So Moonlight is about as dead as a show can get. Sorry all the fans who are trying to save it, but it's dead. And the studio doesn't care about you, by the way. I wish they did, because then the show wouldn't have been canceled. But they don't. TeeVee is a business, not a love affair. It used to be that network heads did follow their gut and their heart. Not all the time, but it was possible on occasion. No longer. Now, it's all about the money and that's it.
But then isn't that how the world is everywhere? The entertainment biz is unique because it's about trying to make money from a creative enterprise. I think this causes more conflict than, say, banking, where you're trying to make money from money. Makes a little more sense, that.
But the entertainment biz does have something in common with horse racing. The owners of Big Brown, IEAH Racing, only got into the game to make money. Which is unbelievably stupid on the one hand, but I suppose they're having the last laugh now. Their full name is International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, Inc, which is a mouthful of nothing. While they've brought many of their stars back to the track (most notably Kip Deville), this is an investment firm, which means that they must do everything in their power to protect their investment. They are in this for the good of themselves. To make money. They are not in it for the sport, for the love of the game, for racing. Like most big corporations, they only care about the bottom line, which means that the average racing fan (like the average TeeVee fan) is due to be disappointed.
Part of this has to do with the insurance. Insuring a horse worth as much as Big Brown is staggeringly expensive. Ah, the insurance industry! It exists only to fuck people and make as much speculative money as it possibly can!
The days of the small, private stables and small breeders is over. Racing has become a speculative market, sort of like the oil business, which tells you something about how inflated the prices are. It's ALL about speculation: the yearling sales, two-year-old sales, syndication, breeding rights, all of it. The buyers and the sellers are betting on how much the final product will be worth. But see, if this is all there is to the game, there will never BE a final product. Horses will retire earlier and earlier, so as to take advantage of the price offered and so they don't tarnish their reputation by losing or getting hurt.
In my opinion, this got its start with the syndication of Conquistador Cielo. Losing the Travers after Claiborne had made a huge deal for him significantly reduced his value as a stallion.
Racing horses and breeding RACEHORSES and not merely sales prospects no longer has a significant place in racing. Now, it's all driven by the corporations, by the rulers of Dubai and Saudi Arabia, who have gobs of money thanks to America's (and the world's) reliance on fossil fuels.
This DOES have an application to the entertainment industry.
Upfronts are a speculative market. The advertisers are betting on the success of these shows. All the pilots have been vetted by the money guys and the publicity gurus. Studios are nervous because in order to make the shows that will make them money, they have to outlay a fantastic amount of dosh. Hence the creation of the studio micromanagers. And a network, who profits initially from the licensing fee set by the advertisers, will yank an underperforming show, which does fuck the studios, who usually haven't had the time necessary to amortize the costs.
I'd say this creates a culture of fear and also of the quick trigger finger, yes? Shows, like racehorses, aren't nurtured. They aren't allowed to develop a following. They come, they're here for a second, and they go. The fans (TeeVee and racing) feel that they're not listened to (they aren't). TeeVee and racing are considered broken and in need of repair.
But the only thing that will fix both enterprises is for the corporations to allow some independence. Small private breeders and stables are the equivalent of the independent studios that no longer exist. The corporations have changed the game, and they've made it financially impossible for independence to exist. Hell, they do the exact same thing in all other industries. Why should we be surprised?
I feel for the small guy in racing who's trying to make it in this atmosphere. The corporations are destroying the love of the game. Same with TeeVee. There's no love anymore. It's just survival, baby.
In racing, it's especially sad because Big Brown looks like one for the ages. What he did in the Preakness... it's something I've never seen a horse do before. It's just not physically possible.
Enough of the ruminating, now onto some comments:
Margaret sez about Moonlight:
What's too bad is CBS cutting off its nose to spite its face, then turning around and wasting the money to get a new, ugly, obviously fake nose surgically attached.
I just love the way you put that!! And exactly. Let's see how obvious the noses are in the fall. Even more irritating is the fact that the network was going to re-run our episode tomorrow. Now they aren't. Which means I survive for six weeks less. Fuckers.
Doesn't Buffy count as a female superhero?
Nope. Maybe I wasn't specific enough with the rules: female superheroes, in comic books, who are not secondary, sidekicks or spin-offs.
Long handle guy writes:
Geeez. How could you ignore The Girls of Batman: Batgirl and Batwoman (gotta love those girls in black tights). And Wikipedia (that ever popular web source of misinformational "facts" list female superheroes from a to z.
I didn't ignore Batgirl (and Batwoman is stupid). There's a very good current ongoing Batgirl comic and Batgirl: Year One was something I enjoyed very much. HOWEVER. They are mere sidekicks to Batman. They would not exist on their own. That's the rule, pal. See above. I like Nightwing but if I was listing the best superheroes, he wouldn't be on the list because face it, dude's a spin-off, Bludhaven or not.
Branding: In this town it's called "labeling" writers. TeeVee writers write TeeVee and that's it. Features writers write features end of discussion. And then it gets broken down even further into genre: comedy, drama, action for feature writers, pick your specialty. TeeVee the same deal, but with sub-categories: medical, crime, or family drama; sci-fi is another group; and comedy has family, urban, the youth market.
Labeling is not the same as branding. The whole point of the post was for the writers to try and take control and direct it. A label is something applied to you. A brand is something you consciously create.
You have no control over how you're labeled if you don't try to do something about it. I've lost jobs for being too sci-fi, not sci-fi enough, too character-driven, too plot-driven, too dark, too light/soft, too female (we were actually told that the showrunners of a specific show were not allowed to hire any women, and on another show, the showrunner told our agent that he already had enough women on the show. they NEVER say they have enough men on a show). When you find a show you're perfect for and you don't get the meeting because they've chosen a label for you, that's incredibly frustrating.
I was prepared to be fairly narrowly branded as an action writer, but I've been noticing that my reps brand me even more narrowly than that, namely as a fairly comedic action writer. I was listening to one of them talk about me the other day, explaining to some other guy what I was all about as a writer, and I had to fight not to jump in and say "But I'd like to write sci-fi and dark thrillers, too!"
It's really tricky. We were labeled (we didn't brand ourselves) as dark genre writers because of Millennium, but our next job was a teen soap. However, since that show never got off the ground (it would be a fucking ginormous hit today, Goddammit), we never got that label. We have romantic comedy and screwball comedy features, but that fact falls on deaf ears. The problem is, the agent needs to be able to package you. Hence the labels. You need to make sense to a producer or a studio and if you're all over the map, it doesn't tell the studio that you're versatile. It confuses them.
But this isn't even new. I know someone (who reads the blog, so I'll be vague!) who made his mark in a certain genre but when he tried another genre, even though the pilot was fantastic, the network was confused. This couldn't have come from him, because he's an X-type of writer. They simply will not listen to you if you've had a huge success in one genre. Look at Judd Apatow. He branded himself; he didn't let anyone else do it. Joss Whedon tried to break out a little bit with Firefly, they smacked him, and he's back on familiar, successful ground with Dollhouse. JJ Abrams, who broke into the biz with huge spec feature sales, is the weird TeeVee guy. But these guys are reveling in that.
I just don't know what to revel in at the moment, and I think a lot of us have the same problem.
Isn't branding just an uglier word for having a distinct voice??
I don't think so. I don't think there are that many distinct voices in Hollywood, frankly. I think a distinct voice works in addition to your brand or your label.
James Henry says:
A writer friend of mine discovered he was being referred to by his agent as 'the go-to guy for shows about animated footballs', which he wasn't entirely delighted about as a branding concept.
Yeesh. I should say not.
I also prefer to use the term 'distinct voice' rather than 'brand', lest you end up referring to your scripts as 'product'. Although in reality, I suppose it's a bit of each.
I know what you're saying, but keep in mind that we don't direct the industry. THEY do. We will never get them to speak our language. We have to speak theirs. And if they need to see us in terms of branding, then it's a hell of a lot better that we brand ourselves. To me, a script is product as soon as it gets sent off to the agent. I try to have fun with it beforehand.
Of course now I want to know how my agent would describe my 'distinct voice' in brand terms. Probably best I never find out.
Or maybe it would be illuminating, and helpful. I honestly don't know.
Butcher Boy is here!
We put up 'I Know Who You Could Be' for download on our MySpace page due to the huge reaction to the track being on Moonlight. Just thought some of you may like to know...
I couldn't be happier that people found Butcher Boy due to Moonlight! I only wish there was a season two for more underrated music. Dammit.
np - The Little Ones, "Morning Tide"