Where May went! London, Paris, Game Show.

Mom n' Me enjoying the London Eye
Mom n’ Me enjoying the London Eye

I’m baaack! Spent the top of May on a trip to London and Paris with my mother, and am already up to my eyeballs in work again until the end of June, when I head to Tel Aviv for some lectures with my TV Writers Summit speaker pals.

I’ve always tried to maintain some diversity in my resume, so after three years of work on Basketball Wives, I took a short gig this past month working with a friend on a new network game show. I’ve done reality-competition aplenty, but I’ve always had a penchant for podiums and buzzers and watching people freak out over big wins, so I couldn’t wait to dive into this show. Plus, I figured, game shows HAD to be easier than turning months of source material into a coherent season of a docusoap, right?

Oh, my. No.

Let me tell you — what I thought would be a cake walk of an experience has been mind-bendingly challenging and fussy/tweaky. That’s not a complaint, mind you, but an observation. It’s hard work!

I talk about my friend Allee Willis a lot, because her sense of curiosity has never stopped her from trying something new. A woman who can’t read, write or play music has made a career out of a hot fruit compote of technology, party throwing, songwriting, painting… the list goes on. It’s easy to work consistently in one particular arena, but when you stop learning, life is a snoozefest… which is exactly why I took this game show.

If you’re in reality television right now, and you’ve done exclusively docusoaps or renovation shows or any other strain of something without relent for ages, I challenge you right now to try something different the next time you get that window of opportunity. It’ll stress you out and keep you up at night, but you’ll be learning something new and be proud (hopefully) in the end that you tried.

6 thoughts on “Where May went! London, Paris, Game Show.

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  1. Troy,
    I love this post. Writing for game shows (a lot of them) has always been my “waitressing job” between screenwriting gigs and I love it. Even got sent to Paris to work on a pilot, which was awesome. Yes, it is a different beast than all other forms of content. I believe it is the only arena of entertainment that is federally regulated. Still, it’s a wonderful world. Glad you enjoyed it! — Valerie

    1. Valerie,
      But a game show is only federally regulated IF it is offering prizes, right? That is how I read the law. The game show I’m working on doesn’t offer any prizes. Once it gets a production sponsor, it will at most fly in contestants, put them up in a hotel, and feed them so they can appear on the show. The only reward for winning the game is being able to play the next game.

      Or am I wrong in my reading of the law?

  2. That’s exactly what I’m doing right now. In June, I will be filming the proof-of-concept pilot for a webseries game show and then shopping it around to potential production sponsors. I got one corporation that is my surest bet, which I will be pitching first.

    While it is a “simple” game show, that doesn’t mean its creation has been or is simple. I’ve had to think and rethink everything about the show and how to do it. Every little detail. And I’m still working on details this close to filming. Right now I’m pondering whether or not to have a Vanna White on the set. A very attractive woman given a very simplistic job that could easily be done by someone off stage BUT might be better done by an attractive woman on stage. After all, the rule of thumb for game shows (as I see it) is how to glitz them up without going too far. Think about it. What is “Wheel of Fortune” basically? The kid’s game Hangman. It could all be done around a table with two people using a piece of paper and a pencil. Everything else is pretty much glitz.

  3. Life is amazing. Confusing and unexpected a lot of the time, but still amazing. Last night I was planning on sending out emails to local video production companies for bids on making of a proof-of-concept pilot for the game show I mentioned in an earlier post above. The game show being the latest genre I’ve been thinking of to promote a project I’ve been working on for the last three years. I didn’t send out the RFBs last night because people came over to visit so I then planned on sending them out this morning. Anyway, as a result of belonging to a yahoo mailing list for film and TV producers, I got a call this morning from a veteran executive producer who learned through the grapevine that I’ve switched formats for my show from reality TV to newsmagazine to game show. The EP and I talked two years ago about the show when it was to be a reality TV show and was surprised I changed the genre not once but twice. He called me to stop me from “making a major mistake” and recommended I return the show to the reality TV genre. He first asked and then listened to my reasonings for the genre switches. I won’t go into details here, but just say that when I got done talking, he said I was missing the most important point. That the best format for the show was reality TV and gave me his reasons why. Again, I won’t go into detail, but to say all his reasons were solid and right. What a different a single phone call can make! I also feel very lucky to have someone like him take such an interest in what I’m doing and take time out of his busy day to mentor a novice producer. Life is truly great. I hope someday when I’m a successful producer that I can return the favor by helping out another novice producer avoid the pitfalls and steer a better course.

    This also goes to show that you shouldn’t live in a bubble. Instead, you should reach out and be part of the community you’re wanting to join and not to be afraid to say you don’t know everything and would appreciate some advice. Also, reading blogs like Troy’s here is great and it is also great that he replies to many posts to his blog. It is all a learning process.

    Now I’m back to the doing the show as a reality TV show and also NOT doing a pilot but instead approaching a corporate sponsor I’ve lined up to get THEM to pay for the pilot. That and get other backing from them. That one phone call saved me several thousands dollars the proof-of-concept pilot would have cost me. I feel like I just dodged a bullet.

    I just thought I’d share this here. Maybe another novice producer can learn something from this post. Then again, it feels good to just share the experience. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the share, Jack. I think a lot of folks make the mistake of wanting to do it all themselves without outside advice or assistance, usually out of a desire to retain ownership, pride, or lack of faith in others’ ability to contribute positively to the product. Mentors abound, you’ve just gotta seek them out.

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