Saturday, May 30, 2009

Get Ready To Party Down For Another Season, After You Break Bad

Entering a bit of a dead zone in TV viewing land...most series have finished their runs for the year... although AMC's Breaking Bad will air its second season finale this Sunday night.

Breaking Bad is crack. Everything about the show suggests a no win premise, especially when you consider its unsympathetic lead characters (chemistry teacher making and selling crystal meth with his young drug addict former student partner). But as the NJ Star-Ledgers Alan Sepinwall writes HERE in his wrap up of this cycle, Breaking Bad has evolved into the best drama series on TV and the worthiest heir to The Sopranos that we have on television right now.

Not to mention the show has the most wicked teasers on TV...a throwback to a not-so-long ago time when the sequence prior to the opening titles truly teased you, the viewer. Not surprisingly, creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan is an X Files alumnus.

Seriously. Crack.

And this news was announced a couple weeks ago, but since it's quickly become my fav new comedy but is a show that most people haven't seen, I thought worth mentioning Starz's Party Down got renewed for another season. A deft blend of heart and humour...well, mostly humour, following the misadventures of a group of Hollywood wannbe`s working for a catering company, it's available here in Canada on Super Channel...and definitely worth catching up on if you haven't seen it yet.

And its teasers are pretty sweet as well.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Great Acting? Or Great Ass!

I'm leaning toward great overacting actually...but still Friday Fun worthy.

Because it makes me smile.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Math To Make Your Brain Hurt

Bill Brioux covered THIS earlier today, but I'd already written mine up before I saw his post, and figured what the hell....publish!

Canadian television nets have wrapped up their U.S. TV show buys for this fall...Etan Vlessing from the Hollywood Reporter reports back to Media In Canada.

Read who got what HERE.

It seems pretty pointless to list which show got bought by which Canuck broadcaster since we'll be able to see most if not all of them on the U.S. channel where the shows originate...but it does seem worth pointing out how much money was approximately spent.

From Vlessing's article:

The broadcasters went down to Los Angeles committed to buying fewer series at lower prices in light of the hard times, and avoiding bidding wars where possible. An informal survey of the studio reps reveals that the Canadians managed to pay around 5% less for programming slates, compared to 2008 pricing.

This comes a week after the following article from the Globe & Mail's Grant Robertson, where he reports how much the Canuck broadcasters have been spending on American programming of late:

Spending reached record heights for shows such as House, Grey's Anatomy, The Office and Fringe, in order for the networks to win the ratings wars. The broadcasters have told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that these U.S. shows drive the bulk of their advertising dollars in Canada, and are needed to subsidize Canadian programming.

In response, a consortium of TV writers, producers and actors tabled a report in Ottawa recently arguing that Canadian television shows can be profitable on their own, if funded and promoted.

Amid the debate, the CRTC has been looking at ways to curtail foreign spending, which hit a record $775-million last year across several networks, including CTV, Global, CITY-TV and others. One proposal – a formula that would require networks to spend one dollar on Canadian productions for every dollar of foreign programming they buy – could be implemented next year.

Read all of Grant's article HERE.

Now, let's do the math. 5% of 770 million (yes, that's $770,000,000) is around 40 million dollars. So even though our private nets are spinning it like they saved money during these upfronts, they will still spend at least 100,000,000 and up to 300,000,000 more on foreign programs (primarily U.S.) this year than they spent last year on ALL English language homegrown and local programming combined (approx. 430 million, excluding Quebec).
EDIT: I keep receiving different numbers for broadcaster domestic vs. foreign spend in 2008...will try to nail down, but I do know it was much higher for foreign.

All this amid a recession, while the private broadcasters cry poor and pressure the CRTC for carriage fees, and CTV mounts a misleading and now seemingly contradictory 'Save Local TV' campaign....does any of it add up?

And with the recent cuts and layoffs and station closure talk, not to mention what I'm hearing from local producers about the difficulties they're having getting anything licensed or financed these days, you just know that Canadian domestic dollar figure is going to drop this year. The one-to-one spend really needs to be implemented and, now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Carolina and Chicago - Playing Them Off

Speaking of playing em off, it looks like Detroit and Pittsburgh will be playin' off Chicago and Carolina over the next couple days as they both have a virtual strangleholds on their respective series'...unless Osgood and Fleury start pulling a lot of Toskala's.

But as far as our Playoff Pool goes, we have a new leader: Moviequill!

1. Moviequill - 175
2. Will Pascoe - 174
3. Michael Foster - 170
4. Mark Wilson - 163
5. Brian Stockton - 159
6. Allan Eastman - 157
7. John Callaghan - 156
7. David Kinahan - 156
9. Peter Mitchell - 155
10. Barry Keifl - 151
11. Larry Raskin - 149
12. Scotty William - 129
13. Will Dixon - 124
14. Wil Zmak - 122
15. Jim Henshaw - 119
16. Jeff Martel - 117
17. Daryl Davis - 100
18. Denis McGrath - 71

It's gonna be a race to the finish, stay tuned. Uncle Jim will have another update end of week.

Play Em Off...

I wanted to acknowledge Denis 'Girlie Man' McGrath's and Jimmy 'The Broken Record' Henshaw's most excellent posts yesterday on the state of local TV in Canada, and felt I needed add one more thing to my post on the topic.

It seems my position pissed some commenters off...I even received some nasty emails asking what I had against CTV and local TV in general. Firstly, I have nothing against local fact, if any networks should receive more support for local programming I feel it should be the educational ones; like SCN here in Saskatchewan, or Knowledge Network in B.C., or TVO in Ontario. At least they are actually producing locally and for their communities. And I would've mentioned Access in Alberta, but since it was bought out 2006, it has a supposed educational component but is more or less an A Channel now. Check out its primetime lineup tomorrow of Law&Order: Criminal Intent, Without A Trace, Reaper, Castle, Jay Leno, and Jimmy Fallon if you don't believe me.

But speaking of CTV, I actually owe a lot to the network from when I was starting out. Two of the first three dramas I directed were licensed and financed by CTV as part of a regional drama initiative fund...not to mention a lot of crew people I know cut their teeth on a locally produced CTV half hour children's program entitled Puttnam's Prairie Emporium. And Global, called STV at the time and part of the CanWest Broadcast System, licensed a locally made documentary/educational series I produced and directed entitled Life Lessons.

So I'm a big supporter of local TV, but that's what I mean by local TV. Unfortunately, the above examples are nearly twenty years old. I don't know how long its been since there's been anything produced locally by either network station that wasn't the news or just a newsmagazine-style show. A quick survey of some colleagues this evening put it at at least fifteen years, if not longer.

So as for CTV's Save Local TV campaign and the private conventional broadcasters claim to support local programming if they collect any sort of carriage fee, I still say...

Play em off...keyboard cat.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Local TV: What Are We Saving Exactly?

On Saturday afternoon I stopped by the open house held at the CTV station in Regina...this was part of the network's recent nationwide campaign to Help Save Local Television...a campaign that has seen more advertisements air on your TV set than for the promotion of any Canadian homegrown program that I can think of.

Below are the key talking points highlighted on the front page of the pamphlet they were distributing to the (unsuspecting) public:

Local television impacts everyone

Now is the time to hold the cable and satellite companies accountable

Current regulations in Canada allow cable and satellite companies to take CTV programming without paying for it. These companies then charge you, the consumer, for the programming they take from us for free. The satellite and cable companies that deliver the TV signal to your house are reaping huge profits at the direct expense of local Canadian TV stations.

Now YOUR local television station is in financial trouble, and we need YOUR help!

Local television stations should receive compensation from cable and satellite companies that carry our local programming.

First let it be said that I don't have a lot of love for the Shaw's, Rogers, and other cable and satellite companies across Canada (you can watch Shaw Cable's Ken Stein debate the issue with CTV's Jacqueline Milczarek HERE), but so much of the information in this CTV pamphlet is just dead wrong.

1) Cable and satellite companies don't take CTV programming without paying for it. Like Global and CBC, CTV is an over the air (OTA) network, which means you can receive it in your home with an antennae. For free. Cable, however, delivers a cleaner, clearer signal, and thus CTV chooses to have its signal/programming delivered via this mechanism because it reaches more eyeballs in a better quality form = higher ad revenue. Furthermore, because their signals are available freely over the air as per a priority carriage mandate means the OTA channels must be made available to all cable/satellite subscribers.

2) Cable and satellite companies don't charge you, the consumer, for CTV's programming...they charge you for the pipe - the delivery mechanism for the TV signal. They built and implemented a television signal delivery system (cable or satellite) that they can provide you, the consumer, if you choose to subscribe, and that's what they are charging you for (thus, they are called 'cable providers').

3)Finally, your 'local' television station isn't in trouble, CTV (or all OTA broadcasters for that matter) and their business model is in trouble. Like Global, CTV doesn't really offer much in the way of programming that consumers couldn't get if we could just choose U.S. networks on their own. It seemed only fitting this 'Save Local TV' open house took place the same time as Canadian network programmers landed in L.A. to spend spend spend on American shows for the new fall season.

There are four 'local stations' in Saskatchewan, same as Alberta...whereas there is only one, CTV Winnipeg, in Manitoba and one, CTV British Columbia (essentially Vancouver) in B.C..

Regina's CTV station, CKCK, only produces local newcasts. Between the four Saskatchewan stations they produce two news magazine-style series: the Prairie Farm Report and Farmgate, and Indigenous Circle, a weekly program dealing with Aboriginal issues at home and beyond.

How do I know this? Because I asked some of the helpful and smiling CKCK employees only too eager to 'Save Local TV': what local programs are we trying to save?

A woman mentioned the three above programs, but went on to add: "We're just an affiliate - we just put on what the network says we have to put on. But there is the news!" I asked if the carriage fee requested by the campaign would ensure the production of more 'local' programming. I got a lot of blank stares.

Then I asked when the Regina station was going to go HD, because even though I can view CKCK in analog on channel 6 on my cable channel dial (or channel 2 over the air), I tend to only watch my HD channels...and in my cable package those signals come from either CTV Toronto(channel 509) or CTV British Columbia(channel 519) (...unless of course the U.S. scheduling of said program has messed with CTV's schedule and I receive the Lost or Law And Order simsub transmission from one of CTV's other 'A' Channel eastern affiliates like Barrie or Windsor or London or from Victoria in the west, complete with local commercials!).

So I asked: is my 50 cent per month carriage fee that the network is requesting of the CRTC going to support/save Regina's local station? Or Vancouver or Toronto or Windsor's local station? I again received blank stares, and some humming and hawing that they weren't sure about the HD going local but were sure that at least some of the money would come back to the Regina station.

Then I mentioned that most of the information in the pamphlets they were handing out was flat out wrong: that cable providers provide a delivery mechanism to consumers willing to pay for it...that's why they are called cable providers. And that's what we are paying for, the cable pipe, not the programming that CTV either produces or buys from the U.S. to simultaneously substitute their ads into.

Anyway, I got some rather surprised looks and a lot of looking around. Then someone then asked if I was going to sign the petition (I said no). Then a hand was gently placed on my elbow and I swear someone whispered: "Look, we don't want any trouble here."

Trouble? For just asking a few questions? Anyway, I was getting some pretty cold looks so I edged my way out the door and beat a hasty retreat.

That's when I noticed another chartered bus arriving with another load of what appeared to be mostly senior citizens. Starstruck, they disembarked and tottered into the station gushing about how much they loved their local station. Not surprisingly, they didn't bat an eye when pressed to sign the petition. Sigh.

And I missed the balloon in the sky, Uncle Jim...but I did see them putting it back in the truck.

It was all smiles and hugs but smelled a little...funky, best exemplified IN THIS CLIP of CTV's Vice President, Corporate Affairs Paul Sparkes at the open house in Toronto answering questions from a CP24 reporter...lots of: "Oh let's not get bogged down by the details and clog our heads up with facts and truisms and regulatory lingo...isn't local TV great!"

Look, we know Toronto and Vancouver and Montreal will probably always have their own local news and some locally produced programs, but for the rest of us spread across the great land of ours, 'local TV' doesn't really exist anymore.

I get my U.S. signals from Detroit and/or Seattle. I get my Global signal primarily from Toronto and Vancouver, same for my CTV signal. CBC's feed also originates primarily from Toronto, but at least they adjust the times to fit the time zones so every show on the network comes on at the same time in each region. But I can't say the same for the U.S. feeds or Global and CTV feeds. Primetime in my neck of the woods begins either at 6pm (8pm EST) or 9pm (8pm PST).

Other than the odd show and a couple of newscasts a day, I don't really have a local station anymore...and haven't for some time. And I would say the same goes for most of the other outlying regions in Canada.

So, the wrongness of the CTV campaign aside, whose 'local TV' would we be saving exactly?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frank It Was On The Cart Path!

Friday Fun = golf, talking babies, and e-trade? Well, I don't know about that last one, but they sure have done a great job of branding themselves.


Because it makes me smile.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

You Suck Donkey Ass

You might think the post title relates to feelings one may be having about certain Canadian broadcasters as they traipse down to the U.S. network upfronts to spend spend spend on new American TV shows (final tab will take a while to be determined, apparently).

In fact, after reading THE (redacted) TRANSCRIPTS of CRTC/Canadian Broadcaster in-camera discussions last week, and then reading Grant Robertson's Globe and Mail MOST EXCELLENT ARTICLE on issues raised by said transcripts plus the upfronts, and then reading Jim's MONSTER POST on the same topic...well, you'd most surely think that's what the post title is about.

But's just referring to one of Stewie's many funny lines in this here WICKED SKEWERING of Matthew McConaughey... the sequel to which is below.

So...just some comedy. Yeah. That's all. Um. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


With Game 1 of the Conference semi-finals' in the books, last years pool winner Wil Pascoe has moved into the lead...(shakes fist) Pascoe!!! Perhaps we should have implemented the ol' 'you can't win two years in a row' rule, eh Jim? Though I would keep an eye on Todd Gordon (aka Moviequill)...he's been staying sneaky close. And not that Foster is just going to disappear, but he'll have a hard time keeping pace. Sorry Michael.

Henshaw will update over at his place end of the week...stay tuned.

1. Will Pascoe - 158
2. Michael Foster - 157
3. Moviequill - 154
4. Brian Stockton - 148
5. Mark Wilson - 141
5. John Callaghan - 141
7. Barry Keifl - 139
8. Allan Eastman - 137
9. Peter Mitchell - 136
9. David Kinahan - 136
11. Larry Raskin - 134
12. Wil Zmak - 120
13. Scotty William - 119
14. Will Dixon - 115
15. Jim Henshaw - 114
16. Jeff Martel - 99
17. Daryl Davis - 95
18. Denis McGrath - 71

Friday, May 15, 2009

Can I Talk To You In The Kitchen For A Sec...?

Two Friday Fun entries. First, Family Guy's riff on working in the story room while creating a TV show is wickedly painfully brutally funny..."Meg...please try to formulate ideas clearly before you vocalize them..." - watch the hilarity HERE.

And filmmaker Kevin Smith writes up for Time Magazine his entertaining tribute to the game of hockey:

This is what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn't understand. You can't put hockey into every major city in America, because hockey isn't woven into the fabric of the American quilt the way it is woven into the Canadian toque. Canadian billionaire and hockey nut Jim Balsillie knows this — which is why he's making his third attempt to purchase a NHL team... seemingly, against the NHL's wishes.

Balsillie wants to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes — the Artists Formerly Known As The Winnipeg Jets. The cash-strapped Jets left Canada for Arizona over ten years ago — when nobody (with any degree of intelligence whatsoever) could've guessed that people who live in a desert might not dig hockey (especially if their team doesn't win regular season games, let alone Stanley Cups). When the 'Yotes' owner filed for bankruptcy protection last week, Basillie offered a win-win proposition: he buys the club and moves it to the richest and most ardent hockey market in the NHL — Southern Ontartio. There, the team would not only most assuredly pack their arena nightly, but with constant fan support, they might be able to realize the dream of those two words that're music to any League owner's ears.

No, not "Stanley Cup." I'm talking "Financially Viable."

The Artists Formerly Known as the Winnipeg it. Read the entire article HERE.

Because they both made me smile.

H/T Matt MacLennan & Rob MacKinnon

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Okay...No I'm Not...

Sure it's just a commercial, but still...what if film crews ran the world?


H/T Peter Mohan

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pilot Season...And Other Faux Doc Stories

There's a new-ish series on the interwebs entitled Pilot Season, which references, of course, the January - April time period where actors (and TV writers) make the pilgrimage to LA to try to get hired on new shows being produced with hope of pickup for the fall TV season. The web series appears to be the brainchild of Sam Seder, and utilizes his performing talent as well as Sarah Silverman, with David Cross, Andy Dick and Isla Fisher. H. Jon Benjamin and David Waterman.

The first six ten minute segments have been posted at My Damn Channel, watch them HERE.

It's yet another entry into the whole faux documentary comedy/drama genre. I mean, I loved Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show...and the original UK The Office (along with its US remake), Extras, and Arrested Development were all brilliant, while the shooting style still felt original. In Canada, The Newsroom and Fubar utilized that story-telling device to successful and entertaining results...but nowadays, I'm really getting tired of the formula (Party Down being the only current exception). Parks And Recreation sucks ass, in my opinion...and the fact that it feels completely unoriginal style-wise doesn't help.

A lot of web-based series go this way it seems because the loose handheld 'follow the puck' style seems to make them more opposed to just what most of them

I also can't tell you how many 'faux documentary' drama/comedy feature pitches I've seen cross my desk while wearing my development hat over the past year. Which is fine I guess, but what I've noticed that in lieu of being able to actually write a funny or dramatic script or direct actors and scenes in an effective and entertaining manner, the prevailing notion seems to be if the filmmakers just roll and 'capture what happens', it'll be funny. Or dramatic. Or good.

Not necessarily the case. Rarely, in fact.

Pilot Season. Is it worth picking up? Or should it (and the genre) get cancelled.

Hockey Pool Goes South

With the elimination of Vancouver, this years edition of the Stanley Cup finals will play out down in the US of A. Oh well. But there's still been some seriously good hockey played over the last week...very entertaining stuff.

And with the Canucks gone, the Infamous Writers & Bloggers Hockey Pool standings will most certainly tighten up. Foster and Stockton may still be on top, but they've lost some key point-getters and should soon be overtaken...though not by me or Henshaw of course, we're too far back. But go to Jim's place end of the week to get the latest.

1. Michael Foster - 142
2. Brian Stockton - 139
3. Moviequill - 136
4. Barry Keifl - 133
5. Will Pascoe - 132
6. John Callaghan - 124
6. Peter Mitchell - 124
8. Mark Wilson - 118
9. David Kinahan - 117
10. Allan Eastman - 116
11. Wil Zmak - 115
12. Larry Raskin - 114
13. Scotty William - 106
14. Jim Henshaw - 105
15. Will Dixon - 100
16. Daryl Davis - 88
17. Jeff Martel - 84
18. Denis McGrath - 71

Monday, May 11, 2009

1 + 1 + 1 = Three!

Over six thousand profile views and nearly eight hundred posts later, today marks the three year blogaversary for Uninflected Images Juxtaposed. If you're interested, read when it began and why HERE.

Though I suppose it really started with John August, Josh Friedman, and John Rogers. I discovered their blogs and found them to be very informative and entertaining reads...then started exploring the links on Rogers sidebar, and landed upon Denis McGrath's Dead Things On Sticks. Holy crap....someone is writing about Canadian TV! That led to finding Alex Epstein's Complications Ensue: another Canuck writing about screenwriting and the industry up! So I stalked them online for a bit, and then decided to throw my hat into the blogging ring.

I believe I averaged 6 visits a day for a month or so (though Callaghan was right there at the beginning), but then McGrath linked to my first series of Banff TV Festival updates and visits jumped to over a 100 a day. Whoa! Of course they quickly slid back down again...but then averaged around 25 visits a day. And so it grew...more and more links led to more visits and readership slowly inched upward...eventually topping out around 4-500 a day (though I still don't know quite how to measure subscribers)...that still blows me away. I guess it's not unlike surviving this business...persistence, perseverance, and just 'not going away' tends to count for a lot.

And there's never been a master plan, I've remained true to my original mission statement...juxtaposing random thoughts about TV, movies, and music with a little bit of life, and a Canadian slant thrown in for good measure. But that kind of loose blogging 'agenda' can have its shortcomings, like how you get introduced at parties.

The following year at Banff I had the pleasure of finally meeting Alex and Denis in person...and as we stood around chatting, a small group approached.

Someone: "Hey, its the bloggers!"
Someone else: "What do you mean?"
Alex: "We blog about the film and TV industry. Mine is Complications Ensue, and I blog mostly about the craft of screenwriting; Denis here has Dead Things On Sticks and he blogs mostly about the industry and business of making television; and we're not really sure what Will's niche is."

Hahaha...that pretty much sums it up.

But I still feel honoured and privileged to be somehow included in this small circle of Canadian of 'the bloggers', as it were. I believe I mentioned this before, but last year at Banff TV fest I had the strange experience of being more recognized for the Uninflected Images 'brand' as opposed to my own name. And as recently as last month in Toronto at one of the Friday night writer gatherings at the Paddock, a small group of up and comers cornered me and someone said: "You know, you're sort of famous." I am? I replied...wondering which show I'd worked on the newbie was a fan of. "For what?"

"Your blog."

Cool. But if you'd told me I'd be hearing that three years ago, I'd have laughed out loud. Who'd have ever thunk.

When you start a blog its fun and exciting and new and you have all these war stories to tell or cool and funny nuggets of info you want to share...but eventually you use those up, and then what? Not to mention, one can get tired of one's own voice...and its easy to fall into the 'who cares what I think' trap when there are so many out there doing it better and more often. But even though output has definitely slowed of late as life got busy and it's become a struggle to come up with anything interesting to say, having a place to come to post ideas or thoughts or share cool stuff with like minds is still a fulfilling endeavor.

So thanks for still visiting and reading and commenting...that's really all one can hope for with one of these blog things. That said, I've met way more people via Uninflected than I could've possibly imagined...and even though Facebook and Twitter seems to deem blogging less and less relevant, I plan to still keep throwing stuff up here on occasion and seeing if anything sticks.

To another year.

PS When I started this little endeavor I felt I needed a hook...and decided upon ending each entry with relevant lyrics from a song. Those have fallen by the wayside as well, but in honour of today...

SONG&ARTIST? "I'm so happy for you baby
Now that you've found somebody new
I see it in your eyes, Lord it's no surprise
What he can do for you

But when I look back baby
When I look back to what we had
And I know I'm countin' good times
But there were just as many bad..."

It's All Fun And Games Until...

Worst. New. Toy. Ever?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother Of All Days

Happy Mothers Day Mum...and to all the mums out there.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Live Long And Prosper...If You're Able

Facebook and now Twitter has more or less killed the fun of posting funny videos on blogs. In fact, I'm starting to feel like those two social networking tools and any future mutations thereof will eventually kill 'the blog', since everyone seems to be seeing stuff or reading stuff or sharing stuff or commenting on stuff over there now.

Oh well...funny video.

I was never much of an original Trek fan, or Star Trek: NG fan even...but that probably won't stop me from taking the kids to see the latest installment in the franchise that won't die.

It has lived long and definitely prospered.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Log Jam(ming)

It's clogged up at the top of the Infamous Writers (& Bloggers) Hockey Pool, with Foster continuing to lead...barely. In fact, since most of the front runners have a lot of the same picks it may remain a log jam to the very end. At least Henshaw and I have crawled out of the basement...though we're so far behind it doesn't really matter. Secretly, I'm hoping every other player somehow gets injured and Boston's Mark Recchi comes through for me in a big way.

Recchi. What a waste of a pick.

1. Michael Foster - 96
2. Brian Stockton - 95
3. Barry Keifl - 92
4. Moviequill - 91
5. Peter Mitchell - 88
5. Will Pascoe - 88
7. Wil Zmak - 86
7. John Callaghan - 86
9. Mark Wilson - 82
10. Larry Raskin - 81
11. Allan Eastman - 75
11. Scotty William - 75
13. David Kinahan - 74
14. Jim Henshaw - 68
15. Denis McGrath - 64
16. Will Dixon - 63
16. Daryl Davis - 63
18. Jeff Martel - 60

Check out Jim's place end of week for the latest.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Roomies...And Fear Itself

I quite enjoyed this diary of sorts HERE from Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz in a recent Variety article where they relate the agony and ecstasy of what they describe as the Four Day story break while working in the 'the room'.

The short version below:

Day 1 -- Wouldn't It Be Cool If ...

Day 1 is the day we start batting around the ideas. We know where we are in the uber-plot, and we know where we have to start and finish. Now we need the idea that gets us from A to B, and Day 1 is where the greatest idea ever happens. And that's when one of us will spit out something like: "Wouldn't it be cool if ... " Excitement sweeps through the room. The blank dry erase boards no longer look so daunting. We've done it. Which leads us to...

Day 2 -- Um, There's A Problem

Everyone comes in early, excited to knock this sucker out, only to discover that after a night's sleep, maybe this great idea doesn't exactly write itself, that maybe it's got a few... issues. After a few hours of wrestling with the difficulty of our premise, we all decide to sleep on it again. Which leads us to...

Day 3 -- The Breakthrough

We all come back in, maybe a little later than the day before, and all with the same conclusion. The problem is unfixable. That is until the sun is setting and someone, thankfully, quietly pipes in with ... the breakthrough. At first it seems just a small thought, but in actuality it has huge repercussions. Riding the wave of euphoria, everyone heads home nervous. Is this a real breakthrough? Possibly. Which brings us to ...

Day 4 -- The Break Begins

As the discussion begins, suddenly ideas for scenes start popping up. Natural places for our uber-mythology to slot in appear. Connective tissue between episodes presents itself. All the ingredients seem to be there. And that's when we know we might have a ways to go but we know we have an episode.

Up until the end of the break that is, because that's when, once again, we stare at the blank board that taunts us. We can't possibly keep going.

Someone: "Wait. Wouldn't it be cool if ..."

And the room goes quiet.

Suddenly we're re-energized. We all realize it at the same time. It's Day 1 again and, just maybe, we can do another one of these.

'We'...that's the operative word. Most of us have to work it alone --- trying to grind through those 'stages' all by ourselves. But the room is mostly successful because one has an undying belief that the collective creative energy of the group will ultimately save or at least improve anything you might come up with on your own. If you can find a handful of colleagues you like and trust that you can exchange works in progress with, the feedback can be invaluable.

There's another major factor why it works this way on TV series: deadlines, and the fear associated with those deadlines.

You can and will experience the same daily 'stages' when working solo on your feature film or series spec sample...but without some sort of deadline hanging over your head and the fear it generates, it's wayyyy too easy to succumb to the 'problem' and give up on the idea after Day 2. Or, conversely, spend wayyyy too much time getting bogged down trying to make the solution discovered in Day 3 the best solution ever.

And thus you never really reach Day 4 and the actual 'break'.

When working on a series and its intense schedule of delivering scripts to be filmed, there isn't the time or luxury to either give up or wait for the perfect solution. You have to deliver.

It's next to impossible to reproduce that pressure if you aren't under contract and the deadline is self-imposed...but if you can somehow believe it exists, and work 'in fear' so to speak, you'll get a lot more accomplished a lot faster. And believe me, something finished and out there is always better than the almost perfect idea still in the desk drawer.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Put Your Little Hand In Mine...

Friday fun should probably be this latest development in the Canadian TV networks/cable company wars which yesterday saw Jim Shaw offer to buy for a dollar apiece three stations CTV was planning to close, and CTV agreeing to the sale. Gamechanger? Or just dick swinging. Read about all the wacky hi jinks HERE.

Still, it feels like we've got millionaires feuding and playing games with millionaires...again, when our TV industry is in need of a serious fix. How many times do we have to keep making the same mistakes over again, instead of having the insight and courage and energy to make creative and positive changes when we come to these critical times and some ways it's like being trapped in a kind of sad, scary, stupid time loop.

So I'm going to go instead with a clip from the movie that just keeps on giving...Groundhog Day...

Because it makes me smile.