Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"I Got Nowhere Else To Go!... (but down?)"

I hear you, Zack (Richard Gere)! And I feel your pain.



It's sorta how I feel right now.


First, I kinda feel like I've shot my wad with the blog. Yeah it's been fun posting, and commenting...participating in the small but entertaining circle of like minds. All good. And I feel like I can take some credit for inspiring Henshaw to join the fray. I even was happy to provide the Bones fans with fodder to chew me out on numerous live journals and fanzites? and forums over at televisionwithoutpity and rottontomatoes and tv.com and stumbleupon.com --- e.g. 'Hart Hanson Interviewer Bitches About Having An Audience' (I guess wondering aloud about how the fast the fans found the interview and the pictures and questioning non-crediting of the source of the material (though most of that was corrected eventually) was out of line. Or perhaps using the words 'vultures' was a bit harsh...I stand down.), but after the Hart interview...where to go from here?

I have no encore.

Then you compound it with the mess that is the Canadian tv industry these days. I have been seriously thinking about moving back to Toronto of late, but with the eviction notice served to the Cinescape studios, ACTRA strike and the producers rebuttal, craftspeople losing their houses, Jim Shaw withholding CTF funds, followed by analysis of Shaw's threat by Toronto Star's Zerbisias, ...it all can make one seriously think about heading south instead. Except...

That would be a bad idea right now.

You think it's looking dire up here? Well, it is. But the U.S. entertainment industry is also heading into a labour negotiation year with the WGA. Variety thinks the odds of a writers strike is high, and so do the studios and networks. Stockpiling is underway. Reality or non-scripted programming is a high priority once again. And with SAG's contract expiring in 2008, everyone's getting very nervous in L.A.. Some telltale signs...

--Networks will be ordering fewer drama and comedy pilots and more reality.
--There won't be the usual late-spring hiatus in production.
--Continuing shows will get renewed earlier, with more backup scripts ordered so production can continue past Halloween if the writers walk out.
--Shows on the bubble between renewal and cancellation will become more likely candidates for renewal because they represent a smaller gamble than betting on a new show.
--Talkshows, news and gameshows will be more likely to migrate to primetime.
--Producers will take a long, hard look at shooting non-union and outside the U.S.
Deja vu.

I've been here before....'cept I wasn't paying as much attention back then.


See, I packed up and moved down in late 2000...just as Hollywood was heading into a labour negotiation year with the Writers Guild and Directors Guild and Screen Actors Guild. When it looked grim, stockpiling took place and reality tv took off. And it was all accomplished with those already firmly established within the Hollywood family. Newbie's were more or less shut out. Did I mention I'd just made the move down there?

So I struggled along, working mostly on reality shows or flying back to Canada to direct episodic. And then the strikes were averted. Yay! But things remained quiet because the networks and studios had already spent most of their money for the year. Stockpiling remember. Then, as the summer wound down, development money started to trickle out. Yay! I got into development with a couple of tween/family shows. And then... 9/11.

Boom.

Everything shut down again...for months and months...as everyone tried to figure out what happened and how the industry should move forward.

Presuming talent, timing and luck play such a huge role in surviving this game. So was it bad luck or bad timing? I've concluded it was a bit of both. You've got to have a lot going your way in order to make it, and as little as possible working against you. This was a 'working against you' perfect storm of sorts.

It's was brutal for a newbie. Even an experienced newbie.

So as for 2007, I'm not forecasting another 9/11. Or assuming there will be any strike. But I'm thinking it's not a good time to be considering that jump from Canada to Hollywood.

Not if you want to try to break into film and television at any rate.

Your mileage may vary.

27 comments:

The Film Diva said...

Don't you dare even think about not blogging, Will. I'll buy a plane ticket and fly up there. And you don't want that. The evil suit still lurks within me. Just sit down. Tap the keys and hit publish. Everybody gets trolled on their blog, that's kinda like a right of passage, and hat-tip to you for surviving so long without attracting the negative mayfly attentions of an angry netizen before this. Some people never learned that lesson "if you have nothing nice to say...."

I'm sure I'm not the only one who reads your blog regularly (you're on my feed!), and enjoys your insight and appreciates your voice.

As for the strike, let me tell you, the fact that the WGA and the writers themselves allow the stockpiling is really the issue. Knowing that you are going into a strike, the guild should have made it a bad-faith issue for the studios to stockpile. I'm crossing the line here, but it always stumped me why writers would accept assignments that are meant purely to provide the studio leverage during the strike. Seems counter-productive.

Also, allowing non-union production to be distributed by majors undercuts the purposes of the unions. I foresee a scenario wherein studios program more than 40% of their slate with non-union pick-ups, essentially working as distributors. In fact, I'll bet if you look at the release schedules a large portion of the films will be coming from non-union shops. That's a real threat to the unions.

But, if you are a non-Guild writer working with indie money, next year could be a good one indeed... hee hee, I guess that means I should just shut up and let the strikers roll and the studios stockpile... :-)

Jutratest said...

If you quit your blog the terrorists win.

You are one of the glorious heads on the Mount Rushmore of the Canadian TV scribosphere.

Without you there would be a crumbling facade of gravel next to the chiseled features of DmC, Complications, Henshaw and Callaghan.

Also, don't worry about all this TV fuss in Canada or America.

The future is ripe with opportunity. In chaos lies fortune.

Old TV is sinking like a rotting whale carcass. Feast like a shark.

4GM, baby!

Pen to paper!

CAROLINE said...

This too shall pass, Will. You've survived worse on no less experience. I can't imagine you not being in demand because you are that rare combination of a person who know's what the f*&k he's doing and is a fnatastic human being, too.

As for not blogging, we'd be awfully sad if you stopped, and we'd miss your unique and meaningful voice. And Denis would have to send Jack Bauer out there to sort you out, and you don't want that.

I think you're in the January funk. Things will look better in a week or two when it starts warming up and there's more sunlight in the day.

DMc said...

Okay. I'm going to have go Iceberg slim on you here, Will.

Don't you ever leave me. Serious. I will fuck you up.
I may come on all Canadian now, but I was born in the Bronx. For real.

Now -- here's what I want to know:

Directing.

What can Canadian writers do to make it easier for ep directors?

How can writers communicate to directors how their piece fits into the whole without the directors getting shirty?

And how do you approach directing actors.

Go.

English Dave said...

And as the UK and Canada seem to have some very similar structural, financial and creative similarities, what are your thoughts on prodco joint ventures?

Lee said...

Don't you dare, Will. I've got about 100 or so blogs in my feed reader, but only about a dozen whose addresses I actually remember and make the effort to visit. Don't make it one less.

theblankscreen said...

"...Then I began another post about ways to try to manage the notes and potential endless rewrites that can come from tv networks, exec producers, etc. when you're working on a tv series...but it felt dry and technical and who cares...

We care. More than you realise. Don't give up the blogging...


Terry

theblankscreen said...

emmm...the implication in the last post being... you undervalue your experience and your contribution and your knowledge...

wcdixon said...

"But what's 'really' bothering you, Mr. Dixon...?"

It's January; it's cold (but cold most everywhere right now); just saw a gig go to someone else ("it's between you and someone else" - been there too many times); and I really didn't see how I could top an interview with Hart freakin' Hanson. But thanks fer the luv...

Oh, and I'm off to the dentist.

jimhenshaw said...

The stars are never in perfect alignment and people who plan on taking action only when all signs are good never do anything.

You can't base your life on what "might" happen. Do what you love, eveything else follows. And if it doesn't, you still spent your life doing what you love.

If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that nothing is ever what you thought it would be. I met the most important person in my life in a bar I swore I'd never visit. I ended up running the show I most enjoyed by accepting an offer from somebody I swore I'd never work. I'm getting emails from guys in Bollywood because some peckerwood in Saskatchewan talked me into writing a blog -- something else I swore I'd never do.

If this site isn't doing it for you anymore, if Regina's no longer home, move on and God Bless but let your choices be governed by your own heart and not what forces beyond your control tell you that you should be doing.

Somebody will always try to scare you into giving up so there's less competition for them, not writing the show they'll need when reality craps out, not moving "here" because they know they can make 1% more if the work is produced "there", or not shooting that little Indy you care about because it'll never sell.

Oh, and unless you contribute a Grand a week to your retirement fund you're going to be destitute at 65, so get with that program too.

It's your life Will, not theirs. Live your dream or go to sleep.

jimhenshaw said...

The stars are never in perfect alignment and people who plan on taking action only when all signs are good never do anything.

You can't base your life on what "might" happen. Do what you love, eveything else follows. And if it doesn't, you still spent your life doing what you love.

If there's one thing I'm certain of, it's that nothing is ever what you thought it would be. I met the most important person in my life in a bar I swore I'd never visit. I ended up running the show I most enjoyed by accepting an offer from somebody I swore I'd never work for. I'm getting emails from guys in Bollywood because some peckerwood in Saskatchewan talked me into writing a blog -- something else I swore I'd never do.

If this site isn't doing it for you anymore, if Regina's no longer home, move on and God Bless but let your choices be governed by your own heart and not what forces beyond your control tell you that you should be doing.

Somebody will always try to scare you into giving up so there's less competition for them, or not writing the show they'll need when reality craps out, or not to move "here" because they know they can make 1% more if the work is produced "there", or not shooting that little Indy you care about because it'll never sell.

Oh, and unless you contribute a Grand a week to your retirement fund you're going to be destitute at 65, so get with that program too.

It's your life Will, not theirs. Live your dream or go back to sleep.

bstockton said...

I'm going to post a contrarian viewpoint on this whole thing, just as food for thought. Will, I'm amazed you have time to do this blog. I barely have time to read it! Just make sure it's worth the time you put into it.

B.

Good Dog said...

Will, don't you be disappearing off anywhere and leaving us all on our lonesomes. Maybe it is Caroline's "January funk" nagging you. Does seem to be a very odd, deathless time. Fingers crossed, February will snap us all out of it.

Mef said...

hey will:

what about just cutting back on the blogging? Make it less labour and more love if you get my drift.

but obviously it's your decision. I for one would miss it.

I'm not even starting out and I learn a ton o'shit from your blog.

all the best whatever you decide,

mark farrell

DMc said...

Will, if you come to Toronto (once the strike's settled and I'm back of course) I promise we'll make s'mores.

wcdixon said...

Sugar free s'mores (if such a thing is possible)...two cavities. Ouch.

I like blogging Stockton...really, I do. And it's mostly late at night or while watching something on tv I feel I should see but don't need to watch with all my attention. And I feel I've learned or relearned more in the past 6 months than the previous six years. And that it's been a inspiration or a motivator more than a disability.

And what should a peckerwood from the flatlands really expect anyway...

But I still wanted that gig.

CAROLINE said...

Wow, how can you refuse an offer to make s'mores with Denis? I have to say, that's quite the image. The best I can offer is my best Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings and a chocolate fondue.

SeeDoubleYou said...

speaking of not blogging... jutratest, where did yours go?

The Film Diva said...

Will, you can always fantasize about throwing rocks at the people who didn't hire you. I'll bring the beer and cheer you on.

blueglow said...

will:

you seemed (seem) to be a gentleman and i must say I appreciated your blog more than al the rest of the ones i have read.

you, like most of us, didn't seem to think you had all the answers and ...

well, let's just say congratulations to laiyla basin for her her nomination.

Chloe said...

maybe it's the January blues eh?
keep writing please.

Bill Cunningham said...

It's because I finally linked you up right?

Jeez....

Seriously though, quit being a pussy, and go out and create the job you want. So you lost the opportunity to work for someone else. Get over it. (Sh)it happens.

Success comes from failure - lots and lots of failure - and the fact you keep at it. So keep at it.

Blog about dealing with disappointment. Not enough stories out there about that. Besides blogging can be a great stress reliever.

MPB out --

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I have to agree with Bill on this one, Will. Harsh though it may have sounded, he's right. Shake it off, shoulders back, head held high...get back in there.

With Love,

Kelly

Pynchon said...

I also hope that you stay around. One of the most interesting blogs that I read.

Bill Cunningham said...

I'm harsh because I care...

CAROLINE said...

Bill and I had that whole good cop, bad cop routine all worked ... really ;-)

Callaghan said...

Holy cow, I go off the radar for a couple days to finish off a gigantic personal business plan (don't ask) and all hell breaks loose at Uninflected Images Juxtaposed!

Will, in my bookmarks, I've got a list of blogs as long as Scorsese's Oscar speech for The Departed. But there are only two that I visit religiously every day and yours is one of them.

You're a hell of a class act and I learn something every time I visit here. If you quit the blog, it'll be a big disappointment for a lot of us.

That being said, if you aren't feeling it anymore, don't let it become work.

Crappy deal, that gig that went to someone else. Sorry to hear about it.

Blog or no blog, you're earned an awful lot of people's respect.

And if you go to Banff this year, I'm buying you a drink.

Now go put on Raw Power or Lust For Life and crank it. Iggy will make it all better.