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?

Here’s What Happens When Your Dream Filmmaking Job Ends Up Being a Nightmare

Know that writing/producing gig you’ve been dreaming about since you were kid? That perfect job you still may be dreaming about? Some people really get them. Only to discover they’ve made a deal with the devil in the process:

by Scott Beggs

Max La Bella has the same story that most aspiring filmmakers have. He grew up loving movies and building worlds out of LEGOs before realizing that he could be the one to make cinematic universes for others to play in, eventually cruising off to film school to chase his dream job.

“I was obsessed with anything that let me leave my own world,” he recently told Indiewire. La Bella speaks with the triple espresso shot enthusiasm that belies a dash of nervous energy when confronting the topic at hand. That topic, put bluntly, is the failure of success.

During film school, La Bella got a zombie TV show pilot into the hands of indie director Steven C. Miller (“Silent Night,” “Extraction”), who put him in contact with James Wan, just as the new horror icon was a few years from transitioning firmly from “Saw” to “Insidious” in the late 2000s. Wan liked La Bella’s work, and La Bella dropped his entire life in Orlando to move to Los Angeles with $2,500. “I threw away everything I owned. In retrospect, it was the dumbest idea ever. The money was half gone by the time I got there, obviously,” La Bella said.

This is still the same story that belongs to several aspiring filmmakers. The fortunate ones, at least. They get someone established to believe in them, they score a mentor and sincerely underestimate the cost of rent in L.A. Most learn that last lesson before they ever call for a U-Haul, but La Bella had a leg up. A working filmmaker who’d built a bloody mint was on his side, and the man who re-popularized creepy puppets soon had an idea that he wanted La Bella to write. It involved a cop, a psychologist and a group of people murdered while trying to summon spirits from beyond.

“So, he sent me the synopsis to ‘Demonic,’” La Bella remembered. “At the time, I was working as a PA on ‘Criss Angel Mindfreak,’ James asked how much I got paid a week, and I told him. He said, ‘I’ll pay you to quit your job if you want to write this movie.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ It’s the best thing that’s ever happened. What he did for me. He gave me such a chance.”

Wan was prepping to show ‘Insidious’ at Toronto, so La Bella cranked out a draft of “Demonic” in two weeks to give them the option to sell it at the festival, and everything got real, really fast.

“I didn’t have reps or a manager, and I was clueless,” La Bella said. “The movie was announced in a Variety article, and my name made the front page, and as soon as my name was on the cover, there were 7 managers that reached out to me the next day.”

It was all happening. The thing that every aspiring writer spends time dreaming about (when they should be writing) was coming true. That’s when everything started falling apart.

More than five years later, “Demonic” hasn’t hit theaters. La Bella recently posted a lengthy blog entry titled “The Downside of Up,” chronicling the aggravating ups and downs of the project — including two false starts, losing a director the day before shooting was supposed to commence, an abandoned release date plan meant to avoid a larger film (that ironically ended up not being released either) and a final kiss of domestic death in the form of a foreign release that got “Demonic” onto pirating sites within hours. It became an extended lesson in the high price of staying excited about what you love to do.

Filmmakers rarely talk about their failures, which is largely why La Bella’s screed is so fascinating. It’s also what makes it such a valuable lesson to those aspiring screenwriters and directors who think of getting an agent as crossing the finish line, the blissful delusion that getting past the gatekeepers is the ultimate goal. It’s important that La Bella shared a common story that isn’t commonly shared — his dream job didn’t morph into a nightmare so much as it got replaced by the day-to-day standard operating procedure of mini- and major studio filmmaking.

The Magic in Creating: Character Creation & Propinquity

Tank Nightclub - Sydney CBD - Sydney - Photo02

by Mie Presence

I woke in the middle of the night to write this. That’s the funny thing about creativity and inspiration – you could be waiting all day for a tiny glimpse of it. And then suddenly, it strikes you mid-dream and you bet your bottom dollar that if you don’t release it in that moment, you will wake in the morning with the taste of regret in your mouth.

I’ve been deep diving into my characters lately and realised I was missing some key elements. My early attempts didn’t see them come to life as their own people. They were “cleaned up” versions, behaving how I think people should behave in certain situations as opposed to how they actually would. At the time I created them, I guess I was trying to “clean myself up”, “sort my life out” and create an “idealised” version of my self and my life. Well, good thing that’s over.

So I’ve spent weeks teasing out their back stories, their wounds, their dreams, even creating vision boards for them. It’s never as simple as setting out a couple of personality traits and running with it. You will find loose ends, holes and things just simply won’t match up. So yes, I quit my job to make cut-outs of my characters and their lives.

After allowing the characters to form and take shape, I swear to you – some days I am living the writers’ dream. These characters are taking Rolling Beyond and writing the episodes for me. It’s your classic #WhatWouldJesusDo….

Read the big finish at Mie Presence’s blog

The CARGO 3120 Newsletter is Here

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. We think this project and its creators have great potential. If you’re an aficionado of s-f action this one, as Stan Lee used to say, is for you, pilgrim.

Oh, and CARGO and its creator-writers Aaron Walker Sr. and Daymond Roman came thisclose to being winners in the People’s Pilot Contest 2013:

You can see a clickable version HERE
You can see a clickable version HERE

Diana Vacc Sees “Outlander” Episode 9 “Je Suis Prest”

by Diana Vaccarelli

04outlander2-master768This recent episode of Outlander titled “Je Suis Prest” follows Jamie (Sam Heughan)training his men to be soldiers and fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie, while Claire (Caitriona Balfe) tries to deal with a dramatic event from her past. (I mean her future. I mean the future but still her past…oh well, if  you’re a fan you know the premise, right?)

To Those Who Haven’t Viewed This Episode: Be warned. This review may contain spoilers.


  • The writing of the episode by Matt B. Roberts brings us both humor and drama. The delves into post traumatic stress with Claire having to deal with her time as a combat Nurse during WW II. The humor comes from bringing back our favorite duo of Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) and Angus (Stephen Walters). How these two are written brings back the old days of Laurel and Hardy. The humor in this episode breaks up the seriousness of preparing for impending war. There is one scene with Jamie and Claire when he comes back from a mission and tells her he was on a commando raid. It made me giggle.
  • Caitriona Balfe gives her all with this performance as we witness Claire deal with PTSD. She gives everything in this episode and you feel as if you are going through it yourself. Sam Heughan delivers perfectly as Jamie. You’d want to go to war for him.


  • There is not one thing I didn’t like about this episode. It made me laugh and tear up all at the same time.

Outlander is amazing! It should be on everyone’s must watch list!

Happy TV Watching!

Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE