First fall pickup! First fall pickup! It will be Eastwick, the ABC pilot written by Maggie Friedman. The show hasn't officially been picked up, of course, but David Nutter just signed on to direct. Since he's 13-for-13 or some nonsense like that, this is as sure a thing as exists.
I now have all the pilots and will be reading them as time permits. Y'know how I was saying there were a lot of genre pilots? Just saw an article that talked about how many cop/lawyer/doctor pilots there are. It doesn't look to me like there are any more than usual. You always expect that there will be a majority of cop/lawyer/doctor pilots. That's just the way it works. What IS a little different thing year is that there are a few political pilots. As drama, I find politics endlessly fascinating. There are a lot of options with a Washington show. It'll be interesting to see how they fare, especially since there's only been one truly successful political show. Good luck, political peoples. I think you may need it.
Onto some comments. I have been especially remiss in that arena.
You said "people should get pissed." Okay. Do you mean just people who work in the industry, or outside it as well? What can regular viewers do to help shift things?
Just turning off the TeeVee doesn't help.
This was in regards to the post about turning TeeVee into a business first and foremost. Here's the thing. I don't think you can fool the audience into watching something they don't want to watch, but I think you can train the audience to a certain degree. CSI started and people went, "Hey, I like this!" And then CSI trained them for The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, and all the myriad procedurals. But CSI existed before the audience for CSI did.
It's not up to the audience to dictate anything, or try to change anything. That's impossible. The audience exists because there's something to watch. If there's nothing to watch, there's no such thing as an audience. I firmly believe that there is going to be product on the Internet very soon that will draw substantial viewership. People are slowly being trained to watch things this way. More and more people are watching networks like Hulu on their computers. the computer is becoming a larger part of peoples' lives. The TeeVee business is not changing to accommodate this, which is part of why the cutbacks are happening (the other being the fact that these companies don't stand on their own. They're entertainment divisions of companies that are failing). So it's not going to be up to the executives and CEOs to make changes. It has to be up to the people making TeeVee. The actual creators of content. This is happening very slowly but if we were more aggressive, we could make it happen a lot faster. But economics being what they are, we gots to make a living, so we're stuck in this model for now.
Also, congrats on the YA horse racing mystery! I have always had a secret yearning to write exactly that, and I can't wait to read it when it's out.
FWIW - I thoroughly enjoy Twilight, but a) I've not seen the film yet and b) constantly defending my enjoyment of it gets a bit wearing after a while. Not an attack on you or your blog at all there - but I've never seen this level of general dislike directed at any fiction before.
There have been things I've tirelessly defended too, so I can sympathize. I think the vitriol is to be expected because Twilight's not as universally loved as Harry Potter. Try to be a Harry Potter hater and see how many people want to throw rocks at you. Seriously, people act like those are the greatest books on the planet and they basically call you inhuman for not liking them. With Twilight, though, it's got that romance stigma and it's a pretty easy target. My dislike for it stems from my dislike for what I see as bad writing. However, my dislike for Twilight cannot even approach my level of dislike for Dan Brown. I mean, it's not even in the same league.
Ironically, a couple of days after you posted this, I was interviewing Malcolm MacRury (ZOS), and he just shot a pilot for a light detective show. Set in St. John's, Newfoundland.
So either the Canucks are years behind you guys, or way ahead.
Ha! See?? I think you're ahead in a few ways, because I see you doing fun stuff that's just entertaining. And that's not a dismissal. I LOVE entertainment, and it's a lot harder than it looks.
But see, nowadays even when you have a "light detective show," the current TeeVee template seems to demand a mythology. "Monk" and "The Mentalist" both have the search for wives' killers. "Burn Notice" has its conspiracy mythology. "Psych" seems to have avoided that (I haven't seen enough of "Leverage" to know if it's avoiding this pitfall, but I have faith in you, John), but otherwise no one's interested in just watching someone solve crimes week to week. There has to be (insert trumpets) SOMETHING BIGGER!
I'm of two minds about this. Hmm. Two minds... hang on, I'm going to go pitch a quirky procedural...
Anyway. On the one hand, yes, absolutely right. There is mythology. When I look back at shows I really enjoyed, there wasn't mythology exactly... there was character. With Magnum PI (shut up, I like that show), the show would follow threads about Magnum's past in Vietnam and with the Navy, Higgins' past with the British Army and intelligence, Magnum's wife (NOT a successful little storyline, that), Rick and TC's various activities... there would be subplots and storylines. But an ongoing mythology? Nope. Same with Simon & Simon (shut up, I like that show), where they did a particularly nice episode involving the Simons' father and would delve into Rick's past in Vietnam (remember Vietnam as a backstory? Those days are over) and AJ's many interests. The pasts of these characters would be explored, but then they would be onto their next case. I think Remington Steele upped the ante a little bit, because Steele's past was a part of the premise. However, it never got in the way of the show. It enhanced the show, and it was nicely integrated.
Was X-Files the first show that really did mythology and actually called it mythology? I'm not positive. But X-Files changed everything. It was a procedural wrapped in science fiction paper with a serialized bow on top. It was a hybrid (ironic), and it was one of the first instances where an ongoing storyline that wasn't St. Elsewhere or Dallas or Dynasty (etc) captured peoples' attention.
A long-winded way of agreeing with you, but also saying that we could take a look at the pre-X-Files landscape and go back to character a little. What's funny is, shows like Monk and the Mentalist are considered character-driven shows because of these mythologies. But really, they're external devices applied to the show's premise. Although with Burn Notice, what's happened to Michael is a part of the premise, so I'd exclude that one. And I find that much more interesting than just a mechanism.
I think we have to stop thinking of mythology as something to apply to a show, and think of character and backstory. Unless you're doing Lost or Battlestar Galactica, or Fringe to a certain extent, adding mythology to your show is like adding a high-speed chip to Multivac. Pointless.
Along those lines Kira goes,
Chad, you're right on the money. Apparently the trick to an art theft show is to wrap it in a DA VINCI CODE/NATIONAL TREASURE/Indy Jones mythology. Exhibit A, Fox's MASTERWORK, just picked up to pilot.
I can totally see how this would sell to a network. No question (although you have to be Paul Scheuring to be able to sell it). However, it is completely possible to do an art theft show and NOT include a vast mythology. Remington Steele was ostensibly an art theft show, and it can be done today, too. Or it could be, if they would let you. They won't. The question is always, "Art? What are the stakes?" What they REALLY mean is, "Who dies?" Those are apparently the only stakes that matter.
How do you handle feedback? I'd love to get your opinion!
I react defensively and usually argue my approach. How do I decide what I should change, whose opinion I should trust, and how do I implement said feedback without feeling like I have lost everything I enjoyed and that it is no longer a work of my authorship, but rather a compilation of problems other people had with what I wrote or others' suggestions that I implemented. How do I become a writer that accepts, understands, and acknowledges good feedback (versus being defensive) and possibly even a writer who realizes the faults in his scripts before they reach the hands of someone else?
There are many things I hate about TeeVee, and one of the major things I hate is how feedback is given. If you work in TeeVee and you don't get defensive and pissed off at least once, then you are living a charmed life, my friend. You need to be extremely careful about how much you fight. If you're getting notes from a showrunner and you don't agree with the notes, you need to dig deep and make sure that this is in service of the show, and not your ego. You will probably have to kill ALL your babies when you're on staff. And if you are constantly arguing with your showrunner, you will be labeled as difficult, and that can kill you.
It is thoroughly understandable to get defensive. What you've written is a part of you and when people criticize it, you feel as if you are being criticized. You will never get over this, but you have to find a way to deal with it. For me, it's not impossible to handle on a show because I know why I'm there. I'm still figuring this out with pilots, though, because I tend to go in the opposite direction. I let feedback take over. I do all the notes. This is also stupid. There's a middle ground, and you have to find it. Usually what happens when I finish something and give it an agent or a producer is, I get depressed. Because when I'm working on something on spec, I'm loving what I'm doing. But my love for the project is never equal to anyone else's. I tend to want to do things that aren't conventional and that doesn't generally go over well.
In order to gain perspective, there are a few things you can do. Being in a writer's group is very helpful because it allows you to give feedback, too, and this makes you more sensitive to the people giving you notes. The most important thing, and the one thing you can't really control, is to have a mentor. Now, a mentor is not someone who torments you and beats you up to make you tougher. A mentor is someone who nurtures your writing and also teaches you. If you can find someone you respect who will mentor you, then you will start to get more confident in your work. This will help you figure out which notes are helpful and which are ass.
Lastly, a few rules:
First rule (I don't know how much you've written, BTW) -- write a lot. Read a lot of scripts. You HAVE to have this foundation before you can recognize what good feedback is. Second rule -- if ten people say that something doesn't work, it probably doesn't work. Third rule -- if ten people all have different issues, then you have to make the call. Fourth rule -- if you feel like you're losing authorship, then you ARE. Put the brakes on and accept that even though people are trying to help you, chances are they aren't helping you. Some people give you notes based on what THEY would have done. This could not be less helpful and is, in fact, destructive. You will start to figure out what good feedback is because it will be something that makes you MORE excited, not less excited. Or, if not excited, then at least resigned. As in, "Shit. That's a totally valid note, damn your eyes."
Howevah I gots a question. I know this is a sort of paranoid/cynical kinda scenario to pose, but given that you've pitched a pilot similar to Masterwork many times before, what's to say that Scheuring didn't just lift the idea from you? Word obviously gets around about the pilot ideas that get rejected from year to year, right? Am I too far off base here? And if not, how much of that kinda stuff actually happens/has happened that you know of?
He didn't. I'm absolutely positive of that. And even though there was a show on the air that was exactly this (Veritas), he didn't steal it from them, either. When we were on Millennium, people on message boards would go, "Did you see the last episode? The writers totally stole that from me!" But see, we were spending every day coming up with ideas for the show. It stands to reason that we would come up with the same idea a fan came up with. Hell, I don't even think Tim Kring stole Heroes from us, and that was a pilot that we'd sold and written. It sucks when someone comes up with the same idea. It really does. Actually, Bruckheimer just sold a show and it's the exact same idea we pitched to producers a few weeks ago. This was an idea we'd had for a few years. But Bruckheimer didn't steal it from us. There are only so many stories to tell, and it makes sense that writers are going to come up with the same idea on occasion. What really sucks, though, is when we don't get staffed on those shows!
I'm of half a mind to write my art theft pilot, just to use as a sample for the flood that will be coming.
This was long, but I was answering QUESTIONS, man!!!!
np -- Cilla Black, "Anyone Who Had A Heart"