LB: 2014 PEOPLE’S PILOT Update

Good news for about all the entrants in the 23rd People’s Pilot. I’ve finished and sent out all the free Feedback for entries in both the One Hour and Half-Hour categories.

Entrants, please check your email, including your spam box, to see what the judges – and I – thought were the strengths and weaknesses of your work and how I think it can be improved. And if you discover that you haven’t received your Feedback, let me know HERE so I can feel guilty.

Oh no, wait, that’s not it. I mean let me know so I can find out what went wrong and fix it. Absolutely gonna fix it and get you the Feedback you’ve been pining for!

And, FWIW, I’m also gonna write about what I learned from reading all this material because I’m really exhausted energized by what our TVWriter™ contests are all about and can’t wait to share it.






Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

directingChapter 68 – The Directing Workshop
by Leeza Dean

Last Sunday I attended an intense twelve hour workshop on directing motion here in NYC. It was a part of a nationwide tour featuring a well-known commercial director, Vincent Laforet, and since I’m gearing up to finally buy a camera in by the end of the year and start shooting I thought it would be be really worthwhile and fun.

It was and, in part, wasn’t. It was a looooonnnggg day. I was up at 5:30 am because the people who ran the workshop suggested everyone arrive at 8:15 am to get situated, get a seat, etc.

I got there and it was packed, about 200 people. Some even flew in from Europe to attend. It appeared to be a mix of producers, crew people and directors. And given the recent publicity about how few women directors there were, it was kind of depressing to be one of, probably, 20 women there.

The workshop focused on directing motion in film and episodic tv. There were sliders, dollies, movis and tricked out cameras. Canon was one of the sponsors so there were high end bodies (C 300?s) and great monitors, focus pullers, rigs and lights. The seminar went back and forth between lectures and shoots where “crew members” were picked from the audience. To his credit, Laforet made an effort to pick women for the shoots.

Some of the big take-aways:

–90% of the work involved in any project (film, tv, commercials) is prep. And the prep I’m referring to is, adjusting the budget, storyboarding, making a shot list, casting, location scouting, etc.

–Always have a Plan B that’s well-thought out cause sh*t happens. The director, Vincent Laforet mentioned a shoot he was on where a celebrity had been hired and two days before filming he broke his foot.

–Gear is great–and believe me, everybody in that audience was salivating over all the high end stuff there including me–but it doesn’t make good quality work. Preparation and something that’s directed and written well does.

–Regardless of what I just wrote, I want a Movi!!!! And I don’t even have a camera yet.

While I knew a lot that going in, it’s another thing to really see it play out with concrete examples in film.

He talked about the types of camera moves and when to use them, with examples. Pointed out wins and misses from films and showed us, essentially how to re-look at movies/tv, whether good or bad, to really analyze and learn from it.

In all, pretty worthwhile. The part that wasn’t mostly had to do with the length. Twelve hours is a long time to sit in a class. I knew how long it was going it. They actually had two sections, day and evening, and I signed up for both cause I got a discount and they threw in a free HD download of the entire seminar, which will really be worthwhile. But it was pretty intense to experience. That said, I can’t wait to dig back into the downloads.

Peer Production: BROBOT

Maybe we’re just evil (We are minions, after all), but this made us laugh out loud:

YouTube Preview Image

This is just one of several episodes in the series. Peer production on a shoestring still tastes delish.

Kudos to Matt Eams, James Sorrels, Rick Stoeckel and the rest of the gang.

Interview with Animation Writer Susan Kim

Our Beloved Leader, LB, spent a few years writing and overseeing TV animation series like THE SILVER SURFER, SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED, SPAWN (although he doesn’t want to talk about that; somebody ask him why!) and others. It’s a viable TV writing arena and a good way to get into the biz. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what one of the biggies of animation writing has to say:

speerracersusankimInterview by Lisa Goldman

Baboon Animation’s newest shining star, the accomplished Susan Kim, has written for more than three dozen children’s TV series, including PBS’s runaway hit Peg+Cat, Scholastic-Sprout’s brand new Astroblast!, Wonder Pets!, Arthur, Martha Speaks!, Handy Manny, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Speed Racer and Pocoyo to name a few. She has been nominated for an Emmy and Writers Guild Awards four times. Lisa Goldman caught up with her at the Baboon studio in New York for a tête-á-tête on writing.

Lisa Goldman: What are your some of your funniest — or toughest — moments being a writer in animation? As a story editor? In a writer’s room?

Susan Kim: A tough (and universal) writer’s moment: When you’re new on a show, you bust your hump trying to write something fantastic, and the story editor goes through your script and says: “This is hilarious! But not quite our show. And I loved this! But too similar to something we already did. And this made me laugh out loud! But not something that character would say.” Afterward, you’re left with like two shredded pages and told, “keep up the great work.”

Although come to think of it, I’ve probably done the same thing as a story editor … hmm.

Goldman: How about the perks and challenges of being a writer working from home?

Kim: Major perk: Being able to wear the same T-shirt and stretched-out yoga pants for three days in a row if you want. Like your cat gives a shit? Theoretically, you could wallow in your own filth for three weeks if you wanted, although of course I am trés chic and always beautifully groomed. (And the fact that you don’t even know which statement is true gets back to my answer: You can do whatever you want! Who’s going to know?) Mostly, I find that there’s no comparison to the depth of focus you have when you’re at home … assuming, of course, you don’t have small children, an obsession with housecleaning or a noisy partner. I love being with people, but I find them way too distracting. In college, my friends stopped inviting me to the library because I’d always be bored out of my skull, talking nonstop and getting evicted by the librarian.

Goldman: As a story editor, do you think about gender at all when you’re hiring writers and trying to get the right mix for a show?

Kim: I do. It’s not just gender, although, of course, that’s important. In an ideal world, I’d love a blend of sexes, experience, race, straight and gay, younger and older. Look at late-night comedy: It’s hamstrung by the fact that 99 percent of their writing staffs are straight white guys fresh out of Yale. Not that I have anything against straight white guys from Yale, but you lose nuance when everyone’s the same. And, I’m sorry, there’s still a huge false perception out there that women aren’t funny, and that just blows.

Read it all


Star Trek-Communicator

by John Ostrander

I’m a Star Trek fan. Not a rabid fan, but a fan. I‘ve at least sampled all the shows and some I liked better than others. I’ve seen all the films and some I really liked; the first Trek film – not so much. I even enjoyed the two most recent films although I have a nephew who may disown me for saying so.

I’m not a big tech sort of guy…but I do have a major tech gripe with the series. The original communicators very much influenced the design of cel phones – mine still flips open, thank you very much, and I don’t know how many times I’ve asked Scotty to beam me out of some situations. Unfortunately, all the communicators are good for is audio. No video. Star Trek is set in our future. My antiquated Trekfone can take pictures. We have cel phones that can take movies. ST communicators cannot.

You would think that having video capability would be valuable for away teams stepping foot on new planets and meeting new civilizations. Their space ships have sensors that can pick up life forms on planets below or peer long distances into space and throw up the image on the bridge’s screen but they can’t do video from the planet surface to the ship orbiting overhead. Here today we can get video to and from the International Space Station. Our probes can throw back images from distant planets.

I understand why that had to happen that way in the Original Series. The show didn’t have the CGI or the budget to make it work. Why not update the tech in the later series? Why not in the movies, especially the most recent ones?

They have teleporters, for cryin’ out loud. Figuring out how to get video from planet surface to an orbiting ship is harder than disassembling someone’s atoms, beaming them somewhere and re-assembling them? Seriously?

Are they keeping to the audio-only rule because that’s the way it’s always been? They’ve already alienated the hardcore Trek fans with the re-boot; are the fans going to get more cheesed off because now the communicators can send pictures? Are they afraid all the ST characters are going to start doing selfies? Although I could see Kirk doing an Anthony Weiner with his.

Why does this bug me? Because, in my book, it’s a failure of imagination.

I remember a great scene in Galaxy Quest (one of the best non-ST Star Trek films ever made). IMDB does the pocket synopsis this way: “The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.” Their fake TV ship has been lovingly created by a race of aliens who believe the TV episodes (which have found their way into outer space) to be a “historical record.”

In one scene, Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver have to get to the manual off switch for the self destruct button and are confronted with a corridor of large pistons slamming together from side to side and up and down at an alarming speed. Weaver’s character balks; there’s no reason for those chompers to be there. Allen says it’s because it was in an episode. Weaver screams, “That scene was badly written!” She snarls that those writers should have been shot; this always makes me giggle.

That’s my point. The aliens put the banging pistons in the corridor not because they make any sense but because they were there before. Same problem with the communicators for me: they don’t make any sense.

The early communicators were way ahead of their time and that’s part of what Star Trek tech has always done – inspired us and given us a sense of wonder, of possibilities. That stimulates the imagination. Communicators shouldn’t be able to do less than our cel phones; they should be able to do more.

The stories should also be more than re-makes of past stories. Tell us new ones. Take us boldly to where we’ve never been before.

RIP Jerry McNeely


by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Sad news about a name familiar to TV viewers of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Jerry McNeely, Emmy-nominated television writer and creator of series including “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law,” died last week in Tarzana, California at 86. He had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years.

Jerry was one of TV’s busiest writers in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, writing multiple episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Ironside,” “The Name of the Game,” “Owen Marshall,” “Trauma Center,” “Our House,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Mr. Novak,” “The Virginian,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” and “McMillan and Wife.” “Lucas Tanner,” “Three for the Road.” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” He also created “Owen Marshall,”  “Lucas Tanner” and “Three for the Road.”

Jerry wrote his first teleplay, “The Staring Match,” for “Studio One” in 1957, and won a contest with his script “The Joke and the Valley,” which “Hallmark Hall of Fame” produced in 1961. His later longform scripts included “The Critical List,” “Fighting Back,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” “Sin of Innocence” and “When You Remember Me.”

Survivors include his wife Ellen Shenker McNeely; four children, Melissa, Betsy, Joel and Ian McNeely; and two grandchildren.

You can find a fuller bio and celebration of Jerry McNeely’s life HERE.