A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad .
Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.
The reasons artists turn to their art, immersing themselves in it, making it their world, vary from person to person, but as I get older and become more and more introspective, my self-examination tells me that most of the creative people I know pretty much started as I did, trying to hide from or make sense of the world through their art, although our lives have taken different turns from that point.
The 2012 video above, which I accidentally came across on Vimeo yesterday, surprised me by being the perfect extension of my thought on this subject while at the same time also seeming to sum it up.
What do you, as writers, directors, film and video makers, and human beings have to say about this? Is your art more than a supplement for real life? Has it in fact supplanted your real life?
In other words, does Zadi Diaz’s take resonate with you?
And what about you, Zadi? Where are your feelings today? A quick googling showed me this about you via good old Wikipedia:
Zadi Diaz is the Executive Producer of YouTube Nation. She is a producer and director, known for founding the web series Epic Fu and co-hosting the podcast New Mediacracy. She has won a number of Webby and Streamy Awards.
And a further trip to google gave me this exciting announcement:
Former AwesomenessTV Exec Zadi Diaz Hired at mitú as Head of Digital Studios
Diaz previously worked as vp of programming and development at AwesomenessTV and has also served as head of content development at Disney Interactive, where she developed and produced original live-action and animated series across The Walt Disney Co.’s websites and social platforms.
So I know you’re doing very well, at the top of the ladder as far as interweb video goes. But are you happy with this? Proud of it? Or are the loneliness and alienation that form the subtext of Video vs. Real still alive in your soul?
I know this is a pretty damn personal question to ask. But you gave so much of yourself in this video that all of us here at TVWriter™ can’t help ourselves. We need to know how your life journey is going.
Are you closing in on discovering how to truly be real? Or have you moved onto other questions, big and small?
And as long as we’re talking, I’d like Zadi and everyone reading this to know that I’m kind of crazy about this vid from 2016 too:
NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and occasionally best owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
By Larry Brody
One day as my wife Gwen the Beautiful and I were leaving the ranch to drive into town we noticed a couple of trucks pulled over at the side of the road. Several people were standing around and when one of them saw us he waved and called out. “You missing your dog?”
We weren’t, but that didn’t keep us from being curious. We drove over to the group and saw Fred, an old-timer from up the road, and a Mennonite couple and their son. Fred pointed into the woods—our woods on our property as it turned out—and showed me what the fuss was about. A dead dog lying under a tree about fifty feet from the road.
We tromped in for a closer look. Fred showed me four widely spaced bullet holes. Someone had shot the dog, probably from the road. “None of these is a kill shot,” Fred pointed out. “Whoever did the shooting wanted the dog to suffer.” His eyes misted up. “Same thing happened to my dog.”
As we walked back to the road Fred told me about his dead retriever, “the best dog that ever honored a man with her love.” One day not long enough ago for the memory to have healed, Fred’s dog came crawling home to die in his arms after being shot six times. Individually, none of the wounds was mortal, but in combination, “She bled to death is what happened.”
The Mennonite Couple said they’d seen a black pickup going up and down the road slowly several times in the past few weeks, and just that morning they’d heard shots coming from it as it went by. Fred’s eyes lighted up. He described different kinds of black pickups. “Was it a Ford? Dodge? Did it have chrome pipes?” He reminded me of all the TV detectives I’ve written over the years. Sounded like a member of CSI.
The Mennonite Couple answered as best they could. Fred’s expression grew grim. “This old boy with the black pickup is just plain bad,” he said. “I’ll find out who he is—“
“And go to the sheriff…? Gwen said.
“This ain’t a sheriff kinda thing,” Fred said. “Animals’re kind of a gray area. No…I’ll just be paying that old boy a little visit on my own…”
“You might want to have somebody with you,” the Mennonite husband said. He was volunteering, but Fred shook his head. Patted the hunting knife sheathed to his belt.
“No,” said Fred. “It’s best if I go alone. That’s one of the Old Ways.” His eyes rested on each of us standing there, one after another. “Till then, you’d best be watching your dogs.”
“Somebody should bury that one,” the Mennonite woman said, pointing into the woods.
My property, my job. I told the others I’d take care of it, and after they drove off Gwen and I went back to our place, where Jeff, our Unhandy Man, and I grabbed a couple of shovels and did the deed. When we were finished I sent out a little prayer, best wishes for a dog that someone, somewhere close by, most certainly must have loved.
Since then, every time I’m on that road I find myself looking for a black pickup. And, of course, I always find one, or two or three. Part of me says, “Get the license number! Call Fred!” But another part says, “Stay out of this. How’ll you feel if someone gets hurt?”
The truth is, I don’t know how I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup was found sliced and diced or shot dead. Or if I learn that Fred’s been charged with the slicing, dicing, or shooting. I’m not even sure what I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup took Fred out in self-defense.
What I am sure of is that if in the meantime anything happens to one of my dogs I’m going to regret to my own dying day that, unlike Fred, I don’t have what it takes to hitch up my anger and steep myself in the blood of the Old Ways.
But I’ll tell you this. If that time comes, ain’t nothing in this or any other world that’ll keep me from calling on old Fred.
NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I lived on Cloud Creek Ranch, our property in the Ozarks about 15 minutes south of Yellville, Arkansas, population roughly 1200.
In many ways, Cloud Creek was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about how our adventure, and the lessons we learned.
Live! From Paradise! #2
By Larry Brody
I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods this past week, cutting down saplings and trimming the cedars that surround Cloud Creek Ranch’s Original Settlers’ Cabins. The result is about an acre of wood that used to be vertical but now lies horizontally on the ground, exposing beautiful flat rock steps leading up to a ridge of caves. When I’m done this will be a terrific area to loaf in, and maybe build a tree house. For now, what I’m doing is the perfect way to stop thinking about all the “important” things and relax.
I began this project on a day that felt like Spring. Sunshine, sweet breeze, chirping birds. But for the past couple of days it’s been raining. The rain makes the rock steps slippery, and I did a lot of sliding around today. At first I thought it was going to be a disaster because we’ve got these thorny green vines shooting out of the ground everywhere, and if you’re not careful you can get sliced up pretty well.
I was lucky today. After the first time I fell and got caught in one of those nasties I was able to avoid the others with quick twists and turns. That first time was rough. A young vine, green and supple, snagged my leg, then my arm, and held me tight.
I started swearing and struggling, and the vine held me tight, like a desperate animal. It didn’t hold me because it wanted to but because it needed support. I stopped moving. Knelt where I was, perfectly still. And remembered another time when I’d felt something totally unexpected while in the woods. On that day, about eight years ago, in a clump of trees on what was then our property in California, tenderness had ruled.
Our old place was the kind you don’t expect to see so close to L.A. Acres of woods with fat-bellied old oaks and aromatic pepper trees. On the day in question I was standing under a pepper tree, splitting logs. Suddenly, one of the limbs of the tree waved down to my face, and a lone leaf brushed my lips. I stopped in mid swing. Straightened. Stared. To my dying day I will remember my thought:
She kissed me…
Because that’s what it felt like. A sweet, tender kiss from the gentlest woman who had ever lived. I remember my words as I looked up at the waving leaves. “I love this tree!”
The other day, though, at our new place, I wasn’t being kissed but held, by the living equivalent of razor wire. And I wasn’t exultant but afraid. Of the thorns pushing in deeper. Or, worse, loosening and slashing me to ribbons as they tried to embrace me again.
I thought things over. The tenderness of a tree. The desperation of a vine. Not deliberate choices but expressions of their nature. Softly rustling branches are, by nature, tender. Twining, grasping vines are, by nature, desperate. Tree and vine, revealing themselves. Expressing themselves.
I had welcomed the kiss. What right did I have to reject the embrace?
I looked down at the vine. Forced myself to say, “I love this vine!”
I didn’t, of course. I was outright lying. But when I said the words, the vine relaxed. It quivered and pulled away. The sense of desperation vanished, replaced by gratitude. I cut it the vine short, even with the ground, and I went back to work on the saplings.
Now I’m sitting at my desk. It’s still raining outside. A good old boy neighbor called a little while ago. “Tain’t fit for man nor beast out there,” he said, as though no one had ever said it before. Because he meant it. It was something he had to say. An expression of his nature as a farmer.
I won’t speak for my “beasts,” but I disagreed with him. After years in a drought area I love the rain. I didn’t say a word, though. My neighbor is who he as, as the pepper tree is who she is, and the vine. We don’t have to agree with everyone. We don’t have to love everyone. But a little understanding, and a sweet lie, can go a long way.
As far back as twenty years ago, when I first started the PEOPLE’S PILOT, people have been asking me not only about the specifics of this contest but about the overall premise from which it originates:
“LB! Dood! Level with me. What’s the point of writing contests? What can they really do for me and my career? Does winning the PEOPLE’S PILOT mean I’m going to sell my series and become rich, famous, and irresistible to the opposite sex? Will it make my mother love me and my father flash at least a half-smile?”
My answer to this question always has boiled down to, “No. Winning this contest – or any writing contest – isn’t going to solve any of your personal problems and in all likelihood won’t make you an A list showbiz legend. You will not emerge with the cachay to swagger or stagger around Beverly Hills with impunity, stoned to the gills.
“But, dammit, it’ll get you on the right track.”
Here’s the thing.
Over the course of my career I’ve written one Acme Ton ‘0’ Pilot Scripts for Big Media TV. You’ve never heard of most of the shows they were for because even though the scripts were bought and paid for by NBC, CBS, , ABC, HBO, Showtime, Viacom, and various other outlets in the U.S. and abroad, the majority of them never made it to series.
Looking back at the whole kit and caboodle, one thing stands out: The scripts that became series and those that didn’t, were, for all practical purposes pretty much equal in quality.
The pilot scripts for Mike Hammer (or maybe it was The Return of Mike Hammer or The New Mike Hammer. It’s hard to remember because there were so many permutations of the Stacy Keach-starring show), Man Undercover (or was it David Cassidy: Man Undercover? That one’s hard to remember because I had a heart attack shortly after we finished shooting the pilot and spent the next several months recovering via various meds and total dedication to pretending that showbiz didn’t exist), or Super Force (which I do remember because it started out as Super Cop but then along came the Robocop lawyers and, oops, back to the drawing board), or any of the others that you, your parents, or your grandparents might have seen were no better than the pilot scripts that stayed on the shelf.
As a matter of fact, in one verifiable instance, they were worse.
A co-writer and I once wrote a pilot for a show about the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to be called Farrell for the People. Wonder of wonders! Miracle of Miracles! The pilot, which was written to star Valerie Harper, of Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda fame, was shot and aired as a TV movie. Its ratings were good. Critics loved it. We, the writers, won a Women in TV & Film Award for our efforts and looked forward to writing and producing many more episodes of the expected series.
But in spite of all that there was no series. No episodes followed.
Was I disappointed?
Nah, not really. I was crushed.
In other words, selling a TV series involves much, much more than bringing a wonderfully written script to the party. The tenor and politics of the times play a big part. So does whether the concept originated with the target network/streaming site or a packaging agency or the production company or the writer, etc.
And, then there’s the matter of the package as a whole.
By which I mean:
Who are the stars?
Who will be directing?
Who will be running the show?
What company will be producing the show?
How much does the target network (or streaming site, whatever) want to work with the producing company and the other personnel involved?
Will the network/site/whatever own the show outright?
If the network/site/whatever doesn’t own the show, will it have at least a piece of it?
How big will that piece be?
What’s the budget?
The corollary to the budget question: What’s the license fee?
And, perhaps most importantly:
How brilliant, insightful, and lovable is the lead salesperson on the project? By which I mean the man or woman who hangs with and schmoozes the hell out of the network development people and their superiors from pitch meeting to decision day. Depending on the size of the production company, that can be anyone from the CEO to the writer-creator’s assistant, and, yeah, I’m talking about a downwardly sliding scale.
Pretty damn daunting, right? In my experience, most writers are introverts by nature, and introverts normally don’t do very well in this kind of game.
But the good news about writing contests in general and this year’s PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 is that writing for a contest is a whole ‘nuther thing.
Instead of being surrounded by circumstances you can’t possibly control, of being just a cog in the wheel of the showbiz mill, doing your bit and then hoping against hope that people and circumstances over which you have no control won’t upset everything and fling you down from creator heaven to no-sale hell, your writing talent and skill speak for themselves, with nothing to weigh them down.
it’s all about you not as a fish-out-of-water tactician but as an in-your-element writer.
Your contest entry represents the undiluted best you can do, and regardless of where you place you’ll be able to take pride in the fact that you had the wherewithal to sit down and bring your dream/vision/soul to life for all to read and potentially love.
Even if you don’t win, you’ll be getting vital information about how your measures up in the eyes of judges who are veterans of decades of “TV wars,” who have absolutely no horse in the race but their desire to discover writers who will bring tears, laughter, and amazement to the viewers we, the judges, and you, the writers love. Positive feedback, so you know how to make your script and your writing in general, even better.
(Here’s where I stand up, put my hand atop a stack of bibles of all religions and swear in all directions that my feedback will never – that’s never – be based on what I would have written if I were you, or how I would have developed your premise. My suggestions (I’m trying to avoid the word “notes” because so many writers associate that with so much pain) are always predicated on how you can make your vision, as exemplified by what you’re written, stronger and more effectively than you have.)
And if you do win, not only do you have clear and true reinforcement of your potential and a reason to believe as strongly as possible in yourself, to take pride in your heard work and sacrifice, you also have the opportunity to be mentored by, well, by me, in a way that will help you navigate those rough waters I’ve already described as well as my recommendation to those in the Industry.
Plus you have a solid credit that means Industry folks will take you much more seriously than they would have before our winners were announced. The PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 landing page has a list of the shows former Winners, Finalists, and Semi-Finalists of previous PEOPLE’S PILOTs have been working on. That means something to buyers, agents, managers, et al. And it should mean even more to you.
Damn, did you read what I just wrote? Why couldn’t I speak up like that back when I was writing all those pilots? Why didn’t I have the confidence to dance the dance all through the night?
One reason is that I didn’t have the PEOPLE’S PILOT behind me.
But you will.
PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018
Early Bird Entries Close August 1
Final Closing Date November 1
LB’s NOTE: I fully intended to have another post about tips for PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 entrants today, but a funny thing happened on my way to my keyboard: The Brodys got a new puppy.
More likely than not, considering how popular dogs are in the Western world. (I hear they’re popular in the East as well, but not necessarily as friends or pets…) you know what that does to the best of intentions.
Right – it turns them into grist for the real purpose of puppy owning life: Cleaning up pee and poo. So instead of writing anything, here I am, hysterically living the life (read, “breaking in the pooper scooper and buying newspapers by the half ton” for the adorable little creature on the left.
All is not lost, however. Compensating for my new servitude is a new kind of liberation.
The following substitute post has nothing to do with writing at all. But inasmuch as I’m of Latvian descent (you didn’t know? For shame…on me for not revealing it before) I’m fascinated by the observations here.
Well, more than fascinated. This nonjudgemental justification for my particular brand of lifelong anti-social behavior has freed me from guilt at last. And given me a whole new insight into what may well be the true nature of my creativity.
And maybe yours as well.
So, please, read on:
by Christine Ro
In a comic book produced by the organisation Latvian Literature for the recent London Book Fair, the main character gives a rare smile on realising that the weather outside is perfect. That is, it’s heavily snowing, and thus he’s unlikely to meet anyone out on the roads. As he says, “below zero = below average risk of random encounter”.
The comic is part of Latvian Literature’s #IAMINTROVERT campaign to celebrate – and affectionately make fun of – a kind of social reserve that Anete Konste, a Latvian publicist and writer who devised the campaign, sees as very representative of her nation. “I don’t think our campaign is an exaggeration at all,” she said. “In reality it’s even worse!”
I understood what she meant as soon as I arrived in the Baltic state. My first day walking through Riga, Latvia’s capital city, was unlike walking through the capital of any other European country. It was more serene. The sun shone brightly as I strolled towards Kronvalda Park, and at times it seemed like the only sources of noise were passing cars and chattering tourists. When I did see some Latvians walking together, they often did so silently and with plenty of space in between. I sensed that these aren’t the most gregarious of people.
This feeling was confirmed on an hour-long train trip from Riga to Sigulda. As we whizzed north-east through thick pine forests, my friends and I alternately admired the scenery and played a film trivia game. We were getting excitable, shouting out answers, when it dawned on us that we were the only ones in the train compartment speaking.
But why are Latvians often so reserved, at least at first? There is no cut-and-dried answer, but studies have shown a link between creativity and a preference for solitude. Konste has seen this first hand in her line of work; in fact, she believes that introversion is especially heightened among those in creative fields, such as authors, artists and architects. Meanwhile, Latvian psychologists have suggested that creativity is important to Latvian self-identity, so much so that creativity is a priority in the Latvian government’s educational and economic development plans. The European Commission has reported that Latvia has one of the highest shares of the creative labour market in the European Union….