Interview with Jeane Wong Part 1: The Thin Line

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by Kathryn Graham

Jeane Wong, a friend of TVWriter™ and previous People’s Pilot winner, recently won the First Universal Cable Pitchfest with her pitch for The Thin Line!

What is The Thin Line about?

It’s a revisionist history pilot in modern day America where segregation still exists. It centers on two brothers. One is in a violent civil rights group, and the other lives his life outside of politics. He’s recruited by the FBI to investigate his brother’s political activities. It’s a family drama. There’s a crime element. There’s a very subtle grounded sci-fi element.

Sort of like Man in the High Castle?

I love Philip K. Dick. Every time I travel to a new city, I always buy a Philip K. Dick book to read. He’s definitely one of my top five authors. I had this idea before that show was announced publicly. It’s fortuitous that revisionist history hasn’t been overdone yet, that I know of.

Have you pitched before this?

Formally, no. I only pitched a feature twice. It was completely brand new. I’ve pitched informally in a writer’s room, but in terms of my own show and doing a formal pitch, no. A lot of times those sorts of meetings don’t really happen for newbies. There’s not a lot of people who go out and sell pilots without ever having been staffed. I guess I did it in reverse.

My two really good friends, a comedian writer friend of mine, Lisa, and writer friend of mine, LaToya, we met up. I literally had two days to put together the pitch, and it was my last week at work. So I asked one of my coworkers, Ben, what his process was.

Then I met up with those two friends the night before the pitch, and I practiced it with them. I didn’t have it formed out yet. I had three different beginnings, and I wasn’t sure which one to use. I went through the different versions with them, and they told me which one they liked. I didn’t have a pitch until maybe 11pm the night before, and then I pitched it 10am the next morning. I memorized as much as I could and riffed.

I’m not someone who memorizes everything. I figure out what the points I need to get to are and then improv the rest. Everyone has different styles. Some people memorize every um and ahh. I’m a mix of both.

How well did you know the story before you went in to pitch?

I had already written the full pilot, and I had also written a comic book that was a prequel to the pilot that fleshed out the main character’s backstory. I knew it very well. I’ve re-broken and reworked it when I signed with my manager. It was my main sample that went out.

I had a lot of answers already in my head about story direction and characters. I had pitched the season and even a couple seasons down the line where I saw the character arcs. I would say I knew it well which probably helped in terms of pitching it.

What happens now?

It was purchased by the studio. Basically it’s in development at the studio. They’re employing me to develop it with them and rewrite. I hope it gets packaged with the right showrunner and taken to the network. There’s so many steps along the way. Lightning has to strike several more times, but you never know in this town.

What’s the best advice you ever got in terms of TV writing?

This is definitely a ‘next level’ piece of advice. Recently when I sold my pilot, I was talking to my friend who had also sold a pilot as an assistant. The best advice he gave me was so counter-intuitive that it blew my mind. So much about being in the industry is about being proactive, taking initiative, putting yourself out there.

He said: when you’re in the middle of negotiations for your deal, don’t pester your lawyer or seem impatient. Give them the time to get you the best numbers. It blew my mind because he was saying not to do anything and not to be proactive. With your lawyer be hands off. Let them get the best numbers. You don’t want them to close too early. The truth is lawyers are negotiating twenty deals at the same time. They’ll be like ‘okay I’ll wrap this one up and go on to the next thing’.

Is there a possibility of you working on The Thin Line once it’s been picked up?

I’m involved in it at an upper level.

One of the things I’m learning is just to enjoy the ride. As long as I’m still on the ride, I’m just going to enjoy it. I have no expectations. Anything could happen, but I’m hoping for the best. It’s the best outlook during this process. Although the end goal is the show’s creation, I try to think about the step that’s next. Whether it’s the next meeting or next call I have to take.

It’s more manageable to look at it as all of these small steps to conquer and challenge. The big picture’s always in the back of my head, but I try to think of the other little things I have to do first.

TOMORROW: PART TWO


Kathryn Graham is a Contributing Writer to TVWriter™. Learn more about Kate HERE

HUMANITAS PRIZE Call for Entries

This one’s for all you pros:
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HUMANITAS

CALL FOR ENTRIES for the 42nd Annual HUMANITAS Prize

Submissions open September 7. Submission deadline is October 5, 2016


For over four decades, the HUMANITAS Prize has empowered writers with financial support and recognition to tell stories which are both entertaining and uplifting. HUMANITAS encourages writers who create contemporary media to use their immense power to:

* Encourage viewers to truly explore what it means to be a human being.
* Challenge viewers to take charge of their lives and use their freedom in a responsible way.
* Motivate viewers to reach out in respect and compassion to all their brothers and sisters in the human family.

“HUMANITAS exists to recognize, encourage and empower writers who teach us how to embrace our common humanity by way of their unique and powerful voices. It is a noble mission. We believe film and television have tremendous power. By bringing into our living rooms human beings who are very different from ourselves in culture, race, lifestyle, political loyalties and religious beliefs, we can dissolve the walls of ignorance and fear that separate us from one another.” 
– Cathleen Young, HUMANITAS Executive Director

The winners receive both a trophy and a cash award at our annual HUMANITAS Awards Event, which will be held in February 2017.

The HUMANITAS Prize is awarded in the following categories:

  • Feature Film Screenplay
  • Sundance Feature Film Screenplay
  • 60 minute Teleplay
  • 30 minute Teleplay
  • Feature Documentary
  • Children’s Animation
  • Children’s Live Action


Eligibility guidelines:

  • No entry fee nor limit to the number of submissions
  • Teleplay must be written and produced in the English language for U.S. Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
  • Teleplay must have had a national release on Television (Broadcast, Cable, Internet and Satellite)
  • Feature film screenplay becomes eligible in the year in which it receives a U.S. theatrical release
  • Teleplay or film must be aired or released January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016

Click HERE to submit.  Please help us celebrate what is right with television and film.

To learn more about the HUMANITAS Prize, please visit our website at http://www.humanitasprize.org

Contact: Nicky Davis, Office and Program Manager
nicky.davis@humanitasprize.org – 310-454-8769

LB’s Poetry: “The Love Song of Zane Simon Marx”

NOTE FROM LB: 

I came to L.A. to write for television in the late ’60s, and with my first gig one of what was to be several love-hate relationships, both professional and personal, began. I did pretty well with the professional thing, at least – achieved every one of my goals as a TV writer, actually, although it feels immodest to say it. Many of my friends from that era did the same. And, professionally speaking, some achieved even more. The following is a true story of that time and place, reflecting bits and pieces of us all:

The Love Song of Zane Simon Marx
by Larry Brody

The moon taunts him.

See it rise.

See it glow.

He drives the Rolls through Brentwood,

Up the hill to his home.

See it rise.

See it glow.

The moon moves with him, always ahead,

Always above;

Holding itself over him, like a woman who doesn’t know his wealth,

Let alone his worth,

Or a network executive unimpressed by his ratings and awards.

A hundred million dollars, that’s what Zane made last year.

See it rise.

His wife made even more. The royalties, you know.

The lights of the Rolls find the driveway.

See it glow.

Zane presses the remote. His electric gate opens.

Shadows spill from the posts,

Jagged black cracks on the cobblestone.

They wouldn’t exist if not for the moon.

The light in his wife’s office is on.

It means Sharon is home.

Means Zane will have to speak to her.

Have to say, “Hello. I missed you.

“Love you.

“Hello.”

Sharon is beautiful, but tired all the time.

Holds herself above him.

Like the moon.

His money means nothing to her. Without her writing

He wouldn’t have it. Yet without his salesmanship

She wouldn’t have hers. Sharon forgets that.

Last week, the First Class stewardess on the flight to New York

Forgot nothing. Nothing Zane liked.

Nothing.

See him rise.

See her glow.

Last week.

Not now.

Now Zane Simon Marx takes the Rolls up the cobblestones to the

Thirteen car garage.

And watches the moon.

And remembers the emptiness.

And knows he can’t reach it.

But wants, oh, how he wants…

Wants,

Wants…

Wants to fly! To propel himself up, out of the Rolls, up past the stone

Turrets of the house he himself—with a little help

From Sharon of course—designed.

Wants to shoot upward, beyond the rooftop,

Beyond the smog,

Beyond the clouds,

To the bitch moon,

To take what he can’t have,

Crank into it,

Love it,

Feel neon-cool warmth washing over him like rain,

Orgasm plasm DNA.

A hundred million dollars!

And still the moon rises and glows

Without him.

Fly!

Fly!

Leave pitches, and pilots, and run-throughs behind!

Abandon casting, and lunches, and P.R. tours!

Lose shmoozing, lose boozing, lose the oozing of charm!

My hair thins.

My thighs thin.

I can’t run anymore.

I want…

I want…

Nerves and tingles, scratches and bites, kneading hands on muscles

That never fail to respond.

Kneading hands on muscles…

Needing hands…

Needing…

I need…

What does Zane Simon Marx need?

Not a hundred million bucks.

Not five shows on the air,

Two in the Top Ten.

Not the house or the car or the wife of his dreams.

Thick hair.

Thick thighs.

Next to mine.

A woman loved me once. Really loved me.

I’ve forgotten her name.

Never knew it.

Never asked.

Never questioned, not then.

Then Zane was seventeen.

He had the moon.

They met on the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City,

In the cold of December. The wood was wet and covered with

White, yet the sky was clear.

Zane could see stars, and the moon.

The moon curved like the one on that

Arab flag, a scimitar slashing through the

Chill, or was it a small boat for the

Butcher, the Baker, and that guy

Who worked so diligently with wax?

At seventeen Zane could leap up and

Touch the moon, and he did.

And he was seen, by the woman who loved him,

The woman he still remembered.

She called out to him, urged him to come

Down. The moon, she said, was not a

Friendly place for a young man to be.

“No air,” she said. “No humidity.”

“Does that mean it’s humorless?” he yelled

To her from his high perch. She

Laughed, and laughs still in the memory,

Laughs as though her heart would break

If she stopped.

Zane jumped down to her, and they went to his

Car, not a Rolls but a Pontiac, a

Poncho they called it then, on the

Cusp of the ‘Sixties before the knowledge and its heartbreak

Began. A Pontiac Bonneville. Poncho.

Bonnie. Green. “The BGB. Big Green

Bonneville, come on inside.”

She did.

She came and she came.

And comes still in the memory,

The memory of Zane Simon Marx.

“I love you,” she said.

It wasn’t his money, because he had none

Then.

It wasn’t his shows, or his house. Not even

His car. After all, it was his

Dad’s.

It was him. He. Me.

Had to be me.

I reached the moon;. Not just that night, but

Always. Just a flexing, a tensing, a shooting up.

Easy, so easy. So easy to get so high.

Just a jump. Didn’t even need to fly.

Then.

Then.

Then…

But now…

Now Zane Simon Marx sits in his Rolls,

And knows he has to go into the house.

Has to say, “Hello, I missed you.

“Love you.

“Hello.”

To a wife whose only answer will be a nod,

And then back to her punchline, set-up, set-up, ker-BLAM!

Has to face the fact that he can’t fly.

Zane Simon Marx peers up at the moon.

See it rise.

See it glow.

Thinks, I could divorce her. No big deal.

Thanks to the prenuptial, it wouldn’t cost a cent.

Except then I wouldn’t get a penny out of what

She wrote next.

And she wouldn’t sell it.

Break her poor heart.

Fuck the moon.

Fuck it.

Someday I’ll get in shape.

I’ll go back to Atlantic City,

To the ice and the slush.

I’ll find a woman who loves me.

We’ll step up to the moon the way I go up my front walk.

“Hello, I missed you.

“Love you.

“Hello.”

The moon taunts him.

It moves with him, always ahead.

But tonight—as always—as ever—it stops at his door.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. Although the book whose cover you see above is for sale on Kindle, he is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, “As the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out to me, ‘Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you compromise your artistic vision by trying to please those who are paying. If you don’t accept money, you can be yourself. Like your art, you too are free.’”

Who is the Navajo Dog? Keep coming back and you’ll see.

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writer’s, Don’t Wait for Inspiration

Payment overdue
Real world inspiration?

by Peggy Bechko

 “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

? Jack London

One of my favorite quotes on writing.

I don’t know how many writers still carry that image in their heads that a writer sits around contemplating until struck with a brilliant ideas at which point said writer begins to write in earnest. Hopefully not many.

I don’t know how many readers also have that same image of writers in their heads.

To both camps I say, get it out. Stomp that idea to death and do it now.

Hemingway had it closer with his famous quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Combine that first quote above with the second and it’s something closer to what writing is all about.

Seriously, you can’t sit and wait for ‘inspiration’, you have to pursue it, look for it, grab it when it comes your way. If your muse is busy, read something that might spark an idea, take a brisk walk, play with your dog. Do something that relaxes and inspires you and throws that door open to new ideas.

Staring off into space can be you conjuring an idea, but if all you’re doing IS staring off into space, you need to get moving. Stir the pot!

Sometimes it’s as simple as tossing words onto paper, type something or write something, anything, then follow with more words. A full-blown idea just might kick in.

But whatever you do, don’t think sitting around, waiting, will do it for you. Some ideas strike out of the blue, others need to be tracked down and subdued.

Because an idea doesn’t come to you easily don’t think if you simply wait long enough it will.

It won’t.

Part of the trick is always remaining open to new ideas and experiences; always think of the ways of the world as grist for your mill. If you’re continually ‘tuned in’ ideas flow much more easily. There really is nothing magic about the muse hitting you over the head with a fresh, new idea. You’re generating them all the time and there’s no end to strange, interesting, funny and bizarre happenings and behaviors to feed your need.

Hey, writing standing up doesn’t hurt either!

So, get up, grab a club and go after that muse.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and don’t forget Peggy’s wonderful blog, where this post first appeared.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – August 8th

In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Writers Guild Foundation – Breaking In At Any Age

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko’s World: Yo, Writers! Time to get Organized!

Houdini and Doyle – The Victorian Odd Couple

LB’s Poetry: The Indian People See Things No One Else Does

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Logline

The Teleplay

The Outline/Story

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon