Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weir Vs. Woods - A Match Made In Heaven

This weekend was like I'd died and gone to golferland.

Over in the UK, we had the Seve Cup on the tee-vee...a matchplay competition pitting the top ten ranked players from England and Ireland versus the top ten from the rest of Europe.

And over here in Canada, Montreal in fact, we have The Presidents Cup going on...a matchplay competition with the top twelve (actually top ten plus two captains picks) from an International roster of players (including Canuck Mike Weir), versus the top twelve players from the United States.


I love watching match play. Golf is such a solitary sport, and for 51 weeks of the year it's the individual against the score after four rounds wins. But one week a year (Presidents Cup in odd numbered years, even numbered years see the Ryder Cup which puts the U.S. best vs. Europe's best), these snipers of the fairways and greens must place their differences aside and play as teammates. Games like fourball, best ball, alternate shot, etc. are the way its played, instead of best cumulative score wins. And it's a hole by hole thingee, so you will hear scoring related along the lines of teams or players being '1 Up' or '2 Down' or 'All Square' in their particular matches.

Sounds boring I'm sure, but it is as exciting as golf can be, right up there with The Masters....seriously.

However, the Seve Cup began its final day (today) with both teams a mere point apart, but the England and Ireland team won nearly every one of the singles matches to run away with it all. Bit of a letdown.

And in the President's Cup, the U.S. stomped on the International squad yesterday to open up a 7 point lead, 14 1/2 to 7 1/2 (a team needs 18 points to secure victory). It's pretty well over...which is too bad after seeing the past two Presidents Cups go down to the final match on the final holes to decide a victor.

But the captains for each squad came through by pitting Tiger Woods against Canadian Mike Weir in today's singles finale. The International team may have little or no chance of catching the U.S., but fans of golf in Canada will receive a nice consolation prize in seeing our local hero Weir go up against the world's #1 in front of a hometown crowd.

I'll be watching.

UPDATE: Weir grinds out a thrilling 1 Up victory over Tiger Woods...but the American team strolls to a fairly easy 19.5 to 14.5 overall win.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ernie and Bert + Pesci and DeNiro = F*** Your Rubber Ducky!

This is not your Children's Television Workshop. As Cartman might say: "It's wrong. Wrrrooonng."

Definitely NSFW

Because it makes me smile.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why Writing About Directing Is Tough...

Still labouring over some posts on directing for television... they're not easy I tell you!

I mean, in a nutshell, for me TV directing is about answering four questions:

1) What's the overall story/episode about and how to visually portray that efficiently yet effectively?
2) What's each scene about and how to visually present each efficiently yet effectively?
3) Where do we put the camera?
4) What do I tell the actors?

...and doing four things:

1) Getting the coverage
2) Designing cool transitions (between scenes)
3) Being a pleasure to work with while creating a fun yet forward-moving set environment
4) Making the day (getting the scenes listed on each days call sheet)

Simple, eh?

Except it isn't that simple, really.

And trying to describe it all effectively usually means using words like tone and palette and lenses and frames and angles...and most examples seem like 'you had to be there' sort of thing, or would be better served by a commentary track on a DVD...and before you know it you can end up sounding like director Greg Beeman over HERE describing his experience on the first episode of the second season of Heroes:

I feel I sort of know how to shoot the show these days. The frames are as graphic as possible, super low angles, super high angles, lots of foreground and big big close ups (all in keeping with graphic novel frames to which we owe a big allegiance.) But I’ve also been interested in exploring the edgy faux-documentary style used in movies like THE CONSTANT GARDENER and THE BOURNE IDENTITY movies. A week or so before beginning production I saw A MIGHTY HEART, the Michael Winterbottom directed movie which starred Angelina Jolie. I found it very bold and felt inspired by it. It uses a very modern style, with all handheld cameras and a very captured-in-the-moment documentary style. Even though this is something I’d already been doing on HEROES, I left the theatre feeling that I could push myself further in this direction. I took it upon myself, in all of the sequences that were inherently edgy and tension-filled, to employ this style.

Followed up by:

I used a variation of this style in the scene with Ando and Kaito Nakamura on the Kirby Plaza. The camera was not hand held, but I went on very long lenses and used numerous extras to create numerous foreground wipes. Because of the long lenses the wipes are just quick blurs. And since there are so many of them I was able to cut from shot to shot fluidly. Even though the characters are just sitting there, the numerous cuts and the numerous wipes create an inherent tension. Then at the end of the scene when Kaito realizes he’s marked for death, I changed up style completely and went to a long take with no coverage (i.e. cuts) on a very wide lens.

Anyone still reading? I know I'm supposed to be into this stuff and my eyes were starting to glaze over. Nothing against Beeman at all...hell, I commend him for even giving it a shot (no pun intended). And especially in episodic TV where you, the director, really are only a hired gun...a spruced up traffic cop in many ways. Though it must be nice to have 10-13 days to shoot a TV one hour (the last four eps I did I got 6 days per, and most I ever got to make a one hour was 7 - welcome to Canada)

Film and TV is a visual medium...and it's hard to relate how you came up with the images when there's so many other variables and factors (crew, actors, weather, schedules, budget, etc.) that impact on how those pictures actually turned out. I've always said directing is about making a really specific plan for each day...and then the first time you call 'Action!' more or less throwing it out because - the dog didn't bark on cue, or a cloud moved across the sun, or an actor strolled over and said: "You know, I was thinking..."

Thus a lot of my recounting about what happened usually goes something like: "What I wanted to do was this, and we ended up getting that. But it turned out alright. Actually, you kinda had to be there."

Nevertheless, crashing ahead (my fav 1st AD phrase when trying to plough through a production meeting)...I'll keep trying and we'll see what comes out the other side.

P.S. And no matter what Mazin or Epstein say, I'm taking the 'A Will Dixon Film' credit every time I do a feature, baby. Course I've never done nor have any plans to do a feature, but if I did, boy...if I did (mostly because I've co-written and produced every TV movie I've done).

However, the 'A Film By...' credit should be outlawed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ain't Gonna Happen... says Henshaw, as he finally weighs in on the recent CRTC commissioned report of ways to fix the broken Canadian TV bicycle.

Read his post and weep.

And yes, Jimmy asks a lot of the same questions that I and others who've been slogging it out up here a while were asking ourselves ( what were the lawyers who wrote the report on?), and having severe doubts this report will do more than collect dust on top of the pile containing the last report, and the one before that one, and so on.

But his rationale for what will be the reports rejection seems to be that the networks don't want simulcasting and ad substitution to stop (so it won't), and they don't want or think they need what we, the majority of Canadian creatives, can offer (so they'll reject or avoid or bury it).

Oh yeah...and the concept of broadcasting as we know it is more or less over, but I'll just sidestep past that little bombshell for the moment.

The last point aside (and it's an important one and Jim's ideas for ways to survive the future should be seriously considered by you kids out there), I'd like to know when it happened that the networks and the cablers got to call all the shots in our industry?

I'm not saying the system isn't screwed and needing a makeover before dying an ugly death as the internets change the world-wide industry as we know it, but I still don't think we should let them keep getting away with what they've been getting away with. And though it may seem fruitless, chipping away (yes, with letters and comments) at the CRTC to pay us some mind certainly can't hurt...can it? Because surely the CRTC could at least start splitting the difference, couldn't they --- perhaps implement some of the recommended changes at least? Otherwise, why did they commission the report? Why should they exist? Who's really in charge?

What's gonna happen? Or better yet, what do we want to happen?

EDIT: Sheila Copps offers up her opinion on the report in today's Edmonton Sun. I don't really get her take at all...sounds like she's saying we already have a healthy thriving indigenous industry who's uniquely Canadian stories will all but disappear if the recommendations come to pass. WTF?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Hate It When That Happens...

Today Kiefer Sutherland is slated to receive ACTRA's 'Canadian working in L.A.' Award of Excellence.

Unfortunately, that ceremony won't be the one making headlines. Last night he got busted for DUI at the corner of La Cienega and Beverly.

Although, these days, perhaps that's a prerequisite for achieving excellence in Hollywood.

File under: Lousy timing...

Monday, September 24, 2007

NY Film Fest By NYBro...

I know we're mostly about TV here at Uninflected, but films and movies are always in the peripheral vision. So a big shout-out to my NYBro and his part as design director for the new issue of New York magazine.

It pays tribute to the upcoming New York Film Festival, and offers some nice pieces on the Coen Brothers, Noah Baumbach, and Wes Anderson.

Feeling the film love...and showing some brotherly love. That's what it's all about, ain't it?

Fire. Bad. Blood. Good.

(or more like: "Fire. Baaaaaad. Blood. Goooooood.")

Thanks much for all the props and good suggestions from the bleacher section (I kinda like Jim's proposed 'schedule' actually) presently mulling some new bloggin' topics to tackle.

But until then, let's celebrate the new fall TV season really heating up this week with two new shows tonight I know I'll be checking out...NBC's Chuck and Journeyman. How come? Well, the former cuz it's Alias done funny and I hear it's better than you think, and the latter for the time travel possibilities and the lady with the name that just keeps giving...

(oh, they're not booing, they're saying: Mooooooooooon!)

Actually, I don't hold a lot of hope for either of these programs (even with Rachel Bilson joining the cast of Chuck in October). I think they'll be fun out of the gate, and you know we'll see self-contained episodic stories framed within an overarching season-long mystery or conspiracy, but don't know if that is enough to count as 'legs' anymore (see Daybreak). And we know that's what tee-vee's all about...having legs.

And before the prudists start calling me down and asking when I'm going to: Just. Let. It. Go. (re: Moon Bloodgood), I give you this old Chinese proverb:

"When a finger points to the 'moon', the imbecile looks at the finger."

So there.

... um ...


Saturday, September 22, 2007


That strange noise you heard this week was the collective 'gulp' expelled by film and TV service producers all across Canada as the Loonie achieved parity with the U.S. greenback...

What to do...what to do. I know! Let's increase some provincial tax credits and continue to spread the country's creative and production community out even more than it already is!


Brought to you in part by the Don Martin sounds dictionary.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My Blogging Inspiration...

...or lack thereof, lately.

I know I should be writing more about the craft or process of writing, producing, directing or making film/television (actually, should is the wrong's a blog and can be about whatever it wants to be. However I like to blog about how to do it and do it better), but I find it very difficult to write crafty when not actually in the throes of it all. Some might see that as a good time to turn the blog off, whereas I find it generates inspiration and good examples of things to write about. For me, it's easier to blog when I'm busy.

But there's been no throes of it all of late as far as I'm concerned, just lots of itty bitty things....some rewrites of TV movies...some development...some teaching...but no constant production work.

So inspiration and ideas for posts either come from other blogs, news articles, or the deep recesses of the mind. But the reaching back for memories of experiences is actually more work than recounting something that is happening right in front of you. It requires heavy lifting, or more heavy lifting than usual.

I've also had to come to terms with the 'limitations' of blogging. As in, if you're just doing it for fun and the enjoyment of connecting to and sharing with other like minds, there comes a point where the visit numbers sort of peak and then level off ( this will never be). That leveling off happened about 6 months ago, and since then the visits to Uninflected Images have stayed pretty constant. But for a time, I was driven to try to keep those numbers rising. That in its own way also served as inspiration, but unless I happen upon some new Lindsey Lohan firecr*tch pics the numbers seem likely to change. I realize there are subscribers, how many I have no idea, but without visits or comments one becomes dependent on the statcounter numbers to be the true indicator.

Not that I'm complaining, just stating the facts, but I am starting to feel like the blog is slowly drifting in the sea of 'whateva'. I do have some notions for posts about directing for television, but they seem too 'insider' to be worth reading. Otherwise, the well feels kind of dry.

So, in in effort to get inspired again, maybe there are some questions about the biz or the crafts of producing, directing, and writing TV that readers might have and could ask via email or in the comments. Think about it, drop me a line, and I'll see if I can answer them.

Help a blogger out, won'tcha?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Near Future of Old Alt-Country

Some music musings...the days of alt-country seem to have come and gone (I don't even know what they're calling it these days or what its evolved into), but over the next month there are some new releases from some original alt-country veterans.

First, next week (Sept. 25) sees the release of Steve Earle's latest effort, Washington Square Serenade. A tribute to New York, the cd looks to continue Earle's passionate blend of appealing melodies with searing lyrics. One of the songs is "City of Immigrants", which he recently performed on the Letterman show.

Serenade also includes a wicked version of Tom Waits "Down In The Hole" which will be under the title sequence of the new season of The Wire.

Four weeks later (Oct. 23) sees the release of Dwight Yoakam's new disc, Dwight Sings Buck. It's a tribute to one of Yoakam's all-time heroes Buck Owens, who recently passed away. I've only managed to hear one song from this cd, and it sounds like vintage Yoakam. Here's a link to a duet of "Streets of Bakersfield" that he performed with Owens years ago.

(I'm looking forward to both releases, but if it came down to an album cover art contest, Earle would win, hands down).

And it should be noted that some other same ilk releases earlier this year like Ryan Adams Easy Tiger; Wilco's latest Sky Blue Sky; and Bright Eyes newest Cassadaga, were generally speaking, superb.

All of which only made me want to dig out The Jayhawks Hollywood Town Hall and give it a spin again.

Ah, "Waiting For The Sun"....sweet sweetness. But I'm not going to post or even link to a clip...I'm gonna make you go and listen to it, cuz I know you want to now.

Alt-country rock isn't gone, it's just gotten older.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Real Sex In The City?

The second episode of Tell Me You Love Me aired last night...and I think I'm done. Too sombre or serious or something like that but it just isn't grabbing me. And while the explicit sex was toned down considerably, it was still a factor...enough of a factor to keep me wondering "how real is it...really?"

In fact, the show and one scene in particular was referenced in a New York Observer article about full frontal nudity finally 'arriving' to mainstream television:

In one of the many (many) startling scenes in the new HBO drama Tell Me You Love Me, which debuted Sunday night, a young, attractive married couple sit side by side on a sofa, watching a boxing match on TV. The wife unbuckles her husband’s pants, and after some noisy kissing, she pulls away and says, “I want to see it.” She sees it and—holy cow—so do we.

Over the past few months, the breathy buzz on the show—about married and almost-married couples in various stages of intimacy-related despair and dishabille—has centered on the amount of its frank sexual content. And it was there all right—from minute two, when a man masturbates under the covers, to real-time full-monty couplings, to angelic, white-haired Jane Alexander kissing meaningfully down her husband’s graying chest.

Throughout the hour, as bodies moved and eyefuls of flesh and bikini waxes flashed, it was still the sight of that erect penis being clinically manipulated into a graphic orgasm that prompted did-I-just-see-what-I-think-I-saw gapes from less action-packed couches nationwide.

The article is correct...that was the reaction elicited from me at any rate. But the 'reality' of it all has been nagging at me since. And then I read this comment from kmjk68 on an IMDB thread:

"...this is all hype. I have a cousin who is working on this show and he has sent me the first 5 shows. He told me how they pulled off all of these scenes to make them look so real. You do get to see all of the characters naked(not much real nudity(except for Michelle Borth)), but all of the close up shots are ultra realistic looking props. During the scene with the hand job, all you see are cuts from the penis(prop) and the hand of the actress. Then a cut to the faces of the actor and actress and then a wide shot where the actor has a different prop over his genital area. The shot is far enough away so it looks real. The ending fluid shot is from a pump out of camera view.

The blow job shot is done in the same manner with the actress with a prop in her mouth and so on. The scenes with shots of close up female genitalia works on the same principle. What you see are ultra realistic looking props combined with a few shots of actual nudity. I hope people don't order HBO just for this show. While it looks incredibly real, it is acting. I think people are so excited and maybe even turned on by the thought of real actors doing what they are hearing about that they don't stop for a reality check. I mean do you really think you are going to see Sherry Stringfield masturbating for real?"

I know referencing a comment from a thread is like quoting Wikipedia as a reliable source, but I'm going to take it as true because it helped bring me back into the world of film making.

Look, I know as viewers we were supposed to believe these couples were really doing it (and HBO wasn't making any effort to dissuade us), but at the end of the day, it's still drama or theatre....with actors ACTING. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, I was still left wondering...what if? And so it made a lot more sense to me that the sex was simulated with prosthetics and the like, in the same way that on-screen deaths are simulated with squibs and blood packs. When we watch Chris 'die' in the Sopranos, we know he's not really dead. Televised sex or explicit sex falls into the same category...we watch them 'having sex', but we know (or should know) they're not really f*cking.

Real is an educational film. Or a Discovery channel documentary. Or porn. And I now feel a little silly for even thinking a group of notable trained professional actors would agree to perform porn, even for HBO.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What The 'Kids' Say Is Alright

I always go around the room at the start of each semester and ask my college students what TV they're watching and what movies or moviemakers they're digging...

In this class, preferences were all over the map, but the winners for TV seemed to be The Office and Arrested Development (both comedies, it should be noted). And I heard some praise for moviemakers Scorcese and Tarantino, but Wes Anderson appeared to triumph.

I like this choice.

Fact: even though I'm old by comparison, I also dig Wes Anderson, and would put the trilogy of Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and Royal Tenenbaums on a list of my favourite movies from the past ten years. Fact: his new film, The Darjeeling Limited, opens in a couple weeks. It appears to be another interesting meets quirky affair. Fact: Rolling Stone magazine gushes's the trailer:

Looks good. It just made my list of things to do the day it opens. Hope 'the kids' approve.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dixon Too Far?

Via Ken Levine, my initiation to the Prank Wars saga.

Prank Wars is two employees who've been trying to out-'punk'd' each other for the past eight months. But what began as small adolescent trickery has escalated into elaborate monster set-ups that truly push the envelope of what constitutes 'acceptable prankage'.

You can watch segments 1-6 HERE.

For example, in ep 5, Streeter Seidell makes Amir Blumenfeld (pictured above, who actually looks kinda like my NY Bro) cry after organizing a sketch comedy appearance for Amir in LA only to reveal it was all just a gag. Then in ep 6, Amir gets Streeter and his girlfriend Sharon to a Yankee game only to orchestrate a marriage proposal from Streeter to Sharon to appear on the jumbotron! Neither Streeter or his girlfriend were in on it. She says yes. Streeter stammers and says he didn't put it up on the screen. She slaps him and storms away visibly upset.

Some have questioned the reality of it all...I dunno, I buy it. And I found the 'good clean fun' attitude and authenticity of the reactions in the first three segments quite entertaining.

But segments 4, 5, & is too far too far?

Originally there was Candid Camera...nowadays there's Just for Laughs --- both pretty harmless fun in my opin. But I've always had a problem with the Punk'd and Scare Tactics and Germany's Extreme Wind Up-type shows. Tricking or toying with or even freaking people out(celebs or otherwise) is one thing (a cheap and easy thing mind you, like putting kids or "gasp" babies in jeopardy in a dramatic show)...but then airing it on national television or the internets? That I don't agree with.

Yes, you can get some smiles, but a lot of these programs, and I'd say now Pranks Wars, can be really harsh. And mean. And hurtful.

They're all counting on us laughing at the expense of someone it makes us feel superior or something, you know, witnessing the public humiliation of others. It perpetrates paranoia and wariness and suspicion. It also encourages malcontent and mean-spiritedness. Plus it's about someone being a victim --- all pretty unhealthy things to be promoting, if you ask me.

But welcome to the world of most 'reality' TV, ladies and gentlemen.

I used to pull pranky shit like this back in high school and college. Me and a friend used to pick up hitch-hikers or strangers at the bus stop needing a ride and then have another friend roar around the corner and chase us in another car, waving baseball bats out the window. We'd speed around town shrieking we were so dead cuz it's 'those guys you flipped off at that party' or something. All the while trying to keep from cracking up at the poor traveller in my back seat who was shitting bricks and begging us to 'just let him out.' Eventually we'd lose the tail, or pull over and fake a rumble with the friends behind us while the hitchhiker would usually scramble out of my car and run off.


We also did similar stuff to people we knew, but on a pretty small telling a friend some chick at the bar liked him and wanted to dance with him. And he'd go over all excited and she'd turn him down and throw a drink in his face or something. Just college fun and games.

But my point is, we did it for us. We did so we could recount it later and laugh our guts out and maybe tell a few other people what happened. That was it.

It wasn't ever meant for or witnessed by millions and millions of people/viewers (which are the numbers some of these shows and viral videos are getting).

But these types of programs generally do really well. It should be no surprise that the most popular eps of Canadian/American Idol are the audition know, where we get to see what horrible singers there are out there(though that has lost its cache cuz now people just audition badly so as to get on those particular episodes). But there needs to be a line in the sand...places people won't go (like enlisting children to play a forty day game of 'Lord of the Flies'...sheesh)

So when is too far too far? I'd say that Prank Wars #6 comes pretty close. Why? Because the girlfriend was dragged into the fray and a phony public marriage proposal can seriously mess up a relationship. If she was in on the gag, however...whole different story.

And the thought of what Streeter might do as a revenge prank makes me cringe.

Be afraid Amir.

Be very afraid.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Ring To Rule Them All...

Star Wars vs. LOTR from Clerks II = LOL. But NSFW.

Because it makes me smile...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

McGrath Vs. Shaw...Let's Call It A Draw


A little TMZ-inspired pic to kick things off.

Denis McGrath has been leading the charge along with the WGC in taking on cabler Jim Shaw's latest effort to poke holes in the CTF and beat down the Canadian television creative community. And as much as I admire Denis for taking on 'da man', all this bluster and posturing by all parties is really just a waste of time and energy if real change to our industry isn't implemented and implemented soon.

Today, we may have seen the first step.

How? Well, a big ass report commissioned by the CRTC themselves was made public this morning that shoots a lot of holes our f***ed up TV system...seriously questions the simulcasting of US programs that greatly benefits the cablers and broadcasters...recommends more money for drama and less for reality/infotainment shows that have been qualifying as goes on and on and on.

Read the short version HERE in Playback.

See the whole 332 page monster report over HERE.

So who wrote this report exactly? From Playback:
The report, Review of the Regulator Framework for Broadcasting Services in Canada, was written by communications lawyers Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leblanc of the firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.

In April, the head of the CRTC, Konrad von Finckenstein, asked the lawyers to do a comprehensive review of Canada's broadcasting system and to recommend ways to "maximize the reliance on market forces, always keeping in mind the overriding two objectives of Canadian content and access to the system."

And what kinds of things did they say? A lot of things actually, but of specific interest to the few but faithful readers of these blogs:
...they question whether current regulations are working to promote homegrown programming. Specifically, the report criticizes the practice of simultaneous substitution -- whereby Canadian broadcasters substitute their own signal to broadcast American TV shows with Canadian advertisements. Because U.S. programs draw higher ratings -- and hence ad revenues -- broadcasters program shows such as Desperate Housewives and CSI during primetime rather than homegrown stuff, says the report: "This undermines the economic value of Canadian programming and the very great efforts that the regulatory system and the industry exert to produce more Canadian content."

The 300-page report also says that Canadian-content requirements are largely being filled by "the broadcasting of entertainment magazines and reality TV programming." The authors suggest targeted incentives to encourage broadcasters to program Canadian shows, particularly drama, during primetime.

Really. How interesting.

ACTRA spoke up quickly today after the report was released:
"This is really the first glimmer of hope we've had in a long time, we are really quite pleased," Stephen Waddell, ACTRA's national executive director, tells Playback Daily. "The broadcasters have made billions in revenue piggybacking on U.S. product... It's time for the broadcasters to wean themselves from this regulatory benefit. They can't have their cake and eat it too."

If the CRTC eliminated the simultaneous rights policy, Canadians would be able to watch American shows on American networks. Right now, if a network such as Global buys the rights to broadcast an American show, its over-the-air signal replaces that of the network south of the border.

Waddell is also pleased the authors took a hard look at what passes for Canadian content on most networks, such as reality TV and entertainment news. "This report validates what we've been saying for five years. The CRTC's 1999 Television Policy is a failure. And Canadian TV drama is important." In 1999, the CRTC allowed Canadian broadcasters to satisfy their Canadian-content requirements with reality TV and other cheaply produced programming.

Again. Very interesting. Sounds all kinda familiar actually.

But then the CAB (Canadian Association of Broadcasters) immediately fired off THIS angry missive...calling the report misguided and irresponsible. Course it is.

Look, the name-calling and the letter writing and big newspaper ads, it all needs to stop. We need action from the powers that be that can actually do something to help our troubled and struggling indigenous industry.

And shouldn't this report, commissioned by the CRTC (the entity in charge of regulating our Canadian TV industry), that basically questions the system as it's set up; challenges the perks and privileges the cablers and broadcasters receive; that feels the dramatic creatives in this country have gotten short-changed and shafted...shouldn't all that trump everything?!!! Shaw's grandstanding? McGrath's retorts? All of it??!!

Mr. Finckenstein and the CRTC...please, heed the report you yourself commissioned...act on the recommendations...and let people like McGrath get back to writing and creating television instead of writing rebuttal letters to cable company moguls.


EDIT: In my haste to put out a post and my glee in throwing together a gossip column-like pic, I kinda lost sight of the forest. Denis politely sets me straight. We do need to keep talking and challenging and yes, even writing letters...the war isn't over. I guess my point was that McGrath vs. Shaw is such an unfair and ultimately fruitless battle when it's really up to people who can actually implement change, like the CRTC, to start fixing the system. And yes, the best thing about this report is that it takes some of the curse off go those whiny Canadian creatives again..."roll eyes"...that always seems to accompany us when we try to claw back.

EDIT 2: The Toronto Star's take on the report was how it will adversely affect sports, okay.

Nobody knows if this report will join all those others gathering dust on forgotten shelves across the country. But if recommendations are implemented, they could have a major effect on sports fans, both good and bad.

That's the line in the article that sent shivers down my spine...the gathering dust part. I've done some digging, and there have been reports like this in the past - reports that were more or less ignored. Consider ourselves warned.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spec Dem Bones 2.0

First off, a plug for my buddy Hart Hanson's show Bones and yesterdays release of its Second Season DVD set.

Bones isn't exactly an earth shattering or mind-blowing show, but it really delivers the goods in terms of solid enjoyable TV (or TeeVee as per Kay Reindl). Part investigative mystery, part relationship dramedy, the series pairs Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), a highly skilled forensic anthropologist, with FBI Agent Seeley Booth (Daivd Boreanaz). Always ably assisted by their devoted 'Squints', Brennan and Booth solve crimes while trying to stifle their true feelings for each other.

The show continues to grow on me, as well as on the people that surround me, and I totally get why its already well into shooting its 3rd season. Speaking of which, Hart chimes in with this short update (some spoilers):

Let's see, the third season -- we introduce a serial killer whom it will take the entire season to catch. We'll hit that storyline four or five times depending upon the final number of episodes the studio commits to for the network. The network wants LOTS. We all want to survive the season. We'll probably compromise somewhere in the middle.

Unfortunately we won't have Stephen Fry in the show, at least not before January, so we have another psychologist evaluating Booth and Brennan. He's played by John Francis Daly - the kid from "Freaks and Geeks" -- he's still young looking but I think he's about six four. He's terrific. We have a new time slot before "House" which is a very good time slot. We've never had a Very Good Time Slot before -- the only downside is that there will be increased expectations.

And we just finished shooting the Halloween episode -- fifth episode of the third season. Apparently if you dress your characters up in amusing costumes, the press lines up to take their pictures. I wish I'd learned this years and years ago. You keep trying to come up with promotable story lines and touching character moments and all America REALLY wants is Tamara Taylor in a Cat Woman costume.

Season Three premieres Tuesday Sept. 25 on Fox.

I'd like to add that I think Bones would be a great spec script to have in your back pocket. The series gives you the opportunity to showcase your mystery writing skills using lead characters stuck in a strangely symbiotic relationship = funny clever dialogue. I know all the buzz right now is for original pilots, and I'm not arguing, but you really need at least two samples and one should be from a current television series.

What are some other safe yet solid spec choices out there right now? Dexter? Criminal Minds? Brothers And Sisters? Ugly Betty? I suppose the right choice depends on your writing strengths and which show spec can best highlight them. Just make sure it's a show that's at least one season old and has been renewed...that way, you can use it for a year or two if it sings.

And as far as comedies go, 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother are probably safe bets...Californication just got renewed (sigh)...and I'd already start working on a Back To You, the sitcom with Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. The new comedy may not be any good, but I highly doubt it'll get cancelled.

Spec thoughts?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Corddry Fix...

The Daily Show was back last night, baby...back I say! And we got a surprise visit from former 'reporter' Rob Corddry, who's apparently been away staking out a toilet stall in Minneapolis.

The Daily Show has had a great roster of fake correspondents come and go...from Steve Carell to Stephen Colbert to Ed Helms, but I've missed Cordry the most. His manic energy and no holds barred approach always left me smiling...sure hope he drops by the show again.

"Boom! We're off to candyland!"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sexy Time?

Diane Keaton: Sex without love is an empty experience.
Woody Allen:
Yes, but as far as empty experiences go, it's one of the best.

From Oz to Big Love, HBO is known for delivering some pretty powerful original drama series. Tell Me You Love Me is their latest offering (it premiered last night on Movie Central up here in Canada), and it has some pressure to perform after the John From Cincinnati misfire.

And speaking of performance, can I say...holy sex action Batman?!

But it's not like you think. We're not talking over-the-top teen movie sex, nor long-winded robot porn star's real sex, as in, like real life. It's almost as if Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's "thirtysomething" got together with Clement Virgo's "Lie With Me" and they had a baby. The result is a sex-filled program that's pretty unsexy.

Why? Because it's goal isn't to arouse or stimulate, but to show how sex (or the lack thereof) plays a role in the lives of three couples of different ages and at different stages in their relationships who are all seeing the same couples therapist.

Shall we break it down? I'm going to ask the three questions I always ask of anyone pitching a story to the room:

What's the hook? I guess it's the graphic sex scenes....that's what everyone seems to be talking and writing about (I read a funny live blog of the show that basically read...he's jacking off...some talking....balls, I saw balls!...more talking...etc.). So what seems to be 'unique' about this show is sex scenes between some known Hollywood actors. And they're sex scenes where you see, you know, stuff.

What happens? Lots of heavy relationship talk and drama, interspersed with several scenes of sex either solo or between the members of these three couples.

And what's it about? Who knows for sure, since it's so early in the game, but I'm going to agree with others and say honest or pure know, the desire for each person to find or preserve or recover some degree of passionate closeness with whoever they are partnered with.

So, did it deliver the goods?

It's too soon to tell, but my feeling is that the parallel stories might be it's undoing. There's a distancing effect that occurs to a viewer when you intercut three or four disparate storylines --- you feel like an observer as opposed to being drawn in and moved emotionally (think Syriana or Traffic or Babel). I know this style makes the whole and the juxtaposition of the parts more important than the parts themselves, which can be swell for a movie, but for a continuing dramatic TV series, I'm not sure how well it can work.

And then there's the discomfort that can happen when you watch shows that cut a little too close to the bone, as it were. In this boys opinion, real life and real issues and realistic relationships can be informative and educational, but they're not very fun or entertaining. Entertaining is what I want my TV to be.

Then there's the fact that the world of the show is pretty, um, normal. The Sopranos and Buffy and Six Feet Under and Deadwood and The West Wing and Oz and on and on were fascinatingly entertaining because they took us to a unique new arena. But real life...real relationships...real problems...real issues - all set in a non-unique arena?

Sorry...been there, done that. Don't know if I want to relive it. And that's not to knock the acting or the drama that was being portrayed...I enjoy seeing all that stuff, but set in a funeral home, or an old west town, or the White House.

And lastly, there wasn't even a hint of a smile in the one hour. Pretty sombre serious stuff. Could've used a little sprinkle of the Woody Allen I say.

But what do I know...I just tuned in for the boobies.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When One Word Says It All...

Kudos to Callaghan for starting my most singularly favourite comments thread ever here at Uninflected Images. Anyone else got a word to add to the previous post?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hell And Back...

I'm presently indisposed, as they say, after driving halfway across the country and back again to retrieve eldest daughter and all her 'stuff' only to arrive home and discover one of my cats had a MONSTER diarrhea explosion all over the house.


Some of the places I found shite defied all logic and physics. Seriously. NOT lol cat.

Renting a big-ass rug doctor. Wish I was TIFFing it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Whateva...I'll Do What I Want!

Cartman. On Maury. Too funny. Friday Fun funny.

Because it makes me smile.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Okay, Okay, I Love You Already!

HBO's new one hour drama series Tell Me You Love Me debuts this's the story of three couples trying to stay afloat — and one woman's efforts to show them how to do it. Here's a nice preview of the show from AP's Frazier Moore:

Early reports about the series have dwelled on its graphic sex scenes. But the sex only underlines what "Tell Me" is really about. For most of each hour, the characters engage in an even more intense brand of explicitness: Their beyond-the-flesh struggle to preserve, or recover, some measure of intimacy with the partner each of them is committed to. Which is to say there's lots of talk going on, set against the relatably ordinary lives these people lead.

He touts it as HBO's most important show since The Sopranos. Hmmm, could it be so? Or do we have another variation of Californication. Ugh.

Anybody got some buzz on this, and whether it'll be available in Canada (by over the air legal methods I mean)?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Show, Don't Tell...Then Teach

It's that time of the year again...teaching time.

Today I begin another run at educating (or corrupting) young university minds about the craft of screenwriting. Sigh. This class is a toughie, in that even though I've been advised in the past to just cover the basics and keep it simple (like having a 10 minute script the goal of the course), I've always said damn the torpedoes and gunned for a TV half hour screenplay as the end result.


Well, the ten minute screenplay made sense to me if the plan was for the students to shoot said script say, the following semester. But when the department didn't want to sync up their class schedules and curriculum to accommodate this notion, I started thinking...what could the students leave with that would be of some value to them? Something tangible...for their portfolio, as it were.

(For the producing class, for example, I had them leave with a professional looking one sheet and polished pitch package and development plan/budget.)

For a screenwriting class, a half hour TV screenplay seemed like a good start. It's a piece of work that fits industry standard templates, can be shown to a producer or agent as a work sample, plus could even be produced and eligible for broadcast if good enough. And it's created following the stages the pros usually know, pitch/premise... beatsheet...treatment...first draft...second draft.

Problem is, this makes for a boatload of reading/note-giving on my part. Especially this semester, given that the department overloaded the class by 4 students (16 in total now) and I've got more kids begging to get allowed in.


Anyway, this fall I'm trying out this nifty little text entitled How To Write: A Screenplay by Mark Evan Schwartz.

The hook of the book is that it illustrates the basics of screen storytelling in the form of a ninety page screenplay. It's a riff on Dante's Inferno where struggling screenwriter Danny, who wants to win the heart of starlet Bebe, has an encounter with the mysterious Virgil who guides Danny through the netherworld in an attempt to produce a winning script. So the ins and outs of formatting are nicely integrated with examples of character, plot, theme, conflict, complications, etc..

It shows, not tells. Plus it's a quick read, like a hundred pages, which leaves a lot more time for the doing instead of the telling or reading.

I've drafted a mini-bible to steer the students in a specific direction, like writing for an anthology series. And I've set up the class like a writers room...with students pitching each other for approval and then reading scenes and treatments aloud for ideas and feedback, all the while I play exec producer to oversee and guide them to a final draft.

But I don't play nice.

I tell them first day this will be one of the hardest classes they ever take, but can be the most beneficial to them in the long run. They'll leave with a much better idea of how the 'real world' industry works, and be well on their way to getting to where they might want to be. Because we all know the fastest way to succeed after film school (write/direct/produce) is to have a script/story that others like and want to see get made. It can be your ticket, baby...don't drop it.

Should be fun, no? More like fun and a lot of work...which I guess it is and should always be.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Price of (Home) Entertainment...

Alex at Complications Ensue makes some interesting points - pro and con - about NBC's recent decision to pull their programs off Itunes and trying to sell them a higher price.

Everything he speculates about is the future, or a version thereof, no doubt about it...but for now, most people are still stocking their TV series home collections with the purchase of season set DVD's.

So my question today is much will you pay for the season set DVD's for your fav TV series? And then a followup - how much will you pay to try out a TV series you've only heard good things about?

What's the price of TV on DVD entertainment?

I ask only because I bought some series on DVD this weekend, and was truly surprised at the wide variance in cost. This was depending on the TV show of course, but still...

Friday Night Lights first season was on sale for 28.99 (Cdn.). That's 22 one hour episodes for less than thirty bucks. These days, thirty bucks only gets you a discounted new release novel, or movie and popcorn for two (you'd have to split a soda pop), or perhaps a couple of music cd's.

How could I say no? And there's a bonus. I only watched about a third of the FNL episodes last year, and while I enjoyed them it just never really caught fire with me. Now I can enjoy it in its entirety and at my convenience on my big screen telly. Cool.

But on the shelves right beside FNL were the first season discs of Heroes and Ugly Betty. Both 22 episode sets were on sale for around 50.00 (Cdn.). I thought about it, but gave them a pass. Ugly Betty isn't on my radar and I saw most all of Heroes already...and the price, while on sale, was just high enough to give me pause.

Why such a price difference? I mean, we know the studios are making money on the sale no matter which price they list at, it's just a question of how much. Because right beside the Heroes and Ugly Betty sets were the second season of Rome and third season of Deadwood, both HBO offerings. And both were priced at nearly a hundred bucks (Cdn.) each...and that's only for 10 and 12 episodes respectfully! I know it's not just about quantity (yes, quality should be a consideration), but still....holy gouging, Batman!

I know value and perceived value are flexible terms...and if that's what people will pay, then that's what it's worth --- but when is too much too much? (I still can't believe I can't find seasons 1 and 2 of Lost for anything less than 65.00 per...)

Perhaps NBC/Universal is selling FNL at a loss or break even in order to try to rope in more viewers (it was on the bubble for cancellation last season), but nevertheless...I really liked that price. Same goes for the first three seasons of The X Files and all the seasons of Buffy and Angel --- all recently marked down to around or under 25.00 (Cdn.) each. I didn't feel bad purchasing the first 2 seasons of know, just to for old times the kids when they get old enough sort of thing.

And Peter makes a good comment about the extras and commentaries available on most DVD series sets.

So back to Alex's post, a season (depending on how many episodes) of a series downloaded off of Itunes could cost you between 20.00 and 40.00. NBC/Uni is looking to ask 5.00 per episode (I'm not sure if that's Cdn. or U.S. dollars) a season of Heroes, say, could run you upwards of a 100.00.

And if I won't even consider paying that for an HBO series, well...

UPDATE: Shawna sends me this Hollywood Reporter story hot off the presses that states NBC/Uni shows will be made available on Amazon/Unbox for...1.99 an episode.

Ah the internets...amazing things aren't they.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Entourage Chums Stink Like Shark Bait

When did Entourage 'jump the shark'?

Was there a specific scene? Or has it just fallen victim to a lightweight premise worn way too thin?

In the Season Four finale, the boys go to Sundance, I mean, Cannes, for the premiere of Vinnie's new film 'Medellin'. Of course it bombs...what else could possibly happen? But like nearly every other episode this year, the show tries to spin the positive at the end...with Ari and crew (and shows writers) clinging to Vinnie's mantra: 'Everything always works out.'

I can't remember a series where for an entire season I felt like I was watching a retread of previous episodes. Every beat felt familiar, every turn expected, every line of dialogue merely a slight variation of something said before...sad. Because Entourage's candle burned bright for a lot of the first three cycles. But I knew I was done when I found myself flipping to the weather channel to check tomorrows forecast in the middle of last night's season finale. I was that indifferent...and bored.

For me, the shark jump came in this season's penultimate episode...the one where the gang was trying to get to Cannes but no flights were available. Their chance to fly with director Sidney Pollack falls through, and then, lo and behold...Kayne West wanders through the airport about to leave for the UK on his own private jet (with plenty of room, of course).

"You boys want a lift?" (cue Kayne's new song to play over the close, just one more big ad for Los Angeles and its entertainment community). This sort of stunt felt fresh once. Now it just felt obvious, and tired.

Say goodbye to Hollywood...say goodbye to my Entourage baby.

EDIT: Course if they were to bring back Sloan (Canadian-born Emmanuelle Chriqui) in a prominent way, I might be convinced to feel otherwise...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gaining Some 'Leverage'...

Most anyone who cycles through here has already been to visit John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey, but lest there be any newbies stopping by, please run, don't walk, RUN to catch up with John's day-by-day pre-production diary for the pilot of his new TNT television series entitled Leverage.

It's a crime/heist It Takes A Thief kind of affair...John's one of the writers and an executive producer.

Here's pre-pro Day 1, Day 2, and Days 3-5.

Fav lines so far...

"The key to being an executive producer is knowing when to stay the hell out of the way. Literally everyone on a TV or film crew is usually more experienced than you are as a writer. After all, most of your scripts never get shot. They shoot episodes/movies every week."

"...even though the actor you want for second lead is free as a bird for when you'll actually be shooting the series, you cannot get him for the pilot because he's busy being Cylon #7 for the next three Battlestar Galacticas."

I read behind-the-scenes stuff like this and shake my head wondering what exactly did I learn at film school really (since the internets weren't quite happening way back when like they are today), and then think how so very lucky the college kids are now to have resources like these blogs at their fingertips.

TV Pilot school...all in the comfort of your own home. Thanks Mr. Rogers.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Yet More TV Critics...

...blogging over at Viewer Discretion, the Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert and Joanna Weiss. So far they're no Jaime Weinman, but worth checking for this Six Feet Under cast update, and a trashing of Parker Posey/Lauren Ambrose's new sitcom:

The actors that helped to make "Six Feet Under" so excellent are all over TV in the next few months.

Lili Taylor (Lisa) is currently in "State of Mind."
Peter Krause (Nate) starts his promising new series, "Dirty Sexy Money," on Sept. 26.
Rainn Wilson (Arthur) returns on "The Office" on Sept. 27.
Freddy Rodriguez (Rico) joins "Ugly Betty" on Sept. 27.
Michael C. Hall (David) will be back in "Dexter" on Sept. 30.
Rachel Griffiths (Brenda) returns in "Brothers & Sisters" that same night.
Jeremy Sisto (Billy) is joining "Law & Order" when it returns early next year.
And Lauren Ambrose is due in "The Return of Jezebel James" in January.

I started thinking about this because I was remembering with horror watching Fox's pilot episode of "The Return of Jezebel James." It is a truly awful sitcom, friends, despite the formidable talent behind it. Parker Posey costars with Ambrose, and the show was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of "Gilmore Girls." The concept: Posey and Ambrose are sisters who are opposites, and Ambrose agrees to have a child for Posey since Posey can't get pregnant.

I really can't believe that these people came up with such a brash, unfunny, derivative mess. Punctuated with an ear-splitting laugh track, it's the kind of show that makes you hate sitcoms. I'm hoping that 1) everyone involved agrees with me and decides to reshoot the pilot entirely and maybe even make it into a more dramatic hourlong show, or 2) Ambrose gets out of her contract.

I have such great memories of her as the mordant and, ultimately heroic, Claire Fisher. I believe she can be funny, but I think she deserves to appear in a more distinctive and original comedy.

That show does sound smelly, doesn't it.