Thursday, June 05, 2008

aaaaaagh time flies

I've just realised I was supposed to be reading a script for someone. Sorry Ben! Going to a wedding this weekend but will def get to it next week.

And that can happen just as easily with scripts you send to prodcos or agents. Don't be afraid to politely chase up reads. There's nothing worse than waiting in anticipation of a read and weeks later finding out the script's tucked in someones drawer gathering dust.

I don't have any excuse except a terrible memory and a few domestic contretemps and physical injuries [not connected] distracting me. And these people are only human too. If you are not given a time scale I'd get on to them after about 4 weeks. Again at 7 and again at 10. If they keep saying they will get right on it but still haven't then after that it's pretty much a dead duck as far as reminders are concerned so give it up.

But you can still hold out hope. I once got a job after a BBC show had my spec script for six months. The producer kept putting off the read because she didn't like the title! After that, I changed the title.

Time flies for everyone in this business apart from the writer waiting for feedback. The only way to get round this is to get stuck in to your next script. If you are trying to break in you really need to be getting at least 3 specs a year out there. And to be honest it doesn't change much after you break in. Okay you may get away more with proposals rather than specs, but given the musical chairs execs play it's very likely that after a 12 month period expires it could be that no one at an indy prodco will have actually read your work before and would prefer to see a new script rather than the one their predecessors read.

Yes it's free work. But architects do it all the time. I'm not saying it's right. It's just the way it is. Given the timidity of the networks right now, unless you are a golden ticket with a cast iron project, they are not going to be happy with just a proposal. They'll make noises about how they really would like to see a script to get the tone, and you'll trot off and write it. That's because the vast majority of cost, and therefore risk of any project is production. They want anything they can get to show the networks how minimal the risk is. The real answer is of course 'who the fuck knows?' Great ideas can be ruined by bad scripts, acting, directing, marketing, you name it.

I think the emphasis on showbusiness used to be on 'show' Nowadays I fear it's definitely more on 'business'. Entertainment shouldn't be about minimising risk. It should be about taking chances. Gut instinct not focus groups.

Go into any meeting with just about any exec and they'll bleat on about how the 18-24 age group is the key demographic they are chasing. Why? Well they'll waffle about how that age group doesn't watch tv nowadays and we have to hook them back into it blah blah blah.
Guess what? They never did watch much! They were too busy out drinking and shagging and playing football. Now it's facebook and second life. [it's not really, but because the marketing nerds are never off the internet they think all they hear there is gospel. Most yoofs are still out drinking, shagging and playing football. ]
The real reason is that the marketers have got it into their heads that the 18-24 demographic are some kind of advertisers pliant wet dream. And as usual in this business the tail wags the dog.
But it doesn't have to be that way. I know I bang on to the point of boredom. But let's get back to gut instinct. Let's have execs more concerned with producing quality than saving their arses. And let's have writers stop pandering to a system that's going to kill the medium.


Michael said...

The comments about chasing people really strike a chord. I sent a spec script to a radio producer. Waited a few weeks, then emailed to ask if he'd had a chance to read it yet. He said he would that weekend. So I gave it a week, then emailed again... anyway, to cut a very long story short, I had to prod him maybe a dozen or so times. That made me feel awkward, because you don't want to become known as 'that idiot who's always emailing', but on the other hand, you do want some indication that your script isn't propping up a table. In my case, the producer was just busy and my prompts served their purpose, but as a nice, polite boy, the whole thing felt a bit uncomfortable. That's something I've just got to get over, though!

English Dave said...

Absolutely right Michael. Polite reminders. There isn't a conspiracy to 'not' read anyone. Scripts fall through the cracks for various reasons. New scripts are the life blood of the industry but current productions pay their rent!