Michael Caine Teaches Acting In Film

NOTE FROM LB: Many years ago, when I was an “Executive Story Consultant” on an NBC TV series called Medical Story (like the better known Police Story except about doctors and not nearly as well known), I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with Michael Caine, who was between shots on a film he was shooting at Burbank Studios, where Medical Story was filmed.

The film was called Harry and Walter Go To New York, and Caine’s partners in crime in a film that was itself a crime against filmmaking were James Caan and Elliott Gould. I don’t remember how I ended up in the trailer, but there I was being regaled with story after story about Caine’s career. As fine an actor as he is – and he’s very fine indeed – Caine’s stories are even better.

Whether you’re an actor, a writer, a director, or “just” a fan, this is your chance to see a master storyteller at the top of his fame. Watch and learn! (I know I did.)

This video is brought to us by the FilmKunst Channel, a film fan friendly YouTube site definitely worth checking out.

We Are All Pawns in the Game of Life

Mark Evanier, one of the biggest writing talents in TV, comic books, and blogging is here to share his insights into reality TV and comics. If reading this doesn’t make you a more discriminating TV viewer, there’s a good chance nothing will:

by Mark Evanier

Our pal Steve Stoliar caught this. On this week’s new episode of Pawn Stars, a gent brings in a book from the mid-seventies to sell — a bound book in which 41 cartoonists signed autographs and most also did a sketch for someone named Katherine. I used to like this show when I first discovered it but it got so repetitive and formulaic and obviously rehearsed that I gave up on it. (I also didn’t like how in some episodes, the Pawn Starsfamily treated each other badly. I’m told there’s less of that on the program now.)

As is usual for this show, a member of the Pawn Stars team (in this case, Chumlee) says something like, “Hey, this is neat. Would you mind if I got a buddy of mine who’s an expert in these things to come down and take a look at it?”

The would-be seller says sure. The Expert Buddy comes in…and about 90% of the time, the E.B. authenticates the item and says it’s worth X, then says “Thanks for letting me take a look at it” and leaves. Expert Buddies in Las Vegas seem to have nothing better to do than drop everything they’re doing and rush over to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to help out, even if it means helping a competitor. The seller almost always accepts what the Pawn Stars guy’s friend says. Then, once the E.B. is gone, the haggling starts with the seller starting by asking X and going down from there.

In this case, the seller came in wanting $2000 for the book and though the expert said it was worth $2000, the seller settled for [SPOILER ALERT!] $800. I don’t know how fair that would be since we don’t see all 41 autographs. We get quick peeks and see Milton Caniff, Don Rico, Steve Leialoha, Trina Robbins, Frank Ridgeway, Brad Anderson, Russell Myers, George Clayton Johnson, Walter Gibson, Jim McQuade and one or two others.

The two biggies the show focuses on are Joe Shuster and Jack Kirby. What would make this book truly rare is if someone somehow managed to circulate a sketch book at a San Diego Con and somehow didn’t get Sergio Aragonés.

My keen deductive abilities suggest the book was circulated at one or more San Diego Cons and I have a hunch some of the circulating was done by the con’s figurehead founder, Shel Dorf, on behalf of Katherine, whoever she is. The Caniff drawing is dated 1976 and I don’t think Caniff was at the con that year. Shel was then lettering the Steve Canyon newspaper strip for Caniff and visiting him often. Maybe Shel took it along on one of those visits….

Read it all at Mark Evanier’s outstanding blog

Douglas Adams & His Decidedly NON-Dystopian View of the Galaxy

Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently, and even Doctor Who) is one of our favorite writers around here at TVWriter™. Not just because of the brilliant wordsmithing but because of the thought, insight, and emotion behind it. We’re very glad we found this video interview and hope you will be too:

Uploaded to YouTube by Pete Machnik, whose big thinking channel is HERE


Audio Drama: ‘The White Vault’

Yeppers, kids, that’s right. We here at TVWriter™ still have a bug up our brainstems about audio drama. So hip, so trendy…and so cheap to produce so what’re you waiting for?

Big thanks to the obsessive Mr. Bob Tinsley for bringing the following article from the Fear Forever horror website to our attention so we can bring it to yours:

‘The White Vault’ Ashore
by Amy Seidman

The popular radio dramas of days past have seen a resurgence in popularity in modern day podcast form. One such podcast is the sci-fi horror-drama THE WHITE VAULT. FEAR FOREVER  spoke with this eerie and unsettling show’s creator Kaitlin Statz prior to their live show in New York City on March 13th (you can find ticket info here!)

FEAR FOREVER (FF):Introduce yourselves and tell us a little about THE WHITE VAULT?

KAITLIN STATZ (KS): I’m Kaitlin Statz, and I’m the creator and writer of THE WHITE VAULT and other audio drama podcasts. I work with Travis Vengroff, my co-creator and producer extraordinaire.  We are the key creators behind FOOL AND SCHOLAR PRODUCTIONS, where we strive to create audio drama podcasts as “Movies for your Headphones”.

FF: Kaitlin, where did the concept for THE WHITE VAULT come from?

KS: THE WHITE VAULT formed as the result of several influencing factors. I was constantly consuming horror media, as I do even now, and wrote short horror stories for a sci-fi anthology at that time. Also, I met some particularly interesting people, who were both positive influences on my writing and excellent character inspiration.  But the final push was a trip to Iceland.  While driving through the snowfields and ice-crowned mountains I realized how wonderfully dangerous something so beautiful could be.  I wanted to try my hand at the false sense of security society feels; something waiting to be easily torn away by the terror of Mother Nature, or by something we cannot fathom. I came home from that trip ready to write.

FF: THE WHITE VAULT would fall into the “found footage” sub-genre of horror which is to my knowledge, quite a niche sub-genre in the podcast/audio show medium. What made you decide to write and create the show in that format?

KS: I cannot take credit for being the first found-footage audio drama, as there are certainly others out there. I chose to cast the story through found-footage to help build a sense of realism, and as a lens for the story.

We pull together the bits of hope, confusion, and despair that permeates THE WHITE VAULT through the skills of our actors but, to help with this, the found-footage format creates background conversations, candid emotional outbursts, and mistakenly divulged information characters would otherwise deem too personal in a conversational setting.

Interestingly, it also works in reverse. Writing horror for THE WHITE VAULT leans on the pacing of information release. Found-footage allows for information to be discovered only as the characters encounter it, letting listeners follow the unfurling mystery along with bewildered and frightened characters.

FF: Who did you base your characters on?

KS: So many people. When I was underway with my Graduate studies, I was in classes and labs filled with interesting, dedicated people from across the globe.  These were intelligent students with an eagerness for knowledge and to progress their lives, ready to clear a path fitting their life view. I based many of the characters on how I envisioned my fellow graduate students in their futures; from the devastating divorces to the happy families, from excelling in their life-long dream to choosing a path otherwise unheard of.  It was these people who helped craft my character choices for  THE WHITE VAULT.

FF:What inspired you to set this in Arctic Circle?

KS: The awe of it.  I’ve been to the Arctic Circle, though never to Svalbard itself, and while many people live there, it is a wonderland of white wastes, glowing lights, chilling cold, and the wild power of nature. This is to say it is a place of beauty, but also a place to fear and respect.

Svalbard was chosen due to several political and natural reasons. Bureaucratically, the VISA work regulations for Svalbard are rather lax, so getting an international team to the island for work on short notice seemed more plausible. More importantly, the setting of the long polar night and natural fear of an island populated with polar bears helps to solidify a true fear of the natural world.

FF: Kaitlin how does your job in cartography play into THE WHITE VAULT?

KS: I’m not sure my fantasy cartography illustrations play into my creation of THE WHITE VAULT in any physical capacity, but the feeling of creating a story and creating a world is very similar. I put time and thought into how to form a map as I would a story, focusing on the perfect structures of mountains and dialogue….

Read it all at FearForever.Com

Gerry Conway Asks, “Is Comic Book Publishing Doomed?”

by Gerry Conway

EDITOR’S NOTE: We all know how well comic book heroes, villains, and stories are doing on TV and in films these days – they own those media. However, many of us may not know what’s happening with the motherlode, comic books themselves. Gerry Conway’s here to tell us the ironic truth.

Is comic book publishing a doomed enterprise?

Since the days I first entered the business in the late 1960s, one of the perennial fears of creators and industry executives has been the imminent collapse of the retail comic book market.

It’s not an unreasonable fear: in fact, in readership numbers, the market has already collapsed. When I started writing comics fifty years ago, the published sales figures for the solo Superman comic was about 600,000 copies a month. Five years later, sales figures had dropped to about 300,000 a month. By the late 1980s, less than 100,000 a month. [1](http://www.comichron.com/titlespotlights/superman.html) Recent sales of Superman have been in the mid-five figure range. [2](http://www.comicsbeat.com/dc-comics-month-to-month-sales-chart-january-2017-comic-readers-vs-gratuitous-rebirth-one-shots/)

From 600,000 to 60,000– if that isn’t a collapse of readership, I don’t know how else to describe it.

To be fair to Big Blue, and show this isn’t exclusively a DC problem, Spider-Man’s main solo title displays a similar collapse in readership, though its collapse is more recent. [3](http://www.comichron.com/titlespotlights/amazingspiderman.html)

But wait, you’ll say. You’re comparing apples and oranges. Back in 1968, comics were 12 cents each; today they cost an average of $3.44. [4](https://www.statisticbrain.com/comic-book-statistics/)

True enough. In 1968 the median household income was $7,700 annually. [5](https://www2.census.gov/prod2/popscan/p60-065.pdf) In 2016 the median household income was $59,000 (a squishy number with lots of caveats apparently). [6](https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-average-income-in-usa-family-household-history-3306189) Let’s examine all those figures, recognizing that the economic world of 1968 is vastly different from the our world today. (For example, that $7,700 household income was for a one-earner family; today most families are two-earners.)

Let’s take inflation. It’s an eye-opener. $7,700 in 1968 is worth $54,162.42 today [5](http://www.in2013dollars.com/1968-dollars-in-2017?amount=7700), so today’s family is actually ahead by $5,000 a year. (On the other hand that additional $5,000 is worth $725 in 1968 dollars.)

So apparently incomes have more or less kept up with inflation, and in most cases, specifically in the cost of high technology, the price of many items has decreased in real terms since 1968. And many if not most of the things we’ve come to depend on today didn’t even exist in 1968. For example, an RCA color television/phonograph console in 1969 cost $975 for a gigantic 23″ picture [6](http://www.tvhistory.tv/tv-prices.htm)– in 2017 dollars, $6,858.00. Today, you can find an RCA-brand 4K 65″ smart TV for about $590 at Walmart. [7](https://www.walmart.com/ip/RCA-ROKU-4K-65-SMART-UHD-LED-TV/330129369) In 1968 dollars that’s about $100– and nobody in 1968 could even have understood the descriptive terms 4K, 65″, or “smart TV.”

But what about household staples? Haven’t prices skyrocketed for, say, milk?

In 1968 the price of a gallon of milk was $1.07. [8](http://www.the60sofficialsite.com/1968_Economy_and_Prices.html) Today the price is about $3.16. [9](https://www.statista.com/statistics/236854/retail-price-of-milk-in-the-united-states/) That’s less than half the rate of inflation. (Inflation would have put the price of a gallon of milk in 1968 dollars at over $7.)

Cars? Cars in the 1960s ran in price from the low $2000s to the high $5000s, probably averaging around $3500. [10](http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/60scars.html) (My dad bought a Chevy Nova in 1969 for about $2000, if I remember right.) The average price for a new car today is about $33,000 [11](https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/05/04/new-car-transaction-price-3-kbb-kelley-blue-book/26690191/)– or about $10,000 more than inflation alone would predict. What do you get for that additional $10,000? Where to start? Computerized controls, air conditioning standard, safety and convenience and energy conserving features drivers in 1968 would have considered science fiction. So maybe the increase in average price is worth it, especially since many people don’t buy cars anymore– they lease them, something that wasn’t an option in 1968.

So, with all these inflation stats considered, how does the comic book business of today compare to the comic book business of 1968?

In purely inflationary terms, everything else being equal, a comic that cost 12 cents in 1968 should cost 84 cents today. But everything else isn’t equal, of course.

The production quality of today’s comics is vastly superior to those of 1968. The four-color newsprint presses of 1968 produced comics that look barely readable compared to the glossy monthlies we see now. So maybe a doubling of price might be justified sheerly for the increase in production quality. Yet isn’t some of that cost of production offset by the change in the system of distribution? In 1968, almost half of a production run was lost to newstand “returns”– to sell 600,000 copies of Superman, National Periodical Publications printed over 1,000,000. Today’s comics are sold on a no-return basis. No excess copies are printed. (This sometimes results in second print runs on popular new titles, something that would have been inconceivable in the 1960s.) Despite the increased price of quality printing, I have to think technological advances in printing and distribution have kept pace with at least some of the companies’ production costs. Creators certainly aren’t making much more money now than they did in 1968. (Top page rates have barely increased over inflation, and average page rates are probably less than you’d expect in inflationary terms.)

So why do comics cost, on average, almost five times what inflation alone might predict? Why haven’t comics benefited from the deflationary pressures that reduced the price of milk and TVs, not to mention all the technological wonders that didn’t exist in 1968 but which have plummeted in price in real terms since their introduction? (Personal computers, video games, VCRs-into-DVDs-into-streaming media, cell phones, e-readers, etc., etc.)

It’s pretty simple to understand, sadly. The reader base for comic books has almost completely disappeared, which requires each reader to pay more for any individual issue in order to support the company that produces the book. My guess is there are about 400,000 regular comic book readers in America. I base this guess on the following statistics:

The total yearly sales in the direct market are about $418,000,000. The average price of a comic is $3.44. [12](https://www.statisticbrain.com/comic-book-statistics/) Divide those numbers and you get the following: 122,511,628 comics sold a year, or about 10,000,000 comics a month.

According to the best guess of various interested parties [13](https://www.newsarama.com/33006-is-the-average-age-of-comic-book-readers-increasing-retailers-talk-state-of-the-business-2017.html) the average comic book reader is somewhere between 25-35 years old. According to labor statistics, the average salary for people between the ages of 24-34 is $39,000. [14](https://smartasset.com/retirement/the-average-salary-by-age)

A little math shows that this block of readers doesn’t have an inexhaustible amount of disposable income. After taxes, a generous guestimate puts the average comic book readers’ weekly income at about $570. Food, shelter, clothing, and transportation all have to come first before they can devote any spending to their comic book interests. Let’s be optimistic and say they’re dedicated readers who devote 5% of their income to buying comics. That’s $28 a week or about 8 comics a week, 24-26 comics a month.

10,000,000 comics sold a month; 25 sold to each reader; 400,000 readers.

How does 400,000 comic book readers (an optimistic number, I admit) compare to the number of people who’ve seen, say, “Black Panther?”

Recent estimates put “Black Panther”’s domestic box office at about $500,000,000 [15](http://deadline.com/2018/03/black-panther-third-weekend-red-sparrow-death-wish-operation-red-sea-detective-chinatown-2-international-box-office-1202310277/) with an average ticket price of $9 [16](https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/average-price-a-movie-ticket-soars-897-2017-1075458), meaning “Black Panther” has been seen by approximately 55,000,000 people.

Fifty-fifty million comic book movie viewers, versus less than half a million readers.

Even if those numbers are wildly inaccurate at the margins, that’s still a ridiculously significant difference. It points to an inescapable fact: comic book readers are at best a very minor part of “comic book culture.”

This is particularly true when you consider that individual readers each have loyalty to only a handful of characters. If you’re buying 25 titles a month on average, and you’re a Batman fan, probably a fifth of your purchases are Batman-related comics. Which means that Batman’s total readership is less than what might be indicated by the cumulative amount of sales across all titles. If the average Batman title (Batman, All-Star Batman, Detective Comics, Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing) sells about 50,000 copies, there’s probably quite a bit of overlap– the same buyer purchasing multiple books. There may, in fact, only be about 50,000 actual Batman readers. Ditto for other characters or character lines (X-Men readers, Avengers readers, Superman readers, etc). It’s entirely possible the figure of 400,000 readers is wildly exaggerated. Dedicated fans may be buying more than 25 comics a month. In which case the actual full-time readership might be vastly smaller– maybe only 100,000 readers.

In any event, what’s clear to me is that the viability of comic book publishing as a way to make money directly is clearly limited by a shrinking, if not fully collapsed, market base.

The question is, where do the publishers go from here? Do they continue to pursue that small base of readers? Is there a way for them to attract the vast number of people obviously attracted to the larger “comic book culture” represented by movies and TV? Or will comics (as I believe likely) become a subsidized form of intellectual property development for the more lucrative and culturally impactful film and television divisions of the corporate entities that own them?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.

2 Absolutely Essential Writers Guild of America Documents Every TV/Film Writer Should See

Yesterday we wrote about the potential brouhaha, um, brewing between the Writers Guild of America West and the Association of Talent Agents.  That report got us to thinking about all the other ways the WGAs, both West and East help and, for real, protect writers, even those who aren’t members.

Those thoughts have resulted in the following two links that LB and Team TVWriter™ think you should, as Stan Lee might say, “hie thyselves to pronto, pilgrim!”

Firstly, we have a document that answers one of the three questions most asked of all of us associated with this site, namely:

“Where Can I Find an Agent?”

To which we now reply, “No problemo, dood.” The WGAW maintains a constantly updated list of all agents and agencies that have signed the Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement. Just about all agents who do business with mainstream Hollywood are signatories, and as signatories they’re bound by various regulations designed to, well, to keep writers from being scammed, sold down the river, all those negative things.

You can find the names, addresses, and phone numbers of folks who may someday help your take off in your very own rocket to writing stardom by CLICKING HERE

Well, what’re you doing still reading? Why haven’t you clicked away to the launching pad yet?

Secondly, we have another document answering another of the three mostly frequently asked questions ready for your perusal:

“Where Can I Find a Genuinely Helpful Template for a Contract for My Writing Services?”

The WGAW has ya covered there too, gang. Here, to prepare and guide you in unagented negotiations for both WGA and non-WGA work is The Writers Guild Standard Writing Services Contract form. Just DO THE CLICKING THING HERE

There ya go. As we say in showbiz, “Break a leg.” Oh, and if you find either of these links helpful, please let us, and the WGAW know!

LB: Untold Tales of the Animated SILVER SURFER TV Series Ep. 15

by Larry Brody

Last week I posted the script for Season 2 Episode 1 of the now defunct FoxKids Network The Silver Surfer animated series for those who wondered what all of us involved in the show back in 1998 intended to come if we hadn’t been cancelled.

The response to the post –  let’s face it, the response to the script, actually – was overwhelming, so here we go with Season 2 Episode 2, Soul Hunter: Part One, in which – well, the hell with a synopsis, this “revised” draft (as in it ain’t the first version but it never advanced to a place where it could be called “Final”) certainly speaks for itself:

NOTE: If you’re new to TVWriter™ and/or to the original animated SS series, you have some backstory to catch up on. Fortunately, TVWriter™ just happens to have a section dedicated to The Silver Surfer. To reach it, CLICK HERE!

And now it’s time for:








REV. PAGES 03/23/98
REV. PAGES 03/13/98

MARCH 5, 1998






Hanging like a tiny jewel against the velvet blackness of

Zenn-La! World of my birth…!

We TIGHTEN ON Zenn-La, racing toward it from such a great
distance that it enlarges only slowly, gradually, as:

Planet of harmony, justice, and

We TIGHTEN MORE, SEEING an asteroid belt and various meteors
moving nearby.

In my youth did I bemoan the lack
of adventure on gentle Zenn-La.
But in my exile, have I pined for
its wise ways…

Zenn-La looms larger, continents visible. It does indeed
look peaceful, serene.

Now, the great forces of Eternity
and Infinity have granted me my
deepest desire. Soon shall I be
re-united with all I hold dear.
Soon shall I be reunited with —
Shalla Bal!


With those words, the SILVER SURFER WARPS IN before US on his
board. Joyfully, he soars to:



FILLING CAMERA in all its glory. The Surfer arcs at it,
nearing the upper atmosphere, and we TIGHTEN TO:


ENERGY CRACKLES before it, hitting the board’s tip. We WIDEN
as, the CRACKLING ENERGY spreads outward, hitting the Surfer
as well. The Surfer CRIES OUT WORDLESSLY as both he and the
board SPARK IN A RAINBOW OF COLORS, and go flying backward,
heading for:


An enormous piece of jagged rock, zooming through space
directly at:


Upside-down on his board, he turns his head, sees the
asteroid bearing down on him. We WIDEN as, twisting his
body, the Surfer deftly levels himself and glides right past
the dangerous hunk of debris. He looks down at the planet.

This energy is like none I have
ever encountered! Can it surround
all of Zenn-La?


The Surfer FIRES A BOLT OF THE POWER COSMIC — not at the
planet but at the big asteroid, BLASTING it into fragments.

Read it all HERE