You know I love you, network superfriends… but my pal Jon Collins (a reality veteran and very funny guy) sends up notes from your less thoughtful colleagues just brilliantly here:
Just in case you haven’t cast your votes yet, go HERE
Voting is open until April 30.
The documentary and podcast are alive… ALIVE!
I’m finally realizing I can’t pull everything off that I’d like to without a little help, though… so if you might, for some reason, be in need of a shirt with my cheery mug emblazoned on it, here’s where you’d get one and support the effort.
The REMEMBER, WE’RE NOT HERE Podcast and Documentary Project.
Another friend just gave up on reality television and moved into a more stable profession… and I can’t blame her.
I’ve always loved reality television, but it has its pitfalls… one of which is the unpredictability of employment.
Case in point… I recently wrapped an incredible gig on a show that was pulled from production not because of its quality, but because the new network president opted to go another direction with programming. Many shows in production, not just ours, were unceremoniously ditched, and the hell of it was — it’s just one of those things that happens. No bad guy in the scenario, just business.
I’ve always hated that line on the back of my book cover that says something about getting in, getting real, and maybe even getting rich. It can be done, but it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to get there. That’s why the focus of my book is on craft, and not the sexier, dreamier prospect of creating shows.
It takes years to make it in L.A. or New York — and those places aren’t cheap. You can’t reward yourself too early, because you could always end up in a situation like I did last year and not land somewhere for months after 14 years of wall-to-wall work on countless hits… and as much as I try to practice what I preach when in comes to being financially conservative, six months at home is an unexpected sock in the guts to pretty much ANYONE with no notice.
New to this? Save your money. Have a roommate… the kind that pays in cash instead of excuses. Don’t try to be a baller, because no one cares if you drive a 1991 Nissan except you. There’s a major studio head out here driving a Subaru Outback, and I spent two and a half years on the train/bus in LA before replacing my dead Buick with a ten year old Jetta. I’d been working 11 years before I finally bought a “nice” car, and frankly, it’s sometimes the most expensive one in the parking garage. You can bet I think about that stuff during my dry spells.
Remember how you used to feel when you had a few hundred bucks in the bank after paying the bills? Imagine having tens or hundreds of thousands fifteen or twenty years into a career. Remember how you felt when you were a few hundred in the hole at the end of the month, sweating a thirty dollar overdraft fee? Now try feeling that way with 20 grand in credit card debt after watching your savings atrophy because the work dried up.
Those are the times you think about finding something else. My friend saw that exit from show business life and jumped at it. Me, I’m a single guy. I can stay at the craps table and keep rolling. I’ll be up again tomorrow on some other smash hit, feeling like the world is my oyster, because I live to tell stories and teach the next generation how it’s done. It’s all a never-ending gamble that could end with me selling a company for tens or hundreds of millions… or as a kindly old greeter at a big box store.
Do this… do anything… because you love it.
Several years ago, I worked on a show that shot a series of interviews in what we referred to in post as the “God chair,” a big red chair set against all-white background, shot with a diffusion filter. The resulting effect made it seem almost as if our cast was addressing camera from the afterlife. It was a creative decision that seemed like a great idea but ultimately didn’t pan out, and the decision was made to go back in and reshoot the interview content. Problem was, it would take more than a week to try to wrangle everyone back in for interviews.
I went back into interviews from previous seasons to look for tops and tails that could be added to the interview content to give the editors something to show while the God chair content could be buried under picture. Simple phrases, like “All I have to say about that is…” and “I can’t believe he just said that.” Those phrases would be tacked to the top or tail of the God chair interviews to form phrases like, “I can’t believe he just said that. // This was an important day for me, and now it’s ruined” or “All I have to say about that is… // If she thinks she’s getting away with that, she has another thing coming.”
We actually managed to bury almost all of the God chair content by employing those tops and tails, and didn’t have to worry about doing pickups at all. The scene-specific stuff still packed a wallop buried under picture, but the generic interview look from the past season served well enough to show who was speaking. Best of all, it saved us a few hours of cast wrangling and reshooting.
Yesterday marked another gathering of authors whose works have been published by the wonderful Michael Wiese. It’s been nearly a quarter century since I first volunteered to man his book sales table at a Florida Motion Picture and Television Association state convention and bought Steven Katz’s SHOT BY SHOT; Now I have my own bestselling MWP title and find myself kneeling next to Katz in a group photo with pretty much every major speaker and author in the universe of how-to film and television books.
It was positively surreal, I can assure you. But more than that, edifying and inspirational in unexpected ways.
It’s a special thing to be an MWP author. It’s a wonderfully no-bull bunch of people who know their business inside and out, and can somehow translate it all in a meaningful and inspirational way into materials for the generations following them into their professions. I’ve read the books written to make a buck, and I’ve listened to the lecturers who have more ego and subjective opinion on display than knowledge. Ours are different. At least every one I’ve managed to read, right up to Catherine Ann Jones’ The Way of Story, which I picked up yesterday and am already about halfway through.
I’ve got to jump back into edit (yeah, I know it’s 5:30 on a Sunday), but wanted to share with you my sheer delight at being part of such a great bunch.
Just took a second pass at the autobiography of my friend Chuck Fries. If anyone needs a good Spring read, here you go. It covers Chuck’s TV start in the early 50’s with ZIV to today, and it’s an astonishingly frank, engaging read.
Check it out HERE.
Woke up this morning feeling great. I’ve got a game show in play and some EP possibilities on the horizon after a pretty tough stretch, which inspired me to write the following post to Facebook this morning.
Remember, the entertainment business is no cake walk.
The older I get, the more I realize that everything’s transitional. Wild periods of success and struggle come and go no matter what you do or how you plan for them.
Here’s my story — and there’s a moral to it and loads of good stuff and gratitude on the other side, so don’t get bogged down with the little bit of bum-outage in the middle part of this thing.
Two years ago, I was three years and five seasons into a hit show as its Co-EP when an executive shuffle at network led to a discussion of “refreshing” the series, which ultimately resulted in me getting the axe. Every major exec (SVP and above) at the production company I worked for had moved to other opportunities elsewhere over the three years I’d been there, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when the new topper didn’t go to bat for me over the network’s ask — we’d barely had the chance to work together. She replaced me and while I really stewed about what had happened for a long time, I tried hard to just take it on the chin and move forward.
As I’d been counting on returning to the show and hadn’t made much effort to network elsewhere for three years, Spring and Summer of 2013 were lean. I managed to get by with a series of smaller jobs including the first season of Hollywood Game Night (a wonderful experience), finally landing another Co-EP seat when an old friend called and asked me to come work for him on a new docu-series. As sometimes happens with bold, unusual concepts, the show struggled to find a tone acceptable to the network and the friend that had brought me on began to plan his exit from the company for another opportunity.
Christmas came, and I went home for our extended two-week unpaid holiday break. Just before our return, I was asked if I could wait another week to come back as the company considered its course of action with the troubled project. That extra week became another, then another, and I was finally let go more than a month after I’d last set foot in the office while someone else was brought in to replace me and given the latitude to execute the position effectively.
I was crushed. Twice in under one year, I’d been let go from a show. Prior to that, I’d never been fired in the 27 years since I’d first taken a job making pizzas at 16.
For whatever reason, I didn’t land anywhere for the entire first half of the year…. another first, as I usually roll from one job right into the next. I went six months without a paycheck (having declined January offers in the period while I waited for the series to tell me what my return date that never came would be), and finally wound up going to work for someone who once worked for me when he got a well-earned break on a new series. I had a great time with him and his post team, comprised of many of the people who had been with me on the hit show that cut me loose in 2013. The end result was terrific, even if I had fallen down the ladder a bit.
From there, I rejoined Dancing With the Stars, which just ended its 19th season around Thanksgiving. I hadn’t been there since season 3, so the whole experience felt like a high school reunion. Once again, my direct supervisor was someone who had once been on one of my story teams, and I had wonderful time.
As 2014 draws to a close, I still struggle with the financial and emotional ramifications of the six-figure and sometimes humiliating torpedoing I took in 2013/14, but I do think it’s made me more appreciative of the alignment of circumstances that led me to the successes I had enjoyed up until then and those I’ll enjoy in the future. My work ethic remains solid, and I know who I am and what I can do.
The lectures (most recently London, LA, Tel Aviv) and consults continue, and one of the main points of every one-on-one discussion I have with clients and students is that it’s important to understand what a crapshoot this business is. The important things are to work hard, be likable, and to develop a thick skin, like the one these past two years have granted me.
I am encouraged, and I feel stronger moving forward. The period where I felt as if a career has to progress logically and on some sort of fixed upswing is gone. The period where I expected loyalty has passed without me feeling as if I should give up my loyalties to others. I am absolutely beat to hell, but I’m still here and God save me, I still like what I do.
Adversity passes. Your responsibilities in life are to stay alive, to learn, and to be accountable to yourself.
Here’s to all of us in 2015.
You’ve heard me say that no reality show airs in real time the way something falls through a lens, but live shows… live shows are a whole different ball of wax. DANCING WITH THE STARS, save for its produced packages, is as live as they come. Ditto most live reality competition shows, like our competitor, THE VOICE and shows like AMERICAN IDOL and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.
Reunion specials are usually done live-to-tape, which means they’ll shoot for several hours and then whittle it down in post.
Live shows are produced from timed rundowns, meaning that we all know how long an act should be, how long a song runs, how long a super-awesome package about how Joe Blow designed his own guitar for his performance runs, and how much host chatter can be crammed into each act. When something goes long, something else in the show has to get shorter. Let’s say that Complainy Complainerton decides to explain how her microphone crapped out during the big sing-off, and suddenly the show is running a minute over. No worries, we’ll just air two of the alternate packages that were cut down from 1:45 to 1:15 and bingo, we’re on track again.
With live-to-tape, you often have the luxury of cutting as much as 4 or 5 hours of material down to make a jam-packed hour. Packages that rehash old storylines are produced ahead of time, so if you want to show five minutes of material in a live-show taping, you can always do it and trim the package down later based on the conversation it starts on the reunion stage.
I’ll discuss producing for both types of “live” shows in depth later this week. Cheers!
I’m proud to share that a December reality seminar/workshop will soon be announced by the same genius promoter who’s handled me with the TV Writers Summit events these past few years.
While Ellen Sandler, Jen Grisanti and Chad Gervich — see tvwriterssummit.com — take the NYC by storm December 6-7, I’ll be spending the holidays in Merry Olde LA tying up loose ends and decompressing from a wonderful (and crazy busy) season of DANCING WITH THE STARS while I share this newly structured course perfect for beginners, mid-career pros and execs interested in learning more about crafting great story and making irresistible television.
I’ll also be offering some special consulting packages either for yourself or someone you know who’s interested in developing their reality concepts into viable treatments. For the month of December only, packages range from $500 for three consult calls up to one hour (usually $200/hr) to $850 for a one hour consult and two revisions of your subsequent treatment draft. Email me at realitytvtroy[at]gmail.com for more details, and yes, gift certificates are available if you’re playing Santa.
After January 1, consults will return to the regular $200/hr fee and, if this year is like most others, I’ll be heading back to a new show… so jump on it! There’s no time like the present to get yourself ready for the new year.