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

Will the Repeal of Net Neutrality Kill the TV Revolution?

This is the first time we’ve seen this particular argument about the FCC’s foolish repeal of net neutrality rules. And in many ways, for this TVWriter™ minion it’s the scariest one yet:

The latest battle to save the internet will be fought in the halls of Congress, and if it’s lost, the pool of fresh talent that led to “Broad City,” “High Maintenance,” and “Insecure” could be lost too.
by Aymar Jean Christian

Congress now has less than two months to reinstate net neutrality after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the Obama-era order.

They must act.

The FCC repeal allows internet and mobile service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and Verizon to discriminate against publishers, from Netflix, YouTube, and Vimeo, charging them higher carriage fees. It allows for what is called “zero-rating,” where ISPs like AT&T that own content companies like DirecTV can make it free for their customers to watch their own products while charging for data usage from its competitors. It will continue the practice of tiered pricing, where we as consumers can be charged more based on the data we use.

The repeal of net neutrality will kill the TV revolution few people are paying attention to. Most of the media interest in net neutrality has focused on how big companies like Netflix can reach customers without having to charge us more.

But in fact, Netflix created a workaround and partnered with the major ISPs after it accused Comcast of throttling its traffic many years ago. Companies like Google, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and Amazon all have relatively healthy stock valuations and will be fine even without net neutrality. They have the resources to create workarounds and partnerships with other conglomerates.

The real casualty of net neutrality with be independent creators who are not yet affiliated with big corporations. These creators are critical to cultural innovation via the internet.

In my most recent book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television, I track decades of innovation borne of an open, net-neutral web. Generations of storytellers have used the internet to experiment with different ways to produce TV, create different ways for audiences to interact with it, and promote narratives more diverse than what Hollywood invests in. The 100-plus independent producers I interviewed revealed their frustrations with Hollywood’s inability to open up development and let more people make TV — which is why they created their own shows and uploaded them directly to the web.

Because all internet traffic was treated equally, indie producers could amass huge fan bases for their series or find the stakeholders they need to get to the next level. Issa Rae might be the most famous for this: Her series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” broke a decade of Hollywood barely giving black women a chance to create their own series, particularly darker-skinned women with natural hair and an explicitly black feminist perspective on the world….

Read it all at IndieWire.Com

Robert Redford is at It Again

Throughout the years, our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody, has heard a few stories about the complex relationship between Robert Redford and various writers, but this one takes the prize:

Why I hate Robert Redford
by Ken Levine

It’s not enough he was a great looking guy, a huge movie star, and an Oscar-winning director? Now he also has to take credit for writing the screenplay of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN?

Fuck him.

The screenplay is credited to William Goldman. For those not familiar, he wrote BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID (the film that actually launched Redford’s starring career), THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MARATHON MAN, and many others. He’s also written a ton of brilliant books, both fiction and non-fiction. His book about the movie industry, ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE is still the definitive read on the subject. Suffice it to say, the man is a GIANT. He’s my screenwriting idol.

Goldman took on the near impossible task of taking the book of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN with its complicated cast of players, and tangled-web of deceits and cover ups and somehow turned it into a cohesive dramatic structure that fit within the time limits of a movie. And he miraculously made it compelling even when everyone in the world already knew the ending.

He did draft after draft, before and during the filming. Ultimately he won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. And yet he still wishes he hadn’t bothered with this assignment. To win an Oscar and still regret taking the project speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Redford, in his biography and a Vanity Fair article claims that HE along with director Alan J. Pakula booked a room in a hotel and spent a month rewriting Goldman’s “disastrous” screenplay…..

Read it all at Ken Levine’s most sensational blog – and may we respecfully suggest you read as much as you of what else is there?

Peggy Bechko: Yikes! They Want Me to Write a Logline!

by PeggyBechko

Have you taken time to sit down and consider a logline for your script? Of course you have – presuming you’re writing scripts. And I’d go so far here as to say it’s not a bad idea to consider loglines and how they’re created if you’re a novelist as well. It’s kind of your ‘elevator pitch’.

Everyone is forever in a hurry so I’m going to give some space to what NOT to do when thinking about creating a logline, aka the short pitch if you’re writing other things and want to get a short pithy hook out there to snag an editor or producer.

Producers and Editors are notorious for being in a hurry and expecting a pitch or a logline to grab them all on its own. I don’t blame them really. They’re buried under scripts and manuscripts and meetings and a lot more that we, as writers, don’t think about. Is it so unreasonable to not want to have to slog through even more paper than they already do?

So, as a writer, it’s your job to really set that hook.

As a writer you want to create words and characters with cool names that will be remembered always… or at least long enough that you enjoy your fifteen minutes of fame. That said, I’m absolutely sure you’ve polished your script to a fine glow, creating cool sounding places and equally cool sounding names for your character.

You want to show off your dazzling creation. First almost rule (there aren’t any actual rules really); leave all those cool sounding names out of your logline. They make perfect sense in context of your story, but a logline? Want a producer to ask to see the script? Trust me, leave them out. No people names, no geographical locations.

Focus on the theme and the action. Get to the meat of the matter. A logline is one (maybe two) sentences. Use them wisely. Don’t throw in names someone would know only if they’d seen the movie – which hasn’t yet been made.

Your job, as a writer eager to sell a script or manuscript is to offer what is a marketable (yes, we’re trying to sell some writing here) story. To do that it’s imperative to offer a kernel of that story with hook enough to grab a Producer or Editor and to do that without forcing said Producer or Editor to sift through an unkempt bed of a logline to get to it.

What else doesn’t belong in a logline? All of those flattering credits like placing in a contest someone heard of or no one heard of. Giving all kinds of detail about what the script is such as genre.

If you’re a diligent writer who’s submitting I hope you’ve done your research and are offering a script to a producer that’s in a genre that producer has already worked in or is perhaps soliciting ideas for, or some other reason you would have to believe that producer would be interested in the script you’re pitching.

Now, if you want to give your logline a little punch with a credit like, “Winner of Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship” and finalist in others (that’s a biggie) then add it in a second sentence after the pitch line with the further suggestion the reader see more in your synopsis (then don’t forget to put it there). But keep it short!

Remember they’re out there, reading lots of loglines – but, they’re loglines that are short and sweet. When a slog develops, they move on.

The process in novel world is a bit different and I’d advise looking into the details Editors require that are different than scripts (i.e. fiction or non, word count, genre, etc.). Nonetheless, boiling your novel down to a single logline isn’t a bad idea.

There are other things you shouldn’t do in your quest to get your logline read like providing unnecessary details or unnecessary second sentences when one will do.

Fact is, there’s always something else. But, the writer who gets some focus and can be ruthless with their work, slashing mercilessly, reading and rereading until that logline shines, will find the reader who will request that script.

Keep at it. You can do it. When all is said and done, here’s the simple truth: “Knowledgeable writers never have to say ‘Yikes!'”

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.

Larry Brody: How Not To Write A Great TV or Film Script

by Larry Brody

Just what you need to start off the week: 18 non-rules (because the Brode doesn’t believe in rules) guaranteed to bring your beloved pet TV or film project to a lowly and humiliating end.

1. Start without an outline and wing it.

2. Don’t bother having a central theme.

3. Don’t bother having a central problem.

4. Keep everyone peaceful and avoid conflict at all costs.

5. Have your characters talk and talk and talk.

6. Make sure that key events happen off camera.

7. Start without an outline and wing it.

8. Make your dialog totally realistic, plain, and dull.

9. Don’t write anything that hasn’t been seen before.

10. Have lots of chase scenes.

11. Better yet, make the whole script one long chase.

12. Start without an outline and wing it.

13. Create characters not even a mother could love.

14. Remember that a joke isn’t funny unless you’ve already laughed at it in another movie.

15. Make all your characters victims adrift in the sea of fate.

16. Use lots of fancy descriptive phrases like “adrift in the sea of fate.”

17. Make sure all your characters fail.

18. Did I say to start without an outline and wing it?

There you go!

Want to thank me? It’s easy. Simply do not – I repeat, do not – succumb to any of the writing temptations listed above.