I don’t know either. Here’s a compilation while you puzzle it out.
(This was originally posted on my Posterous blog. Re-upping it for @gerstaunton and anyone else who might be interested.)
People often ask me for for writing advice and I usually respond by pointing them to my DVD commentary for IT Crowd Season 4, which is a complete guide to writing a sitcom from concept to screen. Everything I knew about sitcom writing to that point in time is on that DVD, so when people ask me for advice, that’s literally the most helpful thing I can do for them. The fact that it also gives me an excuse to plug the DVD is completely beside the point, of course.
But there is one piece of advice on which I may not have placed enough emphasis, because it is almost impossible to place enough emphasis on it, and it is as follows: when someone reads your script and gives you notes, be grateful, and act on those notes.
Act on them, apply them. You are not a genius. You are just a schmuck. You need help, your script needs help. That opening you think is so hilarious? It’s not. It’s confusing. It doesn’t work. Stop pretending it’s the Odessa Steps. It’s a fucking mess.
And you know what, the scene that follows it? The one that really IS great? The one that everyone loves? That’s going to have to go too. Do you know why? Because as soon as you changed the scene-that’s-not-the-Odessa-Steps, it made that other scene not work either.
Writing is rewriting.
Rewriting is not polishing.
Rewriting is heavy lifting.
Now, there is a flipside to this rule. Unless you are lucky enough to have a real-life, honest-to-goodness, says-it-on-his-business-card script editor who has been paid to give you a full set of notes, you may well run into people who have lots of opinions on what is wrong with your script, and not one of them makes a bit of sense; notes that might as well say “This script would be great, if everyone in it was taller.”
What you do when you hear this kind of note is very simple. You nod, you say “That’s interesting”, you go home and you try to work out what the real problem is. Even the dumbest person in the room can help your script, because if that person felt the need to open his big dumb mouth, it’s because your script didn’t hold his attention enough to keep him quiet.
By now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve adopted such an aggressive tone for this piece. It’s because I’m sick of hearing from very clever friends of mine–script editors and producers who DO give great notes–that the writer they’re currently working with refuses to change anything, or sulks and whines or worse yet, explains that “No, no, you see…HE’S saying it to HER. That’s why it’s FUNNY!” (If you have to explain ANYTHING, you’ve ALREADY LOST).
I heard of a writing partnership who handed in a first draft and said “We’re not changing a word of that.” If I had been in that room, and had been in a position to do so, I would have said “OK, you’re fired” and then laughed like Doctor Doom for a week. You might as well say “We do not know how to write, and we refuse to learn.”
So repeat after me, you fuckwits who refused to implement that very simple fix that your EXPERIENCED and CLEVER producer suggested:
He is not the problem.
I am the problem.
My script is the problem.
Writing is rewriting.
Writing is rewriting.
Writing is rewriting.
If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen that after the Count Arthur DVD of the show came out a couple of weeks ago, a kindly fan of the series alerted us to the fact that the picture looked different on the DVD version than it did when it was broadcast. We’ve dug into the issue, and it turns out it does. Someone, somewhere in the process of manufacturing the master from which all the DVDs were duplicated, had changed a setting and so all the video had been “de-interlaced”. It’s the same process they use to “film effect” TV shows, and it wasn’t what we wanted the series to look like.
There’s no other difference from the broadcast version, but that’s not how the series is supposed to look, so we’ve talked to the DVD people and they are issuing a recall for all the discs that have been sent out to retailers already. If you’ve already bought one, thank you, but we’d like you to see it as we intended, so there’s a way to get a replacement disc sent to you free. Simply email email@example.com requesting a replacement and they will give you a Freepost address to return the disc. They’ll send a fresh one back, video properly interlaced as we intended.
If you haven’t already bought one, the way you can tell if it’s a new, correct version will be to look at the top right hand corner of the front of the box. The little triangle with the Daily Telegraph quote is red on the original, but will be blue on the new ones, and that’s the one to buy.
Thanks! I really do.
(Upodate: I just found out that the original email address AND the updated address I gave yesterday were BOTH WRONG. The correct address for submissions is TheItCrowd@retort.tv Sorry for the confusion. The people responsible will be killed.)
(Update No 2: If you’re using a mobile phone, you should be watching it in portrait mode.)
Guys! DO you want to be in the IT Crowd Special? You do? What an extraordinary coincidence! It just so happens that we NEED people to be in the IT Crowd Special. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?
We need photos or video of you reacting to seeing an OUTRAGEOUS video on your phone or laptop. It would be really good if the photo can show a famous landmark in the background. Visiting the Eifel Tower/North Pole/Great Wall of China? Take a snap of yourself pretending to look at something really gross on your device with the landmark in the background and BOOM! you’re in (with a very good chance of being in) the show.
Remember, the video is OUTRAGEOUS. Not gross, really, but shocking.
Due to broadcasting regulations we need to be stringent about a few things, so here are the boring but necessary rules:
- Stills photos need to be taken on a 10MP camera or higher; or moving footage of no more than 15 seconds at resolution of 1920x1080pixels, higher resolution would be a bonus [size to range from 2MB-6MB depending on compression]
- Don’t include any logos or brands – cover them up or reframe the picture, this includes the makes/models of your laptop or phone
- Don’t have anyone in the frame that hasn’t given you personal consent to use their image or that you can’t identify and give the full details of to us
- Don’t include any artwork on walls, book covers etc as we won’t be able to seek permission to use the copyright
- Don’t include any music (again, we won’t be able to clear it)
Submissions need to be emailed to TheITCrowd@Retort.tv by 25th June 2013
We have no money left so EXPECT VERY LITTLE REMUNERATION, POSSIBLY (DEFINITELY) EVEN AS LITTLE AS NONE*. However, when your children and great-grandchildren ask you what you were doing in 2013, you can say “I was, ah…stop talking! Here comes another twister! Hold on to something! FOR GOD’S SAKE HOLD ON!”
* That’s definitely. You will not be paid. There is no money.
Now, you have to humour our very nervous legal team by pretending to read the following.
The IT Crowd Special Terms & Conditions for Submission of User Generated Content
These terms and conditions relate to your provision of recorded material for potential inclusion in a programme provisionally entitled “IT Crowd Special” (the “Programme”) which FremantleMedia Limited trading as Retort (the “Producer”) propose but does not undertake to produce for Channel Four Television Corporation (“C4”).
Submissions can be made by emailing a photograph/recording a video (the “Photo/Recording”) using the following email address: TheITCrowd@Retort.tv (the “Email Address”) along with the name and address of the person who took the Photo/Recording and the names and addresses of all persons featured in the Photo/Recording. By submitting a Photo/Recording to the Email Address you (i) are signifying your agreement to these terms and conditions, (ii) are warranting that you are the owner of the full copyright in and to the Photo/Recording; and (iii) hereby grant to the Producer all consents necessary to reproduce, edit, use and exploit the Photo/Recording as the Producer sees fit for the purposes of the Programme and any connected purposes at any time in all media (whether now known or hereafter discovered) throughout the world and without liability or acknowledgement to you.
Photo/Recordings: Photographs must have a resolution of 10MP or higher. Recordings must be HD resolution 1920 x 1080pixels or greater. File size should range from 2MB to 6MB depending on compression
Photo/Recordings must not be any longer than 15 seconds. If your entry is longer than 15 seconds , only the first 15 seconds will be considered.
Submission of Photo/Recording is open to those aged 18 or over and whom are ‘qualifying persons’ under UK copyright law.
Your Photo/Recording must not feature anyone under the age of 18. If your Photo/Recording features person(s) other than yourself, please ensure that all such person(s) have irrevocably granted you all consents necessary to allow the Producer to reproduce, edit, use and exploit such person(s)’ contribution to the Photo/Recording, as the Producer sees fit for the purposes of the Programme and any connected purposes at any time in all media (whether now known or hereafter discovered) throughout the world and without liability or acknowledgement to such person(s) or you. Proof of these permissions may be required.
The Photo/Recording must be recorded especially for the Programme by you. The Photo/Recording must not contain any material which is in any way defamatory, obscene, unlawful, offensive or which infringes the rights of any third party or which is calculated to bring the Producer and/or C4 into disrepute or breach of contract, confidence or privacy.
You agree not to advertise or promote third parties’ or your own goods or services in your Photo/Recording, and will not feature any logos or branding in your Photo/Recordings. You will not feature copyright works owned by a third party in the Photo/Recording (including but not by way of limitation background artwork and music)
By uploading your Photo/Recording you are hereby assigning copyright in the Photo/Recording to the Producer which shall entitle the Producer (without limitation) to use, edit, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, make available and display your Photo/Recording (or part thereof) in connection with the Programme (including for the purpose of promoting the Programme) by any medium or method now known or later invented including without limitation online and/or on television to be exercised in Producer’s sole discretion throughout the world in perpetuity without the need for payment to you. You warrant that you are fully authorised and entitled to assign such rights, and you agree to waive any moral rights that may exist in relation to your Photo/Recording.
You agree that you shall not provide the Photo/Recording to any other third party nor post the Photo/Recording on any other website.
The Producer does not have the obligation to notify you if your Photo/Recording is or is not to be used by the Producer and you acknowledge that submitting a Photo/Recording does not guarantee that your Photo/Recording will be used in the Programme
Neither the Producer nor C4will accept any responsibility for any technical failure or malfunction or any other problem connected with any Photo/Recordings not being properly received.
You warrant that you are free to enter this Agreement and you hereby agree to indemnify the Producer and C4 in respect of all actions, proceedings, claims, damages and other liabilities which may be brought against or incurred by the Producer and/or C4 as a result of the breach of any of your warranties, representations, obligations or undertakings contained in this Agreement. You agree that in the event of any breach of these terms by the Producer you shall not be entitled to enjoin and/or injunct the distribution and/or exploitation of the Programme and/or your Photo/Recording and any legal remedy you may have shall lie in an action at law for damages only.
The Producer takes your privacy very seriously. The information you provide as part of your Photo/Recording submission will be used by the Producer to confirm its rights ownership of the Photo/Recording. By submitting your Photo/Recording you consent to any information you provide, including without limitation any sensitive personal information, being used for this purpose.
- These terms and conditions shall be construed in accordance with English law and you agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales.