Diana Vacc sees “Thor: Ragnarok”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

November 3, 2017, Marvel Entertainment released the third installment of the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok.  This film in the Thor saga follows our hero as he attempts to prevent the all-powerful Goddess of Death, Hela, (Cate Blanchett), from destroying his kingdom of Asgard.

THE GOOD:

  • Director Taika Waititi brings us a superhero story with intense action and humor that will keep you on your toes and laughing all the way through.  One scene that speaks to this is when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in a gladiator fight against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). You may think you’ve seen everything these two characters can dish out, but this still will be a delightfully entertaining surprise.
  • Chris Hemsworth is the epitome of Thor.  Not only the look but the delivery of the dialogue.  Hemsworth was born to play this character.  Same could be said about Tom Hiddleston as the adopted brother of Thor, Loki, the God of Mischief.  These two are utter perfection in their roles.
  • The chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston is magical. I thoroughly enjoyed the sparks created by both of them in the scene when Thor returned home to Asgard and sees Loki impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
  • Quit the surprise was Cate Blanchett as Hela.  I’ve always seen Ms. Blanchett as prim and proper and definitely not a villain.  Glad I was proven wrong.  When she first arrives on screen (major spoiler alert) and breaks Thor’s indestructible hammer it’s shocking, to say the least.
  • The unexpected placement of the humor throughout the film by writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost was rolling on the floor laughing material. The most humorous scene was Thor sitting handcuffed to a chair and talking back to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), reminding his captor that “I am the God of Thunder, not Lord of Thunder.”

THE BAD:

  • This film was jaw-dropping entertainment. Nothing here disappointed me.  Leaving the theater I felt that at last I had learned the definition of the phrase: “Pure enjoyment.”

THE REST:

If you want a totally enjoyable escape from your daily life – and these days who doesn’t? – Thor: Ragnarok is for you.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Peggy Bechko: Overcoming Brain Fatigue, Stress & Overdoing It – For Writers

by Peggy Bechko

Alrighty folks, time to put it on the table. Writing takes a lot of brain work, and brain work takes focus.

Consider this: There’s research to squeeze the brain, plotting to squeeze it harder, and just plain thinking about everything else related to your writing project. And that doesn’t include the acttual writing.

So, today I’m going to talk a bit about brain fatigue, stress, and just plain over-doing it.

Now immediately there are lots of folks who’ll think the younger the brain the better because the younger brain can stand long periods of demanding work much better than the older…but know what? It ain’t necessarily so.

And working for very long stretches doesn’t cut it either. I’ve known folks who put forth their insanely long hours at the keyboard like they’ve gone to war and somehow won something. Like it’s some kind of badge of honor.

Just because you’re twenty-something, work all night, then crash, doesn’t mean you’re putting out a better product or that you get more done or that you’re super cool.

Seriously.

While it is true that while in our twenties our brains can process information more efficiently, that doesn’t mean it works more effectively. The folks who do best with inductive reasoning, verbal memory and vocabulary are somewhere between forty and sixty-five according to research. (Take that twenty-somethings!)

What’s the key to overcoming brain fatigue? Turns out that it’s taking breaks. Yep, you overdoers probably don’t want to hear it, but people perform at their best, with middle-agers out-performing younger folks when breaks are planned.

Again, research tells us our minds and bodies have natural rhythms. If you’ve come this far and haven’t figured that out in life what rock have you been living under?

Dream cycles flow in ninety-minute cycles so it’s not too far a stretch to presume (correctly) that waking cycles and rhythms are pretty close to the same as those sleeping cycles, about ninety minutes to two hours.

What to do? Take a break. Yes, it’s time we all realize life is not a race. You’ll produce much better material at a more efficient and quicker pace if you take breaks. This applies to writing, creating, pretty much any kind of work one pursues.

How long should these breaks be?

Twenty minutes seems to be ideal (again, according to our friendly neighborhood researchers). And, stepping completely away from the work environment is best. What that means for  writer is that you – and I – should step away from the desk. Avert our eyes from the computer screen. Go outside for a few minutes if we can. Grab a cup of tea or coffee.

If you can take a short brisk walk, all the better. If you can take a moment to watch the interplay of sun and shadow on a sunny day (or enjoy some flowers, or watch the ducks fly, whatever) great!

We may want to think we’re superhuman and we can do this writing thing straight through, powered by caffeine or whatever, but it’s not true. To sustain your level of production give yourself a twenty-minute break. Now.

Get in tune with your natural rhythms and you’ll outstrip those driving all-nighters who believe they’re really punching it.

Writing is brain work. And the brain wants to rest. And to play. Surely you’ve noticed that when you step away from a story sometimes that’s when the best ideas hit for its continuation or revision.

Set a timer if you have to. Give yourself a break…and take a break. You want to give your brain a chance to forge new neurons no matter your age.

Your writing will improve and so will your mood.

Which reminds me. Time to stand up and walk around the house. I’m starting to feel grumpy.


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.

John Ostrander: Forces for Change

by John Ostrander

By now, everyone has heard (or should have heard) about the sexual depredations of film producer Harvey Weinstein (and James Toback, Kevin Spacey and others of their ilk). This follows revelations of the sexual depredations of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly (seriously, what can you do that commands a $32 million settlement?). And everyone in all the other walks of life who have been playing predator.

The constant refrain that has been heard is that this kind of stuff has been going on out in Hollywood since there has been a Hollywood. Among the reasons that there have been so few direct accusations is that all the predators have been powerful men who could really exact retribution. And the fact that the women speaking out would be shamed, discounted, and not believed. And they would literally never work in that town again.

That’s changed. Women are coming out in droves, speaking up, making themselves heard. Makes no mistake – Weinstein, Ailes, and O’Reilly were extremely powerful individuals. The women have spoken up anyway and it’s the men who have, justifiably, suffered.

Why now? What makes this era different than eras in the past?

There are a lot of different reasons and possibilities but I would like to offer one that, at least in part, contributes. That is our own “pop culture.”

We have seen recently the rise of the strong woman hero or lead. Witness two Star Wars movies, both Episode 7 and the standalone, Rogue One. Episode 7 not only centered around Rey but Princess Leia is now General Leia, a full and equal commander of the Resistance. And, behind the scenes, you have Kathleen Kennedy, who is head honcho of the whole Lucasfilm legacy.

Rogue One centers on Jyn Erso, the daughter of one of the principal designers of the Death Star and the main person responsible for obtaining the plans to the battle station that will enable the good guys to destroy it and save the galaxy.

And we have also had this year an amazing Wonder Woman, not only played to perfection by Gal Gadot but directed by Patty Jenkins. lt’s unheard that a woman would get the opportunity to helm such a big ticket film and Ms. Jenkins really delivered. Thank Hera both are returning for the sequel!

It extends these days to TV as well with Supergirl who not only gives us a Maid of Steel who may be stronger than her cousin, the Man of Steel, but shows women in so many different roles, including a very strong and positive lesbian couple.

I’m not forgetting Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movies or Ripley in the Alien movies, or Hermione in the Harry Potter films or Buffy, the redoubtable Vampire Slayer and many others.

My point is this: seeing positive and strong heroes who look like you is important and they need to be seen on a regular basis. Will and Grace had gay characters in it and, because of the show’s popularity, they are invited into peoples’ living rooms every week. It normalizes meeting LGBTQ folk for straight people who may never have knowingly met one.

In the same way, movies and shows such as Wonder Woman or Star Wars or Supergirl give us the image of women heroes who are strong, brave, resourceful and are examples to other women and to men as well. You need to see what you want to be, something the black community knows very well.

I’m not claiming that the pop culture examples I’ve given are the main reason that women now are speaking up against the Weinsteins of this world. However, I think they are a contributing factor. No single film or TV show alone but all taken together they contribute to the change. Make no mistake; “pop culture” is a potent force in our society. It entertains and bypasses our brain to reach the heart – and that’s where real change comes from.


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

Is the Web Series the New Pilot?

We here at TVWriter™ believe it is and have said so for years. Here’s another look at the concept:

Actually just one web, as in not really a series. Get it? Get it? (from Pexels.Com)

by Shannon Liao

In its current form, the HBO comedy Insecure often looks and feels like a lush, feminist rap video that pays tribute to black excellence and corporate success. The show is centered around two black women in their late 20s who live in LA. It’s also insanely awkward, channeling the same humor creator Issa Rae used on her YouTube series The F Word, I Hate LA Dudes, and Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Although HBO executives have said Insecure isn’t a direct adaptation of Rae’s other series, Rae’s writing has a unique, authentic voice that shines through across all platforms. The show was renewed for a third season in August.

Episode 1 of the original Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl show, posted in 2011, begins with a few piano chords and an illustration of Issa in a magenta shirt that says “ABG.” It shows Rae as “J,” looking washed-out in a car under the glaring sun. The camerawork is shaky, and the scene cuts make the three-minute video feel like a Vine. The plot is simple: Issa raps along to the radio enthusiastically in her car, then has an embarrassing run-in with her co-worker. Awkward Black Girl’s production quality is rough, but its reception on YouTube was enthusiastic. Commenters marveled that Rae had tapped into something in the public psyche, and identified a strand of humor the world needed more of. They posted responses like, “It is so good and so relevant to who I am. Much love to Issa Rae,” and “Bitch, this is what should be on Netflix! Eight stars!”

HBO programming president Casey Bloys was one of Rae’s online fans, and he let his team know about how she was being received. Seeing the audiences she was able to draw, HBO executives reached out to her in 2013, expressing interest in a partnership. They didn’t quite want to turn Awkward Black Girl into a pilot, however. Instead, HBO wanted to explore Rae’s creative ideas. How could she riff off Awkward Black Girl to tell a story that would fit a 30-minute time slot? Although Rae and HBO entertained the idea of an office comedy called Nonprofit, according to HBO executive Amy Gravitt, they ultimately felt that a show located in a single office wouldn’t have enough material to explore. Instead, they developed a series revolving around three main characters — Issa Dee, her best friend Molly, and her boyfriend Lawrence. As the characters grow up and apart, the show found plenty of material to mine besides petty office dramas.

After Rae piqued HBO’s interest, she spent a hard three years nailing down the details of what would become Insecure. Former talk show host Larry Wilmore signed on as the show’s co-creator. Rae then had to hire directors, actors, and producers, fleshing out a staff that had previously just been her. But the move to HBO still keeps a lot of the original YouTube series’ overly awkward sentiments alive, and it fleshes out more of Issa’s life. Symbolically, her character’s name goes from “J” to “Issa Dee,” which is a closer iteration of her real name, Jo-Issa Rae Diop. On an HBO budget, Rae was able to better depict Windsor Hills, the affluent black neighborhood in California where she grew up — and in season 2, the gentrification of nearby Inglewood.

Earlier in 2017, Insecure was renewed for a third season. But Issa Rae isn’t the only web series creator experiencing the mainstream’s embrace right now. Comedy Central recently greenlit the fifth season of Broad City, a comedy about two Jewish-American women trying to make it in New York. Broad City originated as a web series that premiered on YouTube in late 2009. In April, black comedian and activist Franchesca Ramsey signed on with Comedy Central to make a still-unnamed late-night comedy TV pilot. And the web series Brown Girls, headed by co-stars Sam Bailey and Fatimah Asghar, got picked up by HBO in June for an adaptation.

So why are we seeing so many web series getting adapted for television lately? In this age of GoPros, neatly curated social media presences, and streaming services on demand, creators can design and shoot their own series, then serve as their own agents and manage their own online star power. As Webby Awards CEO David-Michel Davies says, “If you go back and look at webisodes in 2007, the quality of the ones made today are much, much higher, because the access to production is so much higher.” The road to becoming a TV star appears smoother than ever. And lately, we’ve been getting more of these perfectly curated DIY packages of talent and PR. A simple search for “web series” on YouTube garners 41.6 million results today. As more web series are posted online, more are getting noticed….

Read it all at The Verge

Peggy Bechko Wants to Know: “Where’s the Talent?”

The search for talent never ends

by Peggy Bechko

Have you ever wondered about your talent for this writing thing? Whether scripts, books, articles, whatever. Have you ever thought, “Do I really have talent for this?”

I’ll be willing to say that’s a big yes for pretty much anyone reading this post. You have indeed asked that question of yourself and perhaps someone else – someone who’s read your work or maybe someone from whom you’ve taken a course. It’s a very real concern to writers. And, let’s face it, writers frequently need reassurance.

So, let’s think about this and ask a few questions.

First, the worst case scenario. How do you react when you fail? We all fail. It’s a human thing. That really isn’t as important as you might first think. The thing most writers and even philosophers will ask is what do you do next? Right now I hear grumbling – “what the heck does that mean?”

Uh, well, since you failed, did you learn anything from it? For want of a better phrase, did you grow? Or, is it the reverse? Did that failure make you feel smaller, less than you were? Did the accompanying criticism (when did we ever face failure without criticism to go with it?) diminish you? Did you allow it to drive you down? Did you immediately think you should just give up?

Beware of emotions that can destroy your dreams and hamper your next effort. Be mad, be frustrated, be whatever it takes for you to get back on your literary feet and try again. Failure isn’t the terrible thing it is sometimes made out to be. We learn from it, we course correct because of it.

So ponder what makes you outstandingly different. What makes you unique? Well, for one thing, getting back up once you’re down. You have strengths and weaknesses. You must have gone through a lot of self-analysis before deciding to try it as a writer. That means you decided what you really want to do. Yay for you! If I’m wrong here you’ll have to give it a rethink. Just don’t let the poison of rejection and a temporary failure decide for you. Keep asking yourself what you really want.

Here’s a big truth for writers and heck for almost anyone doing anything…risk. There’s always risk. I could come up with a whole lot of old clichés regarding this, but you already know if you play it safe as a writer your writing won’t grow. It will be middle-of-the-road at best. If you’re not taking big risks with your writing you’re not positioning yourself for the big gains. Which circles back to the paragraph above on failure. Failure just isn’t. Don’t let it determine where you are going.

Add to your ponderings as well. Who’s supporting you? What are your relationships, business and personal? We all need a support network, someone who’s a positive influence. Who’s yours? If you don’t have some writing pals, a spouse, a significant other, a good friend to cheer you, on you might want to look into changing that. Where are you going to draw your strength to deny failure and continue on?

And here’s a final talent you need to be a truly talented writer. You need to be able to cope with change. Just look at the publishing industry, the explosion of good independently published material. Look at the movie biz. Change is a constant. Styles of script writing change. Ways of making movies change. Do you plan to throw up a stop sign and attempt not being part of it?

Reality is you either adapt to changes or the system mashes you down. Are you going to make use of the changes and put them to your advantage as they happen or are you going to try to ignore it all and stubbornly cling to the ‘old ways’?

Change offers new direction, new perspectives, and new opportunities. Don’t consider change a problem. Embrace it, use it, make the most of it. Your talent will surge as a result.


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.

Writing when everything is in upheaval

Words this TVWriter™ minion stumbled upon and discovered she really needed to read in these very trying times:

by Wendy E.N. Thomas

I’m a happy sort of writer. I write about parenting, puppies, chickens, family and the life lessons I learn.  For the most part I’m an optimist, I have always believed in the goodness of the world.

But these days it’s difficult to write happy when I’m so angry and discouraged.

Never have I felt so unsettled in my life. Never have I used some words with the frequency that I have in the past few months.  (Let’s just say that the Swear Jar my kids made as a joke right after the election is seeing a lot of action.)

This is not an anti-Trump rant (although I blame him for much of it) it’s an anti-world rant. The entire world is in upheaval. Governments are being taken over, attacks are being carried out, and people are dying because they are protesting. Heck, these days athletes are being called sons of bitches for protesting inequality.

Not only are the governments in upheaval, but the very earth itself is in upheaval. We’ve had 3 devastating hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. People have lost everything, they are waiting for help and not sure it is coming. Over in Puerto Rico the situation is critical, without power, food, and water, American lives are being lost.

I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I’m dreaming of escaping to places where there is no internet, no television, no more devastating news.

But then I feel guilty about trying to get away. What if I miss another outrage? What if my voice is not counted in protest?

I had a friend years ago who told me I was too empathetic and that I too easily absorbed the pain of others. She’s right. I even feel bad for the dead animals on the side of the road (aww, such a shame.) Although being able to feel pain is a good trait for a writer, not’s not such a good thing to have when you’re trying to sleep at night.

“Imagine a bubble of white light around you,” my friend advised. “Bright, white shining light that you can see through but that reflects the pain.” It’s not that she wanted me to become immune to pain, it’s that she wanted me to be in control of how much I wanted to let in.

These days I’m imagining an awful lot of bright light. If I want to continue as a write, I have to.

How about you? How are you able to concentrate on writing when things are in such upheaval? Does it bother you? Are you able to effectively unplug?


Originally found at the Live to Write – Write to Live blog which you should visit AT ONCE!

Peggy Bechko on Your Characters’ Needs & Desires

The Joker’s Wants vs. Batman’s Needs – now THAT’s conflict!

by Peggy Bechko

When you begin crafting a story have you taken into consideration the needs and wants of your main characters?

You should. Because when you get down to it, those are the driving forces of your story.

Now many people may jump up and yell, no, it’s conflict! “If there isn’t conflict, there isn’t a story.” But where does that conflict come from?

I’d say it comes from the main characters’ desires.

What that character needs or wants, or both, is the driving engine of any story. It’s what pushes and pulls the characters in directions you probably didn’t imagine when starting the storytelling process. And that pushing and pulling, causes the villain and/or the hero/heroine to end up in places they could never have imagined at the outset.

So, what are the things a character might need or want?

Let’s go to the very obvious first. The basics of life and survival. You, as writer, must tie those needs and desires into your story in logical ways your audience is going to identify with. It’s part of being human.

So, the first are the basics. Every one of us needs food, water, air to breathe, clothes to ward off the elements and hopefully shelter of some sort to pass a night (or day for that matter) in security.

Fact is, if any of those things are lacking (air as an immediate for sure!) then the character is going to be wrapped up with fulling that need before anything else. These very basic human needs can be the basis of your story as in a disaster flick with someone stuck in a collapsed building and running out of air, or they can simply be a more of a background setting. Think Revenant as an example of sheer survival needs.

At the other end of the spectrum is the character whose very existence is not threatened by the circumstances of life. The character who wants to explore deeper meanings in life. Such a character probably is set when it comes to food, clothes, air, etc. He or she wants to understand life more thoroughly. Wants to discover and create, so the needs and desires become different.

That character might want to go to college, to pursue something in an artistic vein, to travel, seek the spiritual core or serve others in some fashion. The needs and desires of that character would send a story off in a completely different direction than the simple meeting of very basic needs mentioned above.

That’s not to say there can’t be a combination of those goals. Of course they can be combined, overlap and even bounce off each other.

And there are a whole lot of other needs and desires in between the basics of survival and the esoteric of the spiritual seeker such as the need for love and belonging, for self-esteem and fame or just being appreciated.

And this brings us back to is how I began. Yes, conflict is the core of your story, but what causes that conflict is the needs and desires of your core characters. You definitely need and should want to take those desires and needs into consideration before you get too far along on your storytelling journey.


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.