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Alex Ferrari 0:03
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.
Dave Bullis 1:48
My next guest is an award winning screenwriter, producer, author and professor. He actually wrote co wrote the cook the cold comedy Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead, starring Christina Applegate, which I always say is a rite of passage for kids of the 80s and 90s. Because I think we've all been there one way or the other, with a babysitter dies and we gotta hide the body. You know what I'm talking about. But he's also written for Doogie Howser, this secret world of Alex Mack, MTV. He's also produced a ton of different stuff. And he currently runs the MFA and writing television program at UCLA for the, for the theater, film and TV department. And now he's also written this book. He's also written for other books. For instance, like 101, things I learned in film school, the screenwriters roadmap. So his latest book is called TV writing on demand, which is what the contest is about. And it's all just about the medium of TV, how popular TV is becoming all the different programs out there. It's a pretty interesting book, I've actually I actually got an advanced copy of it. It's a really, really interesting read. And what we talked about in this episode is what I keep telling people, when they ask for screenwriting advice, I go, everybody wants to see you have a TV pilot of some kind, because that's where all the money is right now. And that's where all the hits are right now. TV is, is is definitely it. It's the most popular have been golden age. But it's also very diversified. Because there's so many different mediums at this episodic format, as easy as coming to whether it be YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, whatever. So without further ado, Neil Landau,
Neil Landau 3:18
Well, I kind of started off as a reading place. I mean, it actually starts with a lot of what all my books are about character development, about builds from empathy, so and filling emotional voids, you know, so much of what characters go through. And what we see, even in comedies are characters who have voids in their lives and deficits and things in the course of the story, fill those voids. So my father died when I was six years old, of a heart attack. He was playing basketball with some friends. He collapsed on the basketball court, he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, a heart attack. And so from that age forward, I had a very rich fantasy life. I was always reading little scenes and plays and wanting to disappear on showing off just to kind of, you know, use my, my loss of my father. So I was writing plays from fourth grade, I started writing little plays and skits and performance. And I actually thought I wanted to become a playwright. Me probably at the time, just because I shared the name with Neil Simon, who was the most well known playwright at the time, and I loved his work. And so I thought I would write plays and be like Neil Simon, I didn't think well, he already existed and I have to create my own voice. I just thought I'll just copy him and, you know, be the next meal. The next famous Neil playwright, but being raised by a single mom. We always had financial problems. And so I started to think, well, it's very difficult to make a living as a playwright and I knew what it was like to grow up You know, financially disadvantaged. So I started to think about well, and they knew some people who had gone to film school and who had written movies and television. And I didn't know if you can succeed, which, of course, is a big gift that you can actually make not only make a living wage, but you can actually make a lot of money, which would give me security. And so I segwayed from writing plays into I went to UCLA Film School and started writing screenplays. And at the time, one of my best friends growing up, Tara Ison, who was one year behind me, at UCLA, we went to actually elementary school, junior high, which is now a middle school, high school and UCLA together. So we were best friends for a really long time, we decided to partner up and write scripts together. Because I thought she was the smartest, most talented person I knew. And she felt similarly toward me. So we wrote a few screenplays while we were going to school. And one year after I graduated, we kept writing, you know, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we'd write and Sunday afternoon paint all day. And the first couple of weeks just stuck in a drawer, they weren't very good. The third one became don't among the babies. And we thought we'd be lucky, just, you know, to have anybody ever noticed us. But that script, actually, there was a bidding war at three studios. And it was one of those, you know, big spec scripts sales from the 80s 1987, where our lives just changed dramatically. Because we went, you know, I went from making $18,000 a year to making hundreds of 1000s of dollars a year. And then we were kind of off and running, in that that's kind of how it all started just from, you know, escaping life, fit their rich fantasy life. And then just dabbling and thinking maybe we can actually do this as a career. And that was the first thing. And once you sell an original spec script, or original pilot, that really creates so much heat and buzz that you could actually build a career on that if you can deliver again, you know, after that if it wasn't just a fluke. So that was kind of my inspiration and how it all started. And with, don't tell mom, one of the things Tara and I both had in common is our we both were raised essentially from broken families. And she was she her father didn't die, but she was mainly raised by a single mother. We also both look extremely young for our ages at the time. And people always used to ask if our agent had to give us a ride to the meeting, because they didn't believe we had our driver's licenses yet and things like that. So we'd like to also the idea of playing with age, you know, and in, we wrote one script about a dark, you know, high school who was much older and posing as a high school student. And then with Don't tell mom, we thought of the idea of somebody who actually could look older, who could go into the adult world and pretend to be an adult. So that was also part of the kind of a theme that we were exploring. And that's kind of how it all got, that's how our career really got started.
Dave Bullis 8:17
You know, so when you were writing, you know, don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. You know, since you're basically launched your career when you were writing this, did you actually I mean, were you when you're writing it? Or maybe when you're finished? Did you actually say, You know what, I think this is, you know, a homerun shot. I think this is, you know, your me like I think this is going to be Yeah.
Neil Landau 8:42
We would jokingly, we would jokingly say that one of the things that is so different between me and Tara is I tend to be very optimistic about everything and pragmatic and Jonathan's be more cynical. And I think she always thought, Well, who knows? We may we may never get anywhere. But I felt the thing about Dustin a moment was different was that we had so much fun writing it, there were so many times that we would just, you know, be laughing hysterically. And we kept we would say, we don't know if this is any good, but we think it's, I think it's funny. We're having a lot of fun writing it. We well actually this is even better part of the story. So at the time. I was always also interested in writing for television. So I did my internship at merit MPM enterprises, which was marriage Elmore, and grant Tinker's company. And this a show that I just loved so much, which really influenced everything in television and in my life with industry blues, and that was the show that I interned on the most and, you know, I was on set and I would watch dailies and I would get to see all the revisions and it was just a great experience just to observe and be around that show you
Alex Ferrari 10:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Neil Landau 10:10
But one of the other things they did in re internship was, he delivered mail around the CBS lot. This was CBS Radford that which is in Studio City, right near where I live now actually. And I we deliver mail and a little bicycle, one of the people I delivered mail to was Beth Ochsner, who at the time was senior vice president of comedy development. And she graciously agreed to read a script. And she ended up leaving MGM and becoming a literary agent. And she joined a big at the time, there was a very big literary agency called Broder Kerlan web affair, which no longer exists, it was I think they were absorbed by either I see them. God, I don't remember, they were definitely bought out. Death ended up leaving. But the point of the story is best tickets on as an agent, and we were hip pocket clients, meaning for those of you don't know, but you know, she didn't sign up. But she said, I have interest in you. You're you guys are young and talented. And I like I like what I'm reading so far. So let me send your stuff. Let me just informally represent you and see if we can get anywhere. She was mainly representing sitcom writers to see at the time, everybody was reading spec episodes of TV shows. That's how you got staff. People weren't really reading original pilots. So Tara, and I wrote a spec for the Golden Girls. And we thought it was great. Got it to bath and she said she was too busy to handle us anymore, was the bad news. But the good news is he had taken on my associate, who would handle us more of a junior agent and that they were going to represent us. So this new younger Junior agent who came in, she said, Well, what else do you have, because she didn't really like Golden Girls. And we had just finished the Don't tell mom scripts, which at the time was called the real world. That was the original title. And so we got her the script. And she hated it. She hated it so much. She said, I think this is the kind of script you should just put away and never show anyone, because it will actually harm your careers. She said you don't want this to be, you know, representative of your work. So what we did, because we're writers and neurotic, and we believed her. So I put the script away. It was printed out scripts. So you know, wasn't even on a computer, you know, back then. We were using early versions of computers, but mostly we were still typing our scripts. I put it under a pair of shoes in my closet. And we stopped missing our writing hours. And we were just very discouraged. And but one of my friends from UCLA is a guy named David cap, who has become a huge, huge Rewriter. You know, he wrote the original Spider Man with Tobey Maguire, and he wrote Jurassic Park one and two and panic war the world, you know, on and on and on. I mean, he he's become probably the most successful screenwriter, certainly financially in terms of Buxa box office, I think ever. He was over at my apartment, and he was asking about that script. And he said, Whatever happened with that script? And I said, Oh, it's terrible. We just put it away. And he said, Well, how do you know it's terrible? And I said, well, because this agent told us it was terrible, and not show it to anybody. So he said, he asked if he could read it. And I said, No, because, you know, don't humiliate me. And he said, just let me read it. I'm your friend, I'm not going to, you know, I'll just give you notes, whatever. Anyway, he read it, and he loved it. And he said, It's not the greatest script in the world, but I think you can sell it. And I think it's really funny. And I think the agents wrong. So based on that, and at this point, David was still nobody. But you know, I thought, well, maybe we should try to listen to somebody else. The timing was such that one of my UCLA professors had met an agent at a party, who was looking for new writers. And my professor said, Well, I you know, I read a script that I think's funny. And I know these young writer and so we got the script to him on a Friday. Normally, it would at that time, it would take anywhere from six weeks to six months for an agent to ever get back to you. Got it. Two days later, he called and said, When can you come home? And we went into a conference room and it was all the agents and partners and they wanted to sign us and then linked up to Scripture. I didn't there was a bidding war. So, moral of the story, don't ever listen to one person's opinion. Very important point. And that script really unlocked everything for us, including segwaying into writing for television, because Steven bochco was producing Doogie Howser MD at the time, and read the script and also really loved it. And that was how we got our first TV job. So, you know, you just, you never know, you know, it's like William Goldman says, and adventures in the screen trade, you know, nobody knows anything. It's always worth getting multiple opinions. And if three people say, this is terrible, I'm just not connecting to anything in the script, then maybe you listen, but one person is never, you know, I don't think is ever, necessarily the be all end all or anything. And so that was also part of that story. And I think we thought it was really good, then we were disappointed. And then all of a sudden, we thought it was good again, because somebody validated this, you know, on. And it's always hard when you're writing a script to know if it's good, because you're too close to it. You know, and I tell my students now at UCLA, where I teach now, you know, the first thing you lose when you start writing is objectivity. And it's really hard to see clearly, really anything, because the characters are starting to kind of lead you around, and you lose the sense of the big picture. And it often takes a fresh set of eyes to really, really determine the quality of anything at that point, unless the writer is able to put the script away for at least a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes.
Dave Bullis 16:46
Yeah, very, very true. Because I, you know, I've been there too, Neil, where you know, you're writing a script, and you that inner voice inside of you starts kind of saying, Ah, come on, this is too much like, you know, the godfather or whatever. And then you start writing a little more, and you're like, I don't know, what the hell am I doing? And then by the end, you're like, This is awful. What the hell am I doing with my life? I need to go out and I just start a new hobby.
Neil Landau 17:11
Yes, well, I was mentoring so much more. That voice that little devil or, you know, in your shoulder, that tells you you suck, and, you know, makes you doubt everything. That's never, that's never going anywhere, that's always going to be sitting on one shoulder, the other shoulder that hopefully will have your muse which will counter everything, the negative voices saying it's almost like there's always a battle between the Muse and the Furies. And I think, you know, it's, the negative voice does have value in that. It's ego driven. And it taps into all of your insecurities and doubts and fears, and neuroses. But it is also forcing you to be more critical and to, you know, be really tough on yourself, because it's probably going to say meaner things, and harsher things than anybody in the business possibly could ever say to you. I'd rather hear from my own inner healing from an external one who could potentially destroy, you know, my career or, you know, making a mobile application. The challenge is, it's almost impossible to be the creator and the critic at the same time, you know, so what I try to do, the best of my ability is, say, All right, I know the negative, destructive, or hyper critical voice is going to be coming through one side of my head or sitting on one of my shoulders, it's there, I acknowledge it. I just say, you know, just let me finish. I'm gonna listen, just to the positive news, that's kind of inspiring me, when I'm done, you know, I'll be hypercritical, and I'll shift over to my critical mind. But it's really hard to be the creator and the critic simultaneously. You know, it's, they kind of cancel each other out. And it's What can cause writer's block, you know, writer's block is caused by perfectionism, where you just, you know, don't want to write anything, because you're convinced it's not brilliant. And it's probably because that negative voice is telling you it's not good enough, it's not good enough, and then you stop paying, instead of actually getting pages written. So I always tell people, the, the antidote to writer's block is very simple. Lower your standards. Just write it write a shitty first draft. And then once it's done, go back and make it better. And Endor you know, give it to a few people, trusted advisors to give you fresh perspectives. Hopefully the all agree but they may not and then, you know, go back. It's the you know, the cliche you know, the adage writing is rewriting is absolutely true.
Alex Ferrari 20:00
Soon, we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show,
Neil Landau 20:09
You don't end the growth between that first shitty first draft, which is almost always steady. And that next draft is often the biggest leap a script takes, you know, from the first one, that's just, you're just just an exploratory draft, and you're just trying to get it down on the page, to that next one, where you're like, Ah, okay, now I kind of see what it is or what it could be. And then hopefully, you know, each draft, you get closer and closer to, you know, realizing what it could be. And sometimes it surprises you, and even better than what you originally thought. And then, once you please yourself, and you please your reps, and you get a general consensus that, oh, this is one of your best pieces of work, or this at least, could sell and, and be commercial. Then, of course, you get notes from the studio, and you get notes from the director and the actors. And, you know, it's more rewriting, and more people to please. And it doesn't really ever end until really the movies locked. You know, even in post production, you can still continue to make changes in ADR, you can add lines, and that's a very fluid, inefficient process. That's very expensive. And, you know, time is money, and everybody's making discoveries throughout the whole process. But of course, it starts with the blank page and nothing and I think that's where the writer can suffer the most.
Dave Bullis 21:42
Yeah, it's kind of like Robert McKee says the nothing moves until the writer actually writes. Meaning that, you know, without a script, you actually can't shoot anything. But but I really liked what you said there, Neal about lowering your standards. It's kind of like dating, you know what I mean? I think everyone wants to date a supermodel. But you know, maybe that's not really what's gonna happen, right?
Neil Landau 22:04
Well, yes, I have for him, you know, single for a long time. And I'll just update, you know, how's your love life, they'll say, there's no one out there. There's just no one. And I'll and I always think, well, there are people out there, you may not, you know, maybe they don't, they're not in the prettiest package, or something that just fits what you think is, you know, your high standard, but there are a lot of wonderful people out there. And if you are a bit more open to it, you'll probably when you're ready, you will meet somebody. But it's true. I mean, sometimes people like my brother even and you knew when he met his wife, he was convinced she was not right. just physically, but the more you got to know her and talking to her, the more beautiful she became, you know, they've been married for a long time. So he wasn't so much raring his standards is maybe just being open to, you know, not everything single thing has to be perfect. You know, the first, in the first moment, you know, there's a discovery process. So even if you bring in, you know, UCLA, sometimes people will bring in pages and say, these are terrible pages, but I just needed to write something that's weak. And sometimes, the pages are really good. And they didn't even realize it. Or other times, maybe the pages don't work, but there's like one jam buried in those pages that unlocks everything that that can make the script great. So you know, you kind of always have to be open to the happy accident, that can happen. And that only really happens if you get your butt in the chair and you're willing to face, you know, face that blank page or just reenact the scene that seems flat or, or the character that's just not speaking to you and, you know, takes a lot of courage to write, and a lot of patience, you know, just to hope for inspiration. And when it's not there, you have to read anyway, that's, you know, if you're on a deadline, you cannot always wait for inspiration to strike. And that's, that's the toughest thing. You know, because we all want to dazzle everybody every time. But it didn't really work that way. A lot of trial and error.
Dave Bullis 24:16
Yeah. And you touched on this too, like previously, like, writing should be fun. You know, like, when you're sitting down, you're writing something, you know, especially good comedy, you know, you know, cuz I've had friends who, and it's happened to me as well, we're, you know, they're trying to write a movie, a horror, comedy, whatever. And they they just kind of agonize and overthink the whole thing, to the point where they're like, you know, no, sort of everything. It's like, I don't know if you've ever read the The Art of War. The War of Art, I'm sorry, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Yes, do your best to it's like that resistance comes in in that form where you overthink everything. You overanalyze everything, and then everything stops becoming fun. And it becomes just this miserable slowdown where everything you know what I mean? Wherever he was, like, Alright, I guess I'll write us a word or whatever I bust sentence, paragraph. But everything just becomes this like arduous process. And you're like, I don't know, if I want to write today, and then tomorrow, and then a week, and then all of a sudden, you know, a year has flown by, and you haven't written anything?
Neil Landau 25:16
Yeah. I mean, that's long. You know, there are people who say, you know, don't go to film school, you can just read scripts and watch movies or, you know, study television by reading pilots and watching shows. And I think those things are true. But the thing that of program does, or two really good writers group does is it makes you accountable. And you actually just have to bring something in every week, you have deadlines. And in some cases, the difference between a free writers group, you know, just with talented writers and friends getting together once a week, like a book club, you know, to really just workshop their pages. What some people have said, those don't work, people end up flaking. I mean, of course, many of them do work, but the ones that don't work, or because people kind of just start dabbling in it does become sort of a hobby that, whereas if you're in a program, and you're paying money, and going into debt is horrible that is because it's pretty horrible to owe money, you graduate in that artistic field with no guarantee of success and debt. But our students, you know, are very aware of that. And so they work their butts off. And they are very aware that, you know, this has an investment in their future. And they do take it very, very, very seriously. And they just don't, you know, they don't have a choice. So it's like, well, at this point, you're running out of time. So just go with the best idea you have and get a draft and you can always rewrite it later. And so I think time and deadlines are just the best gift for any writer because it gives you structure and you know, a deadline is a gift. I always say a writer without a deadline, just clean things, think you know, you'll you'll have the cleanest. You'll find every possible excuse not to write. Having a writing partner really helps with that. It's really helped me and Tara tremendously early in our careers, because we, if one person didn't feel like writing, the other person would, you know, would be the disciplinarian and say, no, no, we have to focus. There were times that both of us didn't want to write and we'd just go to the movies or mechanic or do something else. Where we would challenge ourselves, if we truly looked like writing. And we had a few extra days, we would just do things like go to the mall. But we would give ourselves enough time and like, we have to go to stores and find clothes that our characters would wear. or observe people in the mall to help us find, you know, an interesting look or eavesdrop on a conversation to you know, get inspiration for dialogue. So everything was always like everything we did would still feed the creative process. It's not the substance, it doesn't substitute sitting down and facing the page. But it does kind of guard while we're, we're still kind of working. And maybe while we're out talking or just having lines you're trying to avoid writing. Invariably, we if you have a partner, you'll start talking about the scripts. And suddenly, you're in the story session, and suddenly you're jotting down notes and you push through, you know, something that maybe you would have not been able to do on your own. So it also really helps with comedy. Because if we're laughing at least we think it's funny. Or if one person pitches a joke or a funny situation and the other person laughs That's a good barometer. It's very hard to write in a vacuum, you know. And that's another thing that gets people kind of stuck. I know with Dojo Mom, just, it's just such a vivid memory. We when we decided that we had to get rid of the dead babysitter's body. We, we want you to just wait, I remember this. We were sitting at my mom's house and your kitchen table. And we said what if they put it in the trunk? Like if she came with a trunk of all of our stuff? And what if they drop it off at the mortuary because, you know, they don't want to bury the body. They're not criminals, we thought we'll just do the right thing. We'll drop it off at a mortuary. They'll give her you know, they'll figure out what to do. But then they had to leave a note. And when we wrote the note that they were going to put on the trunk, which that nice old lady inside died of natural causes. We just thought that was the funniest thing in the world. We laughed for like 15 minutes thinking that was hilarious. We didn't know if anybody else would think it was lurking. Like we did it
Alex Ferrari 29:59
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Neil Landau 30:10
And that and the ending of the script, which was we, after the babysitter dies, you know, early on stack, we we wanted to then have the audience forget that the babysitter even existed. Because I think the reason the scripts sold was the ending, which was after this whole ordeal of everything that they've all been through, the mother comes back into town, and it looks like kind of in that risky business way, which was another inspiration for us read a really great team comedy, much better than Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. But at the end of risky business, it looks like he got away with everything. And we wanted to have that. But then we, when we outline the movie on to index cards, which was how I still outline, we thought, what if the mother comes back looks like she got away with everything. And then the mother says, Oh, one more thing, we get the babysitter. And that that would be the first time the audience you've been heard about the babysitter for like, you know, over an hour, I think that ending really helped to steal the script, because it was surprising in the reader, forget about the babysitter also. And, you know, having a really strong start and a strong finish really helps, you know, sell scripts. And those two things never changed. You know, those were like, locked, and no matter how many drafts we did they stay, you know, those were never Nobody touched those. There was pressure from the studio to have a police investigation, people looking for the babysitter. And and they wanted us to constantly, you know, we mind the audience about the babysitter, and that was something we kept fighting against saying that's gonna ruin the ending. And we struck some kind of a compromise. The weird thing about the movie is, is you kind of mentioned it. When it came out, it did, okay, low budget. So it's made money. It definitely made money. But it's become more and more popular over time. And it's now kind of like a cult movie, which we don't really understand exactly why or how it happened. But even this coming Monday night in LA, there's a tribute screening to it. As part of the UCLA archive, they're screening, a series called working women. And one of the movies the screening is working girl, which was happening around the same time as dumped her mom was first sold, and dumped him on babysitter's dead there, including that in theory. And so, you know, Monday night, there's gonna be hundreds of people watching the movie and q&a. And we just think all things hilarious, because it's been, you know, so many years since the movie came out, but there's still a ton of interest in it. And people still quote, lines of dialogue from it to me, when I go to parties, and I love it. It's usually that it turned into this, but that we never expected.
Dave Bullis 33:02
You know, it's like there's a piece of advice I once heard that for when you're when you're submitting a script, to like a gatekeeper, so to speak, the most important part, the what matters most is the first 10 pages. And then when it's an actual movie, the most important part is the last 10 minutes.
Neil Landau 33:20
Yes, yeah. I mean, if you look at Get out, you know, which was, I think you'd have won the Oscar for Best Picture. I'm glad that one for Best Screenplay, but I just never knew where that movie was gone. And I I know that they, you know, we work the ending several times, but very memorable ending. And yes, I think the reason I think that's true about, you know, the last 10 pages is that you read somehow have an inevitable ending that the audience should have seen coming. But getting in this is just my opinion, and it has to be surprising. You know, I think there's a reason why the Hades romantic comedy has kind of gone out of style. And a lot of that is just so formulaic, that the audience was so far ahead of, you know, the story that the only fun was how they were going to get together, but there was never a question that they would get together at the end, you know, and so we drove really wanted, you know, we really wanted to go, you go against formula and a lot of it wasn't so much conscious, like we're gonna go against formula. We knew we needed something that was unexpected, and even romantic, my favorite romantic comedy of all time is The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn, you know, and Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. And what I love about that movie is there are four potential suitors. Well, three really and then it narrowed down to two, but you really don't know at the end. Which guy she's gonna marry until the until the ceremony is about to start. And I love that, you know, and all the options that are available. I also really like the anti romantic comedy. My best friend's wedding with Julia Roberts because she doesn't end up with the guy. And you're thinking she's going to and then when, you know, it ends in an unexpected way. And I always, always shared that. And I love all Henry endings like Fight Club or the sixth sense and, you know, movies where everything shifts. And you didn't see it coming until that moment, and then you go, Oh, that's great. Why didn't they feed back in so satisfying? Those are always my favorite kind of Ruby experiences.
Dave Bullis 35:43
There was a great 80s teen comedy that was kinda like about you know, guys going after the girl called the last American virgin. Have you ever seen it? Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. That ending? Let me tell you, no, but it nowadays, if you said I wouldn't do that ending, you wouldn't be able to get away with it. Because it'd be it's such a downer ending and it ends a lot like real life. And then if you but if you compare that to like, maybe Money Can't Buy Me Love or neither, or something like that, you know, okay, we know they're gonna get together. But how they got together by the way, I like I like both of those movies. It's just when I saw the last American virgin and the or even movies like with a better off dead. I mean, stuff like that. Just absolutely fantastic. I mean, and the, the just the, the how quirky that one was, but but I'm sorry, I'm kind of jumping around here. But what less American version? Okay. Less American version. I mean, that ending? Do you would you mind if I spoiled if everybody if I just thought of what the ending is now? No. So everybody if you don't want to just jump ahead, like 30 seconds if you don't want me to spoil it for you, but But essentially, this guy, the whole movie is going here to this girl. He finally he she gets pregnant by another guy. She so he this is like the third act, and he sells all his stuff, like his stereo system, everything else to help pay for the abortion. They she could see abortion. And later on that night there or maybe a week later at a house party. And she's with a guy who basically left her. And she's forgotten all about the protagonist. It's all he's done for her. And it just ends with him crying to himself in his car as he just drives into the night and the movie ends. And I remember No, I was floored by that ending because I was like holy.
Neil Landau 37:33
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think it's always a good. Often I'll say to students on TV pilot or movie, I'll say pitch the first half of the movie, just the broad strokes of what you're planning, you know, in the early stages, and then just ask them, buddy, what do you think's gonna happen? And if they just go immediately to your ending? And they're like this, because this is the most logical, obvious way that it would add? If they're right, you know, you have to change the ending. Or do you have to change the path to that ending? You know, because you want you know, that's the definition of anticlimactic, right? You know, where it's like, everything happens exactly the way you thought. So even if it'd be like, you know, When Harry Met Sally, which is a great romantic comedy. You know, you kind of know they're gonna get together. But Nora Ephron, you know, she pushes it to the last minutes on New Year's Eve. And then when they do get together, the last lines of the movie or you know, I hate you, Harry, I really hate you. Not I love you, Eric. I really love you, you know, and I also love I also appreciate that where it just seems impossible that it could happen. Like the graduate, you know, he gets there to stop the wedding. And then it's too late. I love I mean, you know, Mike Nichols is one of my favorite directors and I love the graduate one of my favorite movies. But you know, great climax, Benjamin rushed into the church, you know, finally, they're screaming, you know, you lay the lady. And then it's too late. It's over. But it's not over. And then you get that even, you know, that incredibly iconic ending when they on the bus. And this kind of silence plays and, you know, the movie ends with them going, alright, we actually pulled this off. She let she's the Runaway Bride, they are together. And yet now what you know, now what the hell do we do? That was also you know, you people remember these endings, because they're indelible. And they're, they're risky, because they're not just, they lived happily ever after. And I feel like, you know, maybe it's a good segue to talking about television. Part of why I think TV is where the most exciting storytelling is happening now is exactly for that reason, which is, it's not just happily ever after. It's this ongoing, you know, long term relationship with these characters where we align with them by the end of the pilot I
Alex Ferrari 40:01
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Neil Landau 40:10
But then it's the fluid dance, sometimes of allegiance, you know, and sometimes we approve of what they do. And sometimes we don't and, and it doesn't, it's, it doesn't really end until the end of the series, which might be, you know, 567, or, you know, Grey's Anatomy, I think is going in 14. It's just constantly ongoing. And as long as it keeps surprising us and the characters keep facing new, new problems and new challenges, it remains interesting. So it's, again, ever really having to fully end the story. It's, I love how highly serialized television is now and how, you know, great writers and really strong effective writers rooms constantly find ways to surprise us. And to pivot from what we thought was either the end of a story where it has, I write about this in the new book, I call it story tentacle, you know, where you make story choices that lead more story, because it has to keep, it has to continue and evolve. And movies now start to seem very finite to me, you know, like, even really good movies. I don't think that's it, I want to I want to hover, I want to spend more time with these characters. And I think with you know, the domination of and people shifting over to on demand viewership, where they can binge view, and they can watch things when they want you and how they want to and where they want to that we love these ongoing stories that just keep pulling us in different directions and challenge us and the characters. And so I you might have to you have to think about where you want to land at the island at the at the end of the season. But it's an ongoing story. And one of the things I talk about is how, you know, a movie is designed to have a beginning, middle and end. A pilot is designed to have a beginning, middle and an open end. You know, when you want to end on more questions and answers, and you want to leave everything wide open for more stories. And, you know, reading movies, it was always, you know, what's the ending? How does it end? How does it complete? And this is the exact opposite of that.
Dave Bullis 42:26
Yeah, you know, when I was working with Jennifer Dasani, because I actually shot it. Yeah, I actually, yeah, Jen and Jay, I think everyone knows, Jen, I actually shot a TV pilot a couple years ago, I actually produced it wrote it directed it. And, and I it's online right now, by the way, it's called Game over. And it's just it was like I aimed high. I, we had so many opportunities. It was there was a lot of backstage fighting. You don't I mean, there's a lot of behind the stuff that was behind the scenes, as I'm sure you know what I mean, like a lot of, but we have, I eventually got pushed out, I finally decided to upload it last year, because I was just sitting on it. I was like it's doing nobody any good. But he's sitting on this damn thing. So but after working with Jen, I realized, you know, beginning you know, have that pilot and then the pilot has to ignite the series. So then when you go to pitch it, you have sort of like, what's the pilot arc with Season One? And when what's what's going to be the series arc? So, you know, we're eventually, you know, like Walter White Breaking Bad is the best example. You know, Walter White, he goes from this mild mannered man in the middle of New Mexico to a drug kingpin. Well, how does that transformation happen? Well, you know,
Neil Landau 43:40
Mr. Chips into Scarface what Gilligan said.
Dave Bullis 43:44
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And you sort of have, you know, how does that journey occur? And you know, what, what happens during those during those moments? It's, it's so much more of an art than a science. That's why when anyone tries to, like, you know, what I mean? Like I sometimes seeing it when, like, people, when they try to dissect certain things, they almost like go, Well, you know, what, seven, page 17 This beat has to happen on page 30 This thing has to happen. You're kind of like, Oh, come on, let's just move away from me. Like, that's it? That's too sciency completely.
Neil Landau 44:11
Yeah, I mean, I just am so against formula. Now. There. You know, there are certain things that there's, you know, very few absolutes, you know, in screenwriting, you know, and I always tell people, if somebody tells you there's a formula or a template to follow, it's not a bad idea just to look and say, Okay, well, you could break down a lot of movies that follow that formula successfully. And that is valid, you know, but there are so many different structures in which stories and particularly now, if you do have a and you can break form, and the story still works, all the better, you know, because it's a mysterious process. But you know, there are a few absolutes that I think are Ballard pretty much across the board and across genres. One of them, I believe every story is a suspense story, you know, whether it's a comedy or a thriller or a drama. And the reason is that, you know, the two key ingredients to suspense, our anticipation and surprise, well, Every story needs to fill the audience with anticipation of what's going to happen next. And hopefully, when you get there, it's departing. So I'm always going, where's the suspense? You know, there's no dramatic tension. If the scripts not working, you know, why isn't it working? Well, there's no dramatic tension. Why isn't there any dramatic tension? Usually, that goes back to empathy, which is the first thing to talk about? Which is, you know, you get that No, which is the most frustrating note to get from an executive or a wrap, which is, I didn't really connect anybody, or development person who might say, why should I care about any of these people. And suspense only works. When you're worried about what's going to happen, you know, you have to connect to the characters. So, you know, Breaking Bad's a great example. Because, you know, by design, Walter White is an underdog from the very beginning. And we're worried because he's dying. And he has a wife and he has kids, and he's struggling. And so you know, you really aligned with him becoming an antihero, because it seems like the best option based on limited options that he has, you have a thing in the new book, a quote from David Mamet, where he talks about great trauma is choosing not between right and wrong, but between two wrongs. It's because welterweight, neither option is good. You know, if he's, if he doesn't become a drug dealer, he's probably going to die and leave his family and provided for and he's gonna feel like a failure. He sees this as drawing upon his a skill set something that he has, that's really valuable. And when he connects with, you know, his former student with Jesse Pinkman, he sees this as a great opportunity that could solve a problem. But he's caught between two runs, because while it might solve one problem, it could also get him killed or thrown into prison. And so chapter eight in GB, writing on demand, the new book, I have a quote from David Mamet, it says, a moral decision is not the choice between wrong and right, that's easy, but between two rungs, and if you look at some of the best doesn't have a lot of examples, based on that, quote, in the book, whenever you connect with character caught between a rock and a hard place, you're always going to generate more suspense, and probably empathy. Because, you know, you know, late to, not having ideal choices in front of us, you know, and yet, you know, which is the, the lesser of the two devils in human nature is to take the path of least resistance. So if there is a path of least resistance, clearly the easier, better path. And the writer in character doesn't take that path, you're not going to root for them, because you're gonna think, well, why did they not go down the path that was clearly the smarter, easier choice. But if you remove choice, and you trap them in a situation where neither alternative is ideal, I just feel like right away, you have Pynchon that you wouldn't normally have. Another absolute for me about is I believe that every story is a coming of age story, no matter what the ages of the characters are, you know, it's a maturation story, and they somehow need to learn something, or discover something. And I think that all movies or TV shows are about characters who have to grow up and, and or overcome something that lie in an emotional void on deficit that they've never really dealt with. And that's part of the journey of the story. So I always want to look for growth or deletion in a character. B, exception, being multi camera sitcoms are the characters tend not to change by design, I don't really want them to change, because we, like them stuck, had no problems, but movies and one hour drama, half hour drama, these tend to have characters, at least trying to change their circumstances. And every episode, there's the potential to win or lose something. And I think that positive and negative tension generates heat, you know, dramatic intensity and helps with suspense. So, you know, for me, those two things I always go back to. I want there to be a cathartic experience where characters have to face fears and either overcome them, or if it's a tragedy they won't overcome though.
Alex Ferrari 49:59
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Neil Landau 50:09
That they had the potential to overcome, you know, all could have turned himself in and ultimately, were changed his ways, you know. But he wants he became Heisenberg. He couldn't, you know, he just came completely hooked on that power. And at that, you know, it's a very lonely ending for him. You know? I don't want to, I'm sure most people nowadays but anyway, you get the idea.
Dave Bullis 50:34
Yeah, I think I pretty much everyone who has probably listened as podcasts has seen the the breaking bed, but it's a fitting in. Yeah, it's a fitting in for him. And it kind of ties in with the pilot episode, which is very important. Not only the whole, obviously, the whole series, but but just a pilot, because what he's talking about in the pilot about chemistry, and how things change, it's a it's transformation, right, which is what the characters do. So, you know, just just, you know, transforming themselves or perceptions. You know, like David, Matt was talking about those two dilemmas, you know, the dilemma of two bad options, you know, and that's something trees into is, you know, that I think the hardest part for a lot of screenwriters, or maybe something they miss is creating that empathy. Because when you when you Yeah, because, you know, it's always that it's always that question, you know, why should I care about these characters? Why am I invested in these characters, they're the, the company that the company probably does is the best is Pixar, with how they create empathy for their characters. And, you know, they, they Wally is a robot, he's made to look very sort of, you know, sheepish and, you know, he's not like really a threat. You have the up, an old man who's lost his wife, I think up is probably the best movie they've ever done, I think up was at a nominal, keep alert.
Neil Landau 51:48
I mean, I was sobbing, after the prologue. You know, it's just such a beautiful prologue, love story. And, yeah, he just says, this gigantic void, that needs that he probably believe that, that at his age will never be filled. And then this, you know, this blank lie. And then you have, you know, magic is one of the greatest ways to fill the void. I, there's a wonderful documentary on HBO about Steven Spielberg's career, it's a retrospective. It's just the whole thing is just filled with so much great, you know, insight, and you get to hear Spielberg tell stories about things that, you know, some of his greatest achievements were accidental, you know, like Jaws, to me, the best thing about Jaws is that you never see the shark, or you almost never see the shark. But the tension of the shark pain there is even greater than seeing the shark. But that was not by design. And that was because they couldn't get the mechanical shark to actually work. And it didn't look good. So they had to hide it. And then they said, Well, how do we create potential of the shark? If we can't show the shark, which they just couldn't do? Just physically, the production wasn't up to, you know, we didn't have the technology to do that in a convincing way back then. So it's like, well, what if there's music that, you know, stands for the shark, when when you hear the music scare, and, you know, again, those are the strongest things in that movie, which was, you know, it was done to solve a problem, and it actually makes the movie more even more brilliant. He has, in terms of the Boyd's, in that documentary is global Plex about how each, he did not begin as a story of a boy who meets an extra stretch terrestrial et was really Spielberg's desire to tell the story of adding a Jaguar child, because his parents divorced when he was a kid. And the void was so enormous when his parents split up. So his question for him was, I want to tell a story about how that enormous void created by divorced impacts a child. And then he started to think, what could possibly fill that void? Because it's so infinite, especially for a kid, you know? And then he came up with the idea, well, what if you discovered an alien from another planet, and we formed a friendship. And both of them have the same goal, which is to go home, but in different ways, you know, the divorce, the child of divorce wants home to be the way it was, and for the parents to get back together. And for Elliot, it's about getting back to his planet. And I just thought that that, to me, just speaks to the emotional core of a movie. It may come from the beginning. And then you have to figure out how to fill it and maybe that gives you your story. Or maybe you have the idea of a boy cat on the next festival. And then you put you still always have to go back and ask what's the emotional core of the story? What's the emotional void? How, you know, just even when you're pitching a TV show, I was just talking about this in class last week. It said, Everybody's pitching you need you know, it's almost Didn't pit find a way to pitch your story in 10 minutes? It's like a comedian, you know, you need to take 10. You know, that's, that's the key to success for stand up comedy, why did you need it, take 10 minutes. And it needs to pretty much be filled with material that's pretty that you just know kills, right, and then you go on the road and you keep doing your type 10 and you build a pitch, a tight 10 minute pitch. But I said, Let's just have a rule that at least three times during those 10 minutes, you have to stop and say to whoever, wherever you're pitching to. Now, let's talk about how the how the character is feeling now, at this point in the story, you know, and I said in use really strong words like, you know, devastated in rage, you know, betrayed, desperate, you know, strong words to convey how they're feeling, you know, because no matter how good the plot is, in no matter how good the idea is, a pitch is only as good as the emotional connection that that reels in the audience, you know, they have to invest in the characters. And I think that's probably, even though most people intellectually know that's important. I think people often underestimate the power of emotion in a story. And it's because it's the toughest thing to write and the toughest thing to convey. A lot of people just try it. Well, they don't try but they'll almost inadvertently stick to the surface and the plot details instead of going deeper into story. You know, Roger Ebert, the late film critic said, we're not in the entertainment business, we're in the empathy business. And, to me, empathy is everything in story. And it's often the thing that's most easily overlooked by the Creator. So if anybody gets anything out of this, at least from my perspective, look at the role of empathy in your story. And if there isn't a clear emotional journey, you've still got a lot of work to do, you know, you're missing a whole layer. And it applies equally to comedy. You know, if you look at a movie like bridesmaids in an emotional journey, it's all about feeling abandoned into friendship, and feeling like you're never going to be worthy of love. And those are universal theme attics, but they're also emotional, and people can relate to them. And that's what makes the movie your movie the things I was nominated for an Oscar, it's what ticket from you know what, either a long SNL schedule a little bit one joke, he did do a movie that had, he'd laugh great characters, but also a lot of cars.
Dave Bullis 57:52
Yeah, it's kind of like what I always feel too is, when you're outlining a story, you get, you get an idea, and you start kind of outlining it, you kind of put the cart before the horse because you started saying, you know, what might happen, these plot twist these turns, blah, blah. And then characters kind of back, you know, thought of afterwards, like, oh, what character can be plugged into this, when it should be reversed should be a character in this? And what kind of character is it? You know, how am I going to create this, this sort of empathy between everything? Yeah, and at a great movie that I always go back to His Blood Simple on that just has great characters, and just the twists and turns of of of what they're doing to try to, it's almost out of love. You know, I think it's the only Coen Brothers movie, by the way, that isn't about money. I know, you mentioned about a lot of movies are about coming of age. And I actually just recently, and I actually just saw this, this video recently about, you know, this in Atlanta analysis of the Coen Brothers movie and how all their movies are about money, and their pursuit of money. And, and I started to watch a little bit more, and I was, well, you know, they've really is true. I don't think blood samples about money. I just, I think it's more of about well, I guess it is about money, and it went away. But But Raising Arizona was the other exception, but that again was was the baby was about money. Because, you know, that whole you know, that whole thing about kidnapping the kid and then it was a bounty hunter came back so but you know, it's and then some of the characters that greed about that reward money. But, um, but yeah, you know, I just think that character, you know, sometimes is, you know, not really thought of, and with TV, it's all about character, you know, it's whether that's the TV show, Ozarks, you know, somebody wants told me and we're in the golden age of TV, which is true, but it's also much more segregated now. Because I, you know, YouTube and Vudu and HBO and Showtime and all these other things where, you know, we have all these great TV shows, and they're all like 100 different channels.
Neil Landau 59:44
Yeah, there are actually going to be over 500 scripted shows across platforms this year. That's, you know, and 10s and 10s of billions developed on acquisition, production.
Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Neil Landau 1:00:08
And some, you know, I'm only doing that a lot of the top streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu and, and premium cable channels like HBO, HBO and Showtime still develop. But Netflix doesn't spend a lot on development. They like people to come to them with projects that are what they would Ted Saran dose, you know, when the Netflix content piece of content, he says they're never going to buy a project that's half baked, you know, they're, they're looking for three. And this is pretty much across the board. Now. And this is a big change from just even a few years ago, which is, it's very rare, anybody's just going to buy a pilot, they're gonna want to be the pilot, they're gonna want to read a series Bible, or even the mini Bible. So they know that it can sustain over at least one season, they would want more detail about season one, and then a suggestion of where it might go in future seasons. There are platforms that want you to map out multiple seasons. A friend of mine does have a great criminally with an underappreciated kind of a sleeper series for Amazon called patriots, I don't know if you've seen it. Very people, very few people have seen it. Steven Conrad, who is best known probably for reading the movie, the pursuit of happiness with Will Smith. But he also wrote the weatherman with Nicolas Cage and the Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. And he's a really wonderful, but he he created a series for Amazon called patriot. And I think almost nobody thought it's great. It's a very dark comedy. It did get picked up for season two. So they're in production now. And couple, it was a big one was, what was your question? Again? How did they started to get on Patriot as an example?
Dave Bullis 1:02:16
It was, we were just talking about character?
Neil Landau 1:02:19
Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Walking window, at the time, forget who had developed last when he was at ABC as a common executive, he had gone over to Amazon. And because of the last experience where, you know, the series kind of didn't bear a lot of resemblance to what they originally imagined. And some of that was just, the show became so successful that they had stretched the story out over Maliki. But because Morgan Rendell was involved with loss, when Steven currently came into self hatred, and Steven had not done television, they really in order to, for him to have made that deal, they really needed proof of concept. And they wanted him to map out how it could sustain over many seasons, not just over the first season, and even had to prove all that to them. And, you know, now everybody wants that. Everybody wants proof of concept. Maybe a pilot episode and a second episode already written. Another thing that another trend is working in studios are now soft screen lighting shows where they'll first greenlight the writers room. And they'll see how many scripts can come out that are of the same high quality as the pilot, but that excited them. So before they commit to production, they want many scripts, and they want to do that the writers were on has come up with a very strong plan for the season. That's another trend that's happening. And, of course, most of these series Bibles are many Bibles that are part of the selling process or just selling tools. Its students, the writers room assembles. Often everything in the Bible goes out the window, because they come up with better ideas. But, you know, so you need the Bible. You need to have the plan and be able to articulate it to satisfy the person who's investing, you know, millions of dollars ultimately in a production. And then a lot of that, you know, gets thrown out as you make discoveries and find your way and the character is stirred, take a life of their own and casting of the heat. You know, a lot of times on paper, it didn't seem like two characters would need to spend a lot of time together, but then you realize that when they're on screen, the chemistry is so strong. Sometimes shows like homeland decides they're going to accelerate the romance. You know, like between Carrie and Brody and season one. That wasn't supposed to happen till much later. Warren, you know, back to Breaking Bad Jesse Qinglin was supposed to be killed off, you know, halfway through season one. But once they saw the chemistry between her and Paul, oh my god, Bryan Cranston, you know, suddenly that they were like, Oh, this is the central relationship. This is like the strongest part of the show this week. By the way. Let's not kill off Jesse Pinkman. This gives us more story. So a lot of what's happening now is you need a plan and you need a vision, you need to articulate it upfront. To convince buyers that you actually have proof of concept, some kind of a package, maybe even a director or showrunner attach, maybe an actor who's interested. So that, you know, like when Netflix notoriously greenlit two full seasons of House of Cards. Some of it was based on algorithms, but more of it was based on the package of, you know, David Fincher and no Willamina. At the time, Kevin Spacey, which of course, now would be the kiss of death. But you know, they want to, they're betting on a winner on a winning racehorse. And the more that you can convince them upfront that they have a winning horse, the more likely they're going to be to write the sex. And to give you the green light.
Dave Bullis 1:06:26
Yeah, yeah, I think that's what everyone's sort of, you know, again, like with this, tying it back, almost like a TV show, almost tying it back to what we were initially talking about, which was creating that script. In the end, that's your sort of, it's your calling card, and you know, that that's your Yeah, your ability to say, this is what I'm capable of, you know, it's outside the box thinking. And I mean, just to take another side note, I know, I want to also just before we close, I know we're running out of time when I talk about your your your new book, but I just to sort of put a final thought on all this. I have a you know, when I whenever I see these superhero movies that come out, you know, we always talk about the ending has to be closed and you only mean, but like, it's always like, you never you I always go in there and I go, Gee, I wonder what they're gonna set up next. I wonder what series they're going to set up, Matt? Yeah. And I'm always like, so I'm just I already know that, you know, hey, this guy's not going to be beat. He's just they're just going to say, oh, yeah, we invent we invented the, the the Johnson ray that resurrected him and it's like, Come on, guys. I mean, it's just, it's so pedantic. And it's so insulting to the audience. To this, I get it, I honestly get it. But it's that's a point where it's like, no matter what happens, there's always a way someone's resurrected. I'm just like, I don't know. Maybe I'm just too I'm just too burned out with this. I know how comic books work. I know comic books are a lot like novels where they allow all these different, you know, imaginations and things to happen. Because in comics, they have like alternate worlds. Or, or that was, that was a, an alternate universe. Or maybe, hey, you know, that was someone's dream, or hey, this was bla bla bla bla, but Right, right, but but like tropes now. Yeah, exactly. How the comic books, how they were able to just explain something away by saying, Hey, that was a dream. That was a psychotic episode that was or this or that, you know, with movies? Uh, you know, I think it just ends up being like, it's a little like, Okay, I just saw Thor Ragnarok the other day, just came out on Blu ray. And I thought it was I thought it was actually hilarious i, which is what they needed, because a lot of these movies are too brooding for me, where everyone tries, you know, a sort of, you know, what I mean, like, tries to be either cool, or broody. But that movie was just funny. And I know, I had a friend who saw with me who said he didn't like it, because it was too funny. But I said, I think it needs that. And then but even at the end of Thor, there was the stinger where they're setting up where another ship comes upon them, and you're kind of like, Whoa, now who's this? And maybe it's who's that that that villain? Not Darkside? Maybe historics I don't remember. But yeah, it's, it's one of those villains that I don't know, there's 10,000 of them. I saw I saw Justice League. And I said, I think I'm done with DC movies.
Neil Landau 1:09:02
I mean, they weren't the exceptions, though. I mean, Christian, you know, Christopher Nolan, you know, really reinvented the superhero movie with Batman Begins in The Dark Knight and by connecting to their humanity and their flaws. So even though you know, The Dark Knight ends in a way that is very unexpected, you know. And your Batman makes this big sacrifice for the greater good. And, I mean, they do. superheroes do tend to do those kinds of things. But this was where you were actually ending the movie with him, not a euro, but something where everybody's gonna think that he's actually the villain in a way and get cool or Guardians of the Galaxy. You know, having the humor and kind of turning the typical superhero movie on its on its ear.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:54
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Neil Landau 1:10:03
Black Panther it was just great, you know, with really strong female characters who were more badass than any of the male characters. I liked that the formulas are being twisted and reinvented in some cases, I think the studios, the big studios, which that are primarily in the big event, tentpole movie franchise business. In some cases, they can get lazy if they want to, because you have a whole new generation, who isn't aware that things that you and I might think are tropes, or that were burnt out on for them, these are brand new, you know, in their thinking it's exciting. For them, they're still able to squeeze new life out of, you know, what might be an older genre. And but, you know, movies that are designed to be franchises are like our, like TV pilots, because they're not designed to and are designed to be the beginning of a conversation in a relationship with the audience. I love the original, the first Iron Man, that because the formula of all superhero movies is, or almost all of them is that the person has a dual identity and that nobody seems to know. Like, just, you know, it's it's willing suspension of disbelief that nobody's going to realize that Bruce green Wayne is Batman, you know, just because his voice is a little different. And he's not wearing the brass. gears that out. What I loved about Iron Man is at the very end of the first, he says, Well, the truth is, I am Iron Man. And he out himself loved that ending, I thought they just went exactly against what every other superhero movie does. And it was surprising. And it was funny. And then they still were able to set themselves up for multiple franchises, but just in a different way. So I think writers have to work harder to innovate and, and twist, put put a spin on an old formula, because we're never really going to come up with something 100% Fresh at this point. And it's very difficult to come up with something that nobody's ever done. But can you put a fresh spin on it? You know, that's very unique to the voice of the writer. And I think audiences are. That's what's exciting. Most audiences now. And it's certainly the most satisfying experience for me.
Dave Bullis 1:12:30
Yeah, yeah. It's, it's true in Iran. One was was fantastic. And, you know, it just completely changed that sort of that sort of template that they were going by. And I love it. Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was awesome. And I also enjoyed Ironman three, but then again, it was Shane Black. So I kind of I was a little biased, but, but just just, you know, just actually, you know, I know, we're sort of run out of time here, Neil. But just to sort of, you know, finish off, I want to talk about your book really quickly. You know, TV writing, again, is the biggest thing right now. Every I think everybody think you have to have a pilot of some kind in your portfolio if you're going to be a writer. Yeah. And not only in Hollywood, but you know, even in like a YouTube episodic series, you know what I mean? So, you know, what was some of the impetus for you to creating this and creating the book, TV writing on demand?
Neil Landau 1:13:21
Well, my last, this is my fifth book. And my last three books have all been about television. So I did a book called The TV show runners roadmap, which primarily covered broadcast TV, and I wanted to have a lot of interviews with cylinders in there as well. It looks different perspectives. So I interviewed for that book, I talked to Shonda Rhimes, and Vince Gilligan and David shore and, you know, just to kind of talk about their creative process. And then the other half of those books was me and what I teach in UCLA in the MFA, screenwriting program, because I run inside of the program. And I've had a lot of students have found success. And so I would love to just kind of write a book that talked about the nuts and bolts of how to write a pilot, and how to put a series together, whether it be a drama, you know, one hour or an hour eliminate after that, but when I finished that book, there was so much new TV coming so many shows, like, you know, Mr. Robot and House of Cards, and barns is the new block. And I decided, you know, there's so much more than say now. And I was lying in bed to having trouble sleeping, and I came up with the idea of the title TV outside the box, which was basically going to talk about with TVs going, and I got up and I Googled it, and it didn't exist as a title. And I thought, Okay, I'm gonna, this is gonna be the new book. And I'm gonna read about the trailblazers in what I thought was the new Platinum age of television. But as I researched the book, I realized it was a TV revolution. You know, like, what happened in the music business, just happening to the TV business was completely changing everything about it, how we consume it, how its distributed, and And now, so that that then took me to the new book, he'd be reading on demand, which is, it's being distributed differently and, and made differently, and doesn't have to be written with commercial breaks and act outs and doesn't have to be programmed the time slots where the audience is, you know, where we're, the network might be afraid if they miss a few episodes, they'll never catch up. Because nobody misses episodes anymore. You know, we have the ability to watch things whenever we want, and in any order we want. So then I just thought, well, I want to write a book that's kind of a companion to TV outside the box that talks about how the contents being created differently because of this revolution that we're in, in the TV business. And so the new book talks about, you know, Atlanta and the crown and Westworld and the new Fargo and Stranger Things and insecure and Ozark and the night of, you know, American Gods and basically the next iteration of great television, and why the shows are great, and how they're being created differently because of because of how the consumer interacts with them. So for example, instead of lawn order, you know, one of the most stalwart, you know, successful TV shows ever, where there was a murder, investigation, trial and a verdict all in 42 minutes with commercial. Now we have this season long procedural, where it's one murder over the course of the borehole. There were people who tried to do that in the past, but now that's just kind of like, everything is slowburn, you know, Big Little Lies and Handmaid's Tale. And, you know, everything is serialized, and recently was a slow roll. And the audience really appreciates that. So yes, so the new book basically, is more for content creators and writers. But there's also analysis of a lot of these great shows that are very hot right now. And what makes them work and how they tend to fit into the new TV landscape. So I, if you give people who read the book, they'll see there's chapters on dystopias and magic realism and portals and comedies that don't have to be comedy or drama. And, you know, just kind of how everything's shifting and moving away from Formula and moving toward slowburn serialized content that takes us places we're not expecting, because there's the time to go deeper and to explore arcs over time.
Dave Bullis 1:17:31
And everybody I am with focal press, we're actually going to give away a copy of this book, which is to be reading on demand by Neil, we're actually gonna give away a copy for free. So if if you want to read tweet, by the way, so here's how it's gonna work. It's gonna retweet. Not only this the episode, but also comment what you've learned, during listening to this episode, you will get a free copy of the book, if you're inside the US, you will get a choice between a PDF or hard copy of the book. If you're outside the US, you can still participate. But I can only if you win, I can only give you a PDF. So I will link to Neil's book in the show notes. So again, just to enter, you have to retweet the episode and also mentioned what you've learned from listening this episode between Neil and I, as we've gone through this through all about writing and everything else. And it's a really great book, by the way, I'm going to link to that in the show notes, everybody, it's TV writing on demand. And Neil, I've just been going through going through all the different chapters you have here, just about all the different things that have going on in the TV and all the examples and stuff like that. And I'm starting to realize, you know, there's so many different TV shows, you start to remember, like Jesus, all these TV shows are happening at the same exact time. It's unbelievable.
Neil Landau 1:18:47
It isn't the question I get the most is how do you possibly keep up with all content? And the answer is, it's really hard to stay up very late. And I read a lot of scripts, and I watch a lot of dreams. And this is my you. This is what I specialize in now. And I love I've always loved television, I've always escaped into television, just from the time I was a kid. And I've never seen that better time. I mean, I you know, this is just the just most exciting to him and television. Both it for viewers. And if you're a content creator or writer, there's never been a better time to break into television. There's a huge demand. And it's still cutthroat and extremely competitive. But there is opportunity and people need to fill. You know, there's just in a big appetite right now. So I encourage people to write stuff that's authentic, that only they can write. And probably the last thing I can leave you with is if you're gonna create a pilot for a show or a screenplay, the three most important questions to ask yourself are why this idea why you as the writer and why now For this project, if you don't have good, compelling answers to those questions, I think you need to dig deeper into your creative process and what what do you want your work to represent about you? Deeper, you know, because just writing a story that you you're not connected to that you think might sell isn't enough anymore. It has to go deeper. And there is the personal story where the story that's rooted in authenticity is what everybody is looking for.
Dave Bullis 1:20:34
And, Neil, I think that's a great way to sort of put a period in this whole conversation. So Neil word, we will find you Where can people find you online?
Neil Landau 1:20:43
Either Neillandau.com, Facebook, or UCLA, you know, but Neil lynda.com will give you no contact information.
Dave Bullis 1:20:54
Neil Landau I want to say thank you so much for coming on.
Neil Landau 1:20:58
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it and have a good weekend.
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