The time has finally come when my first episode will be shot. It's one of the two scripts I was given to write besides all the rewrite work on other people's scripts. The second of my scripts will be written later.
Kaplan offers some notes of which some are good. After he leaves, the director of this episode drops by to discuss his notes. He has several comments, all of which are not difficult to make. Many directors, especially TV directors don't like to have writers around as the old joke suggests "because we're the only ones who know they're faking it."
At the very basic level, every script belongs to the writer. In fact European countries only accept the writer as the owner of the story and script. Sure, the director brings it to life, but a script can stand on it's own as reading material, regardless if it's made or not.
But this director is very generous and ready to work with me. He has read the first draft and asks why a new scene was added, a "drug deal" with the dying man and his partner. He asks why I changed it to something stereotypical and not as good as my original script.
I tell him in two words: Kaplan and Mahon, the producers. They thought it would add some edge to the story, I said it made no sense. Why did I change it?
You have a lot to take into consideration when making changes; a responsibility to the show and the actors. On the other hand, if you cross the producers (in this case, Kaplan and Mahon), you can get a bad rap for being "difficult to work with" throughout the industry.
And there's usually two reasons why someone can't get work in this business; either they're not very good or they're hard to work with.
And after a week of them keeping after me to make the changes, I did. But I also knew that the director, if he was good, would notice the changes and I know the actors would immediately.
This director said he would try to get the original script back. But I doubted it would happen.
Next came the actors.
They dropped by separately, as is the custom, nobody wants to share the script with another actor. Gunther, who was saved with me by Erica at the bar, complains about the "drug deal" scene in the new script. I tell him why I changed it and he shakes his head and says "they don't know shit."
After him, Franz, the actor playing opposite him comes in and says "I noticed some changes". I tell him about Kaplan and Mahon's dumb ideas and he sides with me, the director and Gunther. So far 4 against 2.
Finally Erica comes into the office, grabs me by the hand and takes me out onto the little ground-level balcony our office has. She says her character should have some faults and not be so perfect. Exactly the opposite of what her German producer wanted, which was having characters with no problems and riding horses in the mountains.
By now you must be getting an idea of the frustration of working with not very smart producers. Neither Kaplan or Mahon were "smarties" as Mel Brooks would say, instead they did more to harm the writing on the show than help it
Actors, especially star actors, like "the big speech". This is where they get to show how dramatic they can be. Think of Al Pacino in Scene of a Lady, or Denzel Washington in Training Day. Those scenes that win awards for actors.
I had written a scene like that for an episode, but it wasn't for Erica, it was for the supporting actor. The scene was about a wife's reaction to her husband's death was not sorrow but anger at him for betraying her. It was a good scene because it did the opposite of what the audience expected. Writers love to write this kind of scene but don't always have the right story.
Erica wanted a scene like that.
And since she wasn't in the new "drug scene", she really didn't care about it. This was all about her. It wasn't a hard thing to change so I said I would do it.
That evening the film crew had a baseball game with the rangers and local police and they beat us by ten runs. It was a relaxing moment, even with Kaplan there. Everyone was enjoying themselves, Lauren was adapting well to her new position as Art Director, Jorn the cameraman was looking forward to returning to his family after the show wrapped. And I attempted again to talk to Marilyn but stumbled on every sentence.
As I drive a police officer home he suggests we "buzz" a fellow officer who's on radar patrol but I decline, not wanting to get a speeding ticket as well as the impact of a few beers I had at the bbq after the game.
The next day they began filming my episode and I come to the set and meet the director, who's decided to shoot my original version " F..k them", he adds.
I can't really disagree.
(Fri: Mahon & I face off)