One of the most irritating aspects of this business is the insufferable waiting. Waiting for notes. Waiting for ratings. Waiting for the catering truck to start serving lunch. And, chiefest of all, waiting for a green light. In the case of the latter, the frustration is both subjective and objective. You’re personally frustrated by a hold-up that actually frustrates the process, hindering and adversely affecting the final product.
The most valuable currency in film and television production is…wait for it…money (Seriously. What did you think I was going to say?). But coming in a close second is time. Having the time to properly prepare allows you to maximize your resources, making the most efficient use of what you have, thereby ensuring better quality. Less time, on the other hand, translates to rushed executions at every level of the process. The result: an inferior product that leaves viewers wondering “How the hell did that crap get on the air?”. Well, it got on the air because, at some point, it was a pretty good idea, a good idea that was completely eviscerated by a creative team scrambling to feed the pipeline, address last minutes notes, and make a deadline delivery.
The luxury/paucity of time also influences quality when it comes to a production’s biggest asset: personnel. Heading into battle, you want people you can trust watching your back. Television production? Same thing. And the more challenging the show, the better positioned you are with reliable, talented individuals who can help shoulder the load, making YOUR job that much easier. Again, money helps in securing the right personnel. And so does time. But time can work against you as well, especially when other opportunities present themselves and the people you were counting on have to make a choice between a real paying job or your “it REALLY look like it’s going to happen but we don’t have an official green light yet” hypothetical show. More frustration. AND frustration.
All this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone but, for some reason, the decision-makers don’t seem to care. Why not? Is it because they have too much on their respective plates? That the deal-making process is as arduous and intricate as bomb defusion? Or are they just too busy catching up on this past season of Game of Thrones and House of Cards (two shows, incidentally, that, no doubt, gave THEIR writers the time to craft tight, well-conceived scripts)? A friend of mine offers an alternate theory: The decision-makers don’t care because they don’t understand or respect the writing process. To them, writing a script is as simple as turning on a tap. Just twist the spigot and the ideas flow, ready-formed, onto the page: character arcs, clever dialogue, surprising plot twists and narrative developments. I mean – seriously – how hard can it be? I’m reminded of what someone once said to me: “You have the best job in the world. You just sit around all day, making stuff up.” Sure. Much like NASCAR drivers sit around all day winning the Sprint Cup Series or scientists sit around all day, making new breakthroughs in medicine (To Do List: Cure Cancer. Win Nobel Prize. Pick up Mitch from his dental appointment at 11:00). Step right up and order your script. Do you want pathos and humor with that? A side of richly textured characters? Some clever fourth act twist topping? Sure! No problem!
Of course, occasionally, there will come a rare instant, in both high school math class and television development, when two negatives actually yield positive results. When that long-forgotten project you went into development on ten months ago slowly creeps back onto the radar and overtakes your hypothetical show-in-waiting. And, invariably, not long after you commit to that other project, the decision-makers finally get around to pulling the trigger on your poised-to-go show only to be informed “Sorry, I’m busy.”. But not to worry. You’ll be free again. Eventually. All they have to do is wait.
And, let’s face it. It’s something they should be pretty good at by now.