Monday, June 25, 2007

It's July? Wha -- ?

How'd that happen? I am a bad blog person! But there are reasons. The main one is that it's now apparently development season, which means that all us writers who aren't busy with shows (in other words, every writer at midlevel) have to start thinking about pitching pilots. Well, less thinking about and more working out the ideas and figuring out what we want to do.

Here's the interesting thing about pitching. Executives always say that they want you to pitch what you're passionate about. Agents always want you to pitch what you can sell. Sometimes, these two things magically fit together but sometimes they don't. So what do you do? Do you whore yourself out right away, or do you wait until later, when the executives conveniently forget that you put your heart out there in the room? I think it depends on what kind of a writer you are. I think some people connect differently with ideas than others. And for some, it doesn't matter if they're passionate. If they've got a name or a name attachment (a director or an actor), they could probably pitch the phone book and sell it. I would like to think that everybody is passionate in the same way about their projects, but it just isn't true.

However. I would say to err on the side of passion, especially if you have to repeatedly prove yourself, which is what it's like when you're at this level. Every year, you have to remind the executives why they like you. We were lucky enough to be allowed to be passionate when we started out on staff, so we didn't have the shit kicked out of us early. We actually didn't get cynical and beaten down for a number of years! I do think it makes a difference when you walk into a room. You're always selling yourself and your ideas. And if you're not a giant ape or you don't have a development deal, you need to be twice as passionate and committed and unique. So get used to that, gentle readers.

Some people only have one idea. Some people have a plethora. Both have their issues. We tend to have a lot of ideas and it's easy to go, "Well, let's just throw these all at the wall." But that doesn't really work, even though when you haven't worked all year, it's tempting to want to cover all bases. It's just not possible, and you really don't have to. Your agent will always steer you towards the traditional, which in this business means procedural. He will also steer you towards network, not cable. Sure, if your show goes on network you're golden, but that's getting less and less possible now. Don't be afraid of cable. Embrace cable. Don't fall into the network-only trap.

Here's something I really love about cable that I think the networks have forgotten. I know what they're looking for based on what they have. Sci-Fi wants Eureka-type shows. Galactica's going away and there's just no way they'll do a space show if that one didn't work for them, ratings-wise. USA does character-driven light detective shows. A no-brainer. ABC Family does younger shows. Consistently. FX does darker, edgier shows. Lifetime does female-driven shows. See? You can tell what they'll be looking for. Now. Tell me what the hell NBC is looking for.

I'll wait.

The biggest problem with pitching pilots is that you're pitching months before the new TeeVee season begins. So everybody's finished their pilots and they're well on the way to making shows. Nobody knows what will work, but the perception about that has already begun. There's almost no way for you to work with this. So don't even try. If you are a quirky writer, then do that. If you're not and you're hedging your bets about what's going to hit in the fall, DON'T DO IT. The truth is, you can't anticipate any of this. And the only perception that's going to matter is an executive's. Yours is irrelevant. Unless you have a blog. Then it's only relevant there.

Here's something to think about if you only want to appeal to the taste of others. This is the question we asked ourselves during our last pilot process -- If the show goes, do you want to run it? That's really the only question you need.

So, we're off and pitching. We decided to target some cable networks so we've got some ideas that are just for them, and a few network ideas. Yes, we have to sell something or we'll be out on the street, but it's no fun if there aren't stakes, right?

On to some comments!

Dan found the blog. Of course I remember you, Dan! And how damned flattering that you still have the scripts. I hope things are going well for you. And it's okay if you like Heroes. I won't hold it against you!

Mel wonders if people are finally tiring of torture porn. Lord, I hope so. It's good to see a movie like 1408 do well, because it's good. And it's actual horror, not torture porn. There are some terrific gags in the film and it is slavishly devoted to the end-all of a good horror film -- make us friggin' CARE about somebody. John Cusack is great in the film and we care about what happens to him. Eli Roth fucking WISHES he could do something like this. But he's just not capable of it, so he has to pretend that torture porn is really terrific horror. It's all he can do.

Speaking of horror, I've caught the first two episodes of the six-ep series Jekyll. It's a BBC series, a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. Like, literally Jekyll and Hyde. VERY cool stuff so far. I wish we could do that sort of thing here but it would never happen. How nice to have that kind of freedom!

That's it for now, but I need to blog more than once a month. So I shall try.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Blog of the Flies

Huh. I had all this stuff ready to go, and then Blogger was all, "Really? Is that REALLY what you want to talk about?" DELETE.

So now I have to start all over.

Those of you who know me can skip this paragraph, because I'm going to talk about horse racing. the Belmont, specifically. Yeah, I know, not a cool sport, you all hate it, whatever. Wait until figure skating season starts. Then you're in for it.

Anyway, the Belmont, which is the third leg of the Triple Crown, took place last Saturday and for the first time in 102 years, it was won by a filly. Only three have won the Belmont, and this filly, Rags To Riches, is the first to win it at its modern distance of a mile and a half. Now, the Belmont is the only important American dirt race even AT that distance. Most Thoroughbreds are bred for speed so to see these two horses -- Rags To Riches and Preakness winner Curlin -- literally SPRINT away from the field when they hooked up off the turn, it was magical for anyone who loves what racing can represent.

There was so much attached to this victory. Last year, Rags To Riches' half-brother Jazil won the Belmont. That is an incredible feat for their dam. This was the first Triple Crown race win for trainer Todd Pletcher, who was 0 for 28 in Triple Crown races. Pletcher's mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, had a similar 0-fer streak going before he won his first Triple Crown race, the Derby -- with filly Winning Colors. Winning Colors was jockey Gary Stevens's first Triple Crown race victory. Rags To Riches was jockey John Velasquez's first Triple Crown race victory. Spooked yet? No? Belmont night, ABC aired a movie about Ruffian, probably the greatest filly to ever run.

I could go on. But if you don't know much about the sport, you can go watch the race on It's really one of the best races you'll ever see. Curlin tries to intimidate the filly and she shrugs it off and intimidates him back. Really fantastic.

Onto comments. Nikki wants to know if I think my honesty will hurt me (and, by extension, my writing partner. Oops!). I've been pretty careful here, believe it or not. I don't want to post about which pilots I loathed. I'm trying not to name names, unless those names are blathering about on t heir own blogs. Then they're fair game. Besides, I've only seen two pilots so far. I thought Reaper was good. Kevin Smith did a nice job directing, it's damned clever, and it's got a solid series premise.

But going through staffing, or any TeeVee meetings, for that matter, does make you think about honesty. Let's face it -- it's rare that somebody gets to write on a show they really love. We've had that opportunity twice, which I think is probably anybody's limit. But as a showrunner, it's disingenuous to expect to hire a staff that adores your show as much as you do. That's like asking a babysitter to love your child as much as you do. It's not possible, and a little weird. To me, that's just an ego booster. And if I get a show on the air, well... there's the ego boost right there, Bubby. I don't need another writer to tell me I'm brilliant or whatever. I'm not asking some poor writer who desperately needs a job to kiss my ring.

As a writer on a show, you're an employee, there to give the showrunner what he or she wants. As a professional, you do the absolute best job you have if you get on staff. But in the meeting, do you have to pander? If you don't like the show, do you say so? And if you do, will it hurt you? Chances are, if you're meeting on a show that you despise and you lie and say you love it, you are not going to have one of your better experiences. Sometimes, being honest about a show will get you the job. Other times, gushing when you want to throw up will get you the job. It's all about how you want to handle your career. Honesty? Dishonesty? It's about a choice.

So. Back to the question. Maybe my comments about Heroes will ensure we never get hired on Heroes. Well, guess what? It was never gonna happen anyway. If we by some miracle DID get a meeting, I'd be honest. We've spent a lot of time holding our tongues when we've been in bad situations and it has NEVER done us ANY good. I'd rather fail by being honest than risk the chance of succeeding while being dishonest. Because more often than not, you'll fail while being dishonest, and then nobody will know who the hell you were to begin with. Do you really want to fail with work that isn't yours, with ideas you don't agree with? We've got a resume full of jobs. I'm extremely proud of a few of them. I'd like to keep that up.

Regarding my jihad against Eli Roth, I think I'm safe there. Features are different and even if we were on the radar there, I'd still be honest. As for the idea that this will hurt us during staffing... believe me, that isn't even possible!

David gives us a "chin up, lil camper" and then wonders more specifically about the person who let us down. And yup, that's the one. But David, you also said you've heard things. You can't say that and then not spill. So spill! Because we've been seriously out of the loop here.

As for what we're going to do now, we're probably going to write another pilot or two, just because. We'll be going out with a bunch of pilot pitches, hopefully sooner than later. I'd love to be pitching to cable. Seems like the cable networks have a better handle on what they're doing than the networks do, so it's easier to target them with specific ideas. And we've got two features in the works. Will anybody read them besides us? Good question.

Now to the latest on Eli Roth. Cry, baby, cry!! What, nobody saw your torture porn and you think there's reason other than that it's CRAP? The BALLS on this guy. Honestly! What's really irritating is that between this asshat and Captivity, they've probably ruined it for the entire genre. The genre is far more than torture porn and bad Hilary Swank supernatural thrillers but the studios don't see it that way. Eli Roth has fucked it for the rest of us. Idiot.

We are, of course, working on a horror movie.

But onto less bitter news. The bestest, superest, most magnificentest news!!! THERE IS GOING TO BE A COMPUTER-ANIMATED GATCHAMAN MOVIE! YEEEEEEES! A G-Force movie! G-FORCE, PEOPLE! Who's with me?



np - Pure Reason Revolution, "The Dark Third." Man, I love this album...