This week's Answer:
Into (or out of) Television
I don’t know what you’re talking
about, Dennis. I broke
into my TV just the other day and I found it quite easy.
(I was curious about how all those little people got in there
and put on such amazingly diverse shows.
Curiously, I didn’t find any tiny actors with tiny SAG and
AFTRA cards. But it was
quite an experience, seeing what it looks like when you take off the
back of a television, which the sticker advises strongly not to do.
But I figured those stickers are written by the same person who
writes the “don’t remove” mattress and “dry clean only”
tags. So I went ahead
with my original plan. The
repair bill was high enough for me to just buy another television set
(come to think of it, I’m not sure why I didn’t), but now at least
I can say truthfully I’ve been inside television.
Actually, I have dabbled in
television here and there (but not everywhere) and have found it a
hard nut to crack (or a cracked place filled with a lot of nuts).
I say this not to discourage you but to prepare you (for
not saying that you can’t break in (figuratively and not literally).
Security is pretty tight at the studios and they’d nab you in
a millisecond. Unless you
posed as a security guard, yourself.
Now that might just work.
Just stroll in, wearing a security guard uniform, nodding
nonchalantly to any other security guards you meet.
There’ll probably be one at the main gate, which you’ll
probably need to use unless there are alternative entrances (but I
think those are watched by Navy SEALS with machine guns and wild dogs,
so you might want to stick with the main one).
Either way, you’re most likely going to need to cross some
threshold or another, so you want to be fully prepared.
(I told you I’m here to prepare you.)
Just look bored to tears as if you’ve been there a thousand
times, slump your shoulders, and walk without an ounce of spring in
your step. Keep your head
down as much as possible. I
recommend watching the last scene of Midnight Express at least
twelve times the night before your crash CBS, FOX, NBC, or any other
prominent studio. If
necessary, record and play through a secreted earpiece the soundtrack
from that excitingly dramatic film sequence where the American kid,
wearing a guard’s uniform, sneaks out of the Turkish prison. That
should get you in. (And,
if not, when you’re caught immediately by a quick-witted,
on-the-ball security guard – the kind you should have probably
imitated in the first place – you’ll be in all the papers and on
television as the fool who tried to break into a studio.
Some producer will catch the story, decide to turn it into a
sitcom (“My Friend, The Security Guard.”
Can’t you already hear the laugh track?!
Hysterical!), and you’ll have your big break in TV, after
all! (That is, a
different kind of “break in.”)
Truth be told (which I try to do as
I struggle to walk in the footsteps of George Washington, William
Tell, and all those other famous folk in history and myth who were
crammed down our craws when we were caught lying.
No wonder I have periodic urges to grab an axe and attempt to
fell cherry trees while listening to the soundtrack of The Lone
Ranger.), it does often seem to take a great deal of effort and
stamina to convince a television producer to produce your script.
My experience of the television industry is that it is very
guarded (and I’m not referring to just those guys in uniforms at the
main gate) and very cliquish. You have to have a proven track record to have a producer
choose and depend on you to bring off a successful show; and to bring
off (write, head-write, story edit, produce, etc.) a successful show,
you need a track record. (Does the phrase, “Catch-22,” come to
mind here?) So, what’s
the answer? Get some
track shoes. Good ones.
The usual path for a creator/writer
of an original show consists of the following:
The writer, finally deciding that nobody is going to buy his
television sci-fi six-week episodic dramedy, A Funny Thing About
Earthquakes, breaks down and writes a spec script for a television
show he likes (or, at least, doesn’t get nauseous after or while
watching it). The writer
hounds agents until one takes pity on him and reads his script.
The agent decides he likes it (or at least doesn’t get
nauseous after or while reading it), and sends it to a television
producer who is looking for new writers for his wonderful show (that
is about to be cancelled unless it gets some new writers) because
he’s fired several or all of the writers who wrote for it before
they were fired (and now have to return to writing more spec scripts
for other shows that might hire and fire them).
The producer and the agent fight over the writer’s salary,
leaving enough for the writer to buy a house and get into debt, and,
lo and behold, the writer has a writing job on the producer’s show.
And that’s only the beginning of the trek to selling an
original television show. Don’t
forget about that track record. Each
show of the writer has to be pretty much a winner (I think that means
all the families with the last name, “Neilson,” have to like it.),
the writer thereby gaining more prestige and power (and a better
parking space) as he may become a head writer on one show, then a
producer, then an executive producer (That’s where the big money is,
in case you wanted to know where the big money was.
And I think executive producers get to come in later than
everybody else. And they
get to yell and demand that their Evian be chilled.
It’s a good life.) until, finally, the coup de grace:
his very own show. Congratulations,
writer-turned-big-TV-guy. You’ve made it to the top.
Now you can go to the swankiest restaurants and Hollywood
parties and feel like you’re one of the elite.
Although, don’t expect anyone to actually recognize
you. I mean, after all,
you’re not Jennifer Lopez.
Don’t let my jaded and obviously
envious and resentful (so what if, time and time again, my ideas have
been paid a very heavy “homage” to by those in the aforementioned
industry who just happened to have read a script I just happened to
write, while they happened to not give me any credit nor any money for
those ideas) view of the television industry dissuade you, Dennis, and
other writers out there who are attracted to that beautiful wasteland
often referred to as “TV,” from going forward with your
aspirations to be a television writer.
I’m not saying that it can’t be done.
Be the exception; write those scripts, and do it.
Break in into TV Land (then call me because I have some really
great television show ideas and I can’t find my security guard