Herbie J. Pilato: The Brady Bunch is Still the Best – and Here’s (the Story) Why

TSDBRBU EC004 by Herbie J Pilato

What first aired from the fall of 1969 to the spring of 1973 as ABC’s original half-hour family sitcom (created by executive producer Sherwood Schwartz – of Gilligan’s Island) has transmuted over the decades into syndicated reruns; with sequels, retrospectives and remakes on additional networks (CBS and NBC); for the big-screen and small; with DVD releases; on the live stage or the printed page; and certainly online.

First there was animated sequel, The Brady Kids (ABC, 1973)…followed by The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (ABC, 1976)…which gave birth to The Brady Girls Get Married (NBC, 1981)….

which led to The Brady Brides (NBC, 1981)…and then onto A Very Brady Christmas (1988)…which morphed into the serious-mindedThe Bradys (1990)…followed a few years later by the first feature film, The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)….and the subsequent big-screener A Very Brady Sequel (1996); then straight-to-video with The Brady Bunch in the White House…along with additional incarnations.

Ok, but why? What is the near-miraculous appeal of this increasingly popular and ever-expanding media-family franchise that made superstar names of Florence Henderson (who played matriarch Carol Brady) and Robert Reed (father Mike Brady); the former child-actors-turned-icons Barry Williams (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Mike Lookinland (Bobby), Susan Olson (Cindy), and ever-affable Ann B. Davis (as the lovable, wise-cracking housekeeper Alice)?

In a recent view of reruns of the original series (which is now broadcast, among other places, six times in succession on The Hallmark Channel), I began to comprehend the core of its appeal – through adult, yet childlike eyes.

Before I began to re-watch the show, I transported myself back in time, and thought, “What if I was more a child? What would I think if I saw The Brady Bunch through yesterday’s eyes?”

My reflection gave birth to this perception:

If I was a kid again and turned on the TV and was suddenly startled by a thin white line that streamed across the monitor, have it subsequently transform into a visual of an extremely welcoming woman with a pretty smile, only to have three similarly facial-clad young lasses appear to the left of the screen; followed on the other side of the screen by a pleasantly handsome man and his three charming young sons… all of it happening as a bouncingly happy music with story-telling lyrics played in the background… I’d be hooked from the get-go. I would have been mesmerized.

The colors in the Brady kitchen alone, all orange and blue, would have transfixed me. Into this mix was the perfect home setting… the amiable but at times conflicted personalities… the problems… the struggles… the challenges… all wrapped up within a thirty-minute time-frame.

It would be like watching a living cartoon…in the most beautiful, surreal way.

Read it all

Kathy tries Amazon Storyteller

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Sorry, Kids. This Storyboard Page is NOT from Storyteller.

by Kathy Fuller

First things first–everyone writes differently. Everyone creates differently. Everyone finds certain storytelling tools useful, others about as valuable as used toilet paper. Taking that into consideration, here is my experience with Amazon Storyteller and why I won’t be using it again.

I decided to take a short story I recently self-pubbed, make it into a script, and upload it to Amazon Studios. Yeah, I know a “successful” script is a lot longer than sixteen pages (just like I know .99 is a lot to charge for 9 pages of story), but this is an experiment and I’m trying to figure out how this all works, including self-publishing. Better to mangle a few pages than a whole novel/script. Plus this story had been e-pubbed way back in 2000 before Amazon took over the world, so I didn’t have a problem using it as my guinea pig.

572dd52b08c105e058dcaef04cf7c11dStill, I privately submitted the script, describing it as a short film based on a short story. Amazon will look at the premise and evaluate it, then contact me if they’re interested. Since I’m 100% sure they won’t be, I’m not worried about it.

Back to the Storyteller. This is where it pays to read directions, because the Storyteller doesn’t work with a PDF, only an RTF. And since you have to wait for your uploaded file to process, I wasted twenty minutes of my day waiting for processing, just to find out I couldn’t storyboard it. Ugh.

Basically the process goes like this:

Sign in/sign up for Amazon.

Sign up for Amazon Studios.

Upload your RTF script.

Wait twenty minutes.

Amazon will send you an email when your script is processed. Click on the link. You’ll go back to Amazon Studios where the Storyteller button appears. Click it. Now you’re in Storyteller.

Honestly, by this point I was thinking that this is way too much trouble for my freewriting self. I tend to be an unstructured writer so storyboarding doesn’t really appeal to me, but I know it’s important in the movie process. So I proceeded with the extremely short tutorial. Then I spent the next ten minutes clicking on chunks of my script and watching the storyboarding program do one of two things: 1) tell me that it doesn’t have a ready made scene to match that portion of the script or 2) choose very basic looking characters and plunking them in very basic, generic scenes. If I wanted to, I could upload my own scenes/characters. Again, too much trouble.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand the storyboarding process or how to use it to create a story, but the fact that you have to upload a script to storyboard it kind of defeats the purpose for me. I think it would be better to storyboard as I write the script. There are opportunities for revisions and new drafts, but for me it’s a big waste of time. I can use Pinterest or good old pen and paper to visualize and describe scenes.

Final verdict: While this wasn’t the program for me, I encourage those of you who are interested to try it out. The option to privately submit your work is probably the best thing about it. You can be as vague as you want in writing your logline and synopsis, and your storyboard won’t be made public unless you want it to be. This could be a great tool in the right writer’s hands. I’m just not that writer.

EDITOR’S NOTE FROM LB: Thanks so much for this, Kathy. Actually, in the real world of showbiz, storyboarding has seldom if ever been intended as a writing aid. It’s a way of planning the shooting of an already written script and of communicating that plan to others.

In the process, good storyboards can also prove to be an effective storytelling tool in themselves. Animatics, for example, are videos made entirely of storyboard images, with sound – dialog, music, sfx – added and often are very entertaining.

There’s no question that the text on the Storyteller site is misleading since it says, pointblank: “Share your storyboard and learn how to make your script even better,” which implies that this is a script writing tool. A statement like that is detrimental to all concerned, especially writers seeking new tools, which doesn’t exactly do much for Amazon Studios already-sinking reputation.

EDITOR’S NOTE FROM MUNCHMAN: I’m with Kathy all the way. This thing definitely is useless in terms of scriptwriting, and to me it would be useless for practical storyboarding if it doesn’t let you get in there and lay out the design of each panel. munchy’s Final Verdict: Piece of shit.

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 6/11/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Grant Dekernion (newbie!) has sold a new animatged comedy to FXX, a new spinoff network from FX. The show is about a gay white rapper recently released from prison and searching for redemption. (Newbie sells series about gay rapper? Why didn’t we think of that ourselves? D-d-d-dang.)
  • Roberto Orci (STAR TREK reboot and more) has written the pilot for a drama described as “a Latino James Bond” for the El Rey network, also a new spinoff, this one from parent company Univision. The series is about a soccer star/playboy who doubles as a spy and has already been green-lighted for production. (This one’s live action…although we’re sensing a certain animation type vibe.)
  • Amy Holden Jones (MYSTIC PIZZA) has sold THE BLACK BOX to ABC with an initial order of 13 episodes. The drama series follows a famed neuroscientist who struggles with mental illness. (How does she struggle? Does she know karate? Kung fu? Sorry, we’re just crazy, zany verb fetishists at heart.)
  • John Eisendrath (the upcoming series THE BLACKLIST) will be showrunner of THE BLACK BOX when it goes into production. (Cuz he’s really good in the room, we suppose. Although we have to admit to being impressed by his credit on FELICITY, which often seemed to be about mental illness, didn’t it?)
  • Tony Tost (LONGMIRE) is writing HEARTLAND TRUCKING, a drama pilot for Showtime about, you know truckers. Oh, and mobsters too. (Tost is very hot now due to the almost-success of LONGMIRE. We just hope that HEARTLAND TRUCKING will have a hero under 60…because LONGMIRE doesn’t, see, and…never mind.)

LB: Where I Write – Oh, and Why

Glad You Asked Department 6/10/13

question_ditkoAbout a week and a half ago, the lovely and talented Peggy Bechko wrote a blog article that we picked up and re-posted here at TVWriter™ in which answered the oft-asked question, “Where do you write?”

Until I read that, I had no idea that readers/viewers/fans cared where writers did their writing. I mean, I’ve sure never cared where other people write, or eat, or sleep, or have sex, or satisfy any of their other basic needs in life.

And as soon as that reaction equating writing to the basic needs of life sprang into my consciousness I realized that of course I should care about where writers write, and I should share it too. Because if, like me, you’re one of those people for whom writing is an absolute necessity, a primal urge that can’t be contained, you need all the knowledge you can get about how to best, um, satisfy that urge.

So, thanks to Peggy and her legions of fans, here’s my answer. The absolute truth about where Larry Brody writes. And why I’ve chosen to work that way:

When I first started writing in L.A., I worked in the middle of the living room of my tiny apartment, at a desk that was an old door propped up by a couple of  cheap, low, sort-of-wood-veneer bookcases, located about 2 feet from the pass-through counter that was the only separation of the living room from the kitchen.

At the time, I didn’t really care where I was because my passion for writing was so all-consuming that nothing mattered but what I was seeing and hearing in my head. The world of thought totally eclipsed the world of everyday.

As I became successful, and more of a family man, not caring turned into a kind of “overcaring.” I lived in a house filled with children, dogs, cats, and, yes, a wife. And a housekeeper. And, as my professional and personal circumstances improved, a nanny joined the mix. With horses looking into the back windows, to boot.

I was doing well and had taken on way more financial responsibility than I should have, which meant that I felt a great deal of pressure. In reaction to that, the sounds and sights that formed in my brain became quieter and dimmer, as though they were frightened away by my situation.

So I locked myself into a totally private office that had been a spare bedroom, decorating it the most productive way I could come up with – wall to wall bookcases, all filled to overflowing because I’d already amassed thousands of books. (Yes, I’d read them all. Maybe we’ll talk about that particular compulsion someday, if someone asks the right question.)

Total isolation did the trick for me. By blocking out everything else, I once again was able to exist in a purely mental world. But, unlike in my early days, I still had to concentrate, to force myself to get on track – and stay there.

Then my career took the fork in the road marked “Staff job” and suddenly I had to go to the studio everyday. When you’re on the staff of a series, regardless of whether you’re the low man or the showrunner (and I worked my way up from the first to the latter as quickly as I could because I hate staying in place), you’re in the middle of a whirlwind of activity that includes meetings, general office folderall, trips to the set to solve (or create) problems…more meetings…more folderall…

For me, this was a tough situation. I had to find a way to grab a few minutes of writing time throughout the day, close my office and keep it closed between attacks of producer mania, and get into that magic place where the stories sang to me so I type, type, type my soul out as quickly and powerfully as I could.

I decorated my office more elaborately, bringing in all the comfort objects I could find. Original comic book art for the walls. Knicknacks. An antique broadsword to swing or hack at the wall with when I was frustrated.

For awhile, that worked. But as I participated in more and more production activities, my writegeist became harder and harder to summon. It became impossible for me to totally immerse myself in my imagination and I had to learn to just get the words down as they came and hope I’d have the time, energy, and concentration to perfect them later.

My work suffered. I suffered. I got into a frame of mind where just thinking about concentrating made concentration impossible. I was loaded with guilt because by not writing I was betraying myself, my family, my staff, cast, and crew, and my audience. I used speed to keep me going. Then it stopped working and I turned to Xanax. Then Xanax stopped working. I looked around desperately for a new way to work–

And found an old one that did the trick. I was in my office at the studio one day, staring from the closed door to the empty page that I couldn’t fill, trying to reach back into my head and get a grip on my mental fastball, when JoAnne, my assistant, knocked on the door and I quickly yelled out for her to come in because I couldn’t stand being alone anymore.

Couldn’t stand being alone? Hmm…

I realized that the reality of my situation was that it wasn’t the writing that was hard for me to handle, it was the solitude that I thought I needed to go with it. Instead of feeling inspired, I felt isolated, and there was only one way to remedy that.

I traded places with JoAnne. I took my script to her desk in the outer office, smack in the middle of the whirlwind of secretaries, assistants, production managers, casting directors, messengers, and their comings, goings, arguments, machinations, good times, bad times…and within that storm of dedicated humanity I found exactly what I needed. The distractions that actually made it easier for me to concentrate.

I was able to handle all the non-writing business while writing at the same time. God, being a part of something so creative and all-encompassing was the greatest damn high!

That’s still where I write. In the middle of everything. Not at the studio anymore but at home, with the windows open to everything a small town has to offer, from my wife and our dogs and our ringing phones to the neighbors’ chickens (gotta get me some chickens again) and UPS trucks and baseball playing kids and teenage drag races – Ah, sweet distractions. How I love you.

Does this work for anyone else? Will it? You’ll have to try it and tell me. Right now I’ve got to let in Oscar, the 8 year old genius up the street.

He’s ringing the doorbell, squee-squee-squee-squee, over and over in a way that once was guaranteed to force any thought but strangulation out of my mind. Soon he’ll be in the living room, throwing the ole tennis ball over where I sit on the couch with my laptop for Dixie the Not-So-Ditsy-After-All Lab to catch. Or maybe they’ll do it with a bone so it can clatter over and over again onto the hardwood floor.

And I’ll be ducking or trying to reach up and catch the ball and toss it myself. While I write. This piece will be finished, but there’ll be something else. There’s always something else.

LYMI,

LB 

My purpose here is to help as many undiscovered creative geniuses as possible. But I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!

munchman: J.J. Abrams is Adapting an Unproduced Rod Serling Script for TV – Yikes!

rod-serling

Bad news, fans of Rod Serling, excellence in television, and just plain coherent storytelling. Looks like J.J. Abrams, Master of the Not Fully Thought Through Obvious in Film and its partner, Not Full Thought Through Muddiness in TV, has made a deal with Rod Serling’s estate to turn Rod’s unproduced screenplay, THE STOPS ALONG THE WAY, into a TV mini-series.

To us, this is pathetic. Like entrusting a TV version of any Shakespeare play to whatever moron it is who created/writes/produces HOT IN CLEVELAND.

According to myriad publicity releases (What? They’re proud that a guy who hires writers like Orci & Kurtzman is trashing the greatest television writer of all time?), the screenplay was always envisioned as a mini-series and was one of the Rodman’s “favorite pieces,” a project that Abrams has wanted to destroy put his vile stamp on be a part of “for some time….”

One bright spot: Although J.J. now has the rights, there’s no broadcast or cable network deal in place yet. So maybe, just maybe, like its parent script, the abomination we expect won’t actually explode onto our screens like…oh, hell, I’m sick of coming up with synonyms for crap. Outta here…