Don't Invest

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

We're halfway through a script -- it's going pretty well, it's funny and different and, oddly, fun to write, and I turn to my writing partner and say, "You know, this is really good. I really like this script. It reminds me of the first play we wrote together, back when we were I college. What I really like about it is—"

And he holds up his hand. "Stop," he says. "Don't invest."

Meaning, don't fall in love with this. Don't give this script too much emotional loyalty. Don't invest it with dreams and ambitions and happy endings.

I thanked him, because I was starting to invest too much in the script. I mean, I like it a lot, and I think that it will make a terrific series, and I want more than anything to get the chance to see it acted and filmed and polished and perfect. But I know how these things go, most of the time. You write a good script, you start seeing it played out in your mind, you get excited, you start to think about episodes, series arcs, characters, and then they pass, and put on... I don't know... "Rodney" or something, and you're left with a script that you love that will never ever get made.

That's the nature of the gig, of course. Which I totally get. But it still sort of stings. You see, the network that buys the script owns the script, for at least a year. Even if they don't make a pilot out of it, or have any intention to make a pilot out of it. So you know it's there, somewhere, on someone's shelf, and that, technically, anyway, they could make it at any time, but, really, they never will. Networks are like magpies. It's always the next shiny object that gets their attention.

So, don't invest. But, really, to do the job at all well, you sort of have to invest. In order to write a script that could turn into a series you have to be able to see the series in your head, you have to be able to see the characters and the relationships and the stories. In other words, you have to believe that this time, Lucy really isn't going to pull the football out from under you.

So don't invest. Call it what agents and managers call it. "A piece of business," which is a phrase I've always loved. I'm having second act trouble in my piece of business. I'm not sure I like the way we get to the big kiss in my piece of business.

What we do, when we catch ourselves getting overly excited about the prospects of a new script -- getting ahead of ourselves, thinking about episodes and stories and character moments, starting to futurize in an enthusiastic way, before the script is finished, before the network notes, before the pilot orders come dribbling out of network HQ, before, in other words, it's sane or useful or emotionally wise to do it -- well, when we catch ourselves thinking this way, one of us will shrug and say, darkly, "Who are we kidding? This is never going to go."

And the other one will say, "I know."

And we'll be sort of kidding, sort of serious. Sort of invested, sort of not. Because the only way to really kick the ball with any style or effectiveness is to run at it top speed and really give it a kick. Yes, Lucy -- who in this analogy runs a large television network -- will probably yank the ball away and schedule a reality show. But if for some reason she doesn't, or can't, then you want to be ready. You want to be invested. Because the script is great. It's funny and fresh and surprising and the characters are sharp and different, and it's going to be a terrific series. Really. I think it's going to be a big hit.

Oh, who am I kidding. This is never going to go.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week, we'll lie. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long