And nobody asks, ‘How do you write smart, strong men?’” Shonda Rhimes speaks on creating iconic female characters. 

Six of the best new web series are created by women. 

President Alexis Wilkinson discusses bringing 138-year-old The Harvard Lampoon into a new age. 

There’s been "no improvement" in diversity hiring in episodic television. 

CBS may not have considered a woman replacement, but Maxim magazine has!

From one performer to another—advice on how (and when) to get an agent

— KELLY GLOVER

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Your story has a beginning, a middle and an end but they don’t necessarily have to appear in that order. A good beginning has lots of things happening in it, things that make the reader curious about what’s going on. Once the reader is curious, they are hooked.

  • Don’t overwhelm with information. No matter when in the storyline you start the story, the reader needs much, much less information than you think. Focus on setting your stage with actions; they introduce characters and tone and genre much more efficiently than conversations do.
  • Don’t start before the start. Many structure models call for a “normal life” beginning, which leads to many spec scripts beginning with a very average “average day.” It’s not interesting, and it establishes very little. Consider an episode of Modern Family, every “average” situation includes a lot more than a trip to the grocery store.
  • Start with a glimpse of what makes your story different. Spec scripts tend to fall back on the familiar. If you’ve seen it, don’t copy it. After your second or third rewrite, you should have a handle on what sets this script apart. Open with an original riff on that.

There’s no time in your opening to spend on anything flat or predictable. Readers fall in love with scripts that open in an unexpected way.

— ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

(Edited on Sept. 17 at 1:37 pm EST.)


Just Read:
this New York Times article about the power of women moviegoers. You should read it too!

Check Out: the Paley Center’s essential panel discussion on women journalists and safety: News Reporting and Navigating Risk: How Women Journalists Stay Safe in Hostile Environments.

Go See: I Am Eleven at the AMC Empire 25 or the Village East. You may just have met the film’s Australian director, Genevieve Bailey, at NYWIFT’s Annual Member Party last week.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

(Edited on Sept. 17 at 10:15 am EST.)

 

Can Rosie O’Donnell  save The View

Gina Sanders becomes Conde Nast’s first President of Global Development.

Connie Chung advises women to “sing your praises the way men do!” (Video)

Which screenwriting contests are really worth entering? 

This Is Our Youth star Tavi Gevinson on the perks and pitfalls of adulthood. 

Gender bias—it starts in film school.  

— KELLY GLOVER

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Do you feel like you’re looking for your second act in a giant Where’s Waldo poster? You know it’s there somewhere, but so is everything else in the entire world.

Efforts to find Waldo shouldn’t show in your final draft. It’s imperative for clarity that you don’t submit a poster.

  • Go back to the beginning. Your script is about the one way your protagonist deals with the problem, for better or worse. To do that, you need a protagonist and a problem. If one or the other is not an identifiable standout, rewrite Act One to point a big arrow at them.

  • Use what you have. Characters create their own conflicts when they are properly developed. If you’re drowning in the quicksand of plot options, consult your characters. You can make certain plot developments inevitable or rule them out by focusing on what makes your characters tick. Refining your characters changes what they are willing and unwilling to do, what resources they have, and how they react.
  • Failure is plot. Spec scripts go wrong in the second act when they refuse to put their characters in a corner. Examine your second act for instances of success. Look, your protagonist convinces the police she’s innocent. Well…great for the protag, but you ran out of plot. Any success in your second act should immediately create a bigger problem.

— ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Lizz Windstead at the 2014 PFLAG National Straight For Equality Awards

Check Out: Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead on her “campaign for reproductive rights—with laughter” on WMC Live with Robin Morgan, available on WMCLive.com and iTunes.

Looking Forward To: the 2nd Global Symposium presented by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media.

Happy to Report: the female showrunners in scripted television series is going to rise for the 2014 – 2015 season after decreasing over the last 2 years. At 28%, we’re a long way from the 50% goal, but progress is good. Studies have shown that shows with female showrunners employ more women behind of and in front of the camera.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace join The View.

GMA favorite Robin Roberts launches a NYC-based production company.

Rona Fairhead chosen as the first female chairman of the BBC governing body. Splendid!

Are you the only one talking about your movie? Get your audience involved. 

Will Chelsea Clinton’s NBC replacement also make $600,000?!

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media announces their global symposiums. 

Katharine Weymouth exits The Washington Post, ending eight decades of her family’s run of the publication. 

Tips for recharging when you’re "over it!" in this business. 

Joan Rivers remembered. 

— KELLY GLOVER

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Joan Rivers had a long and varied career in the entertainment industry before passing away on September 4, 2014, at the age of 81.

Rivers’ began her career in New York City, performing stand-up in Greenwich Village. She was first introduced to a national audience when she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965. Her appearances with Carson were groundbreaking for women in comedy, and particularly women on late-night television. Seeing a female face in that male-dominated field was unusual at the time, if not unheard of.

Rivers appeared on the show repeatedly, until breaking ties in 1986 when she agreed to host her own show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, on a rival network. Although that show lasted only one season, she went on to host The Joan Rivers Show, for which she was awarded a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 1989 after the show’s first year. The Joan Rivers Show continued to air for another four seasons, ending in 1993.

At the time it was unusual to see female directors (something we still, sadly, struggle with), yet Rivers directed and co-wrote Rabbit Test in 1978—a quirky film that included Billy Crystal in the cast. It was his first movie.
 

Beginning in the mid-’90s, Rivers began working as an entertainment commentator, hosting Live from the Red Carpet for E! in 1996. It was the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with the network. She is perhaps best known to the millennial generation as the host of Fashion Police. The show dissects celebrity fashion, more often than not relying on Rivers’ trademark humor.

While Rivers’ brand of humor was not for everyone, her story is an important part of the history of women in film and television. Many female comedians (Whitney Cummings, Sarah Silverman) consider Rivers an inspiration. However, Rivers herself never liked to be called a pioneer: “I don’t like when the ladies come up and say, ‘Oh, you broke barriers for women.’ ….You asked me am I proud to be a pioneer? I’m not a pioneer. I’m still in the trenches, I’m still breaking ground.”

For her snarky wit, often boundary-pushing humor, and refusal to let her gender define her, Rivers will be sorely missed.

— EMMA THOMAS, Development Assistant, New York Women in Film & Television

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As a producer, one of the things I look for online when I’m hiring actors is an up-to-date, easy-to-navigate website. I want to see their work and what they’re contributing to the business.  It is important to have an online presence, even if it’s just a single web page with your headshot and contact info

Here are Page/Menu suggestions when creating or updating your website:

  • Homepage: Take advantage of this ideal spot to post career updates, callbacks, producer sessions—anything biz-related that wouldn’t necessarily be on your resume
  • Bio: Check out the June Acting Up post to get some fun ideas on how to draw your audience in. Be sure to include your social media links
  • Resume: Have a link to a PDF version that includes a small headshot of yourself as well as your social media links
  • Gallery: Include your headshots. Personally, I love “action” shots included in the Gallery as well
  • Testimonials: These are a great way for someone to discover the type of professional artist you are to work with. Reach out to the most influential people you have worked with—directors, producers, writers, casting directors—and ask them to write a short recommendation
  • Press: If you don’t have any press yet, you can always put a “Coming Soon” header until you do
  • Contact: Include all of your contact info—email, your representation’s contact information, your social media links and an email newsletter signup. You may also decide to link your site to a newsletter subscription (Mailchimp is a popular option)

Need a web designer? First rule: Keep it simple! (For my own site, I’ve found YoungSoul Design to be creative and affordable.) Here’s what to keep in mind when choosing a designer:

  • Do you like their work?
  • Do they list testimonials from previous clients?
  • Do they bring creative ideas to the table, in regards to the look and feel of your site? Are they creating something individual and unique, or are they using a template that looks like everyone else’s website?
  • Lastly, are they affordable?

Now, go book that job!

— MARISA VITALI

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Your ending needs a bang. Settling gently down to Fade Out from the end of Act Two does not an Act Three make.

  • Don’t hold back. Act Three is a balloon you keep inflating until it explodes. Push it as far as it will go.
  • Tie up loose ends as you go. Space them out in the run up to the end, preferably in action, or prune out the subplots that require them. It’s clunky to resolve two or three dangling storylines in conversation after the climax.
  • Make your ending impossible. Rewrite to refine characters, conflicts, escalations and thematic elements to put as wide a distance as possible between conditions at the beginning and the outcome. It will make your ending a revelation.

If your ending lays off on your characters, if the final challenge isn’t difficult enough, or if everything has not led inevitably to this outcome, your ending will whimper.

— ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Nancy Malone

NYWIFT’s Annual Cocktail Party - 2014 
September 8, 6:30 PM

It’s time for one of the most popular events of the year - the Annual Cocktail Party celebrating our fabulous members! Join us as we kick off the new program year, welcome new colleagues and raise a toast to everyone who is part of this great organization. Volunteers from NYWIFT’s many committees and affinity groups will be on hand to show you how to take advantage of the amazing array of opportunities and benefits available with membership. More.

Introduction to Screenwriting For Actors
September 10, 6:30 PM

This workshop with Jessica Rotondi is geared towards actors, writers and anyone else who wants to write their own short or web series. You’ll learn which ideas are right for each medium, find out how to create compelling characters that will help you shine as an actor, and discover the secrets to making your project “stand out” in a competitive industry. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their stories and character ideas for group discussion. More.

Networking Intensive: Become a Master at Connecting
September 16, 12:30 PM

Want to become a natural at networking? Discover the confidence to connect with conviction? In this intensive workshop, Certified Life/Career Coach and Television Packaging Agent Jim Arnoff will personally coach you through top ten techniques for engaging with results. He’ll share insider tips on mastering social events, show you the most effective secrets for creating a memorable impression and reveal the easy steps to letting go of blocks and embracing your true networking personality! More.

Safety on Set
September 18, 6:30 PM

The tragic on-set death of Sarah Jones, the 27 year-old camera assistant who was struck and killed by a freight train during production of Midnight Rider last February, sparked criticism of on-set safety procedures and raised questions about the precautions producers need to take before cameras roll. Find out the changes that have since been mandated to improve safety conditions nationwide. You can’t afford to miss this informative panel. More.

Screening and Conversation: Your Sister’s Sister
September 21, 2:30 AM

NYWIFT members are invited to a special free screening of Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, part of After School Special: The 2014 School of Visual Arts Alumni Film & Animation Festival. The 2011 award-winning comedy about romance, grief and sibling rivalry starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt and Mark Duplass will be followed by a Q&A with director/screenwriter Shelton. More.

Master the Art of Pitching Your Project
September 22, 6:30 PM

Can you sell your project in a single sentence? Are you missing the one element that could put it over the top with agents, producers and publishers? What may be standing between you and the writing career you’ve always dreamed of is the ability to answer the pivotal question: What’s your project about? Not all writers are prepared to talk concisely and competently about their work, but Jennifer Wilkov can show you how. She’ll help you master the essential skills you need to be confident when you pitch your projects to film, television and literary industry professionals. More.

Women’s Preservation Fund (WFPF) Screening: There Were Times, Dear
September 23, 7:00 PM

NYWIFT’s Women Film Preservation Fund’s first effort to save a television program was the restoration and preservation of the late Nancy Malone’s There Were Times, Dear. The film will be screened at a memorial tribute celebrating Nancy’s remarkable life. She was a long-time member and passionate supporter of New York Women in Film & Television, one of the original founders of Women in Film Los Angeles, the first woman to hold a departmental VP role at a major studio, and an award-winning director, producer and actress. More.

NYWIFT Member Screening Series:
Trial by Fire: Lives Re-Forged 
September 30, 7:00 PM

For September, the NYWIFT Member Screening Series at Anthology Film Archives features Trial By Fire: Lives Re-Forged by Megan Smith-Harris, who produced and directed this powerful look at burn survivors who rise above their injuries to discover unexpected insights and a transformed worldview. This series provides members with the opportunity to show their work in a theatrical setting, followed by networking at a nearby bar. More.


Moira Walley-Beckett
was the first solo woman to win in her category SINCE 1994! Congratulations to her and the other female Emmy winners.

AFI announced a major expansion to its Directing Workshop for Women

Working on your “scriptment" this weekend? (Yeah, I’d never heard the term either.)

After five years, Diane Sawyer leaves World News.

True Blood author Charlaine Harris enjoyed seeing her characters come to life—plot changes and all. 

Comedic actor-writer Alison Rich becomes SNL’s newest writer.

— KELLY GLOVER

imagePhoto credit: Shane Maritch.


A common frustration for many actors is the constant grind of looking for work, auditioning, and then waiting for the phone to ring (or the email to appear). So, ten women and myself decided to take our careers into our own hands and independently produce projects together. Our first collaboration is the film The Kids Menu.

This comedic short is all about old school Brooklyn vs. new school Brooklyn. The laughter begins with a clash over a children’s menu in a local restaurant between Italian pizzeria owner (Vincent Pastore, The Sopranos) and a headstrong young mom with innovative ideas, played by Nyle Lynn (Comedy Central). We say it’s Do the Right Thing meets Baby Mama. Written by Richard Vetere and directed by Paul Borghese, The Kids Menu is produced by Maayan Schneider, Amelie McKendry, Johanna Tolentino, Michelle F. Hartley, Karen Meurer Bacellar, Helene Galek, Massiel Hernandez, Alicia Priya, Emily FortunatoTeresa Hui, and Lynn, who heads up our dynamic team at Collaborative Media Productions.

Lynn and I met because we are both repped by the same talent agency, and it wasn’t long before we started working on a web series together with other actors from the agency. When the series went on hiatus for the summer, she contacted me to suggest another project: producing a short film. I was all in! That conversation was the first of many that got me involved as Associate Producer for The Kids Menu. I recently sat down with Lynn to ask her about how the short came to be. 

How did you get involved in The Kids Menu?
I attended a reading at The Indies Film Lab here in the city (where writers, actors, and directors get together, read scripts, and workshop projects), and I heard this terrific, funny, very New York play by Richard Vetere (The Third Miracle) being read. I had no idea who Richard was at the time, but I thought the script was great. So, afterwards, I walked up to him, saying, “I love your script, and I’ve been looking for a project to produce; we should talk.”

Richard was very enthusiastic and brought producer Al Messina (Dough Boys) and director Paul Borghese (Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn) on board, and Paul brought on actor Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy on The Sopranos).

How did you present the idea to Vetere?
Richard, Paul and Al are all longtime filmmakers familiar with each other and with the Hollywood investor system. I proposed a new way of funding it ourselves: crowdfunding. Just like our film is about old school vs. new school, crowdfunding is a new way for these Hollywood vets to work, and a new generation of producers is leading the way.

Who else is involved in the project?
After joining forces with you, Maayan, I recruited nine more amazing producers to work together on this project through my LLC, Collaborative Media Productions. All of us actresses have experience in producing, be it short films, web series, etc. This, however, is the largest project—and at $50K, the largest budget—we’ve taken on so far. We have all been learning and laughing and helping each other. Sarit Schneider [Maayan’s sister] is assisting with public relations, and my cousin Mim Paquin is coming on as a consultant. It’s been a joyful, empowering experience so far. We can’t wait to get to work on this film!

The film’s Indiegogo campaign runs until October 4.

The Kids Menu begins filming in Brooklyn in mid-October. For more information on the film, Collaborative Media Productions, or joining the production team or crew, email here.

— MAAYAN SCHNEIDER

Maayan is a producing actress, currently Associate Producing the comedic short The Kids Menu, and a member of NYWIFT.

(Edited on Aug. 28, 2014, at 2:45pm EST.)

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Your page count is the first thing that happens to a reader after your title. Somewhere in the 90s is ideal, but a good script at 110 is fine. How can you tell if you need 110?

I will give you a thousand dollars for every page you can cut before you submit.

  • Don’t repeat your beats. Axe scenes that accomplish nothing new. If you have three scenes that demonstrate only how beleaguered your protag is by the boss, either get rid of two of them or add more story-driving plot to make them important.
  • No reporting. Read your draft for incidents of characters reporting off-screen conflict to each other. Those conflicts are more fun to watch than hear about. They also take up less space.
  • Less describing is more engaging. Personality is great in action lines; a good voice is a pleasure to read. Things that aren’t pleasant to read include large blocks of text that set the stage in a way that is absolutely unimportant to the story.

If your pages are vibrant with drama and conflict and a relentless pace, your page count is not important. But 99 times out of 100, you can do more with less.

— ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

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U.S. women demonstrating for the right to vote (1913), via Wikipedia.

Wishing you all:Happy Women’s Equality Day, celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote.

Congratulations to: NYWIFT member Sandra Shulberg, whose Indie Collect just received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to catalogue and find archives for orphaned independent films. NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund committee is working with Sandra on the effort.

Going to miss: Mireille Enos as Sarah Linden now that the final six episodes of The Killing have come out on Netflix. An amazing performance, year after year, as a truly authentic female character.

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.