Friday, April 9, 2010

H&H Part 10 - More discontent than I knew.

On one of my downtown walks, I find a local drug store that brings in out-of-town newspapers and agrees to bring in the Sunday LA Times at a cost of $5 which, considering how far away L.A. is, is quite reasonable. It's a week old, but better than nothing.

Back at the office Jonathan calls from his condo and says he likes my initial treatment for Episode 4, the first of the 2 scripts I will write myself, rather than rewrite other people's works. Rino offers his comments for the first time, he's generous with complements but with the feeling that the hammer will come down at the end.

Later I hang out with Karen, the accountant, remember what I said about accountants, you can't be nice enough to them. Helps to buy them a drink now and then too. But Karen is genuinely likeable and we get along well.

I'm introduced to the local producer, who is part of the financing and thus considers himself a vital part of the production. Karen tells me he's way out of his league and messes up frequently and that the other producers would like to dump him but they need his participation in the money end.

He's a nice enough guy, and his aspiring actress wife has a semi-regular part on the series. Word is that she's taking advantage of her husband's position and is quite opinionated. We shall see if her part grows as we move forward.

We have another meeting for the avalanche story, the one I rewrote. This is basically the job of the story editors; we take the first draft screenplay of the hired writers and rewrite it to our needs as well as make it shootable, in the sense that they might ask for 100 extras and we tone it down to 10. And as mentioned above, I get to write 2 scripts myself.

The avalanche episode is potentially difficult, the crew is already rumbling with discontent, there are several problems, the most being how to create an avalanche for very little money. Kaplan suggests a new scene in which it includes a snow cannon firing. This almost makes the director fall of his chair.

At this point in the game, you don't add new scenes, especially difficult ones, Kaplan, being an amateur, doesn't know this yet and the 1st Assistant Director says a resounding "NO". Kaplan backs off but it's clear the crew dislikes him as much as the office staff does.

At least I have company.

But we all know that Kaplan can be dangerous, we're over a thousand miles from the network and someone like Kaplan can begin a rolling snowball that could end in disaster. Mahon sits mostly quietly, playing Solitaire on her computer. Sometimes I think she's on meds or something because she only looks up now and then. Of course she has to deal with Kaplan on a personal level and I can feel sorry for her. But I don't trust her either.

And I realize Jonathan also deals with Kaplan on a more personal basis than I do and I see he's almost resigned himself to a long spring and early summer of futile arguments. He has rewritten Episode 12 and it's very ordinary, the characters are turning one-dimensional.

Writing believeable characters is hard, some writers can't do it. It took me about 5 years to learn how to write believable characters and my method isn't all that hard.

I don't make them up. 

There's an old saying that anything a writer could write couldn't match real life and I take my lead from that. Every character I write is initially based on someone I knew,  or I met, or even someone I may have watched for a few minutes somewhere.

Once in a truckstop, I saw an older man putting posters of his missing grand-daughter on the bulletin board. It was sad, yet it fascinated me, the look in his eyes, the emptiness. Then he noticed me and smiled half-heartedly.  Nobody else in the truckstop took time to look at him or the poster.

Those are the moments I try to write, hopefully even partially successfully. I am grateful to those who inspire me and I feel like I'm giving them a nobility they deserve.

Jonathan doesn't seem to care anymore and his way of coping is disappearing into his condo sometimes for a few days. This way he doesn't have to be around Kaplan, Mahon or us. It must be a hard life for him, being the head writer and rarely working at the office.

I wish I could just let go like he does but my need to feel some pride and satisfaction in my writing keeps me much too honest for my own good.

Right now we're still struggling to keep the entire show in sequence even as we are writing the last 4 episodes now and hoping that they will make sense as they will air after the episodes we will film later.

But again, it's not rocket science. It's only a TV show and a not very good one at that.

Nobody sets out to make a bad show, but this one was doomed from the start and from the top. Kaplan has no idea what he's doing, Mahon plays on  her computer games and now and then snaps at someone, the head writer is hardly around, the crew is unhappy and the office staff would like to drop Kaplan off somewhere in the mountains.

And I end up at Louise's coffee house whenever I can and read the Sunday LA Times. It's a week behind but it's big and fat and takes me the better part of a morning.

(Mon: Kaplan gets dumped on)

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