Wednesday, April 21, 2010

H&H Part 15 - Kaplan vs everyone

Producer Kaplan has decided that Jonathan and I rework Jonathan's wife's outline. The one that everyone from the network on down hates - except for Jonathan who will not or cannot admit his wife wrote a lame story for a quick buck.

This is because no matter what she writes, how bad it will be, she will get paid the script fee and then it goes to either me or Rino or both of us to rewrite it into a reasonably okay story. That's the unsung job of the story editor.

Right now I'm getting nowhere with both Kaplan and Jonathan and tension is high. Then Rino comes in and offers a few ideas that sound good to me but of course, not to Jonathan and Kaplan who then disagree with each other. Finally this wasteful tug-of-war continues for an hour until, not having any ideas that work, they give in to Rino and me.

And remember, this isn't a huge victory, all we accomplished is having to push up a bad story into something not quite as bad.

 Then Mahon the other producer, the one who is usually playing computer games, bursts into the office and demands that we "get the f..king scripts to the departments". This is in reference to the fact that the scripts are behind due to Jonathan's absence and indecisions and Kaplan's inexperience. Left alone Rino and I could have the scripts out on time.

Mahon tears into Kaplan, who's clearly embarrassed as this middle-aged woman is ripping into him. Finally it ends when Kaplan says "the scripts will be there when they're ready." Mahon storms out as she can't threaten much more.

A production assistant steps inside, wary of the shouting match that just occurred and tells me my chair has come. I've been sitting at one of those folding chairs, working for hours.

Well, at least I'm happier. 

I'm also starting my own script besides re-writing  Jonathan's wife's outline and working on another script from another writer. I find the only way I can work on multiple scripts with different stories is compartamentalizing them, giving each script a good 2 hours by themselves. I don't know how other writer/story editors do it, but this works for me.

Later, Kenny the Assistant Director enters. An A.D. as they're called neither directs nor assists. Rather they are sort of the Sergeant on the front lines, their job is to push the crew and director forward as time is money. They're also the boss of the crew and can make life horrible for a director if they see him falling behind.  They have no real say in the content, that is the script and story, that's purely the territory of the director, the writer and the actors.

Kenny lays down the law with Kaplan, his script, the avalanche one, is too ambitious, there's just too much material for a 5-day shoot, it has to be cut back. I knew this and Rino did also but Kaplan did not listen and nor did the network a thousand miles away.

And the director isn't much help, I know Rance, the director, from the past and we don't get along at all, he's very quiet, the word is that one ear is deaf and refuses to take suggestions from writers, at least from me. We had a small fight a few years before when we disagreed on an episode I had written. And since I had directed my movie Ghostkeeper before Rance made a movie, we've always had a bit of a contest going on. Seeing as I know his job as well as mine makes it a bigger playing ground.

Then I get into a small disagreement with Kenny, who's feeling pressure and a deadline to start the filming but when he starts to take it out on the writers, I react instantly and tell him to worry about his end, not ours.

And yes, I have my little ego too, but it rarely surfaces when I'm working with smart people.

After these exhausting meetings, Rino and I retreat to our office and Jonathan, as always, disappears. Some of the actors drift in, usually alone. The writer's office is usually off-limits to the crew as they really wouldn't have a reason to go there.

But actors are actors and they have time on their hands if they're not filming and besides, they might get a writer to write a few more lines of dialog for them. And I've done that if they're nice people. They have it even harder than writers so I empathize.

I generally like actors and have some for friends, and even though they can act like 6-year olds, vying for attention, they're not stupid. An actor can smell if you're lying about something, especially the character they're playing.

If you're going to lie to them about a scene or character, then do it as sincerely as you can. Because if they discover you were lying, they'll get you back. And I don't blame them. Nobody likes to be lied to.

One of the difficulties of working on a show like this is the fact that it's not a good show, the scripts aren't as good as they could be and we have no real leadership from Jonathan and zero from Kaplan or Mohan. And they are constantly putting up obstacles to our ideas and solutions.

And so it's hard, for me, to encourage the actors. Some know me and others are glad that I listen to them and also that I give them good dialog. But ultimately, the show suffers from the top down in spite of good intentions from Rino and me who have to try to change as much as we can. Only to have our ideas and work rejected.

I retreat to my hotel and pass Erica who said she would like to talk with me sometime, I know this will be about her role but I am just too beat up to want to talk script or dialog or scenes. Even with the movie star goddess I knew from my teen years.

I excuse myself and she tells me she walks up the mountain every morning at dawn and expects me to be there tomorrow morning.

(Fri: Dancing with Elk and the Greeks)