TVWRITER™ NEWSLETTER – FALL 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: You would’ve gotten this yesterday if you were on the TVWriter™ email list:

alan_brady

Look! It’s Larry Brody! We mean Alan Brady! We mean Rob Reiner! No, wait, Carl Reiner! Well, he’s a TV writer and he’s just like – gulp – some of us? Maybe? Huh? A little?

TVWriter™
http://tvwriter.com
http://tvwriter.net


A WORD FROM LB

Thanks to the wonderful folks who bring us global warming (um, that would be ourselves, wouldn’t it? Always good to know where the responsibility lies), Autumn up here in the Pacific Northwest rain forest has been remarkably comfortable.

High 60s to mid 70s temperatures, sunshine. Lots of neighborly street get-togethers, impromptu music, and, of course, dog walking.

I’m grateful for the fine weather, and, I’ve got to admit, mostly because when life is this beautiful I can enjoy not writing instead of feeling guilty about it.

But even if I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Stories in various stages of incompletion buzzing around in my brain. And plans for TVWriter™ making a lot of noise in there too.

Mostly I’m thinking of ways to bring the 5000 or so members and regular visitors to the site more entertainment and education about writing and showbiz as a whole. And I keep coming up against the same obstacles:

Time.

And, as Bruce Campbell might say, “moolah.”

Tell deal with the time problem, we’ve increased our staff with new Contributing Editors. You probably already know their names because they’ve been appearing at beautiful downtown http://tvwriter.net for a long time. But now these generous and ingenious writers have put themselves out there, committing to writing for TVWriter™ on a regular basis.

So this is an official “thank you in advance” and acknowledgement of (in alphabetical order by first names cuz that’s how we do it on the interwebs, right?) of Cara Winter, Herbie J Pilato, and Peggy Bechko. Luv you all.

A couple more potential CEs are in the pipeline. We’re still waiting to see if they’re going to spread their wings and fly. (I’d call what I just wrote “the most twisted metaphor ever,” but considering the competition I’m afraid it’s not even close.)

The money problem is another matter. The more successful TVWriter™ gets, the more it costs to run. Bandwidth is much cheaper than it used to be, but it’s still not cheap enough for an operation with no advertising. We need to generate more income, but the only way I can see us deserving more $$$ is by giving our visitors more in return.

So here’s today’s question: How does a paid, bonus add-on to TVWriter™ sound? I’m not talking a lot of money here at all. Maybe a couple of bucks a month. $1.99, say…which could make a lot of improvements and expansion possible if enough people joined.

What kind of improvements? Well, the way I look at it, the greatest asset any creator/artist has is his or herself. In our case, that means myself. What I’m thinking of doing is making myself more personally available, using my trusty webcam to broadcast writing tips and TV series reviews on video that can be accessed only at the bonus site. And having monthly live and recorded question-and-answer sessions with bonus subscribers.

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure that with a little concentration we can all come up with more.

I want to make one thing very clear: If we add the Bonus Annex (or whatever we end up calling it) nothing that we currently do would be minimized or eliminated. This would be all about increasing the communication and interaction.

(Of course, another way we could improve our financial status would be for more of you to take classes at TVWriter University and enter the People’s Pilot and Spec Scriptacular contests and buy my books, but I’d never be so crass as to suggest anything like that.)

Bottom line: I’m asking everyone who reads this to give my proposal some thought. I welcome any and all suggestions at the usual place.

And while your thinking, please remember this: Your dreams once were my dreams, and I’ll do all we can to help you make them come true.

LYMI,

LB


PEOPLE’S PILOT & SPEC SCRIPTACULAR CONTESTS UPDATE

As y’all know, the 2014 People’s Pilot Competition has passed on to TVWriter™ history and is closed till January 1, 2015 – at which time we hope you’ll enter, enter, and then enter again cuz the future’s going to belong to somebody why not…you?

The 2014 Spec Scriptacular, on the other hand, is roaring toward the far turn. Early Bird Entry time is over, but for a measly fifty bucks per you not only get a chance to Win, Place, or Show in one of the premier online writing competitions, with a total of over $10,000 worth of prizes and bonuses being given away, you get Free Feedback from our Beloved Leader, LB, with each entry.

Considering the going rates at other places on the interweb, entrants are in essence getting 2/3 off retail for both the Feedback and the Competition even by paying full price. (Good thing TVWriter™ has such deep pockets, huh? Oh, wait–)

The Spec Scriptacular is open to spec drama and action scripts, spec sitcom scripts, and spec screenplays and scripts for specials.

Past Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™’s two contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO PD, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, NTSF:SD:SUV, ANIMAL PRACTICE, ROME, KILLER WOMEN, and THE LEFTOVERS.

To join them, or find out more about becoming one of that glorious in-crowd, click HERE.

Or just go to TVWriter™ and scroll down the right hand index to the Spec Scriptacular link.


TV WRITER UNIVERSITY UPDATE

The next TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop, which will be – wait for it – the 144th! – starts Thursday, October 2, 2014 and considering how quickly it fills up, there’s no better time to sign up than right now.

This is the workshop for writers who already know the basics and have a specific project to workshop with LB. The Advanced Workshop is limited to 5 students, so if you’re interested in getting in on the fun, you really should have a look-see at the Advanced Workshop info and sign-up form

And if all goes according to plan Larry Brody’s next Master Class will begin Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

The Master Class is the online workshop for professional level writers who want to spend an intense month perfecting your current work. That means you have a draft of 60 pages ready to be read and tweaked. Or revised, or, who knows, maybe thrown away, but we don’t want to scare ya. Let LB himself analyze your story, plot, and characterization just as he would if he were producing your masterpiece.

LB accepts a maximum of only 3 students at a time in this one so if you’re interested you definitely need to get more info and reserve your place ASAP.

Or find out more about everything TVWriter University is currently offering HERE.


TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #18

The Importance of Good Dialog

by LB

One of the paradoxes of television writing is that although story is king, writers in television are judged by their dialog.

That’s because the plots for each series episode are usually constructed by the entire staff, with input from the stars, stunt co-ordinators, network personnel, and various assistants as well. But the dialog as it first appears on the page is up to the writer, and, in subsequent versions, a possible rewriter. The way to make an impression and stay on the project is to write good–make that “great” dialog.

In the context of a teleplay, good dialog means dialog that is concise, witty, and revealing of human character and emotion. It must be essential to the development of plot or “person” with nary an extraneous word. On the screen people always sound as though they’re saying more than they are which the writer has to make sure they say less.

Dialog should seem realistic, but the writers who rise to the top are those who know how to edit “reality” so that their characters are much more intense, much more clever and more expressive than real people usually are.

Know how sometimes after an emotional confrontation you wake up the next morning and think, “I should’ve said THIS instead of THAT?” Well, all your characters, especially your leads, should say what you would if second-guessing yourself.

Take your time and create exciting new turns of phrase, express things in a way you’ve never
heard them expressed before. The pot of gold is there for you if you deliver.


That’s it for now. Our work here is done. The rest is up to you.

Team TVWriter™


TVWRITER™ STAFF:
Larry Brody – Head Dood
munchman – Keeper of the Faith
Cara Winter, Herbie J Pilato, Peggy Bechko – Contributing Editors
Various Volunteers – Mucho Appreciated Scapegoats
Gwen Brody – Beautiful Dreamer

Develop Your Career Strategy!

Whether we want to believe it or not, success as a TV or film writer is about more than talent. You’ve got to plan. And plot. And plan and plot some more. In polite circles, it’s called “strategy.” Here’s a short primer on what we all need to know:

spock_chess

by Matthew E. May

I’ve taken up a new habit of asking successful people I know: What is your career strategy? I ask it casually, and in person, because I want to see their body language and get a sense of just how front-of-mind their answer might be.

y discovery: when it comes to careers, most folks don’t have a true strategy. I’ve gotten a knitted brow as the immediate response, accompanied by something along the lines of, “Whatd’ya mean?” (Some keep it even simpler: “Huh?”)

The reason I’ve been asking the question is simple: I believe that if you want to increase the odds of professional success, you need a strategy. And that requires you to have a useful way of thinking about strategy.

Strategy means different things to different people. Some define strategy as a vision or a plan. Others define it as optimizing the status quo, or perhaps following “best practices.” Still others deny that strategy is even possible, especially in times of great and rapid change.

I subscribe to the definition of strategy given by Roger Martin, one of the foremost thinkers on strategy and coauthor (with Proctor & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley) of the best-seller Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works: “Strategy is an integrated cascade of choices that uniquely positions a player in its market to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.” (Disclosure: I have worked with Roger helping a shared client for the past two years, and consider him a mentor.)

Before I delve into just what that “integrated cascade” is and how it can apply in the context of a career, it makes sense to unwrap the definition of strategy just a bit in terms non-business school graduates use. A few key points:

1. Career strategy matters for one simple reason: it allows you to focus your resources. The reality is that we do not have unlimited time, attention, energy, and capabilities. Few of us have the luxury of leaving our potential on the table, which will surely be the result of action absent focus.

2. Notice that the concept of planning (a to-do list of actions to be executed and timelines to be met) plays no part in this definition of strategy. We hear the phrase “strategic planning” so often that it has become synonymous with true strategy. It shouldn’t. Strategy is about choices, and choosing. In this view, strategy is not about guaranteeing success, and there is no such thing as a perfect strategy. Reason? Strategy is future-oriented, and if we know anything, it’s that the future is uncertain and we are horrible at predicting it. The best we can do is make thoughtful choices.

Read it all

Z NATION: TV Review

An interesting review of the latest new zombie (aargh!) series in the Hollywood Reporter. We like it cuz the reviewer actually addresses the writing. Too bad there’s nothing better to say about it. (Yeppers, kids, to paraphrase Stan the Man, “With great public exposure comes the chance for great humiliation.”) Oh, well, at least the article doesn’t come out and tell us the guilty writer’s name cuz writing about writing is one thing but writing about a writer? Nah!”

Is this what writers really look like?

Is this what writers really look like?

by Tim Goodman

The best thing that could ever happen to The Walking Dead is the arrival of Z Nation on Syfy on Friday. The super-popular but critically underappreciated Walking Dead may be seen more favorably for its writing, acting, visual acumen and storytelling capabilities now that Z Nation proves you can’t just put hungry zombies on the screen and have something worth writing home about.

On the other hand, if all you want to see are zombies, zombies, zombies — meaning it’s all about the gory and not about the story, then Z Nation may be your thing. In fact, as a B-level entry it’s at least entertaining, and if some of the sillier aspects of the pilot can be improved on could be one of those mindless entertainment options we all need now and again.

But as a top-notch drama — nope.

Z Nation has the normal zombie premise — there was a zombie virus and the world as we know it was overrun by crazed flesh eating dead people. (At least in Z Nation, like the film 28 Days Later, the zombies can run instead of stumble along which heightens the action quite a bit — some of the running dead are pretty damned fast.).

The series picks up three years after the virus has cut most communication, destabilized the government and any working order and left every man and woman to fend for themselves. Except that Lt. Mark Hammond (Harrold Perrineau), a surviving Delta Force member, is still trying to carry out his orders, which is to take Murphy (Keith Allan), the only known human to survive a vicious zombie attack, from the East Coast to California and the last functioning viral lab where they will try to make a cure from his antibodies.

Simple enough — as most zombie stories are. Getting from one coast to the next is also a nice bit, since it will take forever and mean lots and lots of action.

Along the way, Hammond meets up with a ragtag group that will assemble almost against their will to see the mission through. They are Charles Garnett (Tom Everett Scott), an active member in the National Guard; Roberta Warren (Kellita Smith), another National Guard member; Pvt. First Class Simon Cruller/Citizen Z (DJ Qualls), who is stationed/abandoned in the Arctic as part of the NSA listening base; Mack and Addy (Michael Welch and Anastasia Baranova), two college kids learning how to fight for themselves; Doc (Russell Hodgkinson), who’s not a real doctor but does sell illegal meds; Cassandra (Pisay Pao) a quiet but strong survivor they found who also looks fantastic in limited clothing; 10K (Nat Zang), a military sniper who doesn’t talk much but also doesn’t miss much – his goal is 10,000 zombie kills.

The trouble with Z Nation is in the writing, which in turn makes some of the acting seem off.

WTF does that last sentence mean? Find out – or not by reading it all

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 9/18/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Ann Biderman (RAY DONOVAN) is out as showrunner of her own creation, RAY DONOVAN, but will still get a salary as a “creative consultant,” and of course there’s that royalty thing. (Showtime isn’t saying why Ann was dumped, but word is that she let costs get too high and will be replaced by another member of the show’s writing staff, David Hollander. (Budget? Yer friendly neighborhood munchman don’t need no steenkin’ budget! Put me in there, coach. C’mon!)
  • Judah Miller (PLAYING HOUSE) is developing a comedy for ABC about two smart parents who learn the hard way that it takes more than intelligent to be a good parent to their child. (Now that I can relate to cuz…genius, yeah, baby, that’s munchie me! No wait, in real life I was the screwed up kid. Not that you’d be able to tell today. I mean, look how well I’m doing, why don’tcha?)
  • Jermaine Fowler (stand-up comic) is developing a semi-autobiographical comedy for ABC based on his life as a college dropout living with his estranged grandmother, who just happens to be an ex-cop. (Incredulity follows. No, I mean hilarity. No…sadly, I mean incredulity. What the hell, ABC? You ran out of Marvel comics to fill your air time with?)
  • Aaron Blitzstein (FAMILY GUY) is writing the pilot for KIDS IN AMERICA, an NBC comedy about – yes, it’s true – family life seen through the eyes of an aspiring rock star. (This one’s got Adam Levine aboard, instead of the Weezer dude I wrote about a couple of days ago, but still…)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

Herbie J Pilato: Bewitched @ 50: Happy Silver Anniversary to Samantha and Darrin

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is the 50th anniversary of BEWITCHED’s debut on our screens. What better way to celebrate it than to turn this space over to the World’s Foremost Authority on this show, Contributing Editor Herbie J Pilato, author of 3 definitive books on the subject –  The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery, Twitch Upon A Star, and Bewitched Forever? Take it away Herbie J:

bewitched-hp

by Herbie J Pilato

So, what makes Bewitched great – and why are we still talking about it fifty years after its original lengthy hit run on ABC (from September 17, 1964 to July 2, 1972)?

Like any superior television show, feature film or live stage production, it all begins with the script.

And the pilot script for Bewitched, written by Sol Saks, is one of the most well-rounded half-hour initial teleplays ever conceived.

Saks explained it all in his wonderful book, The Craft of Comedy Writing, first published by Writers Digest Books in 1985 (and which I recommend every writer should reads, be they novice and veteran).

In a tight thirty minutes, the Bewitched not only introduces and marries the two main characters – Samantha, the graceful good and wise witch-with-a-twitch (portrayed by the one and only Elizabeth Montgomery, who was nominated eight-times for the role), and her mortal husband Darrin (a role shared by Dick York and Dick Sargent) – it manages to intertwine a solid B-story about Samantha meeting Darrin’s arrogant ex-fiancé (played by Nancy Kovak).  In the process, the pilot sets up nicely the entire premise of the series:  Samantha and Darrin love each other despite their differences, and the stern objection of her feisty sorceress mother Endora (played to perfection by Agnes Moorehead), and while he is initially shocked with his wife’s heritage, he loves her no matter what – if only requesting that she promise not to use her powers.

As the series continues, of course, Samantha breaks her promise on a weekly basis.  And the human home she shares with Darrin is not only frequently visited by the interfering Endora, but nosy neighbor Gladsy Kravitz (first played by the Emmy-winning Alice Peace, then Sandra Gould), and any number of witches, warlocks and various supernatural beings, or other-worldly sorts that arrive because of any assorted amount of magic mayhem.

Behind Sol Saks, the core premise of Bewitched was inspired by the show’s executive producer, Harry Ackerman, the master-mind of many of classic sitcoms, including Dennis the Menace, The Famer’s DaughterHazel, and the under-appreciated Gidget (which introduced the world to the Oscar-winning Sally Field).

Ackerman, a former executive for CBS, had an idea for a weekly witch series, which he titled, The Witch of Westport.  In a meeting with Ackerman, Elizabeth Montgomery and then-husband producer/director William Asher (who worked with Ackerman on I Love Lucy at CBS) had introduced a show concept called The Fun Couple, about a wealthy woman who falls in love with an auto-mechanic.  Ackerman suggested Bewitched and witchcraft instead of The Fun Couple and “richcraft.”

Elizabeth and Bill Asher loved the Samantha series idea, and the rest is history.  Bewitched became an instant hit for ABC.

However, that would not have transpired if all the pieces were in place beforehand…the pieces placed, again – in the script.

The characters of Bewitched were finely-tuned.  No two characters talked alike, looked alike, or behaved alike.  The stories were fanciful, but whatever transpired within the world of Bewitched made sense in that world.  There was a logic to the illogic of what was portrayed.  If Samantha placed a spell on someone, only Samantha could remove that spell.   Witches could work any kind of sorcery imaginable, but they could not alter time, and so forth.  The Bewitched writer’s bible for the series was crafted with immense detail by William Asher, and the show’s early writers, including genius minds like Danny Arnold (who later created the heralded Barney Miller sitcom for ABC), and Bernard Slade (who went on to attain super success on Broadway with “Same Time, Next Year”; and also with ABC’s The Partridge Family).

An important component in the over-all quality and presentation of Bewitched’s was the high-likeability factor and various talents of its cast:  Elizabeth, York, Sargent, Moorehead – and others like David White (Darrin’s conniving ad-man boss Larry Tate), Marion Lorne (the bumbling witch Aunt Clara), George Tobias (Abner Kravitz, the curmudgeon), Kasey Rogers and Irene Vernon (who shared the role of Larry’s wife Louise Tate), Bernard Fox (witch Dr. Bombay), Maurice Evans (Samantha’s warlock father Maurice, pronounced “Moor-eese!”), Paul Lynde (the practical-joking Uncle Arthur) – and twins Erin and Diane Murphy (as little magical Tabitha), and the also twinned David and Greg Lawrence (as Tabitha’s younger brother Adam) always hit their magic mark.

In short, their is no one reason why Bewitched remains a classic and beloved series five decades after its debut.

Just like there is not any one reason why any quality TV show, film or stage play becomes a hit.

Such success is always a result of a combination of factors.

With Bewitched, in particular, however, it was the perfection combination “X” factors – times a million.


Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.

Cartoon: “I tried to watch GAME OF THRONES & this is what happened

We TVWriter™ minions love The Oatmeal website and not just because it’s trendy to love it. Because of comics like, well, this:

12

Don’t despair. This funny-but-wise strip isn’t finished yet. Click to see the rest of this exciting adventure!