I worked for an animation company for over four years as a writer, director, editor and compositor and one of the things that people would ask you is 'how can you stand it?'  How can you work in such minutia and not go stark raving mad?  Once you've worked in a place where a shot takes you a day (or two) for five or ten seconds of footage you realize that it's a lot like meditation.  Instead of thinking about finishing something you get caught up in the process of doing it.  Bit by bit you chisel away at the thing until it satisfies you.  If you don't enjoy the process you might go crazy.

A writer has the same problem as the stop motion animator.  You need to go slowly, moment by moment, beat by beat, until you finish the script.  You can't just paint broad strokes and call it a day.  You are in the trenches gaining a foot a day.  I wrote a new feature this summer and I felt good getting in two pages a day.  If I could hit five pages it was an inspired day.  If I could hit ten then my muse was certainly sitting on my shoulder although I don't remember ever hitting such dizzying heights.

The 'Making of"


David O. Selznick

"I stopped making films in 1948 because I was tired.  I had been producing, at the time, for twenty years . . . . Additionally it was crystal clear that the motion-picture business was in for a terrible beating from television and other new forms of entertainment, and I thought it a good time to take stock and to study objectively the obviously changing public tastes . . . ."
-- David O Selznick

I read this quote today and thought it was relevant to the current discussion of the future of the film business.  It's great to see that Selznick didn't run around like a headless chicken, grasping at any new thing that might become the 'future' of cinema.  There is a lot of that going on today.  

Selznick was right about the motion-picture business as television did take a hearty bite of the profits of the movies.  Yet, for most practitioners of the craft of making films, television didn't mean the end of creativity and work.  Some people stayed in the motion pictures and some went off and made television. In fact, television created more jobs for people who wanted to tell stories with a camera and a microphone.  On top of that, many great motion picture artists were trained and found great success starting out in the television business.  The great Sidney Lumet, Paddy Chayefsky, and John Frankenheimer (just to name a few) came out of making television.

We are in a period of flux once again.  People love television and they love movies.  I don't see the business of telling stories in pictures going the way of vaudeville.  The audience will get what they pay for, that is for sure, and that is the centre of the issue.  It was great that Selznick had the fortune to wait and see.  For now, we'll just have to keep our heads above water and hope to see land in the near future.  It's good to see that we aren't alone.  

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
--Karl Marx


Rod Serling

Rob Mills sent me this interview with Rod Serling.  He has always been an impressive writer, not only for his creativity but his prodigious output.  On IMDB he is credited with 148 episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' over 5 years.  Twenty Six episodes of 'Night Gallery'.  It is astounding to think of this kind of creative output.  He says 'it lacked consistency'... no shit.

Having written on a few Television series I'll tell you it's hard work to come up with creative ideas over and over again.  Many days are spent staring at walls (or the back of your eyelids).  I've always been drawn to feature films as they are one-offs and usually have a bigger scope (although this is changing).  You develop an idea, you write it and then rewrite it until you're happy.  With television you are always trying to expand the idea sometimes to the point of 'jumping the shark'.

On the last television series I story edited I said to the writers that episode 20 to 26 were going to be the toughest.  This turned out to be true as predicted.  It's hard to be original over and over again, especially when you are trying to out-do yourself every time.  I think the only advantage that the 'Twilight Zone' had was that it wasn't locked into a single concept or a character.  You could really reinvent the show every time.  Still...  148 episodes.  Wow.