If UP Got A Round Of Reality TV Network Notes

Gleeps! Where has Jeez John been all the life of this TVWriter™ minion? This dude’s been around. Not only does he know about the shit we all have to go through when writing US broadcast network TV, he’s able to be funny as hell while he out-bitches the bitches!

UP picby Jeez Jon


Hello! Thank you so much for turning around our previous round of notes so quickly.  While we appreciate all the time and effort your team made, we unfortunately are a long way off from being ready with this cut.  The show currently lacks focus.  Where was the bite pass we asked for?  We desperately need to guide the audience through the show and the only way we can do that is with bites, especially with Act One. With a thorough bite pass, we can then guide our audience through the dense rainforest that is our story.  Right now, I feel as lost as that old man!  (BTW he looks genuinely old instead of TV old; any way we can young him up in Color Correction?) Once we get this bite pass done, then we’ll give you time coded notes.

Also, we are going to South America and we aren’t really getting a lot of information about it.  Let’s get creative about adding some take-away information about this continent to our audience so that (1) they can feel smart and (2) we can then count this show as part of our “educational programming”.


Ugh, do we have to start with the black-and-white newsreel of the explorer Muntz? I can just hear all of the young men 18-35 changing the channel. Yes, I know it sets up all the information for later about Paradise Falls, Carl’s love of adventure and how it eventually leads to the love of his life. But this is BORING. Let’s do this all with a bite of Carl along the lines of “Hi, I’m Carl. I’m 8 years old. I get to see movies on my own because this is the 1940’s and I don’t have a helicopter mom.  I’m really into adventure and one day I hope to go to Paradise Falls, just like my canine-loving hero, explorer Carl Muntz!” (Please get this verbatim) Without this bite, I have exactly zero context and I have no idea what I’m watching.

Carl meeting Ellie in the abandoned house is all great and all but without any bites in this scene, I have no background on Ellie at all. Who is she? Why does she love adventuring? Why is she missing a front tooth? Lost baby tooth? Street fight? Crystal Meth? I don’t know because SHE DOESN’T HAVE AN INTRO BITE. Man, this is just so sloppy, you guys.  In scene, one can tell that she’s a tomboy risk taker who has a zest for life, but how am I supposed to know that? Just by observing her behavior and listening to her dialogue?! What is this, PBS?!? (Add a damn intro bite from here. Now.)

Ellie shows Carl her Adventure Book and how she wants to fill it with her adventures and she’s wants to live on Paradise Falls — this is a good moment.  What would make a GREAT moment would be a bite from Carl saying how impressed he is by this and he too has a similar goal.  Please comb through your interviews and add some insight from Carl here.

When Ellie tells Carl that South America is “like America… but South!”, let’s throw in a graphic to get this point home.  Our research indicates that our audience won’t know this information.


This is basically just a montage of Carl’s and Ellie’s entire marriage; I wouldn’t really call it a scene.  Since there aren’t any bites in here at all, I have no idea how I’m supposed to feel. Unless we tell the audience how to think and feel at all times, we as storytellers are not doing our jobs!  Is Carl sad that Ellie didn’t get a chance to go to Paradise Falls? How did Carl feel about being a balloon salesman for 40+ years? Let’s dive into our materials and get the best bites in here possible.  We need to set ourselves up for success!

Read it all at Jeez Jon


Peggy Bechko’s World: The Truth about Writing Tips

by Peggy Bechko

COVER - ERUPTIONWriters seem inclined to want to learn. That’s why writers, both newbies and old hands, are always on the lookout for tips to help improve the writing, speed the writing, promote the writing, create compelling characters – pretty much any aspect of writing.

But here’s the problem. There are tons of tips and instruction out there. Some of it is really good, other, not so much. In any event it’s tough to tell which can be chucked and quickly deleted from the brain bank and which is worth keeping. It’s so overwhelming the studious writer can end up simply wasting time…lots and lots of time. And time is where the true value lies for the writer for the amount of time to write for most is limited. Sometimes tucked into neat segments at designated times.

But some things learned are so valuable they’re not to be missed. You’ve learned to fine tune your adjectives. You’ve reduced your adverbs. You’ve brought more emotion to your writing.

Right – all that’s good and writers generally have a mental inventory of writing tools and techniques they regularly employ. Problem is a writer can reach maximum saturation with so many tips and teachings flowing through the brain cells that it throws everything off. It can even cause writer’s block (I’ve never experienced this, thank goodness, but I can see where it could happen).

So what’s to be done? Probably less than one would think. The trick is to codify all that learning into sturdy, straight-forward techniques that work for you (and you is certainly a broad audience – each writer sees things differently).

Think about the many hats of creativity. Walt Disney was said to have claimed to wear many different ‘hats’ when he attended creative meetings. There was the dreamer, the critic and the realist. The dreamer creates, the critic picks things apart and the realist pulls it all back together in a powerful way.

When I break my thinking down that way I can see my ‘dreamer’ comes up with the ideas, extrapolates them and creates, infusing characters with life and the story with energy. I give my dreamer full rein in the beginning. Anything goes.

My critic then does a dandy job of picking at all the lose threads, finding things that don’t work and criticizing sentence structure, story ending and everything else. All the while those tips and teachings I’ve picked up over the years are on alert, watching out for floods of adjectives, verbs that just lay there, repetitive words and a whole host of other details.

Until the end when the critic is told to shut up and the realist within takes over to slap on the last polish, pulling it all back together into the comprehensive story it was meant, from the beginning, to be.

So, the moral is, don’t toss out the tips you come across as a writer, but don’t allow them to swamp you in a sea of bits and pieces either. When a new idea on how to create the perfect story comes along let it join the others in your toolbox and see how it improves your writing. If it doesn’t, let it go. There is not right and wrong way to write the story.

And now – an Update!

Our latest comic in the Planet Of The Eggs Series, Eruption, is now available in paperback as well as Kindle editions. The latest newsletter just released as well. Join the fun atwww.facebook.com/PlanetOfTheEggs – tell your friends and click the sign up button to be sure to get your copy of the next newsletter filled with character interviews, freebies, contest notifications and more!

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. This post originally appeared on her sensationally helpful blog. 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

Build Your Career by Building Your Audience

Although not specifically directed at the TV biz, this article is loaded with tips for corporate creatives in all fields:

Dammit, muncher, we're not talking about this kind of audience - are we?
Dammit, muncher, we’re not talking about this kind of audience – are we?

by Sean Blanda

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: A well-known person in your field loses their job with impressive company X. Deep, deep inside you feel a vague sense of guilty satisfaction. They weren’t that talented anyway, you tell yourself. This will clear room for more up-and-coming talent, you say.

But then weeks later when you’ve already mentally moved on, you read that well-known person has landed on their feet, yet again, with a new job at impressive company Y. No schadenfreude for you. So what is that well-known person’s secret? It’s not (always) talent. No, the thing that keeps creative people employed and in full control of their destiny, isn’t some hidden genius. It is the ability to build and serve an audience. Cynically, it’s much harder to quietly let someone go if their 4,000 Twitter followers will hear about it. But practically for those of us whose who operate behind the scenes or aren’t the “face” of our department or company, an audience is the best job insurance possible.

Consider the plight of the person hiring creative talent. Or the person hiring anyone, really. They have a marketing campaign for a client meant to build customers. Or maybe they are responsible for a team that does not have a ton of headcount to work with. While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

While the job market is risky, those doing the hiring are risk averse—VERY risk averse.

The known commodity is always safer. People are more likely to hire their friends or people they’ve worked with before. This, of course, is the genesis for the well-trodden aphorism, “It’s not what you know but it’s who you know.” Well, those job candidates with an audience experience this “known commodity bonus” but at a significant multiplier. Now it’s not the just the hiring manager that knows about the creative with an audience. It’s others in the industry. Other known commodities know about this known commodity.

Consider the super-talented person with no audience. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah is technically skilled and does great work, but her work is often behind the scenes. Sarah’s team knows about her talent and she’s always proud of the end product. To her, that’s usually enough. In a perfect world, it should be. But in a Machiavellian way, this leaves Sarah extremely vulnerable.

Let’s say Sarah’s division folds because her parent company is downsizing. Or suddenly, her expertise in interface design on Android devices isn’t in demand any more. Or worse, she gets a new manager who decides that it’s time for a change. All of these factors are out of Sarah’s control. All of these factors are decoupled from Sarah’s ability to do her job. All have negative impact on Sarah’s career. All of these situations happen every day, and will likely, at least once in our lives, happen to us….

Read it all at 99u

Late-Blooming Creatives – Don’t Despair

Did you know that Leonardo DaVinci once was considered a “loser?”

Sometimes it takes awhile to make things happen. You just need patience. (And a hell of a day job?)

Smile, older writers, painters, et al. Your day can still come!


by Troy DeVolld

20160602_140901Even at 45, well into my career, I have my moments.

Between gigs, I still get pensive and crabby and wonder if every show will be my last, just like I did at 40, 35 and 30.  I wonder, with all the ebbs and flows in the amount of reality television in production, if I will have enough when it’s all over to retire with more than just great stories.  That said, I also have moments of wild, Pollyanna-like optimism when something even begins to look like it might go right.  Those are the ones that keep me going.

Half a lifetime ago, I spent a lot of money on pitch festivals and books and all the things that would make me, I thought, a better writer/producer.  Then reality television came along and my absurd output of spec screenplays and teleplays screeched to a halt as I ran down a new and exciting road that offered less resistance and more opportunity in the then-booming reality television alternative to traditional storytelling.

Ever since Reality TV was first released in 2011, I’ve tried to remain as transparent with all of you as I can, not only about the way the business works, but about who I am and the lifestyle I lead.  My professional advice isn’t a lot of rainbows and Shineola, because my primary source of income isn’t derived from leading you down a you-can-do-it path in exchange for speaking or consulting fees — and you deserve the truth.

I am gratified beyond belief by the dozens of emails I’ve received from people who made it into the business after seeing me lecture, reading my book, or taking some of my advice to heart after just bumping into me. My goal has always been to help people break into the business, not feed the delusion that it’s a breeze to start at the top.

I guess what I want you to know is that I intend to keep it one-hundred with you for as long as I have a blog and a book and the occasional lecture to share.  I’ve learned from my lumps, and if I don’t share those with you, you might not find yourself ready to struggle through the same stuff.  You’ll think something’s wrong and you’re the only person that’s ever been through that moment, and I’d be a pretty awful person for not having shot straight with you that moments like that are totally normal.  Even the big guys usually started from scratch and had to restart a few times after that over the years.

Stay tough, stay creative, keep asking what you want to know… and don’t mistake my transparency about the realities of the business for me being a curmudgeon who’s trying to dissuade you from taking a run at your dreams.  I love this stuff, and I care about your success enough to keep telling you the truth.

Good luck out there.

Troy DeVolld is a Larry Brody buddy and one of the masters of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?