Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie #86

Chapter 86 – Learning from Justin Simien
by Leesa Dean

dearwhitepeopleSo while I’m still caught up writing, I’m also starting to focus a bit on promo, or, at least, getting a promo blueprint under way.

A great way to start, for me, was watching a talk with Dear White People director Justin Simien that was sponsored by Creative Live.

Justin started out as a publicist and worked for 8 years doing that at Paramount Pictures as well as a few other places in Hollywood. He actually specialized in online promo and social media campaigns.

One of things he initially did was, start a twitter account for Dear White People to not only test out script lines but create a sort of movement, which was really really smart. It’s actually the first thing you’re supposed to do before trying to break a show (something I learned after the fact): create a significant, active social media presence.  Preferably, these days, on Twitter and Instagram.

He then used the money from his tax return, about $2,000, to do a concept trailer. Or, as he said, a trailer for a film that didn’t exist yet, to drum up interest.  It did.  Aside from having a fair size cast/crew who all promoted it, the audience he already had built on twitter supported it.

It was enough to get some interest and start taking meetings.  But nothing went smoothly.  He pretty much got soundly rejected.  But while he described those rejections as “devastating”, he plowed ahead, ultimately did crowdfunding and got other financing in place.  It didn’t happen right away.  It took a number of years.  But it happened.

Dear White People won at Sundance.  A lofty achievement for a truly homegrown film that took about 8-10 to get made.

Listening to him speak with educational and REALLY inspiring!  Thanks, Justin.

Next week – all the dirt on the two holiday parties I’m attending: One at YouTube NYC and one at Collective Digital Studios (home of The Annoying Orange, among other hit YT shows).

Peer Production: RELATIONSH*T


Gotta love the title, right? And that particular quirky take on things pervades this entire series. In other words, we love its deadpan reality and sense of adventure. Anybody into creating their own web series could learn a hella lot from this one. And anybody who comes to TVWriter™ for all the various reasons folks come here will love it too.

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Visit the website

FWIW – munchman really really really LUVS this one. (Just wanted ya to know.)

2015 is Gonna Be a Big TV Year for Book Lovers

Or, in other words: “Wha the fuck do I have to know how to read for? I’ve got TV.”


by Michelle Regalado

Great cover, no?

Great cover, no?

Several popular novels are about to go from the top of the best-seller list to the small screen. Here are seven book-to-TV adaptations currently in the works.

ABC is developing a 10-hour limited series on Ken Follett’s best-selling novel, which follows the lives of five families that become entangled by the first World War. The Fall of Giants is the first in the author’s Century Trilogy, which also includes the books Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ann Peacock (The Dovekeepers, Chronicles of Narnia) is on board to pen the script and executive-produce the project. Depending on how Giants performs, the network may adapt the second and third books of the trilogy into either two more 10-hour event series or a continuing hour-long scripted series.

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Do We Expect Too Much From TV?

Some people might say that if we expect anything at all from television we’re expecting too much. Over here at TVWriter™, we minions are filled with demands for perfection. But our expectations are usually much lower than our hopes. What about y’all?


by Gary Susman

Here we are, supposedly living in the new Golden Age of Television, and yet we’re still whining all over the Internet about what we’re watching.

Just look at this past week. People whined about NBC’s live “Peter Pan.” Some whined because it wasn’t that great, while those who were determined to hate-watch it whined because it wasn’t that terrible.

Viewers also whined about this week’s “Sons of Anarchy” series finale –- did Jax’s final act make sense? Did it provide a satisfying catharsis after seven long seasons? Or was it alternately gripping and frustrating, like the rest of the series had been?

People complained about the campus-rape episode on “Newsroom,” the one that showrunner Aaron Sorkin called his finest episode yet. Given this week’s controversy over the now in-dispute Rolling Stone article about an alleged rape victim at the University of Virginia, Sunday’s “Newsroom” couldn’t have been timelier, but a lot of viewers thought it endorsed newscast producer Don Keefer’s skepticism about reports of campus rape, as if Sorkin were endorsing a blame-the-victim mentality.

Oh, and people also complained about the Discovery Channel’s much-hyped “Eaten Alive,” since, after having all-but-promised viewers they’d see a man swallowed by a giant snake, the man was not, in fact, eaten alive.

Really, how jaded have we become when we gripe that we didn’t get to see TV sink to its most pandering nadir and show us a man being eaten alive by a snake?

Have we become spoiled? Do we expect too much from TV?

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Peer Production: JOHNNY DYNAMO

Johnny Dynamo Capture

It ain’t perfect, but it’s really, really good. JOHNNY DYNAMO has been on the web for awhile now, and while we’re sorry to have missed it earlier we’re having a ball playing catch-up.

Highly recommended:

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The story:

In the late 80’s, Robert Pierce Mitchell was known around the world as JOHNNY DYNAMO, television’s toughest cop. He was, by far, the biggest television star of the decade and his gritty portrayal of a NYC Detective garnered him countless awards, fans and celebrity. He was the toast of Hollywood – until a failed publicity stunt ruined his credibility and his career.

Now, more than 25 years later, an older, wiser Mitchell, is living an unassuming, quiet life in a Nashville suburb with his wife and daughter, when a tabloid T.V. show spotlights Mitchell, andJohnny Dynamo, on a “Where Are They Now” report.

The morning after the show airs, Mitchell is surprised by a knock on his door. Three, young, entertainment upstarts present Mitchell with the idea that the Internet can get him back in the spotlight and back on top. With a little nudge from his wife, Mitchell agrees to give his career one last chance.

The website



What Does the Creative Spirit Really Want?

…And what does it feel?

Emily S. Whitten, creator extraordinaire, knows – and feels – all about it:

Combatting Fear
by Emily S. Whitten

What do we seek in life, when we get right down to the basics? And, particularly for those of us in creative fields, how is our drive to create and share our creations tied to what we are seeking?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can look at myself. I seek both lasting and reliable personal connections, and the chance to make a difference in the larger world. To shape the world just a bit – to share a thought that’s dancing just behind my eyes, and throw it out into the sea of people that make up this world, to see if it strikes a chord. To discover: are there others out there like me? Do they get what I’ve put out there because they see the world the same way? Or does it make them see things differently somehow? Does something I’ve done change someone? Or make them feel better, or happier, or understood? Does it tug at the emotional core we all have but don’t always understand, or does it make them laugh, or cry, or feel, or think? Does it matter to someone?

We all want to know we matter, but a lot of us are afraid to really put ourselves out there for fear that we will discover we don’t. This can especially be a problem for those of us in the creative fields. I write this as someone who regularly faces the fear of getting too far into an idea or finishing it because I don’t know if the finished project will live up to even my own expectations, let alone another’s. And as someone who hesitates to send that finished project out into the world, because what if it’s something I think turned out well, and then I discover that people don’t care, or worse, that they hate it?

And yet, I have, at various times, managed to overcome my fear and send things out there (this weekly column included) and through this have at least learned that no matter what the reaction (whether it’s someone who loves it, someone who disagrees, someone who vehemently insults you, or someone who tells you you’ve won the prize / contest / awesome person medal of the week), at the end of the excitement, I am still standing.

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