Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Video Hall of Fame Adventure

... or How I Spent My Weekend

Once upon a time (Friday noon) I was working at my desk when I get a call from Scott Hettrick, Editor-in-Chief of Video Business. Scott tells me they are running against a deadline for Monday’s 25th annual Video Hall of Fame Awards. Nobody’s happy with the script and it needs a rewrite.
Okay cool. Scott was my boss for the 2005 DVD Exclusive Awards Show, and he knows what I can do. My mentor needs my help. It was total serendipity.

Scott: Oh and by the way, Boy Genius; since they are bringing in the talent, you won’t be working for me; you’ll be working for The Studio.
Me: (to my Boy Genius self) We have cracked the studio wall!
Boy Genius: We?! They want me...
Scott: We’re finalizing everything now. Someone from The Studio will give you a call to negotiate and get you moving. (cue ominous music)
Me: Beautiful. Where should I send my first born child?

Long story short, the very kind and Funny Girl calls me from The Studio. We negotiate the rate. She confirms everything via email, and I’m off and running. She sends me the first draft of the show script and says it’s running a little long.

Boy Genius: Okay. How long?
Funny Girl: About an hour....

Oh boy.

Friday night:

While the rest of you were out in the bars, or home downloading internet porn (yeah, you!), this Boy Genius was home at the desk with a script in one hand and a red pen in the other. Editing, re-editing, polishing and hacking away at this script. Production is counting on me to make their lives easier. Talent is counting on me to make them appear funny and warm.
I’m just hoping I don’t screw this up.

Saturday:

I forego the cartoons and get into the business of re-structuring things and polishing it all up for a first draft. About four hours later I look to my printer and the first draft is spitting out of the computer. I glance at the pages as they come, and laugh at my wonderful Boy Genius.
Then I go have lunch... I come back to work, I look at the script:

Me: Boy Genius, uh this doesn’t look as good as when you showed it to me the first time.
Boy Genius: What?! Impossible...uh, crap...

Damn. Back to work.

Saturday night:

I send off my first pass secure in the knowledge that it will dazzle and delight.

Sunday morning:

No dazzle. No delight. Not even Dee-lite. I send two more revisions to everyone based on overnight emails and wait for the fallout. There are about seven people listed in the emails that I have to serve with this script. No pressure. Not a bit.
Oh, did I mention that while I was writing, I was receiving emails every half-hour like the following?

Michael Chiklis is going to present the award to Marvel.
Rebecca Romijn is going to present the award to Marvel. You have to re-write it.
Julian McMahon is gonna do it. You have to re-write it.
Famke Jannsen is gonna do it now. You have to re-write...
James Marsden...Craaaap!
Sorry Boy Genius, we don’t know who’s going to present the award to Marvel. We won’t know until the day of the show. Just keep writing.

Boy Genius: Relax, Bill, you're working for The Studio.

Singleton can't make it. Rewrite it.

More re-writing, fact-checking, joke punching and theme-building.
Then Funny Girl at The Studio sends the script off to the host of the show.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alex Trebek!

Boy Genius: Cool, I’m writing for Mr. Jeopardy! Okay, more re-writes!

Monday:

Lots of notes, corrections, drafts and phone calls. Right up until they said, "It’s Showtime!"

Now let me give you guys a few tidbits about writing for these live events:
You write it.
You rewrite it.
You keep rewriting it until absolutely the last second when it has to go to talent and teleprompter.
Once it gets into the talent’s hands – let go. They are going to do whatever strikes them at the moment. They go with the flow of the audience. It is not like film or television. It's live!
Your job as the writer is to provide them a map so that they don’t get lost along the way.
Keep it simple, memorable and upbeat. This is a celebration, not a memorial.


Next Time: It's a really Big Shoe!

4 comments:

Grubber said...

How big a breath did you rdraw after that final email?

Bill Cunningham said...

I unclenched my colon and ran for the bathroom...

Grubber said...

I can imagine...I am just glad it ended well for you.....it nearly sounds like a nightmare.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Nice breakdown Bill, kudos on the connections.

Gotta get back, that porn isn't going to download itself :)

JDC