television series

Stop Writing for Hollywood and Start Writing a Better Story by Chris Weigl

I wrote my first screenplay when I was a Sophomore in high school.  I remember three things from that year in school.  The first thing I remember is the election.  The year was 2000 and one of the most ferocious elections ever fought was being waged that year.  I remember guys who had just turned eighteen voting for George W. Bush because "his daughters are hot."  I remember that election well because back then I was a Republican.  I was one of those "fiscally conservative" people.  I didn't care much for social issues.  None of them really affected me.  Why I was a Republican then is as much a mystery now as it was then.  I know I had my reasons though.  I remember showing up on Election Day and seeing the school packed with voters.  Most of the voters were old - something I took to be a bad sign for my choice - George W. Bush.

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Brand-Funded Entertainment and the Next Revolution in Filmmaking by Chris Weigl

I wasn’t sure I wanted to create a production company at first.  I didn’t know that much about the business side of things.  I believe in my product don’t get me wrong, but when you face the very real possibility that what you’ve worked so hard to create might actually get made something happens to you.  You start to wonder if you haven’t been overselling yourself.  I wonder if I’m going to be able to churn out the kind of film that I want to make.  I’ve got the experience, but the self-doubt kicks in because other people’s livelihoods are in my hands.  I believe in the film that we’re working to create and I believe in the show that we’re setting up. 

The premise is pretty simple: a man decides to run for mayor as George Washington.  He enlists the help of his good friends and fellow founders in an effort to get elected.  The man is not the real George Washington, but he is counting on the ignorance of the populace and the apathy of the media not to ask any questions along the way.  So, I ask you: is this all that far-fetched?  It might be.  I don’t think anyone with the talent to portray a founding father would accept a low-paying job like that of a government worker, but hey, politicians have done dumber things.  I can tell you from interacting with members of the historical re-enacting community that their rates are quite high and they would have to be willing to take a significant pay cut to do something like this.

Some wonder whether what our company is doing will be worthwhile or whether it will matter.  I can’t really answer the first part of that, but I can address the second.  The show Living History, which is what we’re fighting to get produced, matters because it is unique, it is creative, and it is unlike anything that has ever been tried on television.  That last sentence is why TV executives think that this show will never get produced.  Keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, that they said the same thing about Breaking Bad.  TV isn’t all that different than any other business.  They want someone with a proven track record of success, boatloads of experience managing tons of successful ventures that is young, preferably still in their twenties with an open mind that is willing to be indoctrinated by their management professionals.  See any puzzling dualities yet?  Keep in mind that this is, to the TV executive just as it is to the recruiter, all quite obvious and logical to them.  Indeed, why would they settle for anything less?  It is not difficult to see why most TV executives are legitimately frightened by what a real innovator like Netflix is doing.  These companies are taking risks on unproven talent who have big ideas.  These folks also tend to be self-starters and because of their relative inexperience are willing to work for relatively little money.

We find ourselves living in a creative cesspool of larvae and glorified horse manure.  When I turn on my sixty inch television and tune into some original programming I lament the decision to invest in a television.  It is that bad.  Don’t get me wrong; every network has a serviceable show and by serviceable I mean I could watch it in a Clockwork Orange situation where a machine was holding my eyelids open while a doctor sat next to me pouring eye drops into my eyes.  These aren’t anything to get excited about.  Even TV mainstays like The Daily Show have become rundown, aged leviathans that make me yearn for the yesteryears when they at least tried to engage in comedy and didn’t try so hard to be the new MSNBC.  You know that you’re past your peak when you’re more interested in making a political point than you are in making a joke.  What some folks at Comedy Central are doing right interestingly enough comes up after they’ve had the nice lead-in audience from the Jon Stewart produced hour of programming prior to it: @Midnight.  It’s a clever little show that makes use of social media and comedians in poking fun at the internet which was something the Daily Show used to do, but traded it in to become the new Walter Cronkite or whatever.

What we’re doing at Living History Productions is change how people approach the process of creating entertainment.  We look forward to talking more in depth about our business model and our upcoming ventures with you over the coming weeks and months ahead.  Stay tuned for our new video coming next week!

Handling Criticism by Chris Weigl

The characters in Living History are not the founding fathers. The characters in Living History are historical re-enactors who get a bit carried away with their characters. Though there may be parallels with the historical and historical events do undoubtedly come up in the story of Living History that does not make Living History a documentary or historical drama. It is fiction. It is a story thought up by a writer with an imagination all his own. It is a little sad I suppose that this much needs to be explained. Some have expressed this view to me and I understand it, but I take no issue with those whose chief purpose is to maintain historical integrity.

Those who ask questions in the name of truth and honesty should be welcomed and indeed I do welcome those who question the accuracy or the truth in a given character, event, or even exposition. This is all part of the process of what makes Living History such a joy to work on. Were it not for the high-minded debates that I get to have with historians – both amateur and professional alike – much of the making of Living History would not be fun or entertaining for me the writer. I enjoy what may seem to most ordinary people to be mundane or trivial bits of history and I enjoy discussing these issues in a constructive way. What is not necessary and what is often counter-productive to the purpose of this show is to take what these actors are saying, the views they are espousing, and the events they are partaking in as fact. They are not. Although their actions may be rooted in some historical fact and though some things may have happened in the lifetimes of some of the individual characters most of what happens in Living History is the result of the writer’s imagination.

Just as Jefferson wrote out his feelings from the perspective of the head and the heart regarding Maria Causeway I too find myself in a similar philosophic position myself with regards to how to balance the historical accuracy with what is best for the story. While the historical sets strict limits with its true aim being objectivity the story sets few limits with its aim being entertainment and it is in the overlap of these two worlds where it is easiest to get lost in the wilderness that at least on its face appears to be separating the two. We live in a quarrelsome society, especially with regards to our politics. Some live for the quarrel more than they live for the day. These people will find something debatable in everything from the way someone looks to the way they act to the way they speak and carry themselves. This sort of behavior used to be reserved for lawyers but society has evolved or some would say devolved to the point where some are so itching for a fight that they will take the white flag of surrender as an offensive affront to their freedom and will use such action not merely to defend their over the top reaction but as a justification for their own overblown, often misplaced, and always overt hostility.

Overcoming Criticism by Chris Weigl

With the same certainty that I put pen to paper I equally understand that amateur historians, talking heads, wide-eyed pundits, and blind party loyalists will both attack and defend this show with the utmost vigor. They will assail my fictional creation because of its connection to history. History is, after all, in the title. We have an obligation to the historical to be honest and fair with the facts and fair to the players. The issues of historical accuracy and artistic license may appear at a crossroads in this show. Indeed, some may see the two issues as diametrically opposed. I do not believe that this needs to be the case. I believe in a world of imagination, creativity, and interpretation. It is my belief that we should not try to conform our world in such a way that one side gets to control the message of the past to fit their view of the future. Since no one can know for certain what someone from the past would do in the present just as we cannot know how we will act in future circumstances any commentary about this subject matter is entirely heresy. No one can be right because there is no way to prove them wrong.

Some will suggest that because they cannot be expressly proven wrong that they are almost as if by default, right. Such errors in logic need little explanation to the normal inhabitants of the Earth, but the conservative is another matter. The cacophony that passes for reason and logic amongst the conservative apparatus is such that their arguments hold little in the way of weight that most people require to make informed judgments or opinions like facts or evidence. In short, those who should listen too often speak and those who should speak too often listen. My chief concern is not that people are debating the historical. I think it is wonderful that we’re having a discussion about our history, but therein lies the catch. It is our history. Not yours. Not mine. History is something that we share.

I understand that this idea of sharing is naturally at odds with the conservative ideology of free markets or freedom or whatever but sharing is a crucial part of what it means to be human. Thomas Aquinas once said that: “taxes ought to be collected from the common goods for the common good.” Note that he did not specify who the “takers” were or who the “makers” were. The sentiment and logic was simple: we all have a price to pay if we are to live together in harmony. It was the conservative Oliver Wendell Holmes who said: “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” After reading these last couple of sentences the conservative machine will no doubt note that I mentioned the word taxes twice, but it would be of equal and perhaps even more important use to notice that the word “for” was also used in each of those sentences. They serve a purpose.

It is because of the basic truth that no one owns our history anymore than anyone else and because history is so open to interpretation that we find ourselves fighting over it. It is because we can fight about it that we do find ourselves fighting about it. The foundation of Living History is essentially a what if? scenario using actors who believe that they are the human incarnation of historical characters. These characters, driven by their own sense of justice and propriety, are what makes the show function. Many will ask: who am I to interpret past events? That’s the thing that some do not understand. I’m not interpreting past events. I’m telling a story. The role of the storyteller is vastly different from the role of the historian. This isn’t to say that a storyteller can take complete and total license with their work: that is most certainly not the case, but we approach people, places, and events though a different lens. The historian must set out much like the scientist with his concern first and foremost being the truth and perspective of those who lived through the time. The storyteller looks at what the most compelling case is for the audience and is based entirely on perspective. 

What Hollywood lacks right now is interesting and compelling stories and is it our jobs as storytellers to provide the American people with content that they can look forward to watching.  Not all of our content will be politically correct, but no true art should be.  Our solution to the current content problem in Hollywood is not without its problems, but Hollywood is a place right now that is running low on solutions.