LB: Sneak Peek at What’s Happening with TVWriter University in August 2015

No, not really TVWriter U. This is Harvard - which some folks think is almost as good.

No, not really TVWriter U. This is Harvard – which some people believe is almost as good.

by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB: Just emailed the following to all those on the TVWriter™ eMail list. But the info really is for everybody:


Trying to do some genuine advance planning because that’s the kind of thing I never do, but all the productivity sites keep saying I should.

And with that in mind:


As I write this, the Fundamentals of TV & Film Writing Workshop that’s scheduled to start Tuesday, August 18th, still has 1, count ’em 1, space remaining.

The Fundamentals Workshop consists of 6 weeks of impassioned speeches by moi and various assignments written by vous.

It’s all about TV and film story structure, character development, format, with an emphasis on what “works” and what doesn’t in the eyes of the gatekeepers who so often seem to working overtime to keep new writers out.

What we talk about in this class definitely will give you a leg up on the competition, or my name isn’t, um, wait…oh yeah, LB.


Currently, we’re halfway through the 151st TVWriter.Com Advanced Workshop. That means that the next one will start Wednesday, August 19th of this year.

At this point in the schedule enrollment for the August Workshop is wide open, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know before all 5 spaces (or to put it another way, “the measly 5 spaces”) are taken so you don’t miss out.

The Advanced Workshop is the one where you work on a script in class, uploading 10 or so pages a week for your classmates and me to rake you over the coals about.

No, wait! Kidding! We’re all actually going to read what you write as thoughtfully as we can and then give you insightful ways to make what you’re writing even better.

Whew. Almost gave it away there…


I’m still working on finding just the right calendar spot for the next Master Class, AKA The Class for Pro Level Writers Who Firmly Believe They Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Classes.

If you think you qualify and are ready for me to read your entire script and all its subsequent revisions and give you all the helpful info I can over a 4-Week period, let me know, ASAP.

More info about the Fundamentals Workshop is HERE

More info about the Advanced Workshop is HERE

More info about the Master Class is HERE

Sign up for our eMails HERE

Feel free (within limits, that is) to email me HERE





John Ostrander on How It Feels to See his Fave SUICIDE SQUAD Creation Come to Life on Screen

Suicide-Squad-Viola-DavisStripping Down
by John Ostrander

Okay, I saw the Suicide Squad trailer that was “leaked” from SDCC and then the HD version a day or so later. I loved what I saw – particularly Amanda Waller. Viola Davis has the look, the sound, and most important, the attitude. Much of what she says at the start of the trailer sounds like it was taken from my proposal or one of my scripts. Yeah, I’m very happy.

As for the rest of the Squad, I can’t really say yet but if the whole thing mirrors their use of Waller, I think we’re going to get as close to the comic version of the Squad as a movie can get.

Mind you, I’m anticipating there will be changes. Comics and movies are different media with different needs and demands and so they will interpret the material differently. My main question for the Squad and any other comic book movie is will they get the essentials right?

When I say “essentials,” what do I mean? It’s not necessarily the costume or even the powers. It’s what defines them, what makes them different from other characters. When Tom Mandrake and I took on DC’s Martian Manhunter, we had to determine what made him different from Superman. They shared many of the same powers; in fact J’onn J’onnz had a few that Kal-El was missing. What was the essential difference? Tom and I determined it was that Kal-El came to earth as a baby and was raised in Kansas; he was raised human. J’onn was raised among his own kind on Mars and came to Earth as an adult. He is an alien from an alien culture. That was a fundamental difference in the two characters; something that was essential.

And something unique.

Stan Lee was recently asked about whether or not Peter Parker could be gay or if some minority could become Spider-Man. “There’s no reason not to,” he replied. “The only thing I don’t like doing is changing the characters we already have. For example, I’d like Spider-Man to stay as he is, but I have no problem creating a superhero who’s homosexual.” That, I think, is a reasonable answer. When Static was created, Milestone had their own Peter Parker who was not at all Peter Parker. Just as good but different, yet in the same mold.

What about the Green Lantern Corps? How are they unique? Everyone has the same ring, roughly the same uniform, and all take orders from the same little blue men. Again, it’s not the weapon or the uniform that makes someone unique. It is essentially who they are. It’s like a good war movie; they are all soldiers but each member of the squad is different. That’s their essence.

We’ve seen a lot of shuffled identities lately. Sam Wilson is now Captain America and not Steve Rogers. Before that, Bucky Barnes was Captain America instead of Steve Rogers. I think that’s a mistake. It’s not the uniform and the shield that define Captain America; it’s who Steve Rogers is. It’s who he is that makes Captain America and that’s what the films have gotten. Steve Rogers is the essence of Captain America.

I’m not saying never create new versions of old characters. I’ve done it. But the characters were moribund or dead. When Tom and I created a new version of Mister Terrific, we kept very close to the origin of he first Mister Terrific. We were true to the myth.

As Tom and I work on Kros: Hallowed Ground, we’re dealing with vampires and what we are exploring is what is essential to a good vampire story. Our basic take – they’re monsters. Not misunderstood gothic romantic figures or a different species just trying to co-exist on the planet. They’re monsters. So also might be our protagonist – Kros.

Sometimes you have to strip away the barnacles and crap that’s built up and get back to the essence of a character or a concept. That’s my approach when I’m given a character to write – what is their essence, why do we want to read about this character as opposed to another?

For me, that’s the job.

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

TV Diversity – Yay or Nay? Part 1

Beginning today, TVWriter™ brings you Suzanne Chan’s four-part analysis of diversity, or the lack of it, on our television screens. We know it’s early Monday morning, but if you feel like doing some serious thinking, here’s a good place to start:

Image found at

Image found at

THE 100
by Suzanne Chan

Any given episode of a television show is composed of many different elements: the writing, the casting, the directing, the acting, the production details, the post-production work, to name a few. Consequently, there are many elements to which a viewer can pay attention. Some elements might stand out more than others. Some might work better than others. Television isn’t an exact science, but the best television shows are experiments that work, or mostly so.

Recently, a friend recently starting sharing some nostalgic photos of 1970s shows on Facebook. I’d forgotten how white and blonde they were: The Hardy Boys, The Bionic Woman, the women of The Brady Bunch. It was as if you couldn’t possibly be on television if you weren’t blonde. ABC even cast the blonde Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman in a TV movie. (A week after this epiphany, I got to the part in Tina Fey’s audiobook, Bossypants, where she made the same observation: “Can you remember a time when pop culture was so white that Jaclyn Smith was the chocolate?”)

This demographic depigmentization (to say nothing of deculturalization) of television characters didn’t actually stop me from loving the heck out of some of these shows — but then again, neither did the ropy writing of The Love Boat.

That remains true now. Mainstream television is still generally deficient in portraying women, and worse in portraying characters of minority ethnicities and sexual orientations. My approach is to note these deficiencies, just as I do deficiencies in writing, acting, directing, etc. If the show makes me wonder what will happen next, I’ll continue watching it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

In that spirit, I’d like to discuss four shows that I recently fell in love with for their premise, overall writing, and visual style. Two are to be celebrated for their diversity. Two could do better.

Read it all at Sequential Tart

How ‘Rick and Morty’ Became One of TV’s Weirdest Hit Shows

We here at TVWriter™ are huge fans of Adult Swim’s bizarre – and often grotesque – animated show RICK AND MORTY, which returned to our screens last Sunday night. For us, watching this mind-gobbling bit of whackery is like listening to Nirvana. We love its craziness because we’re crazy too:

r and mby Neil Strauss

“Most second albums suck,” Dan Harmon says, lounging in a back room of Starburns Industries, a Burbank studio, across the table from Justin Roiland. The mismatched pair — Roiland is clean-cut, fair-skinned and upbeat; Harmon’s unkempt, grizzled, and cynical — are in the midst of creating not a second album here, but a second season. The show is Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty, an animated sci-fi sitcom that’s very loosely based on Back to the Future and just may be the best-written comedy on television.

Each 22-minute story arc is plotted using the principles of Joseph Campbell’s mythological hero’s journey, but shot through with world-weary humor like a George Carlin comedy special in triple time. In just 11 episodes, the show has amassed a sizable cult following of devotees, with nine million people watching the show’s first season. Among them is Matt Groening, who recently had Roiland and Harmon create a Rick and Morty couch gag to introduce this season’s finale of The Simpsons.

Rick and Morty chronicles the inter-dimensional adventures of an alcoholic, misanthropic scientific genius (Rick) and his big-hearted, dim-witted, chronically nervous grandson (Morty). The show combines the meta-TV writing of Harmon, best-known as the creative force behind the erstwhile NBC sitcom Community,and the puerile imagination of Roiland, best known as the screeching voice of Lemongrab on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time.

With Rick and Morty finally resuming after a 15-month gap, Roiland, who also voices the stuttering, exasperated titular characters, is understandably nervous. The first new episode, he confesses, “was just brutal and it broke us to a certain extent. We were so close to something amazing and we never really got there from a structural standpoint.”

“It went off the deep end conceptually and got really over-complicated,” Harmon agrees. “We’re pretty convinced that the first episode might be the worst for that reason.”

If the first episode of Season Two is the worst, then the pair has nothing to worry about. “A Rickle in Time” begins with Rick freezing time for six months so that he, Morty, and Morty’s sister can clean up the house after a wild party that ended Season One. But due to an unforeseen complication, time keeps splitting into multiple simultaneous realities….

Read it all at Rolling Stone

Peggy Bechko’s Writing Tips: Writing Without Emoticons

yolks-emoticonsby Peggy Bechko

As writers we think about many things, many aspects of the tales we’re telling, many details.

But, do we think about the face? It’s the first thing we notice when we meet someone, or catch someone’s eye across a crowded room. It’s what we focus on when we have an exchange of words. Whether acutely aware or not, we note smiles, eyebrow quirks, white or not-so-white teeth, frowns, lips compresses or purses, forehead crinkles and smile lines.

So what about our writing? Well, plainly when tackling a script we toss in a few simple directives or notes about what a character is feeling and doing and it’s up to the actor/actress to take it from there. We can try to be clear, but it’s still up to the actors. Hope you get someone really good to play a pivotal part. Sometimes something so subtle and simple as eye-widening will add a whole dimension to a character. You, as the writer have little control over how the actor/actress chooses to interpret what you’ve written. What sort of expressions are chosen to depict what was written on the script page.

Novel writers have another problem. Why doesn’t a writer focus in on the face when writing an engrossing novel when it’s what people zero in on in everyday life?

Easy. While someone’s face offers a continuing kaleidoscope of emotions and micro expressions they all happen in a split second. Often times one after the other. As writers all we would be doing is describing the next wink, crinkle or smile.

On balance, the face is still important to the novel writer. Plainly when a new character enters there are usually expressions described or eye color mentioned or shape of the face or how the eyes twinkle mentioned. All of that creates a picture in your readers’ minds.

You’ll notice though that these are physical things being described, not emotional ones. Emotion must be conveyed by writers through body movement and dialog. The movement of the body, what’s going on there, is key to demonstrating to the readers what the character is feeling.

Think about it. We all read body movement and facial expressions every day when we interact with others. What is telegraphed to us by them influences us in how we feel and how we respond. This being the case when the writer lays description of body language onto the page the reader becomes more empathetic toward the characters. Toss in dialog that conveys what the character is feeling along with the added advantage the novel writer has of getting inside a character’s head and the writer creates a very engaging, emotional moment on the page.

Why does all this work? Hey, you already know the answer if you pause to think. The reader, guided by the writer, isn’t focusing on the rapidly shifting facial shifts, which is largely a visual task, but rather on body motion and internal feelings which trips the imagination of the reader so they create their own movie in their heads and are right there watching the characters interact. So while noting a smile or other ‘large’ movement of the face works well in addition to the body language mentioned above, beware, they’re frequently used to the point of (in the reader’s eye) disgust. Be sparing. Less is more as I’ve frequently been told.

So what to do? How to handle this as a writer? Ponder body movements coupled with emotion like fear or joy, or stress. What do they look like? What have you looked like when experiencing those emotions?

Take a field trip. Observe other people in public.

That couple over there is having a fight. Oh! What are they doing? Waving their arms? Frowning? Standing stiffly? Leaning toward each other – away? Pointing a finger? Add to any of that a few inward thoughts about what they feel such as holding back tears, choked up throat, a rising heat within, and you, as writer, can create very powerful scenes.

Okay, writers, shift mental gears and express those emotions. Let’s get the whole body into it.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget to visit her sensational blog.

The Humanitas Prize is Looking for Entries

Speaking of writing awards, here’s a lovely press release for one of the most significant awards out there – the Humanitas Prize. (Sigh, remember the day when LB came ohsoclose to, like, getting one? Anyway:

Humanitas Prize Capture

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Yeppers, it’s another press release – or to be precise, another worthwhile one:

CALL FOR ENTRIES for the 41st Annual HUMANITAS Prize
Submission Deadline is August 31, 2015

For over four decades, the HUMANITAS Prize has empowered writers with financial support and recognition to tell stories which are both entertaining and uplifting. HUMANITAS encourages writers who create contemporary media to use their immense power to:

* Encourage viewers to truly explore what it means to be a human being.
* Challenge viewers to take charge of their lives and use their freedom in a responsible way.
* Motivate viewers to reach out in respect and compassion to all their brothers and sisters in the human family.

“HUMANITAS exists to recognize, encourage and empower writers who teach us how to embrace our common humanity by way of their unique and powerful voices. It is a noble mission. We believe film and television have tremendous power. By bringing into our living rooms human beings who are very different from ourselves in culture, race, lifestyle, political loyalties and religious beliefs, we can dissolve the walls of ignorance and fear that separate us from one another.”  – Cathleen Young, HUMANITAS Executive Director

The winners receive both a trophy and a cash award at our annual HUMANITAS Awards Luncheon, which will be held in January or February 2016. The total annual amount of the awards is $80,000 and is divided up into the following eight categories:

* Feature Film Screenplay
* Sundance Feature Film Screenplay
* 90 minute Teleplay
* 60 minute Teleplay
* 30 minute Teleplay
* Feature Documentary
* Children’s Animation
* Children’s Live Action

Eligibility Guidelines:
* No entry fee nor limit to the number of submissions
* Teleplay must be written and produced in the English language for U.S. Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
* Teleplay must have had a national release on Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
* Feature film screenplay becomes eligible in the year in which it receives a U.S. theatrical release
* Teleplay or film must be aired or released between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015

Click HERE to submit.  Please help us celebrate what is right with television and film.

To learn more about the HUMANITAS Prize, please visit our website at

Deirdre Dooley, Program Administrator 310-454-8769