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.


23 thoughts on “May 22, 2014: Now we play the waiting game….. Ahh, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!

  1. So I have this idea. It’s like a fundme meets shark tank thing. Joe, you pitch a show idea to the sci-fi (or other, as appropriate) fan base community and present a budget for launching the show. The fans decide whether or not they want to see this show realized, and either fund the show or not. If the critical monetary mass is reached, production ensues. If not, then everyone can walk away. I haven’t thought through any more than what I just typed…surely there are myriad considerations and obstacles. I don’t even know if this is an original idea or not. But, I wanted to throw it out there into the universe. I’d rather have a say in what gets green lit. After all, I am the end consumer.

  2. “You have the best job in the world. You just sit around all day, making stuff up.”

    I’ve heard somewhat the same thing Joe, although, I’m a pet groomer and not a writer.

    “You have the best job in the whole world…you get to play with doggies all day!” Riiiight, we play with the doggies…right after we brush out the matted coat you swear was not like that yesterday, wash, dry, clip and finish, clean up their poop, pee and vomit because you had to feed them before the car ride here, and try not to accidentally nick them while they spin around on our table.

    I actually invited a customer to stay once and see how our day went. She lasted an hour and left shaking her head….however, after that day she began tipping nicely.

  3. I hear you. No matter how much we stress the answer we’re waiting for won’t change. If worrying won’t change the outcome then let go of stress and spend the waiting time happily working on new things.

    I think networks operate on pure fear, anything too risky, too funny or too complex is scary so they pick the safest bets which are the middle of the road stuff.

  4. *hugs Joe*

    If I win the power ball look out! I do find it hard to believe that Jersey Shore was ever anything but utter crap. I’m sure it’s the exception to the rule though.

    As a stay-at-home mom I’ve been told it must be great to sit around at home doing nothing all day. I homeschool, too. So you must know I’m particularly lazy.

    I know I’m not cut out for your job. That’s for sure. It just makes me appreciate shows like Stargate so much more. I do have this desire to wave a magic wand for you.

    You know who does have a great job, though? The voice actor. Every voice actor I’ve ever met has said they have an amazing job. I think Yeardley Smith once said she had the best job because she can show up in her pajamas. I’d love to do that! Well.. not show up in my pajamas. I’d love voice acting. Too bad I can only do about three characters. And one of them is valley girl. Like, Oh my GAWD! For sure!


  5. They never learn how to make a solid & balanced strategy on decision making process on invest. “Professionals” working by Ear. :star:

    In a form of “analysis paralysis” (what results in a slowed decision process) they are awaiting infallible (secure, if its something of this name in the world) news or signals which once received will make the decision obvious even for a novice.
    By the time such signals or indications arrives, her competitors had made its moves making any decision less atractive. o_O

  6. I forget said.
    The deep roots of this behavior is a high risk aversion. Which is a rare feature in an investor but not as strange in a miser of Dickens stories.

  7. I wonder why it is that the most creative, hard working people are so often,,,w/o money? Maybe it’s because the people who HAVE money are doing the best they can to inhibit truly creative actions…after all, in the process of creation,,,something must get destroyed…perhaps they fear it will be them.

  8. I hope you snuggled the pups,and had some of that good Scotch you have stashed away and some dark chocolate last night to ease the frustration.

    A wise woman once told me: “The benefits of getting out of the house and doing something fun and relaxing are in direct proportion to the absolute conviction that one must stay at home and labor mightily and miserably.”

    Get out of the house and get some exercise, Joe. And then take a trip to the food trucks and have some good food and fun.

  9. AH HA, I am not alone:
    “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?”
    …the same with a minister asking to write a bill or a bylaw !! Change decision-maker by minister and script by law and…welcome to my world !

  10. @Peggy: Love that story. The version I usually hear is “You have the best job in the whole world. You work from home…so of course you can take a day off and do this big favor for me, because I can’t leave work at my office.”

  11. Off on a tangent story which has little to do with anything….

    We were at the San Diego Zoo, admiring the new hippo enclosure, which has different levels, including one which goes below water level, so you can be face to face with swimming hippos. Roomy, lots of seats, plenty of space for schoolkids on field trips. There were plenty of kids, including a class of teenagers. There were hippos, swimming near the glass, almost as if on cue. Then things got interesting. The gentleman hippo, well, he got reeaaalllly happy about the lady hippo. I heard parents telling their tiny tots the hippos were “dancing”. Sure, why not? But then, a teenage girl, in a loud, carrying voice informed us all, “They’s humpin”! The hippos are humpin’! Humpin’ humpin’ hippos!”

    I can never, ever, read “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” without turning into an inappropriate sexual remark, including invisible exclamation marks and a shrill tone, in my head.

  12. It’s like when Chandler and Joey are talking in the fold out bed and Chandler is consoling Joey about finding the right girl to commit the rest of his life to and says something to the effect of “I’d like to believe that when the right woman comes along, you’ll have the courage and the guts to say, ‘No thanks, I’m married.'”

    Besides, you’ve run two shows simultaneously before, right? You can do it. 😉

    -Mike A.

  13. Agree with Randomness – keep the faith, we’re sending all the best vibes possible, and it will happen. Eventually.

    I have a theory (and one somewhat substantiated, I dare say) that many decisions makers are at that level where they’re risen to their level of incompetence (aka the Peter Principle). They just have no idea what they’re doing and keep firing off stuff in hopes that it will stick. And if it doesn’t, they hope they’ll have moved on to something else in the meantime and there’s no one to blame.

  14. Speaking of timelines, I was wondering what you’d consider a reasonable time frame for getting a film treatment done, including the incorporation of notes from the producer. “Done” meaning it’s ready to move to scripting.

    I made an agreement with a producer a while back–aspiring producer, I should say–who’s trying to get an indie film together. She hired me to write a treatment based on her idea. After a handful of months, I handed it in. After about 8 years and several rewrites (including her basically rewriting the entire thing herself in a massive overhaul of the story), when she still wasn’t happy with it, I asked to terminate the agreement. I know treatments aren’t usually done in this way, but I was curious what a working professional in the industry thought of that kind of timeline.

  15. Darn all I had to deal with was the hail as thick as snow in Den the day before. At least my flights didn’t divert

  16. I can only imagine how frustrating that is.

    @Peggy I get something similar; however, for the most part, I would have to agree with them. I do love my job and I do have a lot of fun and it is very rewarding (being a pet sitter). Take my latest compliment from my regular Wed/Fri client who was a Wed/Thurs/Fri client last week at 2 visits per day instead of her usual one: “I appreciate everything you do for us, and Lucky!
    I’ve noticed since you’ve been coming by twice a day, Lucky seems so much more content when I get home. If you can, lets keep doing twice a day whenever possible. You are really an incredible person, and I’m grateful that our lives have crossed.” Or this one when I actually fell down on my job and was such a scatterbrain last week that I forgot to send my Friday night through Sunday morning client an estimate for the weekend, I noticed they just wrote a check. There was something screwy with their alarm I said, “I am certain you don’t owe me that much. How about I just leave the bill and a stamped envelope and you mail me a check when you get back.” She replied, “I think we owe you $X for the weekend but you do such a great job so we think u deserve more.” I don’t get tips often so when I do I am sincerely appreciative. But this was a little over 20%. I’m just not used to that at all. My love languages are words of affirmation and actions (like if my husband does something without me having to ask–read “The Five Love Languages”). The notes mean so much to me. It makes the isolated bad events not seem to big.

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