The Best Advice Ever for New Filmmakers

Now this is what we call “breaking in!”

Speaking of animated web series (like the one in the article below), we came across this on one of TVWriter™’s favorite websites, Wordplayer.Com. A solid tip on getting your work produced the way you want it to be produced, from Terry Rossio:

On the Wordplay message boards, one of our contributors, Tom Scott, put it best.
“The truth is, there’s no ladder to climb,” Tom said. “There is no gate, nor are there gatekeepers. There are only those who are making movies and those who aren’t. The professional eyes browsing your work on Inktip are in the same boat you’re in. But my friend who taught himself animation, made a short, put it online and got a movie deal is in the same boat as Neill Blomkamp, Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron.”
“That’s the boat you want to be in,” Tom concluded. “And there’s plenty of room for anyone who ever wants to climb on board.”

Read it all at Wordplay

John Ostrander Loses It!

by John Ostrander

NOTE FROM LB: Neither John nor TVWriter™ nor I write very much about politics. Most of the time here on the interwebs, Mr. Ostrander covers the comic book/tv/film interaction beat. What he has to say here is off that beat, but, more importantly, I believe what he is saying is, as the rallying cry went during some past, troubled times, “Right on!”


John’s most beloved creation here at TVWriter™

Twenty years ago this month saw the publication of the first issue of my twelve issue historical western, The Kents (which has since been gathered into a TPB and is on sale at Amazon, among other places; end of plug). The book chronicles how the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family came to live in Kansas and was set before, during, and after the Civil War.

Of all my work, this is one thing of which I’m exceptionally proud. I did a great deal of research for the project and while by no means a history per se, it has a great deal of history in it.

One of the goals I set for myself was to try to convey to the reader how the characters, the people, of that time felt about the events that engulfed them. We, of course, know how that conflict resolved itself but they did not. Was the nation going to tear itself apart? How many more would die? If I was a soldier, would I die or be wounded or maimed? Would my loved one live or die?

The same uncertainties apply to other conflicts, such as WWI and II, Korea and Vietnam. I recently saw the movie Dunkirk (which I found to be harrowing and brilliant) and, if you know anything about that story, you know how it winds up. However, what the movie makes so plain is that no one actually involved at the time had any real idea of how it would be resolved. If anything, they expected the British and French troops gathered at Dunkirk would be annihilated or captured.

Nobody today knows how our story will end. Over the past days / weeks / months of the Trump presidency, we’ve seen the country roil like a broken thing. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m 68 years old and I’ve never seen anything like it. I doubt not only the competence of the most powerful man in the world but his sanity. He lashes out not only at perceived enemies but at the very institutions that power our democracy.

All of us are in the middle of this story and we do not know how it will end. Do we all understand that it does not have to end well? Our country, our way of governing, is an experiment that could still fail. There is no reason that it has to survive. Every great country or civilization has fallen. Every single one. Some aspect of what they were may continue but the main substance collapses. There are those both within and without our borders who would see us ripped apart. And we appear to be doing it. Our survival is not a given and no one should assume it is.

How will our story be written, a hundred years from now? Will it be a story of triumph and, if so, whose triumph? Or will it be a story of tragedy and a fall from grace? Who will write that story?

Abraham Lincoln, in his famed Gettysburg Address, said, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated {to liberty}, can long endure.” That’s as true today as it was then.

Any bets?


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Time Now for a Short Lesson in Reality TV Writing from Troy DeVolld

NOTE FROM LB: Troy’s article today is on four key written elements in today’s “reality” TV world. (They’re also key elements in “fictional” TV shows, but most of the time the networks take them out of your hands, whether you want them to or not.) You may not know the following terms:

Superteasers. Teases. Next Ons. Prev Ons.

Look these up! Master them! I know people who’ve had huge careers based on their handling of what Troy’s talking about right HERE:


Pro Tip: Superteases, Teases, Next Ons, and Prev Ons
by Troy DeVolld

Since a good friend asked me for my thoughts on these today, I thought I’d share them with everyone.

Before you read on, just know that this is how I generally approach this stuff in a vacuum if I’m not given any sort of directive. Mileage and notes pass experience may vary.

SUPERTEASES and SUPERTRAILERS

You’ve culled the best moments from the series (so far) and need to cut a Supertease for the end of the

first episode or a longer Supertrailer for web use. How do you put it together without it seeming like a lot of unrelated noise?

First, look for an opening bite that works as a thesis statement for the season, even if it’s as loose as

“It’s about to get crazy up in here” or “Bad news, guys, we might be losing the business.” This frames the action as you burst into it from there.

I like to group the Supertease/Supertrailer action by moods, and make sure each section is clearly set apart from the one before and after by a shift in music and tone. Make the division clear.

Try this combo:  Opening statement, scene selects that are happy, scene selects that are sad, scene selects that are loud/confrontational, then end on the loudest, biggest clip you’ve got. It’s nice if you can find a good closing statement that bookends the whole mess with a thought not unlike the one you opened with, but implying big risk/stakes.

TEASES

For Act 2, I always end with a deeper tease letting you look ahead to something big in act 6 (or 5 if you have a 5 act structure). For all other teases, resist the urge to completely give away the biggest moment in the next act… I often look for a bold statement and end on an exaggerated version of the reaction shot. You want the moment that’s about to explode, not the whole explosion.

PREVIOUSLY ONS

These should generally only contain material that sets up or reminds us of what’s being paid off or advanced heavily in the current episode. Nothing else matters, no matter how loud or visually attention-getting. The whole deal is about making sure viewers, especially new ones, understand where tonight’s action is coming from.

TONIGHT ONS

Don’t forget to use these as the foundation for your previously-ons and next-ons for the episodes before and after. Why do these completely from scratch?

NEXT ONS

Next ons should hint at further development of something already in motion as of the current episode OR tease something really big and new that’s coming down the pike. I usually limit myself to two or three beats of general action, loudest/most active last.  If you’ve got big action, consider hiding the real physical action, covering it with big reaction shots.  That way, revealing the real image/action in the next episode will feel like a surprise.

That’s all for this entry.  Story pals, any favorite approaches to these?  Leave ’em in the comments section.


Troy DeVolld is a Larry Brody buddy, former senior story producer of Dancing with the Stars, and all-around true master of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?

Why is This Writing Thing So Hard?

The real definition of hard work, yeah? But still….

by David Perlis

I doubt this one will be brief, but it will have to be quick, because I’m about four weeks behind on a deadline, and I thought writing something, anything, would be better than nothing. So I’m writing this. Single draft, quick bang, brain to screen, let’s do this.

Right now, this is me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb3j2m31S6U

For four weeks this has been me. Writing, scrapping, starting over, writing, scrapping. I took a five hour drive up to Mountain View last week just to clear my head and see what the open road would do for me. Long drives always inspire me. This one was no exception. I probably had ten great ideas come to me, and they’ve each been scrapped for the subsequent better idea. Listening to writers online helps. It’s how the above clip made it onto this post, as I’ve been listening to a lot of Charlie Kaufman. I writer who says he knows nothing. And I believe him—yet he still makes it happen, and does it brilliantly.

Here are some things people talk about a lot with writing: theme; character arcs; act breaks; inciting incidents; obstacles; conflict; weakness; change…Let’s put those into some a basic ideology that all screenwriters (mostly self-proclaimed) pipe out from their lungs: Something happens. Characters go on a journey. Characters change. Characters have big final challenge that tests how they have changed. Denouement.

Books will tell you to start with a theme. To set up who your characters are! Figure out your act breaks, and how the character will change! Are other writers really just plugging this shit in?! Switching this character for that one, and this desire for that need?

Do I know how structure works? Yes. Can I just create it by following these guides?

Fuck no.

I’ve got a few scripts in my pocket that I rather like. They give me those feelings of “oh shit!”—the sort that happen when your’e reading a great Harry Potter book. Until I get those moments, I can’t tell if what I’m writing resonates or not. So I search for and cling to those moments with absolute desperation. The thing is that those moments NEVER come to me from plotting out a story based on structure. I don’t know how they do happen, but it’s usually sheer dumb luck.

People say boil your story down to a central idea. Your logline, or your premise. I agree, this is good. “Vanilla chemistry teacher gets cancer and has to start selling meth to provide for his family.” Pretty straightforward. “Giant shark in the water eating people, but the sheriff is scared of water.” Got it.

But here I am with page after page of possible characters, their needs, their weaknesses, the tone, the setting, how all of this contributes to the theme, possible revelations, exciting twists…and yet I still feel like I have no idea of my beginning, or my character, or how to weave these stories…that single premise isn’t helping me.

In short, I’m proving once again that I don’t know how to write. And that I put it off to do other things. Like watch Adaptation clips. And eat muffins.

I guess the problem is that it all feels contrived until I’ve worked on it for so long that the characters feel real to me, and when that happens I’m finally able to sit back and enjoy it as an audience. But that only happens after I’ve stumbled through drafts and rambled on endlessly in different ways…

I could keep rambling on this one for much longer, but it really is time that I got back to work. I need a change of scenery first. Maybe a muffin. Banana nut. That’s a good muffin.


David Perlis is a screenwriter and former People’s Pilot Finalist doing his best to break into the even Bigger Time. This post first appeared on his very helpful blog.

Dennis O’Neil is Watching Netflix’s ‘Defenders’

Team-Ups!
by Dennis O’Neil

So it’s a ball boiler inside the Manhattan office building because although I’m pretty sure air conditioning existed it did not become ubiquitous until after the war that the good ol’ US of A was sliding into. What we’re looking at is an open window on an upper floor and somehow (are we pigeons?) we get inside and behold!

Three middle-aged men, suit jackets draped over chairs, ties loosened, discussing the comic books

they edit. They have had solid successes with characters a couple of young guys named Bill Everett and Carl Burgos brought in. The topic under discussion: more! More of Burgos’s Human Torch, of Everett’s Sub-Mariner: and yes, of course, more profits, and maybe this year’s Christmas bonus will be worth more than a subway token.

Then one of the three (wise men?) has The Idea: Combine ‘em! Put them in the same issue…no, put

‘em in the same story.

And so they did, and a few months later your grandpa (great grandpa?) was sitting on a porch swing with his best gal reading about the meeting of Subby and The Torch, and being scolded by Best Gal for wasting time and money on those stupid funny books! (Okay, skeptics, can you prove that this stuff didn’t happen? Go ahead, Mr. Philosophy Dude, let’s see you prove a negative.)

Whatever the particulars, regardless of what did or did not actually occur, the Torch-Sub-Mariner stories went on sale and the few readable copies left are very early examples of what would later be a comic book staple, the team-up.

And then, the passing of years and The Justice Society of America, the Marvel Family, and a plethora

of other costumed teams, until the arrival of the X-Men just abut the time when comics as a whole were getting a mighty, second wind and emerging from a decade-long obscurity, victims of the Eisenhower era witch hunts.

Comics were back!

And movies were following the trail they blazed. After a few single-hero flicks, the movies found the X-Men and a billion dollar franchise was born. Hold it! – not exactly born: rather, evolved from earlier existence as comic book characters. Fortunes were, and are, being made. More of them to come.

And the fossil who goes by my name can kick back and realize that the Netflix video enterprise, a first cousin to the movies mentioned above, is a super-group comprised entirely of character I’ve worked on. Yep, The Defenders, starring Iron Fist and Power Man, who were partners in their comic book home, and Daredevil and Patsy Walker.

Who?

Patsy made the giant leap from comics about post-teens to grim superheroic private eye Jessica Jones. Patsy’s light and bright escapades were closely related to other Marvel stuff like Millie the Model and if you didn’t know that, well, now you do.

As of this writing, I’ve only seen two of the Defenders programs and so have not earned the right to have an opinion about the whole series.

Catch me next week. Maybe by then I’ll have earned the aforementioned figured out the subject of the preceding 517 words.


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated on a series created for the BBC, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Peggy Bechko Wants You to Finish Writing Your Story!

 by Peggy Bechko

Really, just do it.

Seriously.

Okay, that’s all good and stuff for me to say. I’ve been finishing what I began to write for a whole lotta years now.

But I’m here to talk to you guys who don’t find finishing so easy. Something hangs you up. Pushing out the words isn’t easy. The blank page is intimidating. (Then why are you writing in the first place?) Uh, no, I didn’t mean that, I DO understand, really I do. That whole lot of years thing, remember?

Here’s the thing. There really is no secret to kicking yourself in the butt to get the work done. Got an idea? Then get to it and write.

I have only one secret weapon that I use, and that’s setting a deadline…some kind of deadline. If it’s a freelance, just for myself project I can pick any deadline. A holiday (like I have to get the first draft done before the year-end holidays and I pick a date, like the day before Thanksgiving. Or, if it’s close enough, maybe my birthday. (Hey, that’s just a couple of weeks away, I’ll have to write fast.)

Then, once that deadline is set, I count backwards and give myself goals such as okay, I have to write 2,000 words today to make that goal. It does lend focus. Applying a little pressure to yourself (or in this case myself) is inspiration to sit (or stand) by that computer and get the words written. Breaking things down into smaller accomplishments has always worked for me.

But if that won’t work for you and you’re a more social kind of writer (what, you’re not a hermit?) then you might try attending things like Pitchfests for scripts and writing conferences for novels and non-fiction. If you check out the different conferences you’ll find most of them offer opportunities to pitch editors or maybe producers.

When you do that you better have something already written – so that’s another deadline; get the work done before the conference/pitchfest. Oh, and when you attend one of those you need to have a logline for a script with maybe a one page summary, or a brief synopsis of that novel printed out as a ‘leave-behind’.

And writing such a document has an added bonus. It forces you to think more clearly, and frequently leads to discovering holes in your story. Plot booboos or confusing turns or whatever.

Okay, maybe you ARE a hermit. That’s pretty much me. Then you might try Screenwriting contests for those who do scripts. That’s a great deadline date. Get it done or you can’t enter the contest. Hey, I did that for the Nicholl Fellowships in ScreenWriting and ended up placing in the quarter finals –yay!

Also did it with the Final Draft contest and placed also in quarter finals. That didn’t glean me any huge accolades in H’wood, but I did get the script done and someone did option it.

Those deadlines can work a bit of magic on occasion. And, of course you don’t need to actually enter the contest if you don’t care to. Many times the deadline is enough.

Back to the ‘non-hermits’. If it’s your thing you might seek out a writer’s group. Maybe an in-person group or maybe online. I hear there are some writers who use the #scriptchat hashtag to announce a writing sprint – confident there will be other writers out there who’ll join in and sprint write for a set amount of time. I haven’t sought one out but I bet if you check on twitter you’d spot one for novelists as well. Or set up your own and see if you can get people to join.

Beyond all that you’re just going to have to grab yourself by the scruff of the neck, sit yourself down and darn well do it…or not. And if not, then you probably just aren’t a writer and that’s fine too. Bet there is a lot of other stuff you can do with your time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not to toot our own horn – oh no, TVWriter™ would never do that, right? – but for hermits following Peggy’s advice this very site currently is running PEOPLE’S PILOT  2017, a contest for spec pilot scripts, HERE. And for non-hermits there’s our ONLINE WORKSHOP, HERE.

Hope we’re not out of line asking you to check ’em out!


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Every Episode of ‘Rick and Morty,’ Ranked

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Rick and Morty is the best-written television show currently running, and this time around we’ll add that it’s probably the best-written since, oh, the first couple of seasons of The Sopranos. (Hi, David! We love you, dood.)

This article steps up to the plate with a ton of reasons why:

by Steve Greene

Rick and Morty” does things no other TV shows would dare to do. Even with the infinite possibilities of a portal gun, this is a show that regularly finds a way to reinvent its own rules and subvert expectations of what a comedy can achieve in half-hour increments.

So, in a constant quest to help “Rick and Morty” newbies find the ideal entry point into the series (and to prove to everyone the microverse car battery episode is vastly under-appreciated), we’ve separated out every installment of the show with a little bit of context to explain why each episode deserves its place in the show’s hierarchy.

And let’s be honest: 94 percent of the people who clicked on this story have already skipped down to see where “Pickle Rick” is, so let’s skip the pleasantries, say “Shum shum schlippity dop!” and get to the list.

(We’ll continue to update this list as new episodes make their way to air. For each episode, we’ve also tossed in our picks for each episode’s best quote, some of which singlehandedly moved up their respective episodes a slot or two.) 

25. “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” (Season 1, Episode 4)

This probably isn’t the least-entertaining “Rick and Morty” episode, but it’s the one that has been most undercut by other episodes doing its standout elements better. Playing with reality as an illusion, nefarious alien entities trying to wrestle technological secrets away from Rick, and Jerry watching an alternate reality crumble around him have all been utilized elsewhere to stronger effect. But this still has a solid David Cross performance and “My man!” never gets old, no matter how many times the episode returns to it. Some “Rick and Morty” episodes are simply a collection of disparate, amusing component parts, and that’s OK.

Best Quote: ”You’re missing the point, Morty. Why would he drive a smaller toaster with wheels? Does your car look like a smaller version of your house? No.” – Rick

24. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” (Season 1, Episode 10)

Now that we’re well acquainted with some of the intricacies of this particular multiverse, it’s hard to believe that a gathering of Ricks was once a surprise for the show. But even with introducing the bevy of Citadel-bound alternate Ricks, it’s hard not to get over just how weird the rest of this episode is. Seeing a wall full of tortured Mortys is just as unsettling is any mutant Cronenberg, and the farewell Keyser Soze moment of a vengeful rogue Morty disappearing into the crowd is a fun twist on some of the other end-of-episode resets. But above all, let’s all take a second to appreciate the unadulterated commitment to the bit that the chair-pizza-phone combo deserves and gets. The rule of threes has rarely been so satisfying.

Best Quote: “So a few thousand versions of me had the ingenious idea of banding together like a herd of cattle or a school of fish, or… those people who answer questions on Yahoo! Answers.” – Rick….

Read it all at Indiewire