Hollywood Ethics – The Skeletons in Television’s Closet

NOTE FROM LB: The following report about the 5 yearish long lawsuit between the stars and creators and and producer of Bones – profit participants all – has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing dispute between Hollywood writers and agents.

I repeat: They have nothing to do with each other.

On the other hand, the Bones fight and last week’s settlement do shed a great deal of light on a way of thinking that I think explains much about the history of the WGA-ATA rift.

Read on, my friends, and keep your eyes peeled between the lines.


Fox Settles ‘Bones’ Suit, Ending Profits Case That Stunned Hollywood
by Eriq Gardner

After nearly half a decade battling the creative team behind one of TV’s biggest hits, Fox has finally reached a settlement that will end the huge lawsuits over profit sharing for Bones. On Wednesday, the parties filed dismissal papers in Los Angeles Superior Court. The dispute draws to its conclusion, but amid continued consolidation in the media sphere and new streaming platforms being launched by studio giants the brawl over Bones is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Back in 2015, actors Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, Kathy Reichs (a forensic anthropologist who authored the Temperance Brennan novels that formed the basis for the series) and executive vp Barry Josephson went to court with the allegation that they had been defrauded by Fox of their rightful profit participation in a show that ultimately lasted 12 seasons. The profits, or lack thereof, became heavily dependent on what Fox’s studio division (a production arm now owned by Disney) charged Fox’s distribution affiliates — a broadcast network, foreign stations and, especially, the part-owned Hulu — for rights to air and stream the show. The main issue in the case was whether Fox undercharged license fees to its sister companies to derive much of the spoils of the series to the detriment of those expecting honest accounting.

In February, arbitrator Peter Lichtman released an eye-popping decision.

Awarding $179 million in damages, Lichtman rejected Fox’s proposition that Bones was just a middling show with middling ratings that would have been canceled but for higher license fees. The arbitrator saw evidence of multiple frauds on Fox’s part, including the underhanded way the production company attempted to limit its liability over the years by having creative talent sign releases. Additionally, Lichtman found it nearly inexplicable that the Fox studio producing Bones permitted its parent company to exploit streaming rights and license those rights to Hulu without much of anything in return.

But the truly shocking part of Lichtman’s decision was his attack on Fox’s top television executives (many of whom now work for Disney). The arbitrator said these individuals “appear to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts” and that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox at large has taken a “cavalier attitude toward its wrongdoing” while exhibiting a “company-wide culture and an accepted climate that enveloped an aversion for the truth.”

Lichtman believed in the necessity of punitive damages given Fox’s “reprehensible” fraud.

The parties then went back to open court, and an L.A. judge in May trimmed the award down to $51 million on the basis that Deschanel, Boreanaz and Reichs were entitled to actual damages and legal fees under their Bones agreements, but not any punitive damages….

Read it all at hollywoodreporter.com

Yo, Writers, Be Honest. Do You REALLY Have A Story?

Harsh but true words all writers need to heed.

by Lucy V Hay

Gotta Be Honest

Bang2write is known for being honest in its feedback. Note that doesn’t mean brutal, vitriolic or cavalier. Writing is tough and writers have to make all kinds of sacrifices to get words on the page. Nothing winds me up more than readers and feedback-givers who don’t exercise due care. Every piece of work is an expression of someone’s hopes and dreams. I take this very seriously.

But I do have to be honest. I would be failing in my remit as a script editor if I do not put honest notes at the very heart of what I do. So, realise what I say next is said with honesty, but also love …

The majority of stories I read are not really stories at all.

What This Means

But what do I mean by this? Well, when I read speculative drafts or short pitches aka loglines, they are often what I call ‘non-stories’. These can be broken down like this …

  • We don’t know who we are rooting for in terms of characters, or why
  • The conflict (ie. problem or issue) is not clear
  • We don’t know what the story is in terms of genre, tone or type
  • It might be too ‘writerly’ – interesting to the writer, but no one else
  • It might be too samey – we’ve seen this type of story, this way ‘too many times’
  • The writer has placed too much on an *issue*, so it seems too educational
  • A combo or all of the above

In other words, the concept just doesn’t sell itself ‘off the page’ to me. As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, if you don’t have a great concept, you’ve got nothing. What’s more, knowing your concept from the offset can help you write, since it creates a powerful baseline to work from.

Concept is really important and one of the key elements writers underestimate … Not only in terms of writing screenplays and books, but in terms of getting agents’, producers’ and publishers’ interest.

What Is Concept?

By concept, I mean what happens in your story at grass roots level. The premise, the controlling idea, the seed of the story if you like. So when someone says, ‘What is your story about?’ you can tell them.

I know this sounds obvious (and it is). Yet lots of writers start writing without working out what their story is *really about* this out in advance. Then they get stuck writing the draft … Or they can’t get anyone’s interest like agents, filmmakers and publishers because it feels too unclear/muddled.

Read it all at bang2write.com

‘A Party Room and a Prison Cell. Inside the Friends writers’ room.’

In this excerpt from his book, Generation Friends, Saul Austerlitz meets the past of successful TV writing and discovers that it’s the present and future as well.

by Saul Austerlitz

Generation Friends, by Saul Austerlitz, to be published on September 17 by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Every writer knew the sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach. David Crane would enter the room, toting a script full of notes scribbled in the margins. He would sit down in his chair and begin drumming his fingers on the table before announcing, “All right, we’ve got a lot of really good stuff here.” The assembled writers would silently groan, knowing that this was Crane-ian code for a full script rewrite. Everything was out, and it was time to start again.

“Good enough” was not a concept Crane, or Marta Kauffman, understood or accepted. One day during the first season, writer Jeff Astrof approached Crane with a proposal. “Look,” he told Crane, “right now we work one hundred percent of the allotted time and we have a show that’s one hundred. I believe that if we worked fifty percent of the time we’d have a show that’s seventy-five, so maybe we work seventy-five percent of the time and have a show that’s like a ninety.” Crane instantly rejected the proposal: “Absolutely not. The show has to be one hundred.” There might have been a faster way to get the work done. But this was Marta Kauffman and David Crane’s show, and their room.

After hiring their staff for the first season, Crane and Kauffman gathered the writers to deliver a pep talk, and a challenge. “Comedy is king,” Crane told the assembled writers. “This is a show where we want everything to be as funny as it can be.” For writers in their mid-twenties, many of whom were on their first or second jobs in the industry, this was a thrilling proclamation. Writers like the team of Astrof and Mike Sikowitz had always felt deeply competitive about crafting the best possible joke and getting it into the script — Astrof’s concerns about the punishing schedule notwithstanding — and Crane was seemingly opening the doors wide to all competitors….

Read this whole article at vulture.com

Pre-order the book at Amazon.Com

 

2019 Nicholl Fellowship Finalists Announced

by TVWriter™ Press Service

The Nicholl Fellowships are arguably the most important writing competition in existence for new screenwriters. In addition to the actual Fellowship, winners almost always end up with representation and agents and lots of wide open doors that were shut tight before.

TVWriter™ congratulates the following 2019 Nicholl Fellowships finalists on their achievement:

Aaron Chung, “Princess Vietnam”
Gary Patent, “Cosmonaut”
Jack Zafran, “Justice, Justice”
Joel Sinensky, “The Lie Factory”
Karen McDermott, “Lullabies of La Jaula”
Lynn Esta Goldman, “On the Wing”
Matthew Fantaci, “Scandalous!”
Paul Ashton, “Slater Berricks is a Dead Man”
Renee Pillai, “Boy with Kite”
Sean Malcolm, “Mother”
Toy Styles, “Concrete Beach”
Walker McKnight, “Street Rat Allie Punches Her Ticket”

Here’s a quick description of the Fellowships from an earlier post here at TVWriter™:

The Nicholl competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $25,000 writing for film or television or received a fellowship prize that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work.  Entry scripts must be feature length and the original work of a sole author or of exactly two collaborative authors.  The scripts must have been written originally in English.  Adaptations and translated scripts are not eligible.  The earnings limit for 2013 is an increase from the $5,000 limit in previous years.

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year.  The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.

To learn more about the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, visit http://oscars.org/nicholl.

What the Bitter Script Reader’s Writing Journey has Taught Him

The Bitter Script Reader takes us on a very personal trip from his own life. Our takeaway – yeppers, this is personal AF…but so universal as well. This definitely is worthwhile reading, friends.

by The Bitter Script Reader

I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journey as a writer and what I can take from it to apply as lessons to some of you who are just starting out.

My first feature script began as an assignment for a screenwriting class in 2002. By that point I’d made a number of short films and had even run a campus TV series, where 7 of the scripts were mine. So I already had some experience translating my ideas to the page before this screenwriting assignment. I remember this was a story idea I’d had ever since my senior year of high school. At the time, I thought I had enough for a 30 minute short film (I had no idea the shorts I’d be making in school were to be closer to 5-10 min at most.) Over the next four years I kept expanding the idea with red herrings and twists until my treatment became longer and longer.

I vividly recall that I had that document in front of me one day as my professor started lecturing about the three-act structure and how most narratives we knew fit into that paradigm. I quite clearly remember scanning the document until I found the moment that would be my INCITING INCIDENT. I put a star next to that beat. Then I drew a line across the page where the division between Act One and Act Two would fit. Then another line at the midpoint, and a third line at the climax of Act Two. Just from eyeballing it, I could see that in terms of pacing, those moments were landing more or less precisely where they would in a basic three-act film.

I hadn’t used any kind of Save the Cat template when I broke the story. I wasn’t thinking about three acts or plot points – but I had internalized so much about films that I essentially did it on instinct. Recalling several of the other stories that came out of that class, I know that isn’t always a given.

In this post, I talk about the script I had under my arm when I moved to LA, and just so you don’t think I’m saying I had it all figured out: It was written on Microsoft Word and was in Times New Roman. Fortunately on my first internship a fellow aspiring took me aside and explained how I needed to fix it so that it matched industry standards….

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader’s Blog