All about the biz – Totally Television Day 4

Today, among all the many things we got to do,  we had a little chat with to one of Canadian TV’s most influential people.

You know. No big deal. Just Tassie Cameron.

TASSIE FRICKIN CAMERON. This program is amazing!

The Rookie Blue/Flashpoint showrunner (and daughter of On The Take author Stevie Cameron, who knew?) spent some time with us today, and I really loved the intimate conversation we as a group got to have. Tassie has a way of putting you at ease, even when you’re pitching her your project.

It occurred to me that, even though I’m nowhere near as accomplished as she is, and likely never will be, our views on story and the emotional truth that you need to find within each story to make it authentic are basically identical. Maybe that’s why I’m a fan of her writing. Because it’s true, even in a cop show. Authentically human.

I was also really heartened by her approach to working with writers to develop new voices and help noobs move ahead in their burgeoning careers.

It was also super amazing to hear from Ilana Miller from the Hollyer Agency (who reps a friend of mine!), talking digital with Marcia Douglas and Chris Harris (whose Emmy-winning Secret Location did a virtual reality feature at ComicCon for Sleepy Hollow), and watching my partner David scribble notes intently as Frank Manzo from National Bank explained TV financing.

Another great one! And great collaborations on story notes by all the teams, so many thanks to all!


A Case Of The Tuesdays – Totally Television Day 3

We have lost track of all time and have no idea what day of the week it is. I have had to ask three people whether or not today is Tuesday.

It’s going good. That’s a good sign. It’s a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome, I think. You’ve been kidnapped by your show and your captors (and classmates) are beginning to feel like old friends you’ve lived with your entire life.

Of course, Stockholm Syndrome is only bad if you’re not the victim. So it’s generally a happy feeling.

After more valuable and productive time with our story editor, Jeff Biederman, we have a solid new pilot with a focus cast of characters and promising sample episodes. We’re honing our pitch tonight. And we got to spend some time with entertainment lawyer Gigi Morin to make sure we are practicing CYA!

One last link – people have asked about the show we’re developing. I’ll tell you that it’s based on this National Post article, and the “oh shit” look the parents offered the photographer. That’s what Split Level is about. 🙂

Totally Television Day 2 – Plots Are Hatched

I might be running out of words today because we have gone through a lot of them!

Day 2 has been great, but it’s not over. David (Zellis) and I are just about to embark on an evening of pitch prep and pilot outlining as I write this, and we’re already exhilarated and exhausted at the same time from an incredibly productive day of story work with our story editor, Jeff Biederman.

We’ve effectively scrapped our existing pitch and pilot and come up with something we believe to be a lot stronger. But now we have to get it written up, and quick! Pitching happens every day during boot camp, and Jeff B is only available to us for another day. So our fresh beats need to be spun into an outline like now, yo.

Great talk this morning from Corrie Coe of Bell as well, focused mainly on the changes within the industry in the wake of the CRTC’s March announcement.

Back to the grindstone!

(and loving it)

Totally Television Day 1: David Barlow

Whew! What a whirlwind first day!

After introductions and some last-minute arrivals from jet-setters who rolled in from far-flung places like New York, Vancouver and Aurora, longtime writer and educator David Barlow helped each of us dig into our projects.

It began with logline crafting and revising. Of course, this ain’t my first rodeo, but David (Zellis, my producer) and I once again succeeded in having the most succinct logline, proving that there is still much to learn. As the day went on, we tweaked and revised and discussed and elevated, and I think we have a pretty solid grasp of what needs to be in there.

One of the several clips David showed us today was from the first episode of Modern Family, as an example of how to successfully set up the story world, characters, goals, conflict and format of the show. For Modern Family, they did it all in a little over three minutes.

I got some revising to do. Lots of pilot story notes today, too.

We spent loads of time on pitches today, too, which is a definite point of emphasis for me. I loved what David Barlow had to say about relatability and flexibility in a pitch. I’ll be taking a lot out of today. Not the least of which will be that I met a guy who co-created Seeing Things and was a writer on King of Kensington!!

We talked about everything from soup to nuts today and it’s all just sinking in. I feel so blessed to be a part of this and to have met everyone today.

Tomorrow we meet our story editor, the amazing Jeff Biederman!

Screenwriter and educator David Barlow.
Screenwriter and educator David Barlow

Totally Television begins

Ho man. I am beyond stoked. But also quite afraid. It’s not even a subconscious fear… I am totally afraid of success and I know it. The feelings of fraudulence aren’t even secret. And we haven’t even gone to Toronto yet.

I should back up.

So my producer friend David Zellis and I were accepted into NSI’s Totally Television program. We’re one of five teams, each team with a writer and producer, and each team with a complete television show package they’re looking to elevate and sell so they can be Canadian tv creators.

It’s a 10-month course and at the end, two teams will be selected to go to the Banff World Media Conference to pitch their show. To start off, beginning this Sunday, we’re in the Big Smoke for a week of “boot camp,” featuring loads of industry types imparting their wisdom on us. It’s just an amazing opportunity, as well as a back door to get into the business. Less Than Kind and Todd and the Book of Pure Evil were both Totally TV shows, among many others. We have a shot to change our lives here. But we also have to compete with our classmates, in a sense, if we want to get to Banff.

And that is frickin scary as frick.

Last night, our assigned mentor/story editor, Jeff Biederman, gave us some great notes on the pilot and pitch. I’m going to rewrite the pilot between now and Sunday and just put all of my nervous energy where I usually put it: coming up with yarns.

More bloggitude to follow

PS Wifey is blogging too! Check out her yoga blogicle here

PPS Kiddo is developing a standup act for her class. Two minutes of being a comedian. The title of her presentation is “I’m selling my pets.”

Without Maury

I had a chance to take a two-day workshop with showrunner Mark McKinney where we wrote for Less Than Kind and had a few members of the cast read.

I’d be watching this show no matter where it was set or shot … but it truly is Canada’s best tv show. I have a couple of friends who work on Less Than Kind and I think they’ll look back on their contribution with great pride for many years.

Now they have to shoot Season 3 without their patriarch, on- and off-set.