Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Starz Network Becoming a Player in Scripted?

I don't watch Starz.  There're so many God damned networks now, with so many shows, my DVR's memory card is begging for mercy.  Apparently, the network is buying up shows, so if you have an original script or concept, seems like all you have to do is attach an actor's production company, and voila!  Two of the original series they have slated for developement/production have Matthew McConaughey and Martin Lawrence attached as producers.  Which, if you think about it, is about the most absurd thing in the world.  It's one of my biggest pet peeves.  Actors producing a show that not's even about them (see: Entourage or Everybody Hates Chris for an example of how it could/should work autobiographically speaking).  Are you watching a show because Matthew McConaughey is just producing it?  I'm not.

Not that I really want to see a naked bongo episode, either.

Now, that doesn't mean the shows aren't going to be funny.  But, we all know what's going on here. We know Starz passed on a bunch of shit that didn't have actors attached.  Networks think "star power" is insurance for them. But, it isn't.  Courtney Cox's show on FX was terrible and got cancelled. Now she's back on traditional network television--acting--where she probably belongs.  

Look, I love that more networks are getting into the scripted biz, but if we're all being honest with ourselves, isn't cable supposed to be daring and different?  Call me bitter if you want, but this just annoys the hell out of me.

The one positive thing I can say is, I'm happy for the writers who are getting a chance to make a living.   I just wish there were more opportunities out there to do truly original programming.

Not just as a writer--but as a television viewer.

--Angry One--


Posted on 07/29/2009 8:12 AM by Todd
Friday, 24 July 2009

So, I read in Variety earlier this week that Fox is trying to bring back Futurama.  I guess they learned their lesson from dumping Family Guy--although I don't think Futurama is anywhere near as funny.  Well, apparently the voice cast  (the show has been off the air for years) was demanding somehwere in the neighborhood of $75,000 an episode to come back.  For a show that wasn't even a hit.  And, was lucky to see the light of day again.  And, that might not even run on Fox Networks (some think it may go straight to Comedy Central).

I know people who do voice over work, and if you've ever done it (I have), you know it takes talent, but it's not grueling work.  In fact, most of the people I know who do voice over work talk about how easy it is when you can get it.  And, outside of guest roles on television and the Futurama straight to DVD series, I'm not sure what Katey Sagal has been doing, for instance.  

It just seems like a lot of money under the circumstances.

Fox has slashed the budget (TV ad sales have been way down, and that is reflected in budgets for the upcoming season) by shortening the production schedule, limiting the writing staff, etc.  You would think the actor's representation would get that.

Not sure what's going to happen here, but one of the big things about voice over work is people are often paid to mimic.

Is Billy West's voice really that distinguishable?  Maybe as Ren & Stimpy, but not as Phillip J. Fry (at least, in my opinion).

--Angry One--


Posted on 07/24/2009 11:56 AM by Todd
Saturday, 18 July 2009
I'm Writing a New Script

I don't care if you've written 2 or 20 screenplays.  It's got to be one of the biggest pains in the ass and most unnerving things you'll ever do.  I have people to hand the script to when it's done, but even when you have someone, it's not guaranteed that they'll send it out, or even like it.  I've been though about 6 or 7 agents and managers over the years because they wouldn't send my material out to studios.  

"Given the marketplace, I don't think this will sell right now.   Let's put this on the back burner and come back to it in a few months (they never do).  What's your next idea?"

"I don't think the idea is big enough (even though when I pitched it to you four months ago you loved it)."

"I need a big spec sale to get you going.  No one wants to read new writers right now (if no one wants to read new writers, why am I writing a spec?)"

Whatever fucking excuse they come up with--it's all bull shit.  Remember, agents and managers make money by selling things.  At any given time they might have 100-150 clients.  How many of them are writing a screenplay right now?   How many of them are getting screwed over just like you?

A lot of them.

Your agent might send out a spec or two a week, maybe.  And, half the time it's something they've picked up 'off the street.'  By this, I mean, someone has sent them a spec that they think might sell, so they send it out, and 'hip pocket' the writer.  If it sells, or is positively received, they sign them, if it doesn't, they don't.  They're throwing shit against the wall constantly.

And, I don't mean that in the pejorative sense.  An agent or manager is an intellectual property salesperson.  They're selling ideas, all day.  Any salesperson or representative is dealing in high volume, otherwise they'd never sell anything.  Do you want to be an agent?  I don't.

Hollywood is a numbers game.  The more you put out there, the better chance you have to sell something and make money.  It's that simple, and you have to respect that.  You don't have to like it, but you have to respect it.

That said, when I started out 15 years ago, agents and managers used to build careers.  About ten years ago, the business started leaning heavily toward sending out "ready" spec material. Meaning, if I'm an agent, I used to look for talented writers, and work with them, try to get them noticed, get development execs to read their material, and hopefully meet with you.  After 2 or 3 specs, everyone 'knows' you, and they are becoming increasingly more likely to buy something from you (or hire you to write or fix something else) because you're talented and they keep seeing you.

All that shit went out the window.  

People in the business today have become incredibly impatient.  

"I need scripts that are ready to go."  Meaning they need a script that they think will sell right now.  They don't care if it comes from a client, or some 8th grader who's still picking his boogars and eating them.   No more career buidling, no more sending a script out just because it's funny, or well written--it's all about the idea.  No one gives a shit about anything else, frankly.

There's never been a time when your material needs to be better.  As I always say, "You can't change the business, you can only learn how to navigate the insanity."

So, the point is, even though I've sold stuff, even though I have 'people', my chances of selling something are still the same as yours.  That's the reality of it all, and I'm fine with it.

So, here I am, writing a brand new spec screenplay for the first time in two years (I've written four TV pilots, and turned one into a feature length script--which of course, my manager didn't want to send out even though every person he sent it to thought it was hilarious--"there were too many projects like it in the marketplace already."  Add that to your list of excuses you'll hear).  I'm writing something autobiographical--writing what I know--about something that happened to me that I think was pretty remarkable.  Better--I'm writing it for myself.

You never know what it's going to be, and when it's going to happen.

So, you gotta just write.

--Angry One--

Posted on 07/18/2009 1:03 PM by Todd
Monday, 13 July 2009
Oh, By the Way, Agencies Are Making Movies Now

This should be interesting on a lot of fronts.  WME, and now Gersh have secured financing to make motion pictures.  They're even hiring development executives.  ("They're not limiting their interests to only clients' projects"--then what's the fucking point?  What are you going to say to your clients when you're making a film that isn't a Gersh package?  "Our clients weren't good enough to round out this cast?")

As soon as studios start cutting fees, oh boy, the agencies are just gonna go make movies themselves.  Hey, I'm as frustrated as anyone with the studio system, but I'm not sure I want my agency owning my film.  I think we've all seen how that works out when a TV studio sells one of it's shows in syndication to it's own network.  People have sued for millions and millions because of unfair market compensation for TV properties.

I think this is a terrible Pandora's box that won't be open very long, and will end badly.

By the way, agents and agencies are the ones who get their clients to do all of those shitty movies, so they can package and sell them.  Agencies have people who's only job is to convince actors and dirrectors to sign on to known turds.  Now, what is an agent going to say to you when a film the agency packaged and produced bombs, or is terrible?  Wasn't the studio/keystone cops routine what kind of insulated them from Bombdom and kept you thinking they were protecting you all along?

"That script just got overdeveloped.  What can you do?"

To me, this is kind of hilarious.   Agencies making movies.  What's next?  The WGA and SAG getting credit lines from JP Morgan?

--Angry One--

Posted on 07/13/2009 12:38 PM by Todd