John Ostrander: The Family of Sociopaths

This gallery contains 4 photos.

by John Ostrander Commercials are the point of commercial TV. I realize that, for those of you who do only streaming services, this concept may seem a bit foreign, but your monthly fees take the place of paid commercials, assuming the streaming service isn’t double-dipping. Advertisers buy time to pitch products and/or services and/or whatever […]

Carlton Cuse on What He’s Learned Since ‘Lost’

Step right up, ladies and gents, for a good, long look into a showrunner’s mind. And you thought you were obsessed?

THE STRAIN

by Ben Travers

Carlton Cuse knows how to end a TV show. Before co-writing the last episode of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s apocalyptic vampire story, “The Strain,” the showrunner and executive producer had already written four series finales. Four!

In 2000, Cuse penned “Final Conflict” Part 1 and Part 2 for the CBS action drama “Martial Law.” A year later, he wrote the ending to his breakthrough broadcast series, “Nash Bridges.” Then came the landmark finale of “Lost” in 2010 and, earlier this year, he dimmed the vacancy sign at the “Bates Motel” in a beautiful closing chapter.

Next up, as “The Strain” wraps up on Sunday, September 17, Cuse said he knew exactly how to end it.

“I think that to end a show, you have to really look at what your show is fundamentally about and then figure out your ending from that,” Cuse told IndieWire. “In the case of ‘The Strain,’ it’s a graphic novel epidemiological thriller. I think we view it as a wonderful popcorn movie experience: There is a clear force of antagonism, this Master — a vampiric parasitic creature — and there are a bunch of protagonists that are trying to do him in.

“I think that the fair and right ending to ‘The Strain’ is one that gives you a real sense of what the ultimate fate of these characters are and ultimately resolves the conflict between a clear force of antagonism and a clear force of protagonism.”

Not every show necessitates a showdown between good and evil. Some are more complicated, including one of the most hotly debated series finales ever.

“Certainly when Damon [Lindelof] and I wrote the ending for ‘Lost,’ we felt like there was no version where we could answer all of the mystery questions without feeling didactic and unsatisfying,” he said. “The attempt to answer those questions would ultimately just lead to more questions. What we felt was important was to provide a character resolution to explain what happened to them and to provide them with a sense of emotional closure.”

A lot has changed since “Lost” ended, including the very system that led to all those questions stacking up. Prestige drama projects have been snatched up by cable and streaming outlets, which allow for shorter seasons and less seasons overall. (Both length-related issues were regular sticking points for Cuse and Lindelof when negotiating with ABC.)

Such shifts in how television is made emphasize the importance of Cuse’s experience writing finales: He’s done it under the harshest conditions as well as the most idyllic.

Back when “Lost” was made, Cuse describes the network television mentality “like the pony express: you rode the horse until it dropped dead from underneath you… The idea that we made 24 hours in the first season, 23 the second, and 22 in the third, I mean it’s just… In an era of orders of eight [episodes per season], it’s kind of incomprehensible….”

Read it all at Indiewire

Facing My Fears

by Marc Alan Fishman

NOTE FROM LB: On one level, this is an article about writing and selling indie comics. But when I read this beautiful piece in ComicMix last weekend it communicated to me on a whole other level. I think that one of the lessons all creatives learn as they grow up is how much courage it takes just to be ourselves.

In this piece, Unshaven Comics’ Marc Alan Fishman not only faces his – and our – eternal dilemma, he also gives us a wonderful trick for overcoming. A great read for everyone:


Unshaven Comics’ trek to Hotlanta for the annual Dragon Con had me face down several fears all at once. As Unshaven Matt Wright was sidelined due to a babysitting emergency, the biggest fear for me was knowing that our terrific trio was reduced to a dingy duo. Beyond that, there was the continual fear that our little shtick will finally reach the point that it doesn’t garner the excitement we count on to close sales. Add that ennui to the more concrete fear that a ten-hour trip in the car while completing the Whole 30 diet – one that forced me to give up everything but lean protein, fruits and vegetables – would make what is normally a doabledrive become something more akin to the trek undertaken by a ragtag fellowship of adventurers trying to ditch a silly ring.

Backup just a wee bit further and I was dealing with the fear of finishing our comic. In what was our second year without a new book to bring out to shows, the creeping horror of attending a show yet again without anything new to our names had forced me to use vacation time from my day job – and then working 12 hours a day to ensure we limped across the finish line. But once production was done on the digital end? Well, then came all the tiny nightmares: getting gigs of data over to our printer intact, checking proofs, correcting errors, and then awaiting the full order for Atlanta to be printed, cut, and stapled.

For the last five years or so my comic series The Samurnauts has been a comfortable and fruitful universe to play in. The rules had been well defined by myself and my Unshaven cohorts. Our stories had been written and everything stayed right in my wheelhouse. That house, you ask? Taking those things I loved growing up, and putting a new twist on them to produce something that kids would enjoy, but adults could appreciate the layers built below the surface of the shiny comic action. But Mine! is a beast far outside the realm of immortal Kung-Fu monkeys and zombie-cyborg space pirates.

So there I sat with the blank screen blinding me. No collaborator to bounce ideas off of. A deadline perilously perched at the precipice of my palms. And no alliterative allegories alerting me to an able-bodied antiphon. If Sinestro were real? I could charge his ring from the sweat forming on my brow. Here, with this opportunity to be a part of a book alongside living legends (too many to mention), did I actually have a leg to stand on… or was I destined to tuck my tail between my legs and just scamper off to make some toys tussle with one-another.

In all of these situations, I am lucky now to be a father. To see in my two sons how fear (and the reaction to it) molds who we are. Be it my younger, Colton, timid and terrified of a two-foot tall Domo I was making wave, or my older, Bennett, scared to even open his mouth for a patient dental hygienist. In both of them, I see myself. Scared, and frozen as I try to check-down the possibilities. Would Unshaven Comics not sell well? Would Samurnautssimply remain forever incomplete? Would I have an original idea to sit in the same book with the likes of Mark Waid, Neil Gaiman, John Ostrander, or Brian Azzarello…?

Read it all at ComicMix

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

David Perlis: FIND YOUR STORY

Found on the Interwebs

by David Perlis

And stick to it.

That’s the moral, and it’s what I’m trying to remind myself as I move forward on my new project. These things always sound easy, but without a Post-It on every surface of your abode, reminding you what your story’s heart is, you may find yourself with great plot and great characters, but they’re bound to fizzle out at some point. That’s what I think, anyway.

I like examining Breaking Bad. (By the way, my exhibits are almost always Breaking Bad. It just works, man.)

Breaking Bad sets you up with some pretty brilliant stakes: terminal cancer on one end, and the threat of prison on the other. Not a lot of wiggle room for good things to happen here. But how Vince Gilligan and his writers deal with the cancer part is what I find really interesting. Do they give Walt life scare after life scare with his diagnosis? Do they bring in his ex girlfriend whom he left at the altar to be his head doc? Accidentally give him an infected blood transfusion, or mix his chart up with someone else’s? Does Walt have an allergic reaction to the meds, which leaves him in a wheelchair? I admit, all of these things sound a bit “jump-the-sharky,” but they would definitely ratchet up the drama.

Nope. Instead, they hardly address the cancer at all. Sure, a few scenes in the early episodes, ’cause you can’t not talk about it, but the writers (being pros) knew what this show was—and more importantly, wasn’t—about.

It’s about reaching the breaking point. It’s about our ability to justify the unjustifiable. It’s about doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It’s about our need to be important. To be respected. To be good. It’s about every man being capable of absolute evil. It’s about “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.” (Which was how Mr. G. always pitched it.) It’s not about overcoming cancer. Walt’s diagnosis in ep. 1 was a great catalyst for morphing him into Heisenberg, but that’s all it ever needed to be.

Now, if you were in Breaking Bad’s writer’s room, would you have intuitively left the cancer thread by the side of the road way back when? I know I wouldn’t have. Long story short: That, Mom, is is why I’ve got “Ignore the cancer” Post-Its papering my toilet tank.


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.

WGAW 2017 Officers & Board Of Directors Election Results

The Writers Guild of America West has announced the results of its 2017 Officers and Board of Directors election.

The following members were elected to serve as Officers: President – David A. Goodman; Vice President – Marjorie David; Secretary-Treasurer – Aaron Mendelsohn.

The following eight members were elected to the WGAW’s Board of Directors for two-year terms, effective immediately: John AugustNicole YorkinAndrea Berloff (inc.), Meredith Stiehm (inc.), Angelina BurnettLuvh Rakhe (inc.), Michele MulroneyZak Penn (inc.). *Editor’s Note: (inc) denotes incumbent.

The ninth finisher, Patti Carr, was elected for a one-year term on the Board of Directors to fill the vacancy created by Marjorie David’s election as Vice President.

NUMERICAL VOTING RESULTS

President: David A. Goodman (1,952)

Vice President: Marjorie David (1,962)

Secretary-Treasurer: Aaron Mendelsohn (1,322), Carleton Eastlake (553).

Board of Directors: John August (1,634), Nicole Yorkin (1,561), Andrea Berloff (inc.) (1,510), Meredith Stiehm (inc.) (1,436), Angelina Burnett (1,337), Luvh Rakhe (inc.) (1,337), Michele Mulroney (1,284), Zak Penn (inc.) (1,172), Patti Carr (1,096), Spiro Skentzos (920), Francesca Butler (734).

A total of 2,142 valid ballots were cast. The ballot count was supervised by Votenet Solutions.

The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio, and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national, and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.

Droughtlander is OVER!!! Diana Vacc sees Outlander S03 “The Battle Joined”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

Sunday September 10, 2017, Starz premiered season 3 of Outlander.   This episode follows Jamie hoping for survival during the Battle of Culloden as a pregnant Claire returns to life in the 1940’s.  As an avid fan of the series I was truly excited for its return and had high expectations after the previous two seasons.

THE GOOD:

  • The beginning of the episode is brilliant.  The writing, the directing, the acting certainly don’t disappoint.  It opens with bloody bodies lying on the ground of Culloden.  The focus comes to Jamie (Sam Heughan) whose eyes open slowly after being unconscious.  The episode fades to the beginning of the battle.  The transitions back and forth of Jamie lying on the ground with a dead Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) on top of him to his recollections of the battle makes you feel so much emotion that you can’t help but cry the entire time.
  • The fight between Jamie (Heughan) and Black Jack (Menzies) is deeply personal and the perfect way to end “the devil himself” – Black Jack.  After all that Black Jack put Jamie through, it is fitting that Jamie be the one to take his nemesis’ life and was truly satisfying to watch.
  • Heughan is by far the MVP of the episode as his heroic Jamie shines.
  • Claire (Caitriona Balfe) has to re-adjust to life back with Frank (played also by Tobias Menzies).   Their marriage is one of convenience for Claire and Balfe beautifully plays a woman trapped in a domestic prison, without the man she loves.
  • I love how Menzies brings us a character who is forced to make a normal life with Claire and raise another man’s child.  Can’t be easy for any man, but Menzies makes Frank touchingly human, especially when, unable to contain himself any longer, he has it with Claire, telling her how much it hurts when she pulls away from him, which is, actually, every time he touches her.  This scene makes your heart ache for Frank.

THE BAD:

  • If you find something badly done here, please write and tell me. Because what I see is that Outlander and its creator Ronald D. Moore, have arrived at the perfection Moore has been striving for.

THE REST:

  • All I have to say is if you haven’t watched this series yet, what are you waiting for?

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