John Ostrander Examines the Power of Pop

by John Ostrander

Uncle-Toms-CabinI had reason a week ago to watch Ken Burns’ classic documentary The Civil War – part of the research for Kros: Hallowed Ground, now fully funded at Kickstarter, thank you very much.

Briefly, the series mentioned Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famed novel written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. It was the most popular novel of its day and is credited as a cause of the Civil War. Lincoln supposedly told Ms. Stowe on meeting her after the war started, “’So this is the little lady who started this great war.’” The story is apocryphal, according to most historians.

Pop culture has the ability to change the society of which it is a part. Mind you, that’s not always its intent or even aim. Sometimes a comic book is just a comic book. And maybe it doesn’t change things as overtly and dramatically as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I do think, however, that pop culture has considerable power.

Pop TV, by featuring black characters and, later, gay and lesbian characters, helped normalize the unknown to the wider audience. People who didn’t know (or realized they knew) or were friends with anyone who was black or gay or lesbian now welcomed them into their living room. Part of the sense of betrayal that people feel with Bill Cosby is that they thought themselves friends with Cliff Huxtable. It was as if they suddenly didn’t know him.

Roots also had a profound effect on the American audience at large. White people found themselves identifying with generations of African-Americans. The show was a phenomenon.

Hillary Clinton, in a semi-private discussion with members of BlackLivesMatter, recently said, “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts, and change some systems, and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them.”

In many ways, I admire what she said. I thought it was far more direct, far more candid, than what you ordinarily hear from presidential candidates.

However, I disagree with it.

I think you do change hearts with the arts and especially pop culture. A show, a song, a movie, a play may reach people and open up their minds a bit because it first opens the heart in ways that arguments, sermons, speeches and so on cannot. In those cases, we’re a bit more guarded. We anticipate our thoughts, our beliefs, our biases being challenged and we may have our defenses up. These days, I post far less political stuff on my Facebook page, not because I believe in certain things any less but because I don’t see any of the discussions/arguments changing anyone’s mind – not mine and not with the person with whom I am having that discussion/argument. That becomes, to me, a waste of time.

I think the way to change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate is by opening the mind and that is done by first opening the heart, by creating a groundswell of demand within the population for that change. Pop culture can do that by skirting the defenses; after all, it wants to entertain us. It must do that first in order to have a right to speak its mind. Our defenses may be lowered and we may be more receptive.

I’m not saying that Pop Culture is the most important agent of change. It’s not Rosa Parks, it’s not the March on Selma, it’s not the Stonewall Riots, it’s not Harvey Milk, or any of a thousand other events that changed our world. However, it is a part of that change or, at least, can be. Sometimes. It reflects where we are, it shows where we can go. To make a change you first have to imagine and visualize that change.

As I said, Pop Culture doesn’t always do that and often, it’s not trying to do that. Sometimes, however, it can. Mrs. Clinton’s view is very pragmatic but, if she wants to win, if she wants to govern, she needs to engage our hearts as well as our minds. She needs to take a few lessons from Pop Culture.

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

Cartoon: “The Secret”

Grant Snider isn’t an ordinary snitch. He’s telling us a secret that definitely needs to be shared:

The Secret Capture

See more, more, more of Grant’s wise and beautiful Incidental Comics HERE

How to Market Your Film on a Small Budget

Hard as it is to make your indie film, having a completed work doesn’t mean your job is over. Oh, no, kiddo – you gotta sell it. As LB puts it, “No matter our job description, all of us in show business are salesmen.” Here are some excellent thoughts on getting over this all-too-often heartbreaking obstacle:



by Johnathan Paul

Marketing your film is one of the most important aspects of the filmmaking process. Your film can be the most important independent film of the last decade, but without a good marketing strategy, you’re going to hamstring its potential. So, let’s look at some simple and easy ways to market your film on a small budget.

1. Create a Marketing Materials Packet

You’re going to need marketing materials. This means you’re going to need to have a concrete brand for the film. Then you’ll want to build your materials from that branding. This includes cover images and profile images for all of your social media platforms, a movie poster for your film, and the imagery for your website and Facebook page.

As Charles Judson at Indiewire shows in his piece on marketing materials for film, there are countless small pieces of material that you’ll need. If this is something that you have no experience in doing on your own, try to reach out to a local artist artist.

2. Utilize the Internet and Social Media

The easiest way to build your audience is to use the internet and its main outlets, those being a personal website and social media platforms. First, let’s create a website for your film. For that you’ll want to use WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. I preferred to use WordPress for my film’s official site, because it gave me the most flexibility.

Next, you want to utilize social media and its many platforms. For my film, I use Facebook as the primary launching point, then I use my personal Twitter account as a secondary site to keep content rolling. Find out what works best for you. That could be any combination of platforms including Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, etc.

3. Generate Press Releases….

Read it all at Premium Beat

2015 Spec Scriptacular Early Bird Discount Ends Tuesday Night


Time to remind y’all that the 2015 TVWriter™ SCRIPT SPECTACULAR Early Bird Discount ends tomorrow night.

The contest will continue until the end of the day, December 1, 2015, but your chance to get 30% off each and every entry into this year’s competition by paying $35 instead of the regular price of $50 comes to an end at 11:59 Pacific Time, September 1st.

We’d hate to see anybody miss this terrific bargain, even if your script isn’t ready yet. So once you’ve paid you have the option of unloading your entry or entries immediately or holding onto/finishing/revising and uploading any time up to that very last minute of December 1, 2015.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again (and again, and again because that’s how we, um, roll):

Past Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™‘s two contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, NTSF:SD:SUV, ANIMAL PRACTICE, ROME,  CHICAGO PD, KILLER WOMEN, THE LEFTOVERS, WESTWORLD, and THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER, to name a few. We’d love to see you join them!



More about the prizes HEREStarting Line

Peggy Bechko Ponders Character Development


by Peggy Bechko

Characters and character development, we all think a lot about it and them. The people who populate your script or novel must be real. They must have flaws as well as commendable attributes.

I think we all know the parable of The One You Feed. If you don’t, here it is:

An old grandfather told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment. The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and bravery.”

The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

Okay, got it? Now, how does that apply here? Think about the characters you create. If you imbue them with too much evil; anger, jealousy, greed and resentment and couple that with incredibly cocky, curly, apathetic to what others may feel and a gigantic chip on his or her shoulder, well you may have gone too far. It would be hard for a reader or watcher to want to dive into your story and go along for the journey. It doesn’t matter if the character has a good reason for being so extreme, the reader/watcher is going to give up.

The same applies for the other wolf. A character completely without flaws, so filled with love, joy, hope, kindness, empathy and heroism that he or she fills the boat with saccharine goodness is probably going to sink it.

So, which do you want to feed, and how much?

A strong character, a good character, even a great character must be an amazing blend of strength, talents, failings and flaws.

That makes this tricky business. This brings up your story and your backdrop. When you decide on the stakes in your story, make them high. A situation that is dire, whether emotional or physical, even if the character is basically unlikable, can still cause the reader/audience to root for the character and become involved with the story.

And don’t forget to give that character endearing qualities such as wit, humor, feistiness. How many times have you watched a movie or read a book wherein you weren’t too fond of the characters actions, perhaps that character was manipulative, selfish or even occasionally mean and yet have been drawn in because you enjoyed the humor or admired that character for standing up for what was right or what was wanted.

So the above parable applies in the writer’s world in that there is a balance and going beyond that to tip it can totally destroy what you’ve built. People, every one of us, have flaws. Minor and major.

Make your hero or heroine complex. Choose the right flaws. Don’t be the writer who rushes your character development because you think you have such a great story and are so eager to get words up on the blank white screen before you that you just slap something together choosing one from column A and another from column B.

It’s all too easy to miss the depth you need in a character using that method. Remember when your characters have negative traits it is the Why lurking behind them that creates a compelling character. The character you create might be irrational or irresponsible, or hypocritical or works insane hours to the detriment to family and friendships. But at the core of it is the why.

Think about it. Dive deeper. Create a stunner of a character and you’ll create a stunning story.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget to visit her sensational blog, where this post was first published.


CGI Arnie  the Super Blow-Up Doll! And you know what blowup dolls are good for, right?

CGI Arnie the Super Blow-Up Doll! And you know what blowup dolls are good for, right?

by Diana Vaccarelli

When I heard they were doing another Terminator film my big question was, what else are they going to do to ruin such a great franchise?

After viewing the trailer I was hopeful that this film was going to reinvigorate the legend that is James Cameron’s Terminator. So one gloomy, rainy Friday night, I decided to see “Terminator Genisys” and find out for myself what the filmmakers had done.

Here’s what I discovered: In no way does it measure it up to the original.

“Terminator Genisys” centers on the mission the sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, mother of future human leader John Connor. When Kyle reaches his destination, he reaches a version of the time that he was not expecting. Not only is he immediately in trouble, he is saved by a warrior Sarah instead of the weak and timid woman living at this point in time in previous incarnations of this cracked tentpole. Sarah explains that the timeline has changed and she’s ready to help him stop Skynet before it comes into power.

Jai Courtney portrays Kyle Reese.  What I didn’t like about this version is that Reese was a sarcastic asshole and not the sensitive solider portrayed so brilliantly in the original “Terminator” by Michael Biehn.  The good news, though, is thatCourtney did a decent job with what he was given. Despite my disappointment of the change in the character, I was drawn into his version of Kyle.

Emilia Clarke of Games of Thrones fame, is the latest incarnation of Sarah Connor.  The writers did her justice, and I enjoyed her as the tough as nails chick that Linda Hamilton portrayed back in T2.  Clarke does an excellent job at portraying the toughness yet gives her vulnerability with Reese as well.   

The worst part of the film was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the way I see it only the most diehard Arnie fan would be surprised by this revelation. (Or any of the readers of previous reviews of this film that somehow managed to neglect pointing this out.)

Not only are the CGI attempts to recreate his formerly glorious physique absurd, Ahnold’s attempts at giving the aging Terminator feelings and humanity are just plain awful. Unlike previous Terminator installments, this one actually has a few moments that call for him to smile…and the obscenely fake smile that appeared made me cringe more than any moment in any horror film ever has

Bottom line: Although there were entertaining moments and action that almost lived up to the franchise, the most I can give “Terminator Genisys” is three stars out of five. And as to whether I would recommend that anybody see it, well, I really think that if you’re tempted just keep asking yourself: