August 1, 2014 · 4:07 pm
There’s a scene in Starz’s forthcoming documentary series The Chair—which debuts September 6, and which I previewed here—where director Shane Dawson and his producing partner Lauren Schnipper are discussing the rewriting of the script with their producer-at-large, Josh Shader, one of the only people in touch with both of the two productions being made from the same script by Dan Schoffer. It’s as tense a confrontation as you see in the first two episodes of the series, as Schnipper works to break down the writing credits of the still in-progress script that was heavily rewritten and noted by Dawson before being shipped back to Schoffer to take a final pass. Without saying it directly, her question is predicated on the likely results of a WGA arbitration hearing for the film, and Shader’s answer is—paraphrasing—that because they gave the option back to Schoffer to write the final version of the script, Dawson’s contributions will just be considered notes that happen when a director gets involved with a project, with Schoffer therefore retaining final, sole credit on the film.
It’s a moment of some tension. Schoffer gives a talking head discussing how Dawson’s claim to credit is an overreach, but as relative first-timers in the context of film production Schnipper and Dawson are mainly just looking for clarification on what to expect moving forward, which seems reasonable. Credit is complicated, as Schnipper notes when she contrasts Dawson’s process (rewriting/notes and then sending the script back to the writer) and fellow filmmaker Anna Martemucci’s greater control over the script to her film. Whereas Dawson effectively rehired Schoffer to rewrite his own script, Martemucci took the job herself, with the documentary following her completion of the script heading into production. And so this foreshadows what may appear as part of the documentary, which is a likely arbitration hearing for her film, the result of which will determine the writing credits for Hollidaysburg when it debuts in theaters and on Starz this fall.
It will be a rare case where we’ll potentially have a lot of very clear information about the arguments made before an arbitration hearing, beyond simply knowing the result (A “Story by” credit for the original writer, a shared writing credit, etc.). In most cases, there isn’t a documentary film crew following every stage of the production, and there aren’t two concurrent projects that let you draw a direct comparison between the two. There’s just an end result and bits of pieces of production history, as is the case with this weekend’s Guardians of the Galaxy (which I “reviewed” on Letterboxd if you’re looking for more thoughts on the film). The film’s script is credited to James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, although the two never worked together on the film. In a lengthy—and fascinating—Buzzfeed profile on Perlman, as well as in numerous Q&As and features she’s done in the past week, it’s revealed she worked as part of the Marvel Writing Program, an incubator in which writers were brought in to help develop Marvel properties into potential franchises. Over a two-year period, she worked on adapting the Guardians of the Galaxy series into a workable film franchise, including choosing the roster, plotting out the story, and then completing further writing work during a six-month freelance period once it was clear Marvel was serious about that project.
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August 6, 2009 · 1:22 am
The Emmy Awards Time-Shifting Fiasco
The Academy was so close to getting away with it.
Every year, the Emmys are faced with a mountain of criticism that no other award show really deals with, as the show in and of itself is part of the medium that it judges. While the Oscars or the Grammys are television presentations, the critics who analyze them as award shows are not likely film critics, and lack that personal connection with the material being dealt with. With the Emmys, however, the same television critics who (rightfully) criticize the Emmys for failing to recognize certain performers or certain shows for various reasons are the same ones who watch and criticize the show itself, making it a darn tough job to be in charge of the awards show.
This year, they are in the unenviable decision of having to make dramatic changes after two disastrous experiments: first, FOX confused just about everyone with their “Theater in the Round” setup, and last year ABC allowed the Reality Competition Program hosts to host the event and nearly caused a riot amongst angry critics questioning the lack of humour, chemistry, and just about anything worthwhile. They’re in the position where they needed to make changes, but when critics are always on the lookout for potential concerns they needed to step very carefully.
The changes they came up with, and revealed this week, were changes designed in order to streamline the show, allowing more time to let critic-approved Neil Patrick Harris do his thing, and to clear the way for the show to be more engaging for the audience at home. Their purpose alone, is quite logical: everyone wants a better show, and people acknowledge that there need to be changes for that to happen.
Where the Academy (particularly producer Don Mischer) went wrong, however, is in how they sold these changes, changes that demonstrate a logical understanding of some of the award show’s struggles and yet also a tactless understanding of how critics, the industry and other observers would react to their reasoning. If sold differently, these changes would have remained a sticking point but one that would have been over time forgiven: as it stands, it’s a scandal that isn’t going away anytime soon, and a scandal that’s standing in the way of the Emmys making a much-needed comeback.
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Filed under Emmy Awards
Tagged as 2009, Academy, Award Show, Controversy, Directing, Don Mischer, Emmys, EmmysFail, Entertainment, Felicia Day, Format Changes, Hashtag, Longform, Neil Patrick Harris, Television, Time-shifting, Twitter, WGA, Writing
November 11, 2007 · 4:36 pm
Over the past four weeks, my life has been dominated by labour action – on October 15th, the faculty at Acadia University (Which I attend) went on strike. This strike did not end until Wednesday, which meant three and a half weeks out of the classroom. In covering that strike, I maintained a neutral perspective: I felt the profs were striking for sound principles, but that the administration could never simply accept their demands thanks to shrinking enrollment. The landscape of the university was changing, and this crossroads was only inevitable. In the end, our second strike in 4 years was settled, this time with a resolution that should maintain the security of the institution for over a decade.
I mention all of this because I am not neutral about the recent Writer’s strike that has threatened the state of this year’s television season. If Acadia’s administration were facing dwindling enrollment and a grave financial position, Studios are facing a boon in the form of the ability to distribute content over the internet. Hollywood stands at a content-distribution crossroads, and the idea that the internet is “too young” to enter into contract negotiations is ludicrous. New Media is here, there’s no doubt about it, and something needs to be done to respect the work of writers within this medium.
In my time working with fans of CBS’ Jericho, the way many fans caught onto the show was through watching episodes online through the network’s Innertube service. In some cases, it was the only way they watched the show as they were unable to watch the series live thanks to other commitments. The idea that the writers of that episode, the individuals responsible for crafting those words, get nothing for every time someone watches it through this medium makes me wonder whether the service is really assisting the state of television in the long run. Because it should be: there lies amazing potential within the internet, but if it is being realized to the detriment of the writers I believe its value is primarily lost.
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