We're Cranking!

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

For the next, oh, ten seconds, I'm going to be lying to you.

The script?  It's going really well.  It's basically done, we're just tweaking things here and there and trying to get it down to a tight 40 pages.  You should be getting it very soon.  Really, you know, in the next couple of…you know…just in the next…you know, sooner rather than later, of course.  Of course.  Seriously.  We're cranking on it.

Almost all of that was a lie.  The script isn’t basically done.  It’s not even basically started.  We’re not tweaking a few things here and there, we’re at the movies.  And you’re not going to be getting it sooner rather than later, or in the next couple of anythings.  And most of all, we’re not cranking on it.

But if you’re a studio or network executive, part of your miserable job is to call up writers and ask them how the script is going, and when they think they’re going to be getting it to you.  And unless you’re pretty new at the job, you’re absolutely certain that whatever they say, whatever they promise, it’s going to be a lie.  So it’s the weird kabuki thing going on, where stylized, highly-costumed executives in white face paint and vertical lipstick call up rigid, iron-clad writers in samuri robes and top knots and ask a series of preordained questions – how is the script going? when will it be turned in for notes? – and get ritualized, ornate answers – we’re cranking on it, soon, in the next couple of whatevers – and everybody hangs up having accomplished nothing but getting a lot of greasepaint on the Blackberrys.

Cell phones and laptops have basically added weeks of delay to the process of script-writing.  In the old days, when the studio called and got your voicemail or answering machine, it was pretty obvious that whatever you were doing, it wasn’t writing.  Writing means sitting in one place while typing, and those kinds of places usually have a phone nearby.  But if you add the possibility of a portable typing machine – a laptop – throw in a cell phone, then you can create the illusion of almost perfect efficiency.  Wherever I am, you can call me and I could be writing.  Instead of the truth, which is wherever I am, you can call me, and I can lie about it pretty easily.

I got a call recently from a studio executive.

“Hey, listen, I’m not putting any pressure on you – really, these deadlines are bogus, I know.  I’m not an executive executive, know what I mean?  I’m basically perceived around here as a creative kind of executive, you know?  So, like, I’m totally passionate about the project you guys are writing and I just want you to know what I’m hearing from the network is that they’ll be reading and ordering pilots in about 2 weeks, so…Is that…mariachi music I hear in the background?”

“We find it easier to write outside.  On Olvera street.”

“In Los Angeles?”

“In Cabo San Lucas.”

“You and your partner are in Cabo San Lucas?”

“No, he’s in Hawaii.”

“You guys aren’t together?”

“Well, yes, in a sense.  He and I are collaborating via web-based wi-fi collaboration software.  It’s like we’re in the same room.  It’s very efficient.”

“But the script is supposed –“

“We’re cranking on it, okay?  It’s going great.  You’ll get it in a few whatevers.”


“My margarita is starting to separate.  I really have to go.”

And we hang up.  Mission accomplished, thanks to technology.

That’s all for this week.  Next week, we’ll think about someone else for a change.  For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long