Friday, April 2, 2010

H&H - Part 8 - My Replacement?

Back to the TV series again where a terrific rainbow appears outside the writer's office.

As the TV machine begins to unfold, more crew arrive into Jackson and the actors should follow. We have a cast of relatively unknowns except for the lead ranger, who had a successful series a few years before. Our big star actually is a big star, or at least had her day. Let's call her Britt Winters and she starred with the likes of Peter Sellars, Paul Newman and many other big stars.

She was also one of my sexy idols growing up as a teen and this is not lost on me, for I will actually get to meet and know her. It's a big deal for me.

But for now I sit in the Greek-owned Tokyo Tom's sushi restaurant. I'm waiting for Jonathan and he shows up a half hour late. I joke that it must have been the traffic, seeing as that his condo is less than a five minute walk. Jonathan looks the same, gaunt and tired, and smells of beer.

Being around the same age, our conversation rolls around to the 60's and 70's, I worked for Bobby Kennedy, he worked with draft dodgers to Canada. Our mutual history makes it a good dinner and we laugh a lot. Yet, with that initial betrayal I am still not quite relaxed.

Later I walk home and notice a ring around it, Hunter's Moon as I've heard it referred to. And it suggests cold weather. And a new writer coming onboard.

The new writer arrives the next day. He's Rino, the one Jonathan and Kaplan arranged for. The one who just might also be the replacement for me. Rino is short, overweight, taken to hanging black jackets and black everything else. He also smokes like a proverbial chimney.

But after a few minutes with him, I realize he's one of those "who get it",  he's calm, smart and knows what is going on. He's a little cautious about saying too much but I understand that.

Jonathan and Kaplan join us for dinner, Kaplan says we won't be getting a secretary and there's no word on the printer. This printer thing is becoming an albatross, how can we hand out scripts with no printer?

We notice the director of the upcoming first episode nearby eating alone so Kaplan invites him over. I've worked with him in the past, his name was Stacy and he was your average director with little imagination but friends in the business. Stacy proceeds to tell us what's wrong with our scripts, with the show and generally with life. And he drinks too much.

I've mentioned this before, the old saying that directors don't like writers because writers are the only ones who know they're faking it. Not all directors, just the untalented and insecure ones. Which probably is 80%. In 30 years I have worked with only 4 really good directors.

Stacy then goes on a jag about some low-brow action/sexy series that's been syndicated to Saturday 5pm slots, otherwise known as the graveyard. Rino and I exchange glance and a smile that suggests this guy could be trouble in the days to come.

TV directors differ to some extent from feature film directors. Feature film directors are usually better with character-driven stories and with mood and tone. And they get more money, much more money.

A feature film can shoot for 6 months, our single TV episode takes 6 days. Most TV directors start out as assistant directors, as time and schedule are tighter when you have to shoot a one hour episode in 6 days.

And TV directors don't get all that much say in how the episode looks. It has to look like the other 11 episodes. And because of that, they have little power as compared to the god-like stature of feature directors.

TV directors can go up to features, people like Robert Altman and the best known, Steven Spielberg who started out in episodic TV. But feature directors only go down to TV, indicating their career in features is pretty much over.

Power in series is tied into the writers and producers, many of whom are writers themselves. Since they are there for the full 12 episodes, they control everything. I have the least control of our group, as I'm outranked by Kaplan and Jonathan and Rino is an unknown.

I will learn about him in the coming weeks.

(Mon: Let's begin with a good argument)


  1. You got to work with Elke Sommers? Yeah, that WOULD be memorable!
    (she was with Peter Sellers in "A Shot in the Dark" and with Paul Newman in "The Prize", and the name is German/Scandinavian) Am I right?

  2. That's the one. There's more of her later.

  3. I guess that would be Elke SOMMER (no final s). Perhaps I was thinking of another blonde sex symbol from MY college days with a similar last name (who incidentally was born the same year as you, Jim). I don't suppose anyone needs more hints, though an anagram of her name would be "Surnames ... so Zen"

  4. No "s" as you say Kevin, and not born the same year as me... at least 6 yrs on me, you know "ageless".

    You're gonna love the upcoming blog where I sit on a bench overlooking the river with "Erica" under a full moon.

  5. I was referring to Suzanne Somers, born in 1946 ...