Why Even The Best TV Storytellers Need To Know When To Call It Quits

Yeah, yeah, we know. There you are, barely having gotten started on your TV writing career, and what are we doing over here? Yep, we’re bringing you info on knowing when it’s time to cash out. But if you think about it a minute, what we’re doing makes sense. Cuz if we can persuade just one of you to leave your staff gig, that’s one more slot that’s open to…yeah, hehe…us.

Evil, thy true name is desperation!

pic found at pickthebrain.com

by Andy Crump

Knowing when a story no longer needs to be told matters as much as knowing whether it’s a good story in the first place.

Take “Transparent,” Amazon Studio’s first major original programming success, which is in its fourth season with a fifth waiting in the wings. Jill Soloway’s evolving narrative, encompassing a family’s mundane travails against the backdrop of its patriarch’s transition from male to female, has no visible ceiling, but begs for a conclusion. “Transparent” is, according to Soloway, a series about the quest to find selfhood through God and spirituality. That’s a search that, at least in theory, never ends.

But that doesn’t mean the show shouldn’t end. (Though if it does go on, it will be without Jeffrey Tambor, who announced he may leave the show amidst sexual harassment allegations against him.)

In our golden age of prestige television, the line between sticking around for just the right number of seasons and drastically overstaying one’s welcome is as thin as our patience for tips about our favorite show’s premiere date. For every “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad,” there’s a “Grey’s Anatomy” that threatens to go on forever.

In a roundabout way, those mainstays let us appreciate the creative labor that goes into higher quality content like “Transparent.” Banging out episodes of “Law & Order” and adjacent spinoffs doesn’t take much beyond daily perusal of newspaper headlines and negotiation of guest star cameos. Crafting a chapter in “Transparent,” on the other hand, demands its authors commit to personal soul-searching while also striving to understand trans American experiences enough to qualify for authenticity.

The same can be said of shows in the key of “Mad Men” or “The Leftovers,” and perhaps most of all “Game of Thrones,” which has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s source material and continues to outmatch direct competitors in scope and scale.

But maybe these are unfair comparisons; easily digested network fare doesn’t care about competing with television in the likes of Amazon, HBO, AMC or Netflix. Besides, to say that self-recycling network shows are lesser than their premium channel rivals isn’t to say they’re not worth watching. …

Read it all at Wbur.Org

WGAW December 2017 Calendar

What’s happening this month at the Writers Guild of America West

A clickable version is HERE

Writing Gigs: WWE is Hiring a TV Writer

We here at TVWriter™ hate to rain on anybody’s parade, but this time we think it’s for a good cause. A job. Writing the adventures, lives, and loves of a certain group of athletes who may, in fact, be thought of as the very first Reality Stars.

Sorry if you thought they were just plain real, but, hey, a gig’s a gig! Oh, and don’t let the article’s shout-out to comics writers throw you. WWE doesn’t care where their next writer comes from, as long as s/he meets their definition of good.

by Jude Terror

A lot has been said about how to break into comics, but far less is known about the equally important topic of how to break out of them. Well, we’ve got some great news for comic book writers looking for an escape hatch: World Wrestling Entertainment is hiring a writer for their various TV shows.

The listing specifies that they’re looking for someone with at least five years of TV writing experience, but comic book writers could probably translate their experience writing ongoing storylines about larger-than-life characters engaging in violent brawls for an extremely critical and sometimes volatile fanbase directly to the pro wrestling world.

“With 52 weeks of original programming, without an off-season or re-runs, it is quite a creative challenge to keep characters and story lines interesting and compelling,” complains the job listing. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

The responsibilities of the job listing entail:

  • Develop and implement creative storylines for broadcast and the WWE Network
  • Collaborate with a team of Road-based and Home-based Writers to build compelling RAW/ Smackdown stories that capture the audience and generate buzz
  • Consistently improve and refine storylines
  • Use consumer insights and social media to deliver impactful storylines that are consistent with the WWE brand and each talent’s skills and history

And other requirements include:

Read it all at BleedingCool.Com

Time to Play ‘Taps’ for American Media?

A think piece that’s actually doing its job, AKA, the “vast wasteland” returns?

Tap Tap Tap
by John Bigs

We are now walking through a media desert.

While access to content is astronomically high, the content that we read is dead, lifeless, and derivative. Yes, I see the irony in posting my criticism of the state of online media on, well, online media, but I want to explore how we got here and what we can do about it.

We begin in about 1983.

The education necessary to interact with media of that era was at once very high – it took decades to learn to read some books and understand the context and importance – and wildly low. Hollywood, after decades of aiming at Baby Boomers who preferred neurotic Woody Allen and musicals over space aliens, were targeting younger demographics. Television was moving towards a younger audience with a plethora of Saturday morning cartoons elbowing Masterpiece Theatre and Dynasty off of the airwaves. For the first time, thanks to the success of Star Wars and its associated toys, the easy media was attacking its easiest target: kids.

It was in this era that the founders of the internet – the late-stage boomers like Gates, Jobs, and Berners-Lee – met the infant Gen Xers. They began to form their ideas about interactivity and used the tools available – screens, keyboards, and mice – to iterate up to our smartphones. A defining image for many of that era was the Magic Mirror. Children around the world watched Romper Room, a children’s show featuring a cheerful teacher and a group of smiling kids. The show itself was like a day at pre-school but at the end, when Miss Jean or Miss Nancy or Miss Rosemary (they had different hosts in different states) bid us all adieu, she would look into her Magic Mirror and enchant us.

“Romper, stomper, bomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?” the hostess would intone.

The Mirror disappeared into a swirl colors that bled onto the whole screen. When the swirl was finished we were presented with the hostess looking at us through an empty frame. She called to us.

“I see Robert and Sally and Alex and John.” Parents would send in their children’s first names on their birthday but, if your name was in the daily list, you were ecstatic. After all, she saw you.

She knew we were watching. She spoke to us.

Deep stuff, to be sure, but listen: over the past two weeks I’ve seen two people actively “interacting” with Instagram. First there was was a young woman in Oman. She wore a conservative black Abaya and headscarf and she was using an iPhone in a crowded bus. Her interactivity style was simple: swipe down, double tap on something that looked nice, and continue. Tap tap, swipe, tap tap, swipe. Images rolled past of Bollywood stars and Arabic women. Movie posters, makeup ads, fashion, all of it received the same treatment. Tap tap, swipe. Tap tap, swipe. It was a way to pass the time on a boring bus ride but it epitomizes the state of interactivity today. She did not see as much as sip, taking in an undifferentiated stream of content….

Read it all at TechCrunch.Com

Bri Castellini: ‘Letter to my future self 2017’ – @brisownworld

Frequent TVWriter™ contributor Bri Castellini’s latest interweb video masterpiece, for those who wonder what web series creators actually, you know, get out of being web series creators.

Remember the days when you could say “You go, girl!” and not sound like a jerk? Believe us when we tell you we’d be saying it now…but the “jerk” thing is, yeah, kind of problematic. >sigh<


Bri’s YouTube channel is HERE

Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. This article was originally published on Bri’s most excellent blog, the eponymous Bri’sOwnWorld. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE


3 reasons it’s hard to end harassment in Hollywood

The subtitle of the article below is one of the most sadly meaningful sentences this TVWriter™ minion has ever read: The way the film and TV industries are structured makes them a breeding ground for abuse.

Time now for a few words about the most important conversation we’ve ever wished we didn’t need to have:

by Todd VenDerWerff

The New York Times published its exposé on Harvey Weinstein on October 5, and in the not-quite six weeks since its publication, long-buried bombs have been exploding throughout the entertainment industry, often in unpredictable fashion. Some of the industry’s biggest “open secrets” are now out in the wide open, and there’s a palpable sense that even more will come to light before the cycle has run its course.

This series of stories has left the sense, in many minds, that Hollywood is rife with sexual harassment (true) and that it is unique among industries in that regard (not true). If you pull back from just the Hollywood stories, sexual harassment and assault scandals have been roiling multiple industries since last year, when Roger Ailes was pushed out of his position at Fox News, after word of his frequent harassment of women employees came to light.

Or, honestly, you could go back even further. We have been having forms of this conversation — in some cases more openly than others — since Anita Hill brought the term “sexual harassment” into the mainstream with her testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. Politics, media, academia, finance — all have been hit by at least one major sexual harassment scandal in recent memory.

Really, then, what’s so unique about this recent spate of Hollywood stories is how long it took them to come to light. Weinstein’s actions — as with the behavior of Kevin SpaceyLouis C.K., and others — were long known via the rumor mill, and many industry reporters were at least aware of the whispers, if not their veracity. But there often seemed to be an impregnable wall around the entertainment industry, and it was constructed as much out of “This is just how things are done” as it was legally binding NDAs.

So what made Hollywood harassment so prevalent for so long? And why will it be so hard to curtail even now? Here are three big reasons.

1) The idea that any behavior is acceptable in the pursuit of great art (or great commerce)…

2) In Hollywood, firing one person can lead to firing everybody…

3) The entertainment industry requires environments that foster intimacy — and make lines easier to cross….

Read it all, including the details we’ve omitted, at Vox.Com

Angelo Bell: For the Love of English

NOTE FROM LB: Angelo Bell is an indie filmmaker who in the past has contributed several articles to this site. (Past being mostly in 2014. If you’re in the mood and you have time, you should enjoy what you read by searching in the index on the righthand side of this page.

The other day, Angelo wrote me about a GoFundMe campaign he’d started and described the love story that inspired it. I thought he was telling me about his latest project, and I found the story deeply moving, so I said, “Hey, Angelo, write this up for TVWriter™ and we’ll post it and see if we can help you find some investors.”

A few minutes ago, he sent me the post below.  Turns out he’s not trying to get a film going. It’s a real-life story about, well, about a couple he’s half of. This isn’t the kind of thing we’d normally publish here, but it’s wonderfully written and I’m hooked.

I know Angelo won’t mind me sharing this with you; it’s what he asked me to do. So if you’re ready to feel all warm and fuzzy, read on!

by Angelo Bell

I was in third grade when I made the decision to be a writer. I remember that exact moment as if it were carved into the walls of my brain matter. Everything in my life after that point revolved around the education, artistry and creativity of writing. I consider myself a writer in every sense, and as such I enjoy all forms of writing. I firmly believe that one cannot love writing without loving language. I have studied French, Swahili, and Cantonese, and now I am learning Vietnamese.

It is my love of spoken English and all its vast and often contrary nuances that compels me to reach towards perfection in the dialog of the screenplays and novels I’ve written. Sometimes I can be one of those snobs who frown upon the butchering of the English language with misused words whose definitions have been misappropriated for some foolish pop culture lexicon. Incidentally, it was my love of the English language that led me to the next chapter of my discordantly dismal love life. Who would have thought that English is something a man living in the USA would have in common with a woman living in Vietnam, and an unspoken love of English would lead them into love?

When I divorced five years ago I felt that love had disappointed me. I accepted my culpability in the decline of my relationship; I was not a victim. However, there were all these unspoken rules of marriage that seemed to vanish in the face of the selfishness that often evolves in a relationship under stress. Married again? Never. Hell no. To the dating world I was damaged goods with a divorce, four kids and bad credit under my belt.

I focused entirely on my writing after my divorce. I was so narrow-minded in my pursuit that I successfully secured two TV pilot development deals with NBCUniversal, but I also neglected my health. I nearly died and spent 18 days in the heart center including five days in ICU. I often tell people that there is a moment of clarity when death is upon you. There was one particular moment when I was fairly certain I would not wake from sleep so I took the lock off my cell phone. I wanted to make it easier for whomever found my body to locate my family back in New York. I know. How morbid was that?

The combination a nightmarish near-death experience and a dream come true set me on a new path. I began dating again. My dating life was the equivalent of dismal dissonance, like an orchestra out of tune with itself. It was frustrating and only solidified my dark opinion of relationships, especially for the over-forty crowd.

I went on relationship hiatus after I ended a chaotic 18-month relationship with a woman in her early twenties. At the time I surmised, I’m back in the gym, my health has improved, now would be a good time to recommit my focus to my writing. However, in the back of my mind I had started to explore the possibility of a long-term relationship in my future, however distant it might be. Still open but frustrated, I deleted Tinder, OkCupid, Match.Com, and Plenty of Fish dating apps off my phone. I asked my friends and coworkers if they had single and available friends who were interested in dating.

A friend at work introduced me to Nghia. Nghia was happily living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and was studying English. She was working for the supply distribution arm of Adidas and learning English would give her a chance to travel within the company to Europe and other Southeast Asian countries. Nghia had no inclination to come to America. She was happy where she was born, raised, working and going to school. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why my friend would introduce me to someone 14,000 miles away. I thought, what’s the point?

However, Nghia (pronounced Nee – aahh) was taking a Level II English class and it helped to have a native English speaker with whom she could converse. We connected through Facebook and corresponded over text messages. There is a fifteen hour time difference so our communication was spotty. Despite that, I learned Nghia’s goal was to become a “master” at speaking English. I was intrigued and I offered to help. We’d chat casually and then I’d help Nghia with her spelling and grammar. Our text chats became more regular as we developed chemistry through our written words. I think she appreciated my playfulness with American English. I admit, there were times that I certainly did flaunt my writing talents in order to flirt.

Our text messages became WiFi telephone calls. This was essential so I could help Nghia with her pronunciation. Despite the time difference of our busy schedules, our WiFi calls escalated into hour-long video chats. We couldn’t settle for a single chat. We started to have two-a-days. I remember vividly the one day we did not have our regularly scheduled video chat just before Nghia went to sleep. The next day she expressed to me that she didn’t sleep well. I jokingly said, her poor sleep was because she hadn’t spoken to me just before bedtime. After that, we never missed another night.

One of Nghia’s homework assignments required adapting an American short story (circa 1960s) into a play. I’m serious, you cannot make this stuff up. It was serendipity. Throughout the day I’d get regular text messages from Nghia with questions about screenwriting, narration, and dialog. I later learned that she’d shared news of our friendship with her classmates and many of the questions I’d answered had come from them. She made sure to give me the credit for the answers and she even introduced me to her classmates via video chat during the team’s weekly meeting at a local coffee shop In Ho Chi Minh City. Two weeks later her classmates formed a “fan club” for me. They ask Nghia throughout the day to find out what I was doing in America. Silly kids.

Then funny things started to happen. Despite the frequency and extended lengths of our text and video chats, I could not get Nghia out of my mind. Also, when she’d call me on Facebook Messenger I could see her quickly fix her hair and apply lipstick before my video camera came on.  Nghia taught me Vietnamese phrases and we began referring to each other as, anh (me), and em (her), sort of pet names for boyfriend and girlfriend. Nghia would record and send me short videos in English just to say hello. She even recorded a 15-minute video presentation showing me how she made Vietnamese coffee.

One day the L-word slipped out my mouth. Instead of dreadful silence, Nghia quickly responded in the affirmative. We had fallen in love. To this day she accuses me of using “evil magic” to get her to fall in love with me so deeply. A few weeks later I asked Nghia to marry me and she accepted. She agreed to turn her life upside down, leave her parents, her siblings, her niece, her job, her staff, her classmates and friends to come to the USA to have a life with me. In turn I promised to visit Vietnam first to propose appropriately and in person — and to meet for the first time. No more hugging the computer, no more blowing kisses at the screen. We would hug and kiss in person.

This is not a story of two people who met through a dating app. I most definitely do not subscribe to any “Meet Asian Singles” websites.  Now that the word is slowly coming out, my friends have asked me questions about the nature and validity of my relationship. I confidently assure them that there isn’t a question they can ask me that I haven’t already asked myself a million times.  Is this unorthodox? Absolutely. Unusual? Most definitely. But as an old romantic, I know that love follows no guidelines or rules. It is its own thing.  “Anh yeu em.” I love you. It means everything, as it should.

If you’d like to help me get to Nghia to meet for the first time, hug for the first time and kiss for the first time, please see my Go Fund Me page. The proverbial and literal clock is ticking. Wish us well in our journey and thanks for allowing me to share my story.

Angelo Bell’s GoFundMe page is here: https://www.gofundme.com/anh-yeu-em . His very cool blog is here: https://angelobellwrites.wordpress.com/