August 6, 2010

WHY YOUR MOVIES AND TV SHOWS ARE AS BAD AS THEY ARE

Do you remember, boys and girls, when I said that the insanity of my Hollywood dealings just may drive me over the edge? Or when I said that I was merely waiting for the other shoe to drop on me regarding the TV show.

Well, that shoe dropped on Tuesday.

It dropped in a sentence. Well, more than one sentence, really, but one sentence in particular as I realized that the good ideas and notes that had happened before had been caused by luck and not by forethought.

Want to know what that sentence was?

"Nobody will remember what was said in dialogue two minutes later. I don't."

Well, Aaron Sorkin. It must be tough to be you. I am sorry to inform you that nobody here remembers anything that you have written in dialogue, like "This is bad... on so many levels" or "She called you a New York Jew, Josh. That's what she did" or "If we are going to discuss this, then at least get the damn commandments right! It is the damn third commandment". "What is the first commandment?" followed by one of the best entrances in TV history, Martin Sheen's president going, "I. Am. Your. God."

Yes, nobody remembers dialogue.

That's why everybody knows exactly three things about Aliens.

And everybody who has seen that movie will know what you are talking about when you say one of the following.

(1) "Anybody ever mistaken you for a man, Vasquez?" "No, you?"

(2) "Game over, man! Game over!"

and

(3) "Get away from her, you bitch!"

See, that's how little can be conveyed in dialogue.

But people are supposed to bow to somebody because they have a title, have a position of power, have been vetted, looked at, fucked, sucked, helped by family connections to rise to a level where idiocy becomes something that is carried proudly in front of them, and intellectual vacuum is a good thing. And then these people buy this...
NBC has closed a deal for Zombies vs. Vampires, a spec script by Jake in Progress creator/executive producer Austin Winsberg. I hear NBC bought preemptively the project, produced by Warner Bros. TV and McG's studio-based Wonderland production banner. Zombies vs. Vampires is described as a "fun buddy cop procedural." It is set in a world where zombies are a part of society, controllable with medication. The show's two leads (one secretly a vampire) are cops assigned to a squad specifically formed to deal with "zombie crime". Winsberg, McG and Peter Johnson are executive producing.
Oh, I am sorry. I'm supposed to respect the ones who buy this?

I am angry. I am totally pissed off. Because one of the things I got told during that phone conference was that "all the [incredibly stupid changes they thought would improve the show] ideas were for the benefit of the potential buyers, and the buyers are very nervous and skittish, and we are merely trying to make the show more sellable".

And you know what? I am not interested in making the show "sellable" to somebody who considers fully reading (and by that I mean, every word and yes, that fucking includes stage directions, these things are there for a reason, you know. They are there so that in shooting the damn thing, there is a visual that explains stuff to the audience without having to use dialogue) a script that is only 42 pages long as something to be done between your fucking golf date and your 3.00 PM blow job appointment with Mistress Erika.

Nor am I interested in having a "career" in Hollywood, especially considering that I am perfectly aware of how such a "career" in Hollywood look these days.
This week the Writers Guild of America, West reported that while earnings for screenwriters have bounced back to pre-strike levels, there is a lot less work going around: employment has fallen 11% in the last three years, with 226 fewer screenwriters working in 2009 than 2006, the year before the 100-day walkout and the lowest level in at least six years.
So says this rather informative article by the LA Times. Things are looking grim. Of course they are. And yet, I find myself not really feeling a lot of sympathy for any of these "writers". I should. Don't you think I should? After all, am I not in the same boat as they are? Hustling to get something made? Remember what I told you about me growing up? That's what this is, isn't it?

Please play with me! is what they all scream. And beg. Play with me! See, I even will do things for you for free! Play with me! Use me! Abuse me! Call me dirty names. Call me...

... a Mary Sue! Because that is what they all allowed themselves to be turned into. For a gig. For a trick. For a paycheck, they will do anything. They write to an audience of oligarchs with titles and business cards, they do not, let me repeat that, they do not write for you, the audience.

I am doing this to prove a point. I have written THE CAGE to prove a point. That something smart is going to be embraced by you, the ones who are out there and love stories.

And I find the simultaneous kissing of my ass while trying to fist it... to be no longer merely annoying, but angering me on levels that I don't even have words for.

But my favourite line?

"We are not trying to put you on a leash, Thomas..."

To which I replied, "Well, you are not able to put me on a leash. Not you, not your boss, not any person at any TV network. Want to know why? Because I own the damn thing!"

I didn't write it as an assignment.

And while – as I have written previously – am more than happy to implement good ideas (just goes to make any particular charge of "you are not being a team player" already a really stupid argument), I am the person in charge here.

Oh, and incidentally? That charge of not being a team player has been made numerous times in my life. Know who the people are who level that charge against you? People who equate "team player" with "do what I want you to do, good dog, who's a good dog. You are. You are good puppy."

I talked last night with my former deputy editor Martina Vrenegor (one of the smartest women on this planet), told her all this, including the whole "team player" bit, and on that other end of the phone line, there was that laughter I am still missing and that got me through a lot of shit during my Future Publishing years, when at many times it felt like I was the only one who tried to save the company from collapsing on the German market.

And the reason I quietly slipped into a state of deep despair in the three months prior to my depature aftr having tried to warn every person willing to lend me an ear, after I had gone to the main house in Bath and talked to their Launch Editor Matt Bielby, stating that Future Germany is roughly 18 months away from financial collapse, if we didn't kill the German management team structure.

Deaf ears. Always deaf ears.

And the only thing I ever got out of England was the snarky "and you'd want to run the company, then, right?"

"No," I said. "I have no interest in running the company. I want the idiots running the company to do their jobs properly, so I can do mine. Because if they don't start, and by that I mean, yesterday, we are going to crash."

Deaf ears. Always deaf ears.

"You not a team player, T?" Martina said last night. "Maybe they should come around and ask the teams you led. You ran your department with so much respect for everybody else's input that we all stood behind you all the way. The only thing with you? You have the least capacity of dealing with bullshit I have ever seen in my life. You see it, you smell it, and you cannot keep your mouth shut when you do. We all loved you for it. Everybody in management hated you for it. And god, did they hate you. Because, see, even back then... they couldn't find a way to play you. Nobody could ever play you. That made you the most dangerous man in the company."

When we were about to shaft Sega and drop the Offical Dreamcast Magazine in order to beg Sony to make the Official PS2 Magazine, I was called into the office of the Managing Director, you remember the one, we talked about this before, Stefan "I have a sun tan but no brain" Moosleitner.

"I want you to lead the development of the magazine," he told me. "In fact I want you to lead the entire development of every new magazine in the games sector."

"Why me?" I asked

"You are an arrogant asshole," he said.

"Well, it's nice that we both see eye to eye on that."

"I wasn't finished," he said. "You are an arrogant asshole who has no respect for authority, who I would fire the moment I could afford it, but the fact is that you are also the best creative in the entire company."

"Oh dear," I said. "I am so flattered to know that I am the guy who has to do the heavy lifting until you find somebody who is more to your taste."

"Do the PS2 development."

"No."

"What?"

"I said, no," I said. "Because if you ditch the Dreamcast Magazine, my team will be ditched. And I won't have that. You want me to do your bidding, I want assurances that I will have my team. Or I can just walk out of this office, and that best creative in your company is telling you to find that person more to your taste right now."

"What?"

"My team. You stay away from my team. Are we clear on that? For that I will bend over for you. I will be your good little doggie. My team. Don't think, don't ever delude yourself that I am going to do it for you or for this company."

"You can keep your team."

"Good."

When I departed Future Germany, I called all of the editors and staffers together to "a final supper". I told everybody the truth. That the company was going to go down. And that they should start looking for new jobs, new positions, that they should do it quietly, that they shouldn't wait. I gave them a time frame. I gave them less than a year.

Most didn't believe me.

I was off by three days in my prediction. That's all. Three days. The collapse happened exactly as I had predicted it. Even now, I sometimes look back and want to scream at the idiots who only cared about their office furniture, their positions, their titles, their corporate benefits, "if you had listened to me, just once, we could have saved this company!"


And so, in this situation here, the only decision other people in this industry can make is to say "no."

And boo-hooo-hooo, cry me a fucking river. I can just as well write this as a series of novels and wait, for in about five years the same people will come knocking on my door and beg to then option it. And know what? Then I'll go the full J.K. Rowling on their asses.

Freedom is the freedom not to care.