Development H-E-double hockey sticks
It happened again. I swore I wouldn’t go back to that way of life, but I thought that this time, it would be different. I know, I know… I went into this with eyes wide open. Not once, but twice this past year. Each time, I fell for the sweet words and the crooked smiles. I mean, who wouldn’t fall? I fell far, though. Real far. I accepted to develop a tv series and landed in smack dab in development hell.
Does development hell exist? Oh boy, does it ever. For those of you who have not yet tested the waters of development, let me explain. You all start out with the best of intentions. You love the concept. The producer loves the concept. And for all intents and purposes, you’re both on the same page idealistically, creatively, organically (well maybe not the last one). And then you go to your computer and start spinning magic (or at least try to in fits and starts). The characters start to take shape. At one point, they take on a life of their own. It’s like you’ve known them for a long time. The world in which your characters live also takes shape. Sure you go back to the drawing board time and time again, but by the time you have handed in your first draft of the series bible, you have poured out more sweat than a coal miner.
The producer is enthusiastic and sets to reading the bible right away. And then it happens: you get notes. That’s when you go from development heaven straight to development hell. It seems that when you thought you were on the same page in the meetings, apparently you were in different books. All of a sudden, everything you spoke about isn’t what the producer wanted after all. Even things s/he insisted upon and you begrudgingly spun into sheer animation gold… is tossed on the scrap heap.
Sometimes you do one draft, sometimes the producer has you do draft after draft until you both can’t even look each other in the eye anymore. They let you loose and hire another one or more subsequent writers. Each one is more eager than the next, knowing that they can fix what you weren’t able to deliver. And usually one gets what the producer thinks s/he wants. It can take months and more often than not, years. It’s a crap shoot at best.
But when it works and your version of the series bible triggers that call from the broadcaster saying they want the show… well, that’s pure magic and you’re back in heaven saying how wonderful development is…
… until you get the broadcaster notes.
By: Anne-Marie Perrotta