47 Selling Your Nightmares from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

47 Selling Your Nightmares from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

What I learned from being in a writer’s room is the things you need to do most are the things you learn in English and Humanities classes. First of all, you’re selling your nightmares. What are the worst things you can imagine happening? Make stories out of that. They’re the what-ifs of your life. That whole Down Syndrome baby thing. I was pregnant when I wrote that. You have no idea when you’re going to have a kid right unless you get all the tests and even if you get all the tests you’re not sure until the day the kid shows up and you imagine all the awful things that might happen right? So I was in the middle of that when I wrote that episode. So that was my true emotion that was happening. I wrote an episode once about what if your husband committed suicide. I’ve got all kinds of episodes. I just thought what are the worst things that could happen to me and bam they became episodes over and over again right? So you’ve got to mine your nightmares and manage them.

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The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years (Complete) [Video]

It was great to be able to attend this year’s SD WhoCon in San Diego and present this lecture on “The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years” in which I discuss how successful I think showrunner Christopher Chibnall was in making that transition.

It gave me a chance to talk about the creative work of a showrunner/screenwriter while also reconnecting to some friends we had met at this same convention some 3 years ago – and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – Doctor Who!

The Difficulties and Delicacies of Writing the First Female Doctor in 50+ years (Complete) [Video]


 

46 The Importance of Pronouns from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

46 The Importance of Pronouns from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

So that was fine. Renoly was marvelous and we had a marvelous time working on that. One of the things I learned was remembering the importance of words. The simple act of in one scene, of course, he gets shot, right — because he’s in a gang — they had to go to the hospital and all I had to do was write “The doctor walks in and SHE says…” and they hired a lady as the doctor. If I had not used that pronoun they would have hired a man because that’s what an extra casting director would simply have gone to — his stereotype. Doctors are boys, right? So just because of the word she I got a woman a job and little girls in America the chances to know that doctors are girls. Now y’all, as I said better over here right because that’s very cool but that’s what Shonda Rhimes has built her whole career on right, colorblind casting and gender blind casting. Let’s just get in good actors to do these parts and see where we go from there, which I think is a really brilliant thing and what she’s built her whole thing on.

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45 Casting and Production Issues from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

45 Casting and Production Issues from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

But now I had to deal with everybody else and their stereotypes. One of which was oh so the gang should clearly be Black or Hispanic and I was like no no we’ve done that too much. In my neighborhood, they were Armenian gangs at the time. Not that you want to pick on any one group but you know it was a new group that hadn’t been picked on too much on TV. I argued for a good solid two days in that room why it should be an Armenian gang and I kept getting flack about America doesn’t understand that. They only understand these two groups blah blah and I was losing that battle and one of the producers told me to shut up and I kept talking because I didn’t want to lose that battle until finally, the person who usurped me was the casting director who knew that was the storyline we were playing with and he came in the room and he said I don’t have an Armenian actor who could be a guest star but I have this guy Renoly Santiago who had just done Hackers, Conair and oh the Michelle Pfeiffer movie where she’s a teacher and she used to be the military. it’s not Stand and Deliver… Dangerous Minds. He had just started all three of those movies and he was willing to do a television episode. So the casting director came in and said we got him. He’s Hispanic. That’s the gang and I lost the argument based on the popularity of the guest actor they could get.

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44 Sneaky Methods from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

44 Sneaky Methods from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

Well, first of all, I wanted to pitch a show. I’d read an article about a priest in LA who worked with gang kids who were also parents and I wanted to do something where a boy had to pick whether he should be — oh look it’s a father episode — more devoted to the family he created or to the gang that was his fake family right? He had to learn that the gang wasn’t real but his own family was real.

I wanted to pitch that but I knew that one of the other episode guys– one of the other writers — didn’t like to do things with gangs. I was like well that’s stupid that’s writing out a whole sort of storyline. So I had to get my boss alone and the boss on this show happened to be a female and interestingly enough there’s one place that a girl writer could follow a female producer that none of the boys could follow us — the loo — ladies and gentlemen, so I waited until she went to the bathroom one day and I followed her in and while I was washing my hands very vigorously I said “Martha I’ve just read this marvelous article about this priest who works with gang boys and I thought what if he did an episode about a teenage gang dad,” and she was like “Well that’s marvelous. We should do that. Let’s talk about it,” and we went back into the room, where there were two guys I knew didn’t want to do anything about gangs and she pitched it and they can’t say no to the boss. So I got it.

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New Presentation: “She is Wise and Unafraid”: Writing the 1st Female Doctor and a Diverse Universe for her to Protect, Screenwriting Research Network Conference 2021, Oxford, UK

New Presentation: “She is Wise and Unafraid”: Writing the 1st Female Doctor and a Diverse Universe for her to Protect, Screenwriting Research Network Conference 2021, Oxford, UK

New Presentation: “She is Wise and Unafraid”: Writing the 1st Female Doctor  and a Diverse Universe for her to Protect, Screenwriting Research Network Conference 2021, Oxford, UK

For this year’s SRN (Screenwriting Research Network) conference – which had to be online due to the continuing pandemic – I presented a short discussion of the chapter I wrote for a new book an old favorite show – Doctor Who.

The book is called Doctor Who New Dawn: Essays on the Jodie Whittaker Era and my chapter is titled “She is Wise and Unafraid,”: Writing the 1st Female Doctor and a Diverse Universe for her to Protect.”


 

I cover the ways in which I believe executive producer/showrunner Chris Chibnall used the tools of his writing trade to create the first female Doctor in the show’s over 50-year history. Those included casting and costuming, dialogue and diversity. In my opinion, Chibnall made a promise to diversify the show on all levels (not just by changing the gender of the lead character) and by hiring a diverse slate of writers who created stories under his direction I believe he kept that promise.


43 Protecting Your Story from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

43 Protecting Your Story from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

As I’m thinking about this idea, I didn’t pitch it for a while because I knew the answer would be to marry them and I didn’t want to do that and then one day Mrs. Doubtfire was on TV and I was watching. It reminded me of the article and I thought “Oh I will immediately pitch the story where the wife is already remarried” because the answer from angels can’t be get a second divorce in order to go right. So that was my reasoning around why they didn’t get back together and when I pitched it, it worked because I got the story I wanted and not the story that would have been molded from somebody else’s opinion. It’s hard when you’re in a writer’s room and you’re not the head of it because you are doing their show. It’s what they want done right but you have to keep some of yourself inside there too because that’s the theme. That’s the attitude. That’s the voice that you’re bringing to the story. So I couldn’t pitch it until I knew that I could protect the full story the way I wanted it to come out.

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42 Pitching Against Cliche from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

42 Pitching Against Cliche from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

This particular episode was called “A House Divided.” It didn’t have Robin Williams in it. That’s from which movie? Mrs. Doubtfire, right, because I read an article about Mrs. Doubtfire. I wanted to do an episode about teaching parents not to teach their — make their child a weapon in their divorce right and because that’s the story of divorce. It’s like you love me more than you love him. My problem was i knew that my boss’s answer would be the parents — like The Parent Trap — should get married again at the end. That’s the answer that our show should give but i had read an interview with Robin Williams that had taken place several years earlier. When he agreed to do Mrs. Doubtfire, he put in his contract that the film could not end with he and Sally Field getting married again because he would not lie to his own children because he was divorced twice by then and he knew he was never getting back together with his first wife. So he would not do a movie that lied to his own children and that really struck me. So the way they fixed it was they made Sally Field already connected to Pierce Brosnan right?

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41 It Never Hurts to Ask from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

41 It Never Hurts to Ask from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

…and to their credit, everybody in the room is kind of like “Oh duh yeah, why didn’t we think of that. Okay,” but a production problem. Della Reese was actually a minister in a church in Los Angeles and we filmed this in Utah. So she was given every Friday to fly back to LA to run her church for the weekend and then she’d come back Monday morning. So she didn’t work a day and a half of every week and so she couldn’t be in as many scenes as Roma Downey could. So immediately the supervising producer who’s in charge of scheduling shot that down and said “No we can’t do it,” and I thought damn, make me mad. I’m going to have to call my friend and say You’re going to hate this episode. Don’t watch it.” right and then I said “What if we asked Della if this particular week she would work a couple of extra days for the chance to play this character instead of that character” and they’re like “It can’t hurt to ask,” and you know to not play a maid she gave us another couple of extra days. So it was a move in the right direction right that had to be brought up. You have to think about it. Then you have to talk people into it. Persuasive speech is a good class to take if you want to be a writer in a writer’s room.

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40 Breaking Stereotypes from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

40 Breaking Stereotypes from There And Back Again: Writing and Developing for American TV [Video]

Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.

Transcript:

So, this other episode — it’s called Smokescreen — had to do with an African-American executive at a tobacco company who of course has to deal with the fact that he’s selling a product and kills people. There was going to be a lawsuit and originally — we have two angels — one was Roma Downey — who comes from Ireland — an Irish woman and one was Della Reese, a famous jazz singer who’s a woman of color. We always made the angels real people in people’s lives and that’s how they got to talk to you and try to — they never told you they were angels till the very end when everything would you know they could get you to change your mind — so the very first thing because people fall back on stereotypes all the time. It is far too easy to go to the stereotype and you have to learn to go beyond it. So they’re going to make Roma Downey the lawyer — the guest lawyer — and Della Reese the guest maid in this family and one of my best friends — this is a terrible phrase from Seinfeld happens to be African-American right. She’s not my only African-American friend but my best friend and I knew she would cringe if Della Reese played a maid. So I raised my little hand and I said wouldn’t it be cool if Della was the lawyer and Roma was the maid.

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