Sep
2010

What’s Old is New Again

Today, within the great walls of NEWS CENTER, we found out that the old classic show “Bewitched” is going to start running at 3pm on our air. Yes, that Bewitched, the one with two Darrin Stephens and one nightmare of a mother-in law, will be re-run once again on WCSH6.

I am an utter geek when it comes to television. Classic TV sets me off on some of my geekiest rants. This year I turn 30-years old. When I was a little kid, before TVLand and Nick-at-Nite, I would look forward to the syndicated re-runs of some of our nations greatest TV classics.  Shows like The “The Dick Van D/ke Show,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” and yes “Bewitched.” Many of these shows would air just before school started, or were on when I got home. I hated leaving the house before each episode was finished. Sick days, and summer vacations, were filled with great marathons of the shows I have come to adore.

My love of producing TV came out of a passion for watching TV. Which is why I am so excited about Bewitched coming back. When I was five years old I had no idea what editing was. To me, the magic of the show was real. With the snap of a finger, or wrinkle of a nose, all kinds of wonder could be created. It’s more then nostalgia, it’s the building blocks for the direction I took in life.

Certainly some may scoff at the notion of a show from the late 60’s being re-run in 2010, and I respect where they are coming from. However, somewhere in Maine or New Hampshire there is going to be a little kid, like me, who has never seen Bewitched before. One afternoon they’ll be flipping around and land on our station. And maybe, just maybe, that same spark that lit inside of me, will trigger a future editor or producer and that’s good enough for me.

Through that spark comes an incredible sense of pride in working for WCSH. As I walk through the doors of the station each day, I know I am apart of something special. As silly as it may sound, that respect comes from an appreciation of our television history. While the formats and ideas might be different, the fabric of what makes TV great is found in both what has gone before and what is still to come.

You can catch Bewitched starting the week of September 13th at 3pm.

Aug
2010

“Kill Your Darlings”

I knew I wasn’t going to become a great writer overnight, but I am happy with my progress. I see where I need to improve and accept there is so much more I can still learn.

Just being excited about something isn’t reason enough to write about it. While I do love “Doctor Who,” and I could talk about it all day, trying to write something thoughtful about is a harder task.

This was my first summer taking two classes at the same time while trying to balance work. It has not been easy. One class I loved, and the other I fought. This was the class I loved.  In the other class, I kept asking myself when am I ever going to do this work outside of class? I found it hard to summon the energy for the work, but I did and I like to think I did a good job.

The one thought I can’t get out of my head is “Kill Your Darlings.” Everyday it just screams at me. Wherever I am editing, in writing or in editing video, I think about this phrase. I just deleted two paragraphs from this essay that I adored. And just yesterday, I leveled a brilliant interview because I needed more time for my show.

My grammar is still weak, but the writing and the editing are getting stronger. They are better then they were 12 weeks ago. I wanted to gain vision in this class. I wanted to see in my writing what I was missing. I have plenty of editors for my work, but I could never understand what they were looking for in the editing process, now I have a clearer picture.

Writing is not some scary task writing can be simple. It’s ideas that are hard. I have trouble communicating clearly. I can’t figure out what I want to say, and I tend to ramble.

This class has helped me be more direct. I think more about my words. I let them sit and I walk away. I used to write something as simple as an email and then just send it right off. Now I sit with it for a moment. I ponder what I have typed and then consider what I am trying to say. Sometimes I just delete it. Other times I save it and come back to it later. No one should ever use the first draft. I trust my gut instincts.

12 weeks ago I had no idea who William Zinsser is, now I think of him all the time. I go back to his book almost every day. I am a slow learner, but the details are getting through.

While I am proud of the work I did in this class I also regret not having more time to focus. The other class ate up so much extra time. After getting feedback in this class I just wanted to go back and re-write. I was only able to a little bit. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, just a lack of time.

The work on pitch and presentation has been the most important work I have done in grad school so far. This was the idea I came here looking for. I will continue this work and refine the idea over and over again as time goes by. I hope to eventually make the idea a reality.

I feel like a writer now.

Thank you Bob.

Aug
2010

Slacktivism

Last year NPR reported on social media campaigns as being acts of “Slacktivism.” Here is how they defined it:

“An apt term to describe feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact. It gives those who participate in “slacktivist” campaigns an illusion of having a meaningful impact on the world without demanding anything more than joining a Facebook group.”

The article came out before the Facebook campaign to get Betty White on SNL. That was still “Slacktivism.” I joined the page and then hoped quietly as I went on with my day.

Facebook is an easy home to anyone who wants to start a fan page for any topic. When a TV show was cancelled, viewers would have write-in campaigns or physically do something to save a show. Now we just start a Facebook page like “I’m With Coco.“ Sadly, things didn’t work out too well for Conan on NBC, despite his being far more popular than Jay Leno with people on Facebook.

The statistics of these fan pages are good figures to cite, but how often do they change the world? The only mainstream one I am aware of is Betty White getting on SNL.

I have joined a lot of these pages. I “liked” a page that was working on giving clean water to kids in third world countries. They just needed to hit a certain number of fans. Once they hit this figure, someone was going to donate a large some of money.

I also joined the “Make My Dad, John Mellencamp, Quit Smoking” campaign. John’s son convinced his dad that if they reached one million fans, then John would quit. I can’t even find the page now.

The ideas behind these campaigns were generally good. These days I am seeing endless groups with the stupidest names. I have an 18-year old cousin who joins everything she finds. Today she joined ”Don’t drink and drive, you might hit a bump and spill your drink” and “Saying to your friend, ‘there’s your best friend’ when you see someone you hate.” Really? We need pages like these? We have evolved into joining hundreds of these pages for no good reason. It almost makes “Slacktivism” look good. For her it’s like a game. She has found a program that generates silly or weird groups. The program then feeds the names of the groups to her and she can “like” them.

On our station’s fan page we have well over 15,000 fans. The page is a great news gathering tool. We can post a story or topic, and get instant feedback.

A few weeks ago we had some reports of an earthquake. We couldn’t figure out exactly where it was. Within 40 seconds of posting it on the fan page we got 120 comments. After 5 minutes we were able to pinpoint a rough map of where people were affected. People then started sharing images and video with us via the fan page too.

If we have an idea for a story and need someone to go on camera, we can now post a message on our page and get a response. Facebook pages like ours are not the end of journalism, they are a new tool to further journalism. A responsible reporter still needs to do journalistic work. The story still needs to be researched and well written, but now it’s easier to connect with the viewers. On our page we post regular news updates. Our competitors do too, but one also does a “fan of the day” feature. This can be hit or miss. Sometimes they highlight people who they would otherwise be reporting on.

In the same way though, Facebook makes me feel like a gambling addict, I just want to score my perfect number. 2,000 fans would give me a sense of comfort right, but then I will just want 3,000.

My “207” Facebook Fan Page only has 1,688 fans, but my “Bill Green’s Maine” Page has well over 2,000. The “207” page has been around longer and I do more for it. The BGME show has been on longer and has a better following.

The 207 Mug

Neither fan page seems able to get to the level of the station’s page. None of us can figure out why. If Slacktivism is so strong, and kids like my cousin will “like” any page in front of them, I should be doing much better. I have tried various ideas to promote the page and get the numbers up. We mentioned it on the show all the time. I give away the coveted “207” mug when I hit a big number. I have the hosts of the show record special messages just for the fans of the page. I am still under 2,000. It’s a major act of competition for me.

Our “Togus The Cat” page has at least 8,000 fans. Togus is a Maine Coon cat, owned by one of our reporters. The cat is seen during our winter storm coverage. He just sits there, but the guy running the fan page has a lot of fun with photos of the cat. He puts the cat in goofy mock-up photos and people go crazy. It’s also a page for weird news postings too.

Whether social media makes us more or less social is up to the psychologists to decided. What it does is continue the flow of information. Be it dumb things like the pages my cousin joins, or raise awareness however brief. The idea is to get a message out there and in other people faces.

Jul
2010

TV Writing

Throughout this class I have tried to beef up my writing. The time came this week to show the folks at work I have improved. Have I? You be the judge, here is a TV “package” from my show ‘207’ featuring the best breakfasts in Maine:

Jul
2010

The Drama of It All

Many “Doctor Who” fans have embraced the title of “cult” TV show, but former “Doctor Who” executive producer Russell T. Davies says in his book, “The Writer’s Tale,” the show is more than just a science fiction show. I agree, and would argue that the newer series of “Doctor Who” should be considered a drama that’s based in sci-fi.

Strip away the outer sci-fi shell and here’s what you have: a very smart man, who travels around and helps people in need. He never carries a gun, but fights evil with his intelligence. From time to time he gets himself, and his friends, in tough situations, but they always seem to find a way out. He inspires the people around him to live better lives and appreciate life. At its core, that‘s “Doctor Who.”

The writers use the device of science fiction to weave their tales of drama. Add back in the sci-fi: The Doctor is from the planet Gallifrey, and he travels through time and space in a ship that’s bigger on the inside. The Doctor is the last of his kind. His home has been lost to a long and bitter war, what could be more real then that?

In an interview with the BBC’s radio 4 show “Front Row” former executive producer, Russell T. Davies, explained how they approach the series in modern times.

“It’s treated as real, every time you come to a great big science fiction moment you say what would you really be feeling, what really happens.”

Russell’s past TV credits have only been drama. “Doctor Who” was his first science fiction type show, but in his book “The Writers Tale,” he says he sees “Doctor Who” as drama that uses the setting of science fiction. Which he approached as a drama, not a sci-fi show, his other most notable TV credits include, “Queer as Folk” and “Bob and Rose.” Both focus on the lives of gay men living in England. It was his life long love of “Doctor Who” that helped bring the show back from the dead in 2005.

“Doctor Who” first aired in England on November 22, 1963. Due to the assassination of President Kennedy, the show flew under the radar. The BBC tried it again a week later. It was presented as a “tea time” children’s show, “but not being produced by the children’s department, which caused a certain amount of aggravation within the BBC.” Verity Lambert, the show’s very first producer, talked about how the show came to be in the documentary “Doctor Who at The BBC.” Verity goes on to say the BBC wanted the show to have an element of education. When the characters would travel back in time, there was a little history lesson buried in the background of the plot.

The show lasted 26 seasons and was cancelled in 1989. BBC One, the BBC’s drama department, brought the show back in 2005. Under new direction and a polished “feature film” look. Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner served as executive producers and show runners.

Some would argue the special effects in the show would detract from my reasoning. Neil Harris of “Doctor Who Magazine” recently wrote an article called “Special? Effective?”

He asks the question “are special effects such a crucial part of Doctor Who?” Neil cites a recent poll the magazine did where the top favorites were episodes featuring little to no special effects. The highest ranked story was called “Blink.” The plot involves stone angles called “The Weeping Angels,” they are motionless stone when you are looking at them, but if you turn away, or even blink, they attack. They are gentle killers, in the blink of an eye, you are randomly sent back in time where you live out your days. Only one special effect was used in the entire episode. Neil goes on to cite many of “Doctor Who’s” emotional scenes, or dramatic moments, built around the tension of the plot. Will our hero die? Will his friends survive the situation they have gotten into?

It’s that tension that keeps us coming back for more. It’s the drama of having to say goodbye to the woman The Doctor loves. She lived through their latest adventure, but became trapped in a parallel world. Unable to get to her, The Doctor does find a way to communicate with her one last time. As Rose stands on a beach, crying out her love for him, he can’t even bring himself to tell Rose how much he loves her.

The Writer's Tale by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook

In “The Writer’s Tale,” Russell said of that scene: “(if your emotional) if you’re, empathizing, you’re feeling it, there’s an echo of every loss you’ve ever had in that. If it’s successful then it’s saying something about you, about the world.”

Yes, we can scoff at things like “parallel worlds” or “Weeping Angels,” but it’s great fun and even better dramatic television. As head writer, we would see The Doctor through Russell’s eyes. That often meant loads of fun, but also the effect of one man’s actions. Running from his past, never standing still long enough to reflect. Davies wrote The Doctor as a lonely man, who had no place to call home. He would have friend’s come and go, but in the end he was alone.

The character has an ability to regenerate when he is near death. Even within that, Russell’s writing shows us just how devastating this ability can be. In the episode “The End of Time: Part 1” The Doctor knows he is to regenerate soon and says: “it feels like dying. Everything I am, dies. Some new man goes sauntering away, and I’m dead.” Sure enough the time came and the regeneration occurred. As the tenth incarnation of “The Doctor” turned into the 11th, his final words were “I don’t want to go.” It was a very emotional scene, a death scene. For fans of the show, it really was like a close friend had died.

When a TV show can make you feel that much emotion, how can it just be classified as science fiction? As William Zinsser points out in “On Writing Well,” some of the best writing is found in science. Then it can be argued that some of the best drama is found in science fiction. “Doctor Who” is simply the best there is. When you strip away all the science, its just good drama.