Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 3/9/13

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are

  • Roy Lee (BATES MOTEL) & John Middleton (Also BATES MOTEL) have made a first-look deal with Fox 21. (And, since Fox 21 emphasizes cable shows like HOMELAND and SONS OF ANARCHY, can more work for A&E at al be far behind?)
  • Robert Kirkman (THE WALKING DEAD comic creator ) has sold his latest comic as a series to FOX International Channels. (And if you had any doubt about who the real showrunner of WALKING DEAD is they sure as hell should be as good as the previous official showrunners now.)
  • Greg Garcia (creator of RAISING HOPE) has left the series to concentrate on his two CBS pilots. (And, no, the HOPE gig isn’t open, sorry. It goes to Mike Mariano, who’s already an EP of the show.)
  • Sara Gran (author of the Claire DeWitt detective novels) will write the pilot for a TNT drama based on her books. (And, yes, we think that means we all should be publishing our own detective series now because, hell, the networks are buying the damn things. The future of television is…self-publishing? Cool!)

The Doctor Puppet is, um, Out of Town

This just in from our favorite poseable figure:

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Hey everyone! Alisa here. The Doctor Puppet has gotten fed up with this abysmal New York winter and has run off to some warmer country (or planet.) I’ll let you know when he returns!

See it all

Let’s hope the Puppet’s hiatus isn’t nearly as long as the DOCTOR WHO show’s latest vacation.

Hey, FIREFLY Fanatics – Merchandisers are Calling Your Name

Just when you think you’ve seen everything you find out there’s more, MORE, MOREMORE!!!

In other words, we were slacking off at work the other day, just surfing around the Whedonverse, and here’s some of what we saw that we had no idea was out there:

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Mal’s Masculinity, Um, We Mean Gun

 

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Kaylie
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Our Favorite Car Air Refresher Ever!
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The Whedon Lover’s Mug

And don’t forget these 2 special value items:

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These and many more at your local Whedon Store now! (In other words, turns out that tons of websites have ’em. All these good stuffs are yours for the googling!

Know what we wish? We wish that everybody reading this would have this kind of “failed” series. We know that we’d love it, that’s for sure.

Invisible Mikey: Most Evil Job Ever

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by Invisible Mikey

Some of my readers urged me to write about another odd job I held once, but at the time I deferred because it was an unusual experience of real evil, the kind that swims in the dark river of sludge beneath all capitalism. I did it because at the time I wanted more income badly.  However, no one needs money badly enough to do this.  It was the desire for money that seduced me into doing it.  It was the desire to have a clean soul that got me back out.  For eighteen months, I helped make INFOMERCIALS.  (You may scream now.)

When I went to interview, I was still a “human search engine” by profession (seeOddest Jobs Ever Pt 4).  The interview was in a nice condominium which should have been a red flag, but my curiosity often wins in these situations.  The initial job was billed as “office manager”.  There wasn’t an office, and the manager was a nice old lady doing the books.  I had done simple bookkeeping, so I thought I could handle it.  How much commerce could be taking place in an apartment?  I could sense that the old lady and the man who interviewed me didn’t get along, and you would need to in such a close environment.  The man who interviewed me was gregarious, charming, enthusiastic and nicely dressed.  I didn’t see the horns and tail.  They must be removable.  (Eerie music cue goes here.)

Evil Man #1 told me an extraordinary story.  I’m now sure he has used it many times and polished it over the years.  He showed me news clippings about how he had been accosted by young robbers, and how he had talked them out of it by offering them jobs and a way to become legitimately rich.  The articles were vague about exactly what the jobs were because they were fake articles.  The incident never happened.  This was the smoothest liar I had ever met, but at the time I had no idea.  Evil #1 told me he (along with a partner) produced INFOMERCIALS, and told me straight away that they make more profit than any other kind of TV, and he asked if I would be interested in learning how from the ground up, and that the “office manager” job was really more of a personal assistant to the producers.  Would I consider fifty thousand a year to start?  Of course there would be rapid salary increases as I learned the ropes.  I said yes, trying not to give the Gomer Pyle “Goll-eee” inflection to it.  (Now you may imagine the image of a cartoon lollipop with the word SUCKER on it appearing over my head.)

When I came to work the next Monday, I met Evil Man #2, the other producer.  Unlike Evil #1, this man was pensive and nervous, but he smiled nicely and shook my hand with confidence.  Evil #2 excused himself and left, and Evil #1, who was still on the phone, motioned me to him.  He asked the caller to hold, handed me a check for 70 THOUSAND DOLLARS (!) and asked if I would mind going to pick up his new Jaguar from the dealership nearby.  He said “Don’t scratch it”, with an easy smile and went back to his phone call.  I walked to the dealership, gave them the check and drove the car back.  (Goll-eee)

Evil 2 asked if I would like to go with him to the attorney’s office and learn about contracts.  He drove a new Cadillac.  On the way, he explained that in this company Evil 1 was the “go” person and he was the “no” person, and that’s why their partnership worked.  He also complained that the last showmercial, one of the original powdered diets, was slowing down in sales after $12 MILLION DOLLARS profit on a $10k investment.  (gah-aAAh-Leee)

The lawyer was in Beverly Hills in a small private office building.  His office was furnished in chrome and dark wood and looked like a movie set from The Firm.  The lawyer’s suit looked very expensive.  He spread out the pages of the contract and we sat at the long conference table to begin work.  This show was the first one ever produced about a teeth-whitening gel you could use at home, with trays that fit over your teeth.  There were contracts for the inventors of the product, the Dentist who would be endorsing it and the fulfillment company, the ones who would manufacture, package and ship the orders.

Beginning that day, and over the next year I learned how completely you can screw people using ambiguities in a contract.  Each time the lawyer and Evil 2 came up with a new way to phrase something more impenetrably to increase the company’s likely percentage while reducing what had to be paid to the others, the two men would smile with delight.  It’s what they lived for.  All those things you have heard about “fine print” are true, and much worse than you imagine.  It’s a matter of intent.  If the contract writers have no conscience, and their moral position is that whatever profit is gained by any means according to a legally-binding contract is automatically deserved BECAUSE BOTH PARTIES AGREED TO IT, then there’s no limit to how much money can be made.  Thousands of dollars in profit from pennies of investment, plus you use the contract to (in effect) steal another’s work.  This is how the music business typically operates, and it’s what I meant when I used the term “rape me” contracts in previous articles.

Every successful showmercial falls into one of three categories based on the vulnerabilities of consumers: GREEDVANITY or HOUSEWARES.  Infomercials that are truthful can not possibly profit to the degree that ones that lie will.  To maximize profit, promise more, not less.  When you buy, you have entered a contract for purchase.  You are bound by the terms in the fine print.  Money-back guarantees can easily be written in a way to make it hard for a customer to get their money back.  For example, require that the item be returned unopened.  Hardly anyone will do that.  Or you can provide a number the customer must call to get a code for returns.  That number rings an answering machine that will put you on hold (with music) for as many hours as you would like to hold.  No, it isn’t fraud.  You agreed to call and get the code.  We didn’t agree to provide it.  We still get to advertise a money-back guarantee. (neener neener)

I worked on shows about the teeth-whitener, a line of cosmetics, an exercise device, a set of self-help CDs (from Mickey Rooney) and the product that finally made me quit – a male potency enhancer supplement.  My salary had gone up to 75 thousand a year, because people liked me and the evil producers were trading on that.  I was running interference for the bad guys.  I knew none of these products worked, but for a while I bought into the lie, that if you agree to a contract you have no right to object unless it doesn’t fulfill the terms of that contract.  The contract never guarantees a result of any kind.  Customers can’t legally object because the infomercial says one thing and the contract says another.  The only thing with any legal weight is the contract.  Just try going into court and arguing “But on TV they said…”

The male enhancer program featured Chad Everett, who really DID say “I’m not a Dr. but I played one on TV.”  It was half water, with a small amount of a tincture made from (rim shot) WILD OATS.  The rest was alcohol.  The product and the program were aimed at men aged 40-70.  Guess what happens when you give older men alcohol in a situation where they are expecting sex?  They tend to get a bit frisky.  We had no problem getting unpaid testimonials from real customers who were given the product for free.  Viagra works better, but it doesn’t cost four cents a bottle and sell for $49.95.  Of course it came with a money-back guarantee, one requiring the men to sign an affidavit that in essence was a declaration of impotence.  Few bottles came back.

I’ve never made that kind of money since, but I sleep well.

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John Ostrander: The Joy of Writing

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by John Ostrander

I love writing. Most days.

There are days when it’s a job – and it is my job. It’s how I make my living. It’s how I pay my bills. Most days.

Sometimes it’s a grind. It’s not working for some reason. I stare at the blank screen or the empty page and wonder why I ever thought I could do this. Creative constipation. It’s affected every writer I have ever heard of.

Some days, however, it’s a joy. A lot of days.

I most enjoy it when I’m working in my journal. I have a bound book of lined pages and that’s where I go, black ballpoint in hand, to figure out the story or the characters. My thoughts seem to flow into the pen and the ink flows onto the paper carrying my thoughts and they take a form. It’s a physical, sensual thing.

That’s something I teach in my classes. Everyone has ideas but it doesn’t mean anything until they write them down. You incarnate the thoughts and feelings. Putting them into words gives the ideas and feelings a form and then you can do something with them.

If you want to do something with it, you have to write the idea down. You can’t just tell it to someone; that releases the energy. It lets the steam out of the engine. You’ve already told the story so you don’t need to write it down. You have nothing.

It doesn’t matter that what you’ve written is imperfect. It’s always going to be imperfect. I know people who can’t write because it’s never as perfect when they write it down as it was in their head. For them it has to be perfect. For me, that gets in the way. Incarnation is messy. I like that. I like that it takes on a life of its own.

The work in my journal especially is going to be imperfect but that’s all right because I’m the only one who is going to see it. Given my handwriting, even if you did see it, odds are you wouldn’t be able to read it. I myself rarely go back and look at what’s written. It’s the act of writing that’s important. It clarifies what’s in my head and then I can proceed.

I was working in the journal a little earlier on a plot for a series I’m doing. As I wrote, the ending of the arc revealed itself to me. Having a resolution is so important when you’re developing the story; it allows you to focus it and the characters towards that end.

It felt right. That’s how I know it’s going to work. I still have to do all the structural stuff and then I have to hope that the editor likes it as well as I do. Right now, the story has a heartbeat. It’s not fully realized yet but there’s something there.

That’s when it’s a joy. Today, tonight, I love being a writer.