Robin Reed Sees American Horror Story: Freak Show

Not Horror, Not That Freaky
by Robin Reed

Don’t read this if you don’t want to know details of “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” which recently ended its run.freakshow-a-creepy-poster-collection

I am usually right there and ready to be scared when any horror film, book, or TV show comes out. When the word horror is in the title, you know I have to check it out. So when “American Horror Story” started a few years ago, I watched it. For a while. I liked it at first, but then it just got dumb. It was set in the current day (as of several years ago) so the internet existed. How hard is it to enter the address of a house you are looking at into a search engine and find out that it is internationally famous as “The Murder House” and a tour passes by every day with people who want to see it? There were some shivers and cool stuff near the beginning, but I lost all interest after a few episodes.

So I skipped the next two seasons. The only reason I decided to watch “American Horror Story: Freak Show” is that I find the circus/carnie culture interesting, and I have been treated like a freak often enough to feel some kinship to the people in such shows.

I watched every episode, with many characters I liked, and an atmosphere of dread, at least at the beginning. Many people on the internet loved to hate “Twisty the Clown,” (though that name was never mentioned in the show itself.) I thought his character was too easy for a show that was supposed to be groundbreaking. He was the show’s Freddy Krueger, or Jason. But at least he was scary. As the show went on, the scariness drained out of it.

The characters I liked best were the freaks themselves. Some were the product of special effects and makeup, but some were real people who are different. Jyoti Amge, the smallest woman in the world; Mat Fraser, who has floppy arms because his mother took thalidomide when she was pregnant with him; Rose Siggins, who was born with useless legs that were amputated so she could move herself around; and Erika Ervin, a six foot eight inch tall transgender woman.

These characters were all written as real people and had their moments in the story. As did others such as Kathy Bates as a bearded lady with a strange accent, (which I researched, finding out that it is a Baltimore working class accent.) Her son is the Lobster Boy, with hands that look like flippers. Michael Chiklis is a strongman, and Sarah Paulson is conjoined twins who look like one woman with two heads. (This really can happen, twins like that had a short-lived reality show not too long ago.)

There are also dwarves, and actors playing pinheads. Pinheads are people with microcephaly. They have small brains and thus small heads.

There were interesting characters, and interesting plot twists and turns, but the show as a whole was too long, and the decision to kill off Twisty may have seemed clever to the writers but it’s like making a Nightmare on Elm Street movie and removing Freddy Krueger less than halfway through. After he is gone we get a variety of villains, included a man who wants to kill the freaks and sell them to a museum of anatomical oddities, the strong man, who kills Ma Petite, the freak everyone loves, because he is being blackmailed by the man who wants to sell her to the museum, and of course Dandy, the local rich kid who is a blossoming serial killer.

None of these have the focus and intensity that Twisty did, so while the show might be called a drama about horrible things, it really isn’t horror. Horror makes you feel scared and uncomfortable and stays with you long after you read or watch it. American Horror Story: Freak Show was a pretty good drama about these people, but not horror.

I usually like Neil Patrick Harris, but he was brought in seemingly to showcase hoary horror concepts such as a ventriloquist dummy which may or may not be alive, and a magician really sawing a woman in half. His part in the show killed a couple of episodes but had no real effect on the story.

Jessica Lange is in every season of “American Horror Story” and she is good as Elsa Mars, the owner of the show. Her German accent sounded right to me, for someone who has been in the US for many years. Her big secret is that she is a freak too. She has two prosthetic legs. She walks on them so well that no one knows unless she rolls her stockings down to reveal them. The legs are wooden, carved to look like human legs, so I’m not sure it’s possible to walk that well and to keep them secret, and even become a TV star with the public none the wiser.

The best episode was about Pepper the pinhead. Another pinhead who she loved dies and she is inconsolable and unable to perform. Elsa takes her back to her sister, who does not want her. This ties in with an earlier season that I didn’t see, with Pepper in an insane asylum. Pepper was largely background in “Freak Show” until this episode, but becomes a character who makes us feel for her, though she can’t speak and is mentally handicapped.

I don’t know why several songs in a show set in 1952 are performed several decades before they were written. Maybe it has something to do with the overall connections between the seasons.

There are a lot of good things, but the whole doesn’t add up. There were thirteen episodes, and some were longer than an hour. I think they could be edited down to six or seven hours, and would be much better.

“American Horror Story” has a lot of fans, and they trace the connections and characters that appear in different times and locations. Personally, I have done my time and will let those fans continue to watch without me.

A Writing Staff Newbie Let’s Us In On Her New Success

Further proof that no matter where you come from and who you are, you can make it as a TV writer. All you need is…is…oh, hell, just read and see if you can figure it out:

Susan Morris on set_for State of Affairs

Susan Morris with the star & director – in the middle even

by Trelle Kolojay

A woman from Saskatoon has a hand in shaping the new thriller TV series, State of Affairs, as one of the main writers.

Susan Morris is from the Bridge City and now lives in Los Angeles, where she is working on the show following the life of a CIA analyst, played by Katherine Heigl, responsible for briefing the president of the United States on security threats.

“Coming from Saskatoon, I honestly didn’t have an idea that I’d end up in Los Angeles writing for television. It’s been fun, it’s been a great journey and also I really feel Saskatoon is a great place to come from,” she said.

Morris started her post-secondary studies at the University of Saskatchewan before moving to Toronto and interning with a small film company. When she fell in love with film, she went to film school in Los Angeles.

The State of Affairs show found her after a pilot she wrote for a different project fell through but one of the people involved in that failed project, Joe Carnahan, wanted her help on a new one.

“That project fell apart for a number of reasons and in January of last year, Joe (Carnahan) gave me a call and said he was getting this NBC gig and wanted me to come on and write with him.”

The show also draws on the experience of two executive producers who are ex-CIA agents.

“They always thought it would be a great idea to do a show about the person who briefs the president of the United States, so they brought in Katherine Heigl and another producer and it originated with them. We came on and wrote the pilot script.”

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 1/30/15

PSY-thumbs-up

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

2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Finalists!

2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Winners

Peggy Bechko: Tighten It Up

Peggy Bechko: The Unnatural Museum

2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Semi-Finalists!

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR: Prizes

The Teleplay

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!

2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Winners

20th Spec Scriptacular Winners

For contest ending December 1, 2014

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

SITCOM

1st Place: RICK AND MORTY: CRIME AND PUNISHRICK by Michael Kellner

2nd Place:THE JETSONS: POOR WIDDLE WABBIT by James H. Kelly

3rd Place: NURSE JACKIE: EVERYTHING I TOUCH IS FUCKED by Cara Rothenberg

ACTION/DRAMA/DRAMEDY

1st Place: HANNIBAL: BREAD & WATER by Angela Berliner

2nd Place: SUPERNATURAL: WISH UPON A STAR by Zoé Denis

3rd Place: SCANDAL: THE GOOD SHEPHERD by Jeane Wong

TV MOVIE/SCREENPLAY/SPECIAL

1st Place: CONSEQUENCES by Robert Frostholm

2nd Place: ERASED by Scott M. Richter

3rd Place: DRIVEN by Gerald Cote

The only way to describe these nine scripts is: Wonderful. Fully five of them scored over 9 points on our 10 point scale, and the others were in the very high 8s. All three of the 1st Place finishers, in fact, and two of the 2nd Placers, finished in the top ten All-Time Spec Scriptacular Top Scores. Which makes them part of the ten best in the decade and a half this contest has been held.

A showbiz old pro might give a little smile and say, “Not bad” to all this. But that would be because they were masking the absolute awe such an achievement brings.  To put it another way, LB and the rest of the TVWriter™ Gang consider every one of the scripts above to be, simply, brilliant. And brilliance is what they needed in order to finish ahead of another remarkable pack of entries which, overall, has been the best yet.

In the next few days LB will be contacting all the Spec Scriptacular Winners to tell you how to claim your prizes, and he swears that in about a week (well, maybe a bit more depending on, you know, all the things meeting deadlines can depend on) he’ll post his personal observations about the results.

After that, all entrants should start receiving your free Feedback, but please remember that the operative phrase here is “start receiving” because of the volume of people to be contacted. Please give us a few weeks before emailing TVWriter™ in panic because your Feedback hasn’t arrived yet, okay?

Speaking of timetables, we’d like to remind you that the 2015 People’s Pilot will be opening for entries in mere days. The exact date is February 1st, and if you’d like to receive a substantial discount on your entry fee – 30% – February would be a very good time to send in that fee. You can always finish and polish and upload your People’s Pilot script any time after that till the Dread Deadline date of June 1st.

Congratulations to all the Winners for their outstanding work and to everybody who entered for coming so very, very close. Your friends here at TVWriter™ want you to know that you’re the best!

5 Questions with a Writers’ PA on a network drama

Amanda, the Aspiring TV Writer, gives us some insight into the most desired entry level job for writers on the planet. Well, her anonymous source does. But without Amanda and her blog, none of this would be here. Muchas gracias, Amanda!

by Amanda

I interviewed a Writers’ PA on a network drama (who wishes to stay anonymous). I can relate to her story of a winding path: a career is more than just one job or one opportunity!

1. What’s your background?

I went to film school at USC, majored in Critical Studies (Film Studies). I did a wide variety of internships from production companies to TV shows and even in TV I dabbled…I worked in the art department on Mad Men but then also worked in writers’ offices on shows like Smallville and Brothers and Sisters. I also at one point worked with an executive coordinating animation events which was interesting. And then if I don’t sound career ADD enough, on weekends, I was doing film makeup and working as a production designer on music videos and student projects. I was all over the place, but honestly I think a lot of the moving around came from fear. I knew I wanted to write and was trying to find everything and anything to replace what seemed like a far-fetched dream but then a few years later decided to actually take a chance on myself.

2. How did you finally get the writers’ PA job?

Oh god. I honestly thought after school I was golden, I had done so many internships, I thought I’d easily land back on a show after graduation but it didn’t happen that way, not for 3 more years. I sort of had to take every step possible to get there which frustrated me beyond belief. I ended up temping / PAing at a studio which then got me assistant experience. With that assistant experience I was able to land a desk at a management company where I also worked for a film / tv producer in development. While I was there, I was trying to take advantage of building up my network which ultimately helped me finally move back into TV where I landed a gig as a production PA. I was on a few Showtime shows as a production PA before I was able to finally hop over into the writers’ office as a writers’ PA on a network drama.  My friend worked on the sister show and let me know about the opening.

3. What are the typical duties and hours of your job, and how long did the job last?

I was pretty luck that this writers’ PA gig lasted from March to the holidays — but the catch is that because it’s a new show and wouldn’t air until a couple months after, if we did get picked up, we wouldn’t work until June so then you’re on the search all over again. While on the show, the hours depended on where the writers were on the deadlines.

Read it all

Cargo 3120: The Making of a Sci-Fi Franchise #15

CARGO3120Entry 15 – Juggling Life and Passion Part II

by Daymond C. Roman

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Story So Far starts HERE)

So, last week I said that I would delve a bit deeper into the tasks we all face while making our dreams come true. And, I can’t think of a better way to do that than to start from the beginning.

You see, for this New Year, I decided to reprioritize my life by figuring out what’s important to me and shredding away anything that wasn’t. And, that process lead me to four areas of major importance: health, family, work, and passion. Now, it’s worth mentioning that I am a man of faith and believe that these four areas alone could never provide personal fulfillment. However, I believe that through God’s grace I can be successful in all of these areas to a degree that I will be personally fulfilled.

So, when creating a daily schedule for myself, I needed to include all of these areas so that each could receive an appropriate amount of my attention. But how? There are only so many hours in the day.

I have heard it that 9-5 is for your day job and 5-10 is for your passion. So, I decided to use that model as a foundation and work from there. But, that still left health and family. What to do, what to do? I mean, I am willing to work as hard as needed to accomplish my goals. But, I don’t want to work so much that I’m unable to enjoy my accomplishments…

Well, for years now, I’ve already been waking up a few hours early to workout. It’s a great way to start the day, because after, you feel ready to tackle any situation that presents itself. And, since I primarily work from home anyway, I’ll always be available to my family, which works out great. Next time, I’ll let you know if this schedule is indeed working out or not. So, until then…

Next Week: Juggling Life and Passion Part III