Our agent contacted us with the good news. A one hour action series had just been greenlit and the production was looking for writers. The timing couldn’t have been better as Paul and I had just finished work on another show and were looking for a steady gig. Of course there was that possibility of landing a job on Stargate but, in all honesty, it was a long shot. This series, on the other hand, looked very promising. Plus, it was going to shoot in our hometown of Montreal which meant we wouldn’t have to pack up and move to the other side of the country.
We went in and met with the showrunner, an affable fellow who was, himself, part of a writing team. Unfortunately, his partner had opted out of the show just as it was going to camera for reasons unknown. I suppose in hindsight that should have been a warning but, at the time, we were just too darn keen to give it a second thought. Sure, the series was a U.S./Canada/France/Belgium/German co-production (I suspect Albania and Swaziland were unable to meet their financial commitments to the project and had to back out), but that only ensured that the quality control would be that much higher what with so many different players weighing in. Still, the showrunner was a great guy and, judging from the pilot script he and his M.I.A. partner had written, it was going to be a fun show.
Except that one of the partners (it may have been either the German or the French) didn’t want fun. They wanted serious action. This we found out after handing in the first draft of our first freelance script. Everything that had been received with much enthusiasm twenty-four hours earlier was suddenly problematic and we were looking at a page one rewrite. But no big deal. We went back to it and had the revised version out within the week. Again, congratulations all around. Until one of the partners (it may have been either the French or the Germans) decided the show needed to have more emphasis on espionage. Less guns, more gadgets and savvy. “No problem,”I told the showrunner, eager to give it another go. To his credit, however, the showrunner held off. It became very clear early that the producing partners had drastically different visions of what they wanted the show to be. Rather than address this minor quibble in the development stage, they had apparently elected to work it out once the show was actually in production.
While the French and Germans slugged it out over creative issues, we were offered the opportunity to do a pass on somebody else’s script. This somebody else was a gruff, opinionated, bear of a man who was often given to dropping cryptic hints about his every-changing mysterious past during story meetings. One day, he was a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who still did undercover work for the force. The next, he was an ex-outlaw biker with connections to the C.I.A. He was a self-proclaimed expert on any subject and would happily muscle his way into a conversation to remind everyone of the fact. Now my writing partner, Paul, is an infinitely patient guy (he’d have to be, having worked with me for going on 12 years now), not easily pushed to the breaking point. But if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s an arrogant know-it-all who doesn’t know when to shut up. In the many years I’ve known him, I’ve only been witness to three individuals who managed to engender Paul’s loathing. One was our former boss at the student bar we worked at. Another was an actor. A third was this guy. Let’s call him Oswald.
“It just needs a polish, nothing serious,”Oswald assured us after sending me the script. “Give it a pass and get it back to me as soon as you can.”
All well and good until Paul and I read the script. It needed a little more than a polish. It needed a fourth and fifth act that made sense. I emailed Oswald, detailing the plot holes that needed to be addressed. His response: “These kind of notes are really counter-productive at this point.”
And I suppose it would have been equally counter-productive for Paul and I to have accepted staff positions on the production – especially after that Stargate longshot came through. On the one hand, we sincerely did like the showrunner and the series was being filmed in our hometown which made things very convenient for us; but on the other hand the weekly salary we’d been offered was equivalent to the weekly per diem we’d be receiving should we decide to take our chances out west.
And last I heard, the French and the Germans are still going at it.
Today’s pics: Snaps from work.