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Home » Archives » August 2010 » An Artist's Palete
[Previous entry: "I'm Not Sure, But Maybe There's Something Interesting Here?"]

08/11/2010: An Artist's Palete

I get asked a lot of questions about how I'm influenced by fans' reactions to a show. This is a very legitimate question in a world where there are no longer a few reviewers who publish their opinions about an episode, but instead there are thousands of people blogging and Tweeting their reactions instantly.

One of the specific questions I'm asked is "do you ever change the show to appeal to the audience, now that you have such immediate access to what they do and don't want." The answer I give to this is that I consider myself to be the audience I'm writing for. I write what I would want to see. Often, people are surprised by this. Not only am I saying I ignore all those fans who are desperately telling me what they want, but I'm also saying I'm writing for one very specific person who may not be at all representative of who is actually watching. Well, when you say it that way, it does sound crazy.

But here's how I defend it. I think there's an analogy to be drawn with cooking. Theoretically, why does a chef need to have a good palate? If the chef is cooking what the diners like, why does the chef have to like it? Why, in fact, does she even need to know what it tastes like?

Well, obviously, I'd rather take my chances with a chef who likes the food they're cooking than one who doesn't. Only the chef who likes it is going to know when it's exactly right, not almost right. And only the chef who likes it can put passion into it, playing with the flavors night after night, augmenting and complementing and pairing the dish with wines and so forth.

No one would want to be a chef assigned to cook for aliens with weird alien taste buds. Similarly, I would suggest that you not try writing for a show -- or even a kind of show -- that you don't personally like. I've heard many writers talk about how their first agent told them to write a spec script that was the hot spec that year, but that didn't fit their style. The successful writers generally found a way to write a show that fit them instead. They found a show they would want to watch, and that fit their skills.

Keep this in mind when you pick existing shows to spec. Keep it in mind when you come up with your own spec pilot. And keep it in mind when you're getting notes on your completed draft. If taking the note is turning your script into something you don't enjoy reading/watching, then think about the reason behind the note and see if you can find another way to address the problem that doesn't make you have to cook and eat literary Brussels sprouts.

If you trust that you have a good palate -- that you don't like crap -- then you can trust that when you've made something to fit your taste, that there will be many many people who agree with you.

Lunch: heaps of white anchovies on glorious toasted sourdough bread


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UC Berkeley
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