re: Justin Kownacki’s STBD SOTU 2007

Posted by Bill Cammack On January - 25 - 2007

re: Justin Kownacki’s STBD SOTU 2007

Brilliant assessment & planning, Justin. :)

I’ve been watching STBD since about the middle of last season, and I’ve seen some of the archived episodes. My impression of it was “the life in general of several people that happen to know each other because of professional and personal affiliations”. Since I started watching after the show became more spread out, the radio station didnt actually have anything to do with anything for me. I saw a couple of episodes where they were saying they were selling the station or shutting down, and I saw it as more of a removal of a location than something really important to the show’s storyline.

I suppose the speed of the storylines is as dependent upon how much time the producers & editors are willing to spend crafting them as it is upon how often the actors in a particular scene (and the crew to shoot it) are available at the same time. It’s much easier and faster to cut a more slowly-paced episode than a fast-paced one that requires more cutting and therefore more continuity between the scenes. OTOH, the faster the scenes are paced, the more storylines you can fit into the same amount of time, or you can cut your show lengths down. Another consideration is the effect of changing pacing on the “feel” of the show. Regardless of the choice of pacing inside one scene or one episode, looking at the pacing over time, such as “how many episodes will it take to get this character from finding out about an issue to resolving or becoming consumed by that issue” is very important. Soap operas drop something and the resolution doesn’t happen for the next two weeks (10 episodes). Sit-coms achieve resolution within 30 minutes to an hour. I think that having the IRL timelines of plots in the script locked down is going to be crucial for STBD moving into your new production / business / community plan.

Regarding the lack of unification because of so many characters, STBD definitely needs to have a searchable way to track specific characters. One of your additions in your web site plan needs to be a text-based, searchable episode list with links and tags based on the characters in each episode. If someone watches an episode and wants to learn more about Caroline, there needs to be a way for them to quickly pull up the sequence of episodes with Caroline and/or her storyline in them. She might not be in the actual show, but something that happens in that show is relevant to the development of her character or someone involved with her. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and it’s easier to start off with a text-based cast/crew listing like IMDB has, so that at least fans can create a list of the episodes that the character they’re following is in and possibly create RSS feeds so they can follow along when that character’s next episode comes out. Overall, I think that spinning off shows based on popular storylines is a great idea. :)

The “heightened conflicts” issue is very important and IMO drives the IRL timelines of an episodic production like STBD. The show has to move quickly enough to keep people interested in the conflict. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier to deal with in a situation where the resolution is definitely going to occur “soon” like in a show that is completely done after every episode or a mini-series that’s going to be over after the sixth episode. In the HBO series “Rome”, you knew that by the end of the season, Caesar was going to be dead…. I mean, assuming you knew about these things to begin with. That leads to situations of heightened conflicts, but also “lack of conflict” as you know that Caesar’s going to be stabbed to death by people including Brutus, so there’s a complete lack of suspense in his character’s part when he’s on a campaign or in a war or something. OTOH, you never know if the other characters are going to live or die in the situations they get involved in. The heightened conflict is that even though they’re the stars of the show, they’re expendable in the grand scheme of things.

I think “The Sopranos” is more relevant to STBD. In the first season, guys were dropping like flies, because the focus was to show the struggle for posession, survival and success in organized crime. As time went on, there were fewer characters that they were able to develop to the point of being so important either to the characters in the show or to the viewer that they needed to be “rubbed out”. “The Sopranos” settled into being more “Tony’s home life” oriented and stable, which was a turn-off to many of the viewers that were originally so interested in the show because of action, violence and not knowing who was going to “go” next. It’s kind of like “Now that Tony’s made it to the top, what’s there to do? What stories are left to tell?”. STBD (at this point at least) seems to be about the ongoing lives of people that don’t really have any conflicts other than where they’re going to work or whom they’re dating. Similar to Tony Soprano’s settled life in the later seasons, it’s tough to create & heighten conflict in an environment like that. I see it more as being the “fly on the wall” as these people live their lives than watching something that’s potentially volatile.

Overall, I enjoy STBD and I’m looking forward to seeing where this new vision takes you. Much of what you mentioned requires planning, and planning takes time and time is money, so hopefully your monetization plans work out so that the people involved will be able to devote more time and energy to the show.

Good Luck! :D

oh… either way… make sure you remember that…

“women wanna SEE it & men wanna BE it!” :D

2 Responses to “re: Justin Kownacki’s STBD SOTU 2007”

  1. Bill — Thanks for the feedback. You’re right on all counts, and our biggest hurdle really is time (which really is money, as you say).

    When I can plan a storyline out far in advance and know it will be filmed completely by a certain date, that improves the quality of the show, but it also forces us to stick to a schedule. What I have yet to equate in my head is that falling behind by a few days here and there ends up costing us several weeks of production when all is said and done.

    I have a feeling we’ll be ending this season a little earlier than originally forecasted, so we can take the time to circle the wagons and get ahead on Season Five — far ahead — and therefore ensure that the conflict is tight and the pace is as rapid as possible.

    And yes, they do wanna be it… ;)

  2. Bill C. says:

    A break between this season and the next one is a really good idea, especially if you have a particular date that you like to start your seasons.

    Shows work best when the output can be buffered. BELIEVE ME, I know, hahaha :D I get calls to do shows that need to go to air in incredibly short amounts of time. It’s easy for me to handle, but “the process” has to give here and there to make up for the lack of time available to do what we do as editors. There are a lot of beautiful shots that we don’t get to use because we don’t have time to apply the brainpower that it takes to work them into the piece. There are a lot of fantastic sound bites that don’t go into the shows because the time is spent just getting the piece “to time” instead of having the luxury of going over and over it and making it more of an artistic piece.

    I think your new ideas are a great starting point for next season. You obviously know what you want to change, which is going to be a tremendous aid in pre-production. Even if it doesn’t come out to mean that you have all the locations you want for each part, you know what you’re aiming for. This person gets fired by this episode and struggles until that episode, then they get it together. These people break up here and get back together there. This new character comes in here and this character leaves there. Even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you planned, the thought that has to go into creating those timelines will help you understand where you are as far as conflict or suspense.

    The good thing about buffering shows is that you get to change things if you want to. STBD is basically a bunch of modules, as is any show of this type. If you realize you want to change something after viewer interaction or a team meeting or a live event to view an episode, you have a bunch of modules already built so that you can accelerate the pace of a particular storyline, hold off on showing it until a later episode, or change it completely, possibly including re-shoots, because you’re not “living check to check” as it were.

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