Friday, February 17, 2006

So the writing gig. Details. Let's see...

The basics are: I'll be going full-time for the reality show I worked on last summer. It got picked up for another season and production starts in a few weeks. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'll be writing snarky voice-overs for a silly program aimed way outside my demographic. And I'll be loving every minute of it.

I really enjoyed working in TV again, even if it was in a limited capacity, so as last season ended, I talked to some people at the production company about future opportunities. That in itself was a bit of a challenge -- talking to them, that is. Because I had been kind of a ghost. A poltergeist with potty-mouth.

Working part time, I wasn't physically there at the network. I'd pick up the tapes of each episode from the late-night editing team, write my raunchy VOs from home (or at the day-job), e-mail them in, then discuss and revise them with the head of post-production over the phone. They had replaced Jared, the post guy, with Gene, and I wound up going weeks without ever meeting the dude in person. It was like collaborating with a blogger... who worked in the same town.

So I made a concerted effort to get my ass in the door and meet my co-workers face-to-face. Took a day off the day-job and went into the other one.

I picked the right day to do it, too. They were having a staff meeting and I got to meet everybody. The executive producer introduced me and the room applauded and complimented me on my voice-over lines. One of the editors said something like, "You write those? Damn, that shit is nasty!" Ah, flattery.

For that reason and many others, I liked the vibe there. Young creative people with a good sense of humor. Beats hanging with the biddies and suits at the office. At the network, they were discussing handling a problem on the shoot (some of the cast members had gotten into a fist fight and one had to leave in an ambulance). See? Things go wrong everywhere, but the crises in show biz are at least interesting. And if the problems aren't solved, we don't have a show. At the office, the difficulties run along the lines of some asshole corporate stooge in a snit because the footer on his precious document is slightly off.

At that meeting, it was announced that some of the staff would go onto another show the exec. prod. was doing. Since a smaller crew was needed, not everyone got hired, but those who didn't were given champagne and gifts and arrangements were made for the EP to help them get work elsewhere in the future. Pretty sweet environment.

The associate producer's been really helpful with my writing career for a while now. So we met and talked about what opportunities might be available for me. It seemed promising -- they liked me and my work, it was just a matter of time, and we stayed in touch. I tried not to call too often and ask if that file inside the cake was on its way to the prison mailroom.

Over the next few months, I kept my eyes open for other gigs, but things generally slow down during the holidays. So I worked on my writing and got updates from the supervising producer: The show got picked up again. They got an order for a full season. They okayed a position for me, coordinated with the budget people. We discussed my responsibilities: I'll be at the network with the post- people, watching and writing the VOs for all the episodes, plus some other creative aspects of the show. We agreed on a salary. I got my start date. I did a jig.

Now, there are a few downsides to this situation. First the small stuff: As fun as it is, I will undoubtedly get burnt out writing these punny raunchy innuendos. It got a little old last season, and I only wrote half the stuff. But it still beats shuffling papers for a living, and I welcome the challenge of finding a way to keep these commentaries fresh. Also, it's hard enough to work on my own writing endeavors while slaving at a desk all day, but after writing all day, I'm not sure how much creative energy I'll have. And that ties into blogging. Blogging became almost mandatory for my sanity at the office gig -- I knew how to prioritize: "Yeah, boss, I'll make those calls as soon as revise this, uh, spreadsheet. Yeah. Now... let's see who's got a new post today..." Soon, I may not have the time or the privacy... or the bored-outta-my-skull necessity to blog as much. But I'm not too worried about any of this; I'll work it all out, satisfy my blog jones somehow.

Also, no benefits. Not that my health insurance is that great at my job now, but I'll have to COBRA or find my own coverage. I've gone without it before, had to run to the ER for a minor thing and got slammed with a huge bill. Learned my lesson. Damn, I hate all this grown-up responsible shit.

My biggest concern, however, goes to the nature of freelancing. It's project-to-project, which is great to keep things interesting. Heaven knows I've needed to shake things up lately. But in a few months, when this season's over, Mikey's on the street, baby.

I've been down this route before, too. A few years ago, I had a great job writing for a TV show. It was a stupid cop car chase thing, in a shitty office cramped with two other guys with a window facing a brick wall. And I couldn't have been happier. Again, I was working creatively, getting paid to come up with clever quips within the confines of the medium, and having fun with my friends.

When it was over, I thought, cool. I'd take some time, collect unemployment for a little bit, do some writing, get some exercise, go to Europe, and then get another writing gig. Whatever happened, I was never going back to that corporate hell.

Never say never. Three days after the show ended, my mother had her stroke and I was spending all my time with the family. When I finally had a moment, I tried to find work, but guess what? The Writers Guild threatened to go on strike and Hollywood kinda put the squeeze on projects and thus it was tougher to get a job. The producers of that cop show had to take work as writers, and where did that leave us writers? After a year of temping, and then my dad's death and more family drama, I needed stability, so I bit the bullet and went back to the boring office business.

But before you think I'm being all negative about this, trust me, I'm excited and hopeful. The helpful associate producer has been freelancing forever and told me that this production company is the closest one could come to a sure thing. The network loves the executive producer, and as evidenced above, the EP is loyal to the staff.

If I have to go back to corporate, so be it, but I'm already looking for ways to keep the momentum going, move onward and upward once this job is done. And in the meantime, I hope and plan to enjoy every minute of it. As another bonus, one of my friends from that cop show will be working at the network, on a different program, and another friend will working for a company a few blocks away.

And speaking of a few blocks away, the distance is another issue I was considering in comparing the new gig and the old one. See, my present office job is salaried annually, whereas the TV one is weekly. I figured out that I'm making almost the same amount, but, actually, it comes out that the office job pays about $15 more per week than the new one.

But -- the office is a 25 mile roundtrip commute (with LA traffic, that equates to over an hour of creeping along in my car). The writing job is so close I can walk or ride my bike if I want. In any case, I won't be driving more than 5 miles roundtrip each day. 20 mile difference. Or a gallon of gas per day. Or about $15 per week going to Mikey not Mobil. So not only will I be spared that dreadful commute, do the math and I'm breaking even on the salary, too.

Yes, I know I'm a geek. But a happy geek.


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