Why You Need to Keep the Rights to Your Material

by Larry Brody

I was going to write an earnest article/essay/post on the dangers of “work-for-hire” agreements, but this one says it all:

Creators rights activists take note: The Great Thanos War is brewing

Marvel is going all cosmic in the movie world, and Thanos, a character created by Jim Starlin, is at the heart of it.

The evidence is unavoidable. First it was the Thanos cameo at the end of the Avengers—supposedly thrown in because director Joss Whedon was a fan of the character and a cosmic storyline is integral to keeping him on board for Avengers 2.

Now it’s the news that The Guardians of the Galaxy are getting a movie in 2014, a team which includes arch Thanos foe Adam Warlock and many other characters from the cosmic Marvel universe created and developed by Starlin in his Warlock and Infinity Gauntlet books. And Marvel has just announced a high profile Thanos 5-issue miniseries, Thanos: Son of Titan…

What’s so interesting about all this? Well, besides what sounds like an exciting movie storyline, it is an incontrovertible fact that Jim Starlin created Thanos, Gamora and many other elements of the Guardians/Infinity Gauntlet/Cosmic Cube in various Marvel comics… 

From Jim Starlin’s pre-Marvel portfolio!

So yep, Jim Starlin created Thanos. No two ways about it. And in theory he then signed a check with a voucher on it for work for hire. But Marvel hasn’t been able to produce any records from that period (mid ’70s) so proving that rests entirely on the goodwill of the company-friendly New York state courts.

Read it all

Thanos was the major continuing villain in my SILVER SURFER animated series back in the late ’90s. Wouldn’t it be great if Starlin got a piece of that action as well as the current Marvel success?

Should be an interesting situation battle.

LB Sees MOONRISE KINGDOM

by Larry Brody

Click this pic to see some trailers for MOONRISE KINGDOM

The Good:

  • Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban – all directed by Wes Anderson from a script by Anderson & Roman Cuppola
  • Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban – all directed by Wes Anderson from a script by Anderson & Roman Cuppola
  • Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban – all directed by Wes Anderson from a script by Anderson & Roman Cuppola
  • You get the idea

The Not-So-Good:

  • There is no not-so-good

The Best:

  • This film made me happy

**Disclaimer – I feel obligated to  tell you that my oldest son, Jeb Brody. is one of the three presidents (shouldn’t that be a film title: The Three Presidents?) of Focus Features, the studio that produced this film.**

**Anti-Disclaimer – I also feel obligated to  tell you that my oldest son, Jeb Brody, is a man of great courage and excellent taste.**

Whatie Looks at Amazon Studios (PART 1)

by Whatie

Have you heard about Amazon Studios yet? They’re the newest thing in television production. Yes, you heard me: television production. Sure, they started as a movie studio, but now they’re doing television, too. So far, they’re only interested in half-hour sitcoms and children’s programming, but don’t be surprised if they keep growing and start asking for a wider variety of formats. After all, they’re Amazon, and they want their fingers in everything.

What is this monster television studio that Amazon is creating? It certainly isn’t your traditional production studio. It only takes a quick glance to figure out that they’re doing just about everything differently from the traditional old-school (American) studios. But what exactly are they doing? And, more importantly, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Or, to phrase the question as you’re probably really thinking it: Should I jump in or run away screaming?

I did a lot of research to figure out that answer, and I’m here today to tell you all about what I found and what conclusions I drew for myself.

Amazon Studios is based on the idea that, instead of letting network and studio execs examine potential series ideas in secret, the selection process can be a public one. A potential series creator offers a series idea on the Amazon Studios website, and anyone who wants to can read the offering, rate it, and comment on it. Although the Amazon Studios executives still make the production decisions, they (supposedly) rely primarily on the comments and ratings offered by the general public to guide their choices.

If it stopped there, I would be inclined to like this idea very much. Network execs and studio heads are often horribly out of touch with what people actually want. There’s no harm and a lot of potential good in asking people what they think BEFORE the studio spends lots of money on the concept. Plus, of course, critique is always good for the writer. You never know what comment might contain that nugget of gold that pushes the writer to the next level, or just helps the writer see the script in a new light.

Furthermore, Amazon Studios doesn’t require an agent or any credentials at all. Anyone who has created a series and put the necessary words on paper can play.

As a writer, I can only love that part, too. Someone has to leave the door open for the newcomers!

Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Nikita Pilot – Recap and Review

(Playing Catch-Up With The CW Dept:)

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in September 2010. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Three years ago I escaped, and have been hunted ever since. I was the first recruit to get out. I’m going to make certain I’m not the last.” – Nikita

Sexy women, rogue assassins AND an interesting story?

Count me in.

We open on Nikita (Maggie Q.), a highly trained assassin, typing away at her computer. The voiceover informs us that she has spent the last three years in hiding but is now resurfacing to wage all-out war against Division, a covert government organization that recruits its agents through kidnapping and extortion. This means fighting and killing many of her former colleagues and friends, including the Head of Division, Percy (Xander Berkeley), his second in command and Nikita’s former trainer, Michael (Shane West), and Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) Division’s resident computer genius.

We then drop in on two masked bandits robbing a drugstore. When the owner resists, he is killed. One of the thieves escapes. The other, a teen junkie named Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), is arrested. Soon afterward, Division comes calling, taking her to a training center where Michael explains that as far as the rest of the world knows she is now dead. She must give herself over to the agency, and in return they will give her a new life as an elite secret agent. Sounds great, but there’s one little catch. Alex later discovers that if she fails the training or in her missions she’ll be killed.

As the episode continues, we intercut between Nikita and Alex, seeing the process of shaping a new recruit and the challenge of eliminating a veteran agent. Through Nikita, we learn more about the reasons for her crusade. Through Alex, we see the various levels of training that shape a young assassin. More than combat skills are involved. There’s also a charm and beauty school run by Amanda (Melinda Clarke), a master manipulator, interrogator, and psychologist who has the potential to be the most interesting yet terrifying character in the series.

The episode ends with a twist: The discovery that Alex, the young new recruit, is Nikita’s inside operative. And that Nikita was the second masked bandit that shot the drug store owner.

Okay, so this show is awesome. Yes, the sexy secret agent thing has been done. But the pilot provides a nice balance of cool action, engaging characters and enough story depth to provide a solid foundation for the future. This is the CW, so there’s the occasional cheesy line and overacted scene, but if you’re in the mood for sexy women with guns AND an interesting story, do yourself a favor and check this show out.

Thinking Man Rating: 11 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**

 

Screenwriting MFA Programs: How Do I Pick the Right One?

by Larry Brody

Hot off the presses – or, actually hot off the  TVWriter™ Message Board, comes this Q and A about a subject quite a few TVWriter™ visitors are wrestling with:

Question from Ghost:

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here! But I am in somewhat of a dilemma. I’ve been accepted into three MFA programs, LMU (TV writing), Chapman (screenwriting) and Emerson (fiction). I’m on the waitlist for USC but don’t think that’s going to happen.

I am trying to figure out if I’ll be able to swing the move at all, since fun life stuff interrupted those “save for grad school” plans, and this is all very last minute, but I have to make a final decision very, very soon (like, Monday) and the available information is pretty contradictory. I know most people don’t think an MFA is worth anything, but let’s just pretend it’s not the worst mistake I could make. I’m wondering if anyone here has done one of these programs or if one has a distinct advantage over the other? I think Chapman and LMU have the advantage of actually being in California, but Emerson does have its LA internship program.

Answer from LB:

This is an excellent question. Thanks for asking it publicly so others can benefit from my sagacity/foolishness/whatever-the-hell-it-really-is.

I’m not going to waste time by listing/recommending specific programs, especially ones to which you didn’t apply, or that you don’t mention being accepted by. There are any number of sites with ardent boosters recommending their alma maters, et al. Instead, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of your particular dilemma.

If I were in your shoes, I’d be factoring in the following:

  1. Which is the most creative program – as in the one that will give my imagination a chance to soar highest while I hone my skills?
  2. Which program has the most qualified personnel – as in real writers who have worked in the field I’m most interested in and accumulated genuine experience/credits/publications? (Because, I’m sorry, but “teachers” who’ve tried to become writers and already failed aren’t worth a damn.)
  3. Which program has the most successful alumni – as in the best network of contacts who can help me achieve my professional goals?
  4. Which program just plain “feels” right – as in where does my body feel like I belong?

BTW, congratulations on being accepted. I know the competition is tough. And whatever you decide:

  • Please let us know
  • Good luck!

LYMI,

LB