Oscar Nominee Refuses to Sue Pirates

There’s a lesson to be learned here. As in, “How to make things work for you instead of against.” But is it valid? Whatcha think?

by Andy

The crew behind the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated movie Leviathan say they won’t sue pirates who download a screener copy of their movie. Instead they’re supporting a donation drive, with all proceeds to charity. Intriguingly, however, a pirate copy might be better than the real thing.

oscartorrentsLast week a flood of DVD screener copies of Oscar-nominated movies hit torrent sites. The Hobbit, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Selma, American Sniper, Unbroken, Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes all appeared online.

But the leakers still hadn’t finished. The Gambler, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year and Kill The Messenger appeared on public sites and those more private, followed by Cake and Wild this week.

But while those are all Western titles, it is a movie hailing from the East that offers the most interesting back-story, from both political and piracy perspectives.

Partially financed by the Russian Culture Ministry, Leviathan tells the story of a man fighting against corruption in a Russia depicted as dark and cruel. Leviathan just picked up the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and is also nominated for an Oscar.

Like all of its counterparts listed above, Leviathan too has leaked onto the Internet in DVD screener format. However, what is particularly interesting is how the movie’s makers are handling this development.

“All the films nominated for an Oscar have been downloaded by pirates. We are not going to pursue anybody,” Leviathan producer Alexander Rodnyansky told local media.

While that might be music to the ears of file-sharers, the response from fellow digital producer Slava Smirnov generates yet more interest in the movie. In solidarity with the filmmakers, Smirnov has just launched an independent website with the aim of taking donations from downloaders and forwarding that money to the crew of Leviathan.

“As a result of leakage of all films nominated for an Oscar in 2015, the film Leviathan was on the Internet before it hit the box office in Russia,” a note on the site reads.

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The North Americanization of Latin American TV

We have no idea why the people involved in this story think they’re telling us about a good thing. (But that’s how TVWriter™ rolls, or so it seems.)

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Latin America remains a drama market, but the type of series that are resonating has changed, with new forms of novella breaking through. The traditional soapy drama remains a programming staple region-wide, but a shorter, punchier and grittier iteration of the form is gaining ground, data for January-October 2014 shows.

“In fiction, the telenovela remains a key genre, but to face competition in the TV environment and reach a wider market, it has been reinvented, both in terms of form and content,” says Julia Espérance, media consultant at Eurodata TV and service manager for the New on the Air (NOTA) programming service. “They focus on new themes, they’re not the traditional sentimental love stories, and there is a real effort to diversify the audience to bring in male viewers with more action.”

To win these male and younger viewers, crime and often drug-crime are central themes in the new, edgier novellas. The recent trend started a couple of years ago with Caracol’s Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal (Pablo Escobar: The Drug Lord), which went from TV in Colombia to sell into France and the Netherlands as well as Thailand. In the US, Univision’s Unimas has El Varon de la Drog (The Drug Baron), which is written by former cartel member Andres Lopez Lopez and is a more recent example.

Espérance goes on to identify a sub-category among the new crime novellas. “The current trend is for narco-novellas with strong female protagonists, with shows such as La Viuda Negra (The Black Widow), based on the true story of Griselda Bianco aka ‘the Cocaine Godmother’, and Dueños del Paraíso (Masters of Paradise, pictured) and Señora Acero (Woman of Steel),” she says. Several of these are in line for US remakes.

The US networks targeting Hispanic viewers are particularly tuned into the narco trend with Dueños del Paraíso and Señora Acero both Telemundo shows and La Viuda Negra made by Televisa and RTI for Univision.

Many of the new novellas are also shorter in form and the US Hispanic broadcasters are at the forefront of the shift in run-time, targeting Latin viewers in the US with shorter series under initiatives launched recently.

Telemundo calls its shorter action novellas ‘super series’. Examples include El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of Skies) and Dueños del Paraíso, which is a coproduction with Chilean network TVN. Univision has launched abridged versions of its novellas under a ‘Novelas Xpress’ banner and the 15-hours or less series are available on its TV Everywhere service UVideos as well as the Hulu catch-up and streaming service.

Streaming service Netflix is also getting into the drug trafficking game, with ten-parterNarcos set for 2015. The Gaumont-produced series will be largely in Spanish and is a fictionalised account of the most infamous drug boss of all, Pablo Escobar.

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A Look at the Writers of LAST MAN STANDING”

It’s all about experience…or is it? We don’t know about you, but we found this an interesting and ultimately very sad story:

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by Paul Brownfield

When the writers of the ABC sitcom “Last Man Standing” broke for lunch one recent Friday, five of them took their food to Ed Yeager’s office on the lot here.

Mr. Yeager’s office is unusual, in that half of it is dressed as a tiki bar (for post-taping drinks). Elvis and Rat Pack memorabilia further bring out the retro theme, while the couch, where Sid Youngers was seated, was adorned with a homey, “Roseanne”-themed afghan.

Former stand-up comedians, Mr. Youngers, 57, and Mr. Yeager, 58, got their start on that ABC sitcom, which ran from 1988 to 1997 and is now chiefly remembered as one of the last socially aware sitcoms built around a genuine standup star, Roseanne Barr. Inside the TV business, “Roseanne” is equally recalled as an exemplar of the sitcom’s Versailles period, a time when writing staffs were large and the jobs flowed. “Roseanne” didn’t have a writers room; it had joke rooms and story rooms, the better to accommodate Ms. Barr’s habit of bringing writers on as quixotically as she fired them.

In a way, that profligacy still reverberates. Five of the writers on “Last Man Standing” once wrote on “Roseanne.” One of them, Miriam Trogdon, is now part of a writing team with her own daughter, Gracie Charters, 26.

“Last Man Standing,” which stars Tim Allen, is in its fourth year. It is the sort of multicamera, middle-of-the-road sitcom that the broadcast networks now schedule almost without telling anyone, lest they appear fusty-branded compared with the trendsetting shows on streaming services.

For the “Roseanne” 5, however, it is a plum gig.

Last Man Standing” isn’t typically on the Emmy radar, but it is likely headed to profitability in syndication and could run for years to come — no small feat in today’s climate for network comedy. The show features a more cantankerous spin on Mr. Allen’s persona. This sitcom dad, Mike Baxter, is the marketing chief of a sporting goods company whose traditional attitudes are held in check by the women who rule his household as well as a liberal son-in-law. As part of his duties at the company, Outdoor Man, Mike has a video blog on which he not only mocks climate change fears but also extemporizes on a patriarchal America that has lost its way.

While dismissed as ho-hum by critics, “Last Man Standing” has earned praise from conservative blogs as refreshing, and its ratings, which creep up to eight million viewers when DVR numbers are factored in, are considered solid. But perhaps the most unusual aspect of “Last Man Standing” is the composition of its writing staff of 15, a number of whom are closing in on 60. Given various revolutions in the TV business, these writers feel fortunate — if not surprised — to have landed jobs actually writing for a multicamera sitcom on a broadcast network.

Take away the multicamera kingpin Chuck Lorre’s four CBS sitcoms, led by “The Big Bang Theory,” and network schedules are noticeably bereft of a form that has kept the “Last Man Standing” writers employed — and well-paid — for decades.

“I would say as a young writer, there’s definitely sort of this fin de siècle feel about everything,” Ms. Charters said. “People have this attitude that TV is going to be over. And it’s kind of depressing.”

Joey Gutierrez, 51, whose credits include “The Drew Carey Show,” said he felt “lucky that I’m still doing it after all this time.” He did note that there seemed to be more older writers now than when he started, which he attributed to the need for multicamera veterans on family sitcoms produced for cable channels like Disney, TV Land and Nick.

“But it also gets harder and harder to get jobs, too, in that not only has TV comedy been shrinking, but you get more expensive,” added Mike Shipley, 50, who has written for “My Name Is Earl.” “People have to really want you in particular.”

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 1/24/15

TOSHIBA Exif JPEGLatest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club) is writing the pilot for Syfy’s 51st State, a drama series about a future in which “the United States, confronting a prison population stretched to the limit, purchases Greenland and converts it into a frontier prison colony with male and female convicts incarcerated together.” Except, of course, that things don’t work out as planned. (Notice the not-so-subtle satire here, the whole “we’re all living in prison now” thing? Thanks to the harmless outlet that this show provides, we real prisoners won’t have to revolt after all. Whew.)
  • Matt Tarses (The Goldbergs) is writing the pilot for a CBS comedy series called Coverband about “members of a rock band left to scramble after their lead singer dumps them for a solo career.” (LB informs yer sweet munchman that his first paid-for script was for a similarly themed feature film at MGM, but his protagonist was the lead singer. The more things change….)
  • Exciting new unknown David E. Kelley is adapting Mr. Mercedes, a novel by another new unknown named Stephen King into a mini-series detective drama for a company called Sonar Entertainment. (Cuz in this youth-oriented market two of the most successful writers still breathing can’t get broadcast or cable network deals on their own? What gives?)

That’s it for now, munchaladas. Don’t forget to write in and tell yers truly what you’ve sold when you sell it. Cuz TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 1/23/15

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Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts during the past week:

2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Semi-Finalists!

Peggy Bechko: The Unnatural Museum

Peggy Bechko: Writers Got To Move It, Move It… Mentally and Physically

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Has ARCHER lost its way?

And our most viewed resource pages were:

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Teleplay

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR: Prizes

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

TV Writing & Social Responsibility – Can They Ever Live Together? Part 2

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Inclusive Writing
by Diana Black

Inclusive television is not a new concept with television programs over the years attempting to address the ‘inclusive’ issue through ensemble casting; as mentioned in ‘Part One’ of this article. So how successful and how serious has that effort been? Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times (2007), maintains that to a large extent the big networks have done poorly when it comes to ensuring television programming is inclusive beyond that of tokenism.

The question for us as writers seems to be, can artistic expression happily flourish and coexist with commercial viability beyond the ‘honeymoon period of the successful pilot?’

A review of the casting for long running sitcoms such as Friends (David Krane and Marta Kauffman, 1994 – 2004) and more recently Lost (Jeffry Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, 2004 – 10) seems to have addressed gender balance, but have they substantially addressed ethnicity? Both television series seem to have been tokenistic in that regard with the overwhelming majority of cast members ‘white’, ostensibly middle-class.

One genre in particular has separated itself from the pack, Science Fiction. Perhaps it is a genre that naturally lends itself to the IDIC Principle. The Star Trek franchise (Gene Rodenberry), Stargate (Roland Emmerich, 1994), Stargate SG-1 (Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, 1997), and more recently, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Jos Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, 2013 –).

However, does the ethnicity of the cast, even in these programs accurately reflect American society? Many say “No”. What about the most prevalent of the television genres, which according to IMDB, is the hybridization of drama with crime, mystery and thriller? Sitcoms currently seem to streaking ahead, especially ABC’s current line-up – Black-ish (Kenya Barris and Larry Wilmore, 2014), Cristela (Cristela Alonzo, 2014) and Fresh Off the Boat (Nahnatchka Khan, 2015).

Does ‘inclusive television’ extend to those with a disability and/or those with diverse values regarding politics, religion or sexual preference? Subscription television seems to be doing marginally better in niche markets with recent programs such as Looking (Michael Lannan, 2014).

Adding to the headache for the studio execs, who are grimly determined garner a greater market share, there’s an increasing range of viewing platforms, which by all accounts, is closely associated with the age of the viewing demographic. Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 have managed to captivate their devotees with books, video games, memorabilia and comic books etc. When we write that Bible and go in to pitch, will we be at least considering this?

Let’s assume as a given, that we have a great story to begin with. If we then receive a directive to ‘be inclusive’ on the rewrite, will we perceive this as making the story stronger or simply to make it more palatable for a larger viewing audience a.k.a. ‘being politically correct’?

If we embraced the concept of inclusivity from the ‘get-go’, will this make our pitch more successful than the next guy who didn’t? Do we congratulate ourselves on our keen sense of social responsibility or were we simply being savvy, factoring in commercial viability in order to hedge our bet? If ‘white’, male, middle-class, youngish (or older writers who’ve been around the block) still predominate the writing industry,how ‘inclusive’ might they be in their approach?

If those bankrolling the show are also coming from the same ‘white’, male, middle class demographic, how insistent will they be that their television show is ‘inclusive’? The cynical among us might say the suits will only care to the extent that such a move delivers them a greater market share. According to Esther Breger, the networks have been hammered for years for not being more socio-culturally inclusive and it is only recently that they are lifting their game with programs such as Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat. One can’t help wonder if this newfound love of multiculturalism stems from rampant commercialism or an enlightened sense of social responsibility.

Is there a political aspect to ownership of television networks? Yup! How is this likely to impinge on us writers who work as ‘writer-for-hire’? What about cross-media ownership and/or overseas ownership? Is there in the U.S. content legislation and if so what form does it take? Does the neo-liberalist notion of letting the market decide hold true or does big business re product sales and commercials continue to hold greater sway? Are there ‘codes of practice’ that we must consider and abide by? How often have we heard, “professional writing is a business”.

Going back to who this is all for anyway – the viewer, if their specific socio-cultural demographic is not represented in the story narrative, how emotionally invested might that viewer be (or not)? What if the portrayal is negative or inaccurate; neither is likely to endear the viewer to the program, or even worse, the network. For us creating the television narrative, do we make a distinction between first, second and/or third generation Americans?

One would hope that children born and bred in America, regardless of their cultural background, would consider themselves ‘Americans’. Accordingly will they have the same viewing preferences as that of their parent’s and grandparent’s?

But surely, there’s a down side to affirmative action – we in the writer’s room may get so caught up on being politically correct, even if we intended to be the first place and for all the right reasons, that what compelled us to write about a specific story or character to begin with somehow ‘gets lost’. I have heard it said anecdotally by an Asian actor/friend/colleague – all he wanted was to be cast because of his acting ability not his ethnicity and I guess the same goes for the story – if it calls for a specific character profile, then it does, simple as that.

But if we wish to keep everybody happy then we had better write in such a manner that we cannot be accused of obvious tokenism; even when it happens to be the lead or major supporting character role, otherwise it may do more harm than good. The market demographic in terms of cultural hegemony is touted to be changing, which may mean that those on both sides of the bargaining table – the writer and the ‘suit(s)’ will need to consider the matter of inclusive writing much more seriously and in an intelligent way.