September? Already?

Holy Earth, Wind and Fire… it’s already September?  I can’t believe I haven’t posted since July.  How’s everything with you?

On August 17, YouTube Red launched FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: EXPERIMENT 88, an original series I served on as Supervising Producer earlier in the year.

Just last week, I started work on a new show for reality powerhouse ITV / Leftfield that I’ll discuss just as soon as it gels into a thing and they announce it.

Beyond that, I’ve also been making strides on biographical feature film you’ll hear more about as it moves forward.   I absolutely love the subject of the film, and she’s been incredibly cooperative in helping me to tell the most realistic version of her story possible.

Finally, thanks to the folks at MWP and the University Film and Video Association for such a great time last month in Las Vegas.  I’m grateful that so many educators are getting behind the book and that the new material in the second edition has proven helpful.

New posts in the works.  See you again soon!


Pro Tip: Superteases, Teases, Next Ons, and Prev Ons

Since a good friend asked me for my thoughts on these today, I thought I’d share them with everyone.

Before you read on, just know that this is how I generally approach this stuff in a vacuum if I’m not given any sort of directive. Mileage and notes pass experience may vary.


You’ve culled the best moments from the series (so far) and need to cut a Supertease for the end of the first episode or a longer Supertrailer for web use. How do you put it together without it seeming like a lot of unrelated noise?

First, look for an opening bite that works as a thesis statement for the season, even if it’s as loose as “It’s about to get crazy up in here” or “Bad news, guys, we might be losing the business.” This frames the action as you burst into it from there.

I like to group the Supertease/Supertrailer action by moods, and make sure each section is clearly set apart from the one before and after by a shift in music and tone. Make the division clear.

Try this combo:  Opening statement, scene selects that are happy, scene selects that are sad, scene selects that are loud/confrontational, then end on the loudest, biggest clip you’ve got. It’s nice if you can find a good closing statement that bookends the whole mess with a thought not unlike the one you opened with, but implying big risk/stakes.


For Act 2, I always end with a deeper tease letting you look ahead to something big in act 6 (or 5 if you have a 5 act structure). For all other teases, resist the urge to completely give away the biggest moment in the next act… I often look for a bold statement and end on an exaggerated version of the reaction shot. You want the moment that’s about to explode, not the whole explosion.


These should generally only contain material that sets up or reminds us of what’s being paid off or advanced heavily in the current episode. Nothing else matters, no matter how loud or visually attention-getting. The whole deal is about making sure viewers, especially new ones, understand where tonight’s action is coming from.


Don’t forget to use these as the foundation for your previously-ons and next-ons for the episodes before and after. Why do these completely from scratch?


Next ons should hint at further development of something already in motion as of the current episode OR tease something really big and new that’s coming down the pike. I usually limit myself to two or three beats of general action, loudest/most active last.  If you’ve got big action, consider hiding the real physical action, covering it with big reaction shots.  That way, revealing the real image/action in the next episode will feel like a surprise.

That’s all for this entry.  Story pals, any favorite approaches to these?  Leave ’em in the comments section.

Hot in Sunland (also: 48-hour Consulting deal)


Well, I guess I won’t be wearing any crazy jackets for a while. 104 degrees tomorrow, 106 degrees Monday. Whoo-ee!

Man, is it ever hot out here.  Can’t even get the cat to come out from under the bed.

I’m also between shows, which can really make the days drag on.  In an attempt to alleviate the boredom, I thought maybe I could come up with some sort of summer special on consulting.

If you’ve been thinking about developing your original series concept or could use some career advice in the reality television arena, now’s the time.  If you’d like to book an hour-long consult, just make a request at before midnight Sunday and enjoy the following:  The $200/hr rate will now include a free, signed copy of REALITY TV as well as my e-book on network notes, AND ANOTHER THING.

I’ll also include a 30-minute follow-up call for whenever you need a shot of extra advice. All told, that’s an added value of $130.

And now, for some more iced tea.



FREE Lecture and Q&A Event: JULY 23 @ THE WRITERS STORE

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The Writers Store, 3510 West Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA

As part of the celebration surrounding the summer release of the second edition of  REALITY TV: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO TELEVISION’S HOTTEST MARKET, I’ll be doing a free lecture and Q&A event at The Writers Store in Burbank on July 23 from 2-5pm.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase / signature, and refreshments will be served at the reception.


Don’t forget to check out the Writers Store archives of my online lectures and courses here.


‘UnReal’ Season 2 Tackles Gender, Race and Class, Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro Says — Variety

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and missed the first season of UnReal, get yourself caught up and then brace yourself for season two.

Like any actual reality program, I love what feels real about it and what’s unreal about it drives me nuts.  I can’t marathon it because it makes me physically tired to watch — but before you think I mean that in a bad way, I mean it like when you enjoy a nice steak dinner.  You wouldn’t want more than one in a night because it makes you feel so heavy and gross.

Yes, I love this show because too much of it makes me feel heavy and gross.

Watch it.

“UnReal” burst on to the TV scene last year like a bawdy, caffeine-fueled rocket, and in short order, the Lifetime drama won kudos and loyal fans by providing a riveting and unpredictable look at the behind-the-scenes drama at a dating show called “Everlasting.” Shiri Appleby played Rachel, a feminist who had doubts about almost every……

via ‘UnReal’ Season 2 Tackles Gender, Race and Class, Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro Says — Variety

IfOnly: Dinner with Me at Musso and Frank


It’s me again, and I’m hungry.

Hi, all.

If anyone’s interested in landing some one-on-one consult time in person (I usually work by phone or Skype) while also doing a little good, here’s a listing at that’ll net you a signed copy of my book, a 2-hour dinner consult and a one hour followup call, with a portion of proceeds benefitting the Red Cross.

Details here.

A Word on You, Me and Our Careers



No, I don’t wear cool jackets when it’s 87 degrees outside.

Even at 45, well into my career, I have my moments.

Between gigs, I still get pensive and crabby and wonder if every show will be my last, just like I did at 40, 35 and 30.  I wonder, with all the ebbs and flows in the amount of reality television in production, if I will have enough when it’s all over to retire with more than just great stories.  That said, I also have moments of wild, Pollyanna-like optimism when something even begins to look like it might go right.  Those are the ones that keep me going.

Half a lifetime ago, I spent a lot of money on pitch festivals and books and all the things that would make me, I thought, a better writer/producer.  Then reality television came along and my absurd output of spec screenplays and teleplays screeched to a halt as I ran down a new and exciting road that offered less resistance and more opportunity in the then-booming reality television alternative to traditional storytelling.

Ever since Reality TV was first released in 2011, I’ve tried to remain as transparent with all of you as I can, not only about the way the business works, but about who I am and the lifestyle I lead.  My professional advice isn’t a lot of rainbows and Shineola, because my primary source of income isn’t derived from leading you down a you-can-do-it path in exchange for speaking or consulting fees — and you deserve the truth.

I am gratified beyond belief by the dozens of emails I’ve received from people who made it into the business after seeing me lecture, reading my book, or taking some of my advice to heart after just bumping into me. My goal has always been to help people break into the business, not feed the delusion that it’s a breeze to start at the top.

I guess what I want you to know is that I intend to keep it one-hundred with you for as long as I have a blog and a book and the occasional lecture to share.  I’ve learned from my lumps, and if I don’t share those with you, you might not find yourself ready to struggle through the same stuff.  You’ll think something’s wrong and you’re the only person that’s ever been through that moment, and I’d be a pretty awful person for not having shot straight with you that moments like that are totally normal.  Even the big guys usually started from scratch and had to restart a few times after that over the years.

Stay tough, stay creative, keep asking what you want to know… and don’t mistake my transparency about the realities of the business for me being a curmudgeon who’s trying to dissuade you from taking a run at your dreams.  I love this stuff, and I care about your success enough to keep telling you the truth.

Good luck out there.