Monday, February 19, 2007

Speaking Of...Not Much At All

I'm having a hell of a time coming up with anything interesting to write about, so here's some odds and ends.

Anyone who's doing their homework has already perused these lists of ordered pilots for the upcoming U.S. fall tv season. I'd happily write about what shows the Canadian networks have in development or have ordered pilots for...but we don't roll that way up here. I'm not sure what way we roll exactly anymore (and frankly, am getting a little exhausted debating about or analyzing the Canuck system), but regarding the American pilots, the consensus is pretty uninaminous...yawn - less serializations, lots of procedurials, lighter dramas. Which doesn't really mean anything because a unoriginal sounding premise can still sparkle once it hits the our tv sets...

Speaking of homework, I'm still teaching the University tv/film producing class. And as usual, I'm amazed that by the second or third class I can peg every student into one of three categories. Out of seventeen students, 1-2 seem to have their head in the game and show a lot of promise; 8-10 are just treading water...they're trying and aren't idiots, but just don't have that spark; and 3-4 who shouldn't even be there (miss every other class, don't contribute when in class (lots of resting head on desks), hand in half-assed assignments, etc.). I try to get excited about turning around some of those in the middle and helping bump them up a notch. But otherwise, it's pretty discouraging (sorry if any of the students are reading this, but it's true - if offended, prove me wrong).

Speaking of pretty discouraging, I found it shocking that this class, made up of 3rd and primarily 4th year students... many of whom are graduating this year...had never heard of Playback Magazine (Canada's film/tv industry newspaper). And only two had heard of Variety...heard, not even read. I'm not sure if this is more of an indictment of the students, or the film and video program at the school, but I impressed upon them how important it is to stay connected to what is going on out there.

Speaking of staying connected, I'm always interested in what 'the kids' are into these days. So I also found it discouraging when I asked: "What are your fav tv shows? What is appointment television for you?"...and the first answer I got back accompanied by several nods of agreement was...Youtube. Youtube? Um...that's not a show, guys. I pushed harder, and eventually heard someone say 'Dexter' and 'Heroes', someone else say 'Entourage', mentions of the odd Life Channel or Discovery Channel series, then the 'Daily Show' and 'Colbert Report' got some nods...very little knowledge or interest at least in Canadian shows (though one of the keeners said he downloaded 'Little Mosque' and had watched every ep - didn't love it but was willing to keep an eye on it).

So I asked again for the list of shows they watched regularily just to keep tabs on what the rest of the world was watching or even for good story-telling models...lots of shrugs and blank stares. When I asked 'why not?' - all I got back was... 'I hate commercials' and 'Most of it's boring'.
A bit of a discussion ensued, but it turned into white noise for me...How do I come up with ideas for shows and series that might appeal to these guys...the 18-30 year olds? The Youtube Show?

Speaking of 'the kids', my NY bro sent me this interesting article from New York magazine entitled 'Say Everything'. It's about the internet/blogging/texting/myspace generation and their tendancy to put anything and everything about themselves 'out there' for the world to see and read. As it says, the future belongs to the uninhibited. The kids just don't seem to care that much anymore as public and private becomes more and more blurred. The article closed with this:

Right now the big question for anyone of my generation seems to be, endlessly, “Why would anyone do that?” This is not a meaningful question for a 16-year-old. The benefits are obvious: The public life is fun. It’s creative. It’s where their friends are. It’s theater, but it’s also community: In this linked, logged world, you have a place to think out loud and be listened to, to meet strangers and go deeper with friends.

And, yes, there are all sorts of crappy side effects: the passive-aggressive drama (“you know who you are!”), the shaming outbursts, the chill a person can feel in cyberspace on a particularly bad day. There are lousy side effects of most social changes (see feminism, democracy, the creation of the interstate highway system). But the real question is, as with any revolution, which side are you on?

Because the truth is, we’re living in frontier country right now. We can take guesses at the future, but it’s hard to gauge the effects of a drug while you’re still taking it. What happens when a person who has archived her teens grows up?

Will she regret her earlier decisions, or will she love the sturdy bridge she’s built to her younger self—not to mention the access to the past lives of friends, enemies, romantic partners? On a more pragmatic level, what does this do when you apply for a job or meet the person you’re going to marry? Will employers simply accept that everyone has a few videos of themselves trying to read the Bible while stoned? Will your kids watch those stoner Bible videos when they’re 16? Is there a point in the aging process when a person will want to pull back that curtain—or will the MySpace crowd maintain these flexible, cheerfully thick-skinned personae all the way into the nursing home?

Interesting questions, no? And speaking of nursing homes, this old man's heading back to his 'young boy coming of age on the prairie' script while watching 'Rockford Files' reruns.

Happy Family Day/President's Day.



David Bishop said...

Hmm, being a screenwriting student, I'd like to think I could qualify for head in the game status. Hell, I subscribe to, so that's got to be a start...

Something you get in the UK with some screenwriting students and wannabes who only watch US drama. All their favourites? All American, as if there's something wrong with liking homegrown TV drama.

I used to be just such a schmuck, until it was pointed out to me that if I wanted to write for British TV drama, I should be watching British Tv drama - all of it: the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Is there a Canuck cultural cringe?

Good Dog said...

A couple of years back, writing about television, I kept track of the US pilots in development. Luckily I stopped before I drove the back end of a claw hammer into my temple.

Browsing the list, the only thing that stood out was the Tom Fontana drama. And that was only because it was being developed by Tim Fontana. I've actually forgotten what the subject matter was.

Spent Saturday amongst Television Scriptwriting MA students - plus industry guests - and some of their blissful ignorance had my eyebrows in a near-permanent raised position.

Yes, there are a lot of people over here in the UK who prefer to watch US drama. It's not because there is "something wrong with liking homegrown TV drama", it's because most homegrown TV has no imagination or ambition and is bloody awful.

Perhaps the best UK drama is Waking the Dead, about a cold case squad. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes ago, it finished it's annual run.

Marilyn said...

When I was studying screenwriting I paid close attention to what was on, what was coming, what was a hit with the critics and what was a hit in the ratings, BUT...

I've had "appointment television" since I was in my early teens, yet these days there's next to nothing I'm bothering with. I'm keeping up with Lost because of the years I've already put in, but not because I'm currently excited by it. Besides that I watch The Boondocks and Stewart and Colbert whenever I can, and all my other TV watching is done on DVD (though I too have been trying to watch Little Mosque to stay in the loop).

For all the talk of the quality TV out there, as a viewer I feel like we're in a pretty big drought right now. So maybe their apathy isn't because TV's boring for thier generation, maybe it's because TV this season is actually pretty boring.

P.S. But they should still be reading Playback, the slackers! :)

CAROLINE said...

I don't know if your assessment of your class is unique to our field ... don't you find in life in general, you have those who are naturally gifted, who excel, and those who are just trying to find their path? I can appreciate your frustration in trying to teach people who don't seem to give a snot, though.

The New Yorker article is interesting and relates to a discussion I had with a few people last week about how this proliferation of online and distant communication has affected how that generation actually behaves in real life, real time situations. They have trouble speaking, making small talk, reading people. So, despite the uninhibitedness (is that a word?!) of their online sharing, in real human contact, they are social misfits. Applies to business and even to dating/personal relationships.

Happy 45th Birthday Will Dixon said...

Happy Birthday, Will!

All the best today!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Will!

jimhenshaw said...

Happy Birthday, Bud!

wcdixon said...

Thanks to the mystery person for the happy birthday wishes...and if you click on their profile - it's almost like an earlier version of me commented to myself.

Very clever.

Bill Cunningham said...

Wow! Another Pisces!

Happy Birthday!

Juniper said...

Happy Birthday Will!

Only 45, your picture looks older - did I say that outloud?

Good Dog said...

Happy Birthday Will.

Another fish guy!

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I found it shocking that this class...had never heard of Playback Magazine (Canada's film/tv industry newspaper). And only two had heard of Variety...heard, not even read.

Oh. My. God.

I was reading Variety and THR regularly by age 12, back when I was studying to be an actress. But, truthfully, I'd never heard of/and didn't start reading Playback until about early 2001. Now I get all three of these trade mags delivered to my email in-box every morning. Seriously, Will, how is it that your students don't know about this already? The mind boggles.


Happy Birthday, you old fart! ;-)

The Film Diva said...

Happy belated. Hope it was all you dreamed it would be.

I know I'm commenting (fashionably) late on this post, but I had to chime in...

I think this public baring of the soul is akin to the love-in/hippie/drug-using free-for-all days of the 60s and early 70s, once these kids get older, have jobs, responsibilities, etc, they'll be just like the Baby Boomers are -- some will become hyper-conservative, some will continue to do their thing in cyber -space, and some will try to forget it ever happened.... I can't wait. I'm saving blog pages now, heh, heh, heh....