Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nothing that can't be fixed

When I get feedback on a project I rarely pay much attention. Unless they say 'We'll buy it'

Of course if most of the feedback points to the same fault then it's time for a reality check.

But this is about one piece of feedback I have just received from the head of development of a major prodco - I paraphrase -

''I really enjoyed this. It was well writen and fast paced. I did find the story too linear and the characters a little underdeveloped but I thnk that would be an easy fix.''

Now that sounds not too bad really. Except when you think about it there is a huge assumption that they are right and I am wrong. These people want to meet me. And no doubt I will. It just seems to me that the power of the writer is getting diminished to the standards of Hollywood.

The script editors and producers who haven't written a thing in their lives and are responsible for much of the shite we have to endure on TV make assumptions that they know best? I might go along with that if it weren't for the aforementioned shite.

Twenty years ago in that misty time known as Potter and Bleasdale and Kennedy-Martin the writer was king. Now it seems the writer is more and more subject to the whims of the 'I want to keep my job' exec.

They seem to want to create a 'one size fits all' TV culture. And I think it is becoming an embedded culture of co-dependence between the play it safe Exec and the writer in need of a paycheque.

Factor in the 'How to Create Characters' memmo written by some American Guru, currently doing the rounds of script eds and producers and seemingly assuming God like status, and the battle is even more uphill.

These people CAN'T WRITE. So they tick off the checklist. Do we know if he loves his mother? Does he give to the homeless?

PASS THE SICK BAG.

To me one of the major reasons for the decline of good drama is the introduction of soap writing into them. There's a time and a place for it. Not in every frickin' episode of every frickin' drama.

I don't want to sell the ranch character wise in Ep 1. I want to do just enough to empathise and intrigue the audience. There's a slow burn that has to be achieved and that doesn't mean spelling it out for the dumb audience.

Because the audience are not dumb. Okay some may not be able to articulate exactly in dramaturgical terms why they did or didn't like a show. But if they don't like it they won't watch it. And they are not watching in droves.

Okay I'll admit it. I've done my best to hype it up to myself but I was disappointed with The Outsiders and Robin Hood. The Outsiders I think screwed up completely on tone. This is probably nothing to do with the writer. More to do with editor, producer and director.

Robin Hood I found stilted and slow. I hear it gets better. Maybe I just thought it was a little strange that Robin Hood had a created by credit?

It's time the writer had a hell of a lot more input and real say in what actually appears on screen and has to pay less attention to the 'I can fix this' from non and wanabee creatives. There are good Execs out there for sure. Mostly in the Indies. But their hands are tied. Whatever they develvop then has to get past the networks.

If any other business had lost as many customers as network TV the board would have been sacked long ago. It's time they stopped blaming everything from the internet to Global warming for appalling ratings and started making programmes people actually make an effort to watch.

21 comments:

read said...

Well said!!!
I just love it when English people say SHITE!!!!

And you were thinking comedy wasn't a place you would go.

I think if you write about real human events in story humor is going to naturally arrear....ok that was supposed do be appear NOT arrear but this demonstrates my point!!!


You must understand I'm recovering (hopefully) from an illness. And did I mention that I'm a psych nurse???

I can't resist seeing the absurd all around me and I see it as a natural part of story.

What is REAL is going to at times be funny, not a 30 minute sitcom, but still humor none the less.
Read

read said...

Well said!!!
I just love it when English people say SHITE!!!!

And you were thinking comedy wasn't a place you would go.

I think if you write about real human events in story humor is going to naturally arrear....ok that was supposed do be appear NOT arrear but this demonstrates my point!!!


You must understand I'm recovering (hopefully) from an illness. And did I mention that I'm a psych nurse???

I can't resist seeing the absurd all around me and I see it as a natural part of story.

What is REAL is going to at times be funny, not a 30 minute sitcom, but still humor none the less.
Read

read said...

Anything worth saying is worth saying again!!!LOL

English Dave said...

Thank you Read

Thank you Read.

lol

read said...

I feel better already!!!

Ihave to tell you what was on my mind when I was writing the last post.

I used to work at a hospital that was having a drive to raise breast cancer awareness. If you won the prize they were giving away a GOT MILK t-shirt!!!!
Have you seen many women walking around in t- shirts that say GOT MILK? blazoned across their breasts???

It was real and I thought it was hysterical!!!!

Could start a new trend, I think it's more fun than a pink ribbon!!

Read

read said...

You could have white milk, chocolate milk, banana milk...

I can't help but think of all the poor sots (pretending to be english) out there who don't get enought calcium in there diet.... not to mention women and the danger of osteoporosis!!!!

Somebody stop me PLEASE!!!!
Read

Danny-K said...

Okay - pleased to oblige.
Hey Ready! - stop talking shite.

And my t-shirt says: Not got a straw, so I'll drink my milk as it comes.

Well, enough of this shite - hope you're not going to ask us to speak Italian now.

read said...

Not a snowballs chance

Danny-K said...

Not a Cleese fan then :)

English Dave said...

''I used to work at a hospital that was having a drive to raise breast cancer awareness. If you won the prize they were giving away a GOT MILK t-shirt!!!!
Have you seen many women walking around in t- shirts that say GOT MILK? blazoned across their breasts???

It was real and I thought it was hysterical!!!!

So do I but then I'd go and spoil it with some unneccessary dialogue like 'Brace yourself, I'm after a bit of the udder'

lol

read said...

I can't help but think that is udderly delicious!!!

Not spoiled at all. And besides if the milk is spoiled you get buttermilk, right???

And when it's fresh you get cream.

I'm having a tough time not making the leap to the age of the t shirt wearer when it comes to buttermilk and cream!!!LOL

read said...

I'm thinkin you are a closet comedian....you just need a little more angst in your life to be a full on out of the closet nut job, like some of us in the room.

English Dave said...

Well thanks read, but I feel I'm verging on psychotic as it is. Comedy would tip me over the edge.

read said...

So what's so bad about being over the edge???

Once you're there the limits come off and you can take it as far as you want because after all you've already gone over the edge.

Nothing to do now but go with the flow, let it take you someplace new, where you wouldn't have dreamed of going before.

I'm going to bed, I work the night shift and I have to be at work in a few hours.

I spend my nights with children that are so damaged that they have to stay in a residental state facility.

Sometimes they show up in shackles. It's where the next generation of serial killers (for the most part) spend their time til they get turned loose at 18. My place only keeps them til 14 yrs old, youngest is 4 yrs.

Humor is a good coping mechanism.

Something tells me you will be dreaming about cows tonight!!LOL

English Dave said...

Absolutely right, Read. Humor is a great coping mechanism. I guess it's why sit-coms are so popular.

Danny-K said...

- "... I spend my nights with children that are so damaged that they have to stay in a residential state facility.
Sometimes they show up in shackles. It's where the next generation of serial killers (for the most part) spend their time til they get turned loose at 18. My place only keeps them til 14 yrs old, youngest is 4 yrs..." -

Ruddy hell Ready, seeing as that's not a fictional account but the real deal, you can be sure I won't be dreaming about cows tonight - I'll be having nightmares instead!

Night-night.

Dom Carver said...

It would be nice if us writers were given more power but then they would have to pay us more (I wonder what that is like, being paid to write? Maybe someday I'll find out.).

But I agree, not enough chances are taken with TV drama and when they are they're cut short like the excellent Hex. I read an interview with the creators of Life On Mars and they said it took something like ten years for someone to say yes to the idea. Ten years???? That sums it up I think.

SK said...

Actually, do you know what that reply looks like to me? It looks like somebody who wants to 'leave their mark' on the project. Like that saying (I forget who -- was it Goldman?) about nobody telling the cameraman what to do because nobody know what an f-stop is, but everbody thinks they can write because they know the alphabet.

Not because they want a 'one size fits all' culture -- in fact they don't have any particular idea about what they want the end product to look like, they just want to be able to point to a bit of it and say 'that is mine'. So the protagonist ends up with an obsession for Marmite, just because some executive wanted to be able to say 'that character quirk was my idea'.

Pshaw.

Piers said...

There's only one way for writers to have more power, and that's for them to become producers.

Already happening (at last) with the aforementioned Doctor Who and Robin Hood.

If the Hood is a big success, we'll only see more of it.

Oh, and a writer-producer gets paid more too.

Good.

wcdixon said...

Chatty bunch today...

Nice one English Dave...network execs - dealing with a couple of them right now. Funny bunch they be...generally scared shitless to make a commitment to something that 'might' flop (or might put them on the map) and so either use the list to kabosh or strip away the fun/daring/danger out of it and make it pablum (but then wonder why it bombs)...sigh

English Dave said...

A mate of mine told me the other day that a network exec told him he would have considered optioning his project if he could get a couple of 'A' list writers attached.

He managed to refrain from gutting said Exec with a blunt nail file.