Friday, May 08, 2009

Write us a thing

In the comments thread on the previous post, Newf asked:

"So, before #1, is there a bit when an important person phones you up and goes "heh, write us a thing", or are you sending out the outline in volleys?"

Kind of the former: whenever I go up to London, my agent likes to set me up for meetings with new producers and development people, so I can get an idea of the sort of thing they're looking for. So not a phone call specifically, but a chat about what various broadcasters are looking for, certainly. Then I either go and write something that fits, or (more likely) write all sorts of random ideas, then see if any of them fit what people are looking for at the moment. I might even have a look in my old concepts folder and see if I have anything lurking that could fit.

For example: I've been working with Carnival lately on Hotel Babylon, but they also have a good working relationship with the Sci Fi Channel (or SyFy as it is now, apparently), so it's handy to find out what new shows they're commissioning, so I know what they're after at the moment (which seems to be one-hour SF/Fantasy shows with a very simple, direct premise, offerent strong stories of the week). I've been thinking about a weird take on all the Eighties tv shows I used to love as a kid, like Knight Rider, Airwolf, Manimal, all that stuff, which I'd already worked up into an two page outline, but the 'story of the week' thing made me go back and tweak it a bit. So whereas before it was about a group of teens who discover their parents were all secretly cheesy crimefighters in the Eighties, and have to work out how to make the slightly dated (but still very cool) technology work in the present day, now it's about a mixed group of thirtysomethings who, essentially, stumble into the Batcave after it was shut down twenty five years previously.

Hmm, my British archetype superhero comedy/drama thing might be a good example of this - will maybe put that up in its various stages later on.

The other thing I should say is that I got the meetings with Carnival in the first place through my agent sending them my HERO TRIP spec movie script. So the head of development there knows a) my writing style, and b) the kind of subjects I'm interested in ('genre' stuff - i.e. SF/Fantasy, but with a strong comedy element, and probably a bit more characterisation than you often get in that kind of thing. So in this case, a two page outline makes sense, as they can kind of fill in the gaps themselves, whereas that's not to useful with a writer they don't know (i.e. haven't seen a writing sample of), because they have no indication of what that two page outline could end up looking like.

As to the 'volleys' thing, yeah, if the first person you send it to either doesn't like it, or has something too similar in development, you tend to have a list of people who you would send it to next. So if I had an SF/Fantasy/Comedy thing, it would probably go to Carnival first, then... Kudos, Hat Trick, Shine... maybe? Depending on who I have a personal relationship with, which will affect how quickly the outline gets read, whether it's read by someone who actually has to power to commission a proper treatment and so on.


Newf said...

That’s such a creepy/fascinating mishmash (heh, “mishmash”) of professionalism and personal contacts. Cool. Hum. Cool. I like it.

Stumbling into a derelict Batcave with boarded up windows and washed out coffee rings? Do it. And I really look forward to hearing about your British archetype superhero domedy/crama thing in its stages. I was stuck to James Moran’s blog when he was talking about the stages of his Doctor Who episode. Seriously, slept every night with my forehead on the monitor, woke up in the morning, unstuck my forehead, refreshed the blog.

James Henry said...

Oh god, never tell him that, he'll be insufferable...

Okay, will do a thing on INCARNATES (the superheroes thing) next week.

Newf said...

It was just the explanation of TV processes I liked - the episode itself was shit.

(Loved it, obviously)

Then I look forward to next week! (Which I don't want to think about, because at that time I will've found out if I've got my first job as a writer or not. Aahhh, precipice...)

James Henry said...

Good luck with that! You should probably think about getting a blog, you know...

Newf said...

Thank you! (Said squeakily)

No, I couldn't get a blog just because that's a thing that writers have. I'll get something that writers don't have, like a spade. Or... yeah. A spade.