Monday, May 30, 2016

Holiday day

No blog today, due to last Friday's and the veteran's day thing. I'll post either Tuesday or Wednesday...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Steal This Plot

First of all, one of you asked where he can find a screenplay or shooting script for Leave Her To Heaven with the fabulous Gene Tierney. I'm sure you looked around, but the only place I
would think you could find the script is at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills.

It's part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science complex. But having said that, and if they do have a script, you can read it but not take it out. If there is a script anywhere, that would be the place. 

Another way is to find someone who worked on the movie, an actor, a grip, whomever. Look at the credits on IMDB, someone might be alive. There has to be a script on that movie somewhere.

Back to 20 writers on a show.

Is it necessary? No. Imagine being in a small room fighting for your ideas with 19 other people. It's sort of like being in high school, or any school, in that there's always the shy ones, then the middle ones and then the hot ones, who always have an idea and are ready to trash anyone else.

Lost is a great example. I read that piece (It's on the left side under "Stuff)". I watched the
entire series last spring while I was writing my pilot script, S.O.B. When I reached the 2nd season, it already had some ideas tossed away, like the white polar bear. Bad idea, huh?

And yes, I could tell that they were swimming after the first season, hoping somehow that the story made sense. Personally I think it was the actors who kept it going and as much as you might not like, it became a soap opera with the exception of being outside.

There were a lot more of these pieces that you never saw again. Even with however many writers Lost had. 

There's only so many ideas in reality. Here's a list.

Love and Hate
The Chase
Grief and Loss
Discovery (Quest)

 There you go. Any story ever made was one of those. Actually sometimes mixed with another one. How about ambition and rivalry? Survival and Betrayal. Your head should be working already.

So how do I know?

Some years ago I found a book called Steal This Plot - A Writer's Guide To Story Structure and Plagiarism.

Which one of those is your great idea? 

And remember, those plots are ideas for a story, character is something else. And you sure can see it in Lost. Do you really need ten to fifteen writers to discover that? And do you need to change those ten to fifteen writers for the next season. 

Remember I Love Lucy. Two writers. 10 seasons at 39 episodes each season. More work than Lost. Lost had 25 episodes

And of course, Gunsmoke with 21 seasons and 39 episodes a year. And come to think of it, Gunsmoke was identical to Lost, it had a small community and there were outsiders that came there to cause harm. Only it lasted 21 years. Twice Lost. And Gunsmoke didn't need 10 or more writers on staff. They had one or two story editors and most of the writers were freelance.

You should watch an episode, great drama and used up all the of course lots of shooting and more than once as well as using all those plots above, and sometimes dark and brutal then light comedy. ME-TV plays it in L.A.

And who can forget The Fugitive, which was on the road for most of it's , when it ended the 

final episode had 72% of that last night. You'll never see that rating again.

They had outside writers for the most part, because rather than have them on salary, they just hired freelancers individually. They still got good scripts but didn't have to pay tons of money to a room full of writers and Thai food with no gluten.

But that was then.

Oh... when I meant The Fugitive, I meant the "old one" with David Janssen rather than Harrison Ford's version, which was a movie and a good one. 

Have a good holiday week-end.

Monday, May 23, 2016

How many writers does it take to write a TV series?

For those of you who might not know, I did 6 TV series, mostly in Canada including Highlander, which had a great following. I only wrote two episodes but pretty good ones. One of them you can catch on youtube.

However I was a story editor on three series and thought I'd give you a little bit of what series work is like. I worked for three Canadian series, although Highlander was a co-production for U.S., Canada and France. 

By the way, I worked on Highlander, the tv show, not the movie with Sean Connery.

The other five series were Lightening Force, Mom P.I., Destiny Ridge (I have a big story on that one)  and a story for MacGyver in the 80's (soon to return in a new format). 

I also worked on two animated action series and don't really remember. 

If you're wondering why I'm throwing around my credits, a bunch of my friends and I sat around one day talking about series work. It all began with Lost.

We were a mixed group of four and one of the directors mentioned that he was watching Me-TV, that channel that shows 60's and 70's series like Gunsmoke, Chips and others. 

His take was that it seemed that there was only one lead writer, the "story editor" and then a whole collection of writers who would turn in a script and the story editor, a writer also, would fix up anything he thought needed fixing up.

Then we talked about Lost which I think nobody knows how many writers there were, at least a hundred. And for the most part, they were on salary for a few years then replaced by "fresh" new writers.

Our thing was- why do they need so many writers?

Two writers wrote all the shows for I Love Lucy in the 50's. And they had 39 episodes each year. Two writers.

So, does having a hundred writers mean that the shows are better?

Of course not.

My best series was Mom P.I. and we had three writers, the show runner who created the show and me and a learning writer. We had 24 episodes for the year. Each of us had two episodes that we would write and then hand off the rest to independent writers.

My job as writer/story editor/senior story editor on all the scripts handed in and then I'd hand it over to the show runner and we'd usually make a few changes. That's it.

The theme of the story was a woman and two kids who worked in a cafe and she would help a private detective now and then. A family show actually but it also had some odd things happening to the family.

For example, one of my scripts had a guy who dropped dead in the cafe. Nobody knew much about him so the story began with them looking for someone who might be a friend.

I know what you're saying, Jim, but you just had a tiny show as compared to Lost.

The two writers on I Love Lucy wrote all the scripts from 1951 to 1961. 10 years!

Sure, Jim, but Lost was much bigger and more complicated?

Gunsmoke ran 20 years with one or two story editors and again, handing out writing jobs to freelance writers. If you think about it, it would be a lot cheaper than having anywhere from 10 to 20 writers arguing in a small room.

But let's leave it here for now. And let's see if having 20 writers with producer credits makes for better shows?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Russians and Ukrainians

 Calming down finally, got books out to the ones who I owe to and starting on a rewrite of S.O.B. the pilot I wrote a few months ago. Got some good advice and will take it.  

I sent 3 scripts to a Canadian producer two weeks ago, so it seems that either they didn't want it - or - they did want it but aren't sure how to do it. 

Or they never read them at all.

At the same time, another producer asked me for one of the scripts, he had optioned it once and almost made it with another producer until a few of the financing people started to ask for more. 

I've also been asked to write a horror film on the cheap, quick money and another name,  Allan James? 

I have a few ideas for Monday's blog; something you might like. 

Two weeks ago I had a rush of readers from Russia, around 254 of them. I have no idea why so many of them tuned in. Last week the numbers dropped to around 185 readers. 

And today, they are gone. 

So what's the photo above?

Eight Ukrainians are still with me, and being Ukrainian myself, I'm glad they are still hanging around. I was supposed to go to Lviv and spend a week there talking about writing. As you know or don't, I taught extension classes for UCLA for three years.

But it didn't happen, due to lack of funding on this side and also the country wasn't exactly in a happy mood. But one of these days I'll get over there because my grandfather came from a small town near Lvi way back in 1900.

So have a good week-end and thanks for hanging around, both all 40 members and a few hundred others or so.

Khoroshyy denʹ  (Good day)

Monday, May 16, 2016

What's the best movie ending?

Besides the title, what do you think audiences really like even though they don't really like it.

Here's two choices; a happy ending or a sad ending.

Before you think too hard, I'll spoil it right off the top by listing six movies that end badly for the people in it.

Stand By Me
Love Story
Easy Rider
My Girl
Million Dollar Baby
Bonnie & Clyde

All six are different, with four of them has a girl die. One has two motorcycle guys getting shot and one movie set in the '50's and another set in the 1930's and another in a ship.

And they were all blockbuster movies. Even though some where huge and most of them were simple movies with simple themes and cost a fraction of the big ones. But they all had the same theme. Dying too soon.

Ironically, you don't see these kinds of movies that much, there was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl but it didn't really even come close to Million Dollar Baby.

But it seems that dying isn't all that great with the millennials. They seem to like superhero movies who can die by come back to life. Even Frozen doesn't really have anyone die. 

And even Disney is getting softer, their 40's and 50's feature movies had someone or some thing die. And if you ever saw Old Yeller, you would cry your heart out as I did at age 12.

So why aren't there more "tearjerkers" as the genre was called.

Again, it leads to those darn millennials, of which most of my readers excluding the 40 who are older. 

So what's going on?

Some people suggest that the millennials don't want to deal with death because they see so many action films where the heroes and bad guys get killed so much it doesn't really matter anymore. 

And then there's the guys. They don't like tearjerkers because they might cry. And they
certainly don't want to repeat what the boomers were fed on. Or they simply want to ignore death. Or they can catch it later on their smartphone. But that's another story,

Sometimes I tell people that my job is to write happy endings and I've had my share, with Hallmark, for one. But I've done a few tearjerkers, Roswell Project, which had a sad ending. 

The oldest movie on this list is Old Yeller, and every boomer I know remembers it and remembers the tears. 

So take a look at some of these movies and others, maybe by yourself just in case someone might be watching. I was going to do happy endings, but there's not a lot of those movies anyway, as the marvel comic warriors never die and the comedies are vulgar for the most part. 


Friday, May 13, 2016

Glad the book thing is almost over

And I'm sure all of you are tired of it too.

Monday I'll be back on track talking about how long some scripts take so long to get made.  I'll talk about The Black List, the web site not the TV series. Also a couple of other things that seem to be buzzing around me.

Have a good week-end.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

So you wanna raise $$$ cont'd.

Monday's blog was more of an explanation as to what a crowdfunding is, and that the two best are kickstarter and indiegogo. 

The biggest part of this is that now you have to find and convince other people, family, friends and strangers. All this without any money, or not wanting to spend your own money, if you have any.

I just asked for $2500 for my crowdfunding. When it was over I got $2000 which surprised me because I thought I'd get maybe $700. I can only say that it's because I have a lot of friends and family who, for some reason, thought it was a good idea.

But one of the first things you'll see is that a lot of your friends won't give you any money. At least the friends who now envy you because they haven't tried to finance a movie or a book like I did.
On the other hand, a lot of your friends will give you money. They're mostly the old friends and relatives, in my case my brother and my cousin. The other cousins didn't donate. 

My first effort at crowdfunding was trying to raise $1.5 million. That's where I got hammered. I raised $750.00 until I realized nobody was going to help me. And it was my own fault. 

To raise that much money, I would have needed a lot of support from people I knew and people who had at least something to be interested in. Instead I got comments like "Who's this guy", or "Spike Lee is just asking for $1 million and he's famous."

I quit before I began looking like a real loser. I couldn't beat Spike Lee. My movie was to be a sequel to my first movie, Ghostkeeper,

It was to be a much better movie and we had a small but good following and I am still attempting to get Ghostkeeper 2 going, but the regular way, getting financing from the industry not my friends.

For one thing, I don't have that many friends who have money.

So what do you do to get attention.

For my book, at $2500, I was hoping that I could get at least enough to pay the illustrator and the formatting person and the person who did the front and back covers.

And that's because I can't do any of those jobs. 

But somehow, the project began to work, I opened with just a little over $1000.00, which was very unusual. Enough so that it seemed to work itself after that. Some friends donated twice.

This was far better than the Ghostkeeper thing.

I can't really understand how it happened, but people liked the title, "How Not To Get Beat Up In A Small Town Bar," everyone laughed at it and the image I used was this:

 It seemed to live a life of it's own. I made 4 x 6 cards and circulated them in my Sherman Oaks neighborhood. Ironically the majority of my friends loved the card -- but none of them donated.

My cousin got a half dozen of his old Detroit buddies, guys I haven't seen in years. And my brother gave a lot as did a lot of his friends. That's what you want, to get friends who remember you.

Okay, it's not looking for $1 million, I won't try that again because it requires an army to fund the movie, and an actor, notably an actor that is of that genre (in Ghostkeeper, I needed a good b-name actor who could help.

Lastly, if you do a crowdfunding, the moment you start developing it, you will get a dozen or more "funding assistace people" who ask for money and promise to get people to your project.

I spent $9.99 for one company who actually got almost a thousand "looks" but nobody bought it. Although I don't know how they got the looks, maybe fake or maybe looks that nobody particularly liked.

In the end, I got $2000 (I donated the last $82 to make it even. It looked better at $2000.

Somehow it clicked, sure, just $2000, but considering my $750 for Ghostkeeper which was a disaster, did very well.

Monday, May 9, 2016

So you wannna raise money for your movie/book/app/whatever?

We're talking crowdfunding. What I did and you're probably tired of me talking about me.
 Seeing that I tried it, I thought I'd offer you some advice.

Crowdfunding is a way a lot of people can get some money for their dream project, whatever it is. And the best two as  far as I know are and There's probably dozens of them but these two are the biggest and the most secure.

As with everything online, there are bad guys. But stick to the big 2 and you're good. I'm sure most of you know a little about it but I'll just go over it for those who don't know. Let's take my project.

As you know, I was looking for $2500 to fund the publication of my book, "How Not too... etc." The one you've been reading about. 

As I said above, the two best ones are, again kickstarter and indiegogo. They are what you will use in order to get funding by giving you a startup page where you can ask/beg for donations. It's actually not that hard, even for an old guy like me.

But there are two differences. Big differences.

Let's say you want to fund a short film or even a no-budget feature film about your friends going to Tijuana and getting into trouble. So which program do you use? And what's the difference?

If you use kickstarter, you have to raise all the money for your movie, let's say $10,000. And if you don't raise it, you're done. 

But... if you use indiegogo, you have two choices if you lose; you can end it there like kickstarter - or - you can keep what you got if you didn't reach that $10k. 

Big difference, huh.

I went for the "keep going" and that's why I would use indiegogo. In my case I raised $2000. With indiegogo I kept it, if I was kickstarter, I get zero, nada.

So, that's a fast explanation of crowdfunding. The crowd funds you. Who's the crowd - your family, your friends, your relatives and anyone else that those people know. But there's a little more...

Notice the word "funding". Where do you hear that word often? Funding. Also known as donations. You know, like Red Cross, all kinds of illnesses, things like that. It also means people giving you money without any return.

No return? 

No. Those people who will be donating the money, not giving it with a return on their money. So who thought of that? Well, your government, including Obama who made it even better. It is meant for start-ups. A guy or two girls or whatever have come up with a great idea, something for your car, or your house, or someone who makes great fudge.

Or a movie. 

So you will have to ask your donors to give you money, of which they will not get a return, in order for you to make your movie. But there is a catch.

Perks. In French it's Perqs. You've heard that term, mostly with big movie stars, they show
up for a cause and get perks, i.e. something special, a t-shirt, a swag bag (aka "stuff we all get" bad.

In this case, perqs are handed out to your donors by offering them whatever you can find that doesn't cost a lot. For me it was photographs and illustrations and two books I've already written. 

It's sort of like this; if you give $20, you get one photo, for $50 you get 2 photos, for $200, you get a copy of the book, or two more books. You get it.

This is getting too long, so I'm going to finish it Wednesday where I can give you some ideas if you plan on doing a crowdfunder.