Diana Black: TV Writing Checklist Part 5

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t already read Part 1,  Part 2Part 3, and Part 4, now would be a good time.

by Diana Black

You’ve done it!

You’ve completed the Script in probably half the time you’d normally take. (You might take even less if you employ LB’s GDD – see his article on “Writing the Dreaded Outline.”)

And what’s more, the IP you now proudly own is yours and it’s unique; no one can take this accomplishment away from you. Register your work and ensure that you have multiple electronic copies stored on external hard drives and on the Cloud.

Think of this hard work as a solid investment in your future career as a screenwriter. If you’ve worked through all these steps, you ARE a screenwriter and one who’s wisely adopted professional standards; you simply haven’t got paid yet.

Now do individual Passes – one at a time the whole way through the Script.

For each Character, is he/she consistent across the narrative arc in terms of their dialogue? Do another pass for that same Character in terms of their action. ‘Rinse and repeat’ for every Character.

Check ‘your voice’ – have you made it strong and discernible in terms of style across the entire narrative arc? The next pass (in no strict order) is to tighten the ‘big print’ – shorten descriptions and actions, ensure there’s not an adverb in sight and everything is in active, present tense e.g. “He walks…” not, “He walked…” etc.

Next pass, you’re a formatting Nazi. The beauty of that Tabled Outline is that you can ensure that the Slug-line for the same location is consistent throughout.

Have you done a Scene Analysis for each scene? Is each flat or superfluous, or are they all totally necessary, intermeshed elements of a script that’s a real roller coaster ride, and serious actor, director, and producer-bait?

If the scenes still have problems, now’s a good time for one more rewrite. If they don’t have any you can find, then now’s a good time to conduct a Table Read with REAL actors.

Feed your actors well and after the read, ask for anonymous feedback – have scrap paper and pens on the table between the dip, carrot sticks and chocolate. Have someone who’s not reading record the proceedings so you can re-listen to the energy levels across the narrative, sometime later.

Have someone else listen for culturally inappropriate word usage. This may not be a problem for you, but I’m an Aussie by birth and upbringing, so even being married to an American for a very long time and living on US soil doesn’t guarantee that I won’t stuff-up occasionally.

If you can, instead of sitting at the table with the actors, sit across the room, script in hand, and just listen; although mark aspects needing attention on your Script.

You’ll hear/sense slow spots and others where the actors are ‘lifting it off the page’ – evidence that the pace and action are awesome – you’ll literally sense the ‘energy in the room’.

Afterwards, refer to the anonymous ‘notes’ they did for you. Be honest, brave and know when to follow your instincts… ONLY adjust/rewrite if a comment resonates with you. Your script is not a punching bag. Does the comment make logical sense; is it in keeping with the narrative arc?

If you have the $$, send it out for professional Coverage. If it comes back with a “Recommend” get it off to market asap; they may even offer to ‘open doors’.

You could also put it into Competition but be mindful that there are biases out there amongst Competition hosts and amongst the Readers they employ, so take a win or loss with a grain of salt.

However, if it does well, put it into another competition and if it does well again, add that positive feedback to your calling card when you begin seriously marketing.

For stories in ‘pitch mode’ you must develop a Strategic Plan. The mission objective to generate interest and make a sale.

Do your research and take a systematic approach – don’t just throw your work against the proverbial wall to see what sticks.

Develop your data base of prospective Producers and do your homework – is the potential ‘suit/s’ currently or recently working with this genre, does it fit within their budget range, are they open to reading material coming from an unrepresented, unpublished writer?

Is your Query Letter (QL) well crafted, grammatically correct and using simple language? You do have one, right?

Even with a well-crafted QL, many recipients will refuse. Expect greater than a 95% rejection rate, but by the same token, don’t necessarily take that first “No/Pass” as the final answer – they may be testing your determination and whether you believe in the IP enough to put your neck out on its behalf – so be brave.

Your story and the Characters therein are counting on you. If rejected, offer to present them with something else – they’ll then know you’re not a ‘one-show pony’. Those of you who are actors know that the ‘job’ is to audition, not necessarily ‘book’ the job. Same applies here – our job as emerging screenwriters, is to create quality material and pitch away.

If you get a foot in the door via your QL and a, “Let’s talk” interview, know and rehearse how to pitch intelligently by keeping the language simple and direct.

According to Stephanie Palmer’s, Good in a Room, show empathy and interest in them. Have the Leave Behind (TV) or the One page (Feature) on hand – don’t have them hanging/waiting for anything. Show professional awesomeness.

If it looks like an Option Agreement is looming, research what the Producer has produced beforehand (you’ve probably done that already – determining whether to pitch to them).

Think long and hard before allowing a rookie Producer to take your IP ‘off the grid’ for goodness-knows how many months. Have Legal Counsel review any agreement – it’s worth the investment. If this potential Producer respects you and is professionally legit, they’ll expect this. If they baulk/protest, look elsewhere and fast.

By having read this series of articles and taking actionable steps, you’ll have realized that creating a narrative, regardless of the medium, is hard work.

There’s no way around that, so work smarter.

And don’t give up! This venture has kept you off the streets for weeks if not months, it’s saved you a bucketload of money you’d have spent on frivolous outings, and you’ve travelled into an entirely different world for free… no one-way mission to Mars for you – the Universe is yours – enjoy!

Diana Black is an optioned screenwriter who has placed in competitions with features and teleplays.  She’s also a professional actor with a Bachelor of Creative Arts – Drama, Film & TV and a regular contributor to TVWriter™.

Writing Gig: ‘Review Geek’ Is Looking for a Freelance Product Review Writer

This could be a good one. And you know we don’t always say that. In fact, we never have, til now:

by Jason Fitzpatrick

Think you have the perfect combination of product knowledge and writing skills? We’re looking for a few experienced freelance writers to join the team at Review Geek.

What We’re Looking For

We are looking for freelance writers who can research products across a wide spectrum of topics—don’t worry, you’ll be researching products newer than the typewriter above—ranging from travel pillows to tablets and everything in between.

One day we might be looking at external hard drives, and the next we might be looking at Bluetooth-enabled rice cookers. Is that a thing? It’s probably a thing—and if we hire you it might be your job to find the best one.

The work is freelance, with per-article or per-hour compensation depending on the position, where you set your own hours and write articles for us on your schedule. But we aren’t looking for people who simply want to write an article now and then—flexible schedule or not, you’ll need the free time to write consistently.

Interested in applying? You’ll need to meet these minimum requirements:

  • You can write in coherent standard U.S. English. Think it’s silly we have to spell that out? If you read some of the applications we get, you’d put it at the top too.
  • You’re creative and can come up with article ideas, workshop ideas with your colleagues, and contribute to the team culture. Further, and importantly, you can handle feedback and editorial oversight professionally.
  • You must be at least 18 years old and have a computer.
  • You’re good at editing images of all sorts including everything from quick screenshots to product photo touch ups—we’re all about pretty pictures, and you’ll be in charge of stocking your articles with them.

Here are a couple of examples of the types of articles you’d be expected to produce:

Get the rest of the info, including the all-important stuff about how to apply at Review Geek

2018 Emmy Writing Winners

You can go just about anywhere and see the latest Emmy results, but here, from your friends and neighbors at TVWriter™ come the ones that we value most:

Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (“Alligator Man”)
Stefani Robinson, “Atlanta” (“Barbershop”)
Alec Berg and Bill Hader, “Barry” (“Chapter One: Make Your Mark”)
Liz Sarnoff, “Barry” (“Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast And Keep Going”)
Alec Berg, “Silicon Valley” (“Fifty-One Percent”)
WINNER: Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (“Pilot”)

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, “Game of Thrones” (“The Dragon And The Wolf”)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Killing Eve” (“Nice Face”)
The Duffer Brothers, “Stranger Things” (“Chapter Nine: The Gate”)
WINNER: Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, “The Americans” (“Start”)
Peter Morgan, “The Crown” (“Mystery Man”)
Bruce Miller, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (“June”)

Kevin McManus and Matthew McManus, “American Vandal” (“Clean Up”)
Scott Frank, “Godless”
David Nicholls, “Patrick Melrose”
Tom Rob Smith, “The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (“House By The Lake”)
David Lynch and Mark Frost, “Twin Peaks”
WINNER: William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, “USS Callister: Black Mirror”

“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” (TBS)
WINNER: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO)
“Late Night With Seth Meyers” (NBC)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (CBS)

And if you really want to see all those, you know, other guys, we think that the most concise and easy to read place to go to on the interwebs is HERE

John Ostrander: Outrage for Outrageousness Sake

by John Ostrander

As of this writing, James Gunn has been fired as the director of the next Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The reason? Some tweets he wrote ten years ago where he made light of, among other things, rape and pedophilia. Always good comedy material. (Yes, that’s sarcastic. I don’t want to be Gunned in my first column.) The director says he was trying to be outrageous and provocative and that they no longer represent who he is as a person, which is a good thing because he doesn’t come off as a very nice person. If you really feel the need to read them, you can find them here.

Disney/Marvel have cut all business ties with Gunn, the CEO sniffing, “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

I have a few problems with all this, not the least are Gunn’s tweets, which are stupid, heinous, and seriously not funny. I have a bigger problem, however, with Gunn’s accuser, Mike Cernovich, an alt-right columnist, blogger, and social media commentator. His own blogs and tweets show he’s made his own nasty comments on rape, pedophilia, and more. Cernovich was also a key figure in Gamergate which coordinated troll attacks on females in the gamer industry. If you feel the deep seated need to know what Cernovich is saying, The Southern Poverty Law Center has a good round-up of the man and his views here.

So I can’t see that Cernovich gives a rat’s ass about Gunn’s comments per se; his own remarks are as bad or worse. He’s targeted Gunn because Gunn is a liberal and has made some comments on the Great Pumpkin, aka President Trump. After the Trump-Putin press conference, Gunn compared Trump unfavorably to Thanos. So he became a target of the alt-right and specifically Cernovich (other targets includes such left wing media heroes as Trevor Noah of The Daily Show).

Ultimately, however, my real problem is not even with Cernovich but with the executives at Disney Corp. They threw Gunn promptly under the bus, claiming his tweets of over ten years ago weren’t consistent with the studio’s values. I’d suggest that values with which they were inconsistent was Disney’s desire to make money; they certainly don’t want a possible boycott against the next Guardians movie or possibly even against all the Marvel movies which make a TON of money for the Mouse.

Shouldn’t Gunn and others be held accountable for their words/actions? After all, Roseanne Barr was fired from her own TV show for comments she made. Fair is fair, right? The difference is that Barr made the comments about a week before she was fired; it was an immediate response to what she said in the same time frame. Gunn’s comments were made over a decade ago. As Gunn said, his comments do not represent who he is now; Barr’s certainly do.

Firing Gunn validates the tactics used by Cernovich and the alt-right. They worked. If they worked once, they probably can work again. And probably will be used again. Despite the moral tone being adopted, Cernovich and his ilk are doing what they’re doing for primarily political reasons, just as I think Disney has done what they’ve done for primarily economic ones.

A far thornier question is whether or not you can or should judge a work based on what you know of the creator. That, however, is a topic of its own and one we may pursue at another time.

John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE

Endeavor Audio has Launched to Bring Audio Drama to the Big Leagues

Speaking of audio drama (and comedy) series, as we often do – check out PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 and see – looks like TVWriter™ isn’t the only place fiction podcasting is being taken seriously. One of Hollywood’s largest talent and packaging agencies has swept into the field. Deadline.Com has the scoop:

by Patrick Hipes

Endeavor has launched Endeavor Audio, with the aim to jump into the growing podcast market via content development, financing, production, distribution, marketing and monetization. The new brand has partnered with several companies in the space at kickoff, including with Dick Wolf and Wolf Entertainment to produce dramatized podcasts in the crime genre developed by Wolf and Magical Elves’ Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz.

Deals [are] also set…with Nas’ Mass Appeal, the urban culture-focused media and entertainment company to co-develop 5-10 podcasts; and Parcast, an on-demand, multi-dimensional podcast network. It also will monetize and distribute Season 2 of the Limetown podcast which bows October 31.

The company will be run by GM Moses Soyoola, most recently head of business development & strategy at Panoply Media; head of marketing Lisa LaCour, most recently global CMO at Outbrain; head of content & development Dave Easton, who most recently led podcast development and production at Cadence13; and head of sales Charlie Emerson, most recently senior director at Endeavor Global Marketing….

Read it all at Deadline.Com