Consumed June 2015 – June 30th, 2015

I declare June the cruelest month (screw you, Eliot). I cleared half a dozen deadlines by the 5th, I still have three more projects to complete and damnit, the little things been sweating me. Oy! Even my spirit animal be quittin’ on me!

Tiger_Snow_Sleep

Here’s what I consumed…

Television
iZombie – I’ve been unfairly comparing this show to my beloved Veronica Mars but each episode has improved upon the previous. How often can you say that? And I’ve gone a whole season without posting sexy pics of Aly Michalka, who plays the role of Peyton. Pics like the one below.

aly-michalka_hotness

Friends – I’m up to the part where Rachel had her baby. Still enjoying it but I can sense that the end is near.

Rachel-Ross-Baby
Agents of SHIELD
The Blacklist – Two seasons and we’re radically changing the show. Hmm. Looks like it’s about to take a turn for the darker. If so, I’m along for the ride.

elizabeth-keen-blacklist-die-hard
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Attack on Titan
The Last Man on Earth – I don’t write half-hour but if I did I’d be crushing this show.

Carol_Gun_LastManOnEarth
Modern Family
The Americans – I didn’t enjoy season three as much as the previous two but there were episodes that I still can’t shake.

The-Americans_Baggage
Better Call Saul – It’s okay to say I was let down, right?

bob-odenkirk-better-call-saul-episode-1

Music
Brace yourself. I have a confession to make. I’m having a country music moment.

Jackie-Chan-wait-what

Easy. Relax. Breathe. It’s not all about hot girls in cowboy boots (although that is a particular weakness of mine).

amanda-seyfried_cowboy-boots_sexy

…where was I? Oh, right, my new found fascination with country music. Allow me to explain. It all started with a cover by Sturgill Simpson. That lead to picking up the album and loving it.

Then this really cute girl in my book club suggested Robert Ellis. At first I resisted but again I was won over.

Then I started wandering around the country music aisle on my own and I kept hearing about Nikki Lane and her excellent album.

Yes, I’m officially on a country kick but can you blame me? Nikki is crazy talented but also…

Nikki-Lane_Sexy_01

I mean…

Nikki-Lane_Sexy_02

damn…

Nikki-Lane_Sexy_03

…Wow.

Yeah, let’s get back on topic.

Books
Mislaid by Nell Zink – I enjoyed this book with a devilish glee.

Mislaid_Nell-Zink

My Education by Susan Choi – Still reading it. Have to finish soon so I can discuss it with the cute girl from group.

Comics
Doctor Spektor
Lazarus – A very slow burn but I’m sticking it out.

Lazarus_03_p3
Uncanny
Real West
Queen & Country – Goddamn if this isn’t one of my favorites. Just reread the first three collections and I totally dig the different art styles by Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt and Leandro Fernandez respectively.

Queen-Country_Vol1_p2

Queen-Country_Vol2_p2

Queen-Country_Vol3_p3
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper
Helheim
Manifest Destiny – I freaking love this book (please keep getting better).

Manifest-Destiny_03_p2
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four
Meteor Men
Hellbreak – I wish I had come up with this idea.

Hellbreak_01_p2
Princess Ugg
The Sixth Gun – Not what I was expecting. Liking it, and totally surprised. Awesome!

The-Sixth-Gun_03_p2

Movies
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Jurassic World – This was a bad movie.

Jurassic-World-Chris-Pratt-Raptor

It’s okay that we all liked it but let’s not delude ourselves. I mean this is a thousand times better, right?

Jurassic-Cookie_Sesame-Street

Games
Far Cry 4 – I need to finish this just so I can move on to Arkham Knight.

batman-arkham-punch

Posted in General

APB: Hannibal Lecter Missing – June 25th, 2015

I missed my chance. I wanted to write a spec of Hannibal this year but backed away because I found a better suited show and now they’ve cancelled the best television on NBC. Honestly, I’m not sure I could have done Dr. Lecter justice, and heaven help me if Hannibal found me to be rude.

What ya cooking, Dr. Lecter?

What ya cooking, Dr. Lecter?

Did you watch Hannibal? Of course you didn’t. No one did. You should. It is the most singular show on broadcast television, maybe all of television. It is a show that puts dialog and character in the back seat so it can highlight hypnotic imagery, fever dream sound design and a twisted psychology.

Hannibal_TheStag

As I told everyone, it’s like your favorite foreign film morphed into an awesome television show. It got deep under your skin, burrowed past your eyes and took root in your soul. Yeah, it was a show that would f**k you up.

Hannibal_Verger

Is all hope lost? No. There’s a vocal push for another outlet to pick up the show, and as Amazon has exclusive streaming rights, it’s a no brainer. Also, I’m further heartened that the show hasn’t canceled their San Diego Comic-Con panel. You bet your bloody grin I’ll be there.

hannibal-smile

So don’t be rude or the good doctor might be seeing you next.

HannibalFirstLook

Posted in Industry, Writing

To Write Better, Listen More – June 18th, 2015

*BREAKING NEWS – MARC MARON TO INTERVIEW PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA FOR WTF PODCAST!*

We live in the Golden Age of the podcast and we should thank this man.

fredandira

Meaning Ira Glass, not Fred Armisen.

Because of podcasts, it’s possible to learn SO. MUCH. MORE about any topic. If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, you absolutely should be listing to these awesome podcasts.

The Nerdist Writers Panel focuses on the television writers room but every so often they’ll have a feature writer. Here’s an interview with Buried screenwriter Chris Sparling.

NerdistWritersPanel_logo

Scriptnotes is the best screenwriting podcast in the land. They tackle everything from formatting trends to industry news. This is a “must listen” for any writer.

Scriptnotes_logo

Want a TV writing podcast that’s both in-depth and off the wall? You can’t go wrong with the Children of Tendu.

ChildrenOfTendu_logo

If you prefer a pushy interviewer trying to dig secrets out of filmmakers (that’s why my buddy Ted *LOVES* this podcast), then you must check out The Q & A.

TheQA_logo

Looking for a friendlier interviewer of screenwriters? If so, On The Page is your jam.

OnThePage_logo

Do you want to be so appalled that you’re crying from laughter? Subscribe to The Black List Table Reads and start with Balls Out (and thank me later).

BlcklstTableRead_logo

I love the Writers Guild Foundation. They’re awesome, they have an amazing library and they have a podcast too.

WGFPodcast_logo

Lastly, there’s the Austin Film Festival On Story podcast. They’re the best fest for writers and they present many of their panels in podcast form. If you like what you hear, sign up to attend.

OnStoryAFF_logo

Subscribe. Listen. Learn.

Posted in Writing

A Fair Wage For A Comic Page – June 11th, 2015

With less than 20 days left until the Oni Press Open Submission deadline, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the economics of comics. How does anyone make a living from working in comics? What’s a fair rate? Luckily, we can thank Alex de Campi for shedding some light on this topic, along with signing this Archie vs. Predator comic for me (and letting me know that I seem more like a “Veronica man”).

Betty-Veronica-Predator_Alex-de-Campi

This incredibly useful bit of information comes from a panel Alex hosted at the recent Special Edition: NYC. Since the slide is hard to see, I transcribed it here.

Comic-Book-Pay-Rates_Alex-De-Campi_June2015

A bit of clarification: “work for hire” means you are hired to work on a book for which you claim no IP ownership. That means you’re probably working on Batman or The Avenger or GI Joe or Predator or Archie or any other title based on a preexisting work, and you don’t own any part of that work. You don’t collect royalties from it. You didn’t invent it. You are paid your rate and that is that.

This is in opposition to “creator owned” comics. Think of Mike Mignola and Hellboy or Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead. They own those characters. They fathered their respective universes. They collect money on every comic, DVD, board game and t-shirt. When they pass from this mortal coil, they can bequeath those rights to an heir or a charitable institution (I believe J.M. Barrie did that with Peter Pan).

Back to the topic at hand. If I were hired write a 5 issue mini series (24-pages/issue) about The Snorks for an indie publisher, and I’m a newbie writer making $25/page, I could reasonably expect to make $600 per book, or $3,000 for the whole mini series.

key_art_snorks

Hmm…

So if I wanted to make a living as a comic book writer and continue residing in Los Angeles, and if we assume that a recent study claiming that you need to make $70k a year in order to afford a rental unit in LA is correct, how many books would I have to write? Let’s assume I’m writing for one of the big two (i.e., Marvel or DC Comics) and I’m making the rate of $100/page. I would need to bank around $6k/month. That means I’d need to author 2.5 books every month. That’s not an unreasonable amount of writing but we haven’t accounted for taxes, tabling at cons, etc.

Want to see something crazy? Here’s a 1978 rate card from when comic book creators were looking to unionize.

comic-creators-guil-rate-card-1978

So, if I ended up a hit in the comics world and never launch a creator owned title, I’d need to keep the day job until I’m writing at least 4 titles a month. BTW, are you wondering what we’re doing at the day job?

Hey, can I tell them about the day job?

Termiantor_Long-Slide-Laser-Sight

Apparently not. Guess these weren’t the cybernetic organisms you were looking for.

Posted in Industry, Writing

What Should I Spec for 2016 – June 4th, 2015

Who is a glutton for punishment?

Tony_Illustrated_Web

Me!

Why? Because I’m already thinking about shows I can spec next year. As the greatest limiting factor is the Warner Brothers list of approved dramas, here are the shows on their 2015 list that I’d consider for next year.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) – Renewed for season 3

Halt & Catch Fire (AMC) – Season 2 just debuted

Orphan Black (BBC America) – Season 3 currently airing

Sleepy Hollow (Fox) – Renewed for season 3

The Blacklist (NBC) – Renewed for season 3

The Flash (CW) – Renewed for season 2

Arrow (CW) – Renewed for season 4

Gotham (Fox) – Renewed for season 2

Hannibal (NBC) – Season 3 airing this summer

Shows absent from this year’s list but that I think / hope will be on the 2016 one…

iZombie (CW) – Renewed for season 2

Daredevil (Netflix) – Renewed for season 2

Agent Carter (ABC) – Renewed for season 2

Better Call Saul (AMC) – Renewed for season 2

So, which to spec? I’m not looking to spec my favorite show. I’m looking to spec the show that I can knock out of the park. Therefore, let’s look at my newest spec and the 3 previous ones that have placed in contests / fellowships. They are…

The 100

The100_PromoArt

The Americans

the-americans_cu

Nikita

Nikita.jpg

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

cameron-tscc.jpg

What do they have in common? All four features 1) bad ass female leads, 2) non-traditional families, and 3) violence/action. Two of the above feature spying/undercover work. Two are firmly science-fiction dealing with the post-apocalypse. Based off that, let’s narrow the list to shows that have at least three of the above elements. Those shows would be…

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Bad ass females (May, Skye), non-traditional family (the team), tons of action, sci-fi (super heroes), spying/undercover work

AgentsOfSHIELD_May-Skye

Orphan Black – Bad ass females (the clones), some action (more suspense than action, really), non-traditional family (the clones, Fee, Ms. S., et al.), sci-fi

OrphanBlack_Alison

Agent Carter – Bad ass female, action, spying/undercover work

AgentCarter_Shotgun

Sleepy Hollow – Bad ass female co-lead (Abbie), non-traditional family (Ichabod’s family + Abby), plenty of action, sci-fi, preventing the apocalypse

SleepyHollow_Abbie

The Blacklist – Bad ass female co-lead (Elizabeth), lots of action, spying/undercover work

iZombie – Bad ass female lead (Liv), sci-fi, pending zombie apocalypse (kinda)

iZombie_Liv_Eating

If I had to pick a show right now, it’d probably be iZombie or Agent Carter. I still have a viable Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. idea but it’s getting increasingly difficult to get excited about that show. I also harbor a deep desire to spec Orphan Black but it’s serialized within an inch of its life (but boy, do I love the difficult ones). Did I miss any shows? Did I get something wrong?

Posted in Writing

Consumed May 2015 – May 31st, 2015

This past month I applied to one contest, two fellowships, wrote a TV spec, rewrote a pilot, outlined a feature, started the first act of said feature, developed a comic book mini series pitch and expanded a comic book anthology idea. So, basically, this past month I was kinda like…

Kermit_Typing

Don’t know how I consumed anything but I did.

Television
Agents of SHIELD
The Flash – Goddamn if this isn’t a near perfect comic book show.

Flash-TV-Show-Gorilla-Grodd-Fight

Broad City
Arrow
The Last Man on Earth
Attack on Titan – I stumbled upon this show after seeing so many kids cos-playing it at cons and constantly asking, “who the hell are they supposed to be?” Holy s**t! This is one f**ked up show. Also, why do all the dudes on this show cry like little bitches all the goddamn time? Not that I’m judging or disparaging their crying. I’m tired. Very tired. Look at Kermit above. Can you imagine how tired he must be? I’m a hundred times more tired than that. Being that tired, I want to cry myself but I want to sleep more.

ArminCrying

Gotham
iZombie – This show is getting better but I’m still not at a Veronica Mars level of love for it (and I want to be).

iZombie-Liz-Pipe

Books
10:04 by Ben Lerner – I can only read one of these books a year and I already read Satin Island.

1004_BenLerner

My Education by Susan Choi – A very cute girl in my book club brought this for me so I really gotta finish it ASAP.

MyEducation_SusanChoi

Music
Rituals by Other Lives – I think this deep, sad music made me feel better.

Comics
Zero
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four
Batman: Arkham Knight – I’m loving the art in this book.

BatmanArkhamAsylum_ArtPage
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman
Lazarus – It’s slow to start but I love Rucka, and how can you not love this?

Lazarus_AwesomePage

Games
Far Cry 4

… and now I’m back to finishing my fellowship applications.

Posted in General

Best Word Using (2015 Eisner Nominees) – May 28th, 2015

Do you keep a folder with all your rejections? I do. I just added my Top Cow talent hunt entry to that file. They only took five writers this year; two winners and three runner-ups. The COO said that out of 587 submitted scripts, only 40 delivered professional grade writing (for you stat whores, that means only 6% of the applicants were good enough to be considered seriously).

I choose to believe that I’m part of that 6%.

But we are not here to bemoan my failure. Let us celebrate six writers that F**KING CRUSHED IT this past year.

CrushingIt

Here are the 2015 Eisner Nominees for Best Writer. And yo, click on the images below to experience them in HD.

Jason Aaron for Original Sin, Thor, Southern Bastards

SouthernBastards_MoreRibs

Kelly Sue DeConnick for Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly

PrettyDeadly_TheTempest

Grant Morrison for The Multiversity, Annihilator

Multiversity_You

Brian K. Vaughan for Saga, The Private Eye

Saga_Terror

G. Willow Wilson for Ms. Marvel

MsMarvel_Bacon

Gene Luen Yang for The Last Airbender, The Shadow Hero

ShadowHero_ToxicSpill

Vote for up to two writers!

Who is your favorite 2015 Eisner nominee for "Best Writer" (pick up to 2 answers)?

View Results

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Posted in Industry, Writing

Ryan Adams’ Summer of ’69 – May 21st, 2015

About 10 years ago some jerk went to a Ryan Adams concert and kept requesting Bryan Adams‘ “Summer of ’69“. Ryan got angry, went on a bender, married America’s sweetheart (circa 2005), got sober and hasn’t been the same since.

Recently, Ryan Adams went back to that same venue and finally played a cover of “Summer of ’69” so good that it gave me chills, something a Ryan Adams song hasn’t done since Demolition.

Heck, even Bryan had something to say about it. Here’s that cover.

Fun fact, Ryan Adams and Bryan Adams share the same birthday. Crazy!

For reference, here’s the original.

…BTW, apparently I’m not the only fan of Ryan Adams’ Demolition.

Although I don’t have cable, nor do I watch the late night shows, I’m gonna miss Dave.

Posted in Off-Topic

Best Tracing (2015 Eisner Nominees) – May 14th, 2015

Question: what is the number one reason why I’m attending so many cons this year? Answer: I’m looking for illustrators. I’m hoping to publish my own comic book in the near future but I’m a writer. I couldn’t draw a straight line if you put a gun to my head. Want proof? Here’s a drawing of my former roommate.

David, My Ex-Roommate by Me

David, My Ex-Roommate by Me

Yeah, I need someone that can take my words and translate that into a great comic page. It is with that appreciation that we look at the 2015 Eisner Nominees for Best Penciler / Inker.

Adrian Alphona for Ms. Marvel

AdrianAlphona

Mike Allred for Silver Surfer, Madman in Your Face 3D Special

MikeAllred

Frank Quitely for Multiversity

FrankQuitely

Francois Schuiten for The Leaning Girl

FrancoisSchuiten

Fiona Staples for Saga

FionaStaples

Babs Tarr for Batgirl

BabsTarr

Who is your favorite artist? Tell us by voting (can’t decide, then vote for two).

Who is your favorite 2015 Eisner nominee for "Best Penciler / Inker" (pick up to 2 answers)?

  • Babs Tarr (Batgirl) (100%, 2 Votes)
  • Frank Quitely (Multiversity) (50%, 1 Votes)
  • Fiona Staples (Saga) (50%, 1 Votes)
  • Adrian Alphona (Ms. Marvel) (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Mike Allred (Silver Surfer, Madman in Your Face 3D Special) (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Francois Schuiten (The Leaning Girl) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 2

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Posted in Industry

Are Specs Worthless – May 7th, 2015

Once upon a time, landing a staff writing job with a spec of ER or Picket Fences was de rigueur. Not so much these days. Show runners want to see original pilots, backed up by features or plays or short stories, but they will not read your Law & Order spec.

Law_Order_Season_One_cast

So, are spec worthless?

Hold on. First, let’s define some television parlance. In TV land, a spec refers to a script that’s a speculative episode of a television show currently on the air. It’s not meant to get produced, only to served as a writing sample. An original pilot is the script of a brand new show; it’s not based on an existing show. You could try to sell this pilot script to producers and studios — someone might buy your script and make it into a TV show; it happens. — or you might only be using it as a writing sample.

To complicate matters further, you can write a pilot “on spec” or as an “assignment.” Writers usually pitch first, and if the idea sells, they then write the pilot as part of a paid assignment. If you stink at pitching, or if the idea is “execution dependent,” then you might write the pilot “on spec” in the hopes that the finished script will show off your brilliance and land you a fat paycheck. Let’s not even touch new pilots based on, or adapted from, existing materials such as books, comics, movies or even older TV shows (such as The Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica and The Odd Couple).

For the purpose of this post, spec = script of an existing show and pilot = script for a new, original show yet to be produced.

Now, where was I? Ah, right. Back in the day you could write a crazy Friends spec and agents, managers and producers would come knocking. Today, talk to anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you that a spec is worthless.

Why? One, there are just too many shows out there. Maybe your show runner didn’t watch Justified so they can’t judge your sample. Two, everyone is obsessed with your original voice. They want to see your idiosyncrasies. They want to know what makes you special. Did you grow up the daughter of a lobster trapper in Maine? Then they’re gonna love your heartwarming family drama about a goth girl that falls in love with a boy that has lobster claws for hands (Ian, let’s develop this). Will they read your Hart of Dixie spec. No. Sorry. Your spec is worthless.

Taylor-Swift_surprised

Easy there, TS.

That’s not entirely true. A spec is not worthless. They still serve a purpose. If you’re applying to one of the popular fellowships offered by CBS, Disney/ABC, NBC/Universal or Warner Brothers, they will want to see a spec of a show that’s on the air. Heck, the WB goes so far as to publish a list of acceptable shows to spec.

Agent-Carter_crying

WB won’t let you spec Agent Carter this year.

Granted, ABC and CBS want you to submit a spec and a pilot, but the common denominator is the spec. Also, lots of reputable TV writing contests accept specs, like Austin and Final Draft.

In fact, at this very moment, I’m writing a spec of The 100 that I’ll submit to fellowships and contests. In past years, I’ve speced (or is it “specced”?) The Americans

TheAmericans_SexyTwoShot

Nikita

Nikita.jpg

Chuck

chuck-tv-series

and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

cameron-tscc.jpg

Three of those have landed me in the quarter finals, or better, of a lot of contests and a few fellowships. While I haven’t won any of those (yet), I think I can offer at least a few pieces of advice regarding specs.

First, in today’s highly serialized world, do yourself a favor and set your spec in last season’s mythology. Don’t go further back because readers will think you’re recycling an old piece of material. Conversely, don’t try to keep up with the current season because there’s always a chance the show might steal your thunder. Last year I was ready to start an Arrow spec where I’d introduce Cupid but stopped the second I heard that the show was planning to add Cupid to the cast.

cupid_arrow-season-3-episode-7

The one exception might be if you’re doing a procedural show. If you’re writing an NCIS spec and there are no major cast changes, you might be able to use that script as a sample for at least a couple years.

Second, you’re writing a spec episode, not fan fiction. Make sure you use the characters, settings and tropes properly. This isn’t the time to recast the supporting characters as the leads, or to kill off a beloved love interest. Avoid writing a new ending to the season that just wrapped or the first episode of next season. That’s fan fiction. That only proves that you believe yourself superior to the writing staff. Find an idea that could slip right in the middle of a season.

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be bold. Be bold. Do something big, but not something contrary to the nature of the show. Think of that tired story of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion will always be a scorpion. Your Agents of SHILED spec should not read like an episode of Portlandia just because Kyle MacLachlan guests in both.

BTW, I had the idea of writing an Agents of SHIELD / Portlandia crossover using Kyle as the Mayor of Portland so back off.

😉

I know I make writing a spec sound like a chore but I love writing specs. I love having fun with another person’s toys. I dig playing in another creator’s sandbox. It’s one of the reasons why I think I’d be excellent on a staff.

Me, I’m gonna keep writing a spec a year until I no longer have to. Fellowships and contests, do you hear me? Not yet? Then keep an eye out for my submissions until you finally accept me, or I get staffed, then I can serve as a mentor to the next generation.

Also, yeah, I’m gonna keep writing a new pilot every year, too.

Happy writing.

Posted in Writing