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Story Maps TV Drama hit #1 on Amazon and knocked out Robert McKee’s Dialogue book

Story Maps #1 on Amazon screenwriting book charts

I was so excited to see my book, Story Maps: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot grab the #1 and #2 spots (for the Kindle and Paperback versions) on the Amazon Hot New Releases in Screenwriting chart! It was especially satisfying to see my book above the new entry from Robert McKee,  the venerable old statesman of the screenwriting instruction world. Read more

https://www.writersstore.com/the-tv-pilot-beat-sheet-from-amc-to-hbo-to-netflix/

TV PILOT BEAT SHEET WEBINAR returns live 12/10/15!

 

Click to go to TV Pilot Beat Sheet WebinarBack by popular demand and updated with new material and a bonus map of the breakthrough show MR. ROBOT, I will be presenting my webinar THE TV PILOT BEAT SHEET: FROM AMC TO HBO TO NETFLIX live on December 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm Pacific time (PST) and later available for download. Read more

WHO THE F*$K IS STAN? and 14 other questions about TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON TWO

TrueDetectiveSn2-Chinatown

“Forget about it, Ray. It’s Vinci.”

The great SLOG-WATCH of True Detective season two is over, and I’ve got a few things to say about it. But I’m not just here to point out flaws, I’m also offering solutions so that maybe we can learn something from the 8 1/2 hours of our lives we devoted to this season.

It was inevitable that from the first minute, the second season of True Detective would be compared to the first, and that would be a tough comp for any series. Season two has been almost universally judged to have fallen short of the bar set by the first season, which featured star talent, cinematic production values, some great writing and fantastic direction. Considering its evergreen pedigree, I can’t help but wonder if season two’s 8 episodes, as is, had aired on a different network, under a different name, if they would have been lambasted so badly. I’d surmise that it would have got off easier, but it still would have attracted a lot of criticism. With or without the comparison to the first season, True Detective season 2 was heavily flawed and utterly frustrating to watch. Read more

David Simon interview “SHOW ME A HERO” on HBO

Oscar Isaac in "Show Me a Hero."

Oscar Isaac in “Show Me a Hero.”

David Simon is the creator of The Wire, which is often cited as the greatest television drama of all time. I wouldn’t argue with that label. His latest project is SHOW ME A HERO, a 6-hour miniseries on HBO, starring Oscar Isaac, Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder and many others, directed by Paul Haggis (“Crash”) and based on the book of the same name by Lisa Belkin. It is Executive Produced by Nina K. Noble, Gail Mutrux and William F. Zorzi.

Logline: In an America generations removed from the greatest civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the young mayor of a mid-sized American city is faced with a federal court order that says he must build a small number of low-income housing units in the white neighborhoods of his town. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the mayor and his political future.

Q: When did you become aware of Lisa Belkin’s book? What initially struck you about it, and when did you see the potential for adapting it for the screen? Read more

BOOKENDS: We are all Don Draper (the pilot and series finale of Mad Men)

Don Draper Mad Men image

Here’s a character arc we can all understand:

From blocked creative to fulfilled creative.

You know this story.

You’re young and it comes easy. It flows out of you. You get a bit older and it starts to feel more like work. Life intercedes, your creative side suffers, and you struggle. You hit the wall and you feel like you just can’t do it anymore. You’re blocked, stuck in the crucible, and it seems like there’s no escape. You contemplate giving up, throwing in the towel. It would be easier to just call it a day — it would alleviate a lot of pain. But you can’t. You have to keep fighting. You have to do the work. So you make a plan. First, you strip yourself of all that is holding you back. You get lean and mean. You do the work. It’s the only way. The only way to find your new path back to creative fulfillment. And one day it comes to you: that big idea. The lightbulb that illuminates that corner of your imagination that had been held in shadow for so long. Maybe it’s just the idea that gets you back at the desk, or maybe it’s a world-class winner of a concept that lights a fire across the globe.

This is your story. The story of every writer.

And, as we now know, it is the story of Don Draper, the now iconic character at the heart of Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men.

We are all Don Draper.

Just with less mistresses and whiskey.

I hope. Read more

True Detective Pilot Story Map Beat Sheet

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In early 2014, the television landscape was rocked by the debut of TRUE DETECTIVE, an epic 8-episode drama from HBO that blurred the line between television and cinema more than ever. It was a serial killer crime procedural — as familiar a genre as they come — but the execution was so unique and at such a high level of craft that the series immediately established itself with viewers and critics alike as one of the great achievements in the modern era of television drama. Read more

4 Great TV Pilot Openings (The Good Wife, Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad)

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It’s Fall TV season and there are way too many new shows vying for only a few open spots in network schedules. You’re flipping channels, hoping to find a winner, but also itching to boot up your Netflix queue, where you know you’ll find proven content. You find a candidate. A brand-spanking new series. A newborn, hoping to find millions of loving parents in the 18-35 demographic.

How long do you give it to win you over, to win a slot in your coveted shows list? Read more

Interview with Michael Patrick King on the return of “The Comeback” on HBO

Michael Patrick King and Lisa Kudrow

Michael Patrick King on set of “The Comeback” with Lisa Kudrow.

 CREATOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER MICHAEL PATRICK KING (“Sex And The City”) DISCUSSES THE RETURN OF THE HBO COMEDY SERIES THE COMEBACK

“B level” TV star Valerie Cherish was a pioneer of reality television. Now, it’s ten years later – there’s more TV than ever and the onetime sitcom star wants back in.

Q: How did the revival of THE COMEBACK come about?
Read more

Guillermo Del Toro and Carlton Cuse Interview (The Strain)

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Guillermo Del Toro (right) and a friend

Q                                 The first episode in particular is absolutely riveting and I loved it, but can you tell me how you first got involved in this and what drew you to it?

Carlton Cuse                 I had read the first Strain novel as a fan of both Guillermo’s work, and also independently I knew Chuck Hogan, and so I was very curious to see what this collaboration would look like.  And I was just intrigued by the subject matter.  I had read the first novel when it came out in 2009 and really enjoyed it, and then basically about two years ago my agent called me up and said that there was some interest in doing The Strain as a television series and would I be interested in it. Read more

TV Drama Showrunners Panel (video)

Vince Gilligan and Matthew Weiner, TV showrunners Breaking Bad and Mad Men

Here is a fantastic roundtable interview via The Hollywood Reporter with some of the most influential TV creators out there.

  • Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom
  • Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective
  • Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
  • Ann Biderman, Ray Donovan
  • Matthew Weiner, Mad Men
  • Carlton Cuse, Bates Motel

They cover a lot of topics, from casting movie stars to the anxiety and thrill of the writing process to dealing with social media and much more. Read more

Noah Hawley interview creator/showrunner of Fargo TV series

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Noah Hawley is an experienced TV writer and producer (Bones) who has created multiple series in the past (The Unusuals, My Generation), but it wasn’t until this year’s Fargo that he created one that received a full season order. Fargo seems to belong to a trendy category of branded TV series that includes shows like Bates Motel and Hannibal, in that it is inspired by a famous film but not a straight adaptation. Fargo the TV series uses similar themes, settings, and dramatic situations as the Coen Brothers film of the same name, but it weaves an entirely new story and world.

Note: The interview below with Hawley contains several SPOILERS for the show up to and including episode #8.

Read more

Orange is the New Black, Bates Motel and Masters of Sex creators talk TV writing and producing at HRTS Hitmakers Luncheon

Ashford, Cuse, Kohan (Panel)

I felt like Don Draper strolling into the iconic, tres-swanky Beverly Hilton to attend the HRTS (Hollywood Radio and Television Society) “Hitmakers Luncheon.” When I was politely informed that I was not on the list for the pre-lunch VIP reception, I felt like Dan Calvisi again. (You always have to try to sneak into the VIP section, people, it keeps them on their toes.) But the event began soon enough, and after a delicious lunch, I enjoyed listening to the panel of three of the most successful American TV producers working today, as they discussed their craft and business.

The panel consisted of Michelle Ashford ( creator and Executive Producer of “Masters of Sex” on Showtime), Carlton Cuse (co-creator, showrunner and E.P. of “Bates Motel” on A&E) and Jenji Kohan (creator and E.P. of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix). Their past writing credits include John Adams, Boomtown, Lost, Nash Bridges, Weeds and Gilmore Girls. Read more

Interview with Billy Bob Thornton “Fargo” TV series

FARGO - Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo. CR: Chris Large/FX

FX’s new drama, Fargo, is created by Noah Hawley, inspired by the film written and directed by the Coen Brothers (also Executive Producers on the show). I sat in on a group interview with co-star Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the mysterious, charismatic and vicious drifter, Lorne Malvo, on the show. I did not get a chance to ask him a direct question, so here is the full transcript with questions from a group of reporters from various outlets.

Reporter                     Was there anything that you added to your character, “Lorne Malvo,” that wasn’t already scripted?

Billy Bob                     A weird haircut, which was actually a mistake. I got a bad haircut and we had planned on dyeing my hair and a dark beard and all that kind of thing, but I didn’t plan on having bangs. But then, instead of fixing it, it wouldn’t do, right, so I didn’t fix it because I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought, hang on a second here, this is like 1967 L.A. rock. I could be the bass player of the Buffalo Springfield. This is good. Or, Ken Burns, the dark side of Ken Burns. And bangs are normally associated with innocence and I thought that juxtaposition was pretty great, so that was added. Read more

Graham Yost, showrunner of Justified

Credit: Reddit

Graham Yost [cr: Reddit]

This is the third time I’ve had the pleasure to interview Graham Yost, show runner, Executive Producer and Writer of Justified, the fantastic drama on the FX network that, in my opinion, gets way too little recognition from the industry and the media, despite having a huge fan base. You can watch my video interviews with Mr. Yost here and here. The season finale of Justified airs in the U.S. tonight at 10:00 P.M. on FX. Read more

Billy Bob Thornton in “Fargo” will be the next Matthew McConaughey in “True Detective”

FARGO -- Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo -- CR: FX/Matthias Clamer

Make way on the blogosphere for the next big movie star killing it on TV. Billy Bob Thornton will soon be seen in FX’s one-hour drama “Fargo,” which premieres in the U.S. on April 15, 2014, and trust me when I tell you that you will be talking about his character, Lorne Malvo, a drifter who arrives in Fargo, Minnesota and starts to take a keen interest in its quirky denizens. Read more

Chozen speaks and Bobby Moynihan makes me Head Writer of SNL!

CHOZEN - Pictured: Chozen group image. CR. FX

I first met Bobby Moynihan at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City in our “Improv 101” course. He was a bit younger than me, but it was clear that he had more experience with this improv stuff. He was definitely a standout. The class was a lot of fun and I would recommend UCB to anyone looking to learn the key principles of comedy from talented comedy pros, especially their sketch writing courses, which I’ve also taken and enjoyed.

I’ll always remember that first class because we had to perform our ‘graduation’ show on the UCB stage two days after September 11, 2001 when the city was still peppered in Missing Persons flyers and the smoke from the World Trade Center remains was still in the air. I showed up to the theater that day having come from volunteering on the docks helping to stock the boats that were supplying the recovery crews down at Ground Zero. I remember our teacher Jamie Denbo telling us how Amy Poehler had said 9/11 was like “the day the aliens landed.”

It was not a great time for comedy. Read more

Jimmy Smits Interview (Sons of Anarchy, NYPD Blue, Dexter)

 

You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor with such an impressive television resume as Jimmy Smits. L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, Dexter and, now, for the past two seasons, FX’s hit drama Sons of Anarchy, created by showrunner Kurt Sutter. (I’m also still mourning the loss of Smits’ unfortunately canceled drama Cane from 2007.) Read more

Beat Sheets and Act Structure for Television Drama

 

As the tales of Don Draper, Walter White and Dexter Morgan come to an end and screenwriters everywhere struggle to create the next great TV protagonist, I have only one question.

Where are all of the “beat sheets” and structure “paradigms” for television drama? Read more

Webinar Contest! Win a free seat in “Inside the TV Drama: Writing the Best Shows on Television”

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED — THANK YOU FOR ENTERING AND CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS!

THE WEBINAR IS STILL AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FOR LIVE LISTENING AT 1:00 PM PST ON WEDNESDAY, SEPT 11, 2013 OR STREAMING LATER: HERE

Read more