Friday, March 06, 2009

"When can you get it in by?"

This is the classic confrontation between scriptwriter and script editor ('It' being anything from a one paragraph series concept, to the sixth draft episode script of something that needed to be filmed about an hour ago).

From the script editor's point of view, the best possible version of the ensuing conversation would go like this:

SCRIPT EDITOR: When can you get it in by?
WRITER: An hour's time. Is that okay?
SCRIPT EDITOR: How about half an hour?
WRITER: Hey look, I just finished it while we were talking!

... whereas from the writer's point of view, the best possible version of the ensuing conversation would go like this:

SCRIPT EDITOR: When can you get it in by?
SCRIPT EDITOR: But we need it as soon-
WRITER: When the stars are aligned, when the runes have been cast, when the seventh son of a seventh son has climbed the Cliff of Destiny and retrieved the Sword of Time*, then, and only then, will I even begin to think about maybe telling you, or more likely your descendants, the sort of timescale we're looking at.
SCRIPT: Righto, well, sorry to bother you.

Yesterday, I had this conversation.

SCRIPT EDITOR: Hi James, good meeting, good chat about the revised outline, when do you think you can get it in by?
ME: Next Thursday?
SCRIPT EDITOR: Really? Wow, that's quick!
ME: Bugger.
SCRIPT EDITOR: Because end of next week would have been fine, but, you know, if you can deliver it by next Thursday, that would be amazing.

At which point, of course, I start to frantically wonder if I've got the wrong end of the stick, and I have in fact committed myself, not to a minor, half-page addition to a two page outline, but a first draft of a three hour film, including a number of battles. And all that three act structure stuff I keep meaning to read about.

ME: (cautiously) I mean, it might take a bit longer. It'll be ready by then, obviously, but it's nice to put it aside for a couple of days. Let it settle. Read it over a couple of times. So maybe we'd better say end of the week?
SCRIPT EDITOR: End of the week? Wow, that's incredible!

I am starting to think she might be messing with my mind.

* I'm really annoyed I had 'Sword of Time' and then 'timescale' just a few words later. It looks rubbish.


Barry Hutchison said...

I once had an editor on a magazine I wrote for who regularly messed with me in similar ways.

On a Monday we'd agree a timescale for an article - the following Monday, for example.

On Wednesday I'd get an email or phone call along the lines of: "Hi! How are you? Just wondered if you've finished that article yet? We did say Wednesday, didn't we?"

I would then have to convince him we said Monday. When I finally did he would usually phone/email again on the Friday asking pretty much the same as above.

In the end I bashed his head in with a shovel. It was the only way.

Boz said...

this sounds a bit like every conversation about a deadline I have ever had (and subsequently broken).

Ahh the Cliff of Destiny. Is that the one just round the corner from the Hillock of fate?

james henry said...

Boz: that's the one - two stops from the Bus Shelter of Fgotten Dreams.

I think I particularly hate that conversation because it's the closest I get to having to think of what I do as being like having a proper job.

Barry: I think shovels are only language they understand.

Karen's Mouth said...

Would you ever have a two script editor situation? Might help.

I have two supervisors with polar opposite tactics. One always sucks her teeth and looks crestfallen, as if she's employer of the most useless researcher around. The other will do the whole "blimey really? gosh that's truly excellent and axciting progress" when it's taken me 2 months to come up with a title.

My ego lives somewhere in the middle which is about right.

Anonymous said...

A quarter past fuck you! I laughed aloud when I read this.

It's going to be my standard, non-negotiable deadline from now on. Thanks for brightening my morning.

And while we're on the subject, word verification today: pokedit.


Boz said...

"Fetch the shovels.."

Danny Stack said...

I've just spat my tea all over the laptop with laughter, and, sadly, recognition.

Lately, I've tried to reverse the question: "When can you have it done by, Danny?" - "Well, when do you need it by, ideally?" - "End of week." "Hmm, will aim for that as much as possible but maybe give me the weekend, too, and you can have it Monday..." - "Sounds good!"

Of course, the conversation never goes like that. It's more like: "End of week." - "OK!"