If our brain is running via its subconscious 95% of the time, and creativity comes from the subconscious, then “creatives” (them are us) must have some kind of edge. Dunno about you, but now we need a chart that’ll tell us how to work that edge.
I listened to Margaret Heffernan’s TED lecture, “Dare to Disagree” today. It starts with an anecdote about Alice Stewart, a scientist who was able to prove that it’s not a good idea to X-ray pregnant mothers because she had a great collaborator. He was her statistician, and his job, as he saw it, was to prove her wrong. Only by mining the data sixteen ways from Sunday, trying to dredge up any way to show that X-raying pregnant mothers was not correlated with childhood cancer, could they prove that it is correlated.
In a writing partnership, you want a certain amount of creative conflict. If you agree with each other all the time, who needs two of you? You need to be willing to criticize and shoot down each other’s ideas. To say, in Denis McGrath’s old catchphrase, “Here’s why I hate that.”
This is hard to learn. (Unless you are from New York, in which case you have to learn when to shut up). In companies, most people often feel they can’t voice their concerns. The whistleblower is the odd man out. Or look at American politics, where almost no current politician dares criticize the country’s utterly insane drugs policy.
In a creative partnership, you want different points of view to clash.
On CHARLIE JADE, Sean Carley, aside from being a very fine writer, was the guy in the writing room who would call shenanigans on Denis and me when we came up with something he didn’t believe.
After all, if someone in the room doesn’t believe it, what are the odds that the audience will?
What makes creative conflict useful is restraint. You have to agree on the underlying premise. I’ve got notes back on my writing where the analyst did not buy into the basic premise of the material. That kind of note is not constructive. (It may be accurate, just not constructive.)
You also have to agree on what you’re critiquing. If you’re working on our premise, you critique your premise. If you’re working on your outline, you critique the beats, and maybe you critique the premise if the beats cannot be made to work. If you’re working on pages, you should no longer be critiquing the premise. A creative partner who keeps going back to the drawing board will hold you back. This is particularly true on a TV show, where you just don’t have time. But at a certain point you just have to have faith that your premise will hold up.
It’s crucial because about 40% into anything, you’ll probably start to question whether the idea has any merit. You’ll also question whether you’re capable of writing it. Or writing anything. You will possibly get the idea that you have lost any talent you had, if indeed you ever really had any. That’s why I call 40% in “The Sucky Point.”
As the media salivates over the ucoming season 7 of Doctor Who, lauding Steven Moffat’s work on both it and Sherlock, thereseems to be a good deal of jumping over the four seasons that actually brought Doctor Who back to life. Yes, we speak (reverentially) of what will surely in the future be known as the Russell T. Davies Dynasty (for you non Who-vians, the RTD Dynasty = Season 1-4 of new Who). Although Moffat was a freelancer on the show before his upgrade to showrunner, the voice and tone of the first four seasons is unquestionably Davies’.
The excellent and painfully truthful book about TV writing he’s co-written with Benjamin Cook reveals just how involved Davies was in the episode-to-episode process of the show – and while we wonder about how he was ever able to sleep (ever) we admire the unity of tone and carefully crafted subtle plot arcs that span from season to season each year. Bad Wolf? Torchwood? Harry Saxon? There is always a little extra credit for paying attention to the details (and if you’re an extra super nerd, like we are, watching the episode that fourth or fifth time illuminated that one reference we missed the first four times. It did! And it was worth it!)
Now that the show is in Moffat’s hands, it’s very clear there is an essential difference in the way Davies and Moffatt have approached their respective tenures. If you currently watch Sherlock and Doctor Who, you know that Moffat is a flash magician of a writer – a fan of nail-biting suspense, jump cuts, and as much action-packed plot as you can stand.
Watching a Moffat season is like watching someone build an incredibly complicated Jenga tower out of aliens and inexplicable mysteries and hoping when it’s built they can step back and admire it instead of wincing as it all falls down around them. What he achieves is the creation of a world where characters are secondary to the magnificence of story and scenery – he often involves characters’ personal lives in the service of a greater plot. (Amy and Rory being the most notable examples).
Davies, on the other hand, rooted his seasons philosophically in this notion of unlimited human potential: his companions, over and over again, are lifted out of ordinary and often unpromising lives: Rose, the shopgirl who lives with her mother at the council estates, Martha, the medical student with the troubled family, Donna, the unfortunate temp, and even Wilfred, the UFO nut stumbling upon real aliens for the first time. The characters that populate Davies’ Doctor Who all have blinders on, even his Doctors, and the journey of the show is watching each character realize more fully who they are and what they are capable of, both good and evil.
The true lesson of watching the show pass from the hands of one to the other has more to do with the resilience of the Doctor Who mythology and the remarkable way the show, like the Doctor, can regenerate within itself (Cheesy? Yes! But true!). There are diehard fans of both Moffat and Davies who would defend until their last breath each approach to the show: and that says more about Doctor Who and the kind of fandom the concept inspires than it does about any particular color – or actor – within the show itself.
Blame it all on Louis C.K. Or, better yet, credit him:
IFC Inks Deal With Chris Gethard Under New Programming Initiative For Comedians – by Nellie Andreeva (Deadline.Com)
IFC has launched an “Adopt-A-Comic” program designed to spotlight the standout work of comedians who share the cable network’s “Slightly Off” sensibilities. The network’s first “adoptee” is comedian Chris Gethard(The ChrisGethard Show) who will develop his own comedy series for IFC based on his recent book, A Bad Idea I’m About To Do: True Tales Of Seriously Poor Judgment And Stunningly Awkward Adventure. IFC has ordered a pilot script of the project. Additionally, Gethard will host on-air programming, create exclusive content for IFC.com and more. “When I told my parents I was being adopted by a television station, they said ‘Why do you need to be adopted? You are 32 years old. We gave you a pretty good, easy suburban life,’” Gethard said. “They don’t get how much of an opportunity it is for me that a hip cable network wants to raise me like a human baby.” Next year, Gethard will be seen in Iron Man 3and is currently shooting Paul Feig’s The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy for 20th Century Fox.
Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan: Yep, Walter White Is Now Just a Jerk – by Denise Martin
On last night’sBreaking Bad, Walt staged an impromptu dinner by inviting Jesse to join him and his seething spouse Skyler for steak and store-bought green beans. It predictably resulted in a cringeworthy gathering in which Walt smugly enjoyed everyone’s silent discomfort. We’ve seen the One Who Knocks’s evil, conniving, and ruthless sides before, but this was the first time we saw his dickish side. And so when Vulture bumped into showcreator Vince Gilligan this weekend at an exhibition of Breaking Bad fan art at Los Angeles’ Gallery 1988 (a peek of which we’ll be presenting later this week), we asked him, “So in addition to becoming a drug kingpin, has Walt also become just a straight-up jerk?” Pretty much. “He is really not a nice guy anymore,” Gilligan told us.
The idea for the awkward meal came together when the writers decided it was time for Skyler and Jesse to reunite; they met for the first time exactly fifty episodes ago when Skyler confronted Jesse, thinking he had been selling weed to her ailing husband. (“I had to be reminded they had met!” Gilligan admitted.) “We wanted worlds to collide, characters who didn’t really belong together being forced to spend time with each other by the monstrous behavior of Walter White,” he said. “You could see the gears turning in Walt’s head, couldn’t you? When he says, ‘Hey, why don’t we have dinner together?’, he clearly just wants to torture the two people who in his mind have betrayed him. It’s nasty, nasty stuff. Totally childish.” Walt sat silent and smirking while Skyler drowned in her wine and Jesse in his own hilarious soliloquy about frozen dinners, scabby lasagna cheese, and “Yo, whatever happened to truth in advertising?” But the line that still makes Gilligan laugh happened after Skyler leaves and Walt begins to work Jesse’s heartstrings. “He tells him, ‘You know, my kids aren’t around anymore,’ and Jesse interrupts. ‘Thank God.’ That was perfect.”
Why can’t we be the ones who bump into Vince Gilligan at an art show and get to talk to him about writing (and maybe slip him a spec)? Oh, yeah, we’d have to go to an art show. (shakes head)