tell your name, the livelong June, to an admiring Blog
In order to develop ideas for television, you have to have two skills: the ability to pitch the idea in a room full of TV execs, and then the ability to write a brilliant hour-long script. These two talents are so far apart, require such different areas of the human brain, it's a wonder anyone develops the cajones to do it. It's like an Olympic sport where you have to swim 100 meters and then play the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto on a clavichord.
I mention this not just because we're doing that very thing, but because the current anti-intellectual atmosphere in this country - as well as the venality shown to people who dare make "art" for a living - means that all creators must also be their own public relations agent. In other eras, you could have been a nebbishy artist cranking out verse like Emily Dickinson stuck in a chamber pot-reeking bedroom and let the words speak for themselves, but not in this environment. Fully 33% of your workload as an artist must be spent promoting yourself (for actors, that might be as high as 85%).
Part of the problem is that so many people want to be actors or musicians that there is a line to get into the line that gets you into the door of an agent, and even if you can crack it, most actors spend hours of their week trying to get their managers interested in their careers again.
It's not just the commercialization of art, nor is it the modern notion that "art is only art if people will pay to consume it." It's more that people want other people to be personable and well-rounded. Your talent set must be bizarrely diversified. Business deals are worked out on the golf course in Administrative America, but there's a rub: you have to be able to play golf.
Does playing golf make you a better manager? Hell no, but it is now a tangential requirement for business. I'm fascinated by the myriad of skills you need to be successful at anything now, as we have truly left the guild age behind: you can be a blacksmith, sure, but you're only going to get the Anderson account if you have a good backhand, know about the special scotch that Macallan has on reserve, and can tell a joke about Janet Reno within 2.4 seconds. In a way, it's no wonder that dorks have taken over America, because we're the only ones that had more than two interests in high school.
I know there are playwrights and scribblers and indie filmmakers out there who say "fuck that, man" and take a perverse glee in how bad they are in crowds. I say that if you're going to adopt this attitude, you had better have a trust fund or be content with nary a soul ever seeing your work. There is so much static in our culture that it will take more than your innate brilliance to let your work slip the surly bonds of your studio and penetrate the brains of your fellow man.
Scream from rooftops if you have to. Be able to wow a room full of executives, even if you're a sculptor. Be able to pitch over the bunker and land on the green, even if you just wanna dance. Don't be proud of your insularity, it only ensures silence.
Posted by Ian Williams at September 14, 2005 11:08 PM
you said it, man.
just go into a room and hang out. get the vibe and go with it. not in an insincere way either. literally, relate to the person/people you happen to be with that particular day, and if you're pitching -- tell them a story. be funny, intelligent, passionate, charming. be the best version of yourself you can be, without trying to be anyone other than who you are. it's a date, make it fun, make it hot.
I don't think this is a bad thing. I don't see it as anti-intellectual nor as shameless self-promotion. LA is a silly town. one needs equal parts ambition and an almost profound sense of the absurd in order to retain some sort of perspective. (staying up on your politics/getting angry about the things that actually matter -- slipping that into your work if you can, because why the hell do we do this in the first place??? -- also helps.) yes, your work has to be amazing. but you can't take yourself too seriously. can't be a pompous jackass or a pretentious fuck. it may be art, but it's also entertainment. which as we all know is big business, and when you're in the trenches (not iraq or the gulf coast -- my apologies to those who might take offense at the regionally insular southland notion of being on set or in the writers room at 3 in the morning as anything even remotely trench-like), you want to be with people that you like. that you trust. that have their shit together and can consistently deliver, in a classy, professional way.
finally, I don't think pitching and writing are all that different. obviously a lot depends on your own personal process, but the bottom line is you're telling story either way. if you're fun and engaging and specific in a pitch, chances are your script will be as well. the execs are just people, they're your first audience.
to quote my favorite local band...
(www.somethingforrockets.com -- your shameless self-promotion, even though I'm only just a fan)
keep it sexy.
weeds. hmmm. I like almost everything about it (including kevin nealon, justin kirk, the luminous mary-louise parker and especially shoshannah stern -- the stunningly beautiful 25 year-old deaf actress who plays the son's girlfriend.)
1) tone-wise, it's a little desperate housewives for me, only with weed.
2) and here's where it gets tricky...
(for me at least) a little "folksy", a little "cute", a little "sassy" with the black people. just a little. but that little can read as false and (not racist but) patronizing if that's all we see them doing/being. I think the men fare better than the women (conrad, the drug dealer in the club ML was flirting/talking shop with, etc.), but it's still mostly about dealing, cornbread, SUVs, and sexual prowess. (all fun things, don't get me wrong...) I don't know the ethnic breakdown of the staff, but most TV writers in this town are white. that said, in terms of writing three-dimensional characters of races other than (and obviously including) white, shows like the wire, other HBO stuff (sopranos, six feet, comeback, etc.), desperate housewives, arrested development seem to do this really well if only because the approach those take to character -- regardless of race -- is much more idiosyncratic and consistently interesting than it is on showtime.
3) it's on showtime.
(make it four)
4) the cell is going to be on showtime, so we'll see how that is. by all accounts sounds interesting (muslim FBI agent undercover in anti-terrorism unit), but could be lousy if under-executed.
the thing about showtime is they never seem to trust their audience, one thing HBO does really well.
best show of the fall season: breaking bonaduce. which has to be one of the scariest fucking things I've ever seen, and I say that completely without irony.
His name is Scott Sartiano, and he owns a restaurant in NYC (Butter). He was two years younger than me, though I graduated with one of his brothers and went to his oldest brother's senior prom (Columbia, SC). Always a nice, smart kid, so I wonder if the NYC limelight has tainted that.
At least P Diddy named his Atlanta restaurant after one of his kids.
That Wendell spree was craziness. Happened the year after I graduated, and I was still in the Hill working for the athletic dept and bartending at Bub's (I think the guy who tackled him worked at the bar below us). My husband always parked his car on Rosemary in front of the Phi Mu house before walking in to work at Davis, and many of the cars around his had windows were shot out. But the '83 Malibu station wagon was spared. That poor lacrosse player (from MD) and his family.
But were you Carolina law, too? Because I remember when some law student walked into class, sat down, and lit up a joint. Wild.
Scruggs! That was me! I was the one who lit up a joint in Torts class! It was my 15 minutes of fame!
Only kidding. But that sounds interesting! I graduated from UNC in 1990, and if I am correct, WW got his undergrad from Carolina. I remember him from my history classes. Thought him a bit odd at the time.
I went to Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, VA. Once you get past the fact that Robert E. Lee is buried and venerated there, it is a lovely little campus and town in which to study law. I am sure Ian is familiar with W&L and VMI -- probably some of his prep school classmates matriculated there.
Anyway, BUTTER! Anyone who reads as much Entertainment trash mags and watches as much E! Channel as I do knows that Butter is THE place to see and be seen. Good grief. He must be making money hand over fist. I would expect that he is a bit tainted at this point, but what do I know. Interesting! You are probably 2 degrees of separation from Paris Hilton!
And CP -- I agree with everything you say about Weeds. It is a bit limited, but I love Mary-Louise Parker and watch anything she is in (Elizabeth Perkins too, for that matter). And, oh my God, I watched Breaking Bonaduce the other night, and I was ENTHRALLED! What on Earth???? It was the best TV I have seen in a while! My husband kept trying to engage me in conversation during the show, and I had to ask him to leave the room so that I didn't miss anything. The poor man!
And, I can't believe Cullen scooped me on Britney's baby's name. I have been checking the internet all day at work to find out what kind of asinine cul-de-sac name that they picked. I am going to find out right now. . . Bye.
Funny. What's up with all these teenagers, he's 30 or 31?! Regressing? Scoop since you're an E junkie: He is indeed cute (not liking the longer hair in the picture I saw) and was cute, friendly, and wellrounded in h.s. However, he wasn't Mr. Cool by Breakfast Club clique standards. He was a pretty good tennis player, and my main h.s. boyfriend was on the team with him. I think he ended up at Columbia Univ. His brothers were very academic, and without offending them, they were not near as cute. All were nice. Too bad I can't scan the prom picture of the oldest brother and me (cropping out me with my big 80's hair and hideous dress). We basically went together because his best friend (who then went to W&L undergrad!) was dating my best friend. The middle brother (often classmate, even in AP Latin, so I guess I had my dork side, too) was cute and nice, though somewhat strange...went to Davidson, big into orchestra/music and is trying to be a music producer type in L.A. Bet he's loving his connections now.
After I saw his name mentioned in People last fall, I emailed the restaurant and wrote that I was touching base and included my email if he wanted to check in. That week he "Blackberry'd" me back to say hi. As my husband (also Italian name!)is from NY and we visit somewhat often, he said to give him a heads up when we're next in town so we can check out Butter. I don't think this southern yokel has anything in her closet (that fits!) to run by there unless I want to look like I'm headed to playgroup!
I thought about W&L for undergrad primarily because of VMI. Big fan of men in uniform.