Monday, April 5, 2010

Part 9 - The game of writing

I woke up early one morning when it was barely getting light outside and realized I could get a great shot of the sun rising over the mountains. I grabbed my trusty Nikon and tripod and drove up to a spot where I knew I could frame the photo with pine trees. The sun came up, hung in for about 10 minutes and I squeezed off a 36 roll of Fuji Velvia. It was worth it.

But later in the morning I  have a meeting with Kaplan that morning. The fact that I should even entertain his presence irks me to no end. This person has absolutely no experience at the job of producing nor has he the ability. I have worked with bad producers and good ones, but he is simply nothing.

He has his notes on my script and it's not long before we differ on almost every note and then he comes up with one line; "I know the characters better than you".

The fact that I and Jonathan have done more to the characters in the series in the last month than Kaplan did in the alleged 2 years that this was being developed. I've heard his wife is a marketing director at a radio station, Rino's wife is a psychiatrist. 

I'm in interesting company. 

I leave to go to the writer's office where Rino and I re-arrange the desks. Both of us place our desks so that our computer screens face us and the wall behind us rather than face the open area. This way we can avoid anyone coming in and reading over our shoulder as well as being able to face unwanted guests.

I call Jonathan who has remained in his condo for 3 days now, and Rino and I haven't heard from him. He answers, and agrees about the worthlessness of Kaplan's notes. In fact he disagrees with almost everything Kaplan's done since we arrived here. This goes along with the network guy, Litman, who constantly trashes Kaplan's script.

Jonathan asks me about Rino, if we get along and I tell him it seems we do get along. This is not an easy show mostly because of the two producers, Mahon and Kaplan. Mahon hates having to defer to upstart Kaplan, who simply is bluffing his way through this entire show.

You might wonder how we know Kaplan's script and notes are bad. Because after years of writing, you get to know what's good and what's bad, what works and what won't. My agent had a great comment once when I asked him to read a script a friend of mine wrote. Frank said he'd be happy to read it, he knew how hard it was to write a screenplay (incidentally I use both screenplay and script terms- it's the same thing). 

Then Frank added, "I'd be happy to read the first 3 pages". 

Just the first 3 pages? But a screenplay is at least 100 pages. Why only 3?Because a pro in this business can tell by 3 pages if the writer is good or not. Gordon Ramsay can tell if a crabcake is fresh or not in even less time. A pro knows their business.

Later Rino and I talk more and, while there is a secret side to him, almost bordering on paranoia ("they are watching us")  we do seem to be able to work together with some respect and trust. To a point. He reminds me "it's only a job". Then to fuel my paranoia, Jonathan shows up and mentions he's going for dinner. Rino joins him but they don't ask me.

And I learn that Rino has a similar condo to Jonathan's.  I make a note to always ask for "favored nations". It can actually be put into a contract and has been in several of mine. What it means is that I will get the same treatment and perqs as the other writers and/or producers.

Yes, I know, it sounds childish. But we do create the work, without us there is no show. And it's not so much about special treatment but that we are accorded the same treatment as our peers. The only time I used it was in Luxembourg when I requested a better car than a horrible Citroen with a speedometer in the dash and got a small Ford instead.

Later that night I meet Simone,  the local production secretary and her husband at the Peak bar. Both down-to-earth people who are refreshing after dealing with the egos and insecurities of writers, actors and producers.  Simone dislikes having to get Kaplan's laundry and make phone calls for him as well as other unreasonable demands. She states that he needs a good kick in the ass.  I agree.

The locals here are almost all very friendly and helpful, many are excited to be working on a TV series. They don't always care for the special treatment some people demand, and I can empathize with that.

I walk home again, seven blocks, and pass deer sleeping in people's yards while TV sets flicker through the windows into the cold night air. The first episode is beginning to prepare tomorrow and this is the first test of the production unit to see if this whole crazy thing works.

(Wed: A Brando story)