The Vine Yard: Chapter 1

After deciding to turn The Vine Yard from a nonfiction book into a TV show, I sat down to write. Usually, when I’m inspired, I can crank out a decent story in about an hour. This time, I got caught up. Formatting for novels is distinctly different than it is for a TV script. You have to condense character descriptions into two lines max and avoid mentioning eye and hair color—unless it’s imperative to your story. Normally, I could take up three pages setting the stage, and giving insight into my character’s thoughts. But for scripts, there are no inner thoughts. Everything is spoken through dialogue or actions, and given deeper meaning via your actors. That alone posed a problem, outside of the bigger issue:

I had no idea what to write about.

Sitting down with my dad—my notorious brainstorming partner—I posed the question: what is a fictional story about Vine really about? I thought of telling the story of the female protagonist kicking butt and creating hilarious comedy. But that’s the thing about Vine, there were only a handful of female comedy Viners, so it wouldn’t be true to the app and its culture. Plus, my dad pointed out, I would get more people to watch the show, and identify with the character, if my protagonist was a male.

Thus my Male Protagonist was born. But I still had nothing for Male Protagonist to do. So, I harkened back to the reason I started this project in the first place: 20-year-old me wanted to know the details about a Viner she was obsessed with, so I decided to fashion Male Protagonist after him. He was 19 when I was, so I could understand his motivations as he grew, as we would be the same age.

When it came to naming Male Protagonist, I was stuck. After taking a Holocaust Studies class at university, I felt really connected to my Jewish culture. Looking around, I realized that there were a handful of shows with Jewish protagonists, but not many. I was tired of the Jewish characters being the token character in a story set in New York. So I wanted Male Protagonist to be Jewish. But, again, my dad interjected—Male Protagonist should be Jewish, but not so much so that he would ostracize the general public watching the show. Again, I conceded. We named him Josh Glass; Jewish enough, but not on the nose—pun intended.

After figuring out the details of Josh Glass’ life, the story started to take shape. The Viner I loved years ago wanted to be a filmmaker, not an actor. So, Josh wanted to be a filmmaker. But I wanted Josh to have struggles. It’s easy to create when you have the means to at your fingertips. A filmmaker unable to write a film, however, worked. He could see the vision he wanted to create, but couldn’t put words on the page. This, too, connected to the Viner I loved, because though he wrote and directed his own short films, his dialogue often fell flat, reading as unrealistic conversation between two people. (He's a much better writer now, though!)

With my basic characters and love interests planned, I sat down to write. It wasn’t until I returned for my last semester of college that I finished the script. It tells the story of Josh’s introduction to Vine, inspired by my favorite Viner’s first interaction with Vine, fueled not by curiosity and boredom, but rather by Josh’s secret love for his best friend, Alexis. I was thrilled when my best friend, roommate, and parents all loved it. They found comedy in it that I hadn’t planned, and assured me it was one of the best things I’d written. As I don’t particularly think I’m all that funny in my writing, I was excited. To date, my favorite line in the script is from Josh’s jerk of a roommate, Derek: “What the f**k’s a Vine.” It was inspired by Ozzie Osbourne’s commercial in which he confusedly says, “What the f**k’s a Bieber?” I laughed at that much harder than I should’ve.

My only concern was the explicit nature of the script. I don’t curse in any of my other work, since I write mainly young adult fiction, and don’t really find the need to curse to my younger audience. However, Vine was explicit. The Viners, themselves, are explicit people. Listening to their podcasts and YouTube videos is like listening to a sailor that stubbed his toe. I wanted to be as realistic as possible, but also:

When Vine shut down, a majority of the Viners moved to YouTube and became creators. Creators make money on YouTube via ads placed on their videos. However, YouTube instituted a new algorithm that refuses to place ads on explicit content, trying to keep YouTube more family friendly and discourage lewd content. So, if someone drops an f-bomb, chances are they won’t make any money from that video, regardless of the number of views.

As such, many creators feel that they’re being censored, and therefore aren’t given the freedom of creation that YouTube promises. I, therefore, wanted to tackle that issue many ex-Viners/YouTube creators are facing, because it is a facet of the Vine chronicles.

Once I explained my thought process to my creative team (i.e. my parents, roommate, and best friend) they assured me that the language within the script was just fine. Reassured, I printed my script, edited it, and prepared to begin the journey of turning it into a TV show! It was time to find a producer and set the wheels into motion. The Vine Yard was going to be the next hit dramedy!

The Vine Yard: Chapter 0

Let’s take it back to 2015. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner split, Inside Out came out, Caitlyn Jenner was introduced to society, and Vine was at its peak. The social media app started back in 2013, allowing for people to create 6-second videos and share them with its massive platform. It really was the perfect app! The videos gave you snapshots into people’s lives, one laugh at a time. And the format made it easy to lose hours at a time scrolling through content.

Nostalgia aside, the idea was brilliant. Like tweets in video form, Vine allowed regular people to showcase their talent—and be praised for it. It circumvented the traditional ways to fame. And that is precisely where my obsession came from. I loved the idea that people I knew could become “social media famous” simply by filming an aptly-timed joke. It was relevant, funny, and ranged all different races, ages, and pop culture references.

But what about the people themselves? That’s where I came in. Everyone (read: 16-year-old girls) knew the names of popular Viners but knew next to nothing about what they were like outside of their videos. Who were they dating? Where were they from? Were they friends in real life like they were on Vine?

I had the idea to interview these people and create a collection of short stories, so to speak. I wanted to know about their home lives, their school lives, and everything in between. What did they hope to do with their social media fame? Where did their ideas come from? So, I gathered 200 of my closest Viners and pestered them every few weeks until I got some responses.

While I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for—such as flying out to L.A. and meeting them in person and becoming best friends with them all—I was thrilled. To me, it was like talking to celebrities.

I corresponded with agents and managers, sounding like the naïve baby writer that I was. But still I persisted. At the end of it all, I had 6 interviews, 1 transcript, a two-hour long conversation with one of the OG Viners I looked up to, and an email from my favorite Viner's brother saying he’d like to work with me. It was going my way. The downside was that transcribing the interviews was a NIGHTMARE. For an hour interview it would take me three hours to write, and that was without editing.

From there, I had to edit the content, and shape it into something people would be able to read—which boiled down to one or two pages. And I wasn’t satisfied with it. What would get anyone other than those 16-year-old girls to read what amounted to an interview about someone they didn’t know? There was no hook, no real depth—other than the guy that used Vine to pay for his college tuition!

What would get someone’s grandmother to pick up this book and read it, someone who knew nothing of Vine and how it changed our way of consumption?

With that realization, I lost my drive to pursue it. Well, that and the fact that I hated transcribing (which, ironically, I had to do my junior year of college). So, the Vine novel fell to the wayside, much to the chagrin of my mother. She was convinced this would be my ticket into the world of writing. And, honestly, so was I. But I didn’t know where to go.

Then came the fall of Vine in January 2017. The urgency to act took over, and I resurrected my idea. But I had nothing to offer these people who were struggling to stay relevant in a world where their content wasn’t easily accessible. What could I do to entice these people to talk to a no-name writer from South Florida with only two self-published novels and three school-published short stories under her belt?

Fast forward to August 2017.

I was sitting in a restaurant with my parents, discussing—again—how my mother wished I’d pursue this Vine book, and about my applications to TV writing programs in L.A. And that’s when my dad turned to me and said, “Why don’t you make it a TV show.”

I was dumbfounded.

In that instant, everything clicked into place. My mind started turning, and I was already afloat on the idea of a show, of gathering the Viners and telling their stories.

In the weeks following, I shaped my characters, the stories I wanted to tell, and thus, the script of The Vine Yard was born. I hope to tell the stories I heard from those I’ve interviewed, as well as the incredible moments that have happened in my life along the way.

This is The Vine Yard.

Wednesday Blogs

Hey all!

I want to preface these Wednesday blogs with an explanation. While I'm primarily a novel writer, I also write scripts and screenplays. Here, I am going to chronicle my journey of conceptualizing, writing, and (hopefully) selling the various TV shows I've been working on.

So, check in every Wednesday to keep up with the journey!