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10/26/2002 - The Abby Singer
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Sorry for the recurring delays with this column. Professional and personal demands have increased lately to the point where I'm forced to surrender this space to another commentator. Next week will be my last posting.

It would have been nice to go out with two final columns of blazing wit and relevance, but I got nothing. Zip, zap, zooey. Nada. Nilch. The gauge is on empty; the well is dry. Still, I'd rather not wait until I come up with something serviceable to write about, because that makes me look lazy. It's not like I didn't try to think of a reasonable topic this week, but nothing I came up with was worth developing.

I recall that back in high school math I was accorded credit for "showing my work", i.e., illustrating the exact method by which I failed to solve, say, an algebraic equation. So let me reveal exactly how I failed to come up with a topic for today. I think the results demonstrate how diligently I foundered in my responsibility:

Failed Topic #1: The Credits Brouhaha at the WGA

I was going to posit that the screenwriter pileups at credit time actually reveal a complete failure of the development system. Nobody knows how to fix something that's broken (and yes, many optioned scripts, while really well done, still need work), so they throw money and writers into the mix like you-know-what at the wall, hoping that the solution will just appear. Also, most development teams don't know what they want, and have the attitude of "I'll know it when I see it", leaving the development process entirely up to chance with millions of dollars and more than a few jobs at stake.

But Rachel Abramowitz wrote a big piece on this topic in this weekend's LA Times Calendar section, to which I have nothing to add. Everyone's writing about this issue now. Scratch one.

Failed Topic #2: A Closer Look at Rewriting

Sidestepping guild arbitration for a moment, I was going to muse on the "writers can do no wrong" perspective that pops up occasionally in the screenwriting community. There's encouragement and then there's denial. Prime examples would be two scripts developed at my last job, both of which went through three revisions without improvement. Is there a time to boot a writer off a project? Or should development people learn how to give better notes?

But I'd piss off too many people with a topic like this. Who's looking for enemies? Scratch two.

Failed Topic #3: Evolution of Development Tastes

Most development people start out with a predilection for edgy, niche market material. The less mainstream, the cooler the project and by extension, the creative exec. But as the years go by, I've noticed that few execs can sustain careers by throwing ridiculously offbeat material at the mainstream market. In other words, "mainstream" isn't a dirty word to me anymore. Have I sold out? Or is it just as easy to impart significant themes in high-concept movies as it is in hipster highbrow films?

You know, this one's got legs. I just might flesh it out and slide it in place of this apologia later. Maybe no one will notice!
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Those were my big creative ideas this weekend. We all have writer's block sometimes. At least this week you've been spared from a bloated column. Sort of.

Next week I'll give you the best advice I can about Los Angeles, the movies, writing and working in development. See you then.







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