Monday, June 04, 2018

AT&T SHAPE REACHES OUT TO ARTISTS AND AUDIENCES IN INNOVATIVE WAYS: with guest speakers Sean Combs, Issa Rae and Ava DuVernay.  
by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles 
Actress/Director/Writer Issa Rae
The 2018 AT&T SHAPE tech and entertainment event recently took place in LA.  Tickets sold out fast.  I highly recommend this event, having attended it now two consecutive years.  It's a fun time focusing on tech trends (blockchain, immersive entertainment, 5G) and entertainment breakouts (trends in storytelling, data marketing); it's a well-sponsored and organized two-day event held at the historic Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.
Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles
There were exhibits and vendors featuring everything from smart phones to virtual reality to the latest gaming trends.  Participants were able to stroll the Warner's lot  (free guided VIP Warner Bros. Studio Tours also available).  We toured sound stages for hit shows like ELLEN and THE BIG BANG THEORY, which was cool.

This event is also a great place to network if that's your thing.  One filmmaker I met with had driven from Utah to LA just to network here.  His goal was to connect with as many creatives as he could and also catch some of the top-notch speaker/panel events. 
Some highlights were co-host/filmmaker Ava DuVernay discussing her early work as a filmmaker, to screening the AT&T Film Finals (short films) in front of a live audience.
Director/Writer Ava DuVernay and David Christopher
Other highlights included a one-on-one interview with Sean Combs, Chairman and CEO of Combs Enterprises.  Sean Combs discussed his early venture into hip hop music, a clothing line, to Revolt TV Network, his music-oriented digital cable television network.
Sean Combs, CEO Sean Combs Enterprises
I was thoroughly impressed with Sean Combs.  He spoke from the heart about his mother being his role model. She held four jobs when he was a boy. Sean also credits his mother for his strong work ethic that today has turned him into a multi-millionaire and successful entrepreneur.

The main takeaways from Combs' talk:
 *  Get busy.
*  Know your purpose and it should have a greater good than just serving yourself.  Help others.
*  Always follow through on what you do.  Go the extra mile to stand out and complete your projects.
*  Learn your craft, whatever it is, be the best at it.
*  Know and utilize social media to brand your voice or unique talent.
*  Do what you can to get the information out to the world about what you're selling or creating.
*  Take advantage of the doors opening during this "black renaissance" that's going on with the mega success of films like Black Panther and creatives like Issa Rae,  Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, and others.
*  Be fearless.
*  Keep God in your life.
*  Join others with your goals and have power in unity.
*  And his BIGGEST advice, OWN something you create!  Or OWN your own business.  There is power in ownership and Sean credited his strength in that belief.
Creatives Khadi Don and Issa Rae
Another inspiring (laugh-filled) panel featured actress/writer/web series creator Issa Rae.  Issa joined interviewer/comedian/filmmaker Khadi Don for a chat.  Issa Rae talked about her unusual path from  web series creator (starting in college) up to her current success with her  hit TV show INSECURE on HBO (Season 3 kicks off on August 12th). 

Issa's advice to struggling artists is to "stay in your lane" and "don't compare yourself to your peers. " Her trajectory took time and had many setbacks before finding success. Issa suggested knowing your strong suits and to focus on those (your voice, your audience, your themes).  Issa worked for other TV shows where it turned out not to be such a great fit.  She feels optimistic about new opportunities for diverse creatives as many new doors are opening with a demand for original content.
Thanks to AT&T SHAPE for bringing these successful speakers and panelists to share their passions and information with a passionate community of writers, producers, filmmakers, gamers, coders, and artists looking to make their mark.

Want to see the video sessions?  Here is a link to all the available AT&T SHAPE sessions mentioned above.  Enjoy and keep creating!

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Also, feel free to share this page link with your friends!

Until next time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Creator Steven Bochco

Steven Bochco was my generation's Shonda Rhimes.  

The multi-talented writer/producer had numerous hit network TV shows on the air in the 70s and 80s and was changing viewer's expectations about how we watched traditional television dramas.  His shows often presented profanity, some nudity and oddball characters who had deep flaws.

You couldn't watch the Emmys back then without knowing Bochco would walk away with a slew of them -- which he often did for his shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.  

Bochco changed the face of TV and impacted today's dramas (giving glory to realism and the anti-hero).

Days before hearing Bochco passed away, I caught an old Columbo episode on one of those nostalgic TV channels.  The episode by chance was "Murder By the Book" and starred the actor Jack Cassidy (that's right, David's father).  It was only the second episode of the detective series (1971).  Great episode of cat and mouse between Cassidy and Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo... it wasn't until the credits rolled that I realized Steven Spielberg had directed it and Steven Bochco wrote it.  It was Spielberg and Bochco's early days at Universal.  Talk about nostalgia!  
 RIP, Mr. Bochco.  You inspired me to be a better writer and to take risks on the page.  And more importantly, I hear you were a very kind man to work with and to know.  We salute you.

Until next time. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wishing you all a very prosperous and healthy 2018!  This is my first year welcoming in the New Year living in Los Angeles.  Looking forward to enjoying laughs, good wishes and the twinkling of the LA view at midnight.

May all your hopes and dreams come true. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA

I'm honored to be a Feature Finalist in the 2017 Los Angeles International Script Awards.  
Thanks to the judges and readers who took time to get to know my characters on the page. 

Congratulations to all the screenwriters who entered LAISA and to all those who advanced!
Here is the complete list of the winners and semi-finalists.

Keep writing out there.  Keep dreaming!  We need your fresh voices now more than ever! 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017


In June, I finally moved to LA.  

I'm a native New Yorker and moved to California two years ago (to beautiful San Diego).  However, we felt we needed to be closer to the action, especially with my coming up to LA for meetings and projects. The commute from San Diego to Los Angeles wasn't fun (2 hours each way, 3-4 with traffic).  

So, what's it like living in LA as a writer?  

Well, for one, you bump into a million other writers (at the grocery, at movie screenings, Meetup events, picnics, the dog park, even working out).  There are writers, directors, actors everywhere.  It's fun because it gives you something to immediately talk about, but it can be a little weird too.  Everyone is hungry, hustling and looking for their next gig.   

What I really love about living in LA is the culture and food.  We're enjoying great Latin food, Mexican food, Thai food, Health food, you name it.  And the pizza isn't bad either (that says a lot coming from a NYC girl).  There is so much to do living here.  From outdoor activities, like hiking and swimming, to museums and plays to movies and the beach.  In CA, you can be as busy as you want to be and there never should be a reason to be bored. 

This summer had natural disasters from coast to coast.  
We saw wild fires within miles of our house in August (unheard of in Burbank).  It was the biggest fire in LA history.  We also had an earthquake tremor the other night, but I slept through it, thankfully.  
Cast and Crew
Being new in town, I've joined a lot of groups and have attended numerous events.  Two awesome events were held by AT&T.  They had a tech 2-day conference held at Warner Brothers in July (which was off the charts fabulous -- with top directors Patty Jenkins and Kathryn Bigelow giving talks.  

And last week, I participated in the AT&T Create-a-thon.  It was such a fun event where I met other filmmakers and we produced a short film together.  Shout out to my fellow creators Shane Eyler (director/producer), Anthony Castellane (producer /co-director),  actors Phylicia Townes, Edwin Morrow and Jackson Charles. My role was producer/writer.  AT&T gets kudos for promoting diversity and creativity and ALL for free.  No entry fees, no submission fees, just giving creators a platform to express themselves.  Great job, AT&T Developers and Create-a-thon (also they fed us free food and supplied free film kits!)
Creating a Scene
AT&T Short Film Presentations
I also wrote a spec screenplay over the summer and a first draft of a TV pilot.  It feels good to be writing and focusing on what I love to do -- also to be in Hollywood with studios and creators all around -- it inspires.  It can be overwhelming and intimidating to be in this town, but for now, it's where I want to be.  I've wanted to live here for decades, but life and work back east didn't make that possible -- but all things come in time, maybe not on our timeline , but they do come.  Just keep the faith. 

Hope you had a wonderful and productive summer!  Keep pursuing what you love and never give up.  Surround yourself with positive, energized people.

Until next time.

Friday, July 21, 2017

On the Warner Bros. Studio Lot
by Janet Lawler
Los Angeles

The SHAPE AT&T Tech and Entertainment Expo at Warner Bros. Studios made one thing clear -- Hollywood and Silicon Valley plan to make Virtual Reality a bigger part of your entertainment future.  The two-day event (July 14-15) in Burbank showcased top movie talent and virtual innovations.
Expo attendees try the VR world
According to the experts, plan on soon using VR to watch your movies and sporting events.  Toss aside those 3D glasses and strap on state-of-the-art VR goggles.  VR technology is getting more advanced with HD and 360 immersive viewing all designed to enhance an audience's experience both at home and in theaters.   You won't just be watching a movie or sports event -- you'll be in it -- feeling a part of it.  It's pretty mind blowing and a little disorienting.
Kathryn Bigelow
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") spoke about her passion project The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, a virtual reality short film she directedWatching her short film, we put on the VR goggles.  Some of the goggles worked fine, but there is a learning curve on operating them (like not touching the sides or you'll stop the movie) and beware of poking the person sitting next to you as you move your head up down and side to side entering this virtual world.  

Bigelow's film "The Protectors" focused on African elephants’ as they near extinction from ivory-seeking poachers.  The overall movie experience was definitely more exciting wearing the VR goggles feeling like we were walking through the African jungle.  Collectively, our hearts were beating faster.
"Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins
As if Bigelow wasn't enough to please the audience, Shape AT&T Expo next brought out "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins.  She was an audience favorite giving advice to emerging filmmakers.

Jenkins discussed her career (having worked as a camera person for years before directing) and presented the AT&T Entertainment Short Film Finalists and its winner Nicholas Arioli.  

Nicholas Arioli wins the Entertainment Project Emerging Filmmaker Award presented to him by   Director Patty Jenkins and AT&T’s David Christopher. 
Actress Kate Hudson talks Social Media in Hollywood
On day two of the Expo, Entrepreneur/Author/Oscar-Nominee Kate Hudson spoke about being a celebrity in today's social media age.  She said she does her own posts on social media and won't allow someone else do it for her.  She likes being authentic with the content she puts out (often of her singing on Instagram!).  Hudson noted the downside in today's fast-paced digital environment is that stars don't have the luxury of having their careers groomed like in traditional Hollywood (naming her mom Goldie Hawn as an example), but rather celebrities today and content are quickly disposable.  There is a constant desire to be relevant or appear to be.  And, that causes headaches for talent agents who have to handle crisis management when stars get into trouble with their posts or videos.   Hudson agreed that it's an exciting time in technology, being able to have more fan engagement, multiple platforms for creativity and global distribution. 

The Expo capped things off by offering Warner Bros. Studio tours.  I was like a kid in a candy shop!  Warner's has such a rich movie history with everyone from James Cagney, to Bette Davis to Clint Eastwood and now Ben Affleck having called the studio home.  We toured the set of "The Fosters"... and checked out the iconic "Friends" set... and the DC Super Hero section where "Wonder Woman" is on display right along with Batman and Superman.
Outside the Steven S. Ross Theater
Wonder Woman at Warner Bros. Studios Archive Museum
"Friends" set at Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Kudos to a job well-done, SHAPE AT&T Expo, and to all the outstanding speakers, participants and volunteers!  It was an inspiring and innovative weekend.

Until next time. 
IMDB page

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Stranger Things" Nominated for Best Drama (Netflix)
Find the list of nominees below compliments to The NY Times.  The show will air on September 17th.   Hope your favorites made the list.  My faves are in yellow highlight below.

Best Comedy

Atlanta” (FX)
“black-ish” (ABC)
Master of None” (Netflix)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
Silicon Valley” (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Veep” (HBO)

Best Drama

Better Call Saul” (AMC)
The Crown” (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
House of Cards” (Netflix)
Stranger Things” (Netflix)
This Is Us” (NBC)

Best Limited Series

“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“Fargo” (FX)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX)
“Genius” (National Geographic)
“The Night Of” (HBO)

Best Actress, Comedy

Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”)
Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”)
Allison Janney (“Mom”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Tracee Ellis Ross (“black-ish”)
Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)

Best Actor, Comedy

Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis, (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)

Best Actress, Drama

Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

Best Actor, Drama

Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)

Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie

Carrie Coon (“Fargo”)
Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”)
Jessica Lange (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”)
Susan Sarandon (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”)

Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie

Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”)
Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”)
Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”)
Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”)
John Turturro (“The Night Of”)

Television Movie

“Black Mirror: San Junipero”
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
“The Wizard of Lies”

Supporting Actor, Drama

Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”)
David Harbour (“Stranger Things”)
Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”)
Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”)
John Lithgow (“The Crown”)
Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”)
Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)

Supporting Actress, Drama

Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is The New Black”)
Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”)
Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”)
Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)
Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

Supporting Actor, Comedy

Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)
Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”)
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Tony Hale (“Veep”)
Matt Walsh (“Veep”)

Supporting Actress, Comedy

Vanessa Bayer (“Saturday Night Live”)
Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)
Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent”)
Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”)
Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
Judith Light (“Transparent”)

Limited Series

“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“Fargo” (FX Networks)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX Networks)
“Genius” (National Geographic)
“The Night Of” (HBO)

Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie

Alexander Skarsgard (“Big Little Lies”)
David Thewlis (“Fargo”)
Alfred Molina (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Bill Camp (“The Night Of”)
Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Night Of”)

Supporting Actress, Limited Series or a Movie

Judy Davis (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”)
Jackie Hoffman (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Regina King (“American Crime”)
Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard Of Lies”)
Shailene Woodley (“Big Little Lies”)

Variety Sketch Series

“Billy On The Street” (truTV)
“Documentary Now!” (IFC)
“Drunk History” (Comedy Central)
“Portlandia” (IFC)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
“Tracey Ullman’s Show” (HBO)

Congratulations to all the nominees!  Until next time...