What Do You Want to Learn About the TV Industry?

career, how hollywood works: TV

I was 14-years-old when I started working in restaurants. As I slipped into a polo shirt and pleated khakis, my father gave me his version of a pep-talk, tinged with a sensitivity known only to drill sergeants and Asian fathers:

“Remember: You don’t know as much as you think you know.

“So keep you mouth shut,” he said. “Watch and listen.”

Inspiring! However…

14 years later and the advice stuck with me. What my father meant:

Go into everything with an open mind.

Listen before passing judgment.

And spend the time to learn about people and their opinions. They may know something you don’t.

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The 7-Step Hollywood Anti-Career Plan

career

I had this grand plan when I moved out to Los Angeles in 2010.

Want to hear it?

  • Year 1 – Survive. Write a lot. Don’t move back to Albany.

  • Year 2 – Stop waiting tables. Get an industry job.

  • Year 3 – Get representation.

  • Year 4 – Work on a television show OR sell a spec.

Writing this list down is a bit embarrassing. It’s hard to look at what I didn’t accomplish yet. I fell short of those big goals (get representation, work on a TV show, sell a spec).

Complete air balls.

Even some of those “easier” goals I only just accomplished:

I thought about moving back to Albany during Year 1… but didn’t.

I did stop waiting tables… only to have to ask for my job back, a year later. When I couldn’t find an industry job.

Then I quit again.

In my mind, Year 1 to Year 4 was a much neater journey. I didn’t expect the detours in casting, in physical production, unemployment, management.

It was never a straight shot along that grand career plan of mine. [click to continue…]

TV Networks and Vision

books, career, networks

Here’s an example of vision I read* last week:

In 1991, Bob Daly and Barry Meyer at Warner Bros. Studios realized their survival depended on forming their own network.

Across town, at Paramount Studios, executives felt the same way. For executive Kerry McCluggage, creating a network was a major point in his strategic plan.

The FCC’s Financial Interest and Syndication rules (laws that limited the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) by putting strict limits on the amount of programming and syndication they could own) was coming to an end. If Warner Bros. and Paramount didn’t have their own networks to sell to, they could get locked out television by their competitors.

The negotiations to end fin-syn started in earnest in the late 80s. Daly was one of the key negotiators trying to uphold fin-syn, to buy his studio time:

“I negotiated for forever and a day. It was the first time I negotiated where it was important that I drag it on for as long as I could… I knew what you could do as a network when there was no government to tell you what to do.”

On February 8, 1996, Bill Clinton signed into law the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, repealing fin-syn.

A year earlier, on January 11, 1995, both Warner Bros. and Paramount launched their networks (the WB and UPN, respectively).

UPN struggled.

The WB hit their stride, which led to a wave of shows that shaped a generation:

Dawson’s Creek

Felicity

Buffy

How many of us try to handle our careers with the same vision? When was the last time you asked, “where is this industry going?” Then bet accordingly?

Any bet is uncertain. It’s easy to be wrong, and to look foolish.

Much easier to float along with the market, and never take a position at all.

* SEASON FINALE by Susanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton. HT to Bitter Script Reader for the suggestion.

What If I Missed My Chance to Work On A Television Show?

career, personal stories, quitting, writer's room

A week after my boss agreed I could work half-time so I could pursue another opportunity (more on that later), news of this show broke:

Ashecliffe

HBO, Paramount Plot ‘Shutter Island’ Series ‘Ashecliffe’ With Martin Scorsese And Dennis Lehane

On one hand, it’s amazing, because I the researcher. I was in the room when Dennis and Tom crafted that story.

On the other hand, by going half-time, I had already shut myself out of the project.

When I saw this story, the emotional reaction was: “Oh man, I am an idiot. What did I just pass up?”

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Don’t Pay Dues and 3 Soul-Saving Mindsets When You’re Fed Up At Work

career, personal stories, quitting, random thoughts
ben franklin institute

At a wedding at the Benjamin Franklin Institute, I explained to my friend Sean how part of my work involved chauffeuring pets to and from vet appointments.

“I don’t know man,” he said. “I don’t think I could do it.” Big Ben (the 100-foot replica of Benjamin Franklin glaring down at us) seemed to agree.

I get it. There are days that made me feel all Anne Hathaway in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. During a recent trip to the vet, the dog expressed her gratitude by leaving a lake in the reception area. I cleaned it up with half a roll of off-brand paper towels, the kind that gets soaked by a gentle mist.

you had one job

After her appointment, I had to take my boss’s car to the DMV to get it inspected and registered. I finished the paperwork and paid for the registration:

“Great, now go get the smog inspection, come back here, and we’ll give you the plates and stickers,” the person said. Another 90 minutes and a smog inspection later, I returned to the DMV and got back in line.

An hour later, I had the plates and stickers. I dropped off the car, and returned to mine, then proceeded to cross the hell hole that is the 405 on a Friday evening.

Total time running errands: 6 hours.

Keep Reading If You’ve Ever Been Fed Up At Work

My inner monologue at these moments used to sound like any other whiny, self-entitled intern or unique snowflake college graduate:

  • “I am too smart to sit in line at the DMV for someone else.”

  • “I have so much more to contribute to the world than chauffeuring around dogs.”

  • “I’m cleaning up my boss’s dog’s piss — what is wrong with this picture?”

Mostly, I was angry. I was frustrated. And I didn’t know how to handle it, or make the situation better.

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The Accomplished Critic

personal stories, random thoughts

In college I wrote book reviews for the university magazine.

It was a lot of fun. It was college. Your opinion vastly outweighed anyone else’s. Especially if it wasn’t hypothesized and percolated within the university bubble. We’d rap on subjects with an assurance that comes from knowing half-formed theories would stand unchallenged by the real world.

When I reviewed books, most of the time I did it with respect. But I clearly remember ripping into a few with spite and mean-spiritedness. There was one novel in particular… It was part of THE CAT WHO… series, by Lillian Jackson Braun.

I spent extra time crafting that review. I wanted people who read it to think I was funny and clever, and could turn a phrase. It’s embarrassing to think about now.

Yesterday, I read a review of Dennis Lehane’s film, THE DROP. The review closes with:

“It’s definitely my least favorite Dennis Lehane adaptation to date, and I believe he should stick to writing books.”

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