Monday, August 17, 2009

A bit more on the culture of notes

A while back, I wrote a little on the culture of notes in television. To sum up, notes from execs usually amount to very busy people with no time to spend getting to know your show (or indeed any show) telling those who spend every waking moment on that show how it should be made.

The script-note sleep is a funny and yet infuriating phemomenon. I guess I should be grateful for those rest periods. I have found on just about every production that those people who live to cause problems in scripts rather than make them better go to sleep after a while. Sooner or later, you'll start to get some rather sparse notes. Inconsequential things. And maybe, if you're lucky, even some that say, "this is all okay."

Note, it's "okay". Would it kill them to say they actually derive some pleasure from reading a script? You know, I liked it. This will make a good show. Children would love it.

So you get a few sparse notes. This is when the beast sleeps.

And then...
...they wake.

Out of nowhere, you'll get a massive email going through a whole bunch of scripts in detail picking out any innane shite they can think of and, even more common, telling you to write different stories. The funniest thing in these mails is when you get a whole bunch of notes on a third draft script about concepts that have been present right from the very first draft.

And the only thought can be - did they sleep through those drafts?

Yes. Yes, they did. Or they were busy eating children.

But you know the most dangerous thing about this? About the culture of notes? It's when they're right. Because sometimes they are. It's when they find something that absolutely should never make it to air. Something that needs a complete rethink. Or something that could make a good episode into a far, far better one.

It can happen.

But notes are like a bad smell. Sooner or later, you become accustomed to it. You hit a point where you're not really reading them. Because the last thousand notes you have read only served to show he/she didn't read the script or hasn't understood the show.

So, when that one important note hits, it's buried in a long list of pointless ramblings.

And it's missed.

Or, by that stage, those on the creative end are in fighting form and they fight it out of instinct, not examining whether it's a good idea or not. They become stubborn. Hard. Because they have had to be in order to stay sane and save their show.

I've seen it happen. Several times actually.

Those who write good notes (and there are certainly some) generally write very few. Almost none. So, when they do, you take notice.

But, more often than not, they're just written by beasts who live in caves and eat children.


susan said...

Do you eat children with or without ketchup?

Good post Bitter,.I hope no children were harmed in the telling.....

Red Pill Junkie said...

I suppose there ought to be some rules about the number of notes that should be written per week or per project. Those guys should know that, just as there can not be an indefinite amount of time t complete a project, that there shouldn't as well be an indefinite number of notes about the project.

If you limit the amount of something, it gets to be treasured more.