Thursday, July 3, 2008

directing non-union television

I watched a TV show I directed last year, and ended up producing/writing the pilot episode. Now, usually you would get pay for each Writing, Directing, and Producing, you would be entitled to residuals, etc. But with a non-union show, you are expected to do a lot more. In fact, since it's your name at the end credits, people associate you with the good and bad of the end product.

See, I'm a writer, but I'm also a director, and a producer, so I can see things from a lot of angles. The thing I like best about writing, besides creating a world from scratch, is that after you write the script, you can defer to both the director and producer as having the responsibility for the end product. For every mind-numbing change, for every stupid plot hole, you can say, hey it's not me, it's the director. However, when you are directing, that's not the case. Even if you have the footage ripped from you and edited without any input from you, which is what happened to me, it is still your show. Even if you have only been in editing for 2 hours because that's all the producer can afford (which by the way I was never paid for), it's still your baby. Even if everyone on set compliments how you run the show, when a producer or editor screws up it's all on you.

Now, with this project it wasn't so bad. The editor had never edited for TV before, and the on set crew was lack-luster at best. However, I am not going to be ashamed when I show it to potential distributors and tell them this is a rough cut. But it brings up a point that I should mention...

  • writing, directing, producing, or acting on assignment is just assignment. You are not an auteur, unless you are very lucky. No, you are a person who is paid to do a job, do it well, and bring in your expertise. It's not being a writer/director on a high budget film.
  • It's not your vision, it's their. Your job is to make their vision come to life, cut out the bad ideas, leave the good, and make it the best project it can be.
  • You are meant to get in, on time, under budget, and still maintain the artistic integrity.
  • The best you can ask for is a thanks. What you normally get is yelled at, complained to, undermined, and threatened.
Ahhh. TV Directing. It's a blasty-blast.

So, I'm what?

As the posting states, This is all about what to do when you're in La. Once again, I'm not an expert, having no job, but as part of my networking experience , I talk to a lot of people. And in those talks, I've met with a lot of people who have had success, failure, and more success, and these are the things I've gleaned.

--Successful people fail...a lot. Everyone I've talked to had a moment when they thought about changing professions. Lots of them had to work demeaning, terrible, awful jobs before they got even the smallest break. All of them had sleepless nights when the wondered why they came to LA.

--The key to success is to Write/Act/Direct and prepare so when the moment comes, you will be able to hand that killer reel, wonderful script, or amazing movie to the producer and they will want to make you a success.

--Don't ever stop networking. It doesn't matter if you're tired, weak, sick, or hurt, networking is the only way people will know you are there.

There are thousands of failures out there who are incredibly talented, and they get burned out and go back home. Every day, lots of people come into LA, hoping they will be the next big things. And the same days, lots of them come back from LA with their tail between their legs because they didn't get their break.

I emailed a Show Runner this morning. I asked him how he got into the business, etc. etc. bullshit. And he was gracious enough to email me back.

"Dear Russell,

The key to the television business is writing.

Spec scripts are the only doorway in.

If you haven't gotten a spec script into the producers of a show yet ­ keep
plugging away at it. This is one of those deals where you have to constantly try, try again."

And there you have it...