Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Giving credit where it's due

I was part of a contract negotiation a while back with a producer. One important part of a contract you get from a producer is the part that says they can boot you off the project any time they feel like it, even if it's something you created from scratch.

On this point, I had a lawyer explain to me - well, if they're putting up their money for development, they want to protect their investment. They're taking a risk.

This may well be relevant for you US folks. Over in Europe, however, 'their money' rarely ever means just that. More often than not, it means the public money they applied for. Development grants, non-repayable government loans and that sort of thing.

The only difference between them and you is whose name is at the end of a form.

So who is taking the risk? He who may end up signing his creative work away for damn all money (and you can take that as a certainty) or the one spending public money that was never his to begin with?

After years in this business, I'm left slightly baffled by the power of producers over here. Because their real power isn't in their money. It's in form filling. And yet filling out those forms is something rarely taken seriously unless you've got the word 'producer' on your business card. They do hold all the power.

And yet the real power is hidden. Unrewarded. Or at least barely rewarded. The creative talent.

Producers know this.

It scares the living crap out of many of them. Not all of them. But many of them.

Why? Because anyone can fill out a form. If a producer puts a creative talent out there in front, gives them the credit they have earned, that talent may well just walk across town to another form filler. Or decide to fill forms themselves.

Leaving the producer with nothing but a company name.

If you see an animation company or content production company's website and don't see the creative talent out there in front, or even listed, it's simply because the producers are terrified. They need to make it seem like the creative talent don't matter. Like the power is in a company name. On those where you do see the creative talent out in front, you'll find those people are company directors. Either as part of a formed partnership (a great way to do it) or brought in on some percentage to try to lock them into that company.

Even in those scenarios, however, the fear will come as soon as they use an external talent. And, invariably, they will at some point because producers are always looking for new talent. New talent is easier to mould, to control, to wrestle rights from. The industry keeps things moving this way and so producers retain their role.

It's odd how, at so many different times, we're told what we do is a team effort. And yet so many producers fear their own team.

But, to bring it back to the title of the thread, producers deserve credit where it's due. They do schmooze on boats at MIP or hang out in bars in New York at Kidscreen (they should be just back from that now) and, while many of us creative types are envious of how that sounds, we simply can't be arsed doing it. Producers deserve credit in this industry.

Just not quite as much power.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What broadcasters want

Ten years.

That's how long broadcasters have wasted time looking for another Spongebob. Of course, missing the fact that the big thing about Spongebob is that it wasn't another anything.

I've been flicking through a little section in Kidscreen magazine that outlines what current broadcasters are looking for. Yes, there's the usual requests for another Spongebob and more Dora, though they don't quite ask for it like that, but things are slightly different this year due to one thing -

The amount of requests for live-action.

It seems animation may well be falling out of favour. Cartoon Brew have had their own personal battle with Cartoon Network showing live-action shows but it looks like Cartoon Network aren't alone. The only mistake Cartoon Network made was putting the word 'cartoon' in their name.

ABC Australia - especially interested in live-action for preschoolers. Cartoon Network US - open to live-action. France Television - live-action for tweens. Nickelodeon UK - live-action sitcoms. There are more but my fingers are getting tired of typing 'live-action'. I really should just copy/paste it.

Not that there's anything wrong with live-action. There isn't at all. I just find the growing trend interesting and it certainly impacts on those of us in cartoon land.

I actually think it is at least better than chasing that elusive next Spongebob. Though it's entirely possible that the calls for live-action are chasing the next something that I don't know about. The next Hannah Montana? I don't know. I'm not well up on the live-action shows. Though I do enjoy Imagination Movers.

Sometimes (and I'm not speaking specifically about the live-action here), I think there is a huge gap between what broadcasters want and what children and parents want.

One quote, however, stood out to me in the Kidscreen pitch guide thing, one that as soon as I read it I thought, "Now these people, I like and would love to make a show for." It's from Jocelyn Hamilton from Corus Kids in Canada, who says she is looking for -

"Fun, character-driven preschool series with heart that make you giggle."

Now that's an aim I can support. That, as someone who works in children's television and, more importantly, a parent, is something I can get behind.

Jocelyn Hamilton, if you ever stumble across this, I hope you get exactly what you're looking for.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eagerly awaiting my return

This blog was dormant for a while and all was quiet. But as soon as I started posting again, the spammers were drawn here. I like to think of them as spambots because it helps me to believe that actual human beings aren't spending their time spreading shit that nobody wants to read on places it should never be.

Real human beings with any sort of conscience or decency wouldn't do that, would they?

Of course not. But those dirty rotten spambots! Well, they aren't programmed to feel guilt. Their evil Ming the Merciless-like overlords know that even the slightest hint of a conscience chip in there would render them unable to carry out their evil tasks.

You know what I'd like? Loving spambots.

They'd clutter up your inbox and your blog comments with random crap that you haven't asked for, just as they do now. But, instead, the messages would be along the lines of - You're a very special person. We love you. We know how hard you're working and really appreciate the contribution you're making to humanity.

That sort of thing.

But no, I get some gobshite trying to sell boots.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Does it matter though?

One thing I've never bought into is the idea that television made our society worse. You only have to look at the days before television to know that man's ability to do shit things to one another was there long before 24 or The Shield. Vikings raped and pillaged and they barely watched any television at all. All those heads on pikes on Tower Bridge in London - not one of those executioners or the people revelling in their deaths watched television.

Listened to radio perhaps.

But no television.

So I don't buy into the idea that television (or indeed rock music or video games) is responsible for society's ills.

But one thing I hear a lot is - I watched X when I was young and it didn't do me any harm.

How can you possibly know that? Unless you have a perfect clone leading the exact same life as you with the exception of watching certain television programmes, you can't ever know that.

The fact is, children do learn from television. It does influence their behaviour. Who knows what effect watching better television would have on a whole generation? Almost impossible to measure and yet, I think, well worth a shot.

And, if it all goes horribly wrong, it doesn't matter. When today's children grow up, they will say it didn't do them any harm anyway.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It might be so much bigger than it seems

I asked a question in the post before the iPad thing happened - what do you do if you're on a project you want but know it will end soon?

Red Pill Junkie answered - "You give it everything you've got." Andy offered this - "make the best damn beer you can." Yes, I remember saying that, Andy, and you guys are absolutely right.

The other day, I was at a recording of one of the episodes we're working on. We got to the end of the episode and I listened carefully. Like many children's cartoons, it ended with a nice positive moral. This message was no different to ones I've heard many times on children's television but, for some reason, with whatever way it was read, it sounded important.

It sounded like something that might stick.

Something that, somewhere deep inside, might survive the beat down that is school. The oppression of what we're sold as the 'real world'. And I thought, if enough children believe the message behind this little story buried in this unassuming children's show, truly believe it, when these children grow up, we'll be creating a better life.

Can children's television really lead to a revolution? I don't know, probably not. But everything a child is exposed to helps form their world view. Sets their boundaries. Or breaks them. Television for children can be worse than junk food, glorified ads, or work against parents creating chaos. Or it can be something wonderful. Something that entertains, that contributes positively to their world. And then, to our world.

Right now, I'm a very small part of that. Just a tiny part. And it may not last long. But, right now, I'll give it all I've got.