Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tales from the Riverbank [of Death]

One of my first bosses when I arrived in the UK used to quote an old proverb: "Wait by the river long enough and the body of your enemy will float by you". [Not sure who said it first - Confucius, Sun Tzu or some other, clever person - answers in the comments section please.] In other words, be patient and you can outlast many of those who vex you. Don't fight every battle, let nature take its course. It doesn't always work but a little patience goes a long way.

Now, there are some who say a happy TV show behind the scenes equals a poor TV show on screen. However, most of those I've heard say that tend to get off on confrontation, enjoying the rough and tumble. [One bragged about how many script editors he'd made cry, which tells you a lot about him.] In my experience a workplace with high staff turnover usually means that isn't a happy place to work. Morale is low, conditions aren't great, time to get gone.

Earlier this year I got a rejection letter from a newcomer at a TV show that was needlessly snotty. Nobody likes getting rejected, but it's an occupational hazard for writers. But the tone of the letter and its author's choice of words were overly harsh. [Sad to say, it reminded me of the brutal rejection letters I used to write as a newbie comics editor. Karma can really bite you in the arse sometimes.] Somebody was flexing their new-found muscles.

At another time I would have been crushed by that letter. Happily, I was able to write back to its author, thanked them for taking the time to read my efforts [always be polite, even when others lack the same courtesy] and say I'd made a breakthrough elsewhere. I didn't bother mentioning it was the same script they'd so disliked that got me the breakthrough. Their mind was already made up, there was no point trying to chance their opinion about it.

Yesterday I discovered the letter writer no longer works at that show. Sounds like there's various upheavals, tremors and aftershocks running through the place. Give it another few months to settle down again, it might be worth a fresh approach to the new incumbent. I'll need a new calling card script, but hopefully all I learned on last week's Doctors mini-academy will inform and enhance my next efforts. In the meantime, I'll stay here by the river.

6 comments:

AndrewT said...

Name names, Mr B. Go on, you know you want to...

Scott Andrews said...

Watching an interview with Joss Whedon the other day. He stresses that the only way to create a good writing team is to *choose people you don't mind being locked in a room with*, and that once he realsed this it trumped good writing every time. Hence he says it took him seven years to get the writer's room he wanted - all nice people AND all great writers.

He recounts that Tim Minear came and pitched him the very best pitch he'd ever seen for Buffy. Totally got the show like no-one else and his episode was brilliant. But Joss would't hire him because he was "so full of rage".

"What I didn't realise at the time," he goes on, "is that he was working on the X-Files." He met some other X-Files writers later on and realised they were all like that. When Minear eventually came to write for Angel Joss discovered that he was lovely and easy to work with.

jmswallow said...

The quote is from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and very true it is too.

Piers said...

Scott: Could you link to that interview? It sounds interesting...

Scott Andrews said...

Its a great interview and full of insight and cleverness, but it's a DVD. You can get it here:
http://tinyurl.com/66x4jn

English Dave said...

I think I might know that show, and it's going down the shitter, so look on it as dodging a bullet.