Thursday, May 29, 2008

If I Knew Now What I Didn't Know Then

No that headline's not a typo...stick with me.

Just finished teaching another University TV producing class...and it actually looks like a couple projects developed over the course of the semester will get bought by local producers. Very cool. And kudo's to the students for coming to the plate and bringing some game. And I see it in their eyes that the projects might actually happen.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the mindset one has when starting out in this film/TV biz. You are usually naive and blind to the harsh reality of it all, but are driven by one get the damn thing made.

I miss those days these's why.

I came up with a TV series idea and a feature idea over the past couple weeks. Both jazzed me a little...I 'saw' them quickly...and liked the possibilities for both. And I started to rough them out...quickly laying down what might they both might unfold. I penciled in some character sketches...and projected what those characters might go through and where they might end up.

And then...

...I read about a series project in development somewhere that sounded very similar to mine. And who knows if it actually is, but just reading about it dampened my enthusiasm. And with the other...a feature film idea, I realized how much it would actually cost to do it up right. To do it the way I was 'seeing' it. It would have to be a big US feature, parked at some studio, with one or two stars....and knowing the prospect for all this to occur was so slim, my enthusiasm for that project soon began to wane.

And before I knew it, my ideas were being slid into a desk drawer...

Now some might say I'm just old or lazy or out of touch or don't get 'today's sensibilities'...but I would argue no. In fact, if I go back and take a look at some of my original early idea pitches, I would say the current ones are far superior. Cleaner premises, better drawn characters, cleverer plots and plot twists, display longer legs. The only real difference is back then I didn't know any better...and today I almost know too much.

Sidebar: This last thought is really directed at those of us who peddle our wares in the minor leagues....not brilliant or famous enough to warrant put pilots and pitches being snapped up for millions, and not starting out with nowhere to go but up and no way to get there without just getting something made...but the middle men, as it were. Which is why when we start to realize how it all works and grasp the amount of effort (unpaid a lot of the time) actually involved, that's where working on TV series can be so appealing. All of a sudden, you get to 'make shows'...quickly...over and over...without enduring the heavy lifting of creating it and selling it and pushing it and prodding it and changing it and evolving it until it finally gets made.

Anyway, I sold or optioned the first three big ideas I had post film school graduation, and eventually each got produced. And I had no idea what I was doing or how it all really worked or how much things cost...I just had some ideas that I liked and set about trying to get them made, even if one took almost six years.

But I did it.

Cut to the present, and I find myself yearning for that naivete sometimes. And every time I shelve a new idea because of the daunting prospect of the work ahead to get it made, or talk myself out of working on it because it might be a little too similar to something else out there, a part of me wishes I was starting out again, and could just say 'damn the torpedoes' and crash ahead.

If I knew now what I didn't know then, some of these new ideas might actually get made.


Mef said...

that's a great post, Will. At least at it seems to capture my thinking nowadays.

I sometimes wonder myself where my sense of adventure went.

The 22 year old me took a lot of risks; even the 32 year old me rolled the dice once in a while.

The 42 year old me? Let's just say he seems to be the type who won't hit a draw but will start cutting it into the fairway.

Juniper said...

Struggle away prairie boy, struggle away.


CAROLINE said...

Nice one. I think all of us who have been toiling in the trenches for a long time are feeling battered and bruised. I'm trying to get my mojo back and take more risks these days. Good reminder that we should all act like we don't know any better more often.