have day jobs and trust their guts to make the right decisions there, but when they get to their writing desk, suddenly everything has to be planned out just so and there can be no deviation.

Okay, okay, stop. Just stop and think. Most of us have much better gut reactions than we think we have and the key here is learning to trust those reactions.

How often, when you’ve been writing that carefully crafted story, have you had a nagging little voice telling you that it just isn’t right. Something isn’t clicking. You need to go back and/or change the direction you’ve chosen to move forward. How often do you set that little nagging voice aside, rationalizing, telling yourself you have it all worked out.

Or maybe you’re rereading a script or a manuscript and everything seems to be hitting on key, it all flows, the dialog is nothing short of brilliant – and yet….

There seems to be something missing. The scene that was written to evoke such intensity, empathy, such emotion, just doesn’t. But you say to yourself, well, I wrote it. I’ve read it and read it and read it…and, well you know. So since I know it so well, every speech, every scene, why would I be moved? Why would I be drawn it? It’s just technical now, isn’t it? Clean it up and get it out there. The audience will be drawn it – I’ve crafted it so well.

Ah, no.

I think a writer’s instinct is one of the most important elements of writing that script or novel. That little unsettled kernel in your stomach that lets you know you’re not done yet. Writers need to trust that feeling more.

So can it be over done? Sure, what can’t? You can write a story to death. You can just be a deeply paranoid writer who is constantly sure the work being created isn’t good enough. That one you’ll have to sort out for yourself. It’s a whole different writer anxiety. Sorry.

But, presuming that isn’t your case, that little voice is telling you you need to make it better. Your gut. Be nice to it.

There is a power there that wise writers don’t dismiss easily. If you’ve read your material and it doesn’t make you feel the way you expect to make your readers or viewers feel, then back to the drawing board. It’s not like you CAN’T do it, you just HAVEN’T done it yet.

Come on. You know great writing. You’ve read it (I hope). Stories from amazing authors who aren’t you. Maybe you’ve written just as brilliantly, maybe you haven’t – yet. Either way, you know how that brilliant writing made you feel when you read it, when you wrote it.

Not every writer is capable of being the very best, the exalted, top of the heap, best darn writer in the world. But hey, maybe YOU can.

But you’re not going to find that place and bloom into the absolute best writer you can be unless you learn to trust that gut, that nagging feeling rumbling around (no not gas) that’s letting you know you haven’t finished that script or novel yet.

Pay attention to it. Get to know it. And as I’ve said in other posts, yep, trust your gut.

Have You Been to the Web Series Channel?

Web Series Capture

Yeppers, it’s an interweb site that’s just what its name says – a place to see some of the best peer produced series indie TV has to offer.

Also some of the not-so-best, but, hey, that’s what makes horse races, right? Besides, which, our tastes do tend to vary. Shows we at TVWriter™ love may not sit so well with some of our visitors and vice versa.

There’s something for everyone here. Live action. Drama. Animation. Drama. With titles like SUPER LIFE, #JUST SAYING, 101 WAYS TO GET REJECTED, and a couple hundred more.

Most importantly for many of our visitors, WSC is open for submissions, so if you have a series that needs a bigger audience than your mother, your boyfriend or girlfriend, and yourself, get yourself over to Web Series Channel and SUBMIT. (No, not that kind of submission. At least, we don’t think so.)

We believe WSC to be a very important site and urge all our visitors, especially the peer producers, to support it, and to investigate how it can help support you.  With that in mind, the place to click to and investigate is HERE.