Time to end the week and the month with Friday questions. Ready?
GMJ starts us off:
Do you have your Emmy on display?
Yes. In the dining room (see the above picture). If I were single I’d be wearing it around my neck.
Craig Pines has a network pitch meeting and wonders:
Have you ever come into a pitch meeting where they've tried to rework an idea? If so, what can I do to be best prepared for the meeting?
Yes, networks often have agendas and when you pitch your idea they consider whether (a) it fits in with their agenda, and (b) not as important – do they like it?
At the end of the day it’s up to you to decide how badly you want to make the sale and if you can live with the changes.
We once brought an idea to NBC about a couple who meet at an improv class and decide to team up, a la Mike Nichols & Elaine May. Our hook was “can a man and woman work together and be friends without having a sexual relationship?” This was years before WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, by the way.
Someone at NBC had read the book “Semi-Tough” and as a result wanted to develop a show that was about a triangle relationship. They thought our idea might be the one. Could the girl in our show have a boyfriend? We hedged but ultimately said okay. It killed the premise. The triangle was false because there was no real competition between the guys. The boyfriend had nothing to really be threatened about, and it wasn’t a matter of her being in the middle and having to choose because each guy served a different role in her life. We should have said no at the time. We didn’t. The pilot failed.
Years later we went back to NBC with an idea about a colorful all-night diner and the odd characters that come out only at night. The network loved it. Had just one tiny change. Did it have to take place only during the night? Yes, we said. Otherwise it’s just people in a diner. The all-night aspect defines the series.
They thought it might be too dark. We assured them it wouldn’t. Ultimately they said they’d buy it if we lost that facet of the pitch. We declined their offer. We took the idea to CBS and sold it in the room.
That said, I think you have to be somewhat flexible. If you can live with the changes then great. If not, you're selling your soul to the devil. Remember, if your pilot goes to series you're the one who's going to have to be in that rewrite room every night until 3:00 trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
But who knows? Sometimes the requested changes are an actual improvement. Just don’t tell the network that. Good luck at your meeting.
When writing a multi-camera script and you've written 26 scenes (unlikely but it sometimes happens), what do you call scene 26? After "SCENE Z" what comes after? "ZA"?
AA, then BB, etc.
From Richard Y:
A baseball related Friday question. Why do games traditionally start at 5 minutes after the hour?
To accommodate television. That way they can start at the top of the hour, set the scene, give the line-ups, and most important of all – squeeze in a few commercials.
Last night I walked into the living room and my wife asked me which real life story I thought might be the basis for this week's Law & Order SVU. Do you think SVU writers using real life stories as their basis for their scripts is genius--or lazy?
The real genius is designing a series premise that allows you to take real life stories and turn them into episodes. It’s not lazy because they always find a way to give those real life stories a spin and to work in their characters’ attitudes about them.
On MASH we utilized real life stories too. Of course the stories were twenty years old at the time we used them.
What's your question?