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DP Bryant Fisher (behind camera) on set of Little Leading LadiesImage courtesy of Adorama Rentals.

This is the third installment of a five-part series co-presented by New York Women in Film & Television and Adorama Rentals.

ARC Blog Editor Kelly M. La Rosa interviews Little Leading Ladies Director of Photography Bryant Fisher and Director of Operations at Adorama Rentals and Little Leading Ladies Gaffer Jerred Sanusi.

Little Leading Ladies was shot on the Sony F55—what made you choose that camera for this project? 
BRYANT: I had used the F55 on a previous television project and found that it was incredibly versatile, reliable, and it gave me great control in post. I like how well it responds to skin tones, and in particular how well it worked with the LED lighting. I was able to shoot raw with a very easy post workflow.

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DP Bryant Fisher checking out the Sony F55 at Adorama Rentals. Image courtesy of Adorama Rentals.

What was your favorite shot? Can you walk us through the the process of achieving that shot from conception to execution?
BRYANT: If I had to really narrow it down, I’d have to say it’s a toss up between the two dolly shots. One is where the three girls are on the playground walking toward the camera in a V formation. We did that with natural light, and were able to really pull some great detail out of it in post. Aubrey (Director) wanted to feel the power of the young business girl and her two sales girls. To put that sense of pressure on the viewer, I had them walk toward the camera and assemble on each side, displaying them as a power trio.

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DP Bryant Fisher (on dolly) and Gaffer Jerred Sanusi (behind dolly) on location shoot for Little Leading LadiesImage courtesy of Adorama Rentals.

The other is the talk show host intro, where we dollied from left to right, showing the boy’s hand on the camcorder to reveal his sister on the homemade talk show set. I wanted to show two stories in one with this shot. By including the younger boy’s hand then rack focus to reveal the sister, we understand she’s talking to someone off camera, revealing this grand, child-size set.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience with this project?
BRYANT: As with any production, the biggest lesson I learned was to go in with a concise idea and communicate clearly with your crew to get what you’d like to achieve in order to get the best finished product possible. Your personality and behavior dictate the vibe of the whole production.

Can you give us a run down of the lighting changes you made to Bryant’s equipment list?
JERRED: Bryant had provided me with a lighting list during pre-production which consisted of primarily tungsten and Kino fixtures. I took the list and gave it a modern twist. I replaced all the lights suggested by Bryant with modern LED lights. The majority of which were recently released items. The list Bryant provided was a solid list so coming up with their LED equivalent was an easy task. 

I switched out the Kino Divas for Kino Celebs, the Mole Tungsten lights for Mole LEDs. I also included the Cineo LEDs as our powerhouse lights. 

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Director of Operations at Adorama Rentals Jerred Sanusi’s lighting check out changes for Little Leading Ladies.

Why did you make those changes?
JERRED: I chose to go with the Kino Celeb over the Divas and 1x1s because they have the same light characteristics as the Diva. The celebs create a nice soft single source light which is far better than the multiple source Light of the 1x1. Mole had recently released their LED line and Adorama had, of course, acquired them to their inventory. I wanted to take these LEDs out for a spin. I replaced our 300 tungsten with the 150 and 100 Mole LED. The 100 has a light output equivalent to a 650 tungsten and the 150 has an output equivalent close to a 1k tungsten fixture. The Cineos were added to be our powerful soft light, in case we needed a bright, broad source of light.

How do you feel it benefited the production process in the end?
JERRED: The two main benefits of going with LEDs are the low power consumption and low head of the fixtures. This allowed us to use as little power as possible in places like a school room and to keep temperatures down in a small studio where we were limited to running the air conditioning in between takes. The Cineo came in handy as a fill in most scenes. It faired well outdoors as a fill and indoors as a key. All of the LEDs we used have high CRIs which allowed them to seamlessly blend together. I was not an advocate for LED lights prior to this project but this was the first shoot I did completely with LEDs and I would have to say it made me a fan. 


Please join us Wednesday when the series continues with interviews with Little Leading Ladies Production Designer Deborah Zawol Smyth and Makeup Artist Jennifer Snowdon. Catch up on Monday’s post Interview with Little Leading Ladies Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth and Tuesday’s post Making of a PSA: Interview with Casting Director Jessica Daniels.

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Casting Director Jessica Daniels (right) and Casting Associate Candice Alustiza-Lee (left) at the Little Leading Ladies casting session. Image courtesy of Adorama Rentals.


This is the second installment of a five-part series co-presented by New York Women in Film & Television and Adorama Rentals.

NYWIFT member Amanda Lin Costa interviews Casting Director Jessica Daniels about her work casting the PSA Little Leading Ladies, directed by Aubrey Smyth. 

When you read the Little Leading Ladies script, did you have certainly actors that came to mind immediately? 
Certainly when I read a script, actors come to mind. With kids it’s different because they quickly age out of roles and it’s more hit and miss. Two of the girls I ended up casting I knew to call in from previous projects, and two of the girls I found through this particular audition process.

When you know a film is depicting a different era, in this case multiple eras, does that affect your thoughts on casting?
I didn’t concern myself much with the period factor for this piece because I knew that they would be styled accordingly. With adults, a malleable look isn’t as common as with kids—and I think some adult actors are more believable in period than others who really feel modern. For this project, I was on the hunt for compelling girls who could be natural and have that extra special spark.

What are the unique issues that come up when casting children for projects? Is the casting process different than with adults?
When casting adults, you’re starting out with a bigger familiarity factor—you can bring in people you know, and also from films or plays you’ve seen. For many kids, they’re just starting out. Maybe they’ve been in a school or regional play, but they’ve never been on camera. Or maybe they’ve done a small role on a TV show, but it’s not like they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. The kids’ casting process always involves a search element in that not only are you bringing in professional young actors, but you’re also looking to the schools, acting camps, theatre groups and classes, etc., to find unrepresented talent as well.

Auditioning children is usually about stripping down their performances to let their natural selves shine through the character. Sometimes that means breaking them of a pattern of lines they’ve been rehearsing with a parent, or just making them feel more at ease or comfortable in the room.

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Screenshot from Little Leading Ladies (L-R): Lara Valery, Giselle Eisenberg, and Eileen Berger.

There was a last-minute change with one of the actors—what is the best advice you can give to directors when this happens to keep the project on track and moving ahead?
The show must go on as they say. We lost an actor due to another booking but we gained a phenom who had suddenly become available. Unless there’s a big budget involved, actors fall out all the time. Regardless of an original vision, at the end of the day, you need to be able to make peace with it and tread onward or the project suffers.

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Casting Director Jessica Daniels works with Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth at Little Leading Ladies casting session. Image courtesy of Adorama Rentals.

Can you share any advice with directors who might be working with casting directors and/or children for the first time?
For young directors who haven’t worked with a casting director, I recommend asking questions and keeping open communication. It’s our job to introduce you to talented actors that will bring your script to life. We don’t expect you to fall in love with everyone we bring in, but we do hope that you’ll to keep an open mind, and hopefully some will surprise you! It’s a collaboration, and we are your advocates. It’s important that there’s a trust there.

Practically speaking, it’s useful to consider your budget and try to have as much in place as possible. Have the final draft of your script in good shape and free of typos. Select appropriate sides (scenes for the actors to read). The auditions are not the shoot, so it’s not necessary and often too time-consuming to incorporate things like costumes or props. It’s more important to focus on the actors and their performances and trust that those other elements will come in to play later.

In working with kids, it’s imperative to give them the material beforehand—and not on the spot if it’s more than a line. It’s useful to talk to them and make sure that they can take direction. Many times, with smaller kids especially, that comes from talking to them and explaining what’s going on in a way they understand without condescending to them. When you cast a kid, you’re also inheriting the parent or guardian that is going to be with them on set, which is important to keep in mind.

Please join us Wednesday when the series continues with an interview with Little Leading Ladies Director of Photograph Bryant Fisher and Gaffer Jerred Sanusi. Catch up on yesterday’s post: Interview with Little Leading Ladies Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth here.

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Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth (center) works with the young actors on the set of Little Leading Ladies. Photo courtesy of Gingersnap.


This is the first installment of a five-part series co-presented by New York Women in Film & Television and Adorama Rentals

Intro:
When fellow NYWIFT member Aubrey Smyth shared her idea to create a PSA inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, I was intrigued. Her idea to depict young girls in their “early career steps” in the industry felt fresh and playful. I know I can trace my first steps of being a writer to blue-lined paper covered in crayoned words no longer than five letters.

Smyth’s short narrative features several young girls from various eras aspiring to be future leaders in the film and television industry, in other words, #BeTheBoss. Recent studies conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism reveal “decisive and startling evidence of gender inequality and rampant stereotyping in film and television.” The press has turned their attention this year on the lack of women in front of and behind the camera due to some of the groundbreaking gender in media research being done. The #BanBossy campaign, created by the Girl Scouts of America in partnership with Lean In, focuses attention on the term “bossy” and points out that it’s a negative self-fulfilling stereotype:

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood.

Sophia Amoruso, fashion icon and Nasty Gal founder/CEO, grabs the term bossy and looks at it differently. Her foundation and new book by the same name, #GIRLBOSS, is all about "encouraging creative girls" (that’s you!) to learn more about business… and building a framework for young women to become successful entrepreneurs." Amoruso thinks it’s OK to call girls bossy. Even Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants, isa play on the titled often bestowed upon women asserting themselves and hits back at the idea women can’t be bosses. I predict the dialogue is only getting started.

I thought Smyth’s PSA, Little Leading Ladies, would be a great opportunity to expand NYWIFT’s relationship with Adorama by suggesting we co-produce a short behind-the-scenes series that was both educational and fun. Over the course of the week, we’ll look at the writer/director process, casting, aspects of art direction, and some of the key technical elements that go into shooting a short film. At the end of the series, Little Leading Ladies will get its world premiere. I hope you’ll read along all week, share with friends and colleagues, and utilize your clout to make decisions not only at the box office but also when hiring, to help end gender inequality. 

— Amanda Lin Costa, Producer, Little Leading Ladies

Interview with Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth: 
NYWIFT member Anne LaBarba interviews Aubrey Smyth about her inspiration and her process writing and directing Little Leading Ladies: 

What was your inspiration for the piece? It’s very clever and relatable. Thank you, that was the reaction I was hoping for! I was thinking about how the imaginative ways we play as children develop our personalities and influence our future careers. I was inspired by a quote of Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In that said:

"I want every little girl who someone says ‘they’re bossy’ to be told instead, ‘you have leadership skills’ because I was told that and because every woman I know who’s in a leadership position was told that."

Right after graduating Pratt Institute I co-founded my video production and post company, Gingersnap. I thought about where my earliest leadership skills came from and laughed reflecting back to vivid childhood memories I have of my brother and I making movies. We would build TV show sets out of cardboard, and he would play the Talk Show Host and I would be filming with the VHS camera. The “Future CEO” character in the video is wearing the very outfit I wore to school in second grade. I would call myself “Business Girl” and have all my friends pretend to be my secretaries. I think Little Leading Ladies is relatable because everyone can describe a childhood moment when your personality was developing and how it can define who you are now.

What was you writing process? Did casting, locations and budgets alter your initial vision? 
I co-wrote the script with my writing partner and mom, Deborah. I love the process of writing with her because we have been finishing each other’s sentences for 26 years. We always write our scripts being aware of what we already have access to and potential limitations. The writing is the easy part!

We needed to find ways to be time- and cost-effective, and decided to shoot all the interiors in one location by using the walls of our Gingersnap office. This seemed easy but it put all the pressure on the production designer (Deborah) to create the set from nothing. But it also gave us control and imagination. It forced us to be creative with simple camera movements and allowed the DP, Bryant Fisher, to invent the lighting.

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Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth paints sets for Little Leading Ladies at the Gingersnap office in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Gingersnap.

How does the process of directing child actors differ from adults? What techniques did you find useful? 
I had experience directing documentaries for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with children but Little Leading Ladies was my first time directing a narrative with child actors, and I was blown away by their professionalism. I think being strategic by selecting the right child for the role during casting is very important. Since time is limited on set you need to cast a child that understands their character and can adapt to reading the lines several ways.

My method for directing children is to treat them like mini adults. I use comparisons in their life to help them give the proper reactions for the camera. A silly example would be, “Show me the smile you would make if you found out school was cancelled tomorrow.” I give a lot of encouragement and make sure to never say “no” or “one more take.” Every take is a good take, even if it wasn’t, because positive feedback helps them get through any difficult moments.

Where do you see the piece going now that it’s finished? Do you have a target for it? Who do you hope to inspire? 
My goal in creating this video was to promote and celebrate women of all ages in the film industry, and I would love for women to share it amongst each other online. I have been disappointed reading books about the best directors in film and only finding a handful of women on the pages. This video is a statement that women develop as leaders from a young age and it is okay to be the boss. I hope to inspire young women to take on top leadership positions in the media industry. 

What practical advice do you have for a filmmaker taking on this kind of project for the first time?
There are several things I have learned while directing large casts and crews with tight schedules. I need to guarantee my focus is only on the story and the actor’s performance on set, so planning and preparation in advance is crucial. When you’re directing there are hundreds of decisions to be made, so I try not to leave any detail unplanned and know exactly what I want.

Be mindful of the time schedule, but do not feel pressured to move on from a shot unless you have gotten what you need from the performance. You cannot duplicate in post the shot you never got.

And lastly, always remain positive even if something isn’t going your way. I like to be supported by a talented crew with good attitudes. That’s what makes filming an enjoyable experience.

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Writer/Director Aubrey Smyth (left) at a production meeting for Little Leading Ladies. Image courtesy of Adorama Rentals.

What’s the project you’re working on next? That you would like to work on next? 
I love writing and directing narrative branded-content videos for the web. I co-wrote a script for a Lipton Ice Tea competition and it was selected to be produced. We wrapped the shoot last week and it was a comedic narrative video about two little girls and a boy that devise a sneaky plan to have the most epic summer barbecue ever. My goal is to direct commercials, and I am currently co-writing a comedic feature.

Please join us Tuesday when the series continues with an interview with Little Leading Ladies Casting Director Jessica Daniels.

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The Art and Wardrobe departments help build the characters through decoration and dress. What people wear and where they live and work can give you insight into the characters and their motivations. That’s why it’s important to hire crewmembers that are clear about your vision and have the ability to execute it for the budget you have.

Production Design
Your Production Designer is in charge of creating a “look” for the project with “set dress,” items that are placed on the set to create the mood, tone and theme of the scene. For example, if you have a scene in an office the Production Designer will “design” the office by collaborating with the Director on certain details. Questions that the designer may ask include: 

  • What type of artwork/decoration would hang on the wall (e.g., paintings, kids’ drawings, posters)?
  • Would there be lots of gadgets (e.g., computers, printers)?
  • What scenes will be shot here? Will there be stunts?
  • What is the season and/or year? (This can affect the type of computers, furniture, holiday decorations, etc.)

From this conversation, your designer can purchase, rent and borrow items based on the “box” they are given by production, which includes the amount of time, money and staff she or he has. Depending on the budget, the designer utilizes simple pictures of ideas to elaborate drawings of sets to confirm with the Director that they understand the Director’s vision.

Choose a designer based on taste and an understanding of your project. Watch their previous projects—do the sets feel overdone? Did you like their use of colors? Do the sets reveal things about the characters that are left unsaid? The next step is to check their IMDB and references to make sure that they have the ability to come in at or under budget. You can ask your department head to do a “breakdown,” which is a budget for their staff and all the things they have to buy. If they are going over the budgeted number, you’ll need to figure out where you can support them (e.g., free stuff for set dress, locations that are mostly dressed, minimal builds).

Props also fall under the Art Department for your project. The Property Master (that is, the finder, keeper and manager of the props) works with the Production Designer to make sure that they have everything needed to help fill in all the details for each set. Weapons, books, cellphones and picture cars are some examples of props. On low-budget union sets, the Property Master is also responsible for setting up chairs for the producer, director and actor for video village.

For information on the I.A.T.S.E. breakdown of the Art Department and its positions, you can check with individual Locals. 

Wardrobe
Costume design encompasses everything your characters wear. Many actors like to collaborate with wardrobe to help build their character. What somebody wears can tell a lot about who they are, where they are from, their social status and economic status without saying a word. These details set a tone for your project and help craft the characters.

Costume Designers typically develop relationships with fashion vendors (e.g., designers, stores, rental houses) that enable them to get “product placement,” which is when a designer and/or company allows you to use clothes for free in exchange for a special thanks in the credits, social media shout-out, pictures with talent, etc.

Another budget-conscious idea is to have the Costume Designer go through the actors’ closets (literally or virtually, via phone calls or Skype). Using the actors’ clothes on a nonunion project is free; but if you are working with SAG actors, you’ll have to compensate them for each item of clothing they bring (which will be defined by each SAG contract). Keep in mind that you’ll need permission or “clearance” to display logos and uniforms. Working with new designers is a great way to get clothes cleared for free. 

Next Steps
Now you’re almost ready to shoot your film! But before you call action, it’s time to meet with your actors and crew to set your intention for what you would like to happen when the cameras start to roll. In my next post, we’ll discuss table reads (with the actors) and page turns (with the crew)—the final steps in the preproduction process. 

New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley defends her article about Shonda Rhimes.

The Pioneering Women Directors of the DGA event was filled with celebration and discouraging statistics. 

In a witty interview, director Nicole Holofcener talks directing features, the casting process, and much more.

A sad fact about fiction: Career women are more underrepresented on screen than in real life. 

Up-and-coming actress Karla Souza lands a role in the new show How to Get Away with Murder.

The Geena Davis Institute reveals the dearth of women in film is worldwide

If any of these reasons are why you’re pursuing acting, stop your pursuit.

— KELLY GLOVER

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Stakes are the thing in the story that makes a reader care what happens.

Your fun characters and snappy dialogue and careful plotting literally do not matter if nothing much will happen if the plan doesn’t come together. And the stakes can be anything, really, as long as they are dreadfully important to the characters, and fit the tone and the genre.

  • It must be specific. John McLane in Die Hard must stop a band of terrorists or they will kill his wife. That’s a stake. A movie based on getting to a wedding on time is weak on stakes, unless there is a compelling, specific, personal reason that being late for this wedding will be disastrous, such as your protagonist is in love with the groom.
  • It must be clear. Spec scripts often take it for granted that what is important to the characters and why it’s important are self-evident. For clarity, if your ballerina protagonist feels she is aging and winning the lead role is all that stands between her and losing her place in the troupe, which would end her career, don’t keep that to yourself or allude to or hint at it. Show it, say it. Draw a big red circle around it.
  • It must matter, and it must matter now. Burn the ships. A protag holds a priceless stolen piece of art for a violent criminal, just for a few days. Don’t allow 14 things to almost happen to this art. Your inciting incident is that he immediately smashes it. Now what? That’s the drama. Don’t shy away from big stakes because you’re not sure how to write your way out of them. Be confident. Push the story, and at the end, it turns out the piece was a fake. Easy. Big stakes do have answers, and you will find them.

Low stakes make very weak scripts. Fearlessly ramp up your stakes until they are nothing less than a howitzer pointed right between your protag’s eyes.

— ANNIE LABARBA

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

Thea Kerman (second to left), director Afia Nathaniel (second to right), and crew of Dukhtar at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

New York Women in Film and Television member Thea Kerman recently gave an interview to Susan Modaress, another NYWIFT member, about her work in the industry—including as an entertainment lawyer and a film producer. 

Why did you decide to join NYWIFT, and why is it important to be part of a professional network like NYWIFT?
When I began my career the motion picture and television industry was even more dominated by men than it is today. I was looking for an organization of like-minded women who would support each other and advocate for greater career opportunities for women. Although we have made progress on these fronts, there is still much to be done.

What made you decide to become an entertainment lawyer?
My mother introduced me to the performing arts by taking me to see Broadway shows and movies. In the summer before my last year of law school, I knew I had to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Based upon the love of the arts that my mother inspired, I decided that I would be an entertainment lawyer when I graduated.

During the last year of law school, I sent my resume to every law firm in New York and Los Angeles that had an entertainment law practice. My research and persistence paid off because I was lucky enough to secure a job with a New York law firm that did copyright and entertainment law.

What are the most interesting/difficult parts of your job?
Helping creative artists and business owners grow their careers and businesses by furnishing them with strategic advice, helping them structure business transactions, and advising them on creative, practical, and cost-effective solutions to problems.

How did you get involved in the indie feature Dukhtar, and what drew you to want to produce? 
NYWIFT member Afia Nathaniel, the writer, director and producer of Dukhtar, came to me in 2007 to represent her in negotiating an option agreement for her screenplay that ultimately became Dukhtar. The option agreement provided that Afia would be the director of that picture, her first feature-length film. The producer held the option for five years, but, unfortunately, was unable to raise the financing.

In 2012, as his option was expiring, Afia was awarded a 100,000 euro grant from Norway’s Sørfund. Afia decided to use the Norwegian grant to produce the picture herself. I was originally engaged to be the production counsel on the film. As preproduction and production progressed, I assisted her with respect to many of the business aspects of the production and became a co-producer. Dukhtar is a Pakistani/Norwegian/U.S. production. It was shot entirely in Pakistan. It had its world premiere last week at the Toronto Film Festival and was chosen as Pakistan’s official entry for the foreign language Academy Award.

Is this the first film you’ve produced?
I was the Executive Producer of Doctors of the Dark Side, a documentary about the physicians and psychologists who designed, administered and supervised the program of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques used by the CIA and military to interrogate detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and secret sites operated by the CIA. Former NYWIFT member Martha Davis produced and directed this documentary.

What would be your advice for up-and-coming producers or entertainment lawyers that want to produce?
Be relentless and never give up.

What’s next for you?
I am always on the lookout for quality projects, be they narrative or documentary, for which I can provide legal and/or producing services. I am currently working with a longtime writer-director client whose is writing, directing and producing a thriller that is a sequel to a television MOW [movie of the week] that he wrote. With the help of the WGA, I secured from the producer of the original MOW the reversion of the sequel rights to my client. This allowed him to move forward with production of the sequel.


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!

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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