Larry Brody replies to “I’m a beginner at this TV writing thing. Please help!”

by Larry Brody

A couple of TVWriter™ visitor questions that have been gnawing at me for the past few days:

1) From JW:

‘Morning Mr. B,

I’ve written and entered a TV pilot that has done fairly well in contests but has not been picked up or optioned. Does it make sense to write another episode from the same series and enter it in next year’s contests?

For example, my Season 2, Ep. 1 has a great opening and compelling new characters added to the cast but doesn’t establish the original “big picture.” Will I lose points with the judges for that?

And my reply:

Dear JW,

I can’t speak for other contests, but I do kind of know my way around the People’s Pilot, where, believe it or don’t, people do what you’re talking all the time.

Well, not exactly all the time but fairly frequently. Sometimes they entire another episode in the same running of the PP so that in effect the judges have two pilots to choose from. In the 2016 Peoples Pilot, for example, two different writers working on the same future series sent in two separate scripts to serve as pilots.

The actual creator of the show entered his pilot script, and his fellow writer on the hoped-for series send in a later episode. Both scripts placed highly. In fact, the creator’s script finished third in its category and the other script placed second because even without including a series set-up per se, it was an excellent example of what should or would happen on the show.

In other words, I think submitting another episode of your series would be a good idea. If the fact that the script doesn’t present what you call “the big picture” worries you, I suggest you also include a short series presentation as additional material for the judges to take into consideration. We’re big on additional material in the PP.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of original pilot scripts like yours not being picked up or optioned, I’d like to point out that very few series created by writers who are outsiders in the biz are ever sold. That’s just not how the system works.

Original pilots, however, are absolutely the best writing samples you can send out because they show both how you handle material you love and your understanding of the needs of whatever genre or category your script is in. And original pilots that have won, or placed highly in contests, are pretty much beloved by agents because they also demonstrate that other readers have been impressed by your writing so taking a chance on you, the new writer seems less risky. In the People’s Pilot, by the way, those other readers are TV and film writing pros, and that reduces the risk factor even more.

2) From WJ:

Hi LB,

I’m a college student in a film and TV program that has given me the chance to write two of my own pilot scripts in the past year. Both have been well received by my teachers and advisor.

One of the scripts is drama. The other is a dark comedy. I read where writing in different genres can cause identity confusion for potential agents, managers, hucksters. Should a writer avoid muddying the waters and stick to one niche until he/she is established?

My oh-so-very-thoughtful reply:

Dear WJ:

Oh, for Christ’s sake, WJ, give yourself a break. Who are you going to confuse? You’re brand new to the writing game and not even in L.A. yet. No one in a position of genuine authority or influence even knows you’re alive.

Your job is to get noticed. To demonstrate that you’re better than everyone else who’s showing their material to all those to whom you’re sending yours. Why in the name of the Great God of Ambition would you want to hogtie yourself by hiding one of the scripts you genuinely believe is the greatest of its type?

Send them both out wherever you can. Get yourself discovered. That’s what it’s all about. Besides, most people, even knowledgeable professionals, conflate dark comedy with drama anyway because of the serious undertones that dark comedy gets its name from.

The only reason to hold back material is if you have doubts about it. I mean genuine doubts with a basis in reality, not neurotic self-doubt.

Um, what’s that you just asked? How do you tell the difference? That, my friend, is between you and your shrink.

Thanks for the questions, you two! And to everyone else out there: I love hearing from you, so, by all means, keep ’em coming!

LYMI LB

 

 

LB: First Thoughts on the PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Writing Competition Entries

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by Larry Brody

It’s been 5 – count ’em, 5 – days since PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017, the web’s premier TV pilot writing competition (as I sure as hell like to think) closed, and Team TVWriter™ and I have been logging in the entries and doing some preliminary analysis thereof.

As usual, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely because how can I help but be excited and happy when I’m learning as much as I am about where the entrants’ hearts, souls, and heads are and where the future of what used to be thought of as “just TV” but now is a bit more respectably referred to as “electronic media” is heading.

Haven’t done any close reading, mind you, but here’s what I’ve discovered while playing lookie-loo with all the entrants’ work:

    1. The most obvious thing is that PEOPLE’S PILOT entries were down this year by almost 25%. Sounds like a lot, yeah? But the loss in fact simply brought us back to the same number of entries – plus or minus a handful – that the PP averaged for several years until a big rise that sustained itself for 2015 and 2016. No one here at TVWriter™ was able to fully explain the rise at the time. In fact, we’d been expecting a downturn because of economic conditions and the increase in online writing contests. I admit that I’m disappointed that the new, higher number of entries didn’t last, but we’re going to study the data more thoroughly and work like demons to turn it around again.
    2. Last year, I recognized the names of about 30% of the entrants, either from previous contest entries, emails to TVWriter™ or myself, and the various classes I teach. This year, that number is up a bit, to 33%. It’s always gratifying to realize that we have a core group of repeat visitors and appreciate not only your loyalty but also our responsibility to continue giving helpful “tips and tricks” (as our homepage used to say when we first started TVWriter.Com almost 20 years ago) to TV and screenwriters both new and, well, let’s just say “more experienced” and let it go at that. Big thanks to all of you for inspiring us to double down on our efforts to give you what you need.
    3. Last year, we had three categories, one for half-hour shows, one for one-hours, and one for – surprise – longer than one-hour shows. This year we downsized back to two categories, Comedy (of any length) and Drama/Action shows (also of any length).  I was worried a bit that this might result in a decrease ion the number of longer pilots, and, yep, that’s what happened. However, this year we made an effort to reach out to writers of web series, with the result that the percentage of scripts that were either shorter than half an hour or longer than one hour went up a tad, to almost 20 %. I’m very pleased that the PP is being embraced by web series creators and believe this represents a major shift in what the biz types call content distribution. In fact, here’s a prediction: Within the next couple of years, creating and running a successful web series will be the major calling card for a wider professional career.
    4. Speaking of becoming professional, I have to admit that I’m surprised to report that the number of Drama/Action entries this year was just a couple of percentage points shy of double the number of comedy entries, a fair-sized uptick. When I mentioned that to a couple of my comedy writer friends, they nodded and looked smug. “Comedy writing is harder, Larry,” one said. “I think it scares writers off.” When I said that the numbers looked bad for the future of comedy, another friend laughed. “Fewer new writers means more work for this old warhorse,” she said. Of course, for those of you looking to make a place in showbiz, there’s another way to look at it. Fewer new comedy writers in the conveyor belt means more of a need for them. And, come to think of it, if you enter the Comedy category, less competition in the upcoming PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018.
    5. Here’s another comparison I find interesting. This time around, almost 75% of the comedy entries we’ve looked through appear to be traditional, old-school sitcoms whose purpose is to make the audience laugh rather than exercises in irony designed to impress viewers with their hipness. I’m thinking that this is a function of the way, especially over the past year, daily life in the U.S. has seemed to grow progressively more stressful on just about every level, creating a need for more humor. Looks like the current generation of new comedy writers is instinctively reacting to the situation, which I find impressively perceptive.
    6. Another trend that is showing up in this year’s entries is a rise in the percentage of science fiction and fantasy offerings. 22% of the comedies and a whopping 55% of the drama entries are genre. Putting it another way, this year we received three times as many s-f and fantasy entries as last. OTOH, a look back at PP records shows that the number of police procedural entries is down (only 10% of the total entries) while what we might call “criminal soap operas” are, you know, trending, at least in the PEOPLE’S PILOT.
    7. As usual, I’m enjoying the titles of this year’s entries. I’m especially looking forward to reading the following, just because of their names. There’s a lesson there that everyone reading this should note: A good title goes a long, long way to helping your cause. Here, in no particular order, are the ones that are grabbing me the most:
      ANDY PANSKY’S A CORPORATE LACKEY
      GFA (GREAT F’ING ADVICE)
      ADULTING
      SINGLE SEX
      FRANK FETUS, NICU
      GROVER VS. THE GALAXY
      CUTTING HEART
      INNER DEMONS
      STEALING GOD
      SECONDHAND SAINTS
      AFTER WE FALL
      BLOOD ON THE HILL
      SONS OF WITCHES
      DREAMS IN THE KEY OF C
      HELL COUNTY
      THE STRANGE REALITY OF SALLY PARKER
      2 IN THE CHAMBER
    8. Also as usual, we’ve received some fascinating one-word titles – 25% of all entries, in fact.  Here’s a random sample:
      DUMBBELZ
      SWIPE
      JETLAGGED
      ADULTING
      NORIEGA
      LUCKY
      SHADOWS
      WRECKAGE
      DRIVEN
      TURBULENCE
      SHAMAN
      SUPER
      CONNECTION
      STRUCK
      VAGABOND
      M.A.G.I.C.
      INEFFABLE

FWIW, my favorite title in the Comedy Category this year is FRANK FETUS, NICU, and in the Drama/Action Category I’m a big fan of 2 IN THE CHAMBER. No, I haven’t read either of them yet, but I will. Soon.

Our plan for announcing winners remains the same as we say on the PEOPLE’S PILOT “About” page. We’re on schedule to for announcing Semi-Finalists, Finalists, and Winners between mid-January and mid-February of next year.

And, of course, I’ll probably have a few more things to say between now and then so keep checking. Wouldn’t want anybody to be a Winner and not know it.

Which reminds me, if you entered PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 and want to keep abreast of all the further developments (and, you know, your placing, Feedback, et al), do yourself and us a favor and make sure to keep your name and email address on the TVWriter™ eMail List because that’s our go-to way of getting in touch.

Thanks again to everyone for taking part and being so talented! More to come!

LYMI

lboldwriter

 

 

LB

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Great Spirits’

View down the Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts driveway. >sigh<

NOTE FROM LB

The image above was supposed to be of the last time I saw the Navajo Dog (although I didn’t know that’s what I was seeing) walking down the driveway. But when I looked at the file this morning, well, somehow she’d left the picture as well.

Magic is real…but that’s a song for another day.


Great Spirits
by Larry Brody

Since the Navajo dog and I stopped speaking,

Shortly after she trotted down our mountain

And vanished down the road to the next Astral Plain,

I’ve pretty much decided to hell with intermediaries,

I’ll go right to the source.

We’re talking the Great Spirit here, that’s right.

We’re talking God.

I speak to Him daily,

Usually in the shower,

Sometimes in the middle of the night

When I’ve been awakened by the insecurity and panic

That are a part of this kill-or-be-killed, law of the jungle

Situation now playing at your local theaters as life.

God’s an upright guy, as we used to say.

He always answers quickly—too quickly sometimes,

For me to comprehend.

Always, though, I believe.

God doesn’t confide in me. He doesn’t tell me His plans.

He doesn’t really answer my questions either. But

He does tell me when I’ve already gotten the answer for myself,

Whether what I’ve figured out is right or wrong,

And He laughs a lot.

Punishes, too. Just because God forgives,

Doesn’t mean He doesn’t kick ass.

They say virtue is its own reward,

And while that still isn’t something I fully

Comprehend, I know that talking to God is too.

With it comes a great feeling of peace.

Once you lose the illusion of having control over your life

You gain the ability to ride out the storms.

God is my shepherd, that I don’t doubt,

But just between you, me, and — yes — Him,

Sometimes I really want the Navajo dog.

###


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.

Web Series: ‘The Vamps Next Door’

NOTE FROM LB: Want to see what a web series episode with a million and a half views looks like? Click “play” on the video below.

by Larry Brody

There I was, on the back deck of the Brody home that isn’t Cloud Creek Ranch, having a fine old end of summer convo with my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, and two old friends, and suddenly the Missus of the friends, Laura Conway, casually mentions, “I’ve been making a couple of web series. They’re a lot of fun.”

And without missing a beat, the Mistah of the couple, Gerry Conway (yes, this Gerry Conway), equally casually says, “Laura’s shows have over three million views.”

“Three million views?” was all I could say.

“Yep,” Gerry said.

“And you never told me before?”

“I haven’t told very many people at all about the shows,” Laura said.

“Why not?” I said.

“She’s shy,” Gerry said.

Laura nodded. “I am. I’m shy.”

So, because I’m not so shy, let me repeat the most cogent fact here, because, well, because how can I not?

Three million views.

Fucking three fucking million fucking views!

And not only had I never known that Laura was doing this, I’d neither heard about nor seen any of her shows anywhere before.

Those of you who know me know where this is going. I have now watched Laura Conway’s absolutely mind-blowingly professional top scoring in every aspect series, The Vamps Next Door, and I’m absolutely blown away.

The episode above, “Hurt So Good,” is the most popular in the series, but the others are all just as good. Scripts, direction, acting, production values, we’re talking stuff that puts the original Dark Shadows to shame. Oh, and in case you haven’t watched the embed yet, I gotta tell you: The Vamps Next Door is funny.

To me, one of the most interesting thing about The Vamps Next Door is that Laura was a total noob when she started it, seven years ago. If you watch the earlier episodes, they’re rough, unpolished, fraught with the errors all new filmmakers make.  But she learned, and is still learning, the way a true creator does.

You can find out more about the show HERE, and you definitely should.

Thank you, Laura, for finally coming out of the closet!

Oh hell, here’s an episode of Laura’s other show, Ageless. It left me speechless when I first saw it, but I’m sure we’ll talk more about this later:

Larry Brody: TVWriter University Fall 2017 Update

by Larry Brody

It rained last night, the slow, easy, beautiful rain that’s a big part of what makes the Pacific Northwest so wonderful. This is the first real sign of Fall here at TVWriter™ Central and a sign that it’s time to plunge right into action with new classes.

So here’s what’s happening:

LARRY BRODY’S MASTER CLASS

The 33rd Master Class, AKA The Class for Pro Level Writers Who Firmly Believe They Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Classes begins next week, AKA Thursday, Sept. 28th.

The Master Class is held entirely online. It’s the one where we start off by reading the completed first draft of your current passion (or paid) project and then take it through 4 weeks of revisions to give you all the help we can to make this your career best.

The absolute max number of students for the Master Class is 3, and 2 places are still open. If you think you qualify and will have a finished first draft of your latest literary child for us to work with by Sept. 28th, let me know, ASAP, via email HERE.

For more info about the Master Class the place to visit is HERE

TVWRITER™ ONLINE TV & FILM WRITING WORKSHOP

Our 167th Online Workshop will start Wednesday, Sept. 27th.

Most students in this, our most popular offering, return time after time, but as of this writing 2 places remain in this class of 5.

The Online Workshop is the one tailored specifically for each member. If you’re new to TV or film writing we bring you through the basics via weekly assignments until you’re ready to run with a full teleplay or screenplay of your own. If you know your way around the format, then the class is all about uploading 10 pages a week for your classmates and me read and discuss and give you insight into what can make the delicious goodness of your work even tastier.

More info about the Advanced Workshop is HERE

It’s always a joy for me to work with fresh, eager new writers. I’m more than happy to answer any Online Workshop questions HERE

LYMI, LB

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Guys With Ties’

Found on the interwebs although I saw my tie fighters on the interstate

 by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB

No showbiz in this one. No Navajo Dog either. Just, well, you’ll see soon enough. (Alternate titles: LA Life, Life in the Slow Lane, Real Suits…)


Guys With Ties

Years ago, when I was another me—

Striding giant-like over the withering

Turf of L.A.—I saw a fight on the

Side of the freeway. Two businessmen had pulled over

—For what reason I can’t say—and were whaling

At each other, ties flapping in the wind. Guys with

Ties fighting! Not just yelling, or swearing, or pushing

But using their fists just like they had seen on TV.

Traffic was at a standstill, so I watched for a time,

And I realized I was seeing something so important

That it had actually made me feel. Never would

I be able to understand, or communicate with, the

Tie-tacked gladiators, but I could sense their

Frustration and their outrage, their dissatisfaction, and

Their need to draw blood. My pulse quickened,

And my temperature soared. My chest

Tightened and squeezed. I was wearing

Levi’s, and an Armani T-shirt, one of a dozen

I had bought at a hundred dollars a pop, but

At home I too had ties. Hand-painted, silk,

Gorgeous works suitable for framing. Never

Had any of my ties been worn.

When the freeway finally started moving again,

I drove straight to the house, and went to my tie drawer,

Put on a ‘Forties antique. Just wrapped it

Around my Armani, and looked at myself

In the mirror.

Sure enough, I was dangerous. Dangerous

As could be. Ready to tackle the whithering

Dithering road.

But then I put away the tie. I was a wealthy

Man then, and didn’t need such a sign.

Business was for fighters, and while I was a

Warrior of words, they were wasted ones,

Filled with knowledge alone. Without the

Fighters to watch, I felt nothing. A few days

Later, I gave away all the ties. They had become

Nothing but symbols of need.


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.

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Update

This email went out yesterday to everyone on our TVWriter™ email list. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do it HERE

tv writer peoples pilot main 1

Yes, it’s that time again, when I remind everyone that:

1) PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 is up and running and wants your entry!

2) Although the contest doesn’t close to entries until November 1st, we’re getting perilously near to the August 1st deadline for discounted Early Bird sign-ups.

In other words, you’ve got less than 2 weeks to save 30% off the regular entry fee of $50 and enter as many pilot scripts as you want in this year’s 26th PEOPLE’S PILOT for only $35 each.

And you don’t actually have to complete and submit your entries till August 1!

I think this is a great deal, and although we get a good many takers for it each year – about 15% – I’m still always surprised that more of our entrants don’t take this route.

Now, truth to tell (as Roy Thomas used to say back in the dim past when he was Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics), Early Bird entrants aren’t only for your benefit. (Yeah, you’re shocked, right?)

They also help us here at TVWriter™. Because early submissions mean we’re able to get a headstart on the judging and relieve a bit of the pressure we’re under when the avalanche of entries hits us in the closing days.

This year, I’m going to sweeten the Early Bird pot. In addition to a lower fee of $35/entry, each early submitter between now and August 1st will receive a Special Gift – a free pdf copy of my classic book TELEVISION WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

That’s 375 pages of TV writing goodness, knowledge designed to prepare you for a successful television writing career in a way no other book can.

So there it is, right on the table. All you have to do is enter HERE

Complete PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 info is HERE

And, if by some weird mischance you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a not-so-brief summary of what this year’s PEOPLE’S PILOT is all about:

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017, one of the oldest and most highly regarded writing competitions on the interweb is now open!

The future of entertainment and those who create it is open and varied. Whether the series you are creating is intended for broadcast TV, cable and satellite TV, home entertainment/video game consoles, Big Media interweb outlets like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, or indie web channels and venues like YouTube, Vimeo, Funny or Die, or the show’s own website, it is eligible for the PEOPLE’S PILOT Television and Electronic Media Pilot Script Competition.

CATEGORIES

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 is divided into 2 prize-giving categories plus a Special Bonus Category with its own unique award – a paying development deal starting with an option. To be more specific, the categories are:

Scripted Comedy Series – intended for any electronic platform (including broadcast and premium cable series, internet series, cell phone series et al) of any length of any length required for telling your story

Scripted Drama & Action Series – intended for any electronic platform (including broadcast and premium cable series, internet series, cell phone series et al) of any length required for telling your story

Episode length, number of episodes in the series, specific genre and just about everything else is entirely up to the creator. We do, however, require that the script be written in English and that is use standard teleplay/screenplay format so our judges can read it!

Special Bonus Category – All entries in this year’s competition automatically will be considered for the Special International Production Award, sponsored by Global Saga Media Entertainment of Hong Kong, which will be given to the entry or entries that the judges deem especially suitable for the global television market.

PRIZES

Prizes and bonuses for each of the two regular categories, worth over $20,000 include

$2000 US
1-on-1 Career Coaching from TVWriter™’s Larry Brody
Free admission to Larry Brody’s Online TV and Film Writing Master Class
Script Consultation from Script Pipeline
Gold Plan Spotlighted Screenplay Posting Service from Screenwriter Showcase
InkTip Script Listing
InkTip Magazine Logline Listing
Inclusion in the TVWriter™ List of Recommended Writers

BONUS PRIZE:

An international production script development-option deal with Global Saga Media Entertainment of Hong Kong for a qualifying script or scripts.

ENTRY BONUSES

FREE FEEDBACK

FREE STORYTELLING PATTERNS E-BOOK

ENTRY FEES

June 1 – August 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT EARLY BIRD ENTRY $35

August 2 – November 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT SINGLE ENTRY $50

August 2 – November 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT DUO DISCOUNT ENTRY $85

CLOSING DATE

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 closes at midnight November 1, 2017. You can enter and upload your entries any time until closing. As in past years, we urge you to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount even if your entry or entries won’t be ready until after the discount period ends. Once you have paid, you can upload your submissions at any time until the contest closes.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Complete PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 info is HERE

Our Entry Page is HERE

Email me, LB, with your questions on the contest HERE

Larry Brody & Team TVWriter™
https://tvwriter.net
https://tvwriter.com