Damon Lindelof’s ‘Sins of TV Writing’

The title of this video is misleading. The titular TV’s Five Cardinal Sins aren’t sins committed by the well-known writer-producer of Lost, The Leftovers, and the upcoming (yay!) TV version of The Watchmen. Rather, these are the sins that Lindelof has identified and clearly despises.

In other words, it’s safe for Lindelof lovers to watch this as well as informative as hell for all of us struggling to replace him at the top of the showrunner pecking order. Enjoy.

What It’s Like to Get Hired as a Late Night TV Writer

Okay, so you aren’t living the dream yet. Sad to say, neither are we. But lots of other writers are, and Justin Caffier has talked to several of them to find out what their lives are like. Give a “listen:”

Seth Meyers – what do you mean you don’t know who he is?

by Justin Caffier

f you’re reading this website, there’s a high likelihood that you think it’d be pretty tight to land a job as a writer on a late night talk show. Where else can one collect a steady paycheck for churning out jokes that actually wind up on TV, all while enjoying fringe benefits like catered meals and celeb rendezvous?

Unfortunately, how one might go about landing one of these plum gigs is as enigmatic a riddle as any pertaining to “making it” in Hollywood. Some slave over packets for decades, fruitlessly chasing that dragon. Others seem to just trip and fall into the writers room from out of nowhere. We asked some current late night writers about the path that led them to their prized position and got as varied a group of responses as you might imagine.

If you’re reading this website, there’s a high likelihood that you think it’d be pretty tight to land a job as a writer on a late night talk show. Where else can one collect a steady paycheck for churning out jokes that actually wind up on TV, all while enjoying fringe benefits like catered meals and celeb rendezvous?

Unfortunately, how one might go about landing one of these plum gigs is as enigmatic a riddle as any pertaining to “making it” in Hollywood. Some slave over packets for decades, fruitlessly chasing that dragon. Others seem to just trip and fall into the writers room from out of nowhere. We asked some current late night writers about the path that led them to their prized position and got as varied a group of responses as you might imagine.

 

Ariel Dumas, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: I was an actor who didn’t start doing comedy until I was 26. I moved to Chicago to take improv classes after two years of failing the auditions for MFA acting schools. And thank God, because I saved thousands of dollars’ worth of rolling on the floor in a unitard.

Improv and writing and comedy in general was so much fun, I wanted to do it all the time. And while I wasn’t banking on it, I thought maybe if I worked really hard and got good and was a nice person, someone on some coast would offer me a job by the time I was 40.

Five years and one cruise ship gig later, I saw that The Colbert Report was soliciting packets. I was very intimidated and sad, somehow. Like a lot of comedy people, I was a depressed person who thought I was a hot piece of garbage and definitely not good enough to write for a TV show I loved. But then my therapist was like “Who cares! Write the packet! You’ve got nothing to lose!”

He was right, as therapists tend to be. I locked myself indoors for a long weekend and wrote, subjecting many patient friends to living room performances of my drafts (thanks, Katie and Neil and Jennifer!). I cried several times and ate a lot of stress-pizza.

A few days after I turned in the packet, I got an email saying the producers wanted to talk to me. After reading that email, I rolled off the couch onto the rug. On all fours, I let out a guttural wail like a beast who had finally killed, I don’t know, some sort of rival beast.

After a fun and nerve-wracking Skype interview (“Cool talking with you! Let’s see your apartment!”), a second packet, and an in-person interview in New York, they hired me. It was a friggin’ dream come true, and it’s been a blast ever since.

Moral of the story: hustle, be kind, be patient, eat pizza, and listen to your therapist.

Ian MorganLate Night with Seth Meyers: My TV career started with an internship out of college at Letterman, which led to a part-time job as an audience page at the show, and then to a full-time position in their mail room. Around the same time, a friend of mine who was working in the cue card department at SNL invited me to check out the studio during a Friday rehearsal….

Read it all at Splitsider

 

WGAW 2017 Board of Directors Candidates

by TVWriter™ Press Service

The Writers Guild of America, West’s Nominating Committees have announced the initial list of candidates for the 2017 WGAW Officers and Board of Directors election.

The Officer candidates are:

  • President* – David A. Goodman
  • Vice President* – Marjorie David
  • Secretary-Treasurer – Aaron Mendelsohn (inc.), Carleton Eastlake.

*The second nominees designated by the committee for the offices of President and Vice President declined the nominations.

13 candidates have been nominated to run for eight open seats on the WGAW’s Board of Directors. They are:

  • Andrea Berloff (inc.)
  • Francesca Butler
  • Nicole Yorkin
  • Angelina Burnett
  • Luvh Rakhe (inc.)
  • John August
  • Adam Horowitz
  • Michele Mulroney
  • Spiro Skentzos
  • Meredith Stiehm (inc.)
  • Zak Penn (inc.)
  • Patti Carr
  • Ligiah Villalobos

(*Note: WGAW internal rules require candidates to be announced in an order determined by lot; [inc.] denotes an incumbent candidate.)

In addition to the candidates selected by the Guild’s Nominating Committees, eligible members may also be nominated by petition. Members seeking nomination for the office of President, Vice President, or Secretary-Treasurer must obtain 25 member signatures in support of their petitions. Members seeking nomination for the Board of Directors must obtain 15 member signatures in support of their petitions. The deadline for submitting signed petitions is Friday, July 21, 12:00 p.m. (PDT). Members may submit online nomination petitions by visiting the members-only section of the Guild’s website: www.wga.org.

The WGAW is set to host its annual “Candidates Night” forum – where Guild members may meet and pose questions to the candidates – on Thursday, August 31, at WGAW headquarters in L.A.

Guild members will receive candidate, non-candidate, and rebuttal statements, if any, with their ballots prior to the election. Candidates may distribute additional campaign materials at their own expense. The voting period concludes at 12:00 p.m. (PDT) on Monday, September 18. Members may vote online or by mail. In accordance with labor law, proxy voting is not permitted.

NOTE FROM MUNCHMAN: Vote early and vote often. It’s the American way! Study up on the candidates and the issues. Vote smart!

Peggy Bechko: Resuscitating Your Draft

by Peggy Bechko

As writers, we’ve all written screenplays or novels that sit around in our drawers for years. Something’s wrong, but what? Being a pro, you’ve already decided that script or novel needs major rehab, and you sure aren’t clinging to a story that just doesn’t work. BUT, what to do? How to approach the rewrite and the rehab?

Since you’re ready to do some major revisions I’m glad you asked. Let’s think about this and ponder a couple of radical methods for that revision.

First thoughts…

Have you considered that maybe your script or novel is focused on the wrong protagonist? You know, the guy/gal who gets all the action. For example, in animated world, were you aware that Frozen’s main character, Elsa, started out being a villain? If you’ve see it you know she ain’t a villain no more, she morphed into a ‘Disney Princess’. That was one major overhaul.

Another example: remember reading Ripley in Alien was originally written for a male lead? Could you see anyone else in that part now? Another new direction, another major rewrite.

So, is there someone in your story that could do the same? Some character you may have misunderstood? A character who could change from villain to hero? One that could move up from supporting character to main protagonist?

Take another hard look at that novel or script. Think about the motives behind the actions of your protagonist, supporting characters and villain. If those motives aren’t clear and your character’s desire to move forward strong, then your focus might be misplaced when it comes to your ‘hero’. Maybe reconsider? Perhaps a shuffle of your characters?

Will this take a lot of work?

Yep.

Is it worth it?

You better believe it.

Another idea. Have you considered the genre you’ve written the script or novel? Did you label it from the get-go, then trap yourself inside?

Is it a Romance, a thriller, a SciFi action flick? Whatever it is now, you might consider changing it. Could that romance become a thriller? Should your thriller morph to SciFi? Maybe your SciFi is actually Horror. Take a little ‘what-if’ trip and consider all the angles.

It’s possible that you’ve locked your story into a genre where it doesn’t fit. It’s possible that you, as writer, were uncertain as to what your genre could be and cubbyholed it before it was ready. If the story is ‘misplaced’ it’s very possible that you, as the writer, are trying to be funny when you shouldn’t. Or maybe whatever stakes you’ve chosen for your hero just aren’t powerful enough and great humor could result if you pulled that string.

You probably didn’t think much about the genre as you wrote the first draft unless you were writing ‘to genre’. That’s good. Great even, but once you have the basics laid down for your story you need to make sure your work is in the right genre. If that element is wobbly it’s just not going to fly.

What’s the take-away? If you have a story that’s been languishing somewhere, now is the time to get it out, dust it off and reread with a clear eye toward what the problem might be. And one last tip. Think about where the story belongs. Is it a novel? Is it a feature script? Maybe it should be a TV series or a mini-series. Don’t close your mind to any possibilities.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career 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 and her terrific blog.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘What About Mrs. God?’

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 by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB

For reasons I don’t know, I’ve been dreaming about my high school days lately, and this has put me in mind of all the wonderful discussions only teenagers nearing their twenties can acceptably have. Which in turn reminds me of two elements pretty much missing from my life these days – my mother and God. Which of course leads to the probably-not-anywhere-near-immortal question:


What About Mrs. God?

When I was in high school, in the days before
Anything was P.C., Tiersky the tenor sax man
And I would throw around our ideas about God.

One day, Tiersky said, “What about Mrs. God?
What’s the story on her? I mean, if we’re made
In God’s image, and marriage is part of our lives,
Shouldn’t God be married too? And what’s
She like? Our fathers’ wives? Our mothers?
My Aunt Dorothy? Well? What do you think?”

At the time, I didn’t think much. I was too busy
Feeling God’s new teenage chemistry surging
Inside. I was too busy suffering the slings and
Arrows of adults, too busy wondering not about
Women but girls, and why I had to chase
Them when in the Beach Party movies they were
Always throwing themselves at the guys. So Mrs. God
Meant no more to me than, say, Mrs. S. Claus, living in a
Heaven no nearer—and no father—than the
North Pole.

Recently, though, while counting my misfortunes
(It took a math co-processor, an equation editor,
And an Intel Inside with a Pentium chip)
I found myself considering not only God,
But the whole God family: God’s Son, of whom
We all know; His daughter, of whom we do not;
God’s dog, and cat, and maybe His turtle or
Goldfish. (God’s goldfish, what a life!)

And, of course, God’s wife. If she is like the
Wives of our fathers, then I understand Him a
Pretty well and assume He is constantly assailed
Not by unbelievers but by homey talk, and that
To keep the peace he pretends to listen now and again.

If she is like the wives of our fathers, then God
Makes no decisions (perhaps never did)
Once he leaves His Tabernacle, and in all
Likelihood harbors strange, indecent urges and
Needs. Hey, let’s face it: If God’s wife is the
Inspiration for the wives of our fathers,
Then God probably is thinking
Divorce.

Hmm, the more I consider, the more
I understand. And the more I understand, the more
I too can forgive.

Nevertheless, if there is a Mrs. God,
And she is like all the Mrs. of my parents’ generation,
Why isn’t she doing her job? We’ve all
Seen God’s handiwork lately, right?

So why isn’t she being a good little woman
And secretly saving the world, screwing new bulbs

In the Old Man’s
Burned-out Logos of a Light?


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – June 26, 2017

Time for TVWriter™’s  Monday look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Netflix Canceled Sense8, So I Tried to Watch It

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Larry Brody on “When Do We Decide We Did Our Best & Give Up On Writing?

Diana Vacc sees ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’

Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages are, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017

The Logline

The Outline/Story

Larry Brody’s Master Class

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

10 Ingredients for Successful Screenwriting (TV too!)

This TVWriter™ minion wholeheartedly endorses Marilyn Horowitz’s YouTube series of videos on how to become a successful screen (and TV) writer. (Of course, you don’t know which minion I am, but I’m working on overcoming that and will soon be going mano a mano with LB.)

Not only only are Ms. Horowitz’s points right on the money, her videos are short. As in between one and a half and three and a half minutes each. Really now, who could ask for more?

Here’s a sample:

See the rest at Marilyn Horowitz’s YouTube channel