John Ostrander: You/Not You

You-Not-Youby John Ostrander

One of the interesting facets of talking about writing is the contradictions you find in the craft. For example: All your characters are you. All your characters are not you.

All of your characters are you.

Every character you write must have some of you in it. All of them. Not just the ones you like to identify with. All of them. The large and the small, the good and the bad, male and female, no matter what age, race, or nationality. If you’re going to write honestly about the character, you must be in the mix.

This can get uncomfortable. Once, when I was writing a white supremacist  in an early issue of Suicide Squad, I had to look into myself and ask, “What in me is like this man?” Look, I’m an aging white guy; there’s going to be something there. No matter how much I’ve worked at freeing myself from that, and I have, there’s going to be something there.

I found it. It’s not enough to understand such a character’s point of view; it’s necessary to find what is in you that is like that. However much I dislike that aspect of myself, it is there to some degree and it can be used. It was.

We all have multitudes within us. We are slightly different people depending on who we are with; with our parents we’re slightly different than we are with our siblings than we are with our friends than we are with our lovers and partners. Each of them know a slightly different aspect of us. That’s one of the purposes of supporting characters; they bring out different aspects of the protagonist.

We play so many different parts in our own lives on a daily basis, we should be able to find some aspect of ourselves – good or bad, laudable or disreputable – that will allow us to identify, to be, the character that we are writing.

I’ve often said that writing dialogue between several characters is the writer having conversations with his/herself. We are all our characters.

All of your characters are not you.

You have to have some perspective on the characters that you write and that requires some distance. The differences are important.

There is, mostly in fandom, a form of criticism pertaining to a “Mary Sue” (among female characters) or a “Larry Stu” (among male). Generally, it means a character is an idealized and unrealistic version of the author. For the most part I dislike the term; it’s too easy, too lazy, and too pat a critique. The person using it generally only has to accuse the author of either having a Mary Sue or Larry Stu and that’s it; no further discussion is needed or, often, allowed. The accusation is made. End of story.

However, as with most stereotypes and clichés, there is a germ of truth. A good character can be very seductive. Few people believe themselves to be evil; even Shakespeare’s Richard III, who describes himself as a villain, believes he has a right to do what he is doing. I met someone once who believed that if he could take something that you thought was yours, he was within his rights to do so. “You only have a right to what you can hold onto,” he would claim. Not someone I wanted to spend any time with, but an interesting idea for a character.

I saw a TV interview with a guy who was doing time because he was a hired killer for the Mob. Coldest son of a bitch I’ve ever seen. Literally would just as soon kill you as look at you. “My life doesn’t matter to me, so why should yours?” was what he said. Again, not a person I would ever want to meet, but it became part of my core concept for my version of Deadshot in the Squad. Lawton doesn’t have a death wish; he just doesn’t care if he dies – or if you do.

The whole “You are your character/you are not your character” thing is a dichotomy and that’s fine by me. I think that most often you find the truth in contradictions. It’s what Del Close taught in his Second City and iO improv classes. Del held this contradiction as a rule: it’s not either/or; it’s and/both.

Finally, don’t try to reconcile or explain the contradictions. State them and trust to your reader to dope it out. Do your job right and the reader will think that the character is them… and not them.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. This post originally appeared in his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Have TV & Film Already Merged?

Of course they have. You just have to be a member of the “VR Generation” to see it! Here’s what we mean:

vr download

For the VR generation, the differences between TV and movies may already be irrelevant
by Steven Zeitchik

The upcoming crime drama “The Night Of” would seem like a prototypical cable show — commissioned by HBO, airing for eight episodes, designed as summer appointment viewing.

Yet look beneath and a film beast stirs. “The Night Of” was co-written by Steven Zallian, an Oscar winner, and stars John Turturro; neither has ever been a key figure on a TV series. Every episode was directed by Zallian — highly atypical for a TV show. The scripts were also all finished before a single moment was shot  — unlike much of television, in which writers often stay just an episode or two ahead production.

If any doubts existed about the project’s film nature, they were wiped away upon a visit to “The Night Of’s” post-production facilities in New York. Zallian was about to celebrate his year-long anniversary working on the piece, all before the public has even caught the first glimpse of what he was doing. That’s creeping into auteur territory.

 

It’s far from the only project that dances across the film-television line. A documentary about O.J. Simpson, a nonfiction take on the celibate Laker A.C. Green from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and Chloe Sevigny’s more fictional story (one hopes) of a girl who turns into a cat—all are examples of projects you couldn’t, for all the jewels in Blake Lively’s closet, slap with a traditional definition.

The Sevigny piece would seem to be a film–it’s made by veteran movie producers and debuting at the Cannes Film Festival. But it’s a short, almost like a mini-TV episode.? And it will receive its commercial debut on the women’s news-and-lifestyle website Refinery29 — a space not known for cinema.

Also on ESPN is “O.J. Simpson: Made in America,” from Ezra Edelman. It is, length-wise, the opposite of these projects, clocking in at nearly eight hours. That’s five episodes, airing over five nights this June?. Seems like pretty standard TV.

Except it was made by a feature director, conceived first as a filmbefore growing in length, and was shot, as Edelman tells it, to be a cohesive whole. So confident are ESPN and Edelman in this idea that they’re qualifying “O.J.” for the Oscars by giving it a theatrical debutthis week.

As questions of blurring arise between film and TV, it’s worth asking how specific creators and companies are dealing with these changes. But it also pays to take a broader look. Film and television have for decades been the twin pillars on which our entertainment empire was built. Yet it’s increasingly apparent that the two are becoming more alike, more commingled, less distinguishable. What was once a clear delineation is now a blurry line. Traditional labels — and maybe a whole lot more — are slowly being upended….

Read it all at LA Times

Cartoon: “On the Shoulders of Giants”

This is where we want to be:

Giant-web1

More Grant Snider Genius is HERE!!!

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:

web-series-names

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.

WHAT IS A WEB SERIES?
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, TC.com 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.

WHY MAKE A WEB SERIES?
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.