Cartoon: Doonesbury Meets ‘Reality’ TV

We admit it: We don’t know a single writer who doesn’t agree with Mr. Trudeau about this. (Of course, we don’t know a single writer who doesn’t agree with him about Trump too, but that’s different.)

Attn LA Writers: Opportunity is a’Knockin’ at ‘theOffice’

Announcing the 2017 Fellowship to theOffice
by TVWriter™ Press Service

Know how we’re always saying that if you want to be in the Biz you should live in L.A.? Well, here’s an example of what we’re talking about.

If you’re looking for the perfect place to leave the distractions of life behind and kick your productivity into overdrive, enter now to win a FREE 6-Month Premium Membership to theOffice. (Yep, that’s the name. We’d put a (sic) after it, but that just makes us feel pompous.)

theOffice is a quiet, communal workspace on 26th Street in Santa Monica. It’s one of the country’s premiere co-working spaces, fostering creativity and productivity in a zen, distraction-free environment for over 13 years.

The membership roster consists of A-list screenwriters, authors, journalists and other creatives. Current and charter members include JJ Abrams, Paul Feig, Chris Weitz, Matthew Carnahan, Clark Gregg, Gigi Levangie Grazer, Jen Celotta and many more.

Dozens of screenplays and novels have been written there. No conference rooms. No phone calls. No conversation. It’s where serious writers go to get it done.

Wade Gasque, manager at theOffice, says:

As a writer myself, I’ve done the coffee shop shuffle. I know how hard it is to find somewhere dependable to work, somewhere without the distractions of home, somewhere quiet and inspiring where I can quickly get into the zone and get words on the page. That’s precisely what we offer here at theOffice. But because many up-and-coming writers might not have the dedicated funds for a monthly writing space like theOffice, we started offering a free fellowship a few years back. The fellowship is essentially a 6-month Premium Membership to theOffice. You get your own door code to access the space at all hours so you can get as much done as you can for the next six months. We’re looking for up-and-coming writers of talent who are dedicated to their craft.

This fellowship is completely free to enter, but the deadline is drawing near. Apply by August 8th or you’re out of luck. All of the details are at www.theOfficeFellowship.com including info on this year’s judges – Mark Cullen, Nicole LaPorte and David Scarpa.

Send submissions and inquiries to: theOfficeFellowship@gmail.com

Website: www.theOfficeOnline.com
Twitter: @theOffice_LA
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theOfficeinLA/

Peggy Bechko’s Tips on Character Descriptions

OMG! Writers have to do all this too – but with words!?

by Peggy Bechko

Writing descriptions for characters in TV and film scripts can be very tricky. We’re writing tight and yet want to transmit something about that character, something that will make an “A” list actor or actress salivate at the thought of playing that character. At the same time it has to be very visual. Unlike novelists, script writers can’t get inside the heads of their characters – at least not when it comes to descriptions. It’s a little like someone off-stage whispering instructions.

If you’ve read a lot of scripts, and if you’re writing them I assume you have, then you’re no doubt all too familiar with a description like: Carmen Smith (20s), slender and graceful, waits impatiently at the bus stop.

Okay, it paints a picture of sorts and we’re told time and again not to over describe, but is that the sort of description that would grab a star? I mean all we’ve said here is that Carmen is thin, impatient woman in her 20s. And, of course your script has to make it past the hurdles and pitfalls of a myriad of other folks who read your script such as readers, agents, maybe producers and others unless you personally know an “A” list movie star. Few of us do. And even if we do, would that person welcome reading your script…and then would that description captivate that person?

Okay, so no, no and no.

Now, presuming your script is otherwise worth reading and it get into the hands of a star’s agent, that agent is going to be looking to see if there’s a plum part in the script for their client. Is the character interesting with a personality, a background; a role that’s multi-faceted to stretch the star’s acting ability.

Isn’t that what you’d be doing if you were a rep for a high-powered star?

So we come back to that original (well, not really so original) description I came up with above. What if the description in your script was more like: The bus driver opened the door to where Carmen, an aristocratic woman more accustomed to limos than city buses, raised her steely gaze to his, then rose and strolled onto the steps plainly intending the bus could just wait a bit longer.

Now that’s a little more like it. What the heck is going on with Carmen? Steely gaze? Causing the bus to wait on her leisurely stroll? There’s a tone here, no? Are things like age important? Not really, unless it really has a bearing on the direction of the story.

Read through your script. Think about the descriptions. If you find one that seems a little flat, play with it. Think about who your character is and consider, can I bring the character through with action and movement, maybe a look or a certain attitude. Don’t depend on age, clothes, height or color of hair (ye gads!). What would make a star want to play that role?


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.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘I Tried To Write Another Lie’

Mmm, sugar coating. Good for whose soul?

 by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB

Time now for a writing tip you don’t usually get in Screenwriting 101. Oh, wait. It’s not a tip at all. It’s a confession. Hmm….


I Tried To Write Another Lie

I tried to write another lie.

I’d written them all my life.

“I’ll just give them what they want,”

I said. “Write about the veneer.

Take out the heart.

Forget the soul.”

But my new muse said, “No. You can’t

Do that to yourself.”

“It isn’t to myself,” I protested. “It’s for

Them. The readers. They’ll

Like everything better this way.

Always have,” I said. “Always will.”

“Let me get this straight,” my muse said.

“You’re going to write a lie because

Your readers want lies. Not because just maybe

You’re the one afraid of the truth?”

I saw myself as a child, head down

Before God, resenting His waving finger

Only because I already knew right from

Wrong. I shook my head.

“No,” I admitted. “I want to lie

Because it hurts too much to

Be true.” I tore up my pages,

And went back to work, starting over

As I already was starting over in life.

My love smiled the smile that

Has earned her my heart.

“Welcome back to the world, kid,” Gwen said.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – July 24, 2017

Time for TVWriter™’s  Monday look at our 5 most popular blog posts of the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Update

Web Series: ‘Or Die Trying’

TV WRITING: Your First Years In The Writers Room

Web Series: ‘Stupid Idiots’

And our 5 most visited permanent resource pages are, also in order:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Contest

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Enter

The Logline

Major thanks to everyone for making this another great week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Bri Castellini: Exactly How Much My Award-Winning Web Series Cost Me To Produce – @brisworld

by Bri Castellini

Filmmaking is expensive. Even the cheapest, easiest production in the world is riddled with costs for things you can never truly anticipate until you’re actually on set, and it only gets harder when you’re on your own. I’m one of the idiots trying to make and release content without the support or funds from a production company or a cable network. Hi, my name is Bri Castellini, and I’m an independent filmmaker with over $80,000 in student debt.

Since 2015, I have produced two seasons of my award-winning web series Brains, two spin-off “extended universe” projects (a mini-series and a short film) from that series, a short film, and several other web series and film projects that were written by friends and collaborators. As expected, this productivity did not come cheap.

Today, I want to talk about the first season of Brains, my first film project, and take you through where the minimal amounts of money I had for my no-budget show went. At the time of production, I was an assistant manager at a coffee shop in TriBeCa, making $14 an hour, while also in my first year of graduate school.

IndieGoGo

In the green column of the budget, I had only one source of funds — the IndieGoGo campaign we ran between filming the pilot and the nine other episodes of that season. According to the campaign itself, we raised $1,015 of the arbitrary $3,000 goal we set. In actuality, we’d made $923.65, after Paypal and IndieGoGo took their fees. Pro tip: the fees on IndieGoGo are lower if you reach your goal. Had I known this at the time, I would have donated the remaining amount before time was up, since it was all coming straight back to me anyways. At some point during production, my grandfather sent me $100 as a gift, so I added that to the IndieGoGo funds, making our working budget $1,023.65, i.e. definitely not enough money.

IndieGoGo Perks

Because I’d never run a crowdfunding campaign before, I made the most amateur of mistakes: I didn’t calculate the costs of the actual perks before setting their prices on the campaign. For instance, we charged $35 for the “official poster” perk and made about $200 dollars from it, but we actually spent $392.95 printing and shipping those posters, which is a pretty dramatic net loss. Not an ideal situation.

Transportation

$312.41. This is where most of our money went that first season. Because we’re in New York City, no cast or crew had a car, meaning that we relied entirely on taxis and public transportation to get us to and from set. It got complicated when we had to drag giant props and other materials to and from our apartments, and because filming is exhausting, we’d treat ourselves to a cab ride after a hard day instead of braving the subway with five giant bags of props and lighting equipment. I also had to shell out some cash when a key cast or crew member forgot about our shoot and we needed them on set as soon as possible. Season two, after learning all this the hard way, we only spent $41.20 on transportation.

Props

Brains is an apocalypse show, so we also spent a chunk of change on props. $261.66 to be exact, which covered fake guns, a fake machete, handcuffs, lab coats, binoculars, and outfits for all our zombies, among many other things. This couldn’t be avoided, but during season two, we spent almost nothing on those items, because we already owned them. In this case, and this case only, being a pack rat really paid off.

New actor

There were several months between filming the pilot and the rest of the season, and in that time, the actor playing the main love interest, who was also my roommate, dropped out for lots of very dramatic reasons. Because this character was vital to the story, and because we’d already cast every other guy we knew in other parts on the show, we had to shell out $91.70 to woo a new actor. First, $19.95 for a Backstage.com account to post a casting notice, then $24.95 for listing the casting notice. After we got some responses, we needed a professional-looking space for in-person auditions, which ended up costing $46.80. The actor we eventually chose was absolutely worth the unexpected charges, and I want to cast him in everything ever moving forward, but finding him cost us time and almost 1/9 of our total budget.

Mistakes

When I was going over my budget spreadsheet after the season, I organized some of the charges into a category labeled “charges that fucked us without being that helpful.” The $165.65 total included a prop gun that looked too fake to use, a set of mics that weren’t compatible with the rest of our equipment, adapters for those mics that still didn’t make them work, PayPal fees from getting the IndieGoGo money into my account, and another set of prop guns that got delivered to the wrong address, and thus we didn’t actually get to use in the show. You can’t plan for every mistake, but you can do more work beforehand to lessen their impact. Had we researched those mics more fully, for example, we never would have ordered them or the adapters in the first place. Same for the too-fake fake gun.

Food

That first season we were pretty inconsistent about feeding people on set because we genuinely forgot that was a thing you had to do, but even so, we spent $221.23. Sometimes we’d send someone to a nearby fast food chain to pick up actual meals, sometimes we’d just buy water bottles and snacks to have on hand, and at the end of the season, I bought three giant watermelons. Fun fact: hitting a watermelon with a machete and a baseball bat sounds like hitting a human, which we recorded to layer onto the zombie “kills” we’d already filmed.

Advertising

Because we were a group of nobodies, no one cared that we’d just spent the better part of our summer laboring over a web series. So each week a new episode went live, I spent a little money on Facebook ads to promote them, to varying levels of success. In total, for the first season, I spent $167.86 on Facebook ads.

Film Festivals

This cost is one that still sends me reeling. I actually don’t have the actual total amount I’ve spent on film festival submissions, because after a while, it got too depressing to keep track. The number in my spreadsheet, $120.74, is only accurate as of November 2015, but since then, I’ve probably spent twice that, because the only way to raise your show’s profile is to get accepted into film festivals, and the only way to get accepted into film festivals is to spend a bunch of money submitting your show to them for the possibility of selection.

As of November 2015, I was $948 over budget. Since then, taking into account my being over $1500 in the red from season 2 and the exorbitant film festival costs I’m still accruing, it’s safe to say that from a financial perspective, producing a web series is more expensive than setting your money on fire. In the future, my best case scenario is breaking even. And I still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Read her blog! Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE! Oh, and she wants you to know this:

Why is English Spelling So Weird?

Another entertaining and informative video about the English language by Arika Okrent. This one, about the vagaries of English spelling, is especially important to TVWriter™’s key demo (always wanted to use that phrase). You know: Writers!

More about Akira, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Writers