Wednesday, August 17, 2005

“Hey, I’ve been in your shoes, man. I know how it is, freelancing, trying to make others happy with your writing.”

That was Jasper, the head of the post-production team, calling me shortly after I began my TV gig. He's a cool guy, but I’d been waiting for a while for some feedback on my first submission of voice-over lines… and this is how he started off?

He continued by telling me that he and the producer who pushed to get me in at the network, they really like me, they think I’m really talented, they want this to work. But the executive producer is so busy and is only about finding a solution.

Well, what’s the problem?

“I don’t know if you were holding back. Maybe you were afraid to offend someone, or maybe you showed this stuff to a girl first and didn’t want her to think you were raunchy or something…”

Is he kidding? Some of the girls I know, the shit they write would make Richard Pryor blush. And I wasn’t holding back…

Well, he told me the executive producer complained my VOs were “not racy enough.” Then Jasper asked me if I’ve looked at last season’s episodes.

Yes, I had. I quickly ran through the example scripts sent to me -- they were the same kind of tame, punny lines I was writing. Hardly any risqué stuff.

Jasper agreed, but said that now they wanted to go racier. Have lots of sexual double entendres, push the envelope. They’d rather offend the censors and have to reel it back in a little. The producers thought I knew that, but as Jasper said, “guess there was a disconnect.”

I winced at his improper use of “disconnect”. It seems to be used more and more as a noun, and perhaps is becoming more acceptable, but it’s always irked me. Probably because the first time I heard it was when Ahnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy for governor. “I’m running to terminate de disconnects. Dere is a disconnect between de government und de people. Dat, und dere a disconnect between my movies und big box office.”

But I didn’t go grammar police or Kindergarten Cop on Jasper. I didn’t even try to defend my misunderstanding about the change in style of the show. I simply told him, “They want racy, I can give ‘em racy.”

So I had to rewrite all my stuff. That took a couple of days, and then I waited even longer to hear from him again. I know he’s incredibly busy with his post production duties, and he wanted to satisfy the producers as much as me. But that made him, IMO, over-think my VOs. Second guessing the wording of each line. It made me regret not correcting him on the “disconnect” thing.

He also thought I should redo the opening lines, the ones that introduce the show and set up each situation. But on those, I had gotten specific instructions beforehand, and he had told me after my first submission, the producers really liked what I had done there. They had no problem with ‘em. Still, Jasper said, “maybe you could punch these up, too.” By tomorrow. And do the second set of episodes.

So I did a second rewrite on the first set, and a first pass of the second set and practically pulled my first all-nighter since grad school. And maybe I was a bit loopy on the math, but considering how little I was getting paid per episode, and the amount of time I was spending on ‘em… I think I was making minimum wage.

When I heard all that hard work paid off, that they liked what I had done on the first two sets, friends gave me an “I told you so.” That I was worrying too much, over-dramatizing the precariousness of my position. Maybe, but the words the executive producer had used were, “Okay, we’ll keep him on the books.”

The other day, Jasper called me and said he just got out of a big laff-fest over my latest set of VOs. They loved so many of my lines. For every VO needed, I usually write 3 or more alternatives. And often the EP couldn’t even decide which one to use, so they may carry some quips over to future episodes.

Yep, I’m delivering quality and quantity. Building a surplus. It’s nice to know that my friends who believed in me were right that I’d get over this initial shakiness.

And don’t get me wrong -- being raunchy is hard work, but it’s fun. Like when I delivered my first set of rewrites to Jasper.

If you hear these lines on TV, you’ll know where they came from:

A guy complains that a chick looks like an Oompa Loompa: Stacy the Oompa Loompa failed to make Steve’s Willy Wonka.

A dude named Jimmy thinks his stylish cap will land him the babes: That’s not the only Jimmy hat he hopes to be wearing tonight.

A horny lesbian girl is unfazed by an insult: She takes a kicking but keeps on licking.

Jasper read those and said, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

I told him, “Hey, I aim to sleaze.”


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