Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog



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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There's some fun behind-the-scenes stuff in Richard Porter's interview with me about my experiences writing CHARLIE JADE in South Africa, at PopCritics. Check it out!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Q. I won the XXX TV writing competition, and now I seem to be making a lot of friends. One of them offered to send my spec along to a couple of agents. But I don't have a second spec! I've got nothing to offer and I know that if I garner some interest that'll be the first thing they ask for. I've got lots of great ideas so I know I could pump something out in a few weeks. If they ask, can I ask them to wait until the end of the month? Longer? Or do I need to just resign myself to looking like an amateur?
Geez, calm down. Who knows how long it will take for these agents to actually read your script and get back to you? It could be a month or two. They are likely to be focused on their current clients. Reading new clients is probably last on their list.

I would say, send your script in and immediately start writing that second spec. If someone likes your first spec, you can always you're just polishing it up, and get it to them in a couple of weeks.

What I wouldn't do is try to "pump something out in a few weeks." You probably wrote your competition-winning spec in more than a few weeks. You should try hard never to turn in anything that's less good than you're capable of. You will lose more opportunities by turning in second-rate work than you will by waiting until something's ready. Occasionally there will be a bona-fide opportunity ("so-and-so needs a lesbian romantic comedy set in Singapore under the Japanese") but those almost never amount to anything.

I want to stress that what makes things happen in show business is enthusiasm. A so-so script might get spread around, but only a dynamite script (or at least concept) will inspire an agent to spend a year trying to break you in, or a producer to spend a year trying to set it up. Is your script good enough for that?

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Friday, July 25, 2008

An Emerging Regional Writer writes
A regional director for the CBC has read the pitch bible for [my show], as well as my Lost spec. She's interested in working with me and developing me as a writer. She said that she was ready to offer me some money (she said $1500) to write a pilot for [my show], after which she would put it into the right hands in Toronto. I mentioned that there were other people also reading the pitch bible now (I sent it to Mr. X at Big Commercial Network last week), and that I would like to consult some people first before I signed anything, but that I was very excited and interested in working with her. She also proposed that I could come up with something else, any half-hour series that could be set in [my province].

My problem is, if BCN was interested in it, I would rather go with them. I don't expect to sell a series by any means, but considering the fact that CBC just did [series in similar territory], it seems even less likely that they would do it.

Should I
  • Wait for BCN and try to come up with a [my province]-based series for CBC; or
  • Go with the CBC
. Also, should I bother trying to get an agent to take care of this for me, seeing as how it would only be $1500 for a pilot script?

Should I contact the executive at BCN and tell him that CBC has made me an offer?
First of all, you need an agent. An agent can tell you whether $1500 is an appropriate amount to be paid to write a pilot. My feeling is that it is not. WGC scale for an hour drama is $14,000; pilots are paid at 150% of scale. I think you should take the money. But it should be structured as an option, not a commission. $1500 is an appropriate amount to option your pilot. Since you haven't written it yet, you would still be writing a script and getting paid $1500. But the network would not own your work; they would only have an option on it. An agent can tell you if I'm right about this.

The main reason you need an agent, though, is that the deal isn't just for the $1500. You're not selling your series for $1500 flat, are you? You're selling a pilot in order to be involved in your series if it goes. What's your job on the series? You're a newbie, so you're not the showruner. But you should be guaranteed a story editing job. What salary? How many weeks? How many scripts are you guaranteed? What's the royalty? What's your credit? ("Created by," presumably, but only if it's in your contract.) A good agent will know what deal points are appropriate, and will negotiate them without irritating your network exec.

Your agent can also let Mr. X at BCN know about the CBC offer. However, there are two reasons to go with the CBC. The CBC has a mandate to develop regional talent. BCN does not. They develop less, and they produce much less. (This is true whichever Big Commercial Network you're talking about.) Their goal is to air as much American content as they can.

Second, you have enthusiasm at the CBC. Enthusiasm is rare and fleeting. I would not let the iron cool at the CBC. I would not propose a different show if they like the show you have.

Of course, it will take weeks or months to negotiate a deal with the network. In that time, if BCN wants to come back with a serious proposal, then your agent can always let the CBC know they've got a bidding war on their hands. This usually makes everyone hotter for the project.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

You'll want this glossary.

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Q. I'm writing a script for a brother director team. They're great directors but can't write. They got me involved and now I'm writing their script. There's a producer involved who has grown a liking for the brothers and wants to see them succeed. They are meeting with him next week to discuss the project. Now, the brothers are fast-paced and want me to finish a first draft in a month. Which I'm not sure I can do but I'll try. But in order for me to work that fast I have to devote full days to this project. Which is hard because then I can't make money. And I have to live. But, these guys have tossed me $500 for this week and we'll talk turkey when they get back from the producer.

Now, because this is an independent project, is it wrong for me to ask for development money?
God no.

I've answered this before in much greater length, but to boil it down: the only time you should EVER write for free is when you OWN the project.

See the section in my book CRAFTY SCREENWRITING about writing on spec. It has a formula for the minimum amount of money you should demand up front, and what you should insist on should the movie actually go.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Q. Do I need to have gone to a top university? All the best writers seem to have gone to top universities.
I'm not sure that's true. When someone goes to Harvard, you hear about it. When someone goes to the University of Weehawken, they don't always mention it.

I do think as a general thing you should try to go to the best college you can. It's not strictly critical. My grandfather didn't graduate high school and he was pretty smart. He just wrote to a bunch of professors at Harvard and asked each of them for their top ten books. Then he read them. A hundred books later, he knew a lot more than when he started.

But the kinds of connections you can make at Yale are probably going to be more helpful than the kinds you make in Weehawken. The Yalies will tend to wind up at the top of their professions, where they can give you jobs in any major city. The guys in Weehawken are going to tend to stay in Weehawken. When you, being brilliant, leave Weehawken, you leave your alumni network behind.

I do use some of the skills I actually learned in class. English classes were good for learning how to analyze subtext. Computer science classes were good for learning how to write a script top-down.

Oh, and you learn to bulls*** really, really well. You learn how to pass the test without having done all the reading. Since in life you often can't do all the reading (usually because no one has actually written it), that's a key skill.

The other thing you get at a great college that you don't get from reading books is different live perspectives. Books give you fresh perspectives, but they won't argue with you. A great university is full of students who will argue with you and challenge, yea, mock, your perspectives.

But what makes a great writer is observation and analysis of human stories, human experiences, both in real life and as told by great story tellers. You can learn that in real life. You don't need to go to Princeton to do it. Princeton will help you a lot, sure, but there's some self-selection going on there: people who are willing to jump through all the hoops necessary to get into Princeton and pay for it, will tend to jump through all the hoops later in life. If you missed the boat on the Ivies, just make sure you're putting as much effort into your craft -- make sure you're thinking as hard -- as the Ivy guys are, and you'll do fine.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm trying to write a spec pilot for a half-hour comedy... I'm reading scripts and I'm confused as to how many acts I should have.
Comedies are either two acts or three. Unlike drama, which has traditionally been four acts and has largely now moved to five acts, I don't see a clear movement in comedy. If you're writing a spec pilot, pick a show that your show is like, and use that act structure. Simple as that.

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Kevin C points me to Rifftrax. These are audio tracks from the guys who did Mystery Science Theater 3000. You just play the audio track along with the DVD and, presto! No copyright violation.

The jokes are mostly pretty lame, but Kevin has an interesting use for them:
I'm finding them a great resource as a writer, because they point out the holes in screenplays even as your watching them. Stuff I would just gloss over watching it myself becomes painfully obvious when its the butt of a funny quip...
The site has samples, in case you're wondering just how lame the jokes are, and whether you want to spring for $3.99 worth of commentary, or just put it towards a sixpack to share with a witty friend.

Thanks for the tip, Kevin!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

DMc posts about the reasons why the WGC contract shouldn't mandate a certain number of freelancers. To recap, the WGA contract specifies that a certain small number of scripts on a WGA show must go to free lancers. The idea is to help newbies come up.

Denis's argument is that spreading the scripts around makes it harder for skilled writers to make a living.

I agree. There are some important differences between the way we work in Canada and the American Way.

First of all, in Canada, most of the money is in the scripts. Weekly salaries are not that high. My contract for my series gives me a lower weekly salary than the $6,000+ a junior story editor is entitled to in the States. If my show should go, I'll make that up in production fees. The WGC deal mandates that the writer of an episode be paid around 3% of the budget of the episode. (There's a more complicated formula than that but if the episode budget is a million bucks, the writer's getting a check for over $30,000.)

Normally a free lancer's script has to be heavily rewritten. They're not in the room. They aren't immersed in the show. I've never had a free lancer turn in a script that I didn't have to rewrite at least 50%, and often, in situations where I didn't get to choose the writer myself, we've had to throw the script out and go back to the beat sheet. A freelancer can bring new story ideas and a fresh perspective. They never turn in something you can shoot.

That's awkward because under the WGC rules, the contracted writer -- the free lancer -- is entitled to sole credit and 100% of the production fee no matter how little of their work remains.

In the US this matters less because the story editors are getting paid a whack of cash to rewrite things. That's their job, to rewrite. There is no production fee, either. So the scripts are worth relatively less and the salary is worth relatively more. It is less of an injustice to the writer actually turning in the shootable draft -- whether story editor or showrunner.

Moreover, in the US system a showrunner or story editor who heavily rewrites a free lance script is entitled to credit. So there may be no injustice at all.

There's another difference between the two systems. Shows in the US have bigger staffs. You can go over to Rogers where he's got seven or eight writers for a thirteen episode season -- and that's considered a small room. When you see the writing staff of a Canadian drama on the cover of CANADIAN SCREENWRITER, you'll rarely see more than six people, and often you'll see four. On NAKED JOSH the story room was my co-creator and I.

So if you take away a couple of story editors and turn them into free lancers, you leave the show with one head writer frantically rewriting everyone else's free lance script, working it like the one-legged man at the ass-kicking contest. And that's just nuts.

I'm not a big fan of hiring free lancers. In my experience they don't justify the pay. It's a mitzvah to bring newbies up, but they're not going to learn that much from free lancing anyway. I'd rather pay a few bucks more and have the same newbie writer in the room breaking story and giving notes. If I'm going to throw anyone a bone, it's going to be the writers assistant or script coordinator with a great spec. At least they're around, absorbing the show.
Q. What exactly is the reasons free lancers scripts have to be rewritten so much? I realize that they aren't privilege to information that those in the room would be, but could you give some examples of mistakes that freelancers make that they wouldn't if they were in the room?
Think of all the ways something could be a competent script by itself without being the show. Getting the character's voices wrong. Getting a character's personality wrong. Wrong tone. Not knowing that the set is only 20' long and you can't have a chase scene. Freelancers do all that and more.

To be fair, many of the freelancers I've worked with were not people I chose. In South Africa on CHARLIE JADE we had a bunch of guys who were already contracted when we came on board. Ditto on GALIDOR. Some more or less got the show. Some did not get the show at all. Some were not particularly competent writers. One guy turned in his draft and then went on a weeklong seminar so he wasn't available to write his second draft on schedule. I've had better experiences with people I selected. But still not great experiences. You bring in free lancers for the fresh perspective, but that's really more valuable on the 5th Season of LAW & ORDER -- where the staff is jaded, and the template is easy for a free lancer to copy -- than on the first season of a serial show where you're still finding your feet.
Also, why isn't the freelancer brought in the room for the time he/she is writing the episode? Wouldn't that solve many of the problems?
That's what they did with Rogers on EUREKA, for example. So long as the writer's agent didn't call in and start complaining that the writer was entitled to a weekly salary, that would solve many problems. But at the point where that writer has an office to plug in their laptop, and attends story meetings, what you're doing there is hiring a staff writer without paying them a salary. (Technically in the WGA deal, a "staff writer" in the specific sense is a writer who comes into the office to write their free lance script, but does not rewrite other people's scripts.) On CHARLIE JADE, rather than continue to work with multiple South African free lancers, we brought in Dennis Venter on a less than extravagant salary to write all the remaining South African scripts. (The co-production deal mandated a certain minimum number of SA-scripted episodes.) He did a lot better job for being in the room than he could have done from home.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Q. I'm currently on my second draft of a "Pushing Daisies" spec, aiming to submit it to the Warner Bros. Workshop and the Disney Fellowship. From the three sample scripts I've got, it seems they use narrower margins for dialog than other shows, I'm guessing to accommodate the show's narration, which otherwise might bloat the show's page counts.

In this instance, should I mimic the produced scripts to a 'T', or am I running the risk of being thought guilty of "margin-tweaking" in the interest of hitting a desirable page count? Or is this just a judgment call?
Offhand, I'd say that only writers working on PUSHING DAISIES are familiar with the margins the show uses. And you're not going to be showing your spec to them. So I would stick with regular margins.

Anyway, they're not reading your spec to see if you know what margins you use. They're reading your spec to see if you can get the voices and the template right.

But good eye to detail!
Q. My writing partner and I were advised by a writer in the industry not to mimic the specific [formatting] idiosyncrasies of any show because it could throw a reader off. Thus, our PD Narrator isn't bolded or italicized.
Sounds like good advice. See above.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Q. Finding it hard to determine if producers would consider a story totally unique. How many plots have similarities to other stories? I wrote a screenplay based on a true story which has never been told in film format before - but some people have said, it's kind of like this or that.
This is one of those tricky notes. It rarely means that your story is too similar to another movie. Lots of movies come out that are similar to other movies. For example, almost every Will Ferrell movie is like almost every other Will Ferrell movie.

What this note means, in fact, is that your material is generic. You have not given the plot enough fresh twists and turns. You have not given the breath of life to your characters. Your scenes don't jump off the page.

In other words, the problem is rarely that your concept is actually too similar. The problem is almost always that your execution of the plot is too similar. Once you find fresher ways of telling that same story -- with cleverer twists, a scarier antagonist, more surprising obstacles, a more compelling hero, more alarming jeopardy, once you give each character their own unique voice -- you'll stop getting this note.

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Q. Hi, is any chance to find out how are TV series produced? I mean an hour episode in USA is supposed to be shot in 8 days. I've just produced a pilot of drama for the major Czech TV station and we have had problems to shot it in 10 days (about 40 scenes, few locations but 12 hour shifts and lots of over-times). I wonder how it may be possible for US crew to manage it in 8 days with its incredibly quality...
Well, the American series probably has many more technicians on staff. And access to more concentrated resources in LA. That saves a lot of time.

There may simply be a difference in working styles. American PA's are expected to run. The impression I have from producers who've worked in the States and overseas is that overseas crews in various countries simply take their time. PA's walk. British crews are notorious for taking tea breaks.

This may be a function of budget. Czech crews probably get paid less; there may be less pressure to get the shoot done in 8 days. Low budget American movies shoot in 18-21 days. Low budget Hong Kong movies used to shoot for six months, I'm told. The staff wasn't getting paid much so they could afford to take their time. Any good director in the world will push to use all the available time on his schedule to get the shots just so. If he can afford ten days, he'll use ten. (And you're lucky if he doesn't grab 11.)
I believe there must be some other thing. I don't know how to say... some hidden trick or anything. I mean to achieve shooting an hour drama in 8 days the script must be well structured (in production sense). The hour drama is not 60 minutes long but less than 50. Ally McBeal is about 45 minutes long. Lest take off time for main and closing credits and estabilishing shots etc. and the actual length to be shot for the main unit may be 40 minutes or so. Am I right? Are the some other rules or trick how to simplify the script to shoot? Returning sets are the most obvious ones, but what about some others?
How long are Czech "hour" shows? British hour dramas seem to run 52 minutes or so. American hour dramas are more like 44. There's your two extra shooting days right there.

But I think it all gets back to money. A show like Ally McBeal can afford to build her entire law firm on a sound stage. The Czech Ally McBeal probably rents an office. Sound stages are far easier to light, and you never have sound problems. You can even afford to have one lighting staff come in overnight and pre-light to speed up the main lighting crew's job. When we did NAKED JOSH, we didn't have the budget to build convincing sets on stages, so we did all location shooting. That means the crew is spending time unpacking and packing equipment; you're waiting for that truck to go by; the sunlight shifts; etc. I bet if you gave the Czech show the same budget Ally McBeal had, they could get it done in 8 days, too. 

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Last week, an old friend who is a director called to catch up. It almost seemed as if he was seeking reassurance.
"You good?" he asked.
My answer was simple: "How good can I be? I work in independent film."
Mark Gill, CEO of The Film Dept. dissects the challenges facing the indie film biz. Via Victoria Lucas His list of what movies do well is nothing to new to readers of this blog, but it bears repeating:
And then I like to think about the rest of the audience demand question in the way that we analyze titles. A good title should have many of the attributes that a movie needs to embody now:

*Succinct & Descriptive: the film has to lend itself to brief encapsulation. A high concept is no longer the thing that studio movies do and independent films shun. In this age of info overload, it's crucial for every picture to have this. Without it, your odds shoot through the floor.

*Distinctive: not the same story we've heard five times before; something that at least takes the cliche and twists it; not something we get too much of somewhere else in our lives (Exhibit A: Iraq movies; who wants to see more of that mess? We already get too much of it every day in the news media).

*Provocative: something that cuts through the clutter, stands out, gets attention; not "So then Phoebe sat by her mother's bedside, suffering in silence for eight weeks." Give us incident, conflict, excitement, ideally something that hits a cultural nerve.

*Memorable: this is essentially an accumulation of the other traits, or sometimes altogether separate. It's the avoidance of cotton candy. The possibility of resonance. Something sticky.

*Not too dark: these are very dark times, for audiences the world over. Audience enthusiasm for dark films is as low as I've ever seen it. There are a lot of reasons for this, of course. But the one I hear almost nobody articulating and everyone feeling is this: in the western industrialized world, wages haven't even remotely kept up with productivity demands, and that stresses us out.
He also explains how no one outside the US wants to see a western or a movie about American sports.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

I've been revising episode 1.02 of the pay cable series I'm developing. One scene just wasn't working, between a kid and his recently separated dad. There was conflict but the scene felt mushy to me. It was boring Lisa, who felt that the scene was something we could see in any show, between any kid and his recently separated dad.

In other words, the scene was not revealing the dad's character. And that was, in turn, because the dad's plot wasn't revelatory of character. It was basically a conflict between him and his new girlfriend, which created a conflict between him and his kids. Move along, please, people. Nothing to see here. You've seen one train wreck, you've seen them all.

What I had to do was rethink the plot so it was revelatory of the father's character. This is hyper-important in such an early script, especially because he hadn't got a lot of air time in the pilot. But it is really important in any character drama. Ideally, you should never have a story about one of your core cast that could be told in the same way about a different character. The story has to come out of who that character is. 

In fact, every scene should be revelatory of character. The one scene that was blowing the whistle on my plot lacked flavor because it had nothing to say about the dad except that he was an okay guy and he loved his son; which, hey, is great, but doesn't get you on TV. 

As it turned out, the beats I had for the dad plot weren't bad. The scenes I needed were the scenes I already had. But they weren't working because I hadn't pinned down the underlying story structure. I hadn't pinned down what the dad wanted, and what it was in his character that made it hard for him to get it. 

Once I nailed those structural elements down, then the beats weren't too hard to rewrite. Even some of the dialog still worked, but it meant something fresh and new now. As it turned out, the dad came off as much more of an asshat, but in one scene we learned that it wasn't from selfishness so much as emotional blindness. Which is exactly the character I was shooting for.

If something's not working -- or even if it is -- doublecheck to see if each story is saying something distinct about its central character. If it isn't, figure out how to make it do so.

Remember, on screen (as, philosophically perhaps, in life), we can only judge someone's character by what they do, not what's merely said about them. 

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Stephen King thinks indie horror flicks like THE STRANGERS beat the tar out of studio releases like X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE and THE HAPPENING:
Horror is an intimate experience, something that occurs mostly within oneself, and when it works, the screams of a sold-out house are almost intrusive. In that sense, a movie such as Blair Witch is more like poetry than like the ''event films'' that pack the plexes in summer. Those flicks tend to be like sandwiches overstuffed with weirdly tasteless meat and cheese, meals that glut the belly but do nothing for the soul. Studio execs, who not only live behind the curve but seem to have built mansions there, don't seem to understand that most moviegoers recognize all the bluescreens and computer graphics of big-budget films and flick them aside. Those movies blast our emotions and imaginations, instead of caressing them with a knife edge.

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The other day I got a nice note from a producer who liked a draft I turned in.

Producers, it costs you nothing to send a nice note after you've read the script. I know you're going to have notes once you've digested it. I know you have to consult with your partner, your broadcaster, your financier. I won't say later, "but you said you liked it." I promise.

It's just nice to hear that you read it and liked it. If, you know, you liked it.

'Cause SOP around here is to hear nothing at all from a producer for weeks after turning in a draft that had an urgent deadline attached. And when you've busted your buns to turn something in on deadline, ya kinda wanna know the producer put some urgency into reading it...

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Friday, July 04, 2008

In case you missed it on DMc, Jill Golick has posted Jason Katims' 12 Rules for Showrunners. (Jason Katims is, as you know, the showrunner of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.)

Happy Fourth of July!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Aha! I just found out that you can see my 6 minute comedy short, TWELVE WAYS TO SAY I'M SORRY, on Hulu.com and Vuze.com.

Hulu seems easier to use -- you have to download a player to use Vuze. However, Hulu won't stream to Canada.

UPDATE: You can now see SORRY on the Moviola.ca site. MUCH easier than Vuze, which requires a pain in the butt installation.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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My short film, "12 WAYS TO SAY 'I'M SORRY'," will air the following dates and times on Movieola:

July 03, 2008 at 14:06:24
July 05, 2008 at 14:06:24
July 06, 2008 at 08:06:24
July 09, 2008 at 20:47:27
July 10, 2008 at 02:47:27
July 10, 2008 at 08:47:27
July 11, 2008 at 14:47:27
July 12, 2008 at 08:47:27
July 13, 2008 at 14:47:27
July 24, 2008 at 20:47:06

If anyone sees it this way, please let me know how the viewing experience was!

UPDATE: See next post for simpler viewing options.

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When I'm coming up with a secondary character, if I'm not trying to suggest ethnicity (MR. AZAD, CHELSEA FRIEDMAN), I'm often trying to suggest age. The Social Security website will give you the most popular names by year, and the incredibly neat Baby Name Wizard NameVoyager shows how the popularity of a given name waxes and wanes.

But many names are popular every year, e.g. Michael, Robert, William, Katherine, Margaret. Fortunately NameTrends will show you the uniquely popular names from each era. Kaden just learned to walk. Cody is probably in high school about now. Lindsay's in college. Damon and Misty are probably having their first baby. Todd and Sherri are fighting over custody.

The site includes historical popularity of each name, and even breaks it down state by state.

I love this stuff!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Q. Two producers are interested in a show that I'm developing. Producer 1 is the obvious choice as he has the right network contacts and I have worked for him before. This is the first time I've talked with producer 2 and he seems like a good guy, but this show probably isn't for him.

Producer 1 is ready to take this to the network. So how do I take the show away from producer 2 without burning my bridges and leaving the door open for future projects? It's also a VERY small industry where I live and getting off side with one producer could be a bad thing.
The key question here is: where are you at with producer 2? Have you already told him he can have the project yet? Are you still discussing under what terms he could have the project? Or is producer 2 just your first bite and you haven't said he can have it yet?
I don't have a deal with him; we've just been talking about an idea. Generally in my country you approach one producer at a time and often I develop projects with a specific producer in mind (I think this is different to the situation in the US and Canada?). However, in this case I pitched the idea at a Round Robin pitching event. Two people were interested and now I have to take it away from Producer 2.

Technically I have no obligation to Producer 2. But I want to work with him in the future and this idea served as a great introduction. I expected to receive a 'thanks but no thanks' email with a 'feel free to send me other ideas you might have'. But he really likes the idea and might even consider producing it himself.

Basically I have to say no to him without killing my chances of talking to him in the future about other shows. He's probably one of the top producers in the country, his shows are some of the best on TV here and he has managed to secure large amounts of cash from government funding authorities. But at the end of the day producer 1 is the best choice for this show.
If you pitched at a Round Robin dealie, then it is clear to everyone that you've pitched it multiple places. If producer 2 hasn't jumped on it yet and signed you up, then morally you are free and clear. I would talk to the guy and explain yourself exactly as you have here. You like him and you want to work with him on this, but you have another producer interested who you feel would be better for this particular project. If producer 2 is a grownup, he'll be okay with that, and he'll learn the lesson to jump on your projects faster. 

I had interest on my pay cable series from some producers, before I had a network, but they didn't option it. When I went to the CBC, the CBC preferred a different producer to whom I'd also shown it. The network exec had more of a relationship with the second producer, and I felt it was a matter of getting a "no" with the first producer but a qualified "yes" with the second. So we (meaning my agent) withdrew the project from the first producers.

Then we sold them a feature.

And we had to withdraw another project from the second producer, because I felt that it wasn't really up his alley.

No problem. Grownups, see?

Not all producers are grownups. Some will get their panties in a knot because you have other options. Too bad. It shows your material is desirable. If a producer seriously holds a grudge against you because you withdrew a project that they hadn't optioned, then they'll probably be a pain in the ass to work with if, God forbid, you actually get a project going with them.

Just be straight with everybody. And tell the big name producer before you give it to the other guys. He may be able to convince you that he's the best producer for this project after all. Or he might even offer you money!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My short film TWELVE WAYS TO SAY "I'M SORRY" is now airing from time to time on Movieola.ca.

In celebration of Canada Day, Movieola is proud to present 24-hours of Canadian short films! Beginning at 6am on Tuesday July 1st, it’s all-Canuck, all-the-time as we showcase the stunning filmmaking talents of Canada’s best directors. Original, hilarious, heart-breaking and engaging, these short films run the gamut of storytelling from A to Zed.

Highlights of the lineup include: [snip]

12 Ways to Say I’m Sorry (Alex Epstein, Canada, 06:06, 2007)
Alex Epstein, co-writer of the award-winning feature film Bon Cop Bad Cop, brings us the story of Will Ferguson (or someone claiming to be him), who introduces you to the twelve meanings of the phrase “I'm Sorry” -- almost none of which express actual regret. July 1st, 8:45pm EST
Check them out at Movieola.ca. The other highlights are two films about Alzheimer's and one about "The Saddest Boy in the World." So come prepared to laugh your socks off.

Apparently the films are being semi-streamed, so you can only watch the short at certain times -- use the search feature on the site to find out when it's on. This strikes me as not the most convenient way to air shorts on the Internet -- it's like a film festival rather than like a library. But you can see it with a bit of effort.

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