2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR Finalists!

20th SPEC SCRIPTACULAR FINALISTS
For contest ending December 1, 2014

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

SITCOM FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

ARCHER: YELLOW DAWN by Michael Sumner

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: UNCLE LARRY by Chris Agnew

GIRLS: DIVORCE SONG by Erica Lies

GIRLS: FORTUNE COOCHIE by Julie Livingston

GIRLS: PENIS ENVY by Ryan Rodman

NURSE JACKIE: EVERYTHING I TOUCH IS FUCKED by Cara Rothenberg

RICK AND MORTY: CRIME AND PUNISHRICK by Michael Kellner

THE JETSONS: POOR WIDDLE WABBIT by James H. Kelly

ACTION/DRAMA/DRAMEDY FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

HANNIBAL: BREAD & WATER by Angela Berliner

ONCE UPON A TIME: THE STONE by Elizabeth Hrib

SCANDAL: THE GOOD SHEPHERD by Jeane Wong

SUPERNATURAL: WISH UPON A STAR by Zoé Denis

THE BLACKLIST: FATHER FRANCES NO. 189 by Michelle R. Anderson

THE WALKING DEAD: ZONE 4D-M by Barbara Ishida

TV MOVIE/SCREENPLAY/SPECIAL FINALISTS
(alphabetically)

CONSEQUENCES by Robert Frostholm

DRIVEN by Gerald Cote

ERASED by Scott M. Richter

LADY OF THE LAKE by Dawn McElligott

NEWTON’S LAWS OF EMOTION by Eugene Ramos

SHAPESHIFTERS by Andrew Fisk

THE REBORN by Andrew Fisk

The way the judges saw it, every one of these Finalists is a wow. In previous years, each one could have been a Winner. In fact, as of this writing, we still don’t know who the Winners will be. The Battle of the Judges’ Chambers continues!

COMING NEXT WEEK: The Spec Scriptacular Winners (cuz as they say in the comics, “Lo, there’s gotta be an ending!”)

Peggy Bechko: Tighten It Up

tightenupCapture

by Peggy Bechko

Yes, writers, there it is. Almost every writer’s writing needs to be tightened, but when it’s your baby and you’ve written it, you, as the writer, frequently hesitate to do what needs to be done. So right here, right now, I’m going to spell it out for you.

Yep, you have to tighten it up and here are some ideas on how to do that.

1. Every Word Counts – how often have you heard this? It’s true. For novelists and even more so for screenwriters. Look, it doesn’t matter how many words you’ve actually written, just be sure every one is necessary. Check out those adjectives. Think about the adverbs. If you’re adding a character you better be sure that character is absolutely essential on many levels. If describing a location choose the words that make the reader feel he or she is actually there. Everything works together to move the story forward and to capture the reader or watcher. Don’t ramble, just don’t. Review, edit, and cut ruthlessly.

2. Think About Language and how things change. And about how the world around us changes. This isn’t the 1980’s when the web didn’t really exist. Now you have a lot of competition for your attention out there – and the attention of anyone who might come across your material to read. So modern writing has changed greatly from that of 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Everything seems abbreviated. Think twitter, facebook and other social media. Think the succinct advertising messages you’re bombarded with. Then translate that into how you write. Leave out the fluff and go for attention-grabbing. Show the reader the adorableness of puppies at play, don’t tell him about it. Strengthen your language.

3. Think in Details and Skip the Generalities.

Don’t: He jumped into a car and drove away.

Do: John flung open the door to his new Ram Charger, jumped in and peeled rubber out of there.

Remember what will really stick in a reader’s mind, whether novel or script are the little details that strike a chord with them.

Don’t: The dog ran down the stairs after the ball.

Do: Mary’s pug bounced down the stairs in pursuit of the red tennis ball.

When getting into a story people crave those details. The lack of them causes a disconnect with the story. So don’t skip the details.

4. Give Up The Qualifiers. Really, just toss words like ‘practically’, ‘almost’, ‘nearly’, ‘sort of’, ‘my thoughts are’, and their ilk. Stop it. Now. Seriously. Why would you think for a moment your readers would want to read stuff like: Joe was nearly exhausted and verging on the suicidal so he believed it wouldn’t be long before he checked out, permanently?

Oh, for crying out loud. Keep it simple and make it strong: Joe was exhausted. Suicide was his only out.

Uh huh, now that’s a line.

5. Ponder Cause and Effect. In life there’s cause, then effect. You know, house burns down then people mourn the loss of their effects (hopefully not a loved one). Earthquake happens. People start cleaning up the rubble. So your story needs to be peppered with questions that need answers. Curiosity is the key to dragging people into and through your story. If your questions are interesting enough people will read on or keep watching if it’s a film.

To accomplish it consider tossing the effect out there before the cause. Like – Mom and Dad are crying on the front lawn as the remains of their home smolders behind them. Immediately the image brings the questions. What happened? What caused the Fire? Did Granny leave the fat on the stove? Are there kids? Are they all right? A pet? Anyone get killed? Where are the firefighters? And more deeply, was there a cause beyond simple accident? Did someone have a vendetta against this family or a member? This back-tracking can add up to a very engrossing story.

Consider these five points when you go to tighten up your writing and remember method and style are always changing, evolving. A classic like Little Women reads nothing like Airport out of the sixties or The Da Vinci Code or Ender’s Game. Movies move ahead from Some Like It Hot through Lord Of the Rings through Taken and Avatar and Horns and the broad spectrum of movies along the way.

Cultivate a feel for the communication of our day and develop your own voice. There lies the path to success.

Wanna read some scripts? Check out Drew’s Script-o-rama http://bit.ly/1DZY4dD

Wanna read some novels? Try your library or borrow from a buddy or check out BookBub.com and get a good deal or even some freebies.

And don’t just sit there, tell us what you think about this article – comment below.

Make Your Characters’ Motivations Clear…and Do It ASAP!

This could be one of the most important writing tips you read this year.

Or, you know, not. (But we think it is.)

motivation

by The Bitter Script Reader

I pulled out my bluray AIR FORCE ONE this weekend and watched the film for the first time in what has to be at least ten or fifteen years. You might be asking, “Bitter, why on earth would you own THAT film on blu?” It’s a fair question. Even I have considered it a so-so film.  It’s about as good as any “DIE HARD on the President’s Plane” could ever hope to be. And next to OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and WHITE HOUSE DOWN, it really looks like a masterpiece.

(As to why I own it: It was part of a two-pack with one of my favorite movies, IN THE LINE OF FIRE. Both movies together for $4.99. I’d have paid that much just for IN THE LINE OF FIRE, so it basically was a freebie.)

I decided to watch with director Wolfgang Peterson’s commentary on to see if he addressed something that’s been under my skin since my first viewing – the really shitty motivations of the Secret Service turncoat played by Xander Berkeley. For those who haven’t seen the film, it involves terrorists disguised as a media crew taking over the President’s plane. Obviously, a major plot question the screenwriter was faced with was “How does this crew actually take over the plane?” It’s hard enough to hijack a commercial jet. How the hell do you mastermind a takeover of the aircraft of the most powerful man in the world, which has to be one of the most secured vessels on the planet?

The film opts for probably the most obvious (but most plausible) avenue – one of the Secret Service agents is a collaborator with the terrorists. He takes out three of his fellow agents, which clears the way for the terrorists to get to the plane’s armory. I can’t blame the film for wanting to get to the fireworks factory as soon as possible, because there are indeed some wonderfully tense moments. For any of its flaws, you have to love a film where Gary Oldman gets to chew the scenery as a bad guy, and this was when Harrison Ford still could play an intense ass-kicker in his sleep. (I teed up the next joke for you, so go for it.)

But the film never even attempts to give any motivation for WHY Berkeley’s character would be working with these Russian terrorists in their plot to hold the President hostage, a plot that necessarily requires the deaths of several, if not ALL of the people he’s been working alongside for many years.

It doesn’t help that Berkeley’s performance is pretty terrible. I’ve seen the guy do good work in other projects, so maybe he was directed this way, but it amounts to him alternating between bland expressions (when other characters are watching) and instant evil sneers (the instant that character turns their backs.) It’s about the same level of directing as Homer Simpson assuring people that the audience will understand that the dog in his movie is evil so long as you do a close-up of his eyes shifting back and forth.

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Oscar Nominee Refuses to Sue Pirates

There’s a lesson to be learned here. As in, “How to make things work for you instead of against.” But is it valid? Whatcha think?

by Andy

The crew behind the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated movie Leviathan say they won’t sue pirates who download a screener copy of their movie. Instead they’re supporting a donation drive, with all proceeds to charity. Intriguingly, however, a pirate copy might be better than the real thing.

oscartorrentsLast week a flood of DVD screener copies of Oscar-nominated movies hit torrent sites. The Hobbit, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Selma, American Sniper, Unbroken, Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes all appeared online.

But the leakers still hadn’t finished. The Gambler, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year and Kill The Messenger appeared on public sites and those more private, followed by Cake and Wild this week.

But while those are all Western titles, it is a movie hailing from the East that offers the most interesting back-story, from both political and piracy perspectives.

Partially financed by the Russian Culture Ministry, Leviathan tells the story of a man fighting against corruption in a Russia depicted as dark and cruel. Leviathan just picked up the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and is also nominated for an Oscar.

Like all of its counterparts listed above, Leviathan too has leaked onto the Internet in DVD screener format. However, what is particularly interesting is how the movie’s makers are handling this development.

“All the films nominated for an Oscar have been downloaded by pirates. We are not going to pursue anybody,” Leviathan producer Alexander Rodnyansky told local media.

While that might be music to the ears of file-sharers, the response from fellow digital producer Slava Smirnov generates yet more interest in the movie. In solidarity with the filmmakers, Smirnov has just launched an independent website with the aim of taking donations from downloaders and forwarding that money to the crew of Leviathan.

“As a result of leakage of all films nominated for an Oscar in 2015, the film Leviathan was on the Internet before it hit the box office in Russia,” a note on the site reads.

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The North Americanization of Latin American TV

We have no idea why the people involved in this story think they’re telling us about a good thing. (But that’s how TVWriter™ rolls, or so it seems.)

MASTERS-OF-PARADISE

Latin America remains a drama market, but the type of series that are resonating has changed, with new forms of novella breaking through. The traditional soapy drama remains a programming staple region-wide, but a shorter, punchier and grittier iteration of the form is gaining ground, data for January-October 2014 shows.

“In fiction, the telenovela remains a key genre, but to face competition in the TV environment and reach a wider market, it has been reinvented, both in terms of form and content,” says Julia Espérance, media consultant at Eurodata TV and service manager for the New on the Air (NOTA) programming service. “They focus on new themes, they’re not the traditional sentimental love stories, and there is a real effort to diversify the audience to bring in male viewers with more action.”

To win these male and younger viewers, crime and often drug-crime are central themes in the new, edgier novellas. The recent trend started a couple of years ago with Caracol’s Pablo Escobar: El Patron del Mal (Pablo Escobar: The Drug Lord), which went from TV in Colombia to sell into France and the Netherlands as well as Thailand. In the US, Univision’s Unimas has El Varon de la Drog (The Drug Baron), which is written by former cartel member Andres Lopez Lopez and is a more recent example.

Espérance goes on to identify a sub-category among the new crime novellas. “The current trend is for narco-novellas with strong female protagonists, with shows such as La Viuda Negra (The Black Widow), based on the true story of Griselda Bianco aka ‘the Cocaine Godmother’, and Dueños del Paraíso (Masters of Paradise, pictured) and Señora Acero (Woman of Steel),” she says. Several of these are in line for US remakes.

The US networks targeting Hispanic viewers are particularly tuned into the narco trend with Dueños del Paraíso and Señora Acero both Telemundo shows and La Viuda Negra made by Televisa and RTI for Univision.

Many of the new novellas are also shorter in form and the US Hispanic broadcasters are at the forefront of the shift in run-time, targeting Latin viewers in the US with shorter series under initiatives launched recently.

Telemundo calls its shorter action novellas ‘super series’. Examples include El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of Skies) and Dueños del Paraíso, which is a coproduction with Chilean network TVN. Univision has launched abridged versions of its novellas under a ‘Novelas Xpress’ banner and the 15-hours or less series are available on its TV Everywhere service UVideos as well as the Hulu catch-up and streaming service.

Streaming service Netflix is also getting into the drug trafficking game, with ten-parterNarcos set for 2015. The Gaumont-produced series will be largely in Spanish and is a fictionalised account of the most infamous drug boss of all, Pablo Escobar.

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A Look at the Writers of LAST MAN STANDING”

It’s all about experience…or is it? We don’t know about you, but we found this an interesting and ultimately very sad story:

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by Paul Brownfield

When the writers of the ABC sitcom “Last Man Standing” broke for lunch one recent Friday, five of them took their food to Ed Yeager’s office on the lot here.

Mr. Yeager’s office is unusual, in that half of it is dressed as a tiki bar (for post-taping drinks). Elvis and Rat Pack memorabilia further bring out the retro theme, while the couch, where Sid Youngers was seated, was adorned with a homey, “Roseanne”-themed afghan.

Former stand-up comedians, Mr. Youngers, 57, and Mr. Yeager, 58, got their start on that ABC sitcom, which ran from 1988 to 1997 and is now chiefly remembered as one of the last socially aware sitcoms built around a genuine standup star, Roseanne Barr. Inside the TV business, “Roseanne” is equally recalled as an exemplar of the sitcom’s Versailles period, a time when writing staffs were large and the jobs flowed. “Roseanne” didn’t have a writers room; it had joke rooms and story rooms, the better to accommodate Ms. Barr’s habit of bringing writers on as quixotically as she fired them.

In a way, that profligacy still reverberates. Five of the writers on “Last Man Standing” once wrote on “Roseanne.” One of them, Miriam Trogdon, is now part of a writing team with her own daughter, Gracie Charters, 26.

“Last Man Standing,” which stars Tim Allen, is in its fourth year. It is the sort of multicamera, middle-of-the-road sitcom that the broadcast networks now schedule almost without telling anyone, lest they appear fusty-branded compared with the trendsetting shows on streaming services.

For the “Roseanne” 5, however, it is a plum gig.

Last Man Standing” isn’t typically on the Emmy radar, but it is likely headed to profitability in syndication and could run for years to come — no small feat in today’s climate for network comedy. The show features a more cantankerous spin on Mr. Allen’s persona. This sitcom dad, Mike Baxter, is the marketing chief of a sporting goods company whose traditional attitudes are held in check by the women who rule his household as well as a liberal son-in-law. As part of his duties at the company, Outdoor Man, Mike has a video blog on which he not only mocks climate change fears but also extemporizes on a patriarchal America that has lost its way.

While dismissed as ho-hum by critics, “Last Man Standing” has earned praise from conservative blogs as refreshing, and its ratings, which creep up to eight million viewers when DVR numbers are factored in, are considered solid. But perhaps the most unusual aspect of “Last Man Standing” is the composition of its writing staff of 15, a number of whom are closing in on 60. Given various revolutions in the TV business, these writers feel fortunate — if not surprised — to have landed jobs actually writing for a multicamera sitcom on a broadcast network.

Take away the multicamera kingpin Chuck Lorre’s four CBS sitcoms, led by “The Big Bang Theory,” and network schedules are noticeably bereft of a form that has kept the “Last Man Standing” writers employed — and well-paid — for decades.

“I would say as a young writer, there’s definitely sort of this fin de siècle feel about everything,” Ms. Charters said. “People have this attitude that TV is going to be over. And it’s kind of depressing.”

Joey Gutierrez, 51, whose credits include “The Drew Carey Show,” said he felt “lucky that I’m still doing it after all this time.” He did note that there seemed to be more older writers now than when he started, which he attributed to the need for multicamera veterans on family sitcoms produced for cable channels like Disney, TV Land and Nick.

“But it also gets harder and harder to get jobs, too, in that not only has TV comedy been shrinking, but you get more expensive,” added Mike Shipley, 50, who has written for “My Name Is Earl.” “People have to really want you in particular.”

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