You’re over 40 and want to become a Hollywood Writer? Read this and let yourself smile.

Words of wisdom – and encouragement – from a Hollywood writer who himself is, erm, over forty: The one and only William Martell:

by William Martell

There was a fellow on a screenwriting board I frequent who was lamenting ageism in Hollywood. He was past 40, and believed that was the reason for his lack of success in the biz. As a guy who is also on the wrong side of 40, I asked him a couple of questions about where he had encountered the age problems.

He thought he wasn’t getting a fair read because his scripts featured protagonists dealing with adult issues like mid-life crises and male pattern baldness and divorce and being laid off from the job you’ve been working at for 25 years.

Though stats say the over-35s are the fastest growing segment of the movie audience, movies are still the place where kids go on dates. So that 15-25 year-old high school and young adult audience is usually the target for films. They are the regular film goers – look at the people in the ticket line with you on Friday night.

You’ll see a lot of high school kids on dates or in groups. Hey, they may get their money from their parents, but who buys the tickets and makes the choice? Those 15-25 year olds! They pick the film. If you just look at the numbers, you’ll find that 15-25 year olds are the core cinema audience. They go every weekend. There are reasons for this – they are dating age, they don’t have kids keeping them at home, they have more disposable income.

Older folks go to the cinema infrequently – usually for some event film like MAN OF STEEL or AVENGERS or the fall and Holiday films that tend to skew older. They are not there every single weekend like a 15-25 year old – that age group is where the money is.

Even the most popular holiday Oscar buzz films that attract adult viewers don’t make much money – THERE WILL BE BLOOD, a brilliant movie, only made $40 million. Total. Last year TRANSFORMERS 3 made over $64 million in its first week.

Yes, every once in a while a film aimed at adults, like this weekend’s #13 movie BEFORE MIDNIGHT, , but most films are aimed at those 15-25 yerar olds who went to see MAN OF STEEL… and go to the cinema almost every weekend. They are the regular audience for the movies we write.

But wait, you cry! You don’t go to the cinema – too many of those damned noisy kids – you watch movies on DVD on your massive plasma screen TV! Though I am always first to note that DVD makes more money than cinema, it is still largely an *after market* for films that debut in the cinema.

Hollywood doesn’t know how to gauge what films will do well on DVD and did poorly at cinemas – and that’s partially because most movies that do well in the cinema also do well on DVD. So the ones that are DVD hits and cinema flops are the exceptions.

Even if we just look at movies aimed at older adults (as Hollywood sees us) we still have a problem – some are hits, others complete flops on DVD. Hollywood is all about *investment* in movies – and they want to invest in a sure thing. Movies that did well in the cinema are a sure thing on DVD. Making a movie that will probably flop in cinemas but *might* make money from older folks watching them in their home cinemas?

How do we know they aren’t just going to watch LOST or 24 or some TV movie? TV movies are usually aimed at an older audience… you know, our age. Hollywood tends to make films for the cinema aimed at people who regularly go to the cinema. If most men wear size 10 shoes, you can make all of the size 5 shoes you want but you aren’t going to sell as many. You can make all of the size 15 shoes you want, and you aren’t going to sell as many. So Hollywood focuses most of their production on the people who buy tickets every single week.


I told this writer that I though we had the advantage over those punk kid writers. See, we’ve been kids! They have never been over 40. We can write about kid characters AND their parents! And mine our own experiences. We can write about Jim in AMERICAN PIE (I was once just like him) *and* Jim’s dad (I’m fighting desperately not to become him now). You’re as young as your characters feel. There’s no reason you have to think like a 40 year old in this business… in fact, it helps if you don’t.

I go to the cinema every Friday night with a group of friends and I’m, um, twice the age of most people in that target audience. But I don’t *think old*. The stories I write are for the 15-25 year old in all of us. You don’t need to write about high school kids – most films are about adults. But not adults dealing with male pattern baldness and how to take care of their aging parents and that second mortgage you took out just before housing prices took a nose dive. Harrison Ford is an old man, the last INDIANA JONES movie was *still* made for 15-25 year olds… and the 15-25 year old in all of us. The last INDIANA JONES movie was written by a guy closing in on 50….

Read it all at Bill Martells great site – Script Secrets

What Studios and Network Execs Really Want in a Script

More insight into the professional world of showbiz. Because knowledge is, and always will be, power.

You’re really going to want to buy the book this interview is associated with. And you can. Right HERE

‘DOCTOR WHO RPG: Series 11

This is for DOCTOR WHO fans. Which as far as this TVWriter™ minion is concerned means the following article is for…EVERYBODY.

by Siskoid

On the occasion of completing reviews on Doctor Who’s 11th series, I should like to re-imagine it as a role-playing game campaign using Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who RPG. (Go back one, to Series 10.)

The GM [Chris Chibnall, Showrunner]

Chris landed the job of new GameMaster, but he’s got a history with the Doctor Who role-playing club. He ran a couple of seasons of the Torchwood campaign, and often shared ideas with the Doctor’s GMs during and after that time. Recently, he’d paired up with one of the Doctor’s players, David, for a police/mystery game, but that had wrapped. With no surviving players/PCs, he really got to start from scratch. He recruited his own players (one of them from his previous game). He drew up new designs for the TARDIS. He vowed not to use any old enemies, or even follow previous GMs’ game notes. Instead of teasing a big arc, he wanted to push players to explore their personal drama. He would also turn out to be a more serious-minded GM, rarely playing anything for humor, and interested in exploring topical issues in his plots.

The Players
-Jodie will play a new version of the Doctor. Not only is this the first time the Doctor would be played by a female player, but the GM totally let her turn the Doctor into a woman. Jodie wants to highlight the character’s kindness and make her a very empathetic hero that gives the other PCs a chance to shine and sees the group as a team more than a set of companions. She also boosts the character’s Technology Skill as she quite likes the Boffin angle.
-Tosin makes a decision that affects the other players. His character, Ryan, is a blue collar worker in the blue collar town of Sheffield. The rest of the group agrees to make this their pied-à-terre instead of a more cosmopolitan city like London. Ryan Sinclair lost his mom, his dad ran off, he’s being raised by his nan, and he struggles with dyspraxia (in game terms: the Clumsy Trait). But he’s also Internet-savvy and a good soul.
-Bradley, a much older player than the rest of his group, doesn’t want to take the lead too much, so he funnels that part of the group dynamic into making his character, Graham O’Brien, an unwanted father figure to Ryan. Graham is a cancer survivor who fell in love and married his nurse, Ryan’s nan, but Ryan never really took to him. This retired bus driver would be motivated by living his second chance at life to its fullest, but also keeping Ryan safe.
-Mandip creates Yasmin Khan, a contemporary of Ryan’s of Pakistani descent who became a police officer, but is impatient with the service which has relegated her to a status not much above that of meter maid. She wants to bring policing skills to the team, and maybe Yaz sees the Doctor as a mentor who will unlock her potential.

Read it all at Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery

A Conversation with Lindsay Ellis – Part II

by Kathryn Graham

Lindsay Ellis is an American video essayist and film critic with degrees in film from NYU and USC. She condenses complex critical thinking and academic theory into entertaining and humorous YouTube essays on everything from a Film Studies through the Lens of Transformers to Product Placement and Fair Use.  She is also the host and writer for PBS’s online short series It’s Lit! You can check out all of her content for free on YouTube!

For those who missed it, Part I is HERE

Where do you see the future of what you’re doing going?

L: I don’t know. YouTube is very splintered. In left leaning spaces, you’ll see more and more attention paid to things like quality of the picture and the framing devices. It’s leaning more artistic and expensive looking. It’s leaning towards highly researched videos. The consequences of that is people make fewer and fewer videos.

Meanwhile, YouTube doesn’t favor inconsistent output like that. It likes you to be like: Tuesdays, once a week, exactly 25 – 35 minutes, whatever your schedule is.

That works for the AM Talk Radio side of YouTube which is really consistent and releases a lot more often.

So there’s kind of an imbalance. There’s two cultures. One sub-culture wants to focus on higher quality and better research and use that to gain attention. The other side is just like… Cinema Sins (note from KG: a nit-picky and often inaccurate ‘movie review’ YouTube channel).

I just watched a whole video about Cinema Sins’s sins. Sustaining Stupidity by Bobvids.

L: Yes! I have made so many people watch that video. It’s not just about why Cinema Sins is bad. It’s a good microcosm for what kind of content gets consistent sustained views on YouTube. How it’s cultivated. Why it’s cultivated in bad faith. How this is bad for society at large. It breaks it down bullet point by bullet point.

Do you think a subscription service for what you do might work? Would there be enough demand?

L: I think there would be demand, but part of the deal is you want to reach new people. Ultimately, my goal is to get people to re-evaluate the way they consume media. The way they think critically and how critical thinking even works.

A lot of YouTube is really bad for critical thinking. A lot of it is very emotion driven. “Here’s what I thought about a movie, but I’m going to try to dress it up in objectivist rhetoric that doesn’t apply.” You cannot objectively review a movie.

There’s this kind of obsession with this kind of ‘pwnage’. Like “I need to crush the other side.” A lot of times ‘the other side’ is like Ghostbusters 2016.

Part of the rising tide of that is it needs an alternative. Those alternatives do exist, but they tend to release less frequently, and they tend to get way fewer views than Cinema Sins.

Another trend I’m not liking is, I talked about this in That Time Disney Remade Beauty and the Beast, where we have to over-explain everything. To preempt the objections. It’s like we’re making movies for Cinema Sins now.

A lot of stories, we do not need to know the logic of the universe. There are some universes like Harry Potter that operate on an elaborate internal clockwork. But there are other universes like Beauty and the Beast for example, where it’s a disservice to the story to try to apply strict logic to it.

People get so worked up now… I think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I just want to stand on a mountain going “It’s just a movie! Why is everything culture war?” Why does everything have to go to 11?

This is another thing I’m not sure I’m ever going to address. You see this phrase ‘objectively bad’. I’ve seen this phrase a lot more, especially in relation to The Last Jedi. That’s just because there’s a certain subset that has co-opted this phrase and is using it to justify their opinions. They have convinced themselves that there’s a quadratic formula for how to figure out if a movie is bad, but that’s not how it works.

I could make a good argument for contrived or poor structure. I have some issues with The Last Jedi. Mostly character arc related, but at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as objectivity. There’s some people out there who like structure-less stories. That doesn’t make them wrong. It just means they don’t like Hollywood movies.

There’s a lack of self-awareness where people can’t connect their intense reaction to some form of internal bias. They’re like “No! It’s objective! It’s bad!” If it was objective, I’d agree with you. If it was objective, everyone would agree with you.

With representation in film, do you see that getting any better or staying about the same or getting worse?

L: I see it getting better, but I think Hollywood is trailing culture. Not the other way around. The reason you see movies like Get Out and Wonder Woman is that people are open to it, and they want to see stuff like that in a way that they didn’t 10 years ago.

I think that the market is there. That’s the only reason it’s getting better on the whole.

Is there any advice you’d give to people who want to be on YouTube or start anything on Youtube?

L: The most important advice is: Do not ape other people’s voices. I think the worst thing people can do is: “I wanna be like this person!” There’s a ton of people that try to be like Red Letter Media. They’ll make the same jokes. They’ll have the same tone.

A lot of people will write me and be like: “How do I make this good?” I’m like: “Practice it. It’s your first one. It’s not going to be good.”

I think people need to learn to be okay with that. It’s a process. It’s like any skill. Most people will have a kernel of an idea of what their voice is going to be. This is a medium. It’s not the same as prose. It’s a process to find it.

A lot of people that I now consider peers had such a learning curve.
You need to figure out what you’re good at and what your voice is.

The best advice I ever saw was someone said: Don’t try to demand the attention of people who you admire. Try to elevate your peers, and rise up with them. Eventually, the people you admire will start to take notice.
That’s definitely been my experience.

Herbie J Pilato sees ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

Ladies and gentlemen, TVWriter™ is proud to present a classic TV critic in top form. Here’s how it’s done:

“Mary” Pops in “Returns”
by Herbie J Pilato

A remarkable plethora of talent is resplendent throughout, behind the camera and on screen for Mary Poppins Returns, the new Disney sequel to the studio’s 1964 motion picture classic.

The ghost of Walt Disney and Julie Andrew’s original interpretation of the mystical nanny is prevalent in all the right places and frames of this thoroughly modern magical mystical tour de force. Sharing the screenwriting credit with David Macgee and John DeLuca, Marshall is clearly a fan of the original Poppins, as he makes certain Returns adheres to the visual and storied mythology of the revered first take (helmed by Robert Stevenson).

Right smack in the middle of it all, new Poppins lead Emily Blunt had big knickers to fill in stepping into Andrews’ puss and boots, but the award-winning actress adds a fresh face to the character; Blunt (a name that works for the character!) brings her own special brand of demure to what could easily have turned into a theatrical mess in the hands of a less fêted performer.

Andrews rejected the idea of making even a cameo into the mix of this dear Poppins fresh dough, ray of sunshine and glee, because, allegedly, she did not want to steal the spotlight from Blunt. But it’s also been said that her agent demanded more “moola” for her to apply any new rouge for Returns.

Fortunately, other veteran performers like always-perfect Angela Lansbury (as the Balloon Lady, the character allegedly written for Andrews), Dick Van Dyke (who starred in the original Mary, and makes a remarkable screen return of his own at 93!), Colin Firth, David Warner, and Meryl Streep (to a lesser extent), each deliver the goods.

And while Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as the adult Banks siblings are nothing less than Shakespearean supreme, Returns’ fresh batch of child actors, Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, light up the screen with vibrancy and an enormous bag of Bojangles skill that boggles for their age. And while, too, shades of the superior quality of stupendous original Poppinssongs by the Sherman brothers Richard and Robert can be heard in Returns, the still-very-much-alive musical maestro Richard Sherman served as a consultant on the new film’s catchy tunes and score composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (who wrote the lyrics with Shaiman)….

Read it all at Medium