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The Right Attitude

I have a large backlog of questions in my in box, but this comment from a few days ago is just desperately crying out to be answered.

Hi,

currently I’m in my senior year of college, and I will be graduating with a B.A. in Cinema and Television arts.My goal is to be a television director and producer. My first question what do you think the further of television will be ? In television who gets more recognition the director or the producer. Lastly, how do you think I should approach Hollwood.
Thanks,
Eric

Okay, first off, I know this is the Internet and all, but proofreading is your friend. I’ve seen manifestoes written in crayon on toilet paper that were more coherent than this. Download Firefox, at a minimum. It comes with a spell checker, which should help you avoid writing “Hollwood” on an industry blog.

All that being said, I guarantee there will be at least three speling and grammar mistake’s in this post. Mote in your eye, plank in my own, I know.

Anyway.

You asked a lot of questions, so settle in for a long post.

What do you think the further of television will be ?

I’m not really sure what the further of television will be. It’s kind of a… strange question. Do you think television is moving? Getting larger? I’m just not prepared to answer that.

If you’re curious about the future of television, I’ve got a long post about that coming soon, so stay tuned.  (Or RSSed, or whatever.)

In television who gets more recognition the director or the producer.

My opinion of TV directors is rather low. In all honesty, the director is the only person on set who could call in sick, and the end product would be exactly the same. Still, directors get paid a lot for doing very little, and the crew does, generally, try to do what they ask. So, in that sense, the director gets “recognition,” I suppose.

The real power lies with the producers, or, more specifically, the writer-producers. Unlike films, directors come and go, but the writers remain. The creative course of a series is controlled by the writers. Nothing gets done without their approval, from casting to set construction to editing.

In general, a director’s job on set is to get enough coverage for the writer-producer to work with in post-production. If a director spends his whole day shooting eight-minute steadicam shots without getting inserts and cut-aways, that director will not be invited back for another episode.

On the commentary for an old Buffy episode (season 2, episode 14, if you’re as nerdy as me), Joss Whedon explains that, when he directs his own scripts, he feels free to shoot oners because he can decide which scenes will play in their entirety and which might have to be cut down to time. A regular director does not have that authority.

– – –

I wanna stop here because the tone of your comment gives me some misgivings.

First, it is redolent of a peculiar western mythology, that of the Lone Artist Creating His Art Alone. (A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!)

Anyway.

We have this idea that creation is a solitary pursuit, and genius can’t be arrived at by committee. One great artwork, be it a painting, a song, or a movie, must have only one great artist (painter, songwriter, director).

But the moving picture has no such artist. A writer must write the scene, an actor must perform it, the art department must give the actors a space in which to perform, and the grips and electrics must light that space for the camera department to put the scene on film. And on and on and on.

My second misgiving is that, even if there were such a “televisual artist,” it sounds like you want to be that guy. It’s like a business student asking, “Do I want to be the CEO or the chairman of the board? Oh, heck, I’ll just be the president.”

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t your fault. All film students feel this way. I did.

Nearing graduation, I asked my professor, “What if I get agents competing over me? How do I choose which one is best?”

“You’ll be lucky to get one. Take the first agent who says yes.”

I didn’t even get one. Which is not to say there aren’t people who get lucky early in their careers, but don’t count on yourself being one of them.

/aside

– – –

How do you think I should approach Hollwood.

The way to approach Hollywood is to understand that what you do is determined by three things: what you’re good at, what you like doing, and what someone will hire you to do. At some point in your career, you’ll hope all three align. But when you’re fresh out of film school (and for most of your life, probably), the third item is the operative factor.

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4 Responses

  1. How do you think I should approach Hollwood.

    Assuming he/she meant Hollywood, and there was a question mark at the end of the sentence:

    My advice would be go West on the 10, get off at La Brea, and go North until you hit Sunset Blvd.

    In the words lifted from the great Buckeroo Banzai, “Where ever you go, there you are”.

    In your case, that would be Hollywood.

    http://www.boskolives.wordpress.com

  2. In re the right attitude, I would love to hear your response to the latest This American Life episode, Pro Se, which includes the story of anonymous production assistant Steph M. Steph starts by talking about the outrageous demands made of her, her example being hanging curtains in a room with concrete walls.

    This is a problem easily solved with a percussion drill or, if you’ve never heard of a percussion drill, a quick Google search followed by purchase of said drill.

    She then pulls an elaborate self-aggrandizing prank which fails utterly to attract any attention whatsoever other than a sexual diss from the butt of the joke.

    I concluded that Steph M. must be very pretty and well off, because only a very pretty, well off girl would combine such total practical cluelessness with such an impressive ability to game a social system and such a deep sense of entitlement.

    But perhaps a connoisseur of the milieu, such as you, can add another dimension…

  3. Funny you should link to that old blog post, I just recently tried to watch 21. God it was a horrible movie. Turned it off about 30 minutes in because it was so boring.

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