There are two fascinating articles worth a longer read this week, especially if you are interested in writing and producing.
The Australian has a transcript of a speech from from Matchbox Pictures producer Penny Chapman, given this morning at the Currency’s Arts and Public Life breakfast. She talks about how Matchbox was put together with other independent producers:
Apart from a skirmish with Network Ten called The Cooks in 2003, most of my work, and that of the other directors, has been with the ABC and SBS – and programs like Brides of Christ, The Leaving of Liverpool and Blue Murder were all agenda setting in their way. Kerry Packer is said to have called his programmer the day after Brides of Christ debuted and asked “Did we pass on that nun shit?” whereupon conversations proceeded with the production company to whom I had sold the rights about Nine doing a follow up series on the show, a proposition quickly torpedoed by the ABC.
We love working with the ABC and, when it has the wherewithal, SBS. No one but SBS would have commissioned RAN: Remote Area Nurse and entertained the idea of a crew camped out for 14 weeks on an island 800 meters wide and one and a quarter kilometres long.
She also talks about developing The Straits and My Place for ABC, Underground: The Julian Assange Story for TEN and notes Matchbox has two series in development with Foxtel.
Fittingly, it is writers who are at the centre of Matchbox’s work.
At the heart of everything Matchbox holds most dear is the writer. Writers are, without a doubt for my part, the most important people in our industry. They create. We realise. A good script is what will inspire and enthuse a crew and cast and is the basis on which this expensive industry attracts its finance. It is that on which everything else is built. We make huge demands of our writers, expecting them to cough up extraordinary truths, stories and arcane fabrications in all kinds of weather.
You can read more here.
The other article this week was from Producer Ros Walker who travelled to the US to meet more than 30 creators and writers The Simpsons, Family Guy, NCIS, The West Wing, Breaking Bad, 24 and Two and a Half Men.
”Everyone said the key to their show’s success was the writers’ room model – where talented young writers come in at junior level and learn from senior writers in the team,” Ms Walker says. ”The model not only nurtures talent, it means there are multiple rewrites as part of the process. Having a whole team working together on each episode of a show makes the writing stronger; writers polish their skills in a mentored environment.
”The Family Guy writing process was the same as The Simpsons – lots of comedy writers in the one room upping the ante on every joke.’‘
The writers’ room model is rare in Australia. Over the past 20 years, television networks and large production companies wound down their in-house comedy and drama production teams. Now television networks tend to commission shows from independent production companies, with most effort focused on creating reality TV shows. Under a contract model, writers are usually paid to write an individual episode, with a script editor from the production company working with them.
Ms Walker’s report estimates the financial costs of employing salaried writers in a writing-room model are similar to those of hiring writers and script editors on contract for each episode. It recommends production companies consider adopting the writers’ room model to strengthen skills training in the television industry, the quality of shows and their export potential.