1/25/2008

NBC Cancels Pilot Season... Forever?

NBC has announced that it is doing away with pilot season. The New York Times reported Wednesday that NBC Universal chief executive officer Jeff Zucker made the announcement during a videoconference from London with the company's international employees. Zucker's decision to eliminate pilot season is an effort to cut costs due to the writers strike and a slowdown in the economy. According to Zucker the cuts will reportedly save the company as much as $50 million a year. Zucker went on to say they may still occasionally produce a pilot or two each year, just not on a regular schedule.

This comes on the heels of rumors that GE may be looking to divest itself of NBC Universal during this year's second quarter.

47 comments:

Bill said...

I think Zucker was speaking more in terms of a "wish list" that NBCU spend less on pilots in the future. He is trying to justify himself to GE by showing he can save money. The problem is that GE does not care or understand the industry as evidenced by calling NBCU one of its "Plants" in their annual reports (I work for Universal and have been to the annual meetings of NBCU employees).
Look for Google to make a bid for NBCU this year. The rumour was all over Wall Street last year as well as all over the lot. I for one would welcome Google as they are very interested in expanding in Entertainment and would bring a fresh face to the industry with new media savvy too.

BTL 399

Ryan said...

looks like the networks are already adapting to life without writers.

this is one of the negatives of a strike--the company the workers are working for (in this case the media overlord amptp) finds a way to do without them.

Jon Raymond said...

If only NBC could be canceled forever.

J. said...

Here is one of the full articles on Zucker's speech from Times Online. Note the last sentence where Zucker says the strike will be over in two weeks.

To me Zucker's two week prediction means that the studios want to make a deal quickly. IMO, now is the time to be firm and to get a deal that justifies the sacrifices we have made and preserves our financial futures.

From Times Online

January 22, 2008

NBC Universal to axe costly pilot shows
NBC aims to save $50m a year by ditching pilots of new series, traditionally produced at great expense by US broadcasters

Dan Sabbagh

NBC Universal, the American broadcaster behind CSI and Heroes, aims to save around $50 million a year by scrapping pilot programmes for drama series because they have become too expensive to make.

The cost of one episode pilots — which are supposedly designed to avoid flops mid series — have soared in the past three years from $3 million to $7 million, according to NBC Universal’s chief executive Jeff Zucker.

“You put in loads of extra money and special effects, but not producing the series you get,” he said, adding that even if viewers liked the pilot produced the result was “a totally false positive,” which did not insulate the network from subsequent failures.

Speaking at a round table event in London, Mr Zucker said: “Three to four series are returning from last fall. How many pilots were made? Around 75. If pilots were meant to stop shows that shouldn’t be airing, well we went ahead anyway.”

Instead, NBC plans to begin transmitting entire series at normal production budgets, although it can still act quickly to axe a flop.

Mr Zucker estimated that the annual profit improvement he could achieve is about $50 million, because some of the money saved from making the annual crop of eight to ten pilots will be spent elsewhere.

Separately, Mr Zucker downplayed the prospects of a bid for ITV, as it announced the $150 million acquisition of a 26 per cent stake in Indian entertainment broadcaster NDTV. “We’re admirers of ITV, admirers of Michael Grade, but it doesn’t mean we want to spend $8 billion — and I’m aware the figure can change — to acquire ITV”.

Although the company was careful not to rule out the possibility, NBC Universal is under pressure to find assets that will deliver “double digit growth”. ITV is contending with declining audiences and a subdued advertising market, with analysts expecting little or no growth in revenues or profits in 2008.

NBC has been cost cutting over recent years, after the long time leader sank to fourth of four amongst the big US networks. It has cut back the amount of prime time programming it makes from three hours to two — although in recent months a mini-revival has placed it on a par with Disney’s ABC, CBS, and Fox, which is owned by News Corp, parent company of The Times.

NBC Universal is 80 per cent owned by General Electric, with the remaining 20 per cent held by France’s Vivendi. Profits last year totalled $3.1 billion, up 6 per cent, with the contribution from NBC’s primetime estimated at 5 per cent of a group that also includes the Universal film studio and the CNBC financial news channel.

Mr Zucker also said that he believed the three-month-old writer’s strike would be over “in two weeks”.

hotline said...

Zucker has destroyed the number one network on television. Talk about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic!

Hey, Zucker, push those women and children out of your way and find yourself a life boat!

UNITED said...

Hm, what rhymes with Zucker? As a writer, I'll be happy to see new management come in, but I'll miss the laughs Monkey Boy has provided.

stuiec said...

BTL 399: be very wary of Google as your new corporate masters. They have no concept of dealing with unions -- their notion is that if employees have on-site concierges to deal with errands, foosball tables in the break areas and really good caterers running the cafeterias, those employees won't need or want unions.

They also have little grasp of copyright or the rights of content creators. They're the company that tried to put every book in the world online -- without asking permission of the authors or publishers -- and they're the owners of YouTube, which also shows a cavalier attitude towards copyright. And I doubt any software writer at Google except the founders themselves has ever been paid a royalty or residual -- though they may have been made rich with stock options.

Google as owner of a studio would be the start of a real restructuring of the entertainment industry. The upheaval would be massive and the final shape of the industry in the aftermath is hard to foresee.

The Unsomnambulist said...

I see a need for pilots, but is a pilot season really practical anymore?

Numerous shows do just fine debuting at different times of year, and with more video on demand (via internet and cable boxes) the need for a traditional season schedule is going to erode away.

It'll suck for people who schedule their lives around pilot season - especially actors who time their moves, or live here seasonally, just for the increase in audition opportunities leading into pilot season, but for everyone else this may just mean more consistent work year round.

josh said...

Google is definitely media savvy.
And fresh too. They understand the importance of content, in fact, they happily pay tons of money for all the videos they stream.

oh, wait...

VDOVault said...

The way I read it NBC is going to try the 'straight to series' approach now (like Tom Fontana's deal for 'The Philanthopist') instead of make a bunch of expensive pilots and then try and pick and choose amongst them

source:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080124/tv_nm/nbc_dc;_ylt=Ata8AZc.RJT0uxD4Vs3wHF9pMhkF

I don't know if this will be a better or cheaper way to come up with new scripted series, but it sounds like NBC isn't trying to go to 100% unscripted shows (now that would be suicidal and crazy).

Andrew said...

Say what you will about GE, Sheinhardt makes a fine wig.

Harold said...

UH, thanks for arriving late to the party AND failing to note the most important paragraph in that article:

"Other networks are making similar calculations. A senior executive at one of NBC’s competitors said Tuesday that 'we will definitely do fewer pilots than we have before.' This executive, who asked not to be identified because the network has yet to make its plans public, added that it had cut the number of scripts ordered for next season in half."

NBCU isn't going to be doing anything by itself. This is a possible change to pilot season - not "NBC's pilot season."

This strike has provided the opportunity for networks to change the process for creating new series. Pilot season isn't disappearing, but it's getting a large liposuction.

When 127 writers with pilots wrote a sappy email to network development executives, they knew that a significantly reduced pilot season going forward was a strong possibility as a result of the strike.

This is bad news for writers and worse news for BTLs.

My argument would be that the deal negotiated with AMPTP can't be "fair" anymore as that term might have been defined in November 2007. It needs to be "fair" as that would be defined in February 2008.

The environment going forward will possibly involve much fewer television writing opportunities.

127 writers with pilots? NO MORE.

This means the eventual deal needs to compensate for this change. This means the deal factors in networks dropping 80% of their developmental pilots.

I'm hopeful, but that's not realistic.

Reality is that the WGA has already dropped THREE of its negotiation proposals in exchange for a huge amount of NOTHING. Reality is that the eventual deal will not be better than what the original (remaining) proposals were. Reality is that the eventual deal will not reflect changes in the environment that the strike has given the opportunity for making.

I hate to keep making the same point, but AMPTP had a plan for the strike and continues to execute it. The WGA makes YouTube videos and drops proposals as its opening move at every new set of negotiations.

"Strategy" is nothing more than having a goal and taking action to achieve that goal. The negotiation proposals were the goal. Three of those proposals have been abandoned.

If I were to write that the "NegCom strategy sucks," that doesn't mean some grand intricate gameplan. "Beginning with the end in mind" (i.e., having fixed goals) would have been a heck of a nice strategy.

Most WGA members would have expected that the reality and animation proposals were just negotiating chips.

I doubt that few thought the DVD proposal was one too.

One of the major failures of the NegCom was to clarify what would be the deal-breaker proposals. DVDs were a major talking point prior to the strike. They haven't mentioned since. Verrone said that reality would be in the new contract - before he and the NegCom dumped it and animation.

Setting priorities does not require genius. I don't believe anymore that any of the proposals are prioritized.

You think that not getting the new media proposal is a deal breaker?

I bet you thought that about the DVD proposal.

jimmy said...

"Instead, NBC plans to begin transmitting entire series at normal production budgets, although it can still act quickly to axe a flop."

For the first time, I think Zucker is actually making a very good decision here.

I've heard from a showrunners that the practice of putting so much money into pilots and then cutting bugets per episode for the rest of the series is absolutely insane.

Just as Zucker said, you have a glitzy pilot and then a big drop off in production values that risk you losing your audience.

I think this could actually be good for writers. I bet they will do more development on the script side, possibly wanting 3, 4, 10, 13 scripts (which they'd pay for) in advance to see how the series will unfold and get a real sense of the budget.

The cost of paying a writer and an executive producer to develop a series on the script side and then taking that to potential advertisers would be a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run than paying $8 million for a pilot that gives you no indication if it will be successful.

This will mean fewer writers paid for pilots, of course, but more shows being picked up, given time to develop, and keeping an audience because the quality will hold.

It seems like this change will make the networks a lot more invested in the success of the shows because they've taken more time to do them properly.

And if they greenlight a series with 10 scripts that they already like, they will be more patient with the audience.

Anyone agree? Am I losing it?

jimmy said...

THIS VERY TREND IS EXACTLY WHY THIS CONTRACT IS ALSO SO IMPORTANT.

Think about the landscape three years from now if this trend takes hold.

A writer's strike could no longer interrupt a telelvision season. Their development process would call for many, many scripts to be delivered far in advance of their shooting. Not a few weeks. Probably several months.

If they do "series orders", then a writers strike means the networks could last several months, perhaps an entire season, before the absense of writers has any effect on their bottom lines.

Writers will lose almost all of their leverage and never be able to strike on their own again.

This contract has to be right.

SCOTT SUMMIT said...

ZUCKER WANTS TO CUT OVERHEAD AND ONLY FINANCE THE SUCCESSFUL SHOWS. YOU CAN NOT TRULY TELL IF A SHOW WILL BE SUCCESSFUL UNTIL THE SHOW MANIFESTS ITSELF OUT OF THE SCRIPT AND TO THE SCREEN. WRITERS ARE IRRITATED ABOUT THE LOSS IN JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN A CUT BACK PILOT SEASON.

SUGGESTION: PRODUCE ALL 75 PILOTS WITH YOUTUBE PRODUCTION VALUES SO YOU CAN SEE THE SHOW ON THE SCREEN. AMERICA CAN PICK THEIR FAVORITE SHOWS THROUGH ONLINE POLLS.

Harold said...

"jimmy said...Anyone agree? Am I losing it?"

You lose it one several points.

"I think this could actually be good for writers. I bet they will do more development on the script side, possibly wanting 3, 4, 10, 13 scripts (which they'd pay for) in advance to see how the series will unfold and get a real sense of the budget."

Their commitment process is not going to be changing. Your "budget" comment makes no sense. You get a "real sense of the budget" when it is handed to you.

"The cost of paying a writer and an executive producer to develop a series on the script side and then taking that to potential advertisers would be a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run than paying $8 million for a pilot that gives you no indication if it will be successful."

Yes, this is what television ad-buyers want to make their decisions on television shows about - scripts. WTF? That makes no sense at all.

"This will mean fewer writers paid for pilots, of course, but more shows being picked up, given time to develop, and keeping an audience because the quality will hold."

Quality and ratings don't always have a direct relationship. "Arrested Development?" CANCELED, despite being nominated for a best comedy series Emmy for EVERY YEAR it aired and winning it for its FIRST SEASON. Those at home, cite your own example of quality not equaling ratings.

Regardless, improving the quality of television is not one of the goals of this strike. You're completely discounting the shitload of BTL work provided by pilots that are now possibly DOA in the future. Those BTL's could give a crap about your grand plan for improving television. When some BTLs claim writers and their supporters, such as yourself, don't give a crap about their concerns, thanks for making an ignorant comment to prove that point.

150+ writers don't get paid. That obviously sucks, but that's just a drop in a bucket compared to the BTL work that won't be happening to make those pilots.

"It seems like this change will make the networks a lot more invested in the success of the shows because they've taken more time to do them properly. And if they greenlight a series with 10 scripts that they already like, they will be more patient with the audience."

You clearly don't know what you're talking about. Networks kill shows like this frequently.

For writers and everyone else paid to produce pilots, there is NOTHING good about a reduction in pilot season work.

Dan said...

Pilot season may or may not be good for networks' bottom lines, but was a major source of employment for the craft guilds.

If this does come to pass, as a result of this strike, be prepared for even more hard feelings from SAG (pilots are great for newer actors) as well as DGA, IATSE, Laborers, Plasterers, IBEW and IBT members.

Word on the street is the strike is nearing the end. Many unemployed brothers/sisters are looking forward to a rush of pilots to try to recover some of their lost wages and pension/health hours.

We're all "in this together" right?

Captain Obvious said...

"Anyone agree? Am I losing it?"



You CLEARLY drank the Kool-Aid, Jimmy. Please report to Central Services, immediately.

Just kidding. I see some of the potential silver linings, too. Shhh, don't let Nick Counter hear us saying that.

Josh said...

Zucker is just talking about cost cutting to keep GE from selling NBC.

By making fewer pilots, he's got fewer bullets in the gun, fewer chances of a breakout hit that digs the network out of fourth.

ABC pulled out of the cellar by tripling the amount of pilots it made.

To score you have to shoot. Zucker is just talking. Let him 'eliminate pilot season'. Soon NBC will be trailing A & E.


JOSH PATE

Bill said...

stuiec said...
"BTL 399: be very wary of Google as your new corporate masters. They have no concept of dealing with unions"

Ah, the old argument that "experience is better". Look where we are now because of experience of the studios. Universal has had several owners through the years including Seagrams and Vivendi who were ot exactly Union friendly. Fox has Rupert and seems to survive. GE may have many Unions in their plants, but they also have a nasty reputation in contract negotiations.

Maybe Google has "no concept" of dealing with Unions. Might actually be better as their not bound to the past practices of Dinosuars like GE and the rest.
Corporate masters? Talk about going in paranoid and without hope...

Hey, I guess there really is NO NEWS today from the blackout and this is all we have to discuss here.

BTL 399

Josh said...

dan,

Save your hard feelings for the AMPTP. They caused this strike. If they had been fair from the beginning none of this would have happened.

Harold said...

"SCOTT SUMMIT said...ZUCKER WANTS TO CUT OVERHEAD AND ONLY FINANCE THE SUCCESSFUL SHOWS. YOU CAN NOT TRULY TELL IF A SHOW WILL BE SUCCESSFUL UNTIL THE SHOW MANIFESTS ITSELF OUT OF THE SCRIPT AND TO THE SCREEN. WRITERS ARE IRRITATED ABOUT THE LOSS IN JOB OPPORTUNITIES IN A CUT BACK PILOT SEASON.

SUGGESTION: PRODUCE ALL 75 PILOTS WITH YOUTUBE PRODUCTION VALUES SO YOU CAN SEE THE SHOW ON THE SCREEN. AMERICA CAN PICK THEIR FAVORITE SHOWS THROUGH ONLINE POLLS."

Or you could just watch YouTube instead of its television network equivalent.

Or you could watch Channel 101 and have YouTube runtimes but with content quality that usually far surpasses YouTube content quality (e.g., no video blogs about what someone's cat ate today).

Or you could read a book.

Or you could...

SUGGESTION: DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS.

borregopass said...

While I'm sure the networks would love to change or eliminate pilot season, this is Zucker tap dancing to try to save his job. NBC is still in the basement. They had to refund cash to advertisers before this strike ever had a chance to truly effect the network. This time Zucker can't can someone to save his hide, he has to do something.

As someone above pointed out, advertisers and media buyers are not going to base their decisions to spend billions based on scripts. And no matter what the network heads might want, until they have a viable alternative acceptable to the advertisers pilots will be filmed. They may not be full episodes, they may not be extravaganzas, but they will be filmed.

hotline said...

I'm a bit of an optimist on all this. I think that, yes, this year is grim. For everybody. Even when the strike ends. But I do believe that the business will bounce back. My reasoning is this...

How many times have there been pilots that have had tons of money thrown at them, with A-list actors, A-list writers - stellar time slots, but then they've tanked, even though the network left it on the air for half a season or more? Sooo many times. When the network finally realizes they can't control the audience they look a their back up. And what are they going to back it up with? Well, in this new business scenario, let's see they've got 1 other pilot they've coddled and babied, but wait it's not at all the type of show that would do well in the time slot.

Networks need options. And the reason so many pilots are shot is because there has to be a lot of trial and error and some pilots work that'd you'd never expect and some don't that you'd bet your house on. And no matter how much money and attention a pilot gets - they CAN NOT FORCE A HIT SHOW. HIT SHOWS ARE - MOST OF THE TIME - ACCIDENTAL. And let's pose this question - with Mother-Zucker's new business model - how great is a show going to be when it gets ALL the attention of a network, studio, pod? These shows are going to be so over micro-managed they're going to be crap on a cracker.

Here's the other thing which can't be denied... Networks and studios are greedy. So whatever the next huge hit is - they're going to throw money at development trying to imitate that show.

I just don't believe the business is over as we know it.

Harold said...

Will all of you harping about NBCU, Jeff Zucker, and everything else NBC-related...

WAKE THE F*CK UP!?!

Read this paragraph:

"Other networks are making similar calculations. A senior executive at one of NBC’s competitors said Tuesday that 'we will definitely do fewer pilots than we have before.' This executive, who asked not to be identified because the network has yet to make its plans public, added that it had cut the number of scripts ordered for next season in half."

NBC WILL NOT BE DOING THIS BY ITSELF. LIKELY ALL NETWORKS WILL BE DOING IT OR NONE WILL.

Your rants about NBC are pointless. Every network will either be doing it or none of them will be doing it.

In case you missed it, ALL NETWORKS ARE SIGNIFICANTLY CUTTING FUTURE PILOT SEASONS OR NONE ARE.

SCOTT SUMMIT said...

I'M SUGGESTING NETWORK QUALITY WRITING WITH STANDARD NETWORK RUN TIMES, PRESENTED ONLINE. YOUTUBE OR CHANNEL 101 PRODUCTION VALUES WILL DECREASE OVER HEAD.

HAROLD SAID, "SUGGESTION: DON'T WRITE IN ALL CAPS". SCOTT SAYS, "WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO WRITE."

Harold said...

"hotline said...How many times have there been pilots that have had tons of money thrown at them, with A-list actors, A-list writers - stellar time slots, but then they've tanked, even though the network left it on the air for half a season or more? Sooo many times. When the network finally realizes they can't control the audience they look a their back up."

You're right, but do they need TEN backups?

Previously, the networks have lit many, many pilots and make choices among them. You're speaking like an audience member as if the two shows you've seen are the only ones that had pilots.

It works like this:

1. A huge amount of pilot scripts of which...
2. A large amount (but relatively small compared the HUGE number of scripts) of pilots are lit of which...
3. A tiny amount are placed on the schedule of which...
4. One, two, or often none are successful.

Jake Kasdan wrote a fun movie called "The TV Set" about a TV show that is selected for pilot. Some of you claiming to know what you're talking about should at least watch a fictional portrayal about the process - as it PREVIOUSLY existed.

just a thought said...

I don't think that Zucker will last much longer. His statement is just a naked attempt to save his ass.
As for pilots I think it will be business as usual. You have to remember all these networks are competing with each other and they are not going to let one net get up on the other.
I like the idea of a cheaper more concise pilot. We pay for the expensive pilot all during the run of a show.
You never know how something turns out till you see it cut together. No amount of dailies or praise for the writing or acting will tell you if it's good until it's put together.
I've seen this business change several times in my career. This is the biggest and not the last.

artdeptgirl said...

SCOTT SAYS, "WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO WRITE."

Perhaps, but it's also the online equivalent of screaming at people at the top of your lungs. They tend to, then, completely ignore your posts.

If you actually want to engage in productive discussion here, then you should take that into consideration.

hotline said...

Harold - I'm sorry. I'm not really sure of your point. I've been in the business a long time. I know how it works. I've also seen The TV Set, which is a fantastic accurate portrayal of the business.

My point is... if I wasn't clear, I think it's quite likely that the TV game will get back to how it was. Not immediately, but in a bit of time. All it'll take is one new big hit scripted show. And I think the network execs will find that the reason TV has so much - what seems like - waste is because it's like having to blow a huge hole in the ground to find one lump of gold. They think somehow they'll bypass the actual mining and go straight for the nuggets. Doesn't work that way. Never has.

JimBob said...

Pilot season always struck me as a dumb way to do business. Once a year, for a couple of months, everyone goes nuts, there's a shortage of writers, actors and directors as everyone tries to be in pilot production at once. The idea of a "season" seems as antiquated as all the new cars coming out at once in September.

robotdog said...

SCOTT SAYS, "WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY TO WRITE."

alas, but it is the most inefficient way to read.

Al said...

Wait a minute, I thought it was all about the script. Now, you're telling me that to decide if a show is any good, you have to see it. Like, after the set dressers, construction, gaffers, grips, costumers, sound, casting, actors, directors, camera, and the myriad of other people that make a show look good on the screen have done their jobs? You know, the people that have sacrificed the most for this strike, who will never get back what they lost, not to mention get no increase because of it.

J Dog said...

Good job guys, good job. Keep up the good work.

Dan said...

Josh said...
dan,

Save your hard feelings for the AMPTP. They caused this strike. If they had been fair from the beginning none of this would have happened.


I hear you Josh...

Be sure to tell the rest of the crew that when you get back on the set.

And feel free to respond to the context of my post too, if you so desire.

MrKlaatu said...

NBC is still going to comission pilot scripts. Lots of them. If anything, this is a demonstration that they NEED writers. In fact, they will make their decisions about what series to pick up based on the written word more than anything else.

nick said...

DO NOT BLAME THE WRITERS FOR THE STRIKE! The Studio Execs forced this strike they wanted this strike and they got everything they wanted. Reduction in production cost. Reduction of pilot cost. Elimination of costly and antiquated pilot "season". Advertisers have decided not to cut upfront monies for second half of 08 season. In order to get certain actors to sign on the dotted line they had to give development deals, well those went away legally, thanks to the strike they forced. Dga came in a made a crappy deal to make the wga look greedy, check. They knew they would have to pay something for new media, but now they got away with no animation or reality writers in the guild. 6 cents on DVDs seems reasonable but but why when it was just given up. Typically, the writer is the puppet master through a well written script. Seems to me like the strings are on the other hands and feet. Ordinarily, I like to refer to actors as meat puppets. Might have to change that. Oh yeah, you might not have noticed but British Columbia just increased its tax credit to draw more work to Canada. I'm not sure but I think that benefits the Studios. Sure some of these things were not planned by the AMPTP, some just fell in their laps but it sure feels slimy.
The Writers cannot be blamed for this strike. But it looks like they got sucker punched again. Too bad most are good people. When we all go back to work I hope everyone gets along. Lotsa of love folks!

Joseph said...

Um... the new cars DO still come out in December.

RENO said...

I don't agree with Dan or Bill of what they say. I think it's terrible that TV and movie productions have been shutdown by this strike thanks to the WGA for it to cause entertainment go stagnant and remain dead as we know it. To those members of the WGA, I have no sympathy for you and the sorry bunch of people you call yourselves writers. I call you as idiots when H-E- Double Hockey Sticks freezes over. You just don't want to put a dark cloud all around Hollywood which you folks are doing right now. I'm saying keep those negotiation talks going until you make that fair deal and don't you ever get negative on refusing that deal please with hope let's not have the Oscars be cancelled or cut down to a news conference without any stars. The economy here in the U.S. is already in trouble right now as we speak. The economic problems that has affected Hollywood and the city of Los Angeles. Please break out of the dark clouds and clear the air now.

just a thought said...

Are the canadians trying to pick our bones again. They did in 88. Bastards

Luzid said...

Yes, Al, it remains all about the script, without which none of the necessary jobs you mentioned would be needed.

It's not a matter of seeing it to know that it's good - if the script is good, those who follow the recipe writers provide (while adding their own spices as needed) will likely craft a successful film. But it still all begins with the blank page and the writers' minds.

Bad recipes can't be fixed by any number of talented chefs. That's just a fact. Likewise, great recipes remain a solid storytelling base, regardless of the input of any lousy cooks.

Josh said...

Dan,

Hard feelings toward the WGA for the consequences of this strike are misplaced. Again, the producers have forced this strike. The writers had no choice. That's why over 90% of the WGA authorized it. As TV migrates to the web the vast majority of our health bennies and residuals are at stake. The writers simply refused to be raped and fought back. To be mad at the writers really shows a lack of understanding of the economic issues. I assume you are in one of the other guilds. Our fight is your fight. If we do better, you will do better. If you want someone to be mad at, may I suggest Robert Iger? He just got a big raise that took last year's pay to over 27 million.

As far as pilots being scaled back: its bluster. The size of pilots vs. regular eps might be scaled back, but there will be just as many pilots shot across town in the 12 months following the strike as in the 12 months that preceeded it. For Zucker (4th place) to talk about shooting less pilots is laughable. He's only trying to get GE not to sell NBC to Google, because he will lose his job if they do.

Best of luck to you and your family.

stuiec said...

BTL 399: "Might actually be better as their not bound to the past practices of Dinosuars like GE and the rest."

Just keep in mind that one of the past practices of Dinosaurs that Google is not bound to is union contracts. They may take some breaking in.

Al said...

@luzid,
I didn't say the script wasn't important, I'm disputing the BS I've been reading since November - that the rest of the industry is interchangeable, and have no bearing on the final product.

As I read somewhere, put your script on the internet and see if someone pays to read it. Then look at all the poorly written crap that people flock to see or advertisers pay to be associated with.

Nothing beats a well written story, but it takes a lot of people to make it come alive on the screen. Those same people can even make a reality show watchable (barely).

And most people blame both sides for the strike, the AMPTP for gaming the WGA, and the WGA for not realizing it had been gamed until it was too late. They got most of what they wanted, the writers still don't have a deal, and everyone else got screwed.

Dan said...

Josh,
Thanks for the response.

I can appreciate much of what you say, and even agree with some of it. You are right, I am a member of IATSE local 44. I work on movies, so I have been extremely fortunate to be relatively unhurt by the strike to date.

Just FYI, here's how it's seen from our end of the woods. While you may claim it's not the WGA's fault there's a strike, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. The AMPTP are a certainly no friend to the working class, and may indeed have been angling for a strike for various reasons, but the WGA certainly is complicit in the current state of affairs. On the 'street' it appears that the WGA showed up to a gun fight with a knife- never a good thing if you are serious about wining, or even looking for a draw.

You say that your fight is our fight, yet you never consulted us. So, it's really not 'our' fight. It really is "your" fight, and you need to take owner ship of that. You maybe right, any gains you win could be passed on to us, but by the same token, any losses you suffer could also be dumped on us. And still, we weren't consulted.

Long story short, AMPTP bad. Tom Short, no prince, but the WGA jumped headlong into a strike, one that they were prepping for for at least 2 years, without fully doing their homework, without having the needed leverage to force the AMPTP to even sit down with them at the table, without consulting the craft guilds. Not only are BTL workers facing severe unrecoverable losses in wages, but will soon be threatened with loosing their health insurance and will see a break in their pension service contributions.

It's your fight, it's a righteous one, but you will have to deal with the collateral damage.

Best to you and yours.

Luzid said...

Al,

We mostly agree, though I'd need something more than anecdotal evidence for the last comment viz the blame game. It's not accurate from I've been able to gather (but that's also anecdotal, so...)

I disagree with "look at all the poorly written crap that people flock to see or advertisers pay to be associated with" simply because, in quite a few cases, it's not that the original script sucked, but that egos above the writer screwed it up (often because, while they can film, they can't themselves write a decent story and don't realize the harm they're doing, or maybe don't care).

But I will say this - anyone suggesting your skills are not necessary is wrong. Such skills are not quite as specialized as writing, but that doesn't mean BTL folks don't bring something to the production. I would hope no one really believes that.

dp said...

luzid-

" Such skills are not quite as specialized as writing, but that doesn't mean BTL folks don't bring something to the production."

Are you really that big of an ass? I tell you what I'm doing on the set and you stand there slack jawed. Please, you're the only specialist, come on.