Production Schedules

I got this email today:

Lee, my aunt and I were discussing when the season premieres usually start
filming, and my aunt was confused as to when the cast take their hiatus and come
back to work. Could you provide a rough ‘year’ schedule for a series as far as
the cast is concerned – when they work on the shows, how far ahead of an episode
is their work done? We’re working under the assumption of a show that has been
on air already one year and is definitely coming back for the next few years. I
couldn’t answer any of her questions.

A successful series, one in which the producers know they are coming back for another season, can bank scripts and even shoot some "next season" episodes at the end of the "current season" (LAW AND ORDER has done this).

But in general, fall season shows usually start filming in July or early August and wrap some time in March or
early April.  The fall schedules are announced in late May and people usually straggle back from hiatus in early June. 

Not counting the time it takes to develop and write a script, it takes about six weeks to produce an episode — from pre-production
(scouting locations, building sets, casting actors) through post-production
(editing, music, sound effects, color correction, looping, etc.).  This doesn’t include FX heavy shows like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which naturally take longer in post-production.  Most hour-long dramatic  shows are shot in seven or eight days… though some cheapo syndicated and cable  shows are shot in six.


The Revered, Rep Level SeaQuest Writer

I got two emails today from SeaQuest fans.

One email invited me to share my memories of Jonathan Brandis as part of an online fan memorial.  I’m afraid I don’t have any special memories to share.  I didn’t know Jonthan well, though in my few encounters with him he always struck me as a bright, friendly, serious young man. I thought he’d go far as an actor and I was saddened to learn of his suicide.

The other email directed me to a  SeaQuest fan blog posting that the sender felt "defines a Talifan."

I really can’t stand new people who enter my fandom for the first time,
"debuting" as though they’re already a well-known and respect author
like Chance, Diena Taylor or Rachel Brody.. or sometimes they even act
as though they’re Lee Goldberg.

Especially because usually, they
really haven’t been paying much attention to what has actually been
going on in the fandom for the last, oh, ten years. They don’t know
what fiction has been written, what developments have been made, who
the people are, any of the ways we interact.. It’s all "Tah dah! I am
your quasi-proffessional seaquest epic writer. My episodes are of
exceptional quality due to my experience. Aren’t you people lucky?"

no.. actually I feel patronised and I since I honestly believe I’ve
been around longer than you, I feel like a six year old who’s just
started playing a sport I’ve been playing for years is coming on the
feild and give me ‘tips’, as though they’re at rep level.

these people will miss out on what they could have learned from us, and
a lot of other things you can enjoy in the SeaQuest fandom without
putting yourself out as an author who is already revered.

There are SeaQuest fanfic writers who not only have reached "rep level," but are actually  "revered?" Wow. Who knew? Though I can’t imagine why anyone would aspire to be a "quasi-professional SeaQuest epic writer."

My Software

I got this email today:

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

I am about to start writing my novel. What novel writing software do you use? Is there an industry standard? What’s the proper format?

I use Microsoft Word but any word processing software is probably just fine.  The format question is trickier.  My publisher on the DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK novels  didn’t give me any set format, so I write my novels double spaced in 12pt Courier New, with margins that would be the typewriter equivalent of 10 and 60. I think I do that because I learned to write on a typewriter… and I wrote so much on an IBM Selectric that a manuscript doesn’t look right to me if it isn’t in Courier New. 

On the other hand, I recall that Five Star, the folks who published THE WALK and are  bringing out THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE in November, had very strict formatting guidelines. Although I wrote the book using my usual format, when I was done I had to reformat it to meet their requirements which included, if I recall, that the manuscript be in 11pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, with author’s last name and the book title centered in italics at the top of each page.

But at this point, I would just concern yourself with writing the book. You can always change the format later to conform to the requirements of whatever publisher you submit it to.

How about you other published authors out there — what’s your advice?

The Dollars and Cents of Writing II

Author SL Viehl shares the royalty statement on her latest paperback.  The book is doing well and she has every reason to be thrilled and proud.  But if you’re an aspiring writer, the numbers will be an important reality check for you about the kind earnings/sales a successful (as opposed to bestselling) author can expect. You should also check out the nitty-gritty of novelist Alison Kent’s recent royalty statement and author Ian Irvine’s excellent article on how publishing works. The chart below, which I posted back in February,  is from his article:

Table 1: What you get in your hand after agents’ cuts, per book


Pre-tax Price Your share ($A) Pre-taxp Price Your share ($A) Pre-tax Price Your share ($A)
Australia $A40.50 $3.44 $A27.33 2.32 $A18.13 1.54
Britain £17.99 3.21 £12.99 2.32 £7.99* 1.07
USA $US25.95 2.52 US14.95 1.45 $US7.99# 0.62

* Exch. Rate 0.38, royalty 7.5% to 20K, Aust publisher 20%, Aust agent 15%

# Exch. Rate 0.70, royalty 8% to 100K, Aust publisher 20%, Aust agent 15%

** Trade paperback and hardcover royalties 10%


Do TV Scribes Write Differently than Movie Scribes?

Screenwriter John Rogers believes TV writers have "a fundamentally different relationship with story than film writers do."

This difference between TV writers and film guys is pretty common,
actually. As one of the relatively few guys who flips back and forth I
think this is because in film, a plot’s something you move your
characters through to change them. In TV, generally, your characters
inhabit the plot, but don’t really change.

That’s true, for the most part.  People want the same show, only different, every week. No matter what trials and tribulations they endure, they will, in the end, be the same person they always were. Captain Kirk was the same guy at the start of his five-year-mission as he was when cancellation came in year 3.  D.A. McCoy on LAW AND ORDER may be getting older, but his character hasn’t evolved.  Matt Dillon got craggier over 20 years of GUNSMOKE but he never changed…and neither did his relationship with Miss Kitty. Gil Grisson on CSI is the same guy he’s always been…even if he went through the mini-ordeal with his hearing loss.

That said, we’re seeing characters change and evolved with thee narrative arcs built into shows like DEADWOOD, SOPRANOS, THE SHIELD, BUFFY and NIP/TUCK. But I would argue that most of the characters on primetime network shows are still pretty much locked in place, even in shows with an arc.

No Oral for My Boys

Over on my brother’s blog, he’s talking about the lynch mob that’s going after Paul Ruditis for his book RAINBOY PARTY (and he quotes a column from a wacko at Jewish World Review, which sure as hell isn’t this Jew’s world. This is the same nutcake who wrote "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror" Need I say more?).

RAINBOW PARTY takes its title from high school parties where girls compete to give the most blowjobs to boys…and the boys compete to get the most head that they can.  Clearly, this isn’t the latest Nancy Drew, though if a guy is gonna win this, he’s got to be a pretty Hardy Boy.  I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say how graphic it is, or if its age-appropriate for teenagers. Be that as it may, I was struck by the Amazon review that Tod quotes:

Don’t buy it unless you’re going to burn it, May 25, 2005

Reviewer: PAUL C. FRY (Cleveland, OH USA) – See all my reviews

One reason that I’m giving this a lousy review because I’m a parent.
I’ve got two boys so far; I don’t want either of them giving or getting
oral sex when they’re teenagers. Or ever for that matter.

He doesn’t want his kid to ever have oral sex? And never  give it? Makes you wonder what poor Mrs. Fry’s sex life has been like (let me say here and now that when my daughter is an adult, I want her to have as much oral sex from her lover or husband as she would like. You go girl!). But Tod talks all about  the evils of oral sex, so I won’t belabor the point. What Tod didn’t do, and what I’ve done, is check out Mr. Fry’s Amazon wish list.  Most of the titles are right-wing political stuff and bible-related books like Scripture Matters: Essays on Reading the Bible from the Heart of the Church, They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, Swear to God : The Promise and Power of the Sacraments,  Ten Things You Can’t Say In America, and Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession. But he’d also like you to get him the  CD Sonic Bullets: 13 From the Hip by Bambi Molesters (I kid you not!).

Is it any wonder he  wants to buy a book to burn it…and prays that his boys never have to endure a blowjob?  Or, God forbid (literally, I suppose), that they should ever have to orally pleasure their wives’ milky womanhoods?

The Name is Goldberg, Lee Goldberg

AvtakThe James Bond site MI6 is celebrating the 20th anniversary of A VIEW TO A KILL by giving my old articles about the movie (written for Starlog and the LA Times Syndicate among others) a slick, new presentation. First up is an interview I did with Roger Moore. Soon they’ll be posting my visit to the set… as well as some of my other 007 coverage.

My God, has it really been 20 years? I can’t believe I’m old enough to have written anything 20 years ago.

A Warehouse Signing

For his novel WHISKY SOUR, author Joe Konrath did over a hundred drive-by signings last year (that’s bookstore-speak for dropping in to sign stock without an official booksigning event scheduled)   In some cases, he found himself driving for hours to sign three copies. Not the best use of his time. So, for his new mystery, he visited an Indiana book distribution warehouse and "handsigned" 3000 copies books.  He tells the story today on his blog. Was this four-hour warehouse signing a better use of his time than visiting one-on-one with various booksellers? Who knows. He’s certainly getting more signed books  into the marketplace than he would have personally visiting stores on a book tour…but is it the signed books that count, or the personal interaction with sellers and customers?

What Would You Pay For An Authentic Shelf from Diagnosis Murder?

Today I received this email:

I was a security guard at the hospital they were
shooting "Diagnose Murder,"  back in 1994 in Denver, Colorado. One night
they threw a bunch of set props away, ex: the gift shop shelves, or some glass
shelving; lamps and paintings. Is there any way to authenticate them? Or, are
they worth anything to anybody? Thank you.

You dug all that crap out of a dumpster and kept it for ten years? Why, man, why? I hate to break it to you, but nobody is going to care about a gift shop shelf from a DIAGNOSIS MURDER episode. Nor would there be any way to authenticate it. ..and even if you could, who would want an authentic shelf from a DIAGNOSIS MURDER episode?

Perhaps if what you’d found was, say, Dr. Mark Sloan’s lab coat, you might be able to sell it to some fan for $20.  But a shelf? A lamp? It’s not like we’re talking about Mr. Spock’s Tricorder, The Batmobile,  or Fonzie’s leather jacket…