Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Art of Adapting (And...Roll Sound!)


Pronunciation: "ad-"ap-'tA-sh&n"
Function: noun

1 : adjustment to environmental conditions: as a) modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment —

2 : the act or process of adapting : a written work (as a novel) that has been recast in a new form; "the film is an adaptation of a short novel"

Well, I guess I'm due for an update from the trenches. The teen drama series went to camera today, and no matter how far you want to be ahead of the train, it seems you never are. Shit happens and fate the network changing their mind on an arc they had approved but then read and decided it wasn't working for them (and that can be a legitimate reaction or request - hell, they're paying). And it can also be as sadly simple as unexpected actor unavailability.

Anyway, there are six scripts in the hopper, three more at outline...they need twelve overall so it will be somewhat of a race to the finish. Always is. This half hour series shoots in cyles of two episodes at a time, seven days per the math - in three weeks there needs to be two more shooting scripts. And there will be. Always is.

I think I've found my place in the room. Bouncing around the bottom of the writer/producer totem pole - generally included and appreciated. And thats been cool. I've mostly been 'idea' or 'what if' guy (in the devil's advocate kind of way since they've seen the show from one side for so long and I can offer a newbie's perspective for what its worth). Or I've tried to be the 'solver' or 'fixer' guy when some story has gotten jammed up --- or when a logic issue in the 2nd episode came to light and it needed a quick simple solve since it was already deep in prep.

You have to adapt when you join the staff of an existing series. And not like the second definition above, but the first definition. You have to change the way you work and way you think so you can fit into an already moving machine. And you have to pitch ideas that fit the model, because if you don't it's only going cause headaches. I'm still figuring that one out. Remember - it's their show. Not your show. Their show. And if the producers and the network are happy, than accept it and let it be so.

Note to self: no matter how many times you try to pitch a story in the vein of a 'Veronica Mars', this show just ain't 'Veronica Mars'...doesn't want to be, never will be. So shut up already Will.
Other than writing my couple of scripts, I've been called upon to do some coloured page revisions during the first prep period, and help on guiding a freelancer through their story/beatsheet/outline (mostly because the two lead writers got hooped having to rewrite the first four episodes because of a BIG network note). It's about 'the show', so it doesn't really matter how it gets there as long as it gets done.

It's all been good. No complaints. Happy to be here.

So as annoying as some of my 'Hollywoody' suggestions may be, it's all just writers room stuff. And you duck, bob, weave, and adapt...adapting, that's the key.


Portnoy said...
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Caroline said...

There are two work life lessons that have sustained me through times of less than 100% contentment.

1. Pick your battles. This in particular with the last boss, who was famous for soliciting opinions and then doing whatever the hell he wanted anyway. The only catch being he wanted you to try like the devil to convince him you were right. Like he wanted the fight. It gets old fast. Say what you will. If it doesn't fly, it isn't personal (especially, in this case, if it isn't your show anyway). I like to think of this as the "he who signs my cheque is right whether I like it or not" rule.

2. Sometimes good enough is good enough. I don't mean this to be in any way disrespectful, but your current series is hardly going to change world history. Nothing wrong with it, but it is what it is. As such, and on a timeline, a script that hits the right notes and stays true to character will do you fine.
Sorry mate, you got the sow's ear, not the silk purse. No matter.

I saw Michael Caine interviewed once. A reporter was asking him about a particularly bad movie he did and why on earth he agreed to do the stinker. His reply? "We needed a new roof that year." Completely unapologetic. That pretty much shut down the reporter. It was a fantastic moment.

For what its worth from me in the void on your blog, you seem like a very affable and easy to get along with guy. That puts you head and shoulders above most people already. I am sure you're doing great work and that they're really happy to have someone as talented and professional as you to rely on when they need you to step up.

Chopped Nuts said...

I don't thik referencing Veronica Mars is "Hollywoody" so much as looking to sharp writing as inspiration. The Hollywood part is circumstantial in this case, no? (Of coruse, whether it fits the show you're working on is a different matter.)

Good Dog said...

I don't want to say find the party line and follow it while regularly tugging your forelock -- especially since it's a piece of advice I've never taken -- but do the very best you can within the given parameters.

The great thing is, if the idea isn't right it can be saved and reused another day.

Could tell you stories from years at the animation studio when I had to be the producer's 'bad cop' that would make your hair turn grey, white and then fall out. And not necessarily in that order.

Had to constantly remind the animation directors and pencil monkeys that we were making commercials, not art, and that all the client gave a rat's patookie about what how big the packshot was at the end. Cynical, yes, but true.

May sure you have great fun. I had fun. And got high blood pressure.

Portnoy said...

here is the greatest piece of diplomacy I have ever learned. I credit Reobert Leighton for this.

What do you think if.....

it's so subtle. so beautiful. as the natural inclination is to refer to oneself first. Especially when excited about an idea. "I think that...." Let me know if you have ever tried this...

caroline's #2 reminds me of the old adage. It's not rocket science. the Caine reference is great. Her last paragraph makes me want to have her as a friend. Damn, why am I commenting here?

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I have the unfortunate personality quirk of being both an easy-going get along girl who likes to make people happy, and a fiercely stubborn and independent bitch who doesn't like to take orders or direction from anyone.

I have no idea how I would behave in your situation, Will. But you seem to be handling things like a pro, though. Naturally.

Caroline said...

Portnoy, you have a friend in me :-)

Available via email for ranting, career advice, diplomatic word coaching and self-esteem building.

Callaghan said...

Hey Dixon, I've cracked the code of which show you're working on. I won't say the title here, for obvious reasons, but the head of the production company was at the CFC on Tuesday, giving a talk to our group. It was an interesting couple of hours. She seems like a good egg.

Anyway, I'll be checking out the show when the new season starts.

ps. She happened to mention that you were going to camera that day...same day as this post. Now that's funny timing.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I know the show Will's working on (he told me) and I'm a big fan. It's a good, smart teen drama that deals with serious issues. They're lucky to have him on their writing team.