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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Thick, Black Line (Part 3)

Alrighty - just punched out that lil' voice in the back of my head, lets get rolling.

If you haven't had the chance, read: Part 1 and Part 2.

Annd right off the hop:

MS. WILLIAMS (Pg. 151-2): "...And, if anything, the more successful you are with that foreign budget, the more opportunity you have to fight later to grow that Canadian budget. And there are many of us in this business who are fighting all the time to make as much as we can, so that we can be successful with our Canadian. But the frustration that we have with the community is -- I don't think they believe how much people like Christine and me and our teams -- how hard we are trying." [REDACTED 1/3 page] "The whole success of the whole schedule is rooted in a handful of shows in prime time, and the Canadian community -- they need to be on our side for this." [REDACTED 1/2 page]

*** My Note: And you know, I'm sure there's a lot of people trying very hard - it's not one big jumbled bag of Anti-Canadian evil over there. At the same time, I wonder how many shows have been produced - money spent and gone - that are sitting there gathering dust on the shelves, unseen, simply because airtime can't be found - because House or Fringe or some other show is guaranteed to make more ad revenue. Here's an idea for Canwest, should they pull themselves out of the gutter/Danger Zone: Come back more Canadian than the CBC, buy up all those great unaired Canadian TV shows - shows like Sanctuary - and air the hell out of them. Give them a real push, be on the vanguard of showing the awesomeness that is Canadian TV when it's allowed to be seen. I will seriously come over there and hug you if I can see ZOS at 9 or 10pm on your station (talk to TMN, I'm sure they'll be friendly enough... right, folks?).

Interesting:

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 161): "... Then let's turn to the "E!"s. I looked at them and I must say that I was absolutely shocked by the figures, and I guess I have two questions. Number one, when you originally bought them, you obviously thought this would be the second chain from which you could -- it didn't work out that way, but the numbers are so incredible negative and they keep getting worse every single year. Last year it was less worse in 2005, but then 2006 it went back. So I guess the simple question is: How come it took you so long to figure out that this is a sinking ship?"

MR. PETER VINER (Page 161-2): [REDACTED] You know, what happens, you get corporate attachments to things. You are optomistic, you think you can do it. It is very difficult and, you know, we have had -- it is sometimes very difficult to bring yourself to the conclusion that, you know, these things are never going to work. You know, we are hoping, you know, for other changes, but just -- you are right, it's been a long time coming.

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 162): Even if we had given you fee for carriage the first time around, this wouldn't have saved the "E!"s, as far as I can see, given these numbers.

*** Personally, I've never watched any of the E! channels... and I don't know anyone who regularly does. I thought it was a weird brand when I first saw it - sure, I liked the E! True Hollywood Stories, but did it really deserve its own channel? At least Star! was somewhat Canadian (even though I rarely watched that channel either). That said, I do have somewhat fond memories of being in the audience for an episode of "Because I Said So with Maggie Cassella".

MR. AKMAN (Page 167): What you would see if you ran the same categories for 2007 would be a deeper loss for local news, which has been mitigated by some of the cost cutting initiatives Chris spoke to.

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 167): Yes

MR. AKMAN (Page 168): You would see a similar position for national news. You would see a deeper loss for non-news Cancon because of the synergies that Barb has been speaking about, and you would see a higher profit for foreign. So what keeps us up at night is taht none of those first three categories will ever make a profit, and the only category that is making a profit is getting squeezed more each year.

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 168): We, what assurance do we have, then, that if you get some help from us that you wouldn't spend that on foreign acquisition, because that is clearly where you get the biggest return for your money rather than reducing your losses?

MS. WILLIAMS: [REDACTED 1 1/4 pages]

MR. PETER VINER (Page 170): Yes. I think, too, you know, we will have to arrive at a -- mutually arrive at a mechanism that makes sense, whether it's local hours in the market, whether it's some other form, something closer akin to a specialty network. I think it is not an unreasonable request.

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 170): Yes. I think you should put your creative minds to it, because you are telling me, look, if we don't get fee for carriage or something like that, we are dust. And if you convince me of that, sure you have to somehow give me some assurance that the money that you will get will not all be used for foreign purchases. That is the flipside, you know. If we buy your argument and we find a way of giving you relief, we have to be able to assure that, you know, it is being used for the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.

*** A whole lot of stuff going on here - probably the biggest being the not-so-subtle undercurrent of 'Hey, we're afraid we're going to give you money and you're going to blow it on American shows' coming from The Chairperson. I wonder where such a fear would come from? Surely that's never happened before, right? (I'm not even sure if I'm being facetious here or not... :S)

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Page 192): ... I think I heard, Mr. Viner, you say at the start of this, or maybe it was Ms. Williams, CTV is aligned with some studios, you are aligned with other studios for the most part, you are not aligned with Disney or whatever. Where is the competitive aspect of the purchasing?

MS. WILLIAMS (Page 192): It is not complete. We have a significant deal with FOX, but it's not that we own all the product from FOX. In fact, one of FOX's biggest shows, "American Idon," happens to be on CTV. So we tend to be a big buyer of FOX and we control, if you will, a lot of the FOX product but not all of it. Likewise, CTV has a big ongoing relationship with Disney but we still do buy "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Brothers & Sisters" from ABC. So it's not that they are exclusive.

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Page 192-3): So if you have the better relationship with FOX, do you have first right to the Channels?

MS. WILLIAMS: [REDACTED - also, a 1 page conversation between MS. WILLIAMS, MR. PETER VINER and COMMISSIONER KATZ]

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Page 194): So this notion that I keep reading about by other people saying that you and CTV and maybe City are bidding up the price of programming is not really true if you each have your own alignment with the studios?

MS. WILLIAMS (Page 194-5): Well, you see, when a new show comes, though, [REDACTED 1/4 page] So there is a lot of product still. Even outside of those bulk deals, there is a lot of product that we will all be vying for in the heat of the moment.

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Page 195): [REDACTED] do you each know each other's deals?

MS WILLIAMS (Page 195): No. But if you know theirs and you would like to tell me --

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Page 195): [REDACTED - 1/2 page conversation between COMMISSIONER KATZ, MS. WILLIAMS and MR. PETER VINER]

*** I wasn't sure how much of this to include, I was originally going to just start it off about them bidding each other up and all, but I figured it needed some semblance of context. Also, I was intrigued by the idea (yes, naive of me I know) that some studios would have certain American stations on lockdown. I know it makes sense that it would happen but it was so weird to hear it discussed openly like that. Also, since we're on the subject, I was intrigued by this little bit:

MS. WILLIAMS (Page 197): [REDACTED] Pete is exactly right, the real gain for the Canadian broadcasters happens after the U.S. networks have revealed their fall schedules, which happens just a couple of days ahead of the actual screenings, and it's only then you know where your simulcast opportunities are and those simulcast shows are what we really end up fighting over, especially if we both have the same hole in our schedule. [REDACTED - 1/2 page]

*** One positive thing about reading this document: I've realized that I'm really interested in how TV is run in this country; More from the perspective of a mechanic than a salesman. I'd be interested in learning how our system is supposed to work when everything's on the up and up - I mean, certainly the whole system wasn't designed broken, was it?

COMMISSIONER MOLNAR (Page 222): ... Forgive me if I cross the line here but we know that there are a lot of priorities for cash today within the Canwest family. You brought up the issue that there is a pretty thin cash flow margin with conventional television today. As we looked at these upsides and downsides, the potential cash flow margin going into next year gets tight and I would like to know how we could have assurance that commitments made for digital transition can in fact proceed. You mentioned they weren't approved yet.

MR. PETER VINER: Perhaps I can answer that. [REDACTED 1/2 page] in order for us to be competitive and in order for us to meet our licence commitments we will have to be HD and that will be factored in by the new capital, it I can call it that.

MS. DARLING: Perhaps I can just add that we are stretching our engineering minds to find all kinds of clever ways to save money with this implementation and do it really cost effectively. Certainly as I was speaking to the issue of contours the other day, that is a very important consideration for us.

*** This whole little bit jumped out at me purely from a techie perspective - in a 'red flag' sort of way. Very few people realize that, unlike standard video (NTSC, 480i) there really is no definitive 'HD standard' for broadcasting (yet! ATSC doesn't kick in here until August 31, 2011). Technically, 720p (instead of 1080i or 1080p) is considered 'HD' even though there's nothing saying that you HAVE to send it out at any particular resolution. Long and short of it: You may not be getting the 'HD' you think you're getting. Right now, the cream of the crop is 1080p - except that unless you've got a 50 inch or larger TV you're really not going to notice the difference between 1080i and 1080p.

SIDE NOTE: 'i' = 'interlaced' means your picture is broken up into two different pictures sent to your TV and deposited into 'fields'. This means lower bandwidth, but a less crisp picture. The 'p' = 'progressive scan' which means your picture is sent as one image and is deposited on your screen as is. It requires more bandwidth but results in a much cleaner picture. Essentially with 480i (regular TV) you're getting two 240 pictures that are slotted together. The 480, 720 and 1080 refer to the actual resolution of the picture, the amount of physical lines on of data that are displayed on your screen. 480 means there are 480 lines across your screen used in the creation of the picture you see. Same for 720 and 1080. The higher the number, the crisper/better the picture. You should also note that 720p is a better quality than 1080i (you're getting 2 pictures at 540, slotted together, compared to one picture at 720).

Aaaanyway, I digress.

*** Back from side note: All this comes around to say that if you're looking to save money as a broadcaster, the simplest and easiest 'engineering' route to take would be to send out the signal at a degraded quality. Most people with a TV of less than 32 inches - especially those with no idea of what their signal SHOULD look like - would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a digital 480p and 720p signal... unless they're side-by-side, I mean. (That being said, there's still a large swath of the populace that believes that just cause you've got an HD TV set, you've got HD TV). Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that THAT's what anyone is going to do... but hey, if you're looking to save money and make it appear like you're jumping over to the HD ball, that'd be one hell of a way to do it.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Just so you know though, 480p is known as 'ED' - 'Enhanced Definition'. So if you see a TV being sold as 'ED compatible' stay the hell away from it, it's a sneaky ploy to get people to buy a cheap TV thinking they're getting HD.

Right. Sorry, got off on a bit of a rant there...

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 240): "Okay. Well, thank you very much for these in-camera discussions. I think they give us a better idea of where you are going, what challenges you are facing. Ms Williams, I especially thank you for walking me through the intricacy of contract negotiations with Hollywood, which we were ignorant of. Now, when we started off this hearing you will remember I gave you these numbers here on fee for carriage and I expect to get something back from you just so we know we are all talking the same thing. You have put the fee for carriage forward basically as a panacea to everything. We haven't talked about it here because we twice went into it and it is becoming a bit of the dialogue of the deaf.

As I mentioned at the outset, the way the CBC looks at it, there are three different issues: like the subsidy for local programming, which would be done through LPIF or a mechanism like that, it is a subsidy issue; a system integrity issue, which obviously if you wanted to address it, it has to be through regulatory means; and then also the whole issue if you being compensated for the value of your product. The way you approach it is you want us to set a rate to solve your problems. That is what all the submissions have been so far and I wonder whether you shouldn't try to think of it differently.

This is really something that you have to negotiate with the BDUs and maybe you need regulatory help in order to do decent negotiations so that you approach the issue with equal leverage, et cetera. We can talk about that or it may be a negotiation which leads nowhere and winds up in arbitration before us and basically both of you come forward with a number and we pick one of the two. But I think we need a different approach to this whole issue. We will have to revisit it obviously before 2010 but I would encourage you very much to not try to come forward with a reiteration of the old, which we have now twice turned down, but look at it from in effect these are three different categories and how do we deal with them and how we view them as an industry solution and if necessary it will be sanctioned by us rather than as it is right now, basically asking us to find a rate and impose it."

*** I didn't know that the CRTC was unaware of how negotiations with Hollywood went... I'm not sure why, but I figured they would know/understant that process. That said, there's a lot of very strong language here - much of it of the 'why are you bringing us the same old crap we already told you no about' variety. I really wish that less of this document had been redacted - I do wonder how much of it truly needed to be.

All-in-all, I've found that a measured but palpable sense of frustration seems to be running through out this document - from all sides. Given the circumstances, I'm sure I'm stating the obvious, but it really is a weird sensation to be reading along, having to skip pages at a time, but still feeling the sense of tension carrying through.

I'm really interested in seeing the events that spring forward from this document - and while it is a bit of a slog a times (there's a fair bit of jargon in here), I highly recommend that any TV writer looking to work in Canada have a read through this as it's a peek into the window of what's coming down the line for our industry.

Anyways, has anyone else taken the time to read the full document? (or made it through all 3 parts of this post?) I'd love to hear your thoughts on all that's going on right now.

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Thick, Black Line (Part 2)

I'll be honest, even with only 100 pages left, I didn't want to go back and read the rest of this document.

I had the momentum going last Wednesday, I sat down Thursday to open it up... and I just didn't have the heart. That little voice in my head said 'why? You know what's going to be there: More black lines and a whole lot of non-speak' and so I just didn't bother.

In fact, I probably wouldn't have even bothered to pick up this topic again if it weren't for a couple threads I started on Ink Canada that got me thinking.

Saving Local TV: A History Lesson and How would you re-imagine the CRTC?

See, the CRTC... well, I wonder how often they get a chance to hear from people who aren't calling them up to rip them a new asshole?

I wonder what they think about the average Canadian - if they truly look at us as the unwashed masses, poorly informed and screeching (like I sometimes imagine)? Or is their frustration rooted in the very valid problem of trying to find a utilitarian solution to a situation that just doesn't allow for one?

I mean, technically, corporations are Canadians too.

But, with that said, what do you do when one section of the populace (CTV) is clearly playing Pied Piper to the other (looking at you, "Save Local TV" campaign)? How can you see through the sudden swell of populist outrage - or moreso, navigate it and make sure everyone comes out of it smelling like roses?

Can you?

Like the newspapers of old (remember when they had the power to sway public opinion en masse?) savvy broadcasters have found the gumption to push forward with information well known but rarely used outside of election time: "If you own the airwaves, it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks".

So we end up with Canadians having their heart-strings pulled to "Save Local programming"... watching from the sidelines as buses of the elderly - many of which (not all) couldn't possibly be in the know about what's actually going on in the bigger picture - are brought in and used to help save the seemingly struggling underdog. Of course, not being aware that the struggling underdog is owned by a massive corporation that is, itself, its own worst enemy as one (specialty TV) takes from the other (Local, over the air).

And, hey, this'd all be fine and dandy (okay, no, not really) if there was even much Local programming left to save. I mean, short of news and a handful of local shows like "Prairie Farm Report" there isn't much fat to cut.

I'm still waiting to see if CTV will step forward with a concrete plan detailing exactly how all this influx of money is going to help save Local TV (you know, until the next time they need something... but then it's just a matter of asking to raise the fees they're looking to impose... much easier).

Listen, I'm not saying that Local TV doesn't deserve to be saved - quite the contrary - but what gets stuck in my craw is the blatant manipulation being portrayed that somehow these fine people are standing up to the mean government bureaucrats that want to close down their local station.

They're not. It's all smoke and mirrors - a trick, brilliant in its timing and execution, an emotional 'pseudo-grassroots' tactic to get Canadians off our butts and to happily tell the government that we're glad to give just a little bit more to the TV man as long as he doesn't close down the gaunt remnants of our Local TV station.

It's all a money grab - plain and simple. A grab at a new, perpetual source of income for a company that really, in the grand scheme of things, is not hurting at all. Well, unless you talk to the shareholders - but that in itself is a perpetual wound.

Long and short of it: THIS is where the CRTC is needed, where it should be our hard line of defense against blatant crap like this. Mass manipulation simply because, well, they can - they have the access and the tech and the time... so why not, right?

These tactics are working... and it turns my stomach to watch it in action.







Listen to Mr. Brian Masse, MP of Windsor West:



I'm going to go and read the rest of that document. Part 3 - commentary on the last 100 pages will be up tomorrow.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Thick, Black Line (Part 1)

Jim's recent post got me thinking -- thinking that there's a whole hell of a lot that I just don't know about how the TV industry works.

So I've downloaded the .PDF and I'm reading through it, making notes as I go.

Here's my list of notes - along with a smattering of questions with answers that I wish weren't redacted in the recently released minutes from the CRTC License Renewal Hearings.

Consider this a sort of live-blog of my reading through of this 251 page document.

It's gonna be a long haul, so buckle up.

COMMISSIONER KATZ (Pg. 24 - about purchasing American programming): Tell us your thought process. What do you prepare for in advance? How do you go in there, and how do you know what you end up paying? Do you walk in saying, "We can afford this much money. We are going to go in, and at this point in time we walk away from a certain program"? Or do you say, "We absolutely have to have this program because it's integral, and we will buy it at any cost," and at the end of the day you walk out of there -- at the end of May, and you go to John Gossling and say, "We just overspent by so much money"?

MR. FECAN: [REDACTED for 1 page, followed by a response by Mr. Gossling, also redacted] First available answer follows (pg. 27): And maybe the most important piece you are missing is just the terms of trade for how you do business with American studios, and this has been true for conventional since the beginning of time, you pay by telecast.

*** Maybe I'm being nosy, but I'm interested in how this all works. I'd also be interested in finding out what happened in pages 29 to 38... which is redacted in its entirety with the exception of the noted bit of 'laughter' at the bottom of page 32. Essentially, an entire discussion brought forth by the raising of this topic cut out in its entirety - A chance for us (you know, tax payers) to see, understand and maybe identify with the very nature of the problems that CTV is facing... unfortunately, we're not given that option.

THE CHAIRPERSON (Page 79): [REDACTED]... And so if you look at sports, this is the perfect example. You have salary caps, you know, and therefore that acts as a discipline to everybody. Within that salary cap you decide what is the best for you, et cetera. And so analyzing from that it appeared to us that 1:1 would be sort of that same thing. You can spend as much as you want in Hollywood, et cetera, but that triggers an expenditure in Canada. I have heard both from you and from Canwest saying that this is way too dangerous. I would like to understand why. I am not sure I fully -- I understand your restraint on the U.S. parallelism that I wasn't aware of until this morning but I still don't see why on a group basis you would throw in the whole ensemble of your specialties as well as your conventionals and 1:1 is not doable.

MR. FECAN: [REDACTED] Summary provided by CTV: The Chairperson asked the liscensee to comments on the practicality of the Commission's 1:1 spending proposal and the licensee outlined its concerns.

*** Again, after this statement, mid-page on page 80, 6 pages are redacted. A whole other conversation brought up by these questions lost. Personally, I'm very interested understanding why 1:1 spending is "way too dangerous".

Side Note - What does Mr. McClusky mean when he says this?: MR. McCLUSKEY (page 105/106): Yes. I mean, we are just postulating here. You have really got two CBCs. One is the sports CBC, which is a high-profile player that commands a premium, and one is the other CBC, which is a discount station. So if the CBC were to shut down their discount station, the first beneficiary would be the remaining discount conventional stations in the market.

The 'non-Sports' CBC is considered a "Discount" station? What is a "Discount" station?

Moving on...
Page 133 on is after the lunch break - it appears to be with Global and company instead of CTV.

Interesting quote:
MS WILLIAMS (page 138/139]: When you buy a show, what you are negotiating is the price per telecast, and when you buy it, you have no idea how many telecasts there will be, because you pay according to the U.S. network's schedule. So you buy House, and you have agreed how much you are going to pay every time they broadcast House. And if they broadcast it twice, you only pay twice, and it cancels and goes away and you are done. [REDACTED 1/2 page or so]... You are trying to establish a budget and stay in control of that budget, when you are really, completely dependent on the U.S. network's scheduling.

*** AHA! A possible answer re: 1:1 and why it's 'too Dangerous'!

THE CHAIRPERSON [page 143/144]: Now, when I asked you yesterday about one-on-one, you said that you didn't like the idea because you thought it was too dangerous. That is really the cause of your concern, if I now understand, because when you buy those big shows, you don't know how much they are going to cost you, because you don't know how much they will be shown by the U.S. network, which drives your price.

MS WILLIAMS: It is very, very hard to manage the budget as it is.

THE CHAIRPERSON: I never understood it until I understood how the pricing goes. Now I can see some of your reluctance. Help me out here. As you know, the artistic community, every time they appear before me, makes the same point, saying that we could do so much better if those broadcasters wouldn't go to Hollywood and compete against each other, and beat themselves over the head, and completely overprice the American product, and therefore that leave not enough for Canadian production.

If there were to be some sort of constraint, or some sort of limitation on what they can spend in Hollywood, that would solve it. And they have suggested that we put a one-to-one expenditure ratio on it, or a luxury tax, or something like that. Clearly, they are looking to the sports franchises, where you have a salary cap. That is a restraint on the whole system, and everybody has to use their ingenuity on how to use the place within the salary cap to their maximum vantage, and why couldn't that be applied to the film industry, or to the broadcasting industry.

Whether one-to-one is the right ratio, or a different ratio, that doesn't make a difference. Do you see a way that we could do a ratio, or anything like that here, so as to address this concern? I understand that you want to buy shows and maximize your income. On the other hand, you are really bidding against two other people who have interests in Canadian rights, other than City and CTV.

MS WILLIAMS: Just before we comment specifically on the one-to-one, I think it's important to understand the next layer of risk to this.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.

MS WILLIAMS: The studios had traditionally been very interested in selling their product to Canada because it was a nice, closed, tidy market. There was a good little competitive game going on there between a couple of big buyers. It represented a fair bit of money to them. Their game is changing too. They are also trying to figure out how to curtail costs, and they are also trying to figure out how to engage their product differently across other platforms. The other risk here in all of this, which we just are very unsure of, is, if there were to be a cap -- Because, essentially, that is what we are talking about, I agree with you.

THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes.

MS WILLIAMS: [REDACTED]

*** Note: aaand this is where it gets frustrating. Because, again we're kicked out of a lot of the discussion and actual communication. I understand this might veer into operating procedure, etc. But it, again, goes toward us actually understanding where the problem lies. Even more frustrating, we come out of the [REDACTED] bit to get this:

THE CHAIRPERSON (page 148): That's interesting, what you said. Of course, that is why we are having this hearing. We want to hear your views, because the last thing we want are unintended consequences.

*** And then we hop right back into being [REDACTED] only to end on the following note:

THE CHAIRPERSON (page 149): Did you want to add something, Mr. Viner?

MR. VINER: No, I think that Barb has said it well. The connection that I find frustrating with the creative group and the production community is that, first of all, we don't like spending all of this money on U.S. product, and we are working hard at trying to bring it down, but, number two is, that is the engine that subsidizes the product that we commission from them. So it is a little bit of a lack of recognition of acknowledgment of that.

THE CHAIRPERSON (page 150): You are absolutely right, but I wish that the Canadian artistic community would understand exactly what Ms. Williams just explained to me, because they just don't understand it, and I have had delegation after delegation before me, saying, you know, you have to stop this. All of our money goes to reward Hollywood, rather than being used to create Canadian creativity.

*** I'm just going to interject here: Mr. Chairman - you know, maybe us Canadian creatives would understand exactly what Ms. Williams just explained to you if you allowed us to, you know, hear the entirety of what she was saying. You can't hide yourselves in a back room, talk shop in private and then complain that 'they just don't understand'. Maybe we're not "understanding" because you're not communicating? Maybe you're running thick black lines through any information that might actually be useful to a proper, intelligent, informed discourse that might help us "understand"?

Just a thought.

Okay, well, I've made it through the first 150 pages, I'll come back tomorrow and finish reading this puppy. 100 pages left and, you know, I am actually feeling sort of enlightened by this lil' document, there is some good stuff here. What pisses me off is that this kind of conversation has to happen behind closed doors.

Hiding behind the safety of a felt-tip pen.

Anyways - more to come.

Cheers!
Brandon

EDIT: Interesting note: I just went through and counted it out - of the 150 pages I read, approximately 105 of them were redacted (I counted 2 half-pages as 1 page, etc). Of the 150 pages I 'read' I really only got to read around 45 or so.

So... yeah.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Comedown

Today's the official hand-in date for your CFC Prime Time Television Program Application.

That's right folks, pencil's down.

Hope you remembered to put your names at the top of the paper.

Incidentally, there's a bunch of little details that go into the making of the application. Sure there's the big stuff like, you know, having the actual scripts ready but there's also things like making sure to put your name, title and draft date on every page of your script.

Yeah, I almost didn't do that - I was just about out the door when I decided to check the PDFs I'd made. Sure enough, nope. So I had to go in and add a Header and Footer to both my scripts. A little thing that almost slipped right by me. I don't know if it'd be an application-killer or not, but hey, the less excuses I give them to toss it into the 'meh' pile the better ;)

On another note, it's amazing how many passes I had to do just to clean up the grammar and spelling issues I had. I mean, don't get me wrong - it took really only 1 or 2 for the spelling mistakes but the grammar... wow. Yeah, that stuff can just dig itself in there like a tick - you end up blowing right by it 2 or 3 times before it finally clicks and you go "hey - why am I using 'there' instead of 'their'?" or "Since when do I need 5 commas in a single sentence?"

Of course, with that said, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before I open my drafts again and balk over what I've somehow managed to miss (there's always something)... but for now I'm just going to allow myself to bask in the glowing-glowy-ness of actually getting this sucker done. It's nice to actually achieve a goal I set for myself. Of course, it's only a small part of a larger goal, but hey - take the positive where you can ;)

Now comes the waiting. And the Wedding planning. And my new duties as 'Junior Editor' on Ink. Already I'm working on my next assignment and keeping myself open for our new TV Inktern (Welcome Nicole!).

I'm excited about what's on the horizon for myself and the site, there are plans a foot, people. Very, very interesting plans.

This weekend will be full of meetings and colour-choosing (for the wedding) - I'm personally a fan of the white and gold motif... maybe white and red. The fiancee seems to be bending more towards pastel-ish colours - lavender and/or pink. I'm thinking this could make for an interesting compromise. (There's not really a pastel-version of Gold, is there?)

Cheers!
Brandon

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today's The Day!

I've been up since 6:30, pouring over everything like crazy, looking for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, any and every little thing.

Technically tomorrow is the deadline, but I couldn't get tomorrow off work so today's the end of the road for me. I'll be live-twittering the day's events, handing out the raw feed of what promises to be a crazy day. You can follow me at @BCLaraby.

Around 3pm or so I'll be on the TTC and on my way up to the CFC to drop this baby off.

Just as long as it's on their desk by 5pm.

Gotta head to the printers, then to the bank... Doesn't seem like a lot, but I learned last year that going to the printer on its own can be... stressful.

Fingers crossed! Gonna be a busy day.

Wish me luck!

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's all over but the printing... (3 Days Remaining...)

That's it.

As soon as I put the finishing touches on my Letter of Intent, this baby's done. The 50 or so different files I've created, various drafts all, will be archived and the surviving ones shall be printed off and put into pretty folders meant for someone else's viewing.

I managed to squeeze out a 2.5 draft of my Chuck spec and it is, quite possibly, the most solid thing I've ever written. I'm very proud of it and I really want to thank all the readers who stepped up with amazing advice and insights. A special raising-of-the-roof goes out to Priscilla White for recognizing that my script needed a title change. Thanks to her it's now called "Chuck Versus The Game God" - I don't know how I missed that, but thank you! A much, much better title than I originally had.

Also, lots of props to Peter Rowley, Elize Morgan, Cameron Dixon and Jennifer Liao for being willing 1st-draft guinea pigs. It was Peter that suggested I de-Morgan my script (yes, my first draft was practically a love sonnet to the little-bearded-one).

And it was thanks to Elize and Jennifer's great notes that I came to realize that I was connecting to Morgan not because of the character (though he's one of my faves), but because of the story I had laid on his shoulders. It was one that I had, well, sort of been through myself. It was their notes that inspired me to go back and look at ways to connect with the A story, to discover what personal experience I could offer to Chuck's journey.

Cameron, well, he is the de-facto Grammar-God - to him I bow low for his knowledge of the intricacies of the English language and I'm sure General Beckman would thank him greatly for his help (man did I mess that chunk of dialogue up... !).

All-in-all, it turned out that Chuck needed something to rebel against - in a very 'Chuck' sort of way of course. And I figured that no matter how different our lives are, we're all afraid of change - so Chuck's journey needed to be about his call to step up, his rejection of it and finally an acceptance of responsibility that would help him save the day. It's all very basic but it laid the foundation that helped me figure out what I was missing and how to make the show more about Chuck in the second draft.

My C story ended up just being pure fun as I got to flip it around and make it about someone who's nothing but responsible being forced to step away from their perfectly sculpted life. I would say that hands down, this was my favourite part of the script to write. I also got to sneak in a reference to my all-time favourite pizza pie: The Tandoori Chicken Supreme (actually it's the 'Tandoori Chicken Magic'... but Supreme read a lot better in the script).

My other script, my spec pilot: 'Healer' - I'm still fussing over it like a mother hen, licking my wing-tips and pushing down feathers, polishing its little beak with my ... elbow-feathers...?

Okay, I may be going overboard with the chicken metaphor.

Thankfully, it's been very well-recieved - again Peter's been a total badass in helping me out with this one, he's been there offering a helpful ear and advice whenever I'd start to worry about it or needed to talk something out. It ended up being a page-one rewrite (which scared the hell out of me) but it turned out a lot better for it. Thanks a lot man, I really appreciate all your help.

Now it's a stronger, faster, leaner version - rebuilt from the ground up and ready to roll.

I spent all of this last weekend taking the sander to it, priming and painting, getting a coat of polish on it and letting it lay in the sun a bit - yep, it's pretty much as ready as its going to get.

And that's when the reality of it all starts to sink in: it's all over but the printing.

I've arranged to take Wednesday off from work and I'll be heading on over to one of them nice printing shops to get it all done up perdy-like.

With any luck, it'll be on the CFC's desk a day early - as I'll be delivering it myself, by hand.

I figure it'll be a suitable finale for months and months worth of hard labour, self-doubt, teeth-gnashing and sweaty pillows.

And yet, as things seem to wind down around here it turns out that I have another bit of an announcement to make:

I've been promoted!

That's right, no longer just an 'Inktern' over at Ink Canada, I'll be working with Karen, two other Junior Editors and some new Inkterns to help bring new and exciting content to the site. It's going to be a lot more work and a lot more fun but I'm looking forward to both!

It's been a busy six months or so but I'm proud of what I've got here between my quivering, type-callused fingertips. I truly believe that I'm ready to bust into the Prime Time Program and work my butt off even more.

Now I just hope the CFC agrees with me ;)

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, May 04, 2009

On The Horizon (10 days remaining)

We're in the home stretch now - 10 days left to go.

10 days until my application will be sitting on the desks of the CFC.

Last week was a tad less productive than I would've liked - I managed to come down with some sort of virus that left me a dizzy, horrible mess (sorry Elize... on your B-day no less!). I could barely focus my eyes let alone work on my script.

I did manage to go out to a great lil' shindig though before I ended up on the recovery wagon.

Set in the vein of Jill Golick's Writer's Watching TV, Web Creator's Show And Tell was a night for Web content and their creators to come out and strut their stuff. It was a great night with some really interesting projects on the go - namely: meta-faith.com, intehtoobs.net, team-leader.com and Golick's own haileyhacks.com

I love the web, I think there's a fantastic amount of potential here. I love that this is a place where there really is room for everyone. Now, whether you can make money off that or not... well, that's a whole other story.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that the more direct control a writer has over the fate of their work the less money they get to earn for it.

In Film, a screenwriter can get paid millions of dollars to go off and write something but the moment its handed in, that's it. Any say they have in the film (barring indie/pet projects etc... for which they don't get paid much...) is pretty much toast.

In TV, same deal, but writers have a bit more say... we also make a tad less money (unless you happen to be one of those few who are always gainfully employed).

Then you get into things like Plays and such where the writer's words are LAW... but, hell... I haven't heard much about your average playwright making regular laughing trips to the bank.

And then we have the Web. A world-wide maze of bulletin boards (or tubes) where you have tens of millions of people creating content for free. Sure some are making money, some are making LOTS of money. But most aren't.

So, yeah, I wonder why that is. Is it as simple as market forces and promotion? Maybe quality versus quantity? Or, maybe, just a matter of fact that the people (studios) who make movies just have a lot more money to play with (bigger pond, etc.)?

I dunno... it's just a weird little thought that came into my head one night as my noticed my head was spinning in a fixed position.

That said, my best wishes go out to the passionate web content creators I met - there's some great ideas there, a sense of some brilliant stuff in the works. I hope you all end up to be millionaires, truly.

In other news, the second draft of my Chuck spec is DONE. Finito. And, yes, it is a hell of a lot better than my 1st draft - which, as one kind reader pointed out 'seemed like a Morgan spotlight episode'. So, yeah. Remember that earlier post where I talked about falling in love with my B story? I thought I'd fixed it, but apparently not.

Of course, it's all better now ;)

And so the screws've been screwed, the bolts've been tightened and a fresh new coat of paint is drying. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out - hopefully the CFC peeps will enjoy it.

Now I'm working on the 2nd draft of my spec pilot - giving it a general makeover; waxing the eyebrows, tinting the roots - coloured contacts, mani/pedi - the whole works. Still the same general premise, just trying to make it... prettier. We'll see how that turns out.

Other than that, just keeping on at it - working on the wedding. I spent all of Saturday with the fiancée, running around town looking at photographers and venues. We actually managed to decide on both, so that's a huge achievement in my eyes. Right now our wedding date's going to be August 29th, this year. We'll see how it all plays out - I'm pretty sure that's the final date (deposits have been made, followup appointments written down on actual paper with pen), but who knows? Our next goal is to secure an officiant and a place for the ceremony proper.

That may have to wait until after the application is away - but again, progress to be proud of.

Slow steps, but sure steps ;)

Cheers all,
Brandon