Monday, March 21, 2005

Mass Market, Smart Content

On Saturday March 19, Jody and I attended (actually we were 15 minutes late for) an LA Press Club and American Cinema Foundation's "Mass Market, Smart Content" panel discussion. Since my wife has aspirations with regard to screenwriting, this seemed like it would be an interesting panel to listen in on. Cathy Seipp moderated a panel featuring the following speakers:

Paul Feig (creator and executive producer: "Freaks & Geeks;" director:
"Arrested Development;" director and writer, the feature film "I Am David;"
author: "Kick Me: Adventures In Adolescence.")

Scott Kaufer (executive
producer: "Boston Legal;" writer: "Gilmore Girls," "Chris Isaak Show," "Beggars
& Choosers;" editor-in-chief: California magazine.)

Rob Long
(co-creator and excecutive producer: "Men, Women & Dogs," "Love &
Money," "George & Leo;" executive producer: "Cheers." Author: "Conversations
With My Agent." Columnist: National Review. Radio commentator: KCRW.)

Tim Minear (executive produer: "The Inside," "Wonderfalls," "Angel,"
"Firefly")


I am a pretty big fan of a number of the shows these individuals have worked on. In particular, I enjoy Angel and Boston Legal. Though I do have Firefly on my Netflix queue, which is germane to the event since one of the issues discussed was the potentially positive effects of DVD sales for the "niche genre" market. You can read a fairly in depth commentary on the event by Jackie Danicki here or at her personal website. Others in attendence, included Matt Welch, who will soon be destroying me in Fantasy Baseball, and Amy Alkon who thinks I have "woman hands." Given the context, I believe that was supposed to be a compliment, and I will take it as such, but since I bite my nails to the quick it was a bit odd.

Needless to say, this was a thoroughly interesting panel where the panelists were forced to break free from the "we're too cool for school" mentality that a lot of professionals can be subject to. All the panelists actually admitted they watch television, with the caveat that the industry is truly time consuming etc., but still they admitted to watching television. The vibe was much different from a DC Comics panel I attended at ComicCon last year, where Greg Rucka chastised an audience member who asked if he wouldn't mind writing a single issue arc every now and then. Greg essentially said, "Hey, I need 24 issues to tell a story. You twit! I write literature!" Of course 24 issues is a two year investment of time by the reader (to read 30 minutes of comics) and Wonder Woman isn't exactly Tolstoy. Besides the fact that Gardner Fox could write 12 page stories that are still worth reading. To get back on topic, I dislike it when professionals show disdain for the medium in which they are employed and there was none of that going on here.

The panelists had some very interesting things to say about "censorship," the writing process, and the business itself. As well as some hopeful thoughts regarding DVDs and genre shows. Tim Minear jokingly said that Fox on Friday's was the night he advertised his 13 issue DVD sets. Sadly, there was some truth to that comment. But Scott Kaufer was quick to point out the lack of proper negotiations by the WGA to protect writer's rights with regard to DVD sales. It seems to me that writers are due a great deal more than the 2 or 4 cents they receive per DVD now. After all, the writer is the "source" of the entertainment.

Some of Jody and my favorite quotes from the evening:

Rob Long: "My agent had a client who asked if they could take a year off to write a novel. My agent said, 'Look...if you need $800.00, I'll give you $800.00."

Rob Long: "I find the hardest kind of writing to be prose writing. You actually have to write on every line."

Everyone was very funny and very informative. Jody was particularly impressed by Scott Kaufer, and his conversation regarding the WGA, and Rob Long. I was able to meet a couple of new people, some from the comments section of Cathy's blog, but as per usual my shyness in crowds filled with unknowns compounded with the fact that people I admire were there made me a bit of a wallflower.
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