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Old 03-20-2002, 10:21 PM   #21
mwhalen
 
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Default questions for Todd

Todd,

Thanks for sharing your insider's experience. In your opinion, has the recent proliferation of movies and series popping up on the cable channels opened up the market in any significant way? All of a sudden, it seems, channels like FX, Lifetime, Court TV, and even ESPN are producing orignial content, joining HBO & Showtime. Also in the past three or four years we've seen the WB and UPN networks adding more original content too. Do these recent trends mean real hope for those of us who want to get an audience for our pitches?
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Old 03-21-2002, 02:48 PM   #22
ToddinHB
 
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Default This could take a while...

mwhalen - You ask some very good questions, ones that I've pondered for the past few years.

But first, for Lindsay, a "showrunner" is the executive producer in charge of the series. There may be numerous executive producers, but typically, only one or two are designated the showrunners. This person(s) is responsible for giving the show its season arc over 22 episodes, as well as being the primary intermediary with the network.

As for the changes in programming strategies, ever since the predictions of a "500-channel universe" five (or ten?) years ago, I have been observing the subtle changes in how a network programs. The most recent and obvious example of this is the "Nightline" fiasco with ABC. Once upon a time, there was intense competition for network news. Now, however, the news business has segued into the cable universe. Most media conglomerates have a cable news channel (News Corp./Fox News, AOL/CNN, NBC/MSNBC), but Disney does not. Still, even though "Nightline" regularly attracts more viewers than Letterman, they tend to be older ones, less attractive to advertisers.

Now, if you wanted to redo "Brian's Song," it would likely air on ESPN or Fox Sports. Everything is now being segmented as more and more viewers are able to access more than the Big Four networks. That is why the TV movie is practically nonexistent there. You'll find them on MTV, ESPN, Lifetime, VH1, etc.

Does this bode well for the aspiring writer? Yes and no. Yes, in that as the number of outlets expands (and will exponentially as the television moves from being a broadcasting device to being a big Internet access device, which is happening as we speak/type), and the demand for original product grows (as opposed to more episodes of "I Love Lucy"), the need for writer will grow. At the same time, however, the amount that these cable entities can spend will be reduced. However, as the traditionally high-paying writing jobs evaporate in network television, more of the "old guard" veterans, desperate to make their mortgages, will be willing to forgo the seven-figure salaries in exchange for a paycheck and, perhaps, a bit more creative freedom.

One of the primary complaints from writers in network television (and I heard this directly from Ron Shelton and Alan Ball) is having to justify every little thing to "pinheads in pinstripes" in the network offices. That's why Shelton never did a TV series, and Ball didn't succeed at that game until he went to HBO.

As much as NBC would love to have "The Sopranos" or "Six Feet Under," they would never tolerate the subject matter, language, or degree of creative freedom that these shows require.

Phew, I'm tired! But mark my words, things are changing, and no one can really predict what the outcome will be. One prediction - your television will soon have a box ruling numerous functions (if you don't already have one). In my opinion, Sony is gearing up the Playstation 2 (or 3) to be the primary interface. Besides playing games, DVDs, and CDs, it will link you to the Internet and record programming like TiVo.

Thoughts?
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Old 03-21-2002, 08:01 PM   #23
mwhalen
 
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Default thoughts....

Whatever changes may be in the works, there will be hits and misses. Television and movies are such a deeply-embedded part of our popular culture that changes will have to be incremental and user-friendly.

The millions of people who have bought DVD players over the past couple of years may not be too anxious to hear they must now buy another gadget. Remember how Digital Audio Tape was going to be the next revolution in audio? Remember how cable and video-on-demand was going to put the video stores out of business? Even Wayne Huizenga thought video was on the way out, which is why he sold Blockbuster a few years ago.

I can't imagine Sony being successful with such a product unless it's scalable. There are millions of us out there who will want the TV-related services but not want the games.

I think the next big steps forward will come via the cable providers. Every day, the country gets more and more wired with broadband and DSL, opening up lots of possibilities. I think we'll see the cable company / ISP offer Tivo-like service through the cable box. THe cable box of the future will have FastForward and Rewind buttons, and, using a new remote, we will be able to transmit "record" requests right through the cable, causing the cable company (or satellite provider) to record whatever we request. So the data storage will be on their end, requiring less hardware in the house. Just a thought. I'm sure the pay-per-view menus will expand, one day to the point the Huizenga envisioned.

Now, having said all that, the real question is: Who can I show a treatment to, in order to get some constructive feedback?
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Old 03-22-2002, 10:28 AM   #24
Linzeh
 
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Default Re: This could take a while...

and it did!!!:b

thanx Todd...

something tells me you have a book on this subject inside you!!!:b
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Old 03-22-2002, 02:55 PM   #25
ToddinHB
 
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Default Too kind...

Lindsay, you are being far too gracious and kind regarding my ability to write a book. That may be why I became an agent - "Those who can, write. Those who can't, agent."

Mwhalen, you have some excellent observations. I don't know what will become of Sony and the Playstation strategy. Apple is rumored to be attempting the same thing. And Microsoft is coming at it from a very different direction with their .Net strategy. If nothing else, it is a wonderful spectator sport. And I love to prognosticate.

As for your treatment, you can email it to me, if you'd like, and I'll give it a quick once-over (todd@storyxchange.com).
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Old 03-22-2002, 08:04 PM   #26
Linzeh
 
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Default Re: Too kind..."it's the canadian way"

now you're being to humble...8) ...i'm sure i'm not the only one on here who has enjoyed your responses etc....:b

and now that you've offered to give Mwalens' treatment the once over may i also take you up on your offer????...
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Old 03-22-2002, 08:43 PM   #27
ToddinHB
 
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Default Fire away!

Okay, Lindsay. You can send your treatment to me. If I don't respond within the next two weeks, please go ahead and prod me with a friendly email. Of course, I would never expect anything other than a friendly email from one of our neighbors to the north.
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Old 03-22-2002, 09:20 PM   #28
Linzeh
 
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Default Re: Fire away!

please include some of that SoCal weather..it's 30 degrees here and windy!!!:eek
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Old 04-26-2002, 05:46 PM   #29
entlaw
 
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Default Re: This could take a while...

Todd, I met one of the creators of Early Edition a few years ago. I got the impression from our brief discussion that he wasn't all that involved in the show and thanks to your explanation, now I know why. I pitched a pilot (along with my co-writer) to a couple of wanna-be producers who said they could attach a well known show-runner, but of course the show-runner would insist on the "Created By" credit (plus they wanted a 3 year option for nothing). Needless to say, we passed on this great deal.
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Old 04-27-2002, 06:23 PM   #30
ToddinHB
 
Posts: n/a
Default You made the right decision, but...

Everyone needs to know that any series that gets picked-up by a network that is a WGA signatory is subject to automatic arbitration. You cannot be bound by any signed agreement about "Created by" credit.

On "Early Edition," the WGA arbitrated, and deemed that my clients were entitled to share credit with Ian Abrams. Of course, it helped that Ian was a "friend of the court," in that he wanted to help my guys out. Bob Brush tried to get it, but was denied in the arbitration. CBS and Tri Star, in an effort to soothe his ego, gave him "Developed by" credit, which is a non-WGA credit.
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