SHELLEY ERIKSEN, PART FIVE - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, June 02, 2005

AE: How do you deal with network notes that seem wrong to you?

SE: Now that I've been on Kung Fu Monkey, I go, "God, you're right!"

I try and understand that something isn't right for them. Not necessarily the thing they're saying. Something that's bothering them. My job to figure out what it is exactly.

AE: So it's the difference between doing the note and addressing it.

SE: You have to address it one way or another.

AE: How about director and actor notes that seem wrong?

SE: I've had so few. I've seen directors do things that were like a magnificent wank, but, ah, it didn't kill it. They'll say, "I just don't understand the scene." I go away and think about it. Okay. And maybe you come up with something more inventive.

Actors will say: I just don't see how my character gets there. Then it's a case of talking it through. If you can't explain it, something's wrong with the way you wrote it.

AE: What makes a great showrunner, aside from great writing and a vision for the show?

SE: I've worked with Pete Mitchell. I think what made him great was that everybody felt heard. He might not take their suggestions, but you know he heard you. Or you felt that he did. One of my things as a writer is, I'm always saying, I know I can do this, let me have a shot at it. And I want to hear, go ahead, I don't believe you but go ahead. So someone who gives you the freedom to fail.

I think, too, the desire to occasionally socialize. Particularly with younger writers ... the show becomes your life. These characters that you're making up take up a bigger part of your life than your family and friends do after a while. Someone who's that obsessed ... if you keep too much of a professional relationship, you'll distance yourself from the show, and people get invested. I had a friend working on [name of show]. That was a train wreck. It wanted to be Lost but they had to shoot it in a studio. He's reached a point where he thinks it's the best show on television. But it's important to reach that point. Why wouldn't you want to believe that? Part of what makes a good showrunner is obsessiveness about what they do.

It doesn't mean you can't make fun of it. But if you sit around at night in your free hours talking about what if we did this or that ... the show becomes more meaningful. If you come in and it's just a job...

AE: If you don't care, the audience won't.

SE: Yeah.

AE: There seem to be a lot of hybrid genre shows these days, e.g. Lost is a drama/mystery/sf show, Desperate Housewives is a farce/drama/mystery. How important is genre to a television show? Is it risky to have a TV show that crosses genre boundaries? What are the genre boundaries?

SE: I think it just comes down to personal taste ... I'm not a straight up one genre girl. I don't really like science fiction -- I can't get past the silly masks. But Firefly, which was the civil war ... a history show in sci fi world. There's a lot of creativity in that kind of approach. The fact that people don't know what Desperate Housewives is or isn't, gives it its frisson. Just when you think it's going left it goes right. I'm not watching anything that's stright genre. I never liked Law and Order,, or CSI, I think it's death porn. The TV I'm watching tends to mess with genre...

2 Comments:

For those who keep swinging by the site and wondering what the hell Shelley's talking about -- recently (link's acting wonky) I posted that when an exec gives a very specific note, he's usually pitching you the solve he's come up with for the problem he's perceiving, not the problem itself.

If you can burrow down to the actual problem, you can often dodge the horrible solve and fix the note to everyone' satisfaction.

By Blogger Rogers, at 3:27 PM  

There are some fascinating insights into Shelley's psyche and methodology here. Great interview, Alex.

By Anonymous Kelly J. Compeau, at 3:58 PM  

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