But who in the world wants to add the drudgery of genre research to the already all-to-difficult task of actually, you know, writing our spec masterpieces? (Especially spec pilots.)
Fortunately for all of us, Netflix has already looked into the matter. and quite deeply and helpfully. They know which types of shows are watched the most quickly (Thrillers! Horror stories!) and which just kind of creep from the To Watch to the Watched…Whew… (Political dramas! Historical dramas!).
But don’t take our word for it. Check out this wonderful Netflix chart:
Survival isn’t something I’ve addressed often in this blog before, but with many of reality television’s best (in my opinion, anyway) behind-the-scenes players going through slumps more often than usual these days, I think it’s a good time to bring it up.
In 2010, there were just over 760 reality shows in production, according to the results of a Kansas City Star study on the industry. Anecdotally, different sources claim that that number’s dropped slightly, but is still well above 700 shows. Tastes change, and the amount of available work in dramas, sitcoms and reality shows naturally ebbs and flows based on what viewers are in the mood for.
I find myself working less often than maybe five or ten years ago when I’d wrap a project on Friday and start a new one Monday. I’d been able to work as much as I wanted to whenever I wanted to, and with a decade or so of credits on a string of well-received shows, there was no reason for me to think there’d be an end to that kind of possibility.
In 2013, just after a management change at the company I’d been working for for three years, I exited a show I’d worked on for five seasons in the midst of what an exec at network called a “freshening up” of the franchise. He left the network less than 30 days later for a new opportunity somewhere else, but the damage was done and I was out. I chose to frame the end of my time on the show positively, as I’d had a fun run with it and had a normal, not-so-crazy time finding other positions.
The Truth: You simply cannot rely on a project-based career for any kind of stable, predictable income, no matter how good you are or how in-demand you may be for an extended period of time.
So, how do you plan?
Don’t build your life around “good times” money
If you scale your life to a place where you treat every paycheck like half or two-thirds of a paycheck, you can’t go wrong. Save money. Cultivate a profitable (even mildly profitable) hobby. For me, it’s books, lectures and consulting. For you, it could be an ebay store, house flipping, or any one of a thousand other things.
Pay cash if you want to treat yourself to anything rather then adding to your monthly overhead. Probably the dumbest thing I ever did was move into a luxurious new pad and buy a Mercedes at the height of my time on one series. Car payments and exorbitant rents live on, even when you’re suddenly out of work for five months. Ouch.
Make good use of your downtime
I’m one of those guys who sort of doesn’t know who he is if he’s not working. I don’t have a wife or kids, and live on the outside edge of LA now (in the name of peace and quiet as I can get it) and there’s not much occupying my time outside of work except finding new ways to get work. If you’re married and have any kids, use the downtime to reconnect with them and make sure you have something to live for outside of production or post.
Don’t rely on your agent or manager, if you have them, to find work for you. It’s a slippery slope, having a little time for yourself. I’ve accidentally wasted a lot of time by not making one step every day, no matter how small, to finding my next gig.
Know how to make money when you’re in a slump
I know plenty of guys and gals with Emmys and Peabodys who strike out during a staffing season or two and either fall out of the game completely or use the downtime to build an inventory of specs that they can go out with next season. Some have some great side businesses they can fall back on when they’re not on a show. An editor I recently worked with flips houses between shows and on weekends.
Sticking around is important
Half the battle in any creative profession is simply sticking around. If you’re new to the business, taking a “day job” to pay the bills between gigs might be necessary just to keep you accessible to employers. As I tell film students, the important thing is to be in town when the calls finally come. In reality television, most jobs I’ve had start within a week of getting an interview (as many as half starting within days of the call), so I’d be in deep trouble if I was in Florida when the phone rang.
Dan Harmon does it again. We aren’t sure what it is, but, what can we say but “Found on YouTube.”
Check it out:
Oh, wait, now we’ve got it. (Maybe.) This is a public table read for a special by Dan Harmon of COMMUNITY and RICK & MORTY. The finished animated video is scheduled to be seen “only on Seeso” July 14th.
Now if somebody would tell us what the hell Seeso is….
I’m a huge fan of the X-Men film series. I was so excited that another one was coming out. X-Men Apocalypse introduces the audience to the first ever mutant, coincidentally enough named, Apocalypse. In this film the X-Men must reunite to defeat his plan to extinct human kind. What do we think, everybody? Will the X’s succeed?
The special effects in this film are every bit as good as they need to be for X-Men Apocalypse to qualify as a summer blockbuster.
The Acting was good enough but only two cast members are stand-outs. James McAvoy performance as Charles Xaviar aka Professor X was raw and real as he is held captive by our villian and tries to save all of humanity. Oscar Isaac portrays our villain Apocalypse in a way I’ve never seen before. Watching Apocalypse, I absolutely hated him…but at the same time I found myself relating to the character more than any other character on the screen.
To say this hurts my soul because I am such a fan of this series. When you get down to it, there’s no creative reason for this film to exist. There is nothing whatsoever new to the ongoing story. The X-Men have to unite to stop a common foe. BTDT, right? Magneto plays a villain but ends up helping in the end. BTDT again. With everything remaining to be explored in the Marvel Universe this is all we get?
The worst scene, in my opinion is where Hugh Jackman appears as Wolverine. He comes from out of nowhere, and as a viewer my respect for both Wolverine and Jackman is greatly diminished by this whole deus ex machina thing which so obviously has been forced on us because Wolverine is considered to be the main face – and big moneymaker – of franchise.
I won’t suggest that nobody see this film. It’s the X-Men, right, and even this mess has its moments. But I recommend waiting awhile and watching it on VOD at the earliest. Sorry, Professor X, but there’s no need to waste the dollars at the theater.
Happy Summer Blockbuster Season!
Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE
Speaking of crowdfunding (as we were earlier in the week) this adaptation of the award-winning novel Lullaby, written by the author of a certain cult favorite novel called Fight Club, looks like a really good thing to this fussy (I am, honest…just ask my mother about my eating habits) TVWriter™ minion.
Here’s the skinny from Kickstarter:
We’re independent filmmakers in Portland, Oregon who are adapting the novel, Lullaby, from the mind of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk.
Chuck doesn’t write for mainstream audiences. His books challenge everything about mainstream audiences. His novel Lullaby deploys necrophilia, gender-bending, and no-way-would-this-make-it-to-comfortable-TV satire. We want to make a movie that makes people feel uncomfortable enough to think original thoughts again, just like Chuck’s novels do. To do that we need your help through Kickstarter.
We first got hooked on Chuck’s novels in the late 90’s, like some of you. We’re fans first, and so like you, as directors and producers we want to make sure Lullaby is the film we all want it to be, and not some watered-down too easy commercial yawner.
This project is also important to Chuck. He began writing Lullaby during the trial of his father’s murderer in 1999. The prosecutor came to Chuck and asked him if he wanted to advocate for the death penalty. This idea spawned the culling song, or the power of the word to cast a spell, and the story of Lullaby was created.
Today, as co-writer of the Lullaby screenplay, Chuck has maintained his vision of what this story should be. As an Executive Producer, he’ll help us make sure that this film stays weird and challenging.
Help us make a movie that doesn’t suck.
So What’s It About?
Lullaby follows the life of Carl Streator—an over the hill reporter whose family mysteriously died years prior. After being assigned to investigate a rash of mysterious infant deaths, he discovers the killer of his own family—an ancient culling song published as a lullaby in a simple children’s book. Carl sets out to destroy existing copies throughout the world but is surprised to learn that the people he once trusted to stop the deaths may be involved in the heinous acts.
We plan to shoot in late 2016 in Oregon—we have 27 days planned of principal photography, giving us plenty of time to edit and add visual FX through 2017. If you are trying to be an extra, you’ll need to be available during the later part of 2016.
Read more – lots more – and see a video with Chuck himself – HERE