Kathryn Graham: What Makes ClexaCon Special?

Wynonna Earp’s Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught) having a laugh 

by Kathryn Graham

ClexaCon is an inclusive convention held in Las Vegas and London celebrating queer women on screen and behind the scenes. It’s the first of its kind, and that makes it unique in and of itself, but much more than that, here is what I found special:

Genuine human connection, a celebratory spirit, and powerful support.

From Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp) crying about the isolation that older queer women suffered growing up without easy access to their community to Vanessa Piazza (Producer of Lost Girl and Dark Matter) stating outright that when you climb the ladder, you help others up; it’s an atmosphere that’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I’m out here in Hollywood, which isn’t as cutthroat as people make it out to be, but which isn’t exactly the most welcoming space. We have gatekeepers who are always looking at the bottom line (aka “The Business”). People who have firm beliefs that only certain types of characters can sell (prejudiced chicanery). You have to prove, hundreds of times over to many different people, that you’re ‘worth it’, i.e. that you can make everyone a lot of money.

It’s ultra competitive. It’s isolating, even among friends, as you’re always pitted against each other. Even people who enjoy your company can be so busy that you have to ask nine times if they want to have lunch. And it’s fine. It’s the way it is. This industry is demanding. People have other priorities. You have no control over who wins a contest or gets an agent or get staffed. At least not at my level. But that means that sometimes it can seem like no one cares all that much about you except you. You’re a drop in the ocean.

Not so at ClexaCon.

There, people see you. People care about you. They want you to tell your stories, and they want to help you make it happen.

That’s revolutionary.

As a writer, I always thought that queer female characters were a non-starter. Why wouldn’t I think that? For most of my life, we could barely get good roles for women on television (and feature films are worse), let alone main storylines for queer characters.

I expected that if I was ever lucky and dogged enough to get my original work sold, I’d be in long, drawn out battles to keep my main character and her love interest female. Because I knew I’d never compromise.

I believed that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I improved my craft, no matter how the story came out, it wouldn’t matter because nobody wants to see queer women on television.

Then last year, ClexaCon changed all of that.

Last ClexaCon, Emily Andras (Showrunner for Wynonna Earp) told us that if we ever doubted there was an audience for our stories, then we should take a look around that packed room, and then never doubt again. This year, she reiterated that, and it was more poignant than ever. Because that room was three times the size and packed to overflowing.

Last year, in ClexaCon’s premiere year, I wrote a lot about the ethics of storytelling from panels led by Dr. Elizabeth Bridges and Gretchen Ellis.  A huge number of queer female characters had been killed off on television that season, and it was a depressing subject.

This year, as the panelists noted, there is more and more content – Black Lightning, Everything Sucks, Runaways – that doesn’t even need to be told how to write queer stories ethically: they already know.

Last ClexaCon, for the first time in my life, I could look around and definitively say: here are my people. They get me, and I get them. This year, I was touched by creators and actresses who aren’t queer but who are as invested in these stories as we are.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is have hope that I can reach so many others like me. How heartening it is to see people like my straight, male friend welcomed with open arms and to see his sincere interest in everything ClexaCon stands for. Just a few years ago, I would never have believed that not only do so many queer women want queer stories, but so do so many others who don’t identify as queer.

So even if the world outside ClexaCon has so much further to go, at ClexaCon you can see where we should be. Because, in a world that can seem so uncaring and disconnected, ClexaCon is genuine love.

Also, bonus: no ‘con funk’ (a haze of body odor at… pretty much every other convention ever).

Photo Credit: Kathryn Graham

Check out more photos from ClexaCon on my Instagram: KateGrahamTV

Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and award winning writer. Learn more about Kate HERE

InkTip.Com is More Than Just a Catchy Name

EDITOR’S NOTE: InkTip.Com and TVWriter™ have been associated for almost 20 years, but this is the first time the site has been reviewed here in over a decade. How’s the place holding up? Dawn McElligott tells us all about it:

by Dawn McElligott

From the “About” section at InkTip.Com:

InkTip was born in 2000 after witnessing the difficulties associates and friends in the industry have had in getting exposure for their works, let alone getting their scripts sold. The mission of InkTip.com is threefold:

  • Help the producer easily find a good script
  • Save time for the agent and manager in locating the right people for their clients’ scripts, or new clients
  • Greatly increase exposure for the screenwriter

InkTip seems more to this writer like Q-Tip, since it has a soft touch. Wary of scams but compelled to try a service that connects writers and producers, I registered two screenplays with InkTip at the end of February. As of this writing, the loglines for my works have been viewed 50 times by producers.

To register a script, the writer completes a questionnaire so that InkTip can categorize it for prospective producers. The survey asks about the genre, possible sub-genre, locations, etc. The writer must also be able to supply proof of prior registration with a creative works protection organization such as the Writers Guild of America, in order to list a script or a book on their website, https://www.inktip.com/.

After registering a script, I received an email from InkTip about loglines. The web service has a logline lab that gives practical guidance for a crucial ingredient in marketing: the logline. Writers can easily revise their loglines, synopses and scripts at no extra charge from InkTip.

After eight production companies read my loglines and went no further, I consulted the website’s loglines lab. Revising the logline caused me to re-think the essence of my work. The experience made me feel better prepared for an eventual sales pitch.

If I had a question, I was advised to email the company’s President, Jerrol LeBaron, at jerrol@inktip.com. Within 24 hours, either Jerrol or one of his employees would politely respond to my question. The website does publish a Writers’ Protocol, admonishing writers to first, wait three to six weeks before contacting production companies who’ve viewed their scripts and to do so only by snail-mail letters.

The company also advises writers to contact only those producers who have viewed their books, treatments or scripts. Contacting producers or production companies after a view limited to the logline and/or synopsis, is prohibited.

A non-refunded removal from the website is a published consequence of breaking these rules so writers are encouraged to play nice. As of this writing, at least one producer has assigned my script to a reader. InkTip notified me by email and the producer’s physical address was given.

The website states that viewing scripts is limited to members only and producers hoping to join are thoroughly scrutinized. Two of the criteria for membership as a producer are proof of funds and a perceived ability to make a film.

The website boasts that since its establishment in 2000, over 350 movies have been made through its services. The cost for listing a script is $60 for four months with discounts for multiple listings. The website also offers many other goodies, such as listings of networking events.

Receiving worldwide exposure from vetted producers makes InkTip.com a sound investment. Being treated politely and fairly will keep me coming back.

Dawn McElligott is a an award-winning writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia and other points East. You can learn more about her HERE

10 Important Lessons On The Craft Of Screenwriting

A semester’s worth of film knowledge in 30 minutes, 42 seconds. And that pacing could be a lesson in itself. From Film Courage:

What’s that? You want a preview of what the 10 lessons are? Well, if y’all insist:

1) 0:06 – Story or Character?
2) 0:46 – How To Build Empathy
3) 4:48 – A Participatory Experience
4) 9:20 – Learn From Writers
5) 11:27 – The Great Weakness
6) 13:35 – Value Of An Idea
7) 16:33 – How To Create Suspense
8) 19:43 – Two Ways To Create Subtext
9) 21:51 – The Beginning
10) 25:15 – Action Defines Character

Peggy Bechko: Creating Your Best Villain

Could Cruella be the worst best villain in history?

 by PeggyBechko

Villains aren’t just people who run around being mean and slapping puppies (in fact sometimes they have and love their very own puppy or kitten).

So how do we as writers of for screen, stage and print write the very best villains the world will love to hate?

You make your villain a match for your hero. Pretty much that simple…and that hard. Your villain can be a who or an it.

Think about Lord of The Rings Orcs to the Elves or Ripley vs. Alien. How about Kirk’s nemesis, Khan or maybe Frankenstein or the Wolfman vs. whoever. The Martian vs. staying alive on Mars.

Actors love to get these parts. People love to read about them in books. They hold attention. Great villains make for a great read or a great movie.

Heroes and villains work off each other. There must be a ‘balance of power’ to make their strange ‘dance’ fascinating to reader or watcher. They operate as two halves of a whole. And sometimes they literally are – i.e. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

How about Luke Skywalker when he discovers Darth Vader is his father? And don’t forget the current wave of comic book heroes and villains courtesy of Marvel Studios.

The villains we create for novels and screen scripts cannot be weak. It’s the job of the villain to create conflict and roadblocks for the hero to create drama and suspense. That’s what getting lost in a novel or a movie is all about.

If a villain isn’t very strong, the hero you create who is about to shine and show off his or her strengths won’t have a strong obstacle to push back against or who’ll give that hero reason for self-examination, growth and finding the strength to overcome. A weak villain is pretty much ‘meh’.

Something else to keep in mind is a villain has to seem to be, at least in the beginning, even more clever than the hero or stronger or more formidable. The hero has to be trying to figure the villain out and the villain (whether person, planet or weather) has to come on strong, winning for the greater part of the book or movie.

There have to be moments when we, the audience, cannot possibly see a way out for the hero. And the villain’s goal needs to be interesting. His fight against the hero creative. The villain doesn’t’ have to be all out ‘evil’. He or she or it can be misguided but powerful. And, though the ‘clever’ element often enters in, it’s not a requirement.

Think about this as well. Who gets the best lines? Usually the villain (presuming your villain isn’t a comet headed for earth). Work hard to make your villain human, dig deep to find that humanity within and don’t create an all dark villain. If you pull it off it will make that villain even more terrifying than just ‘good against evil’.

Unpredictability is a great plus for a villain too. How better to make an audience jump than to have a ‘monster’ like King Kong one moment cradling Fay Wray in the palm of his hand and the next batting her would-be rescuers off a cliff. Or tossing her in the bushes to go off to battle a dinosaur.

Try to avoid clichés, but don’t shy away either if it is just the perfect touch to a scene.

And remember your villain is no wimp. This guy is every bit a match for the hero in determination to succeed. He doesn’t back down and he doesn’t give in. He’s for real. Powerful and possibly capable of defeating the hero.

Even if it’s a comedy you’re writing, novel or script, the villain, no matter how comically presented, takes him or herself very seriously…and so are his goals that set up the drama/suspense/adventure.

As a wrap up I want to leave with one caution. It’s easy to turn a specific villain into a generalization. Stereotyping can lead to big problems with your script or manuscript and even hinder a sale.

Remember the cold war when ‘communist’ villains abounded? Made it seem like all ‘communists’ were villains. Now we’re in a zone where “Arab terrorist” frequently goes together while not all terrorists are Arabs and visa versa. The writer who doesn’t think things through can punch a lot of emotional buttons. Not all Mexicans are ‘drug lords’. Not all black American are pimps.

If your character absolutely must fall into that stereotypical swamp, then do something with that villain to make it a stand-out character for many other reasons.

Now go out there and create the best worst bad guy you can!

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

The Best TV Shows on Each Network, Right Now

Nothing causes more controversy in the TV interwebs arena than lists of Best or Worst shows. So just between us, what do y’all think of the following choices? Are you for or agin? Why?

This being TVWriter™, we of course are interested mostly in what you think of the writing…and what your criteria for “good writing” is. Have at it:

by Hanh Nguyen

With so many series inundating every corner of the TV landscape, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stay in your comfort zone. Perhaps it’s just sticking with your preferred streaming service or checking out the prestige offerings on HBO. Maybe you’re an antenna-head who’s devoted to a favorite broadcast channel or have yet to cut the cord and are still enjoying basic cable offerings on the likes of AMC, FX, or Syfy.

Whatever your viewing situation is, IndieWire is here to propose a way to dabble with another channel or streaming service with low risk of wasting your time with a dud. IndieWire’s TV team has devoted most of our waking lives to watching television to create this curated list showcasing the absolute best show on each channel or platform, but only if there is anything worth championing. If there isn’t, that network is struck from the list for the month. Better luck next time.

The beauty of this special concierge service is that we’ll be updating this list regularly to keep up with the most recent and increasingly frequent releases (we’re looking at you, Netflix) out there. Last month’s champs will retire, while the shiny new successors to the throne take their place…

Read it all (including a slideshow) at Indiewire