A shout-out to AJ and Michael. It was so great to meet you guys!! And Michael, interesting stuff about Greg Maddux. Although at this point, I don't know if it's gonna matter that he can beat the Giants if the Dodgers can't beat any of the other teams. Augh.
So a somewhat quick one today. I still have, hopefully, a post about showrunning coming up at some point. But being on a show after not being on one for a coupla years has been rather illuminating. And this show's got a different background than most, since there was source material but there wasn't a pilot. So the show has to be created from the ground up without a real foundation. This has to happen at the same time that the writers are figuring out how the showrunner likes to break and tell stories. So it's a different kind of challenge.
The source material, for those who don't know, is Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books. The show WAS called "Wizard's First Rule," after the first book, but since we're going beyond the first book and also telling our own stories, the title had to change. We also have to look at source material in a different way. Goodkind creates a very recognizable fantasy world but rules and stories that work in the books just don't work on TeeVee. So there's a lot of adaptation going on. Obviously, books are much more internal than TeeVee, and an author can deal with senses and imagery that a television writer can't. On TeeVee, you HAVE to be able to tell stories visually. I do like the challenge of adapting source material because if you have the time (we don't have as much as we would like), you can take the book's mythology and really expand on it, shaping it into arcs and seasons. But then I really, really love mythology, and TeeVee is still trying to move completely away from that. But really, don't you think that one of the things people like about reality shows is the serialization? I think people are getting that fix from reality. If drama got back to that, maybe people would stop watching as much reality. NOTHING is more serialized than a reality show.
Onto some comments!
Kay, I wonder if the increasing penetration of DVR/Tivo into the marketplace will help usher in a resurgence of original syndicated programming. Even if the show is on at a weird day or hour, you can capture it on a hard drive to watch at your leisure.
I sure hope so. I don't know why the hell the networks won't look at data from ALL DVRs. It's certainly something the technology can do. So why don't they get more than a half-assed Nielsen sampling? I'm sure that it has something to do with money somewhere, I just don't know specifically where.
Of course, the downside of the Tivo revolution is exactly what you're complaining about. A tv director told me that Tivo is driving the push toward the six act structure with long first act and steadily shortening acts in the back half of the show. According to the networks' research, people are less likely to fast forward through commercials if there's a superlong first act-- don't ask me why. Supposedly the CSI shows are under pressure to ditch their short teaser followed by long acts structure, but Carol Mendelson is holding the line. Who knew the CSI franchise was a standard bearer for creative integrity?
Not me!! The six-act structure is ass. It isn't at all organic, because you still have to build to those act-outs, which means you have to have five "natural" climaxes. To me, TeeVee isn't crafted structurally anymore. There's no sense of rhythm to it. That's one of the reasons I adored the season finale of Sarah Connor. That was an old-fashioned episode, man. And I miss what TeeVee used to be able to do. Now, you have fucking TAGS, which I loathe, and nobody can do a real teaser anymore. This removes all elegance and suspense from a show. There's just no artistry. Blech.
I see that the teaser/trailer for "Legend of the Seeker" is now online.
Beautiful actors, Middle Earth scenery, swords, magical gestures, and slo-mo action -- what more could you want? Who needs writers?
Heh. Not us!! We do NOT know why he stabs a mountain with his sword. Seriously.
The short-attention span acts are really beginning to bother me. There was once a time when two characters could just spend a couple of minutes chatting, developing a relationship that added to the depth of a show. Now, those two minutes are devoted to rapid sequences of scenes that last four sentences.
Totally irritating. It's impossible to write a scene where there's anything going on beyond the obvious action. So any little moments you used to be able to have with the characters are gone. The other thing that's happened is, you have to write SO much to time, because you can't afford to shoot more. You used to be able to cut to time, but now you have to write to it. This means that you don't even get to write those nice moments, or craft a suspenseful scene. TeeVee is becoming less about craft and more about commerce. I wonder how long it'll take for it to just be a mechanical enterprise.
The bifurcation in television production costs during the past several years has been fascinating to watch. The high end network shows, especially the ones with genre overtones have gotten absurdly expensive. Terminator is the cheap one at a little more than 3 mil an episode (small, cheap cast and lots of filming on the Warner lot), Fringe is supposedly 3.5 (and that's with New York kicking them back a chunk for filming there), and Lost and Heroes with their huge expensive casts, tons of setups and loads of opticals and location shooting come in at a jaw-dropping 5 million each.
Yup. That's a ridiculous amount of money. As for Fringe, the word I've been hearing is that 3.5 is far less than what they're actually spending. And the problem with shooting on a lot like WB has to do with how much they charge the shows to shoot there. You would think you might be able to save some money, but it's a total racket.
Things like high end talent (unless you cut them in with points or they owe you favors), location shooting, and practical action scenes will always be expensive, so it's to Joss' great credit that he chose a storytelling format that played to the Internet's strengths and didn't depend on big ticket stuff.
That's what I appreciated about it, too. Joss certainly could have done TeeVee on the internet, but he didn't. He took the format in mind and that, I think, is what makes Dr. Horrible so important.
Brent Friedman!!!!! says,
Kay - Brent Friedman here... We worked together on "Twilight Zone." Just found your blog thru a series of links... nice work. Wanted to let you know that I've been making a very, very good living on webvideo the last two years. My digital media company, Electric Farm Entertainment, has produced "Afterworld" and "Gemini Division" (which rolls out Aug. 18th on NBC.com) and the upcoming "Woke Up Dead." If you Google any of the above names you'll get the whole history. But you're absolutely right about the bottom line: ownership. Everything I've done with EFE we now own the copyright - this is the true power of New Media from a creator standpoint. A close second on the list has to be getting zero notes... ;)
Hey, Brent!!! Congrats on the web stuff, and thanks SO much for saying something because the conventional wisdom seems to be that it's just not worth it. But given the way TeeVee's going, it's getting increasingly harder to get that creative satisfaction. I think too many people are wanting to transfer the structure of TeeVee -- from the method of storytelling to the pay structure -- to the internet. They won't see that it really IS a different medium. And that sometimes, it's okay to trade a huge payday for peace of mind and creative control. I'm really glad you're making a living AND doing what you want. Totally envious here!
I liked Afterworld a lot and I've seen the first two eps of Gemini Division. I love how different the shows are -- more different than two TeeVee shows can be from each other. And to me, it seems that you have to REALLY focus on storytelling to work the medium. I'm loving it so far!!
I'm hoping to go to the Breeder's Cup (which is at Santa Anita). Since we shoot in New Zealand, no danger of me having to be out of town!
np -- the copy machine across the hall. But I did just acquire the new Verve album and can't wait to listen to it!