You write your butt off and nobody reads it. Finally somebody does read it and hates it.
Or, worse, won’t even talk about it to you.
Agents, managers, and executives ignore your emails, refuse your phone calls, and can’t see you as anything but that waitperson who keeps butting into their convos instead of serving and scramming.
Your parents are disgusted because you neither have nor want a respectable job.
Your significant other has that look that says your significance to him or her is waning.
FWIW, we here at TVWriter™ understand and often share those feelings. We get tired of sleeping in our studio apartment on a hand-me-down futon. We have all felt the heavy weight of true despair, the horrifying certainty that despite all the great song lyrics of old, our day just plain isn’t destined to come.
But here’s the thing. My mantra, something I’ve told myself over and over and will continue to tell myself until my last breath:
“Anything worth doing is harder than fuck. But you don’t stop till it’s finished. Whether it’s a project, a goal, a dream, you keep going till the end. Because otherwise how do you live with yourself? And how do you love and take pride in someone else if you can’t love and take pride in you?”
To put it another way, when it all seems like too much to take any longer, ask yourself, “What would Sisyphus do?” And remember, there isn’t a pic anywhere of the classic dude sitting on his butt. We know his story because he never stopped pushing.
Moving that rock be how he rollz.
Oh, and here’s the review part: If you need a quick refresher in self-believe, a blast of extra energy to chase the demons away and make waking up tomorrow morning a total delight, then do yourself a great big favor and check out Baz Luhrmann’s amazing new Netflix series The Get Down.
I don’t want to ruin anything by saying too much. But I will say this:
The Get Down, with its incredible music and dance numbers and the kind of vitality that nothing but pure creativity can bring, has the power to grab you and shake you and awaken your soul.
I know because watching the pilot one rocky night late weekend sure as hell did that for me.
Okay, you probably do, but not in the way you’ve always believed you do. (And let’s be wary of that word “always.” Might be a slippery one, that “always.”) Way back when, in the seventeenth century, a brainy guy, a philosopher and mathematician named René Descartes put “cogito ergo sum” into the world’s head. A lot of you know that René’s observation means, in the usual English translation, “I think therefore I am.”
What he was trying to do, our René, was find Truth with a capital T – some fact that could not be doubted, no matter what, no matter who. He asked us to imagine that there exists an evil demon who has created a vastly elaborate illusion. We’re just a brain, or something akin to brains, floating in demon porridge or maybe suspended from a demon ceiling and everything else is a part of demon’s foolery. It just ain’t. But someone other than the demon must be on the receiving end of the demonic sniggery, or else the sniggery itself couldn’t exist. That someone is me.
I can’t be sure about you. How do I know that you’re there?
Our movie-going friends may have already noticed something familiar here. Yeah, that flick – The Matrix, written and directed by siblings named Wachowski and released in 1999. Same idea: bad machines have humans in some kind of suspended animation, and the humans don’t know it because they’re being caused to hallucinate a fully populated and developed Earth.
This is a bit like what I do/did for a living. Sketch out characters who don’t exist except as brain blops and jerrybuild an imaginary world for them to inhabit, then present the fruits of this labor to others. Usually, for me, that involved writing comic book scripts.
And you? Well, for purposes of this discussion we’ll assume that you do exist, though how and in what form and why we won’t stipulate.
Here we nod to philosopher Nick Bostrum who, in 2003, offered the theory that the universe is a computer simulation. Some people believed him – Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson among them. It’s been estimated that there’s approximately a 20 percent chance that Bostrum’s wacky theory reflects reality, albeit a reality we can’t comprehend and might not recognize if we found ourselves plunked down in the middle of it.
As for that reality’s inhabitants… who can guess? I’m wondering if they, covertly, interact with us and if they hear what we say and see what we do. And if such is the case, how do we know that they aren’t inhuman doppelgangers able to coexist in the same space that we occupy? And hey, you doppled others, what’s your deal? What are you up to, anyway? Playing a game with a gamepiece that’sme? Running an experiment? Doing something my brain is not configured to understand, or even to perceive?
Waiting for me to make a mistake? Well, that shouldn’t take long, but if you control me, wouldn’t the mistake be yours?
I could get to like this game.
Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.
This marvelous video about what creatives do to drive their families, friends, co-workers, and employers mad…while keeping themselves sane. Time now for everyone to take a cell phone or work break and do what comes naturally: Gaze out the window and chillax!
Happy Middle of August everyone. The 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT is bouncing up, up, and away, with only 2 1/2 months left till entries close on November 1st of this year.
In case you’re new to TVWriter™ and this email list, here’s the lowdown on our premier TV writing competition. Well, electronic media writing, if you want to get technical. (But most people who like to get technical don’t become writers, do they)
THE STORY OF THE PEOPLE’S PILOT COMPETITION IN A LARGE NUTSHELL
TVWriter™’s PEOPLE’S PILOT is one of the oldest – if not the actual oldest – television writing contests on the interwebs, and generally accepted as the stand-out competition for new series pilot scripts.
Winners, Finalists, and Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™’s past contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of:
LETHAL WEAPON (upcoming)
PERSON OF INTEREST
THE WALKING DEAD
RIZZOLI AND ISLES
ONCE UPON A TIME
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES
THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER
And that doesn’t include the various one-off writing gigs, TV movie assignments, and staff jobs we don’t yet know about. We’d love to see you join this fine group of successes!
THE PEOPLE’S PILOT COMPETITION is held yearly, opening for entries March 1 and staying open for 8 months, until November 1. We do our best to announce the Winners, starting with Semi-Finalists, over a two week period in January and February of the following year.
The contest is for scripted series intended for just about any media you can think of. Broadcast TV. Cable and satellite TV. Internet series on major sites from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu through YouTube, Vimeo and other popular uploading channels and venues, to your own personal website.
The PP is divided into 3 prize-giving categories:
Scripted series One-Half Hour Or Less in length – including everything from broadcast and premium cable length shows through 11 minute Adult Swim and Cartoon network type shows to short-short 5 minute or less internet shows
Scripted series One-Hour Or Less in length – including broadcast and premium cable length shows and personal, idiosyncratic shows as short as 30:01 minutes and as long as 60:00 minutes
Scripted series More Than One Hour in length – including mini-series and other shows whose episodes will be feature film length (like several on seen on BBC and ITV in the UK. Especially welcome in this category are series deliberately designed to be binge-watched and viewed at longer sittings. (Can any other contest say the same?)
All three categories are open to all series genres. To put it another way, the PP is wide open to whatever you want to express and whatever expresses you as a creator.
PEOPLE’S PILOT PRIZES & BONUSES IN EACH CATEGORY
Free Feedback for Each Entry
Free “Storytelling Patterns E-Book by Larry Brody with Each Entry
2 weeks of 1-On-1 Career Coaching (by phone, e-mail, or, if possible, in person with producer-writer Larry Brody of TVWriter™ ($700 value)
Monetary Prizes in Each Category of $500 (1st Prize) – $100 (2nd Prize) $50 (3rd Prize) from Manner Movie Ltd.
Script Consultation from Script Pipeline ($395)
Free admission to Larry Brody’s Online TV and Film Writing Master Class ($279 value)
1 yr access to Writing the Master Screenplay, The Online Course ($99 value)
1 year of Gold Plan Spotlighted Screenplay Posting Service at ScreenwriterShowcase.Com ($84 value)
1 InkTip Script Listing so that producers and reps can find you ($65 value)
1 InkTip Magazine Logline Listing to make your presence known in print ($40 value)
Inclusion in the vaunted TVWriter.Com List of Recommended Writers (priceless)
HERE COMES THE FINALE
In recent years new online writing contests have been springing up with almost dizzying speed. Not all writing contests, however, are created equal. TVWriter™’s PEOPLE’S PILOT COMPETITION has been running online since the year 2000 – the dawn of the 21st Century. Winning or placing highly in PP means something. It’s a genuine step into your future. Jump start your career with a contest win that counts.
Find out more about THE PEOPLE’S PILOT, one of the oldest and most respected writing contests on the web – including its rules, prizes, et al – HERE
Again, the closing date for entries is November 1st. As we used to say on the original Hawaii Five-0: “Be there!”
Regular visitors to TVWriter™ may remember that once upon a time I promised to answer TV and film writing and production questions on a regular basis and that I tried but, well, erm…
My promise kinda fizzled out in the Summer of 2013.
That’s three years ago, I know. Three years of hanging my head and going, “Oy…oy…Oy…!
Three years of guilt!
Today, however, I’m filled with Q and A joy because last week I was asked a question about something that has bugged the hell out of me for years. To be more specific, what’s been bugging the hell out of me is the answer, which I’ve known and understood and have had no reason to ever tell anyone.
So it’s with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and a new sense of old purpose, that I take advantage of the situation and share with you, the TVWriter™ Crew, the following email exchange:
First, the query, from JW:
I’m writing a short article for Maclean’s magazine…about “Macgyver,” and I was wondering if you would be able to comment for it.
What I wanted to ask about is why you think the TV subgenre of the action show – as opposed to mystery shows that don’t have as much stunt work or chases – seemed to become less prevalent since the 1990s. Were there any reasons – in terms of the costs or who watched these shows – given as to why they were harder to sell?
Let me know if you can help or if you need more information about the article. I have to file it by Friday.
I’m proud to say that I responded well before Friday, and I encourage Maclean’s Magazine readers everywhere to keep an eye out for JM’s article (which may already be out. Dammit, why don’t I know?”).
Of course, after Friday had passed, I found myself thinking about the issue again and – of course – coming up with a much more complex reply, because that’s what people do, right? JW already has what I wrote. Here’s my revised draft, featuring what I should have written:
Thanks for contacting me, JW.
In a nutshell, the reason for fewer action shows is indeed financial. The various action shows I produced all had significant budget deficits and problems, mostly caused because all the action necessitated at least one and more often two days of second unit filming per episode, which means having a second film crew, a second director – usually the stunt coordinator – various stunt people and duplicate vehicles, extra insurance, permits, permissions, security, and more.
Add to that the fact that for some strange reason second unit filming always seemed to go into overtime, adding to the expense even more. The studio suits always thought it was the stunt crew taking advantage of the lack of supervision of most second unit shoots (because there simply was no one around to perform that task), but I’ve never bought into that POV. The way I see it, choreographing and shooting and reshooting and adjusting and re-reshooting are absolutely necessary as well as, yes, time-consuming as all hell.
In the ’80s, on THE FALL GUY, we estimated that the action sequences were adding another 20% to our total working budget for the series and started looking for less $$$-gobbling alternatives. One of them was to buy previously unseen stunt footage shot for major films (think various productions of James Bond) but cut out before the final release. We would put our stars into matching costumes and behind the steering wheels of matching vehicles, roll ’em out of frame, and let movie magic take its course.
It worked for awhile, but I felt like we were cheating the audience, and the stunt co-ordinator was inconsolable. Moping around, weeping a bit now and then, threatening my family, you know how men of action get when they don’t have enough to do, so the bought footage experiment didn’t last all that long and soon we were back on the ever-sharpening edge of fiscal disaster.
An edge that today is skirted by watching lab work and autopsies instead of careening vehicles and monstrous explosions. (Oh, and the stunt co-ordinator didn’t really threaten my family. But I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.
And that’s it. This was fun for me to write, and I hope equally enjoyable (as well as informative) to read. Now let’s all send out good energy and clap our hands for Tinkerbelle – and for yours truly finding the time and space to address things like before another three years zoom by.
As this department used to say – and, I hope, will again, “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!”