Friday, March 30, 2007

Not Me...


...but put a pair of specs on him and it could have been...(Moses knows what I'm talkin' about)

Hocus-cadabra!


Speaking of magic(al), here's a link to the screenplay for 'Stranger Than Fiction'. A great script, but it includes a most unique note on the second page:

You may notice at certain points in the script there are references to music tracks that appear on a cd that accompanies the script...

And the first set of screen directions is a reference to a Godspeed You Black Emperor's song and that it's track one on the cd. A cd of music - that's something I've never seen arrive with a screenplay before. Nor have I seen a screenplay with actual screen directions instructing you to play the cd at specific places. I wonder if it helped make the sale?

Press play now.

Smokin' Magic...

I've always been a big fan of the art of prestidigitation {I was that preteen dweeb you chuckled at whenever I wore my black top hat and cape to a meeting of the local Young Magicians Club (members: 3 - both years older than me...I look back now and am surprised I wasn't found cut in half and in a trunk somewhere)}. And even though I usually know or can figure out how it's done, I'm always willing to suspend disbelief and just 'enjoy the moment'.

Today's Friday Fun moment comes from Cyril, the Japanese David Blaine (though I'm not sure if that's a complement anymore), with some simple yet slick and sexy sleight of hand a la cigarette.



Because it makes me smile...in appreciation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

73.9 Million...Sigh

Thanks to Juniper for sending me this report on private Canadian network spending from CBC Arts. Some of the highlights:

Profits at Canada's private TV broadcasters fell by almost two-thirds in 2006, largely because ad revenue was flat and they spent a lot more on American programming, CRTC figures show.

The private sector's profits before interest and taxes came to $91 million last year, the broadcast regulator said Wednesday. They were $242 million in 2005.

Yes profits slumped...but they still made money. All this says is that once reliable and predictable ways of generating profits are changing as audiences find new and different ways to entertain themselves.

The big reason for the drop was the double-digit increase in the amount they spent on programming — especially non-Canadian programs. The lion's share of the private broadcasters' foreign program spending went for drama shows — $478.6 million.

Um...yeah.

Spending on Canadian programming rose 6.3 per cent to $623.7 million.

Canadian spending by the private sector included:

$328.1 million on news programming.
$101.6 million on general interest programs.
$73.9 million on drama.
$66.3 million on other information programs.
$35 million for musical and variety shows.
$9.3 million for sports shows.
$5.7 million for game shows.

The CRTC said local and national advertising brought in about $1.9 billion for the private TV broadcasters last year, the same as 2005.

Only 73.9 million on homegrown drama? Versus nearly 500 million on imports? Bigger sigh. And that's for ALL drama on Canadian private net TV, yet we know Hart Hanson and Bones received nearly 60 million from Twentieth Century Fox to make ONE season (22 episodes) of ONE drama series.

Forget about our viewers inbred resentment and resistence toward Canadian product or the near absence of a star system or any successful marketing machines...if that doesn't clearly show you (or Jim Shaw) the difficulty in making anything dramatic in this country that might have the quality or substance or production values people have come to expect, I don't know what does.

EDIT: Just noticed that Caroline had posted a version of same report earlier today, one that included these figures:
In 2006, the private conventional television industry employed 8,197 people and paid a total of $593.6 million in salaries.

WTF? The salaries for those who work at the private nets nearly equals what they spend on Canadian drama and foreign program buys combined? What does that tell you? Do you think for a moment that the salary totals of the major U.S. nets even comes close to what they spend on development and programming? Or if it does (which I doubt), it would only be if it was tied into bonuses for generating and delivering hits...not for primarily buying shows from other countries and airing them.

Ohhh....Nelly!

Okay...mini rant over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sandbagging And Gangbanging (A Script)...

No..not handbags and gladrags...sandbags and gangbangs. Stick with me here.

In games and adversarial settings, to "sandbag" is to intentionally understate one's strength, with the intention of deceiving one's opponents. For instance, in golf, where a "sandbagger" is someone who misrepresents his handicap to gain an advantage over other players.

In TV series, on the other hand, to sandbag is the equivalent of misrepresenting your abilities. A writer is hired based on their credits and the shows they've worked or volume of work they've done. But sometimes it turns out they knew someone who knew someone, and they got gigs but then were rewritten all the time. And you never seem to find out the truth until it's too late and you've already hired the person or farmed out a freelance assignment to them. And to add insult to injury, they'll still just 'phone it in'. This after delaying delivery, and then finally sending it to you at the last moment so it falls on the backs of the staff to fix it/rebreak it/make it shootable.

Beware of sandbaggers. Read samples from every writer you're looking to hire, and don't be afraid to check them out with showrunners or execs of shows they previously worked on. You and your show will be much happier for it.

As for gangbanging....well, we don't really have to go into what that means in pornland, but when working on a TV series, it's when more than one staffer (or in some cases, the entire staff) take sections or acts of a script and write in order to get it finished...fast.

When I finished my first season of PSI Factor, I was barely alive. We'd written and produced 42 half hours over a ten month production schedule. But as the season wrapped up, there were rumblings of continuing the series for another season, only with one hour stories. It was decided to try one out. Since the last two half hours were designated to be written by me, it landed in my lap.

Now I hadn't written a lot of hour long scripts, and structuring a one hour episodic is very different than a half hour. Half hour drama/mysteries can follow pretty much one path in the woods. A teaser/set up...a first act investigation ending with a cliffhanger or major turn...and a second act including rising action and climax and solution/conclusion. Some might have tags, but usually that's about it.

A one hour mystery is a very different beast. There's still a main throughline mystery and investigation, but sub-plots are acceptable/necessary...B line and C line runners should complement and/or converge with the main A line.

Anyway, I had just a few days to conceive of and write it to get it into prep. We quickly talked it through and I roughed out an outline, but was struggling with spreading out the beats/reveals/twists effectively. The rest of the staff (all two of them) were starting to pack their desks and put up their feet. Other than hovering in case any changes or revisions were needed in the last two half hours..."their work here was done."

Did I mention I was barely alive (read sick and exhausted)? Anyhow, the script was due to begin prep the next day, and I had only written a teaser and most of the first act. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it. Now that season we went into a lot of preps with barely finished scripts and even outlines on occasion (AD's...will you ever forgive us?). But because this was a one hour and we wanted to make it as good as we could since it was now being touted as the template for the next season, we at least wanted a full draft to start prep.

So I went to Line Producer and the other two writer/staffers looking for help. And very matter of factly one of the other writers said: "Looks like we have to gangbang it." Huh? I was, as they say, unfamiliar with the phrase. LP was nodding though...he'd been there before. Writer friend explained I should finish the first act and write Act Two. He would take my outline and write Act Three and the other staffer would do the same for Act Four. Nobody really batted an eye and off everyone went to their respective computers, while I headed home feeling nothing but relief.

Finished my pages late that night. Woke up to find drafts of the third and fourth acts in my email. Cut and paste them into my script which already had the teaser and the first two acts. Did a quick read and pass to smooth out a few bumps that had occurred, and sent it on the production office. Had a coffee, took some meds, and drove to work. I can't tell you what a great feeling it was to arrive and see the full script already coming off the photocopier and being distributed.

We prepped and shot it...there was a fair bit of rewriting through preproduction but it all worked out. However it wouldn't have happened if the staff hadn't jumped in to help. And that 'gangbang' was able to happen because we all knew the show and we'd broken that story together...in the 'writer's room'. And I wasn't stamping my foot saying the script was 'my baby'. All proving yet again, TV series is a collaborative medium, and a team effort...at least from where I stand.

As McGrath stated last week:

Bottom line, if you can't deal with collaboration, or even seeing your script taken to the next level by someone else, you're going to have a hard time in this industry. Scripts aren't babies that you coddle. If you treat them that way, you're in for a long haul.

I've only had to gangbang a script one other time, and I was on the other side of the fence...having to write an act when some incredibly unfortunate events happened to our head writer. I was more than happy to step up, because that's what we do. It's not about you or your script...it's about the show/series.

But if it ever comes to gangbanging a script, you don't want a sandbagger on your team...



SONG&ARTIST? - "She was a woman who was twice my size
She looked into my eyes
She said "Only you can blow my blues away.
She said "I'll tell you what to do.
Bring all your friends with you
And you can come up and see me any ol' time of day."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Do You Know Why My Daddy Left Me? Bueno!

For those of us who have kids (or even those who don't), this SNL TV Funhouse riff on 'Dora The Explorer' is just too funny.



"If Mittens chose to save Baby Penguin based on his beliefs, and Mitten's beliefs are not in his direct control, does Mitten's really have free will?"

Bueno!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Go Jiiiiiimmmm Go...

It's another Sunday, and looking back on the week, it's clear McGrath drives the engine in our small 'TV/film blogging in Canada' community. When his blogging is light, traffic drops notably, at least in my neck of the woods. Or perhaps its simply because spring is finally springing and people are getting out and about a bit. Anyway, come back soon, Denis.

But others try to step up to the plate, and today it's Henshaw's latest post. Jim continues to question and challenge the mechanisms we have in place in this country to make movies/television. I wish I had some simple solutions that could be implemented and improve the situation (which I don't), but in general, I second his opinion.

Reading it reminded me of a recent comment from a student in the producing class I teach. We'd just spent hours wading through the criteria and guidelines and deadlines of the various funding agencies that exist here in Canada and how difficult it is to navigate them...the students appeared somewhat beaten down and deflated, and one finally piped up: "I feel like I shouldn't be getting a degree in how to create good TV or films, but rather a degree in how to write applications."

Unless things change dramatically, I'm hard pressed to disagree.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sabres 5 Leafs 4...

...ouch.

Leafs up 4-1 well into the third period...and Buffalo scores four unanswered goals.

Damn.

I've been a Leaf supporter since moving to Canada in the early 70's. I had no idea about hockey but the first friend I made was a rabid fan (or as rabid as a 10 year old could be). So in an effort to fit in, I ordered pennants and pins and programs and and pucks and clocks and any other memorabilia I could get my hands on to adorn my walls.


And I stuck with them through the ups and downs (mostly downs), thick and thin (mostly thin)...and I know I'm not alone in that department. And there's been a couple of times over the past decade where I've tried to tune out hockey or get behind another team...but it doesn't seem to be possible.

Do we ever give up on our 'teams'? I mean, I've tried...but dammit if they don't always pull me back in, 'specially this time of year as the playoffs approach.

But time is running on on this season.

Sigh.

"See His Pug Nose Face...Everybody!"

You gotta love Ricky Gervais' willingness to take it on the chin for the laugh, in this David Bowie led Friday Fun sing-a-long from the series Extras...



Because it makes me smile...a lot.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

BlogTV...Take It Or Leave It?

According to their website:

blogTV is a breakthrough in the global trend of user-generated content and a new form of social communication. The technology enables anybody with a web cam or a 3G phone to create their own TV show and broadcast it over the internet. LIVE.

blogtv.ca is the first social network destination developed specifically for Canadians; it is a place for people to showcase their talents, voice their opinions, discuss and debate with an online audience and interact with viewers using real-time communication tools. It enables:

* live broadcasting
* recording of your live broadcasts
* interaction with your audience, the viewers
* browsing recorded and live broadcasts

You can be a live broadcaster; broadcasting online to an audience (with no maximum number of viewers) and you have the option to record any of these live broadcasts. These recorded broadcasts can then be viewed by others. Blogtv.ca features several Open-Access channels (free for all users) and one Premium channel (currently free for registered members). blogtv.ca empowers you to become the celebrity of the future.

Celebrity of the future? Moi? Wow...

Still forming an opinion about this one. Started out seeing some ads for it on the television...checked it out...first blush - it's like YouTube without any of the cool, funny film or TV show clips. A venue for 'Vloggers' or video bloggers, apparently. Not really sure what to make of it or why I'd watch it.

So I asked the kids (in the class I'm teaching) what they thought, if they thought it was another YouTube and could it end up on or compete with network television:

On one site, someone who was at the launch said : "Actually, the "TV" part of blogtv.ca is the "channels". The idea is to develop content grouped by subject matter, so there are channels for all kinds of things - music, tech, sports, games, and yes - adult." So to me, yeah, I agree...sounds something like Youtube, but kind of divided into TV channel categories; definitely exclusive to the internet.


I think entertainment is becoming increasingly personalised. Lesser unknowns are becoming entertainers and stars in their own right. People are becoming more interested in average joes and janes...intriguing


It's an interesting idea and one that is ultimately just testing the abilities of a new* medium. You're right it seems to differ from youtube only in the sense that there are no old movie/tv clips, but that's also (obviously) one of its selling points - a more personalized way to speak your mind to the masses without having it being beaten out by this weeks newest South Park episode.
Will it succeed in the long run? only what consumers want (and time) will tell. I'm sure there's another 30 - 100 of these websites out there with less (or more) PR. It will likely maintain its thirty minutes of fame though for at least that.. it gives what all youth and those alienated by growing urban centres want: a chance to be an individual and speak their mind.
I'm curious how well it will survive without more corporate sponsorship given the amount of bandwidth such clips will use (being viewed on mass) and how few advertisements are on the site.



Thanks kids...I hope using your comments without permission is cool.

I realize it's early in the game but is there anything to all this? It's interesting to note that today Diane talks about a new Stephen Bochco web experiment called Café Confidential for Metacafe which sounds very similar.

What's the appeal? Or the turn off's? Is this the future of blogging? If McGrath or Epstein presented their posts each day like this, would more people see or watch or listen to them?



Oh, and I know some of these folks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pinching A Quiz...

Nicked from David Moses...the latest Sergio Leone movie quiz.


1) What movie did you have to see multiple times before deciding whether you liked or disliked it?

Way back when it was Stardust Memories. More recently, it was Dodgeball...

2) Inaugural entry into the Academy of the Overrated

David Fincher

3) Elizabeth Pena or Penelope Cruz?


Penelope Cruz...mmmm...

4) Favorite sly or not-so-sly reference to another film or bit of pop culture within another film.

Not so sly...Scary Movie 1, 2, 3, or 4

5) Favorite Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger movie

Peeping Tom...for that title in the 60's if anything

6) Your favorite Oscar moment

Lawrence Olivier's touching speech after receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar...and more recently, Jon Stewart's quip last year about "Oscars for Three 6 Mafia...1, Martin Scorcese...0"

7) Hugo Weaving or Guy Pearce?


Tough one. Weaving sparkled in Proof and as Agent Smith...but Pearce wowed in LA Confidential and Memento. A tie.

8) Movie that you feel gave you the greatest insight into a world/culture/person/place/event that you had no understanding of before seeing it.

Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, and David Lynches Eraserhead...for insight into the depth of darkness in a filmmakers mind.

9) Favorite Samuel Fuller movie

No idea

10) Monica Bellucci or Maria Grazia Cucinotta?


...mmm...Monica Bellucci...

...although Cucinotta is also pretty mmm...


Tale of the tape...both top out at over 5'10"...can act...sexy accents...why, they're practically twins...

Another tie.








11) What movie can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

Caddyshack

12) Conversely, what movie can destroy a day’s worth of good humor just by catching a glimpse of it while channel surfing?

Matrix Reloaded or Matrix Revolutions

13) Favorite John Boorman movie

Easy...Deliverance

14) Warren Oates or Bruce Dern?


Neither do much for me so I'll say Matthew McConaughey so I can post a pic for the ladies

15) Your favorite aspect ratio?

4:3

16) Before he died in 1984, Francois Truffaut once said: “The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it.” Is there any evidence that Truffaut was right? Is it Truffaut’s tomorrow yet?

That question is so yesterday.

17) Favorite Werner Herzog movie

A toss up between Aguirre Wrath of God and Fitzcaraldo...Klaus Kinski is insane

18) Favorite movie featuring a rampaging, oversized or otherwise mutated beast, or beasts

Tremors

19) Sandra Bernhard or Sarah Silverman?


Silverman...sure, she seems like a handful, but I think she's all talk

20) Your favorite, or most despised, movie cliché

"I'm too old for this shit."

21) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-- yes or no?

Meh...no.

22) Favorite Nicholas Ray movie

I'll say Johnny Guitar, cuz I've never actually seen Rebel Without A Cause

23) Inaugural entry into the Academy of the Underrated

Albert Brooks

24) Your favorite movie dealing with the subject of television

Yeah...gotta love Broadcast News

25) Bruno Ganz or Patrick Bauchau?

Patrick Bauchau...for The Pretender

26) Your favorite documentary, or non-fiction, film

The contemporary rock n' roll doc...Dig!

27) According to Orson Welles, the director’s job is to “preside over accidents.” Name a favorite moment from a movie that seems like an accident, or a unintended, privileged moment. How did it enhance or distract from the total experience of the movie?

No idea. Seems like a question you need to have watched/heard a lot of DVD commentaries to know if something was a 'happy accident'.

28) Favorite Wim Wenders movie

Paris Texas...no question. This film really inspired me when I first viewed it, and Ry Cooder's soundtrack smoldered...

29) Your favorite movie tag line?

It's a little embarrassing, but mine is from Reform School Girls. It went something like: "They're bad, they're beautiful...and they take long long showers." Now I still have the poster so I know it exists, but every copy I could find online had the same image but this tagline: 'Some get tough...some go insane...some will die.'


I like mine better.

30) As a reader, filmgoer, or film critic, what do you want from a film critic, or from film criticism? And where do you see film criticism in general headed?

Like Moses, I just want my film criticism to be entertaining...and not give away the plot.


There you have it...take your potshots.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Revel In The Shredding...

...because we can.



It was said Stevie Ray performed every song as if it would be his last. Tell me about it...I got blisters on my fingers just listening to him play...


Witness someone become one with their guitar, see 06:30

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Grrrrr...Arrrgghhhh

Anyone who's a fan of good TV knows that sound accompanies the logo for Joss Whedon's company Mutant Enemy at the conclusion of the credits of every one of his programs.


Apparently, the logo was drawn and voiced by Whedon himself. And according to Wikipedia, the name "Mutant Enemy" is taken from the song "And You And I" by the band Yes, of whom Whedon is a confessed fan.

But it's the 'Grrr Argghhh..." that has always stuck in my brain...much like the innumerable 'sounds' Don Martin wrote for Mad Magazine over the years.

''GLUP! GLIK! SPLORP! SLOOPLE! CHOMPLE! GARK! SKLORSH! GLUK! KLOONG! KAPLAM! SPMAM! POONG! BOONG! KLOON! PLAM! FLADDAP! SLURK! GLUP! DRIPPLE BLIT. SHPLIPLE! DROOT! GLORT!''

When I was a boy, I loved MAD Magazine. I loved it for the parodies of movies and TV shows. I loved it for Spy vs. Spy. I loved it for the 'fold 'em's' on the inside of the back cover. And I loved it for Don Martin.


I thought Martin’s illustrations were hilarious. I loved the big funny heads, the lolling tongues, the limp wrists, and, especially, the spittle flying everywhere.

But most of all, Don Martin was the master of the written sound. There's even been a dictionary created listing all the sounds he concocted...

When we write, we have to try to convey what we mean with words. This can be difficult, especially when we need to be effective yet efficient. But why use five words to evoke images, meaning, feelings, and emotions, when one word might do. And sounds and sound effects can sometimes do that better than any description. Even when we blog, there is some kind of hybrid between prose and conversation that can elicit a more effective response....SPLAAAT can pack a far greater punch than 'he falls down'.

I used to buy back issues of MAD at the local used book store. And before long I was seeking out the Martin-only books. Now comes word that The Completely MAD Don Martin will be published this October.

Running Press Book Publishers, an imprint of the Perseus Books Group, has joined MAD Magazine in announcing the October 2007 publication of The Completely MAD Don Martin, the first title in Running Press’s MAD’s Greatest Artists series.

Weighing in at seventeen pounds with more than 1,000 pages and a foreword by Gary Larson, this tribute to one of MAD Magazine’s most recognized and best-loved artists will be beautifully formatted as a deluxe two-volume slip-cased special edition and will include every single work Martin created for the magazine over the course of his 30-year affiliation.

John Ficarra, Editor of MAD Magazine, states “This is a wonderful book celebrating the art of one of the greatest cartoonists of the twentieth century. Don Martin’s work is a cultural touchstone for generations of MAD Magazine readers. Old-time fans will rediscover his genius; new readers will pick up this hefty tome and be instantly hooked.”


Thanks to Martin, we now know what things might sound like that could/should never enter into our life experience (I hope). For instance, when a sword is pulled out of someone's arm (BLIOMP), or a man's head being crushed by a woman with a large bottom (BPLFLT!), and a cannibal shuffling shrunken heads (SHWIK SHWIKA SHK SHHHSK SHASHWIK SHWIKA SHWIK SHASH SHAK).

Don Martin died in 2000 of cancer at the age of 68. The world misses him and his wackiness. Check out this online gallery for many examples of his genius. And call me MAD, but I wouldn't be surprised if Whedon hasn't visited there a few times himself for inspiration.

And I'm wrong and he hasn't...DOH!


SONG&ARTIST? - "I’ll be the round about
The words will make you out ’n’ out
You change the day your way
Call it morning driving thru the sound and in and out the valley..."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What You Really Should Do Is Direct...

Just some weekend reading tidbits...first a couple good quotes from Creative Screenwriting:
"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats. " – Howard Aiken

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success -- but only if you persist." – Isaac Asimov

Also from CS, some nice blurbs from writers turned directors...

The good news, according to writer-director David Koepp, is that "directing is easier than writing." As he explains, the director's day during pre-production is a series of rigorously scheduled meetings, each with a specific goal and a finite number of decisions to be made. Principal photography follows much the same pattern, with scrupulously scheduled plans coordinated by an army of film professionals. "You have three-and-a-half pages you gotta get and everything is finite and actually shown to you on a piece of paper," Koepp explains. "Writing is just the tyrannical blank screen with this very accusatory cursor blinking at you. That's hard."

For a writer directing his or her first film, the set quickly becomes a completely different world. "When you're a director standing on a set and you mention to someone that you like apple juice, you hear walkie-talkies clicking all around you as people are scrambling to get you apple juice," explains Breach's Billy Ray. "If you mention, as a writer, that you like apple juice, someone points you to the nearest 7-11."

Indeed, the respect for the director even follows hyphenates back to their writing-only gigs. "Once you've directed," says Ray, "you're even treated differently on movies where you're only the writer. All you have to do is be a director, even if you're not the director on that movie - they still treat you better."

Sad, but true. Sad but true.


Next, courtesy MediaPost, a good article on networks trying to find a way to work with YouTube, and why they really want to stay friends.

And two more good pieces from MediaPost - one details Nielsen ratings first real snapshot of the amount of time people are playing video games, time that they used to be watching conventional television. And then another story with this quote...

"'Live only' and 'live plus same day' data streams are critically important to advertisers, due to the short-term business requirements of most marketers."

...is from an interesting article about advertisers wanting live, same day ratings from Nielsen, and that's all they want...or is it - all they need.

And the Apple TV ships this week, which this CNN Money article thinks might spell the end of the 'thirty second tv spot'...

Oh, it all makes the head swim...who wouldn't really just want to direct?

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Papa...Nooo!"

Do we ever really pay our dues? That's the question asked in this Friday Fun clip with Stephen Colbert guest-voicing on 'American Dad'...



Because it makes me smile...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Early Friday Fun...For Ross

...you know, Ross...wait a sec, maybe it is Ross.




Because I made myself smile...

The Avenger(s)...




Remember when this film was going to be released....














And you got all excited because you remembered this...






















...and this...









And this!















And then the film came out, and while there may have been this...


...it still sucked ass sooooo bad.

Do over?


What if they'd paired...



...with...









(Um...that's Clive Owen, if you weren't sure. And Liz Hurley)










Or even paired...






...with...

















Couldn't it have been soooo much better?




Oh, for the chance at a do over...to avenge 'The Avengers'!

.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't Speak...Just Write

"Does a man possessed of true artistic genius create his own moral universe?"

In keeping with Comedy Week, and inspired partly by some comments scattered around the net, let's look back at Woody Allen's movies.

Several of the titles that popped up as people's favs prompted surprise..."Stardust Memories", "Crimes And Misdemeanors", "The Front" (a film Allen only performed in)...when we're all used to hearing the usual suspects: 'Annie Hall', 'Manhattan', and 'Hannah And Her Sisters'.

So I'll keep the ball rolling with my surprise pick...'Bullets Over Broadway.'


Now keep in mind I've been a big fan of the Woodman since I caught his comedy/mockumentary about a career loser criminal, Take The Money And Run, on late night television sometime in the 70's. And then read all his books. And then watched Sleeper and Bananas and Love And Death and Play It Again Sam and became a big fan of his 'early funny films'. The first first run movie of his I saw was Stardust Memories in 1980 (where he pokes fun at the fans of his early funny films) and for some reason, I was a little turned off (perhaps being a partying university student just looking for yucks and..yes, being a fan of his early funny films).


A few years later I went to a rep theatre double bill screening of Annie Hall and Manhattan...and was unabashedly back on board the Woody bandwagon again. 'Annie Hall' to this day remains one of my all-time favourite movies. And not just because it was slick and sincere and romantically sweet yet damn funny...but because it utilized an enormous amount of creative film making techniques to give meaning and coherence to a disjointed narrative. Flashbacks, subtitles, split screens, breaking the 4th wall, animation, linear yet non-linear - just like life and love (...because we need the eggs).

I went to and enjoyed every Allen film after that up until the late 90's. Some stand out... 'Purple Rose of Cairo', 'Zelig', 'Hannah', 'Oedipus Wrecks', 'Mighty Aphrodite', 'Crimes And Misdemeanors'... I even liked 'Deconstructing Harry' quite a bit. Eventually though, I grew rather tired of Allen's 'character'. He's never been a slouch as a director however, and while he evolved into the more dramatic long takes, he did always play outside the box. Even when he faltered, you had to love him for trying. But the writing always sang!


Which brings me back to 'Bullets Over Broadway'. The film was his first where he essentially wrote the lead role of David Shayne for himself (or a younger version of himself) and then cast someone else in the part (John Cusack). It took some getting used to, and was hard at first not to see Cusacks performance as an imitation, but the film was ultimately better for it.

"I don't write hits, I write art. My plays are written specifically to be unproduced."


It took a common theme in Allen's work, the artist's struggle between art and commerce, and explored the morality of artist whose will to create accepts no compromise. It opens with this "mock-moral" question: "Which would you save if you rushed into a burning building and could only save one: an anonymous human being or the only remaining copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare?" The result is a hilarious comedy and a witty portrayal of some of the dangerous temptations waiting for artists when they have opportunity for fame and fortune.

Sheldon Flender: [bragging] I have never had a play produced. That's right. And I've written one play a year for the past twenty years.
David Shayne: Yes, but that's because you're a genius. And the proof is that both common people and intellectuals find your work completely incoherent. Means you're a genius.


Allen transposed it to the roaring 20's where Shayne, a young playwright, gets his big break. He can produce his play, but only because the tab is being paid by a mobster...the catch being his girlfriend has to co-star in the production. Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly) is wonderful as the mobster's tart who can't act. And she's always accompanied by her bodyguard, Cheech (Chazz Palminteri), a working class gangster, who begins to make comments about how he'd rewrite the play to jazz it up. Cusack begrudgingly listens, applies the notes, the play is better for it (or at least more entertaining), and yet his morals and belief in the material and ultimately himself are severely challenged. Who is the 'true artist'?

David Shayne: "Oh my God, I sold myself out! I'm a WHORE! I'm a PROSTITUTE!"


Let it be said that the supporting cast are all stellar. Dianne Wiest plays the aging starlet, Helen Sinclair.


She slays every moment she's on screen, like when she and Cusack enter a speakeasy to discuss the role:

Helen Sinclair: Two martinis, very dry.
David Shayne: How'd you know what I drank?
Helen Sinclair: Oh, you want one too? Three martini's please.


Wiest won a Supporting Oscar for her performance, one that was richly deserved. She tells it like it is when Shayne shows her his rewrite.

David Shayne: You thought my first draft was c-cerebral and tepid?
Helen Sinclair: Only the plot and the dialogue. But this...
David Shayne: Was-was-was there nothing in the original draft that you feel was worth saving?
Helen Sinclair: The stage directions were lucid. Best I've ever seen... and the color of the binder. Good choice.
David Shayne: Thank you. I've always had a flair for stage directions.


And of course there's her mantra..."Don't speak."

Anyway, 'Bullets' is memorable to me for two reasons. One is the movie. The other is the night I saw it. It was late '94 or early 1995. I'd recently picked up and moved to Toronto, but was starting to question my decision. Art. Commerce. Life. Living (as in not making one). What am I doing? Why am I here?

The movie opened. I'd read some decent reviews, and so in a spur of the moment decision, struck out on foot for the theatre. It was playing in the Canada Square Cinema (which is sadly no more, isn't it?) at Yonge and Eglinton. It was a beautiful winter night. Crisp. Cool. A light fog was just rolling in. I hustled down Roselawn Ave. and made it there just in time. Slumped down into a seat and watched the movie. Loved it (it helped there was a full house and lots of laughers). But was also moved and affected by it.



And as I walked slowly home, now engulfed by the thick white fog (just fog, not Shadows And Fog), I was filled with some kind of surreal inner peace. I realized all 'artists' have this debate and struggle and inner turmoil. But it was going to be okay. Because I'd seen it was possible to remain somewhat true to one's calling creating art while also being entertaining.

That wasn't the moral of Allen's story, but it was the message of the movie. I was going to be okay.

Thanks for that Woody. Don't speak...but keep on writing.

SONG&ARTIST? "They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there's always magic in the air
But when you're walkin' down that street
And you ain't had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere..."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Corner....GASP!



Big series...er, season finale this evening. Lot's of Drama. Excitement. Surprise guests. Cliffhangers. Plenty o' balls tossed up in the air --- and then it was all a daydream...or was it? Nevertheless, t'was some good clean fun. And some good funny, too (props to writer Mark Farrell (aka mef) - very tight script...was the ep called 'Pump N'Gophers'?). And how was it spelled in the script..."a 'Farrell' beast" perhaps?

Yeah yeah I know...my comedy writing doesn't 'pop' or 'sizzle', more like 'drizzles'.

Watching 'Corner Gas' for me has been a little like watching home movies. The show shoots its exteriors down in Rouleau, Saskatchewan (where I once shot a TV movie years ago), and their interiors in a studio here in Regina about three blocks from where I live. I probably know 80% of the crew...in fact, most of them got their start working on shows I did over fifteen years ago. I also know two of the producers quite well (the ones from Verite Films). And I recognize most of the background performers, and met a lot of the main cast, albeit briefly, when I worked on another show produced by Verite last fall. But I've never met Mr. Butt. I've noticed him at the local video store (I think he was renting 'Richelle Richelle'), but never met him.

Anyway, I've casually eye-balled the show for the past three years or so...enjoying it but suffering from some 'hey I had that idea' envy that inevitably comes with this industry. As in, around 15 years ago I co-developed a series for the CBC entitled Sweetgrass about an East Indian Toronto lawyer who returns to his roots and moves back to small town Saskatchewan to open a law practice and ends up helping run the town...gas station. Yep. We did a bible and three scripts and then watched it get killed during a regime change at the Corp. Not that that has anything to do with anything that is 'Corner Gas'...it was a long time ago and Ranjit Chowdhry is no Brent Butt. Still, you always wonder 'what if'...

But this wasn't supposed to be about me...congrats to CG cast and crew for another successful season - here's to many more.

"That network will put anything on the air."


Also, 'Robson Arms' sailed smoothly in the slot after CG - the two shows seemed almost like a perfect match (though the water pipe bong smoking scene on at 7:30 pm had my youngest daughter asking too many questions...and saying things like they 'wouldn't smoke' on CG). But way to go, David Moses, writer of the ep. It was very cool to have two blogger/reader/writer's shows air one after another. Made me proud...proud of our little, dare I utter it, family.

Yikes. Did I say that out loud? I meant to say "pass the salt." (or the banana bread)


SONG&ARTIST? "They shot a movie once in my home town
Every body was in it from miles around
Out at the speedway some kinda Elvis thing
I ain't no movie star, but I can get behind anything.
Well I can get behind anything..."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stand Up And Laugh...With Woody

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

I'm mending. Slowly. Norah Jones really does help. But other than still looking after other ailing family members, I've been taking it pretty easy. I admit the posts have been rather lackluster of late. Don't hold it against me. It's all about the ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.

But one of the things I did while taking it easy was rummage through the boxes of cd's in the basement again. And while looking for some of Wilco's earlier releases I came across one of my comedy classics: Woody Allen: The Nightclub Years 1964-68.


"My wife and I pondered for a while whether to take a vacation or get a divorce. We decided that a trip to Bermuda is over in two weeks, but a divorce is something you always have."


That's a Woody Allen joke. Today, Woody Allen himself is often thought of as a joke, what with his recent string of mediocre movies and embarrassing personal scandals. But there was a time when Allen was synonymous with brilliantly funny comedy during the second phase of his career when he was a standup comic. The first had seen him as a behind-the-scenes writer of jokes for Sid Caesar and Pat Boone's American TV shows. The third, of course - his writing of, direction of and starring roles in a string of wonderful movies.

"I have a gub. What's a gub?"


But in the sixties, against all odds, Woody Allen hit the clubs and made himself into a successful standup. Allen's performances on this album alone (film and literary career notwithstanding) secure his place in the pantheon of American comedy.

"I'm very proud of my gold pocket watch. My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch."
The Nightclub Years is a compilation of three albums: Woody Allen, recorded at Mr. Kelley's in Chicago 1964; Woody Allen Vol. 2, at the Shadows in Washington D.C. in 1964; and The Third Woody Allen Album, recorded at Eugene's in San Francisco 1968. In his trademark style, both bizarre and surreal, Allen takes you on a comedic roller coaster with stunning confidence. These recordings catch Allen at his wry, self-deprecating best, exploring themes of his unhappy childhood and his swingin’ ’60s bachelor lifestyle.

"Sex without love is an empty experience. But as empty experiences go, it's one of the best."
For standup comedy, his routines have dated incredibly well, because Allen's comedy is anything but routine. It is written and performed in the first person, in a self-deprecatory, highly surreal style, dealing with everything from the politics of the period to disastrous marriages/failed relationships to all-out insane stories. Any prospective standup comedian should study this material, get to know why it works, and what helps it stand up some forty years later.

“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”
Listeners familiar with Allen's work will recognize a good deal of the live material found its way into films like "Bananas," "Sleeper," "Love and Death," the Oscar-winning "Annie Hall," and others. Some is also partly reworked throughout the published comic essays that comprise his brilliantly hilarious books like Without Feathers.

Several of the bits have been animated in interesting and unusual ways...here we hear Allen performing the 'story joke', executed to perfection in 'Eggs Benedict':



"The car hit him and that was it."

Other animations of some of the bits from these albums are here and here, as well as Neanderthal Man:




"They're mollified by shiny objects...he ate it."

Brilliant. Simply brilliant. I first purchased this set as a double album in the late 70's. And I can't tell you how much I listened to it. Along with Stan Frieberg's 'The United States of America' and Bill Cosby's 'The Best Of' and 'To Russell, My Brother, With Whom I Slept With' - these comedy lp's shaped and influenced me. Some of my friends 'got it', but a lot didn't. To like Woody Allen wasn't very cool. But like any devoted hardcore fanatic I would push this material on anyone I could get to listen. One convert made it all worthwhile.

(It should be noted that the release most easily available these days is an edited down version entitled 'Woody Allen: Standup Comic'. Although the recording is very crisp, Allen's monologues are dramatically cut, from the 95 minutes of the 2-LP set to 76 minutes. This CD is especially frustrating because instead of simply omitting complete routines, smaller internal cuts are made--from several lines to several minutes--*within* routines, ruining the rhythm of the comedy, and often destroying jokes altogether by omitting the original punch-lines! Sacrilege! Why do they do this? Like when they butchered the original Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Looney Tune cartoons in the 1980's! Made me mental. Try to find The Nightclub Years or the original LPs if you can.)


You can find transcripts of the routines here - (or try this link instead for a partial transcript) though it doesn't do them justice only to read them (his timing and delivery is impeccable) but nevertheless provides a great sampling of his early genius. And speaking of which, we can't go any further without acknowledging his classic 'Moose Story':

I shot a moose, once. I was hunting up-state New York, and I shot a moose, and I strap him on to the fender of my car, and I'm driving home along the west side highway, but what I didn't realize was, that the bullet did not penetrate the moose. It just creased the scalp, knocking him unconscious. And I'm driving through the Holland tunnel - the moose woke up. So I'm driving with a live moose on my fender. The moose is signaling for a turn, y'know. There's a law in New York state against driving with a conscious moose on your fender, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And I'm very panicky, and then it hits me: some friends of mine is having a costume party. I'll go, I'll take the moose, I'll ditch him at the party. It wouldn't be my responsibility.

So I drive up to the party and I knock on the door. The moose is next to me. My host comes to the door. I say "Hello. You know the Solomons". We enter. The moose mingles. Did very well. Scored. Two guys were trying to sell him insurance for an hour and a half. Twelve o'clock comes - they give out prizes for the best costume of the night. First prize goes to the Berkowitz's, a married couple dressed as a moose. The moose comes in second. The moose is furious. He and the Berkowitz's lock antlers in the living room. They knock each other unconscious. Now, I figured, is my chance. I grab the moose, strap him onto my fender, and shoot back to the roads, but - I got the Berkowitz's. So I'm driving along with two Jewish people on my fender, and there's a law in New York State ... Tuesdays, Thursdays and especially Saturday.

The following morning the Berkowitz's wake up in the woods, in a moose suit. Mr. Berkowitz is shot, stuffed and mounted - at the New York Athletic Club, and the joke is on them, because it's restricted.


Killer. I didn't get half the references when I was young (especially the Jewish references), but there was an absurdest quality to it all that both tickled and inspired.

Allen's life as a standup seemed to culminate with 'Annie Hall', a film that was in many ways a happy accident in that Allen and his editor managed create a funny moving romantic comedy from essentially a sequence of filmed 'bits' (and after excising an entire murder mystery subplot). Allen begins the film speaking into camera, almost as if on stage...



...and closes the film with an amusing yet touching voice over. And then he moved onto his phase of still comedic yet more thoughtful/dramatic film making.

"My one regret in life is that I am not someone else."


I'm not really sure what the point of this post is other than to smile and reminisce a little...and hopefully inform the kids. I guess when I see Dane Cook perform and can't find anything remotely intelligent or funny in what he's saying...and yet hear how the kids these days love him --- I fear for our children and shed a little tear.


The Nightclub Years cd concludes with this fitting finish...

"In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with.
I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
My mother used to say to me when I was younger, 'If a strange man comes up to you, and offers you candy, and wants you to get into the back of his car with him...GO!'

Good night."

-


p.s. It also should be mentioned that Allen has written three terrific and very funny books (one during this early period), all of which are compiled in 'The Complete Prose of Woody Allen'. At a time when so much of what passes for literary humor is nothing more than fart jokes or transcribed standup routines, this collection of Woody Allen essays and stories is a reminder of just how much fun the written word can be, and how much skill it takes to transfer laughter from pen to page to reader.

p.p.s.. I didn't know until now DMc was designating this week 'Comedy Week' in the Canuck blogosphere, so perhaps that's the reason for this post...to play with Denis' roll.

p.p.p.s. The link to the transcripts of Allen's stand up routines worked last night, but now appears to be down. Hmmmm....now up again - yay!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

F*** The Departed

Though not near as clever as this reedit of Glengarry Glen Ross, nor as effective as this f'in short version of Pulp Fiction...this foul-mouthed highlight reel of 'The Departed' still manages to entertain...



Sort of the anti-A&E version...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Well, Isn't That "Convenient" For You...And The Clock.

Friday Fun in the form of Ben Stiller laying down the ground rules to Vince Vaughn's team in a scene from 'Dodgeball'...



"Ball me, Blazer."

Because it makes me smile...


In other news, Hollywood Reporter reports a slew of stars have signed on to be in new tv pilots, including Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (Oscar winner...remember that?)


She's been tapped for the title role of CBS' comedy pilot "The Rich Inner Life of Penelope Cloud," about a successful writer struggling to come up with the follow-up to her acclaimed first novel. Sounds like must-see TV for every scribe out there.




And Moon Bloodgood is not only presently shooting a new pilot for NBC entitled 'Journeyman' (though it's a drama about a man who travels back in time to alter and fix the lives of people in trouble, but by recalibrating the past, he sometimes affects the future - sounds a lot like Daybreak), but is also a co-star in an upcoming theatrical release called 'Pathfinder' (kind of a Conan the Barbarian/Beastmaster sort of thing).

Just for those keeping score...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Holding Steady...But Still Punting

Yes, I realize I've been booting the ball elsewhere of late, linking and lifting quotes, but you see...I have a fractured rib!

Geez, it hurts. To breathe, to turn, to lift, to cough, to laugh...oh man, don't make me laugh.

Two to three weeks minimum before the pain starts to abate says the doc...and there's nothing you can do except take things slow and eat lots of Advil.

But having a good time catching up with NY Bro. He's in town from Brooklyn, and apparently there's quite the little indie music scene going on there. It's turned out some cool groups like The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, TV On The Radio, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. He pointed me in the direction of this local band starting to break out...a little bit Counting Crows meets early Springsteen meets Bob Mould. The band is The Hold Steady, the song is 'Stuck Between Stations', performed recently on the Letterman Show.




"She was a damn good dancer, not all that great of a girlfriend.
He liked the warm feeling but was tired of all that dehydration."

Pretty rock steady cool.

Makes me feel like I'm young again, in college again, pain-free again. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Three's...

First the parental unit (still hospitalized and tests still ongoing but definitely improving), then the youngest daughter (home from hospital on Friday and on meds but kids bounce back fast), then this weekend, me tripping and falling while carrying bags of groceries and cracking a rib. Ouch. Still ouch actually. Three ouches actually. Here's hoping that streak of bad luck is over.

On the Canadian TV front, DMc's weekend post. Great stuff. Then tonight, Henshaw weighs in with a sobering overview of the industry and how it got to where it is today. Some highlights:


In the 1970's, I was part of a revolution that took place in Canadian theatre. The critical mass born of the elite's founding of Stratford and a handful of regional copycats to serve up classical European and popular American culture, suddenly sparked in an unexpected way in Toronto. Theatres began producing a virtually unheard of product called "the Canadian play" these being plays written by actual living Canadian authors, usually embodying stories and characters that if not uniquely Canadian, espoused decidedly Canadian points of view. We had begun telling our own dramatic stories to ourselves. Newspapers didn't pay much attention. Neither did radio or television. Yet, within a couple of years, Canadian plays, although produced in the city's smallest theatres were not only outdrawing the competition but gaining an international reputation and creating interest and excitement in the general population.

So, the government stepped in to "help".

In the guise of fostering the arts, government subsidies and their new rules for private support gradually nipped any possible theatrical blossoming in the bud. Money for production was soon earmarked instead for "infrastructure" and suddenly a season arrived where virtually all the theatres were closed, federally funded to renovate or upgrade. Then came such concepts as matching subsidies to privately raised capital, funding based on marketing initiatives or diversity, funding workshops rather than actual productions, seasons which funded only new playwrights, only emerging playwrights, or only playwrights who wrote musicals for puppets with dyslexia. You get the picture. Instead of supporting the work just because it was creating work or attracting an audience, the emphasis was turned toward fulfilling social and regional agendas, in the process establishing a bureaucracy that did little but stymie further growth.

The nuttiness got so out of control that there was actually a dance company in Quebec that had not employed dancers or mounted a production for years but still remained heavily subsidized for fulfilling its mandate of bringing "an awareness of dance" to its local community. Meanwhile, a new "management class" moved in. Most of them didn't know the first thing about theatre but they could write (or assess) grant applications and knew the right people in Ottawa, at Foundations or among corporations deemed "arts friendly". I once dubbed them the "unemployable inbred children of the wealthy", but now the theatres couldn't survive without their connections or approvals and they soon took charge.

Anybody noticing any parallels to the current film business or the rules governing the CTF?


Um...yep. Jim then goes on to look at our TV/Film situation:


We all know where the ensuing years have gotten us. Financial systems based on pre-determined envelopes and mad scrambles to meet deadlines that fit the fiscal schedules of bureaucracies and not production realities. Corporate entities that don't live up to their contractual obligations or have openly broken the law have been protected from examination by the internal rules of the very government agencies that fund and are supposed to scrutinize them.

There have been moves to "industrialize" the industry, creating crews (the current "hewers of wood and carriers of water") who work for primarily offshore entities that mostly import their creatives. And, in the way the elites have always treated their hewers and carriers, those crews now have to travel longer distances and work under poorer conditions in order to practice their professions.

Then there are regional incentives. I wouldn't deny anyone the opportunity of working in their home town, or suggest that local governments shouldn't attract film dollars to their community, but if you lived in country say 10 times larger and to the South of us, there would really be only 2 or 3 locations where the industry is real, understood and has solid support systems that keep it vibrant and viable.

How do we fight this? How do we create (or maybe just bring back) an industry that earns profits, makes business sense and produces material that audiences embrace?



How indeed...but let's not call it 'fighting', let's call it working toward creating or recreating or bringing back something that makes sense.

Good things can come in three's also...

DMc's trying...Jim's trying... who's number 3?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Collaboration...

TV/film is a collaborative medium. If you don't know or accept that by now you either haven't produced anything, or you're Michael Bay.

But it's not just one big collaboration getting things made, but should be one while trying to get things fixed, or at least working better than they are now.

Denis McGrath has big balls. There I said it. He clearly loves TV and knows some shit about making TV and he's not afraid to express himself. Maybe he's a little too confident and cocky sometimes, but confident and cocky are assets in this business if 1) you know what you're doing and what you're talking about, and 2) you're still willing and able to take notes or suggestions and recognize good ideas and subsequently implement them because...ultimately it's all a collaboration.

This weekend, DMc wrote up another great post about ways to try to right the listing ship that is Canadian Television. Some highlights:

Here is my simplified plan for fixing Canadian TV (revised):

1) Simultaneous Cable Substitution is no longer automatic. Cannets get a set number of hours per week they can substitute. It's low. The rest of the schedule, they either have to go head to head with the U.S. signal (even if they are showing the same program) or they counterprogram. Stick.

2) Tie spending on homegrown production to a formula of spending on U.S. programming and Revenues. If a network is doing well by showing U.S. shows they picked up cheap, they have to spend more on Canadian shows. If they're doing poorly, they can spend less on Can shows, but they also get to do less substitutions. Cap it at 7% or whatever. Stick and Carrot.

3) Let them earn more substitution windows. The better your indigenous stuff does, and the more you spend on it, you get bonus windows where you can put your signal over that U.S. signal every week. Carrot.

So... what happens now?

Canadian Network people need to find hits. Stick.
Canadian Networks need to care about their Canadian shows. Stick.
Everyone takes a risk....networks and creatives. Stick and Carrot.
Schedulers won't be able to act like rockstars anymore. The D-people will be just as important as people who get to go to the L.A. screenings. Stick and Carrot.
Canadian creatives have to be audience focused, or they don't get renewed. Stick.
The ones who do well will be in demand. Carrot.

The one thing that will not work: continued protectionism for the corporate side of the industry, while the creative side gets none. Why?

Because under that scenario (the current scenario) one side is getting all the sticks, while the other side gets all the carrots. And the side getting all the carrots points to the guys getting the crumbs and has the audacity to say, "why am I paying for that?"


I'm sure most of you have read this, but go back and read it again. And then join in. Because what's missing from a lot of this blogging chit chat is the other side. The point-counterpoint.

Or, in the spirit of collaboration, the point-compliment point.

Like what Caroline (who now has her own blog) offered up as a comment to DMc's post:

Nice work. Probably a couple of things I would add to your thoughts, though.

You leave cable nets out of the equation, and they've done more volume on Canadian shows than the terrestrials have. Lower budgets, sure, but more overall jobs across the board. Yet they get no simultaneous substitution carrot, which was put into place before we had cable nets. So, probably time to afford them some of the same perks as the terrestrials are getting.

The other issue is budget, or specifically, what some of the networks are paying for Canadian shows. If a producer is wily enough to actually make foreign pre-sales and take themselves out of the CTF hamster wheel, Canadian broadcasters are taking advantage and paying ridiculously low license fees knowing that the producer is getting tax credits. I know of at least a couple of dozen examples of established networks paying $5,000 CDN for a one-hour budgeted at $300,000 CDN and playing hardball with the producer because the networks knows the producer needs the tax credits.

Solution? Make the network's ability to count the show as CanCon contingent to them paying a minimum percentage of budget (10 to 20% seems reasonable as minimum given that the average is somewhere between 30 and 40% according to the CFTPA).

The other problem we have is networks buying 2nd, 3rd or 10th windows on old CanCon and having these count at 100% in the logs. So series they can buy for $1,000 an episode have the same weight as new productions that cost 200 times that. Doesn't seem right. In order to ensure decent episode orders on series every year, I think there should also be a sliding scale of what percentage a network can count as CanCon. For example, the first year they run it, it counts 100%, then starts dropping by 10% a year.

The other practice that has to stop (and which the UK equivalent of the CRTC, OFCOM, had the sense to stop in the UK a couple of years ago) is networks recouping all their license fees on producers sales. If a Canadian network gets all its money back, why should it be allowed to count the show as CanCon? They essentially got it for free or made money. The related seedy practice is demanding all distribution rights in exchange for the greenlight ... no rights, no greenlight.

You may have noticed that the off-peak airwaves are overpopulated with sponsored CanCon shows about fishing, religion, food, leisure, recreation, etc. A little known fact is that these shows are produced and certified as CanCon (and usually paid for by the sponsors and advertisers) but the Canadian networks who air them are charging the producers for the airtime.

So again, they get Canadian shows not just for free, but with airtime sales to boot. Way unfair. Pretty much every network group but the kids net has at least one of these and sometimes many in the schedule. Solution? If the network is getting paid to air the show, they can't count it as CanCon. And if they do air it, they need to put up that minimum percentage of budget to count it as 100%.

I think there are also concessions to be made with US nets that come in directly on cable (TBS, A & E, Spike and TLC are the biggest ones). There's gotta be some way to loosen the purse strings to derive more benefit for the industry here. Not saying take them off the air, though it seems unfair that other networks have partnered to create Canadian versions and these guys are exempt.

It is also frustrating that they are all now patently in competition with existing Canadian program services and ergo not really entitled to come in over the air from the US, but I'm sure taking them down would create a free trade holy war with the US so I'll leave that aside for now. I don't know what the answer is to this particular problem, I just know it isn't right or fair anymore.

Lastly, I am not a fan of the CTF's envelope system. The sniff test on CanCon is too tough (the classic story is of a wildlife series that submitted two episodes for review about the moose and the beaver and got notes back that they weren't identifiably Canadian enough ... wtf?). It has also allowed networks to play favourites and disproportionately give funds to certain producers and not others. I am a huge advocate of making the tax credits bigger and eliminating the CTF altogether.


Very nice.

And whether everything Denis or Caroline are saying is exactly right or entirely doable isn't really the point - there are no easy simple solutions. The fact is they are trying to talk it through and make helpful suggestions, but coming at it from different perspectives.

Because a lot of different people and entities and organizations have to work together well to make a TV show, much less a good successful popular TV show - especially in this country. So please...creatives, producers, distributors, network execs, media types - get in there and comment...make your case...defend your position or your decisions...rebut even...but not to just argue or bitch or complain, but try to state your side of things with an eye to making it all better.

In the spirit of collaboration...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

TVQ, The Year Long Season..(And What's The Deal With Those Hewitts?)

The U.S. TV 'season' needs to be redefined. It used to be a whack of new shows would premiere in the fall, usually September...and then depending how they fared, some would survive and some would be cancelled...and a slew of mid-season replacement series would hit the air, usually in January.

Not anymore.

In the past decade, we've watched as several of the U.S. cable nets began to premiere new series in the summertime, some to moderate success. HBO and Showtime began specifically premiering series 'off prime', as in during the so-called 'down times' like March and June.

And over the next several weeks, there will be no less than 11 series premiering, and at least 5 favourites returning to the airwaves. That's a lot of new TV to have to keep track of again.

This USA Today article examines how the networks have fared thus far with their 2006/07 slate and profiles some of these new series. And this complimentary USA Today article attempts to explain this emerging trend in programming and scheduling. Most of it seems to relate to either trying to avoid 'The Idol', or trying to let existing series eventually find an audience.

At any rate, it seems we're almost at the point of expanding 'pilot season' to being all year round; and should start to question the value of 'sweeps months' and how relevant they really are anymore.

Nevertheless, these new shows TVQ better be spectacular.


TVQ measures the familiarity and appeal of all regularly scheduled broadcast programs, in all scheduled dayparts, to determine targeted audience attraction.

The strength of a program is not always apparent in Nielsen ratings. Programs often succeed when their early TVQ Scores predict on-air success, before the Nielsen ratings can catch up. Programs can achieve strong Nielsen ratings and not have strong appeal. The weak appeal is camouflaged by the "lead-in" and "lead-out" programs.

TVQ measures how much an audience likes the programs.

When I was on U.S. shows and we were looking for a 'star', network and company execs would always be asking if the person we might suggest had 'good TVQ'. I always wondered what that meant exactly. Good 'television' quotient? Bottom line was whether the performer was recognizable to audiences and were they generally liked by viewers.

But looking into it today, stars seem to get categorized as to whether or not they have good Performer Q.


Performer Q measures the familiarity and appeal of personalities in a variety of categories to determine targeted audience attraction. Performer Q data enables clients to make informed decisions about a specific personality's demographic appeal and/or examine the field of possible alternatives.

So in a (somewhat) related topic (and speaking of returning supposed favs), will someone explain to me the Jennifer Love Hewitt attraction?



No offense, but 'Ghost Whisperer' is like watching paint dry while having a tooth extracted... yet it continues to perform well. And a quick review of J LoH's other recent movies and/or television shows reveals nothing to get excited about...at least not in the acting department. Then why the love? And the answer can't just be her boobs. There are many actresses with nice boobs. In fact, most if not all of them have nice boobs. Besides, a good portion of her fans appear to be female. So how come her TVQ/Performer Q is so darn high?


It can't all be attributed to 'Party Of Five', can it?


SONG&ARTIST? - "Say that you'll be true
Say that you'll be true
Say that you'll be true
And never leave me blue..."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hospital Blues...

Wasn't that an early Neil Young tune?

Feel like I'm just sucking up for the sympathy comments here, but spent much of the past 24 hours in the hospital ER again and then the children's ward after my youngest daughter began vomiting and coughing up blood after not sleeping or eating for a day. She's had a cold/flu off and on for that past couple weeks. Monday she seemed fine. Tuesday afternoon she started fading again and came home from school. Wednesday afternoon? Hospital bound...and ironically, she was examined in an ER room two doors down from where the parental unit was back on the weekend. Interns and nurses were saying hello and welcoming me back.

Speaking of the parental unit, physical recovery is on track...but several disconcerting side effects have emerged that have everyone at the hospital baffled. Not good. House? Where are you?!

NY Bro dropped everything to come back home and help out, but is presently stranded in Toronto in the blizzard that enveloped the prairies most of Wednesday (right, forgot about that....getting stuck twice trying to get to University to cancel class I teach and then again trying to get back to the hospital).

But no need to comment...I'm sure far more people out there had tougher days (a quick stroll around the pediatric ward in any hospital will show you that...heartbreaking). It's just a quick update and back to the hospital. Young one (who doesn't have mono as first thought) and old one should be released tomorrow if no complications ensue. Thanks to friends and family for stepping up and helping out.

Friday Fun are some spoof PSA's from the gang at 'The Office'.



Oh, and as far as the previous post...let's just say I've never hitchhiked in my life, nor ever been manhandled by security...but as for nailing Susanna Hoffs, I prefer to remember it as 'making love'.

Be well.