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02/02/2001 - Developing Multiple Projects

How to Produce Movies for Television

"Yesterday is a dream, tomorrow but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.

--Sanskrit Proverb

Developing Multiple Projects

We've all been guilty, at one time or another, of investing too much time in a single project. If that project doesn't get off the ground, we find ourselves back to square one. And that can be a very lonely place

Many of us have learned the hard way that it makes sense to be involved in developing more than one project at a time. Producers are like jugglers. We have to keep many balls in the air. We never know what's going to stay up in the air and what's going to hit the ground with a thud. It's impractical to devote all our efforts to a single script.

The Value of True Stories

The public is fascinated with true stories; especially television audiences. Something inside us wants to root for people who are courageous and determined to fight against overwhelming odds. Audiences connect on an emotional level with underdogs. "Friendly Fire" is a good example of a made-for-television movie that was not only compelling but also revealing. In Fay Kanin's teleplay, which was based on a book, Carol Burnett played the mother of a soldier who was killed by his peers during an exchange of "Friendly Fire." In her search for the truth, Ms. Burnett's character singlehandedly takes on the U.S. Government and uncovers a web of deception.

True Stories and Dramatic License

There is a cardinal rule that all producers should adhere to and that is to preserve the integrity of a story. It is not humanely possible to present a true story that is one hundred percent accurate. No matter how many people are interviewed and how much research is conducted, facts are easily distorted by well- intentioned people. There's also another reality that is undeniable. Real life is not a movie ready to happen. That's where dramatic license comes into play. Producers, writers, and directors with a social conscience understand that it's often necessary to interweave scenes into the basic dramatic structure of the film that will sustain tension and hold the audience's interest. As long as this is done in an honest and forthright manner, everybody wins.

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Walking a Fine Line

Presenting the truth within a dramatic structure requires a concerted effort on the part of everyone who is involved with the movie. Temptation is ever- present to embellish and add creative touches in the name of championing our story heroes and heroines. As a result, human nature often steps in and takes over and when this happens, it can pose a serious threat.

Fortunately, film is a collaborative effort. Through a system of checks and balances, producers, writers, and directors who truly care about preserving the integrity of their film will look to each other to ensure that their good intentions do not go astray.

Seizing the Day

In television, time is the enemy on a daily basis. The number of camera setups and pages shot in a day are strictly adhered to. There is little margin for error. Get it right and get it good is what really matters at the end of the day. And, it all shows up in the rushes on the following day. The camera doesn't lie.

The Sanskrit Proverb that we introduced to you earlier captures the essence of who we are and why we do what we do.

Treat yesterday as a dream, tomorrow as a vision. Today is what counts. Live it well and all our yesterdays will be a dream of happiness, and all our tomorrows a vision of hope.


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