I’ve been on hiatus (not really on purpose, just life and work getting in the way), but sometimes I still collect links for ConStar Clicks and then never post them because I either have too few or no time. Here are some links I’ve accumulated during this sorta hiatus. More Clicks coming soon (for real, there’s already a draft for next week’s!). How Does an Aspiring TV Writer Get Discovered by an Agent?[Splitsider]
Search for a story that is meaningful to you, and excavate the depths of your imagination — what have you dreamed about writing, what do you wish you could watch? It doesn’t have to be a pilot, even. Is there an indie movie idea you’re dying to get out?
Basically, write what you want to write, no matter how wacky or unconventional, because agents will see the potential of it and it could get you work. Definitely something I needed to hear. Lesson of the day: Write it anyway. Two articles on TV Staffing season (which has passed for this year, but is always useful for next spring!)
It’s been awhile hasn’t it? Peeking out of a sort of hiatus (life stuff and new jobs and exhaustion and no new TV…) to share this image I saw today. Made me chuckle but it’s also true. As a TV structure junkie who is trying to write specs, this is both funny and useful because you can see how broad structure is across different genres.
True ConStar Clicks posts are returning in June (if all goes according to plan) but here’s a cool article I’ve been reading (and memorizing) about words TV writers often use in the process of putting an episode together. It seems to be mostly focusing on TV comedy jargon.
Some of my favorites from the piece:
Button – I prefer button to blow.
Hanging a Lantern – I learned this on TV Tropes. If you’ve read my About Me, you know I love me some TV Tropes.
Here are some cool links I’ve come across since we last met up for these Clicks.
Ξ Who doesn’t love Ava DuVernay?Here’s the Selma director at South by Southwest giving a Keynote speech which featured many wonderful pieces of advice. Watch the whole thing but Indiewire conveniently compiled a list of some of the awesome things she said. Among my favorites:
“If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.”
the principal goal must be to serve the story.
the Oscars are, simply, “a room in L.A.” “It’s cool, it’s very cool,” she says of the Academy’s recognition. “But my work’s worth is not based on what happens in, around, for or about that room.”
Ξ I’m obsessed with MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality tests, especially when it comes to guessing TV character types. While there are tons of people who denounce it for not being science, I think it more accurately describes you based on what you are actually like more than say, a horoscope, where you may or may not match to the traits of someone born in your season or whatever. So when I saw this Myers-Briggs TV Personality Test over on Vulture, I was upset I hadn’t actually thought of it! My friend and I spent maybe 2+ hours thinking of questions they could have added (which dissolved into a ‘How Obsessed with TV Are You’ Game Show), but on the surface it’s pretty cool. I got CSMH (Comedy, Serialized, Mainstream, Highbrow), but I think I could have gotten Drama, Serialized, Cult, Highbrow as well, considering what I watch (basically comedies and superhero dramas). Take the test and find out what you are, then let’s debate if that’s actually correct. Ξ I really like this Fiction Diversity essay by Em Liuwho talks about how sitcoms can normalized family dynamics on television. Starting with I Love Lucy to Will & Grace, she discusses how these shows presented different family dynamics than the ones viewers were used to. THe article was written with regard to Selfie, but she shared on Twitter as she felt it was appropriate to the campaign to ensure Fresh Off the Boat gained a second season. Ξ This Vulture article discusses the rampant trend of rebooting old TV seriesrather than coming up with new ones. It talks about how reviving an existing series creates instant buzz on social media, which can provide for higher ratings and interest when the show premieres, as opposed to many new shows that premiere to abysmal numbers. (Unless you’re Empire or Fresh Off the Boat or blackish or How to Get Away with Murder, all of which had pretty decent or juggernaut ratings—wait, could it be that we need more PoC produced series to get those premiere ratings boosts they’re talking about?! Golly gee, let’s try that!) For me, if we’re gonna do this, I like the idea of continuing where the old show left off, just years later, rather than creating it with different actors. I hope there are at least more shows by PoC producers/writers than are reboots next year. ::crosses fingers::
“This is still a business where 90 percent of it is original.” For now, at least.
Ξ Two Boston University alum, Mike DiCenzo and Arthur Meyer, are on the writing staff for the Tonight Show and they spoke to BU Todayabout what it’s like to write for the show. I’m no comedy/stand up writer, but I love The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. As Arthur says,
“It’s a very sincere show, a positive show,” says Meyer. “It’s not steeped in sarcasm. It celebrates more than it takes down.”
These are the things I love about the show. While being a TV writer is hard and challenging and daunting to think about, being a sketch/stand-up comedy writer sounds even more frightening.
The job requires a thick skin: Meyer estimates that while he writes about 25 or 30 jokes a week, only about one actually makes it on the air.
I’ll stick to trying to write narrative stories, thanks. Ξ And finally:
This is the golden age of articles about the golden age of television.
As a media studies major, one of the first things I learned in my television history class was that it started out as being simply televised plays* EDIT: or televised radio shows. TV scripts are called “teleplays” for a reason. A lot of early series are presented as one-act plays for the small screen, lots of anthology shows, where each episode was a different story. The most famous, perhaps, might be The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, both featuring mysterious, science-fiction, and horror/thriller type stories, but others were more explicit in their titles like Playhouse 90 (90 minute teleplays) and the Philco Television Playhouse. Both media are heavily focused on dialogue and character, with plot being often secondary. This article in The Atlantic on the trend of playwrights also writing for television and vice versa doesn’t talk as much about the history of early television plays as much as I would like, but it’s interesting the way things cycle back around. ♦It’s been a minor struggle all of my life that the shows that I like don’t get major award recognition.This article over at the AV Club finally talks about this struggle. I watch “mid-reputable” television. I’m usually not interested in the prestige shows. The Mad Mens or the Homelands or the Boardwalk Empires. I gave Breaking Bad a shot, but I wasn’t as into it as everyone else. Recently, The Wire had a marathon on HBO, and I just didn’t feel like starting it. But the shows listed in this article: Sleepy Hollow (once I catch up and the show redeems itself), Jane the Virgin, Arrow, The Flash, etc (all genre shows you’ll notice) are more my jam. I spent my teens loving Charmed and Angel, Chuck, Pushing Daisies,Dollhouse and I still miss 30 Rock and need to find all the waffles to cope with the last season of Parks and Recreation. None of these shows were ever ratings darlings or big award winners. What do these shows get? They’re so often sidelined, “There’s less of a sense that TV buffs have to watch these shows to stay current,” and when they are nominated, it’s rare for them to get recognized a second time (I’m looking at you, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
“Astute TV watchers may hope that Tatiana Maslany will get nominated for her work on Orphan Black, but they also know—or should, anyway—that it’s a longshot.”
— True, but it hurts, because she’s just as good — better even — than the usual players on the prestige dramas that always get nominated!
I think this line in the article is really important, as it reminds me that while the Emmy’s may not recognize my shows for awards, that it doesn’t really matter. “And if in the end we’re all more excited about a new episode of The Flash than The Affair, maybe that says something about what’s really the best that TV has to offer.” Because while there are plenty of shows that are ratings, awards, and critical hits, I think the middle-ground shows make people happier. You look forward to them more, they often have lighter or funnier storylines. (Isn’t it a wonder that the awards that typically don’t get nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe Awards are often winners of People’s Choice Awards?) And that feeling of joy and excitement to watch your show is more important than how many awards it gets or if the big wigs over at the New Yorker or the Times think it’s “art.”
Shameless plug: Here’s an article I wrote last year about New Emmy categories we need. It basically would get recognition for a lot of midlevel TV shows out there in the Dramedy, Procedural, and Scif-fi/Fantasy genres. ♦ Want to know when your shows are returning or premiering this winter?Here’s a full list thanks to THR. Make sure to input them into your calendars so you don’t miss mid-season premieres! I definitely suggest Agent Carter, which I enjoyed much more than I’ve ever enjoyed Agents of SHIELD. ♦ Finally, as I venture into my first writing project of the year (a post coming on that soon), I probably need an app like this presented by the AV Club, that doesn’t let you use the rest of your computer until you complete the goals you set. It’s easier to get around the time limit (by not writing) than the word count limit. Though I’m sure if I write WRITING IS SO HARD over and over, I’ll hit it in no time. I won’t even copy and paste.
EDIT: Maybe I will go through some old textbooks for more blog fodder…
Happy new year! Start off the year with some cool articles I found last year (ok, like three days ago):
In typical #Clicks fashion, I start off with a Jane the Virgin article. This one, by author Daniel Jose Older, praises Jane for being “unapologetically Latin” through it’s use of Spanish “without without issue or apology.” Older ends with this: “Art is at its best when it refuses to translate itself or cater to the lowest common denominator,” which, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see is similar to my favorite quote from The West Wing, “It’s not our job to cater to the lowest common denominator, it’s our job to raise it.” And of course he’s right. There’s a lot of talk about the global success of different genres of movie and TV shows. It’s something to think about when talking about how black films or POC centered TV shows do overseas, because a lot of times, those shows are given so many US-centered guidelines that of course they don’t do well overseas. They’re not authentic in their presentation. If black media, or Latino media were more like Jane the Virgin, “unapologetic” in the way they talk about and express their culture, they might do better overseas. People respond to truth and authenticity and can see through a false construct built by meddling executives who think they know how to sell any story, as long as it’s done their way. This article at Refinery 29 is about the head of original content at Hulu, Beatrice Springborn. She actually started in TV pretty late, having started her career in Journalism out of school. Places like Hulu and Pixar (which she also worked for) are sort of like what it sounds like to work at a place like Google or Apple. Aka, sounds like a dream!
Fun fact: On Sunday at 7pm I will be co-hosting a podcast with the kids from the show blackish. I’m super excited, they’re such cute and talented kids! In this article, the author writes about how the blackish family resembles her own.
[M]e being wrapped up in kente cloth is a thing that happened.
It’s so important to have a black family back on television. I could be wrong, but wasn’t Everybody Hates Chris the last network TV show with a family? If not, it’s still been few and far between. ABC’s last black family was My Wife and Kids (right?) which ended in 2005. As the author mentions, she and many viewers see themselves in various parts of the Johnson family. Shared experiences from childhood or finally understanding where her parents’ mindset was coming from when they made the choices they did. But it’s not just important for adults to see themselves on TV (which is certainly is). It’s a show you can watch as a family and it represents differences in generation when it comes to all kinds of things, like technology and social media but also the obvious differences in dealing with race. The blackish kids give their kid viewers people to relate to (barring any future child star problems of course). Just as I looked up to Olivia from The Cosby Show as looking similar to me while also hanging out with her funny, jazz loving grandfather, kids today finally have some peers to look up to. I hope blackish inspires more black families on network television (remember that not every family has access to cable, even today), so that more kids (and adults like us of course) have more families like their own representing them on television.
It’s stated all the time that we’re in a “golden age” of television, where there is a lot of high quality content and things are changing and evolving dramatically. Ad Week went over 5 ways in which the TV landscape has changed in 2014, including the expansion of the Neilsen ratings system to finally include new media, really good new media content (“We saw the first crop of streaming shows as good as premium cable.”), and a decline in reality TV ratings (praise emoji!).
TV is formula. I know this and Noah Charney over on The Atlantic is learning this. People always say to just sit down and write, but I need formula. Formula isn’t bad. One you learn a formula, if you’re the rebellious type, then you do what you want and break the formula. But I need structure when I write. I’ve been learning that my problem with actually sitting down to write is that there are too many possibilities. I am overwhelmed. So I come up with one way to tell the story, but then am paralyzed because what if another way is better? What if I get seven pages in a things aren’t working, do I start over with another direction? Or just go back a page and change things there? There are too many possibilities. Charney’s article breaks down the sitcom into bits and pieces and uses my current favorite sitcom as an example. (I need to compare this article to my 2/3rds written Parks and Recreation spec script and see if I can finally figure out Act 3, even if the show isn’t usable as a spec anymore.) Finally, here’s some much needed inspiration on actually calling myself a writer:
When can you call yourself a writer in private?
Now. Absolutely right now.
Tell yourself in the mirror before you brush your teeth, then again when you’re driving home from work.
Say it so many times that you get exasperated looks from your spouse. Heck, get business cards printed, too. [<– totally did that!] When can you call yourself a writer in public?
The answer to this question is also now — but this is a different matter altogether. The reason you want to take this step immediately in public is to apply pressure to yourself. [<– Mhm! The pressure is real! And works!]
The author goes on to say, “So don’t refer to yourself as a writer in public until you have a plan to deal with follow-up questions.” Those questions include: “What are you working on?” “Where can I read it?” He says to be confident, if you’re not confident in your answer to these questions, then you’re not ready to call yourself a writer in public.
[T]he sooner you start calling yourself a writer in private and in public, and the sooner you create a website and business cards, the sooner you will realize your career choice is a serious endeavor and demands your time and attention.
And that is what will drive you to sit down, put in the hard work and create.
That’s why I changed the name of my blog and made the business cards (I need new ones with my updated URL, but I still have so many of the old ones!), I am trying to treat writing as a serious venture, worthy of my time and attention, which will (and has) inspire me to write more and more and more.
Hmm, this week’s clicks gave me a lot to talk about. These weekly articles are a great way to get me writing and discussing things that I might not have otherwise. Happy 2015!
Stephanie Beatriz of Brooklyn 99 is awesome and blogs for Latina.com and shares her feelings just before she got cast as the second Latina actress on Brooklyn 99--a sight all too rare on TV. Check it out!