Thursday, 28 January 2010
NETFLIX POINTING THE WAY
Don't know if you've heard, but Netflix is killing it right now. Their earnings are through the roof, they're growing, and the future looks very bright. Why? Because 48% of their success is derived from the streaming of content. That's right. You want to watch a movie right this very minute? Bam. Netflix probably has it. You've paid your fee for access, so there's no waiting for the film to come in the mail, etc. Just load it up on your PC (or if you have a PC connected to your television), and you're good to go. Hell, I know people who don't even have a television anymore. They stream everything. Shows, movies, what have you--right from a website. If you have one of those giant monitors, you're in great shape.
Here's where the film and television industry just don't get it. I watch about 2-3 shows live anymore. The rest I DVR, and skip the commercials. At least with on demand or web streaming, an advertiser gets to display some 5-15 second ads. With recorded TV, they get zilch.
This is the way of the future. Streaming content, and on-demand viewing.
It won't be long before Netwflix starts developing their own content--television shows and films--and making a butt load of money. Best of all--they'll own it all. I'm shocked they haven't started doing this already. Imagine this--"a Netflix original." Give it a few years, and it'll happen.
The entertainment industry is never going to be in danger of being completely shut out. Networks and film studios are very good at what they do. But, as pockets get deeper on the fringes, they risk losing a significant amount of market share. Companies like Netflix and Microsoft (Xbox) have deep pockets, and let's face it--how hard is it to make a movie, or a television show? There are thousands of people starving for work right now. The market place is loaded with talent. All it takes is the budget for Netflix of Microsoft--the production, marketing, and delivery machine is in place. Microsoft is already developing original content for xbox, and looking at it as an on-demand portal.
I've talked a lot about a "new hollywood." And, it will happen right before our eyes in the next few years. The NBCs, and Paramounts of the world are going to have to do something drastic to compete. They're already way behind, and playing catch up.
The sooner entities like Netflix and Xbox get their original content revved up, the better.
Posted on 01/28/2010 10:56 AM by Todd Carr
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Gervais a Disappointment
Generally, I prefer the Globes to the Academy Awards. It is unique because the best from film and TV are in a room together for one night. The award means something to the nominees, and carries some clout around town. "Golden Globe nominee" sounds a hell of a lot better than, "Peoples Choice." Something about this year kind of fell flat, though. I was really excited about Ricky Gervais hosting. His gig was kind of a let down for me. I have to be honest. Rather than actually telling some decent jokes, he just drank beer, and ripped on everyone before they came on stage to present. Can you imagine being begged to present, then being insulted before you walk out? Frankly, the Globes doesn't need a host. It has existed on it's own with just presenters. Besides, it's not the VMAs, man. The event is supposed to have some glamour.
If this was Gervais' audition for the Academy Awards gig, I would have to say: F.
The worst part about it is, Gervais is one of the most hilarious human beings on the planet. He can do better than this.
I thought his whole schtick about phoning it in was exactly that. Turns out, it wasn't.
He was quite serious about not being funny.
Posted on 01/19/2010 12:04 PM by Todd Carr
Thursday, 14 January 2010
It's Time for Zucker to Go
Leno and Conan. Man. What a cluster%$#@. If a network executive ever wanted to look completely and utterly useless, this is it. I have never seen anything like this in fifteen years. Not even close. Just when you thought NBC had hit rock bottom in hiring, then firing, Ben Silverman--you realize they still have a ways to go. A long ways to go.
I am certain that being a CEO of a media company like NBC/Universal is not an easy task. But, Jeff Zucker has failed to even maintain the success he inherited. He was the Executive Producer of the Today Show, did an excellent job there, but was never fit to catapult from EP of a morning show to the head of NBC. Everyone knew it was a bad hire at the time, and no one has been willing to admit it.
Zucker might be a great leader, who knows, but NBC simply has not improved under his watch. This Conan-Leno debacle proves that he just cannot make prudent programming decisions.
This has been like a microcosm of the Time Warner-AOL deal. A bad idea to begin with that just kept getting worse, and worse, and worse.
The best thing for NBC to do (more free advice from angry writer--you're welcome) is to walk over the paint. Get rid of Zucker, and give Leno his gold watch, and tell him thank you for his service. If Conan and Jimmy Fallon can't get it done for you, too bad. You made your bed, lay in it.
Either that, or put Leno back on the Tonight Show, give Conan a buyout, and let him go to Fox. After all of this, the guy deserves a portion of his contract.
There's still a way to fix this and do right--but, I'm guessing NBC will screw it up. Again.
Posted on 01/14/2010 7:10 AM by Todd Carr
Thursday, 7 January 2010
What to Do in 2010 if You're an Out of Work Writer
I have gotten some e-mails from a few people asking me what they should do if they are not making money from writing (but used to), or can't find work. One guy was an assistant in television and no longer has a job. He's struggling to find something.
First, I suggest you look for another assistant, writer's assistant, or script supervisor job. If you are an all or nothing writer type, that's what you should do. I'll be honest with you, though. I talk to execs, managers, agents, producers--every day. The business is in a down cycle, and likely to continue to retract in the future. It's been retracting for years. Every year I've been in the biz (15), it's gotten worse. It could turn around any time, but be mindful of that.
Digital Media might save us all, but I think it will be like the dot com revolution. It will explode for a few years, then crash heavily. I was a web editor during the dot com revolution. It was amazing. But, the crash was even more amazing. Almost overnight, 90% of the business disappeared. Also, consider that investors have already poured a ton of money into digital media, and it's failed. They're reluctant to throw good money after bad. Can't blame them. But, if you can get a job in digital media now--take it--even if it means you have to make less money. There will be a second ground floor, in my opinion. Just like web development rebounded--so will digital media.
I'd also consider getting a Comp/TIA certification. It will cost you $150-300, but it's worth it's weight in gold. IT work isn't glamorous, but you can do help desk work now for a lot of companies from home, and make a great living. In LA, not having to leave the house to go to work could save you two hours a day to write. I have a writer buddy who does it and makes $50,000 a year, has full benefits, and wears sweatpants all day. Yesterday, he got 10 calls. He worked about 2 hours and got paid for a full day's work. Even better, if writing goes south on him, he has a career to fall back on. Does he want to do this? No. But, with his job, he can always find work. He's quit for 3 to 6 months so he can focus on a project, then he'll send out 5 resumes, and get 5 calls. There isn't a more in demand job right now.
I have to admit--I've considered doing something else. I made enough money to live on last year writing, but things were tight. I have no idea what 2010 holds. As always, there are a lot of promising projects, but how many of these things will pan out? A good year is when 1 out of 10 things I pursue pays off. I'm considering going back to school. I could always teach film and television writing.
I'm a realist more than anything else, and at my age, I don't like what I'm seeing from the business right now. Even in record years, studios are cutting back film production and staff. Not good.
So, stay hopeful, but be good to yourself, and be mindful of your future.
Posted on 01/07/2010 8:50 AM by Todd Carr
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
The "Forensics" of Writing
Here's my New Year's gift to you. It's a term I have been using for years, and it always impresses the hell out of people for some reason. I even know execs who have stolen the term from me, and use it now. Who cares! The best thing about it all? It's not complete crap. It's absolutely true, and is how I approach writing and character for film and television, fundamentally. If you want to impress execs, producers, etc., just say this.
"I'm really into the forensics of writing."
Booyah. All of a sudden you're a technician, putting your words to serious scrutiny. It works even better if you're pitching to win a job rewriting something. You're treating this existing script (and every script--particularly when you're rewriting yourself) like a crime scene. What the hell went wrong here, and how do we bring these errors, lame dialogue, and execution problems to justice?
To me, the forensics of writing represents the ultimate challenge. Every script, every story is forcing me digging deeper, trying to solve a case. I assume what I have written or the idea I have come up with is bad. I collect evidence, put together the pieces, and determine how these people ended up here, and why? Or, how did this end up not being good enough? How can I make it better? Sure, you're investigating people and things who don't exist. And, that sounds weird. But, you have to know what makes them tick. What led them here? And, sometimes investigation uncovers things you never would have considered.
Hopefully this makes sense.
Think about that term, forensics, and what it means. Think about CSI, and what they do. Treat your script (or any script) like a crime scene of bad writing. What went wrong, and how do we eliminate the problems?
Most writers don't know when something is bad, or too easy. That's why CSI investigators work in teams. They're less likely to miss something, and they often do different things. Find a writer friend who's great with character. Have him or her put your script under the black light. Find someone who's great with story. Ultimately, you're the lead investigator, but you can't do it alone. You need help. And, you need to trust and rely on the team you've assembled to make your script better.
The forensics of writing. The new term for 2010.
Pass it on.
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Posted on 01/05/2010 7:02 AM by Todd Carr
Sunday, 3 January 2010
What to Expect in 2010? More Pain...
A number of readers have contacted me asking for my prognostication for the entertainment business in 2010. One added, "please try not to be so negative." First of all, I'm not a negative person. There's no way in hell someone could remain in this business for fifteen years, doing what he had to do to make ends meet, and not be an overwhelmingly positive person--addicted to hope. Second, unlike 99.99% of the people who set out to succeed in this business and fail--I have sold spec material to studios and secured assignment work. I'm living proof that someone with essentially zero creative writing experience (I wrote a one act play in college that was produced, but graduated with an Economics degree--and, I was a terrible writer, getting mostly Cs on papers in school) can achieve a victory or two in Hollywood. Third, my bleak attitude stems from what I see as the current state of the business, not it's potential. Last, I worry about those of you who cannot be realistic about what you're facing. You absolutely must see things for what they are to develop a winning plan of attack. You've got to be more than just lucky and good these days.
You've got to be perfect.
To succeed in this environment, you have to hit a grand slam out of the park. No one cares about base hits anymore. Trust me. I've been Wade Boggs too often, and not Albert Pujols. A base hit will barely even get you a meeting these days. If it does get you a meeting, it won't be meaningful (meaning having the chance to lead to a job) like it used to. You'll be lucky if the exec isn't checking their e-mail while they're talking to you.
So, expect a lot more of the same in 2010, only worse. Why? Because, for now, the flawed approach of the studios is working. Making less, but more expensive films has never been so successful. There have been record box office numbers two years in a row. Hollywood is on a roll--in a recession. What about this situation would make a business that is traditionally so difficult to steer--move in another direction? As for TV, it has become even more geared toward the upper echelons. Studios and networks rarely work with someone below Co-Executive Producer level, and it's the same now for showrunners. Even writers are eschewing lower level talent. No one is interested in developing writing talent.
So, why even bother trying to be a writer, some of you might be asking? Great question. And, the answer is because you can still make it. You're going to have to work harder than ever before, and not miss--but, you can still do it. New writers emerge every week in film and television. It's just less and less in number. It used to be new writers would emerge daily with spec sales. Now it's weekly. Some day, it might be monthly. But, there will always be an opportunity to succeed if you can hit the mark.
I'll give you my plan of attack for 2010. Take it for what it's worth, because I didn't sell jack in 2009, and got completely lucky on a fluke assignment. As a writer, I've started thinking like a producer. I need to bring something more to the table than just a script. I took a shit job in 2009 specifically so I could learn to shoot, edit, and do graphics. Now I have the expertise to make a hilarious or kick ass film short that doesn't look like it was shot by 12 year-olds on VHS--when I get the right idea. Find a unique story for which you can personally secure the life rights. Find something that is in the public domain that you can research. Write a story about something or someone amazing in some way. Reach out to a producer, director, or actor you know (or want to know), and offer to develop or produce something with them. I don't care if it's a guy who works at Groundlings or Pizza Hut. You never know who might be the next Vince Vaughn, or Will Ferrell. Do anything you can to increase your odds of success. That's what I'm going to do. I realized this past year that I simply wasn't being enterprising enough. I took classes at Second City years ago. Why didn't I stick with it? Because it was so hard to make time for it? yes, but it was also because the business was so much easier back then. I didn't need to do it. Things have changed. Drastically. I have to get back to that mentality again. I'm getting hungry again. Even with a wife, a child, and a full time job. I have to make time, or else I'm going to become marginalized.
Remember--it's never too late to write something great.
Every day, I tried to come up with one idea for a film script. Last year, I threw away at least 365 of them. None of them were good enough. This year I'm going to try to come up with three a day. More if I can. The one idea I had some success with late in the year was something that a friend brought to me. We were having lunch, and he'd pitched me a bunch of ideas he had for movies, and none of them were remarkable. Just when I was about to give up on him, I asked him to keep going. All of a sudden, he started telling me this true story about someone he knew. Even though it happened in a small town, he thought the guy's story was pretty amazing. He was about thirty seconds into it, and I stopped him. This is a movie, I said. I want this. That's what a producer would do. Because they cannot, or don't write, other than reading specs from people like you and I--ideas are all they have. I called and left a producer I know (who has gotten films produced) a voicemail right then and there. Now, my lunch friend has nothing to do with the film industry. He writes cook books. But, I cut him in on the deal, went to the person in question, got his life rights, and set it up with the producer I have worked with--literally within 48 hours. Now we're taking the pitch to Disney in January--with me attached as writer. What if I'd never asked my buddy if he had any ideas for movies, and patiently listened? What if I'd never approached producers and offered to develop with them? Think about that for a minute. I would have had zero power in that situation. Sure, I might have been able to write the script on spec, find an agent, and sell it. But, a long, arduous process was accomplished in two days. Two days. Now we all have a great chance to make this happen. I used to hate it when people would pitch me ideas for movies.
Now I ask them if they have any.
That's what we're up against, folks. That's the business today. You have to work ten times harder for that idea--but, if you can write a great script, you're going to be in excellent shape. I find, these days, I'm writing a lot less, if at all, but working ten times harder than I used to at unearthing ideas.
Your agent or manager will tell you to write, write, write. Don't listen to them. They make phone calls all day, throwing shit against the wall, and telling the same shit to 100 people just like you (and I know this and still love my agent and manager). Come up with that idea. The one that's going to get you noticed. The idea will give you the power to get your script sold. Then write it. And, f-ing nail it.
It used to be you'd write to show you had talent and potential, and then find a great idea. Now, you need to work backwards. Never write a bad or mediocre idea just to do it. Write with meaning, or don't do it at all.
If you want to succeed in this painful environment it's going to mean that you will have to fight the urge to write, and force yourself to find additional ways to get noticed. A great story, something visual like a film short, or start a unique website (one better than this one, obviously). Great writing just isn't enough anymore. You need to be an entrepreneur and build your brand.
You'd better be known as a great writer with great ideas.
Send questions or comments for Todd Carr to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on 01/03/2010 6:58 AM by Todd Carr