ATX Festival, Black List Partner for TV Writing Program

January 15th, 2016 by

From the Hollywood Reporter:

ATX Television Festival and The Black List are looking to bring a new wave of voices to TV writers’ rooms.

The Austin-set fest and Black List have partnered with USA Network, FX Networks, Sony Pictures Television, Bad Robot Productions and Carlton Cuse Productions on a writing program created to identify TV writers for staffing consideration across the participating networks, studios and production companies.

To be considered for the program, writers are asked to host their original pilots on The Black List’s website through April 15. The Black List will identify five to 10 of the strongest drama and comedy offerings and share them with the participants above. Finalists will be announced at the annual ATX Festival, set to run June 9-12.

Excellent opportunity for TV writers as those are some top notch production companies.

Show Bible: Constructing a Show’s “Gospel” in Two Pages

January 12th, 2016 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek, screenwriter (Cocoon), teacher, and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

Building out the outline for a TV series means thinking in a few different dimensions. There is the pilot script itself as a stand alone – an enticing teaser, engaging main character, grounding in a story-generating workplace or family setting. And the long terms issues – how will people evolve over time, where will those story arcs go. The practical issues of “Which channel? Which network could want this show?” too.

Writing a two pages summary, a statement of purpose about the characters, the mindset of the show, the personal relationship that you, the writer, have to the show may be the most important thing you can do?

Bottle your inspiration, the fire, the magic which you are bringing to whatever is you see this show as being and plant it in words in a 500-750 word document. You can use it to pitch verbally, for queries, as a leave behind in meetings – AND just as a source of inspiration, a road map to keep you fired up and grounded as you write your draft. You may want to add examples of episode stories, even concrete details of a whole season or more to this document.

But, mainly, expressing the mindset of your show, its characters, their relationship to their own world of story , AND your relationship to all of it will create a compelling, useful document for you, the writer, and out in the world of producers, TV execs, managers, etc..

We’ll be looking at strong examples of these Show Bibles and much more in my upcoming Pages TV: Writing the Original TV Pilot Workshop — starting this Monday, January 18. Consider joining the class.

For more information on the pilot workshop, go here.

Writing a TV pilot? Check this out!

November 18th, 2015 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek, my colleague, friend, and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

Dear Fellow Writers:

My wife convinced me to take a 3 day watercolor-drawing class in October. Guess what? In addition to being a fun experience, there was an unexpected result. Understanding some fundamentals of watercolor technique has made me a better photographer. (Take a look at the photo of ducks below. I never would have seen the reflections of trees on top that way if not for the art class!)

Benedek Ducks

To my mind, this is just another reason to take my one week TV class. Or to learn something new not related to your script work. It may enhance your screenwriting craft in expected way. .

Back to the TV class. I will be running it 9 days — a bit longer — to allow for Thanksgiving time issues.

TV matters more and more for screenwritiers. Managers are signing writers after reading their 30 or 60 page spec pilot scripts. Of course, those 30 or 60 pages have to be great – well-structured with strong characters.

This Monday, November 23, I will start teaching this 9 day class to immerse you in the process of crafting a pilot script.

In the class, Four Major Executive Producer/Writers-Showrunners share fascinating insights into the medium and their creative processes:

Ed Bernero – Criminal Minds
Blake Masters – Brotherhood, Two Guns, 
Josh Brand – The Americans, Northern Exposure, St. Elsewhere
The Late Henry Bromell – Homeland, Northern Exposure

ALL your questions about the TV writing business answered

The 9 day class includes:

  • 4 Posted Lectures
  • 2 Workbook Assignments to jump-start your original pilot script — you will get solid feedback on your TV project
  • 4 Invaluable Video Interview Sessions
  • 24/7 Discussion Forums
  • 24/7 Availability of All Lectures, Interviews, Class Materials

TV: WRITING THE ORIGINAL ONE-HOUR SERIES SCRIPT

ENROLL NOW

Here is what writers have said about this class:

“The amazing video interviews with prominent tv showrunners, writers and agents, provide a fount of hard-earned advice and insights that have proven to be insanely invaluable when applied to real-world script and show issues.

“Tom’s character oriented approach to writing a pilot, reinforced by strong lectures and exercises is a clear and solid foundation for tv writers of all skill levels.”

“Tom is always there to provide a guiding hand or a pertinent question.” 


Please consider joining me for this stimulating and fun class!

Best,

Tom Benedek

Tom is a great writer and teacher, and I’ve heard nothing but raves about this class. So if you’re writing a TV pilot, definitely check it out here.

Master Class with Meredith Stiehm and Pam Veasey

July 31st, 2015 by

[So as not to bury the lede… FREE TICKET INFORMATION BELOW!!!]

Hey, SoCal writers, the good folks at the Writers Guild Foundation have a terrific event coming up on Tuesday, August 11:

Meredith Stiehm is the screenwriter to thank for some of the most compelling and complex female lead characters in dramatic TV. As the creator of THE BRIDGE and COLD CASE, she deftly humanizes the chilling course of a homicide investigation through her strong, steadfast yet seriously damaged lead detectives. Stiehm’s knack for wielding compassion into tough-as-nails characters comes in handy when writing HOMELAND’s Carrie Mathison, who will continue to receive Stiehm’s magic touch for the Showtime series’ upcoming fifth season.

In this exciting Master Class, moderator Pam Veasey (CSI: CYBER, CSI: NY, IN LIVING COLOR) is on hand to guide Stiehm through her impressive career, which also includes writing and producing roles on ER, NYPD BLUE and BEVERLY HILLS 90210, and her distinctive writing style.

PLUS we’ll also have an EXCLUSIVE Green Room Experience, beginning at 6:30pm, where green room ticket holders can meet and chat with Meredith and Pam for an hour before the event. Green Room Experience ticket holders will also get a front row seat at the event. Only six of these Green Room Experience tickets are available.

Doors open at 7pm. Event starts at 7:30pm.

All events advertised on our “Events” page are open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket – not just WGA members!

Proceeds benefit the Foundation’s library and archive and other outreach programs.

You can purchase tickets here. But in an exclusive arrangement with Go Into The Story, I have 10 free tickets to give away to some lucky writers.

How to win? Easy. Head to comments and simply name your favorite series for which Meredith has written episodes: Northern Exposure, Beverly Hills, 90210, NYPD Blue, The District, ER, Cold Case, Memphis Beat, The Bridge, or Homeland.

Tickets go to the first 10 people to post a comment including their favorite one of the TV series listed above!

When: Tue, August 11, 2015
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Where: WGF / WGA Headquarters – Del Reisman Multi-Purpose Room
7000 W 3rd Street – Los Angeles

Thanks to the Writers Guild Foundation for all the good work they do including their ongoing educational outreach.

Showrunner Rules from Jeffrey Lieber: Numbers 261-270

July 16th, 2015 by

Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.

Today: 261-270:

Showrunner Rule #261: Write for the episode you dream of. Rewrite for the budget and circumstances you’re faced with.

Showrunner Rule #262: When they hand out ear plugs, things are about to go BOOM. #WeJustHandedOutEarPlugs

Showrunner Rule #263: When forced to cut for time, look at action scenes. Few secs won’t be missed & shorter cuts makes for > energy anyway.

Showrunner Rule #264: On net shows “hiatus” is a misnomer. W/ super short turn around & decisions that MUST be made, its more a ‘half-atus”.

Showrunner Rule #265: The sight of “second lunch” is like a oasis in the desert… and a sign you’re miles from the promise land.

Showrunner Rule #266: Lots of depts promoting your show, some of which may not know what’s up in writers room. Watch/read EVERYTHING.

Showrunner Rule #267: Be there for last catered meal of season. They serve the best food… so you’ll remember & rehire for next year. :)

Showrunner Rule #268: Be loving to rare executive who forgives when you speak out loud that voice that should stay locked in your head.

Showrunner Rule #269: At end of episode pitch, you should be able to easily identify 3 scenes that will comprise the “trailer”.

Showrunner Rule #270: Goal is to deliver the show at budget # – one cent. Over is bad. Under is bad. Don’t use, you lose it going forward.

Here is Jeff’s bio:

One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffLieber).

For all of the Showrunner Rules, go here.

Showrunner Rules from Jeffrey Lieber: Numbers 251-260

July 15th, 2015 by

Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.

Today: 251-260:

Showrunner Rule #251: By end of season, when everyone’s exhausted… split scripts. 26 pages ‘steada 52 is sweet manna from Heaven. #Amen

Showrunner Rule #252: From temp ADR recorded in editing to one sentence email about new character, never forget: YOU’RE ALWAYS SELLING.

Showrunner Rule #253: Act outs & story lines: you control. Normal human frailty that WILL disturb set: out of your hands & sometimes fatal.

Showrunner Rule #254: Space between WHAT & WHY is the “maddening divide”. Ratings go down, because TOO MUCH experimentation or NOT ENOUGH?

Showrunner Rule #255: Trait of great writer… ability to set written script aside & re-imagine story. Pages ARE THERE, so… no panic.

Showrunner Rule #256: Insist on a NO HEROES policy. Hiding frailties so as not to upset me is 10,000% worse then not getting the job done.

Showrunner Rule #257: If you kill 3 people & have hubris to do interviews about them, know exactly how a lapel microphone works.

Showrunner Rule #258: (Failed) When on set, learn difference in shade between hotel MOUTHWASH & SHAMPOO… else you will have the yuck.

Showrunner Rule #258A: For the record, at my hotel, the mouthwash is greener (in a pickle relish way) and translucent.

Showrunner Rule #259: (also failed) When on set after LONG absence, remind yourself: if U C camera lens & they’ve called action, thats BAD.

Showrunner Rule #260: Filming is glamorous, as proven by sitting in an under-house video village, occupied suspicious rodents & random toilets.

Showrunner Rule #260 (Addendum): Filming is STILL glamorous, as proven by TODAY’s swanky location. #WeFoundItThisWay

Here is Jeff’s bio:

One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffLieber).

For all of the Showrunner Rules, go here.

Showrunner Rules from Jeffrey Lieber: Numbers 241-250

July 14th, 2015 by

Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.

Today: 241-250.

Showrunner Rule #241: When shooting outside LA, pick cool locations, ’cause given the amount of work, its ONLY way to see your host city.

Showrunner Rule #242: Never think, “Today’s an easy day.” NEVER! If you do… 100% of the time, the TV piraña will jump up & bite your ass.

Showrunner Rule #243: The heartbeat of a script should be obvious by page 5. If it isn’t clear (and subtle is fine) go back and rebreak.

Showrunner Rule #244; Remind regs that while this may be their 80th time doing “this scene,” it is guest casts first. No fucking around.

Showrunner Rule #245 (1of2): TV is truly a “forest through the trees medium”. The little stuff you obsess upon (& should obsess upon)…

Showrunner Rule #245 (2of2): …is so much < important than PRIMAL CHOICES. What’s your drive, who’s your character. Headlines always win.

Showrunner Rule #246: Keep writer close during edit. She/He was on set… knows dailies… will be able to find that “all is not lost” take.

Showrunner Rule #247 (1of 2): Unavoidable tension between writers & episodic director. Former knows show’s intentions and deep history…

Showrunner Rule #247 (2 of 2): …latter wants freedom to do what. Difficult balancing act to make collaboration work for both parties & show.

Showrunner Rule #248: Think of script as “what you’d take in a fire.” Write down what’s ESSENTIAL, everything else will just weigh you down.

Showrunner Rule 249: Let the moon be your inspiration, ’cause you can get pages out at 11PM or 4AM, but 9-6 – the day – never gonna happen.

Showrunner Rule #250: Sometimes key to finding scene is mining early takes… before director started directing & actor abandoned instincts.

Here is Jeff’s bio:

One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffLieber).

For all of the Showrunner Rules, go here.

Showrunner Rules from Jeffrey Lieber: Numbers 231-240

March 3rd, 2015 by

Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.

Today: Numbers 231-240:

Showrunner Rule #231: Episode success more bout 1/2hour retention then overall #. Series must get aud to show, writer/director gotta keep’s.

Showrunner Rule 232: In network environ, hafta think bout season 2 DURING season 1. That or resign yourself to hiatus that’s 38 hours long.

Showrunner Rule #233: Every meeting to discuss promotion robs time from writing show to promote. But no promo, no show-mo. So go, yo?

Showrunner Rule #234: When you have 3 clues to get you to the same plot move, cut 2. TV is the most efficient art form since the haiku.

Showrunner Rule #235: Never forget that nothing really matters until the close up. Scenes that SUX in the wide, can sing in coverage.

Showrunner Rule #236: A staff is essentially a tribe. Choose well and survive the barren winter. Choose badly and starve before the thaw.

Showrunner Rule #237 (1of2) Page 42 is darkest moment in drama script. You’re miles away from “layup” cold open scenes and…

Showrunner Rule #237 (2of2) …plot which you and room never REALLY figured out, has just come home roost. #LuvTheGuyOnPage42

Showrunner Rule #238: Best feeling in the wide world, filling that plot hole on page 42 with something you discover on page 51. #TheGuyOnPage51

Showrunner Rule #239: Lead character is defined by X, which is why she does A, B, and C differently than any other character on television.

Showrunner Rule #239 Addendum: Please return to rule #226 as all iconic television is defined by that rule and that rule alone.

Showrunner Rule #240 (1of2): Demand staff ASK FOR HELP. Nothing worse than “me do” writer who insists on writing every word…

Showrunner Rule #240 (2of2): …then turns in shatty draft a day late. Job as producer is to PRODUCE & that may mean assists from others.

Here is Jeff’s bio:

One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffLieber).

For all of the Showrunner Rules, go here.

Showrunner Rules from Jeffrey Lieber: Numbers 221-230

March 2nd, 2015 by

Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.

Today: Numbers 221-230:

Showrunner Rule #220: When on location, before going to sleep, figure out how shower works. Not something you leave for Monday at 5:15AM.

Showrunner Rule #221: 111 comes before 112 comes before 113, which is how you MUST set priority list. Always. and forever: Feed. The. Beast.

Showrunner Rule #222: Empower covering writer to CALL WHEN THERE’S AN ISSUE. Episodes ARE saved with, “So, we may have a problem here.”

Showrunner Rule #223: Single scene locations are production killers. Costs $ and you spend as much time loading in & out as shooting art.

Showrunner Rule #224: Moment your character lets audience know of a decision, arc is over. LOTTA ways to organically keep choice in flux.

Showrunner Rule #225: Feast on mythos like Yogi Bear with a pic-a-nic basket. Mythos keeps the loyal viewer from “I’ll just watch later.”

Showrunner Rule #226: Gotta write scenes for the sets ya built. Only have 2 walls? Limit movement & know you can’t have an angry face off.

Showrunner Rule #227: Cutting dialogue won’t solve board issues. Cutting COVERAGE will. Same scene with 1 less character will save an hour.

Showrunner Rule #228: Giving character NAME in script means better actor. After all, which would YOU rather be… Angry Janitor or Gerard?

Showrunner Rule #229 (1of2): Shows live in 3 concurrent timelines. What’s on the air… what’s being shot… what’s being broken…

Showrunner Rule #229 (1of2): …trick is to be making the same show in all three, even though rules may have changed as lesson are learned.

Showrunner Rule #230: Worst time to cast significant guest role? Pilot season (Feb-Mar), when every actor you want, wants their own show.

Here is Jeff’s bio:

One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter (@JeffLieber).

For all of the Showrunner Rules, go here.

ATX Television Festival Pitch Competition

January 9th, 2015 by

I rarely, if ever, promote writing competitions. However this one has come to my attention with a strong recommendation from Kyle Killen, screenwriter and TV writer (Awake, Lone Star, Mind Games) who I have interviewed and met in Austin. The event is the ATX Television Festival Pitch Competition. Here is what Kyle, who is one of the judges, has to say about it:

“In my experience, every human being who’s ever watched television has a brilliant idea for a show. The pitch competition provides an utterly unique opportunity. Not only do you get to battle test that idea, the winner gets the opportunity to present it directly to the people who actually turn ideas into television. If there’s another competition that puts you in that position or offers a learning experience half as valuable, I haven’t heard of it.”

Here is a fun compilation of some of the finalists from the 2012 competition:

Deadline for entries: January 16, 2015.

For more information, go here.