Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
August 15th, 2011 by Mere Smith

Waterboarding As Bargaining Chip

Working hard on the Web series.  I’d give y’all a preview, except I don’t trust a single, shifty-eyed one of youse guys…

(Sigh.  Points off for using two different accents in one sentence.  Bad Writer!  Bad!)

(Or maybe just… cosmopolitan?)

Got an email today from some Producers — let’s call ’em The Supergals — about a project I wanted to get involved with six months ago.  Only problem back then was, I got a “real job” in the middle of the process, so I had to bow out.  Which sucked gangrenous elephant testicles, since I think this project (based on a series of novels, though amn’t going to tell you which, ’cause I don’t want to screw up The Supergals’ master plan) would be like if Harry Potter and Twilight made a baby… that turned out to be darker and cooler and scarier and more mature than its parents.  In other words, right up my wheelhouse.  (I know, I know, but “in” my wheelhouse and “up” my wheelhouse both come down to pretty much the same thing metaphorically, don’t you think?)

This is not to dis Harry, of course, but the series DID start out when he was 11, and Twilight, when Bella was only 17. (And I am so ashamed that I didn’t need to look up either of those numbers.)

Now The Supergals are starting to take the project around to the Studios without a Writer, though they’ve assured me I am officially on their List of Potential Hires.

“Wheee!” you may think.

“This is super news!” you may think.

And indeed, it might be comforting, if there weren’t a hundred other writers on the List, too.  (Actually, for all I know, it’s just me, the Hamburglar, and a potted plant.  And I still don’t know which of us would come out on top.)  Don’t get me wrong, I am positively thrilled to know The Supergals remembered me at all, and that my rabid fan-girldom didn’t drive them to file a restraining order, but as with everything in this town, it’s a double-edged swordfish.

One edge is: I could get the opportunity to write a project I loved at first sight… and then possibly fuck it all up.

The second edge is: I  could NOT get the opportunity to write a project I loved at first sight… and then that would fuck me all up.

And the fish part is: Waiting to find out which edge you’re gonna get is like being held underwater, only with no gills, and without the pleasant prospect of dying quickly and painfully.

I bring up the situation at all only to demonstrate the power a Writer wields on a project that was developed without a Writer — which is to say, statistically speaking, 0.00% (with a + or – margin of error of 0.000%).

For those of you still uninitiated in the blood rites of Hollywood, taking a project to the Studios without a Writer already attached is basically a bargaining chip.  A smart bargaining chip for a Producer, and a soul-killing bargaining chip for a Writer who badly wants to write the project.

You see, for a Producer, it’s a way of saying, We don’t just like this project, we LOVE this project.  We have worked so hard on this goddamned project, it would make you quake in fear at our mama-grizzly commitment.  In fact, we would GUT YOU LIKE A FUCKING DEER if you tried to take this project away from us…


…we are willing to allow one of your Studio Pets/Nephews/Mistresses to take the first crack at a script if that’s what is necessary to get this project made.

This is good leverage if you’re a Producer.  Studios like to be the ones to give jobs to Writers, since it fosters a sense of desperate loyalty to the Studio bordering on fealty.

But if you’re a Writer… knowing that a Studio Pet/Nephew/Mistress will have their grubby mitts all over a project you loved at first sight… it only serves to waterboard you until you beg for the sweet release of drowning.

Oftentimes it’s too painful to watch the resulting movie, or even to acknowledge that the movie was made, thus facilitating what I call “labor amnesia” — also known as “the only reason women have more than one child.”  Because if the memory of all that agony wasn’t completely wiped out, you would never, never, never do it again.

And if that’s what happens with this particular series…

Fuck it.  I’ll adopt.

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