Too Good to be True?

The Thinking Read

This morning started over at the Writer Beware Blog where I saw this post: America’s Next Great Author: The Author Reality Show Idea Rides Again. If you saw the advertising for the show, or even if you didn’t, give the blog post a read. I found the break-down of the contract helpful.

The deadline for entering for the pilot was September 15, 2022. So, sorry, but this bird has flown. But, in a way – I’m not sorry.

My Sister-in-law called me about September 8th or so, and with great excitement, told me I should apply to be in the pilot. Well, like many young <cough>, perhaps I should say new and unpublished, writers I was eager to leap at any opportunity to have the world see my work and to be perceived as “A Writer.” Even more tempting was the promise to get my work in front of the ‘right people.’

So I moseyed over to the America’s Next Great Author website and took a gander. Interesting, but the entire premise kinda struck me as an oxymoron. In my mind reality-TV is all about drama, manufactured drama to be more specific. And writers are more about writing.

Intrigued I dug a little deeper. For the possibility of being in the pilot they wanted a 10 pages of a book and a 75-second audition video. And if you were selected from that group you had the opportunity to go to Newark, NJ. Really?! Newark?

Oh well, I could at least drop in to see family if I made it to the 100 semi-finalists. I would have been up there, even as I type this. The taping of the pilot was scheduled for October 30, 2022. The pilot was going/does/did involve 20 finalists having the opportunity to pitch their submission. And from the pitches a winner would be chosen.

Huzzah.

But as I read deeper yet into the conracts, oh yes, there were several waivers, releases, requirements, and gags. And that’s the point where I decided this was a Goliath and David situation. (Hmm, David came out on top. Maybe this was more a ‘Lang Johnny Muir’ situation. In that case the giants won.) Either way, the board felt severely unbalanced in favor of the producers. In short I was not comfortable with everything they were demanding I sign away.

So, yeah, I gave the idea a pass.

Then, as I gave the premise more thought, I was like – ‘They’re kidding, right?’

I am willing to give the writers behind this the benefit of the doubt, though I will echo Victoria’s tone-deaf sentiment in her blog post. What I am wary of is the producers and TV execs that I imagine behind the scenes demanding ‘more drama’ to make things watchable.

Without producers manufacturing drama I can see a fairly writerly scenario.

The show being what 10-12 writers all crammed in a house for thirty days. The day starts at 5AM when JO gets up to write. Quietly moving to their desk, putting the coffee on as they pass through the kitchen. They tuck the blanket in around MAX who stayed up all night slaving away over their work and who has passed out on the couch again, glasses askew. JO gets to their desk and sees, MO already hard at work. MO glances up, gives JO an enthusiastic thumbs up and then gets back to work. BO is the next to appear, stumbling into the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee and grabbing his notebook from the table. They had left it on the kitchen counter last night, and OH, someone MOVED it. Whatev. They get down to work. CARY and GARY arrive next, they have hooked up and started a collaboration, they wave as they head out for a walk. All the other contestants grunt a ‘Good Morning.’ A while later, MING, DING and LING all walk into the kitchen together still deep in their disagreement over the use of participles as a speed and tone indicator. It gets heated, and MAX wakes up and rolls off the couch. MING, DING, and LING all apologize for waking MAX. He’s cool and stumbles to the kitchen for some coffee. LING is just starting a new pot to brew, seeing as how he and his two compatriots drank the last of the first pot. MAX nods a thank you and plants himself, mug in hand, within reach of the soon to be coffee. MING, DING and LING take their coffee and their discussion outside where they continue their dissection of the English language. JO walks back into the kitchen and asks MAX, “What’s the word for when something changes in a way you don’t want it to?”
MAX takes a sip of the now filled mug. “Monstrosity. Mutation. Abberation.”
“That’s it. Thanks MAX.” And JO goes back to work.
At the end of thirty days, friendships are cemented and 30 raw manuscripts are well under way, five are even complete and ready to be featured in the all new America’s Next Great Author: the Edit.

Now imagine this if a producer type got a hold of it. Needing it to be ‘bigger,’ more engaging, more emotion, more excitement, more drama. So they go for every toxic mindset they can think of and stock the house. There is the DIVA so convinced of their own superiority, The PEDANT, yeah I could go an and flesh this out. And one day I might, but suffice it to say – they might get ‘good television’ out of it, but not a single worthwhile word would get written.

[Please take the gentle teasing of Newark above as the joke it is. I have family in Newark and visit often. The city is undeserving of it’s punchline reputation. But, hey,they’re tough, Newark can take it.]


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