“4 Reasons I Never Gave Up As A Filmmaker”

Tenacity is the name of the showbiz game. For example:

John Ginty and the actors and crew on set of “12 Days With God”

by John Ginty

early five years ago I started the journey to becoming a filmmaker. At the time I had a great job with benefits, three weeks of vacation, a decent salary, and great co-workers…

…but I was miserable. I wasn’t doing the one thing that burned with an unquenchable fire within me. All I wanted to do was make movies.

Now mind you, I am a father of three awesome children and husband to an amazing wife. I have a mortgage, a car payment, and of course your standard American credit card debt. But despite all of these very major (and for good reason) would be “road blocks,” I quit my job to pursue my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

Did I have a plan?
Nope, not really.

Did I have money saved up?
Not even remotely.

But what I did have was four very important things and ideas on my side as I began my journey.

1) The Full Support of My Loved Ones

This is vital to your success. It’s one thing to say your going to jump off a bridge if it won’t affect anyone around you. It’s a completely different story if there are people in your life that will be directly touched by life altering decisions. Which is why I talked to my wife FIRST.

When I told my wife about how I was feeling and how miserable I was, even though I was providing for our family, she had my back. 100%. She never doubted me or my dream for a moment. Was she scared? YUP. And that is to be expected. Venturing into a new career is scary enough, but going for a career with the greatest rate of people abandoning the dream is insane!

Soooo  – what if you don’t have the full unadulterated support of your family or loved ones? Whelp, you have to make a choice. I recently got some great advice about making difficult choices. To paraphrase, he asked me would I rather live with the pain of regret for doing it and failing or the pain of “what if” and living with never knowing. (The choice I made in that instance was to do it and it turned out AMAZING…btw.)

But once I made the decision, what then?

2) Decision Means Nothing Without Action

After I experienced the euphoric sensation of leaving a job that I knew wasn’t tied to my future destiny, there was a numbness of “what now?” What was I supposed to do? I knew nothing about the film industry apart from what I had read in books. So every day I tried to learn something new….

Read it all at Stage 32

Peggy Bechko: 3 Ways to Make Your TV or Film Script Stand Out

by Peggy Bechko

Let’s face it, the stories have all been told.

Truly original stories are tough to come by. We all have to get really creative. The screenwriting market is completely saturated.

Believe it or don’t. Like it or not. That’s the truth. The slush pile is deep. We may all think, “yeah, but” my script is one of those “truly great scripts” that “always get noticed and find their audience”.

Hmmm…

Think of it this way. Have you seen a herd of cattle? Sheep? Well, that’s the slush pile and the script we want to sell is in there… somewhere…one cow.

Now maybe you could teach that cow to tap-dance or you could try some other methods of getting noticed, so let’s talk, and I don’t mean about how to teach that cow to tap-dance.

Let’s all consider how to avoid the ‘thanks for the read, but not for me’ rejection we all dread.

First things first – imagination followed by fantastic execution. If the idea isn’t imaginative enough then no amount of polished, amazing execution and presentation is gonna help.

The writer NEVER wants his/her script to feel like just one of the herd. As a writer you’ll have to dig deep and force that creativity to the surface.

It’s not like you don’t have it, you know you do. And, you can write your own version of pretty much anything, but you’re going to have to come up with that new twist the audience hasn’t seen before or a new character no one has seen brought to the forefront in the past.

Creativity is a skill. Work on it. Develop it, and never stop working on it. Creativity isn’t something that you have or you don’t. It’s something you work at and develop, like public speaking skills or woodworking.

THEN apply the fantastic execution so the producer sees that film in his/her head when they read.

Another thing. Do you know your world, the one you created, down to the last blade of grass?

You’ve given your story a setting, Africa somewhere, Brazil, New York City. The goal is to make your setting a character in the story you write. It’s not a cardboard cut-out backdrop, it’s integral to the story being told. If not, why not? It must feel real and present and most important, original.

There are a lot of writers out there and you don’t want to get lost in that crowd. The writer has to know the characters in the story down to the bone as well – and create fully fleshed out characters.

The characters have to be ones the audience can identify with. Not necessarily like, but care about. Give them real lives, know them well. Everything YOU know about your characters won’t literally be up on the screen, but if you’ve created the characters well, it will shine through.

Create characters with depth the audience can bond with emotionally and you’re going to grip them through to the end. The combination of setting and character, both done to perfection is something that can’t be ignored.

And, lastly, take some time to invest in the genre you’re writing in. I

f you want to write mystery, watch mysteries, old and new. Science Fiction? Watch lots of it. And on and on.

Check out the classics, the recent hits and the ones that bombed. Why, why and why? Learn from the best. Really know about the genre you want to write in.

And, on that note, know how to take criticism because you’re going to get a lot of it, no matter what genre you’re writing in.

Very few scripts are great from the get-go. BUT, there are lots of scripts with potential if you, as writer, can examine your own work critically, listen to valid criticisms and be ready always to ‘kill your darlings’.

Listen to the feedback of others. They might not always be right, but they most certainly possess another perspective. And, if it’s a producer odds are pretty high they’re right at least in many of their notes – this is, after all what they do.

If you can’t take criticism because you’re unable to listen to it or unwilling to take action on it you might reconsider what your professional goals are.

Imagination. Stoke your creativity. Listen to criticism. Don’t settle and the skills you need will be refined until your script does stand out from the herd and that cow tap-dances.


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.

John Ostrander: The Doctor and the Judge

by John Ostrander

Two big events occurred last weekend: Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a Supreme Court judge and the first woman to play Doctor Who (Jodie Whitaker) debuted. One event delighted me and the other appalled me. Can you guess which was which?

There is something that connects the two. Bear with me.

I’m a LONG time fan of the British SF show and this weekend the new season debuted on BBC America (and, indeed, around the globe). Lots of new things – new companions, new composer, new showrunner and chief writer (Chris Chibnall) and, most importantly, a new Doctor. Now, for those of you benighted souls who may not be aware, the show has had a very long run because of a very clever concept. The main character, the Doctor, is an alien, and every so often the Doctor’s body regenerates into a wholly new one with a completely different persona and this has kept the show fresh. This time, the Doctor also changed sex and became a woman, played delightfully by Jodie Whittaker.

Capsule review: I was very pleased. The show had mystery, suspense, humor, darkness, death and a sense of freshness. Mr. Chibnall’s script had a different feel than former showrunner Stephen Moffat that was very welcome and Ms. Whitaker makes a wonderful Doctor.

Not everyone will agree. How do I know? Because some fans were opposed from the moment she was announced, some going so far as to say they will never watch it. This is not altogether unusual; every time someone new steps into the TARDIS, a certain percentage of the fans voice their displeasure and/or anger and vow never to watch it again (their loss).

There was an undercurrent, however, to Ms. Whitaker’s selection and sometimes that current was not so under. It came down to her gender. A certain percentage of that certain percentage of fans said that the Doctor couldn’t be a GIRL. Eeeeuuuhhh! 

This despite the fact that the Doctor is an alien, has two hearts, travels in time and space, is about 2000 years old, and regenerates. No, having him become her is just not acceptable.

I won’t say that every fan who opposes Ms. Whitaker as the Doctor is a misogynist. Some are, themselves, women. However, in many of the comments there is a strong streak of misogyny, a streak that runs through male fandom. Again, not all but a significant and vocal group.

That also underlies the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a member of SCOTUS. It was on display especially by the GOP during the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. There were credible questions about past sexual misconduct raised by several women, principally by Christine Blasey Ford who, in turn endured attacks by the GOP and mocking by President Trump. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska described women who opposed Kavanaugh’s appointment as “hysterical”, a statement that in itself I find somewhat hysterical.

This misogyny extends beyond Dr. Who Fandom and the political arena. There’s the Comicsgate crowd, a group of comics fans and professionals, who are not pleased with the (as they see it) liberal slant of comics and what they perceive as “forced diversity”. A principal leader in the group, Richard Meyer, referred to a female Marvel editor as a “cum dumpster” and claimed that several female professionals in the industry had sucked their way into comics, among other repulsive comments. To call the man a piece of shit demeans shit.

Misogyny is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “hatred of women”. I think it goes beyond that in all three of these cases; I sense a feeling of anger and fear, a part of the far(alt) right’s fear of not only women but all minorities, of gays, of trans people, of anyone who is not THEM. For too many, it’s a zero sum game – the more power you have, the less I have. For me to win, you have to lose. Because if YOU win, I lose, I have less power, I am less. And that is unacceptable.

I’m not anti-conservative. I was raised a conservative, I have many family members and some friends who are conservative, there are traits in myself that I identify as conservative. I see a need for real conservatism to balance out possible liberal excesses (and, my lib brethren, they do exist). What we don’t need is this knee jerk, black and white, FoxTV talking point, zero sum brand of conservatism. Neither liberals or conservatives are all right or all wrong.

Well, some things are all wrong.

The ramming through of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to SCOTUS was wrong and, for a variety of reasons, including the allegations of sexual misconduct against him, he should not have made it to the Highest Court in the land. It disregarded a good woman’s honest testimony and was a slap in the face to all women.

It made my enjoyment of Jodie Whitaker’s debut as The Doctor all the greater. Not simply because a woman is now playing the part; it’s because she is a really good actor, not because of her gender, but because of who she is. She was given the chance and she ran with it. I’m looking forward to that run.

Justice Kavanaugh’s run on the bench? Not so much. Prove me wrong, broh.


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

Re-Editing ‘BoJack Horseman’ – Today’s Lesson in Adapting Your Creative Vision

Keep reading. You’ll see what we mean:

‘BoJack Horseman’ Creator on Re-Editing the Show’s Beginning for Comedy Central and If the Series Is Close to Ending
by Liz Shannon Miller

BoJack Horseman” has been a critical favorite for so long it’s hard to imagine people still are discovering it. But that’s just what happened Wednesday night, as the Netflix animated comedy pulled off an unprecedented move by premiering in syndication on Comedy Central.

Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg spoke to IndieWire in the lead-up to Season 5, but while he was getting ready for the latest season’s launch, he was also in the process of going back through Season 1 to ready episodes for their debut on cable.

The Hollywood satire, featuring Will Arnett as the voice of a one-time sitcom star who is now drifting through his acting career on a cloud of alcohol, drugs, and self-loathing, has no shortage of adult content. That makes it a natural fit for Netflix’s lack of standards and practices, but not a dealbreaker for Comedy Central.

“We’ve been going back and editing the first season right now for time, not for content — just to fit in the content of commercial breaks,” Bob-Waksberg said. “You know we’ll see what happens when we get to Season 5 with all the dildos. But so far they’ve offered zero content restrictions.”

Given that “BoJack” is airing after “South Park,” which has always pushed the boundaries of what can and can’t be done on cable TV, airing an uncensored cut isn’t too surprising. “If we need to blur certain words or bleep certain words as we air it at different times of the day, we will, but they have not asked us to change anything as far as content goes,” Bob-Waksberg said. “That’s been really exciting.”

“But I’m really excited to see if the show finds a new audience and what people think of the show on that network,” he said. “To quote the great J.D Salinger, ‘Let’s find out!’”

When it came to adding commercial breaks, Bob-Waksberg said the process has been fun. “I mean, it’s a different way of thinking about the episode,” he said. “It’s been really interesting going back and watching and thinking about how this show has evolved since Season 1, and looking at the first season episodes and going like, ‘Oh, there’s some stuff we haven’t figured out yet. It’s fun to tighten them a little bit, too… Yeah, we can take a little air out of this scene or this doesn’t have to quite go on for so long. We can fiddle with this.’”…

Read it all at Indie Wire

Peggy Bechko: Are You Living in Screenwriting Fantasyland?

by Peggy Bechko

Screenwriters, novel writers, pretty much ant writers have hopes and expectations…and then there are realities.

Here’s the thing. The process itself of writing pretty much anything is not bliss or anything close to it. It is, quite simply hard work. There are good days and bad days, but it still boils down to sit yourself in the chair and do the work.

So much for the happy belief that writing is the easiest job ever. That one just sits around in the perfect writing space, cup of coffee (or is that a beer?) in hand, ideas whirling through one’s head until the writer plucks one out of the firmament, jots it down, and it becomes the next blockbuster movie, hit TV show or bestselling novel.

Uh, no.

Then, early in one’s writing career it’s easy to visualize a life where we get paid big bucks just come come up with a great idea, write with complete freedom and move on to the next project.

Um, no.

Reality, kids, is writing can be, and usually is, a damn hard job. If you’re writing whatever you want and hoping for the best, that is one thing, but if you’re writing to a career, it’s another.

Novelist? Aside from getting a feel of what’s selling and where what you write might fit in, there’s editors, critics, delays and even at time cancelled contracts. But in this post I’m focusing mostly on screenwriting.

Screenwriter? There’s writing on spec and then there’s writing on assignment. Spec is a REALLY GREAT IDEA and carrying it out. But, on assignment is a different animal. Suddenly you’re not in your fantasy world of freedom. There are notes from producers and executives, deadlines, stories determined by others than you.

But wait a minute, let’s circle back and think about that spec script again. It’s yours, right? Wellllll, no doubt you’ll need to do rewrites because your original script lacks elements that would help make it more marketable, and that’s probably from your agent. Then development execs and the like will demand rewrites for pretty much any reason you can think of and a lot you can’t.

So you’ll have to come up with a way of applying your own way to tell a story while you balance it with dealing with the wants and demands of others who can actually get your script to production. And, if you’ve paid attention at all you know you can’t just say no…because that will be their answer as well and you’ll sprout a reputation of being difficult to work with.

Then there’s the theory that your first screenplay isn’t ready to market. By that it’s meant that your first script won’t be your best. Well, duh. Your first novel won’t be your best either. Your first anything probably won’t be your best and most people actually want to improve steadily.

Anyway, whatever happens with your first, it is a firm truth that you do need to have more than one script ready because presuming your work is liked, maybe you get a meeting or notes on it, you’re going to be asked that ‘age old’ question, “What else you got?”

With that in mind, it’s a very good idea to have more than one script complete and ready to go. Who knows, you might be pitching your third script and end up selling your first on the basis of just that question.

And, frankly, humans being what they are, if you don’t have a second and/or third or fourth script ready to fill in that empty space when the question is asked, they’ll probably lose interest and that’s the last you’ll hear from them. Few are interested in a ‘one-script-wonder’.

So, might I suggest entering a few legit contests (emphasis on legit) like TV Writer’s PEOPLE’S PILOT 2018 or for a film script maybe the Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting with that first script while busying yourself with writing numbers two, three, four, etc.

Once there are several scripts in your quiver, that’s the time to really hit the agents, producers, etc. The reality is, despite those hopes and expectations very few writers hit it on the first script. There’s a lot to learn about writing and the movie industry. And, the only way to learn is to try, fail, correct course, try again, fail again… and on and on.

Another hard truth to jolt script writers from their soft fantasy land is the simple fact that most spec scripts are never sold. They’re usually a sample of what a writer can do and hopefully lead to writing assignments.

Now, I, personally, optioned a script to a German production company and a couple to companies in LA for which I got paid, but did not reach production. I also wrote a couple of things under contract but be advised that receiving a screenwriting paycheck is not like winning a lottery.

We read all the time that so-and-so got $2 million or $3 million dollars for a script or Netflix or someone else commits huge bucks for a script. While it does happen occasionally don’t hold your breath. Something much more modest is likely to come your way.

So, the take-away from all this is simple. Strive for the top and be willing to take the steps along the way. This is the real world. You want Fantasyland head over to Disneyland.


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.