HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL & SCREENWRITING CONFERENCE

2016 Awardees panel with Paul Feig, Nancy Meyers, Marta Kauffman during the Austin Film Festival. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)
2016 Awardees panel with Paul Feig, Nancy Meyers, Marta Kauffman during the Austin Film Festival. (Photo by Jack Plunkett)

by Kelly Jo Brick

The Annual Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference gathers professional and aspiring writers together in the celebration of the contribution writers make to film and television.

Attendees had the opportunity to see a jam packed slate of films as well as choose from a variety of panels on the craft, art and business of writing for television and film. TVWriter.com’s own Contributing Editor Kelly Jo Brick, was in Austin as a panelist this year and she brings some top takeaways from the event.

BREAKING IN 

  • Breaking in through the assistant ranks is a great way to show your personality to the people who are making staffing decisions. Getting a writing job is 50% personality, 50% writing. – Raamla Mohamed, SCANDAL, STILL STAR-CROSSED
  • Whatever entry-level job you’re doing, show up with a smile every day. – Jono Matt, DOCTOR DOLITTLE
  • Age isn’t a big deal as long as you don’t make a big deal about it yourself. – VJ Boyd, JUSTIFIED, THE PLAYER
  • For features, the toe in the door assistant route doesn’t work as well. There’s not a natural path in film. It becomes a question of do you find a job in the industry. This avenue helps with meeting people and morale, but it’s often hard to find time to write. The other choice is to take a non-brain taxing job. You’ll have time to write, but it’s hard on your morale. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is that your work is good. – Michael H. Weber, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
  • Embrace failure. It’s all part of the process. A great baseball batter fails two-thirds of the time. – Kent Alterman, President, Comedy Central
  • You just have to write. Don’t obsess over details, just keep writing. Get out, network, get to as many people as possible. – Mark Johnson, Executive Producer BETTER CALL SAUL, BREAKING BAD
  • Try to make something. Doing that can help you break through. – Pamela Ribon, MOANA, SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE
  • Leap frog forward with your peer group. Find yourself a writers’ group. Find a like-minded group so you’re not alone. Shane Black, LETHAL WEAPON, IRON MAN 3
  • If you’re aiming for features, look for a reading job or get a job that gives you regular hours so that you can leave work at work and have more time to work on your own writing. – Christina Hodson, SHUT IN, UNFORGETTABLE

CHOOSING WHAT TO WRITE 

  • Think about what’s not on. Where is there a void, then write an original with a clear vision that is clever, emotional and relatable. We look for specific shows with specific visions. – Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment
  • Your first script will be your calling card. Just write what you want, don’t restrict yourself to a budget, get a script that people want to read. – Shane Black
  • Find a story that says something to you and write it in a specific life-filled way. You should absolutely write what you want to write. You can only go where your heart goes. – Michelle Ashford, Creator/Executive Producer, MASTERS OF SEX
  • Your point of view is the most important thing you have. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. – Kent Alterman
  • Write that weird idea you have that’s unique to you. – Amy Talkington, THE ICE QUEENS

PITCHING

  • When pitching, start from a relatable human character dynamic, that is what will pull people in. Who is in this world? Why do I care? – Jennifer Salke
  • Love and know your pitch. Find a personal attachment to it and set the visual and world right away.
  • Pitch the show as if you’re describing your favorite show to a friend. – VJ Boyd
  • Be ready with an answer if they ask what else you’re working on. Have a few ideas in your pocket.
  • Go in with confidence. Pretend you already have the yes. Know your story throughout and have a clear vision for it.

WRITING GREAT BAD GUYS

  • When creating a strong villain, be thinking of what specifically does he or she want and why do they want it now.
  • Stress your bad guys out as much as your leads. Give them their own ticking clock.
  • Characters reveal themselves through the lies they tell and expose themselves through the things they keep secret.
  • Use your own fears as inspiration.
  • Villains should be delicious and fun to write. They are the heroes of their own stories.
  • Art should make you look at monsters and see the evil inside. – Tom Szentgyorgyi, Executive Producer, BATES MOTEL

GETTING NOTES

  • Be wary of any writer who accepts all the notes. – Mark Johnson
  • Be easy to work with during the notes process. Even a bad note can hit on an issue. Be ready to educate/inform others on the notes you didn’t take. – Christina Hodson
  • Bathe in the notes. Let them wash over you. Take them. Listen. Deal with most and pick your battles over the choices you made and why. – Amy Talkington
  • Look at notes as an opportunity to make your projects better. – Pamela Robin

WHAT DECISION MAKERS LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING WRITERS

  • A clear and interesting voice, hearing a particular kind of voice and way with language and understanding of characters, that stands out. – Michelle Ashford
  • A room filled with unique voices. People with facile brains who write well. – Stephen Falk, Creator/Executive Producer YOU’RE THE WORST
  • Complementary personalities and skills, making a good balance in the room. – Kent Alterman
  • Imagination and the ability to translate it. Sheer uncontained talent over process and discipline, that can be learned. – Mark Johnson

    Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. 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

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE NATIONAL HISPANIC MEDIA COALITION’S ANNUAL MEDIACON

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by Kelly Jo Brick

NHMC MediaCon is not only an event dedicated to exploring the achievements and challenges that Latinos face in the entertainment industry, it also a day filled with great inspiration from a wide array of panelists and an opportunity for attendees to make connections directly with managers, writers and producers.

With panels focused on getting representation, how the internet is revolutionizing Latino content creation and the business of TV writing, the day was a coming together to strategize how to infuse more Latinos into the media industry, both in front of and behind the camera.

In the keynote discussion, NBC Entertainment Chairman, Robert Greenblatt, called this “the year of the Latina woman” as he talked of upcoming NBC shows starring Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez and America Ferrera. He also believed that diversity is continuing to expand and programming is starting to, “Feel like the world we all live in.”

Here are some of the top takeaways from the event:

THE “EMPIRE EFFECT” IS WAKING THE INDUSTRY UP – Success of a show like Empire is proving that there are underrepresented audiences out there who are hungry for entertainment. The biggest color Hollywood sees is the green of money and when something’s working, they want it. As Rashad Raisani, (Executive Producer, Allegiance) commented, “At a certain point they realize minorities help them make money, then they hire.”

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE INDUSTRY – “Go to everything. See everything. You will learn. Watch every TV show you can, read about the business. You have to do everything you can. Immerse yourself, because someone else will.” – Robert Greenblatt

BE FEARLESS & CREATE NURTURING ENVIRONMENTS – Robert Greenblatt further encouraged attendees to be fearless as they work to grow and develop their careers. “Fear is the antithesis of creativity.” With a supportive culture and nurturing environments, we all can accomplish so much more.

DEDICATE YOURSELF TO YOUR CRAFT – “This is an industry that takes a lifetime of commitment,” Jairo Alvarado, Manager/Producer, Circle of Confusion. The industry is filled with challenges and managers are looking for talent who are dedicated to their careers long term. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve done a ton of work for someone who backs down after the first obstacle comes his or her way.

Manager Tracey Murray of Industry Entertainment Partners also suggested that writers and other creatives, “Be a student of the industry. Be prepared when you go in a meeting. Do the research.”

YOUR REPS WORK FOR YOU – “Own that your rep is your employee,” declared Eddie Gamarra, Manager/Producer, The Gotham Group. Everyone has that great burst of excitement when they first sign with an agent or manager, but when it comes down to it, your agent or manager works for you. Make sure you articulate what your needs and goals are. Empower them as part of your business that is going to help you reach where you want to go with your career and encourage them to showcase the nuances of your writing and your background that make you stand out from the competition.

ALWAYS BE CREATING – This was a recurring theme of MediaCon. Technology has leveled the playing field when it comes to creative. It’s easier than ever before to create content so don’t sit back and wait to be chosen. As Manager/Producer Eddie Gamarra put it, “Go make stuff. You have the means. Make it happen on your own.”

APPLY TO THE DIVERSITY PROGRAMS – Organizations like the National Hispanic Media Coalition are working with the networks to foster growth for minorities in entertainment. Representatives from ABC, NBC, and CBS’s diversity programs all recommended attendees apply to diversity programs as a way to break into the industry. These programs open doors.

WRITE THE STORY ONLY YOU CAN TELL – Managers, writers and representatives from the network diversity programs all echoed the same thought, know what experiences are unique to you and use that in your work. As CAA agent Ashley Holland put it, “What are your superpowers?” Find those things that make you special and play to those strengths. This goes not only for the scripts you write, but also for when you fill out the application essays/letters of interest for the diversity programs.


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.

Our 2 Favorite Space-Time Travelers – Together!

Well, for one brief, shining moment anyway:

Doctor Who meets Not Inspector Spacetime

Yeppers, it’s DOCTOR WHO’s Doctor and NOT INSPECTOR SPACETIME’s Not Inspector Spacetime, making each other’s acquaintance at last.

Found on Tumblr by one of TVWriter™’s favorite minions, good ole Minion 42.

And, speaking of Not Inspector Spacetime, creator Travis Richey contacted us awhile ago to clear up some intellectual property rights questions about his show, which,even though it’s no longer part of COMMUNITY (quick quiz: What do Dan Harmon and the Inspector have in common?) can be found alive and well HERE.

Inasmuch as we figure that our visitors are as into all things having to do with creating/writing television as we are, here’s what Trav had to say:

As to the comment you received…, the copyright concerns boil down to the fact that community created exactly 4 things: The title “Inspector Spacetime”, the look of the character, Constable Reggie, and Blorgons.

We had already decided not to use Constable Reggie once we knew we’d have to make the series ourselves, and Blorgons were traded out for a fan-created menace in the form of Circuit Chaps. The simple fact of the matter is that I did not want to fight with one of my favorite shows. So we decided NOT to use the title “Inspector Spacetime” (even though you can’t actually copyright a title), and we changed the look of the character (even though a trench coat would be called scenes a faire in a copyright context – same with the BOOTH)

Everything else in the web series is the complete invention of myself and my writing partner and the fans. So we are pretty much completely free, legally-speaking, to create whatever we like.

I didn’t work out any deal with NBC or Sony. All I ever got was one phone call after i wrote a letter to a lawyer at Sony (it’s on the Facebook page if you want to read it)….

Though I must say, I’d LOVE if they came to me and wanted us to make official Inspector Spacetime episodes. I think the internet would explode a little. They could even have Season 1. All they’d need to do would be to create a new opening title sequence.

~Trav

And there you have it, an Official TVWriter™ Exclusive about one of our Fanboy Obsessions. (And, you, Trav, have our biggest aplogies for taking so bloody long to get this article up. Everything was going along great till these weird dalek-blorgon thingies attacked and then…)

inspector_spacetime_Capture

The Hudsonian Sees 1600 PENN

1600-Penn

Presidential Shenanigans at 1600 PENN

by Josh Hudson

NBC Thursdays has a new address: 1600 Penn.

The new comedy from Josh Gad, Jon Lovett, and Jason Winer is a cross between New Girl, Modern Family, and the Obamas. You know, if they were white and had a reality show or something.

Josh Gad stars as Skip, the eldest son to President Dale Gilcrhist, played by Bill Pullman. Skip is a quack. He’s clumsy, not all there, and is in his seventh year of college. Very Van Wilder-esque, yes, but Skip doesn’t resemble any of those suave characteristics outside of tenure post-high school.

Jenna Elfman stars as Emily Nash-Gilchrist, the first lady. She’s very chic, well mannered, and could easily be on one of those World War II posters campaigning for woman’s rights. She’s also the “evil” stepmother to the four children. Yes, Mr. President was a busy bunny pre trophy wife.

Becca, Marigold, and Xander are the other children. Becca is in her late teens. The good one of the bunch. Diligent, hard working, and always on her toes; some might call her a suck up or a brownnoser. That reputation goes down the crapper when she finds out she’s pregnant. Guess she’s a real kid after all.

Marigold and Xander are the youngest. Marigold is hitting puberty, while Zander is a few years younger. They don’t actually say in the show, but it’s a reasonable guess. Later, we find out they have a crush on the same person. Have fun with that one.

Much of the episode centers on Skip’s attempts at getting daddy’s attention. But he’s too busy with trying to close a national trade with some Latin American countries. Skip inadvertently intervenes, and for it to be comedic, he would have to blow things up rather awesomely. Or get drunk on tequila. That’s not stereotypical or anything.

Emily works on trying to connect with her stepchildren, first with Becca, and then with Marigold and Zander. Like most stepparents with their stepchildren, it doesn’t always go as planned.

I have to say; I was pleasantly surprised by this show. I didn’t really know what to expect, honestly. Pullman has been president before (Independence Day with Will Smith) but wasn’t really comedic. Elfman is a hilarious woman, but her shows don’t always hit, unfortunately. Gad is someone I’d never heard of until recently, and yet, he somehow got his own show on a national network. Clearly, we’re all doing something wrong, and he’s doing something right. The writing is quirky enough to entertain; childish enough to be delightful, and still sophisticated enough for the parental units to enjoy and have something to talk with their kids about.

Putting it on Thursdays is a bold statement by NBC. I’ll be watching. And hopefully others will follow.