It’s an unwritten rule of showbiz that every successful film and TV series must be sued – usually multiple times – by writers claiming that they’re the true creators of the project. This week, NEW GIRL proudly joins that high and mighty but not really so elite class:
by The Deadline Team
In Hollywood’s latest “you stole my idea” case, a pair of screenwriters have filed a lawsuit claiming the Zooey Deschanel sitcom was based on their work. Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold claim that Fox’s New Girl and their 2006 pilot Square Onecontain similarities “so numerous and specific that independent creation was obviously impossible.” They name as defendants New Girl exec producerPeter Chernin, creator Elizabeth Meriwether, director Jake Kasdan, WME and Fox parent company 21st Century Fox.
Weighing in at 90-plus pages, the suit filed Thursday in California’s Central District (read it here) claims a laundry list of “similarities between the shows’ themes, structure, setting, overall story and plot arcs, specific plot devices, interpersonal twists, dialogue, sequence of events, tenor, specific scenes and elements of scenes, character identities, character personalities, character relationships, character interaction, character development, character idiosyncrasies, and character names require the conclusion that defendant Meriwether not only knew of Square One, but copied Square One to create New Girl.”
Now here’s something we can get behind. #MURDER PROJECT isn’t just another interweb detective series, it’s one that breaks the rules. You can watch it “interactively,” choosing different outcomes, or you can sit back and let the creators do all the work.
COUCH POTATO VERSION
The way we see it, innovative = good, plain and simple. But #MURDER PROJECT is even better cuz even stripped of its edginess it’s still #$@!ing good.
For me, things are looking good. I’m healthy, fit, and ready for action. All systems are go.
For television, things are going well also. BREAKING BAD may be off the air first-run, but the ever-changing – and so far improving – TV biz paradigm assures that you and I and our children and our children’s children will be able to watch it again, or for the first time, or just plain over and over. And that, as some guy who never wrote TV but probably would’ve wanted to, “is a consumation devoutly to be wished.” It’s also something that never would have been done back in the BIW – Before the Interwebs – era.
TVWriter™ is also doing well, thank you for asking. Our daily/weekly/monthly viewership is growing by the proverbial leaps and bounds. Just ask our hosting company, which keeps sending us “Over Bandwidth” and “Time to Upgrade Your Server” notices. More people than ever before are coming to the site for all the news, info, and writing tips, you just can’t get anywhere else.
Well, okay, some of them, maybe. But not the way we present ’em, you know? (Yeah, I’m talking about you, munchman. Attitude is everything in showbiz. Just ask Justin Bieber.)
No, wait! Don’t ask Justin Bieber. Come to TVWriter™ and ask us whatever you need to know about getting started – and staying ahead – in the realm of TV and film writing. Your dreams are our dreams, and we’ll do all we can to help you make them come true.
This is going to be your year.
PEOPLE’S PILOT & SPEC SCRIPTACULAR CONTESTS UPDATE
As of January 1, 2014, the 23rd People’s Pilot Competition has been up and running at the usualstand.
Until March 1st, it’s Early Bird Entry time, meaning that we’ve slashed the price by 30%, down to $35. We think this is a great bargain. Especially since you don’t have to actually submit your entry(s) until May 31st, giving you loads of time to perfect it (them).
Past Winners, Finalists, or Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™’s two contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, NTSF:SD:SUV, ANIMAL PRACTICE, ROME, NBC’s new CHICAGO PD, ABC’s new KILLER WOMEN, and HBO’s new THE LEFTOVERS.
This year, the People’s Pilot is giving over $5000 worth of prizes, plus free Feedback for each entry. Some of the other specifics of the contest have changed, however. The best way to learn what they are is to click on over to our People’s Pilot page HERE.
And while we’re at it, here’s the closest thing to a cheat sheet we can offer. The prize-winning scripts, posted for your edification, HERE
What’s that? You want to enter the Spec Scriptacular? That can be arranged, but not just yet. We’re staggering the contests, which means that the Spec Scriptacular will open July 1st. Get the details HERE.
Or just go to TVWriter™ and scroll down the right hand index to the contest of your choice.
TV WRITER UNIVERSITY UPDATE
The next TVWriter™ Advanced Online Workshop starts Wednesday, February 12, 2014 and considering how quickly it fills up, there’s no better time to sign up than right now.
This is the workshop for writers who already know the basics and have a specific project to workshop with LB. The Advanced Workshop is limited to 5 students, so if you’re interested in getting in on the fun, you really should have a look-see at the Advanced Workshop info and sign-up form
Larry Brody’s next Master Class will begin Thursday, February 8, 2014.
The Master Class is the online workshop for professional level writers who want to spend an intense month perfecting your current work. That means you have a draft of 60 pages ready to be read and tweaked. Or revised, or, who knows, maybe thrown away, but we don’t want to scare ya. Let LB himself analyze your story, plot, and characterization just as he would if he were producing your masterpiece.
Or find out more about everything TVWriter University is currently offering HERE.
TELEPLAY TIPS & TRICKS #17
Television & Story
The key to writing for television is to remember that it is primarily a storytelling medium. All other considerations are secondary.
No one in TV is crazy enough to say that character and dialog don’t matter, but the truth is they don’t matter AS MUCH as story. Writing teachers can say all they want about character-driven screenplays and teleplays, but for all practical purposes all television scripts are story-driven. Characters are created to service the story, not vice versa.
The primary purpose of a television episode is to keep the viewer tuned in for the next commercial, or in the case of HBO and Showtime, to make the viewer want to cough up next month’s fee, so swift pacing, designed to capture and keep the viewer’s attention, is essential.
The TV writer’s job is to pack as much story as possible into the hour drama or action show. In 55 pages and 46 minutes the average television episode will have 25-30 scenes. That means that scenes have to be short and punchy. Most series, in fact, simply won’t allow any scene to run longer than 2 ½ pages.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you can write those short, moody, “beach-walking” or “staring at the sunset” scenes that feature films do so well. Those are character moments, not story scenes. Besides, television’s limited budget means there’s no time or money for lots of quick moments. It’s go! go! go! Build a scene and move on, build another and move on again.
This may sound stifling, but look at it this way – THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY have endured just about forever because of their action-packed stories. And we love and relate to Odysseus BECAUSE of how he rises to the challenges the stories provide. With a little work maybe your next television script can also live forever.
That’s it for now. Our work here is done. (Now it’s up to you.)
Larry Brody – Head Dood
munchman – Keeper of the Faith
Various Volunteers – Mucho Appreciated Scapegoats
Gwen Brody – Beautiful Dreamer
Be sure to check out TVWriter™ for all the latest news, products, and a wealth of info on screen and TV writing!
So said Spider-Man’s kindly and wise Uncle Ben (as played by the legendary Cliff Robertson) to the young web-slinger (Tobey McGuire) in the first major live-action Spidey feature film (2002).
The same could be said for the writer’s touch on television.
Arguably the most influential creation of the last century (or possibly ever), television – at least from my POV – has always been an untapped resource for education – beyond PBS.
There is so much potential for TV to do good…to be a “do-gooder” itself…just like Spidey, or Wonder Woman, or any particular hero, super or otherwise, that has found its own home, in one form or another, on the small screen.
It shouldn’t be the medium’s direct responsibility to create positive influence for the home viewer or society in general. But if in the process of creating and displaying multi-layered stories with textured characters, with a television series, movie or special, would it be such a bad thing if the audience not only cheered in appreciation for being entertained, but walked away with a potentially wiser and kinder perspective and disposition?
Either way, the answer rests with good writing.
If a writer creates an “evil” character (an antagonist), the reason for its “evil being-ness” must be properly fleshed out and explained to be fully-appreciated and understood by the audience.
If a writer defines a character as evil by merely having that character utilize vulgar language, without any explanation, then a great disservice is presented to the watcher.
Any character, even the “good” ones (the protagonists) should be shaped and formed fully enough to use a cuss word once in a while, as any off-screen human being should be allowed to do so in real life.
If TV shows and films are a slice a life, and I believe that they are; then for them to be fully-embraced, otherwise ultimately known as a “a success,” the writer must realize that with his or her “great power comes great responsibility.”
The Writers Guild of America West scores with this irreverent (you’ll see what we mean) interview with EPISODES creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik:
The Road to Sitcom Hell
by Denis Faye
Episodes’ David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik riff on why they’re still scripting the Hollywood-skewering comedy all by themselves and why they’ll never, ever, go back to writing for network.
If you talk to veteran TV writers David Crane (Friends, Veronica’s Closet) and Jeffrey Klarik (The Class, Half & Half) expecting conversation as satirical and sharp as their Hollywood-lampooning series Episodes, then that’s what you’ll get – eventually. First you’ll need to chat with them about découpage.
Episodes, which received a 2012 Writers Guild Award nomination and returns for its third season on January 12, is the story of a successful British writing team who bring their wares to American network television, only to be swept up into a tangle of note-obsessed suits, institutionalized infidelity, and capricious actors – in other words, standard Hollywood culture. Former Friends star Matt LeBlanc gamely plays as an over-the-top, self-serving version of himself who take the couple down a tortuous and hilarious road to sitcom and relationship hell.
The show is a joint venture between the BBC and Showtime with only a handful of 30-minute episodes per season, giving Crane and Klarik plenty of time to write the entire series themselves. They’re deeply involved with every other aspect of the show, from wardrobe to set design, so they’re plenty busy, but they’re still afforded a luxury few American TV writers possess: the space and time to let their creative process flow.
And today, their creative process requires discussing découpage – the art of decorating an object with cut-up paper – whether the journalist from the Writers Guild of America, West Web site wants to or not. So here we go.
David Crane: So what is this interview about, exactly?
That’s a different Web site. I write for that one too, but they don’t pay as well. David Crane: No, no, not that kind of craft!
Jeffrey Klarik: Do you really?
No, I don’t.
Jeffrey Klarik: I was going to say, you should come see mydécoupage then.
I’m going to segue into my first question here…
David Crane: Somebody’s in a hurry.
No, but that brings up a good point. A lot of times when I talk to showrunner they’re in a mad rush because they’re scrambling to write stuff – but you guys are done; you’ve written your whole season.
Jeffrey Klarik: Actually, we’re not done because as soon as we finish we’ve got to start all over again.
David Crane: We’ve already started planning and mapping season four.
Jeffrey Klarik: We don’t have any other writers; it’s just the two of us and so there’s no room, which is wonderful in some regards, but on the other hand, if we don’t write today nothing gets written.
David Crane: Which is why we prefer to talk to you as long as possible.