It's been a busy few weeks, hence no blog post. I've been doing a rewrite on a pilot we're going to be taking out and hopefully selling. Which leads me to this:
HUGE congrats on A Town Called Malice! After reading this blog for about a year, I'm insanely happy for you and your new success! I hope this leads to you being on my television permanently :) Oh, and do give us the new knowledge gained from your success and do tell us the whole story as to how you sold your pilot!
Thanks! But to be clear, we haven't sold it yet. We've done the thing that I hope is going to make people want to be in business with us. We've attached talent, and we've gotten promotion for it. The way the business is working at the moment is that it's almost if not completely impossible for working writers to sell pilots. There's already at least one major studio that isn't taking pitches from anyone who isn't a giant ape, or doesn't have great attachments. We couldn't be happier with the team we've got, and now it's up to the networks to make the next move. I'll keep everyone posted on that process.
David Thom wonders:
Comic book writers are the new hot hire in TV? Any idea why?
Geek is the new cool. I think JJ Abrams, et al, have made this effect happen. And the way projects are being set up is different, too. Comic books have become the new novels, the go-to source for material. So much so that writers are publishing their own comics and sticking a few copies in Golden Apple or Meltdown in the hopes that some eager producer or executive will buy them. This has been happening in film for awhile and since film people are always coming to TeeVee, now it's happening here, too.
There's actually more distressing news, though, which is in the following article that Kira sent. The article, from Variety, is about how studios aren't giving as many overall deals in TeeVee this year. It's a very sad article, as you can see from the first sentence:
With everyone in TV tasked with doing more with less, will top scribes have the time and energy to come up with primetime's next big smash?
I mean, THOSE POOR FUCKERS! Now about ten percent of writers in the business are being asked to not only write and run TeeVee shows, but at the SAME TIME, they have to also create new shows!! And they also get to charge their exorbitant script fees for that! Wouldn't it be great if there were, say, around ninety percent of a workforce that isn't as expensive as a giant ape showrunner, isn't doing the work of twelve, and might -- just might -- have some new ideas? Seriously, a friend of mine has a pilot idea that would make you guys beg like dogs. But she's not a giant ape, so it's not on the air.
Making it even tougher for scribes, this year, most series are having to make do with smaller staffs -- once again, a result of the weak economy. But that also means more work for everyone, including those writers who might otherwise have had time to develop.
From a business point of view, I have to say that paying a giant ape a coupla hundred grand to write a pilot and fifty grand an episode on staff comes across as something of a mistake. If you're really saving money, shouldn't you... I dunno... ACTUALLY SAVE THE MONEY?
I would really like to see the trades delve into what's really happening in TeeVee. Where's the article about how smaller staffs and doubling up actually takes work away from an entire workforce? It's natural that Variety is going to talk to studio and network execs, and those people are going to send them to giant apes. This happened during the strike, too, where the quotes all came from the giant apes and there was very little heard from the working writers. Which is, of course, why most of America thinks writers are entitled rich people.
Meanwhile, experienced writers without deals have had to make tough decisions this year: Do you join a series staff, which promises a steady paycheck, or do you hold back and develop what you hope could be your ticket to massive success?
Sigh. Yeah, WHAT DO YOU DO??? This article makes it sound like any writer with any experience is in this predicament. But that's simply not true. It is LITERALLY about twenty guys who are struggling with this.
I'm not denigrating their quandary because when you're at the level these guys are at, it IS a quandary. If you want to create shows, you don't want to get known only as someone who can come in and run someone else's show. You want to be known as a creator. And being thought of as the guy who can run someone else's show is really frustrating creatively. But there are others in this industry. It's probably the same with working actors, who also don't have a voice.
Where the article gets it right, IMO, is in talking about the vague contracts that are basically ass-raping everybody. There's no clear path for writers anymore, even rich showrunner guys. Studios are now bald-facedly saying that they're taking advantage of writers. The article says that specs are going to be more popular, and that it's going to be harder for studios to find product because they're forcing these guys onto staffs. Well, that's not entirely true. Or true at all. One studio, for example, won't even take pitches from anyone other than "names," and those names don't necessarily have to be giant TeeVee apes. They can also be giant feature apes. So it's actually working the opposite of what the article claims. It's closing the door even further on the rest of the industry.
Personally, I think overall deals are fucking stupid. I think showrunners who get hired to run a show should, I dunno... RUN THE FUCKING SHOW. I don't think they should get fat overall deals. I think they should get contracts like the rest of us. If you want to take the (apparent) security of a staff job, then you SHOULD have to forego development... unless -- and this is a big one -- the studio is fucking you on your quote (which they are doing to lots of people). People who develop should just develop, and showrunners should run shows. Once again, the industry does this backwards.
As a non-industry person, I'm curious as to how this "testing" works. Who and how many do they have as the test audience? Do they just watch the pilot?
Basically, the company doing the testing grabs unsuspecting people off the street and puts them in a room together. They each get a little dial to turn, indicating their like or dislike of whatever is on the screen. They're shown the pilot, they turn their dials like the little monkeys they've been turned into, and then afterwards they are interviewed and quizzed by the company's rep. The questions they're asked are all marketing type questions. They have to put into words what their impressions are of the show. This is an alien endeavor for most people, which makes their answers suspect. Also, they are not asked these stupid questions alone, but in a group. That means that group mentality takes over. So maybe a timid person loved the pilot but the loudmouth asshole down at the end of the table hated it. Eventually, everybody conforms to the asshole's opinion. In order to test pilots, they take people out of the natural environment in which they watch TeeVee. Now, they've been experimenting with new methods that are more organic to the viewing experience. But focus groups are still the most popular method.
It's fairly obvious that testing doesn't work because hows that test well get on the air. How many of those shows succeed? About as many as would succeed if a network president just put what he wanted on the air. But it's not about being a predictor for success. Testing is a way for the executives to cover their asses. It's not THEIR fault if the testing was wrong.
That's it. I'm moving to Canada.
Speaking of Canada, that's another thing that's really hurting American TeeVee. Not only are studios like Fox shooting shows in Mexico and South America (with all local crews and post-production) but networks are buying Canadian shows and airing them here. Luckily for the American TeeVee industry these shows aren't doing that great but it doesn't really matter. The barometer for success on a network has little to do with creative success and everything to do with financial success. So a failed show that a studio didn't pay for is a much better bet than a failed show that was produced here.
To build off of Kira's question about the possibility of more spec pilots being bought, what are your thoughts about showrunners being more open to attaching themselves to an existing script rather than developing their own ideas? If studios and networks start trending toward buying spec scripts, even from noobs like myself, I would guess that showrunners would have no choice but to help shepherd someone else's idea.
Even if you went in and sold a pitch, if you hadn't run a show before they'd put someone with you. It might get somewhat interesting this year if they really aren't making overall development deals without the showrunner actually running a show. Which could be good because it means that the showrunners not lucky enough to wind up on a show or in a deal -- really talented people who literally have not gotten the break they deserve -- could be available to you, if they haven't sold their own pilots. We'll see what happens. And exec producers normally don't have a huge issue with doing this. They're usually developing several things. Writers with deals occasionally have in their deal that they'll also shepherd a project of someone else's.
When I read the article, I was offended. But then I realized that these are the same morons who think that if you are over 30 you have no talent. Or other similar supidities. That brought out the outrage (which most of the women I know in the entertainment field have shared about this stupid article) Thanks for taking it on paragraph by paragraph.
Yeah, there's a GREAT Elisberg piece in the Huffington Post about ageism in Hollywood. It's good we all stopped aging at 29. And it's appalling that ANYONE has to be conscious of their age, but WRITERS? Totally retarded.
By the way, the new pilot for V is just awful.
I'm trying to find a way to be surprised. Not successful. The first V was a zeitgeist show. It was totally fun. This V has a priest in it. That's really all I needed to know. It's nice that ABC is trying something with this much genre cred, but it would be nicer if it were something original. They've also got FlashForward, which is also not original. It will, of course, be better than the book, but that's not exactly a glowing recommendation. And now SciFi is going to "reboot" (the new fashionable word for "we're scared shitless of new ideas, please stop bringing them to us") Alien Nation. Part of me is excited because it means SciFi has actually admitted that aliens are sci-fi. Whee!! But there are any number of writers who have marched into SciFi and pitched a cool alien show. What I'm not looking forward to at all and will actively protest against is any new "reboot" of The Invaders. Seriously. I will kill someone.
Looks like a woman wrote the commentary. Am I wrong? It's got to be either a woman or a gay man. Straight guys just don't care enough about the stuff the writer in question obsesses over.
Straight guys don't care because... they rule the world already? I'll buy that. You must come from the particular batch of guys who were born on third and think they hit a triple. There are a lot of people out there like you, people who roll their eyes at what others perceive as injustice. If you've never been told that someone isn't going to give you a job because they have already hired enough women then no, I can imagine how mystified you are. It's a shame that you can't go beyond your limited viewpoint and figure out, on your own, why this matters.
You have to admit there are lots of girly-girls in the US, and even more in Asia. They buy lots of stuff. There's a whole genre of manga where pretty boys like those described in the article bang each other after long drawn out romantic courtships. Japanese girls eat it up.
First of all, you have now done precisely what the article did. Every Japanese girl does not "eat this up." You've completely missed the point, which is that stereotyping doesn't help anything. As a matter of fact, there was even more stereotyping in this laughingstock of an article: All geeks are drooling homunculi who live in their parents' basements and obsessively play/watch genre. Sure, some are. But an awful lot aren't. Funny that you missed that, but then your lot isn't used to outrage.
Is this sexist outrage, or just a message aimed at a different demo?
You don't get to ask that question. You have already abdicated your social responsibility. There's a Jarvis Cocker song about one particular group of people running the world. It's not a word I am going to say on this blog, but you can look it up.
any chance scifi has changed it's tune about the name change?
Not before the big spelling launch!! Warehouse 13 begins this week and this is supposed to be the flagship show for the new letters. This partially explains why they haven't been buying pitches from anyone who's not a giant ape. They need to see how the show does first. I can certainly understand that, and I hope that if it IS successful, it helps the network zero in on what they need. This is a gripe writers have had for years.
They've promoted the hell out of Warehouse 13. But there's a lot the show has to do, most notably to break out of the perceived SciFi sheen that's existed on practically every show and TeeVee movie they've ever done. It can't be the least bit cheesy. It has to be clever and subversive. In essence, it has to look like a show on a new network. I don't doubt the creative forces behind the show but I'm skeptical of the network actually making the attempt (i.e., spending the money) to raise the bar. I sure hope it works. I hope the spelling's a bit hit, too. Because I still believe that the more shows succeed, the better that is for the business.
I am probably totally wrong about that because the business keeps finding ways to turn success into fewer jobs.
The other weird thing is that all I really wanted to do was discuss the different projects at Comic-Con instead of the shitty article. C'est la vie.
When they post the schedule, we'll get there! Can I just bitch again about how there's going to be panels for Glee and The Office?
Michael Taylor defends,
Geeze, I kind of like TJ Simers. Anybody who can piss off so many Laker fans, Dodger fans, and hockey fans every single week -- not to mention bringing die-hard USC Trojan fans to the frothing brink of crimson-and-gold apoplexy -- must be doing something right.
He went too far when he talked about the death of Eight Belles in last year's Derby. And corresponding with him is even more disgusting than reading him. He's lucky to have a job, even though he's of the opposite opinion.
He's on my list of a few people I'd love to see in person, just so I could glare at him.