Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With LaToya Morgan, Part 1

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A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick

Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence and hard work.

Writer LaToya Morgan’s childhood love for reading, writing and old movies took her on a path that led from film school at AFI to participating in the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop and working on the writing staffs of TV shows including TURN, SHAMELESS and COMPLICATIONS.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

When I was a little kid I would read a lot and write a lot. So my biggest influence was probably Stephen King. I have fond memories of getting to the scary parts of his books and going into my brother’s room and making him sit with me while I read it. So I always loved books and I always wanted to be a writer.

The first story that I ever wrote was literally like it was a dark and stormy night. I love suspenseful stories. Still to this day, a lot of the things that I work on, they end up having some sort of suspense element or spy element, in addition to family. That’s the other thing that I write the most about.

I went to undergrad at UC Irvine. And then I went to film school at AFI. The Film Conservatory was amazing. It’s probably the most influential thing that happened to me in my writing career because I really got to dig in and hone my writing. There were wonderful professors there who were really influential in my growth as a writer.

DID YOU HAVE ANY INTERNSHIPS WHILE IN COLLEGE?

I interned at Paramount, which was great. As a kid I watched a lot of old movies. I was a huge black and white movie fan. So like SUNSET BOULEVARD, I would drive the little cart through that gate and I’d be like, oh my God, this is where Billy Wildler shot SUNSET BOULEVARD and so it was a lot of fun to do. The other internship I got was at an agency as a floater, which was my nightmare, because any time one of the assistants had to go to the bathroom or they were out for the day, I was on their desk and that’s where I learned that I’m not good at rolling calls.

The biggest thing I learned doing those internships was about how the business works, especially working at the agency. I got a chance to read all the scripts that were going out from their clients. I got to learn what writers were working, what stuff was selling. It was really great to just digest a bunch of writing and you could see how different people were working out their stories.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE INDUSTRY?

My first real job in the industry was working as an assistant in the development department of a very small production company. I got to read all the scripts and sometimes sit in when the producers would meet with different writers, but that company in particular was all about adapting books, so it was interesting to see the writers’ writing samples that would come in who were up for pitching for those projects.

My favorite job was when I worked for Disney. I worked in the archives where they had all the props from different movies like MARY POPPINS and the costume that Michael Jackson wore in CAPTAIN EO. All that stuff was in the archives and I worked specifically in the photo library where there were millions of pieces of photography from behind the scenes of all their movies and all their television shows, so it was really great for a film nerd like me to be in the vault.

WHAT IS YOUR FIRST WRITING OPPORTUNITY?

When I was working for Disney I would go home at night and be writing my scripts and falling asleep at my computer and then getting back up again and going to work and doing it all over again. I ended up applying for different fellowships and contests as they came up and one of those was the Warner Bros. Writers’ Workshop. I submitted a pilot script and a spec and I ended up getting into the Warner Bros. Workshop, so it was great.

I applied two times. The first time I applied to the workshop, I made it to the top 5%. And I was really mad. I was like, man, I wanted to get into the workshop and I’m this close. For that I wrote a DEXTER. The spec that ended up getting me in was a spec that I wrote for SONS OF ANARCHY.

The great thing about the workshop is that they run it sort of like a simulated writers room so you get to learn what it’s like to do a story area or write an outline and then write a script. You get feedback from the director of the program, Chris Mack, who is a mastermind and genius and he sort of acts as a showrunner and helps you with your ideas and to flesh out your script.

When you’re in the program you sort of get a taste of what it’s going to be like. We have all these great speakers come in, from network executives to other writers to people who have gone through the program and we talk about what it’s like to be in the room and what it is like to work with the network, all the stuff that you might need to know when you get out of the program. At the end of the program you go out on all these meetings. They send your material to different shows that are up for staffing and hopefully you get one of those jobs.

A script that I had written came to the attention of John Wells Productions.  I got a chance to have a meeting with their executives and it went really well. There was a job opening on SHAMELESS on Showtime and so I got a chance to interview for that with John and the entire writing staff of SHAMELESS, which was probably the most intimidating interview I’d ever been on. It was crazy and fun and I ended up getting the job, which was great. That was my first job, staff writer, SHAMELESS, John Wells. Crazy. Amazing.

HOW DID YOU GET REPRESENTATION?

I would write all the time, even while I had my job so one of the things I applied for was the Nicholl Fellowship. I made it to the top 5% and when you get to that level, they’ll send your stuff out to different agents and managers to see if anyone’s interested in your material. One of the managers read my stuff and we sat down and had a meeting. Matt Horwitz was the manager and Dave Brown, they worked at a small company at the time. They now work at Echo Lake Entertainment.

They read my material. They loved it. We hit it off and they really had a vision for where they thought they could take my career. I was all on board for that and I signed with them. So I had a manager before I did the Warner Bros. Workshop, but I ended up getting the agent after the Warner Bros. Workshop. They send your material to a bunch of agents once you’re almost done with the program.

I wasn’t even really thinking about an agent because I was so busy focusing on trying to get that first job. So once I got staffed on SHAMELESS, then all the agencies, they were reading my material at the time, but that sort elevated it.  I met with a bunch of different agencies. I ended up selecting CAA. Elizabeth Newman is my point person there. I was just so impressed by how smart she was and by how thoughtful she was. She is such a fighter and I love that about her, so I definitely was very excited to have her join the team.

Coming soon – more from LaToya including her advice about breaking in, taking meetings and fueling your creativity.


Kelly Jo Brick is a Contributing Editor at TVWriter™. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.

Robin Reed: The Disney/Marvel Shows You Don’t Know About

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Sorry, this isn’t the version of Devil Dinosaur you’ll see in the cartoons this article discusses. Aw…

by Robin Reed

While the Marvel movies and the upcoming “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” show get the headlines, if you flip channels enough you will find that Disney has not wasted any opportunity to get a return on their investment in Marvel. These under-the-radar shows are animated and appear on Disney-owned cable channels. I knew about (and hate, for the cutesy comments by a cartoony Spidey) “Ultimate Spider-Man.”

I have also come across shows that are set in Japan and seem to be sub-contracted out to a Japanese animé studio. One featured Iron Man and another the X-Men. (I don’t know if Disney can use the X-Men in animation when another studio owns the movie rights. What the corporate relationships are behind the Japanese shows I couldn’t tell you.)

Yesterday, on an early Sunday morning cruise through the desolate wastes of cable TV, I stopped on a show I hadn’t seen before. “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” is the title. It has a fully talking and thinking Hulk teaming up with other iterations of himself, including Red Hulk, She-Hulk, and A-Bomb. A-Bomb, you say? It’s Rick Jones in blue armor. If you don’t know who Rick Jones is, I don’t have time to tell you.

The plot of the episode I saw takes the Hulks to the Savage Land, where they encounter Sauron (I always wondered how Marvel avoided trouble with the Tolkien estate), laser-toting pterodactyls, and, yes, Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur.

This is all rather silly, but the reason I decided to hate the show is that once again, they went cutesy. At random moments they do the reality show interview thing, cutting to a character sitting down and taking about the events happening in the story. This is stupid enough in so-called reality shows, but does nothing for an adventure show with a plot.

Maybe kids expect it in every show now. It is proof of the unreality of reality shows. If you know anything about TV production, you know that the interview segments are done later, and the people are told what moment to comment on, and probably told what to say. They also have to pretend they don’t know what is going to happen next, even though it happened in their past.

So my review of “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” is that Marvel Maniacs like me may like seeing forgotten characters mentioned, but will also object to Hulk being completely rational and the plot being entirely ridiculous.

Or, in other words, as Mel Brooks might say, “Oy vey!!!”

Vertical Exploitation: The Six Companies That Control Your Life

Brace yourselves for a stunning 2-part article on who really decides what all of us see and hear in the media. Well, the Old Media anyway, because TVWriter™ still holds out one Acme Ton O’Hope for New Media’s independence.

Hope being the operative word. Anyway:

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by A.J.Simpson

Imagine that you’re 12 years old. You live in New York City with your parents, and you’ve got a pretty good life. You’re a good student and an avid reader – when you were a few years younger, your favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s tale Where the Wild Things Are, and now you’re just getting into C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Your favorite movies are the Ice Age and Night at the Museum series, and your parents take you to see every one of them in the theater. Glee is your favorite TV show; you don’t get all of the jokes, but you love the music and listen to the cast’s recordings in your room all the time. And you love video games – you’re always checking out GameSpy.com and IGN.com for the latest tips and tricks.

Now, imagine that you’re the 12-year-old’s mother or father. You work your ass off, but you’ve got a pretty great life too. Owing to your line of work – something in the finance industry – you’re a little on the conservative side. You start your morning each day with the Wall Street Journal, and you usually flip on Fox News when you get home. (Bill O’Reilly. What a character!) You obsessively check the Dow Jones Industrial Average to see how your portfolio’s doing. When you have a minute to relax, your favorite show on TV is House, and you’re an enormous football fan – you particularly love the pre-game show with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and the gang. The best movie you’ve seen lately is The Descendants; you also saw Shame, but it was a little too liberal for your tastes – after all, you’ve got Sarah Palin’s autobiography on your nightstand.

These fictitious individuals seem pretty normal, right? Aside from the fact that they’re perhaps a bit higher up the economic ladder than the general population, there’s nothing much to see here. Not until you look a bit closer, at least.

Read over those descriptions again and take a look at all of the various media properties I mentioned: HouseGleeThe Chronicles of NarniaIce Age, Fox News,Shame, the Dow Jones, Fox TV’s NFL coverage, Sarah Palin’s book, the Wall Street Journal, a couple of web sites… and the list goes on.

Every one of the properties I mentioned is either owned or distributed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

If real people were to live such seemingly “normal” lives, they’d be giving all of their money to the same company.

Think about that for a second. For the first time in history, it’s now possible for a person to spend virtually all of their disposable income on products or services offered by only one multinational corporation – that’s how varied their assets are. And News Corporation isn’t the only example I could have used. By my count, there are 6 corporations that between them control an unreasonable percentage of major North American media properties, including holdings in film, television, radio, the recording industry, newspapers, magazines, video games, websites, and much more.

Consider this article a meet-and-greet with your benevolent corporate overlords. If you spend any money on personal entertainment, there’s a good chance it’s being deposited into the bank accounts of one of these 6 companies. (Check back later for Part II, which will be an exploration of the consequences of media consolidation.) And without further adieu, I present to you in alphabetical order… Big Media:

Read it all

Read Part II, um, too

This article is a serious look at serious business, showing how narrow our entertainment choices have become and what that means to us not only as consumers but as human beings. It also shows us what that means to the Big 6 Media companies.

Guess who’s coming out better?

EDITED BY MUNCHMAN TO ADD: Support interweb video! Cut your cable today! (Oh how I love the sound of slogans. Mostly because even though I believe what I’m saying I recognize how much spouting any slogan makes me sound like…a whore? Uh-oh…)

Mixed Blessings on the Way for Hulu Users

Because everything in life is a mixed blessing, right? Except girlfriends. Girlfriends are awesome. (Really, sweetie, you are.)

Are the Networks About to Completely Screw Up Hulu? – by Kyle Wagner

It looks like Hulu could be in for some major changes. Variety has acquired a confidential memo regarding changes the streaming service is considering following the buyout of one of its owners in September. They’re just speculation for now, but they sound like a pain for viewers and bad, bad news for Hulu.

It’s like this: Hulu is owned by Comcast (NBC), News Corp (FOX), Disney (ABC), and Providence Equity Partners, which helped fund it. Providence is being bought out, and that means more power for the networks. Which means more pains in your butt when it comes to ABC and FOX shows. And the only reason NBC is immune is that Comcast can’t make any changes to its agreement, as a term of its deal to acquire the network.

Here are the changes Variety quotes from the memo:

Read it all

We used to think that the exciting thing about being in showbiz would be our involvement in the creative process, premieres, galas, and having a parking space at Paramount (not necessarily in that order). Turns out that what really gets the blood – and adrenalin – pumping is all the scheming, plotting, and stabbing. The Industry is a giant chess tournament, with everybody in it looking to be crowned King of the Bottom Line.

Hey, we just made that up. But not bad, huh?

Joss Whedon’s March to Victory Continues

We’re showing an old cover of “Marvel Mystery Comics” because the exact nature of Joss Whedon’s new series for Marvel is – aw, you guessed it – still a mystery. Yeah.

As if he wasn’t busy enough, Disney has just announced that everybody’s Screen and TV Writer of the Hour is now set to:

  1. Write and Direct the sequel to this year’s smash film THE AVENGERS, which he also wrote and directed
  2. Develop a live-action series featuring Marvel characters for ABC

No one’s giving any details on what Marvel characters they are, but no matter their names, powers, and secret tragedies, we can’t think of anyone who could do a better job on them than the man behind DOLLHOUSE, FIREFLY, ANGEL, and everybody’s favorite vampire slayer, BUFFY.

EDITED BY LB TO ADD: Know those recent rumors that Marvel was about to start work on a TV version of THE HULK but was waiting for the writer they wanted to be available? I’m thinking Joss was the writer and that now that this deal’s in place we’ll be hearing about it soon. Bouquets gratefully accept when I’m proven right. Brickbats for when I’m shown to be wrong? Nah.