Michael Arndt’s Screenwriting Breakthrough


(Opening scene of the Little Miss Sunshine script (PDF dated 10.9.03) written by Michael Arndt.)

by Scott W. Smith

“I didn’t really expect that the script [Little Miss Sunshine] was going anywhere. I mean, I was hoping to get an agent out of it but I didn’t bother to register it just because I didn’t think anyone was going to see it. And then I had a friend of mine who was represented by the Endeavor Agency [nowWME] and that was sort of my one hope. She read it and liked it and said, ‘Can I give this to my agent?’ so I said, ‘Yes, please do.’ And like six weeks went by and I thought no one had read it and it had falling through the cracks. And I was really unhappy because I’d spent a whole year writing it and I thought I’d have to go back and get a day job again. It was a Saturday afternoon and I got a message on my machine saying, ‘We read your script, we really liked it.’ And I called them on Monday morning and basically they said, ‘We think we can do something with this.’ And I still have those agents today. They basically saved my life. I said it at the Writer’s Guild Awards, the thing that’s standing between me being up here and me being in my basement was this agent who read my script.”
Screenwriter Michael Arndt  (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody Books (at the 33:31 mark of the FORA.tv video)

This single post/Arndt excerpt—sums up everything I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past five years. Here’s a sweeping overview of Michael Arndt’s career path:

—Graduated from NYU Film School
—Read 1,000 scripts as a script reader of which only “three or four” were turned into good films
—Wrote 10 scripts before breakthrough where he sold one
—Wrote first draft of Little Miss Sunshine in three days, but took a year—full time— to do rewrites
—Was fired off Little Miss Sunshine project—then rehired a few weeks later
—Won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine
—Wrote Toy Story 3, Hunger Games: Chasing Fire, and most recently hired to write Star Wars Episode VII

EDITED TO ADD: Scott’s Screenwriting from Iowa Blog is a must-read. You can find out more about it here and here.

For DOCTOR WHO Fanatics

…Which, FTR, we at TVWriter™ are. (In case you couldn’t tell.)

The Two Doctors

Found on DOCTOR WHO’s Twitter feed, of course.

We were going to make some dumb comment about this being an instance of one thing truly being in two places at the same time, but instead we have to make the dumb observation that they’re actually in the same one place, you know?

HBO Admits It: Game of Thrones Downloading “Doesn’t Hurt Sales”

The season premiere of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES set all kinds of records this week with well over a million, um, “unauthorized downloads” in less than 24 hours. That fact, coupled with TVWriter™’s longtime concern about the “battle” between creators’ rights and the rights of the audience, makes the following a very important bit of knowledge indeed:


by Andy

Last month the director of Game of Thrones admitted something that his paymasters had HBO might have avoided. Huge online piracy doesn’t hurt the show, he said, and in fact might create benefits by generating cultural buzz. Well check the date if you like folks but the following is absolutely genuine. HBO programming president Michael Lombardo has just announced that not only is the huge piracy a compliment, but the phenomenon hasn’t hurt DVD sales at all.

With a head-spinning 4.3 million downloads per episode, Game of Thrones became the most-pirated TV show on the Internet last year.

These figures understandably caused much debate, but left show director David Petrarca quite unruffled. During a panel discussion at the University of Western Australia the 47-year-old said that shows like Game of Thrones thrive on “cultural buzz” and benefit from the social commentary they generate. Piracy, he said, helps to oil those wheels.

But Petrarca wasn’t the only show associate with the impression that piracy might have its benefits. Just a couple of weeks later and the show’s actors were weighing in, with Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, describing it as a plus.

“I don’t think HBO will be too happy, but yes, one way or another that’s a huge compliment. Not just to me but to the show as a whole,” she said.

With Season 3 of the smash-hit series getting underway last night, HBO have also commented on the piracy situation but in a quite unexpected way. Rather than come out guns blazing they actually agree with Leslie – piracy is indeed a form of flattery.

“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo told EW. “[Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”

Read it all (because if we post the whole thing here some people might mistake that for “piracy.”)

The Doctor Puppet is Back – And He’s Totally Animated


Everybody out in InterWebs Land knows how much TVWriter™ loves the Doctor Puppet. He’s cute, he’s clever, he makes us go, “Awww.”

In other words, he’s out there showing the very best that Intellectual Property piracy can bring us. being the best DOCTOR WHO homage on the planet. A source of inspiration for millions.

And now – he’s gone beyond one-panel images and straight to interweb animated series. A zillion frames per second better, believe you, um, us.

So don’t delay another minute, gang, subscribe to The Doctor Puppet on the Nerdist Channel. Or, even better as far as acknowledging the wonderfulness of Alisa Stern, his creator is concerned (and we’re really into the importance of creators here), get your next Doctor Puppet Animation Series fix by subscribing to him on YouTube.

And now, the first three episodes. Get your lips ready for the Big Awww:

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie, Chapter 7 – Four Bad Things


by Leesa Dean

This has been a crazy week.  A lot of ups and downs. Did four really awesome podcasts and radio shows (thank you Surfing AliensGeek Supremacy ProjectWide Open Radio After Dark and Comedy Girls!!)  Also have some potentially really exciting news that I’ll share sometime soon.  But one thing in particular stood out.  I was contacted by a large online network.  They said they loved my work and wanted me to drop what I was doing to animate (and help develop)  a series for one of their top stars.  Sounds exciting?  Not really.  What they offered in terms of compensation was, let’s just say this–I’d make more money being a Walmart greeter.  With that in mind, this week I decided to put together this list:


1) You will hear from psychos. Case Study: The Satan Lady. I posted the latest Lele Episode, Pimp Logic, on Google +. A woman who apparently didn’t realize I was mocking pimp logic commented and called me “Satan!” But she misspelled it and wrote, “Go way, SATIN!!!” I considered responding, “Satan, Satin, Satan, Satin, let’s call the whole thing off” then realized hmmm, maybe she thought I *was* a pimp and “Satin” was my pimp name. #ThingsI’llNeverKnow.

2) You will have people enter (what I call) “The Vortex”, a metaphorical tunnel where everyone’s there to do just one simple thing: NOT RETURN YOUR CALLS. Sometimes it has to do with them being bombarded with a ton of stuff and you’re low on the food chain. Sometimes it’s cause they have bad time management skills. And sometimes it’s because they think your project sucks, you suck or a zesty melange of both!  FYI, you’ll ALWAYS think it’s the latter. Which brings me to:

3) You will start seeing the upside of being an alcoholic. Note: this applies even if you don’t drink.

And finally,

4) You will go through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, Web Series style:
• Denial (“All I have to do is put my show up on YouTube and it’ll instantly go viral!”)
• Anger (“When they said, ‘Just a dollar and a dream!’ I didn’t realize they were referring to what my actual compensation would be.”)
• Bargaining (“Yes, I will appear on your 30 minute podcast, Xylophones & Madrigals, and agree to a 45 minute phone ‘pre-interview’ where you grill me about what I’m gonna say on the show just so I can promote my hip-hop oriented web series to an audience of one: the host of Xylophones & Madrigals.”)
• Depression (“I was just on Xylophones & Madrigals.”)
• Acceptance (“Hi, I’m writing to book my second appearance on Xyophones & Madrigals.”)

Next week: more about Rollo and tales from the YouTube workshop!