Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How the sausage is made

This morning, a news item led me to the blog of Doris Egan, television writer and formerly staff on the now-cancelled Tru Calling. Aside from explaining a never-finished arc for that show-- which might have been interesting, if they'd ever fully committed to dealing with the mythology of the series instead of the more pedestrian movie-of-the-week stuff-- she tells some fascinating stories about being a TV writer.

Along with John Rogers' Kung Fu Monkey, these posts have convinced me that I never want to be a writer in Hollywood. Sure, you may get to collaborate with great people, and learn the ins and outs of story structure (which I need), and occasionally be responsible for a great scene or moment or line of dialogue (the ultimate ego boost), but you have no real control over the final product. You're not an author, you're an employee.

Says Ms. Egan:
I have never been on a show where every angle of logic and consistency was not debated in excruciating detail [by the writing staff]. For as long as it took. I mean, I'm sure there are shows where that doesn't happen. I just haven't been on them.

And yet, I have been on shows where plotholes and cheap'n'easy cliches appear on-screen.

Yes. What leaves the writers' room is often much more logical and consistent than what appears on screen. Why this is would take a full entry of several hours, and I would just be scratching the surface...

Read the rest of "Breaking the story" for some examples of things that can go horribly wrong between script and screen. All things considered, it's a minor miracle that any good TV shows and movies ever actually get made.

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