Yo, Writers! How’d You Like a Career in Iraqi TV?

Nope, we’re not kidding. It’s viable. The opportunity is real. And the political turmoil within the biz there seems to precisely mirror what goes on behind the scenes right here in the good ole U.S.A. Whole thing’s kinda amazing, actually:

A view shows actors during the filming of the set of the television series, whose title is loosely translated as "State of Superstition" in Baghdadby Shukur Khilkhai (translated by Joelle El-Khoury)

Each year, Arab TV stations compete to buy and broadcast dramatic productions from Egypt, Syria and Gulf counties. Yet, there is no demand for Iraqi drama, which is limited to local TV channels. It is a bitter reality for the Iraqi TV and film industry, over which concerned parties are in constant disagreement.

The poor production quality of the Iraqi entertainment industry is the direct result of mismanagement made intractable by rampant corruption.

The dilemma is complex enough to make it hard to determine the exact problem. The industry’s players blame each other for its deterioration and loss of identity, and the issue has been widely discussed in the media.

Some actors blame the producers and writers, while the writers hold the producers responsible and others blame the film directors. As for the directors, they distance themselves from this responsibility, and believe that the rest of the key parties in the TV and film industry should be held responsible for its deterioration. During a seminar on the condition of Iraqi drama held in Damascus March 20, 2010, film director Hassan Hosni identified six reasons for the deterioration of Iraqi TV and film production that did not include directing.

Although everyone agrees that poor production is a major problem, the Al-Iraqiya TV channel, the biggest producer of Iraqi drama, seems indifferent to what is being said. In fact, it celebrates what has been achieved so far.

A number of major artists have found themselves forced to withdraw from the scene in protest, to boycott the current industry. Others preferred to emigrate and some prominent screenwriters, such as Farooq Mohammed, Hamed al-Maliki and Ahmed Hatef, stopped writing. Maliki told Al-Monitor that he has been living off his personal savings since he made this decision.

These figures’ withdrawal from the scene is not contributing to resolving the problem, but may instead exacerbate it by leaving only beginners and inexperienced people.

The situation must be addressed realistically, said actor Samar Qahtan. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Qahtan acknowledged that Iraqi drama is not up to par with general Arab drama, and that its situation is unstable.

According to Qahtan, Iraqi drama is still relatively new. He holds that one cannot compare current Iraqi drama to its period prior to 2003. Back then, the state was in control of production, there was a single TV channel and total production did not exceed two works per year, with all available resources tapped to make them successful. He noted that with production this scarce, Iraq could not be considered to support an important and influential industry.

Following 2003, a large number of TV channels were created and the demand for TV production increased. As qualified artists were limited, the new stations and producers were forced to resort to staff new to the industry.

Qahtan asked, “When they decided to produce 15 TV series per year, did the Iraqi TV channels’ supervisors ask where they could get technical staff to cover all of these works?” He said it was possible to address a large part of the problem by distributing the budget of these series over two or three works with a good story, competent producers and a well-paid technical staff.

It seems that the problem starts with policy. Qahtan did not deny that Iraqi TV channels were working to produce a large number of TV series. The latter are increasing and fill a great deal of air time. Qahtan confirmed this view. He said, “The producing channels care less about quality; rather, they are interested in filling up air time. This is why they do not mind hiring a non-specialist writer, or assigning the work to a greedy producer, who assigns the work to a weak producer agreeing to his own conditions. The final product ends up with amateur actors, so one can imagine the quality of the works offered to the audience.”

For others, this realistic perspective needs to be applied to the entire situation, which is broader and more complex, believes screenwriter Hamed al-Maliki, who stopped writing. In an interview with Al-Monitor via e-mail, Maliki cited technical and administrative problems in the industry.

Maliki said that in the absence of strong foundations and traditions, all of the branches of Iraq’s TV and film industry are weak. A story is selected and produced by workers who have no clue how to run the project. “Some directors adopt old and boring directing techniques, while the actors are trained to present a theatrical performance. In addition, we have greedy producers that look for cheap scenarios regardless of how bad they are,” he said.

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2014 WGAW MEMBER HOLIDAY PARTY

Yeah, it used to be a “Christmas Party,” but…you know. Cuz…yeah, you know that too. Will somebody please step up and explain to the world that “Christmas” for all practical purposes really just means “Winter Holiday” these days and allow everybody to just…let go?

What were we talking about? Oh, right. The WGA Party…for members only but just you wait, boys and girls, you’ll be in the club soon!

wgaw 2014 christmas party

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/25/14

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Rockne S. O’Bannon (DEFIANCE) is developing Warren Ellis‘s comic book GLOBAL FREQUENCY into a Fox drama series about a group that protects the world from covert government actions. (Great premise, don’tcha think? But yer friendly neighborhood muncher can’t really see the show coming out anything like the comic if it’s at Fox. Especially after both the WB and the CW already have failed at getting it off the ground.)
  • Jenny Mollen is adapting her memoir I Like You Just The Way I Am into a comedy series for ABC. (She’ll also star cuz evidently we’re back in the territory of Big Names munchman Never Heard Of Before. Oh, wait, wasn’t a guest on GIRLS this year? Well, that explains it all.)
  • Todd Linden (JENNIFER FALLS) has sold GRANDMA DEAREST, a comedy about “the world’s worst grandmother,” to ABC. (Cuz grumbly old people are funny as all of us who aren’t grumbly and old know.)
  • Amy P. Harris (THE CARRIE DIARIES) is writing the pilot for VAMP, an ABC drama about a wannabe dancer in New York. (But here’s the good part, the bit that got the development peeps drooling. The heroine wants to be a ballerina, but meanwhile we get to watch her dance at “Vamp – New York City’s most decadent and outrageous nightclub. Welcome to ABC’s Wonderful World of Hot D’ Words, my lovelies!)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

Peggy Bechko: Those Weird and Wacky Writers

go-crazy

by Peggy Bechko

Okay, no talk today of how to write, or edit, or sell or any of that ‘important’ stuff we all do. This one’s just for fun.

I was researching something else altogether and ran across some of the weird things very well known writers do, habits and rituals they have. So, I dug a little deeper because I needed a distraction and found out some fun facts.

First, alcohol seems to have a lot to do with writing. I admit it never has for me, but for a lot of writers, it ranks right up there.

Then there are the specific habits. Apparently Mark Twain liked to write lying down. Go figure.

Screenwriters would love Vladimir Nabokov – he loved index cards. Only he didn’t have a computer so he used REAL 3 x 5 inch index cards. He paper clipped them and stored them in boxes. Did someone transcribe those cards? It didn’t say. Oh, and he sometimes liked to write in a parked car.

Flannery O’Connor had some problems. She had lupus apparently and so wrote only about two hours each day due to extreme lack of energy. Near the end of her life things were so taxing for her she sat facing the blank surface of her wooden dresser so as to have no distractions.

From what I saw, Truman Capote was another horizontal author who claimed he couldn’t think unless he was lying down. His favorite places were bed or sofa with coffee and a cigarette. Apparently he transitioned throughout the day from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. (Remember that alcohol thing I mentioned above?)

Their habits were as varied as the writers. They might not have had the web and computers, but they certainly enjoyed plenty of other distractions – or not, depending on the writer.

Ernest Hemingway was unwittingly ahead of his time. Aside from his alcohol consumption, he had a couple of interesting habits. He stopped his writing day when he arrived at a place where he knew what came next in his story. Not a bad idea as it launched the next day’s writing from a springboard. But here’s the interesting thing. He wrote standing up, typewriter at chest height while standing in a pair of oversized loafers. Hey, I can sort of match that. I have an adjustable desk so I can easily stand for long stretches and I love to wear my fleece-lined boots in the winter.

Hmm, it seems there’s a rumor Dan Brown hangs upside down in anti-gravity boots. It’s also said he has an hourglass on his desk and every hour he stops writing to do pushups, sit-ups and stretches. So the antigravity boots thing is a separate issue; at least he apparently doesn’t write in them.

A little more digging brought up the seeming fact that author Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotten apples at his desk that created an overpowering smell. It was relayed by Schiller’s wife that the aroma inspired her husband and he couldn’t live or work without it. Maybe the methane gas created the decomposing apples just made him tipsy, I don’t know.

Then there’s The Method. Wallace Stevens apparently composed his poetry on bits of paper while walking and then passed them on to his secretary to type up. Edgar Allan Poe wrote final drafts on separate pieces of paper made into a running scroll with sealing wax. Then there was James Joyce, who, due to several physical conditions couldn’t see well and suffered eye pain. H wrote lying on his stomach in bed with a large blue pencil and clad in a white coat. And were you aware he composed most of Finnegan’s Wake with pieces of crayon on pieces of cardboard? Apparently the use of the large pencils and crayons allowed him to see his work better and the white coat reflected more light onto it.

Charles Dickens, OTOH, liked to write with blue ink. Think now, this was a different era. Why? Because it dried faster than other colors and he didn’t have to pause in his fiction writing to blot the ink. Ah, days gone by.

There are many more tales of oddities, habits and superstitions connected with writers famous and otherwise. Bet you have a few of your own ideas. But then again, how much of this is totally accurate? People love to gossip and exaggerate and we all know what can happen when stories are passed from one person to another. For that matter, might not the authors themselves be spinning a few tales to create a persona to go with their writing?

How might my own stand-up Varidesk be interpreted? Or the bulletin board that takes up an entire wall, yet is covered with a calendar, notes and pictures, leaving little room for actual work papers? Or the fact that I still have floppy disks laying around and had to find a reader with a USB drive in order to be able to still use them? Or the cup of green tea that comes up to my office with me each morning as I stand to work?

Oh well, enjoy the experience and please share some of your own idiosyncrasies below.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

Three Rules to Follow When You Live With Someone Who Works From Home

This one goes out to my significant other. Significantly:

pilbox.global.ssl.fastlyby Leda Marritz

When my husband, Tim, quit his job to develop his own game almost two years ago, I knew there would be challenges. For example, he was funding its development entirely with his own savings, with no guarantee of any kind of return—and I became the sole breadwinner in a city famous for its unaffordability. To save money, he decided to work from our small one-bedroom apartment, where his desk and our living room share the same space.

I definitely anticipated stress over money, long hours, and uncertainty, but I looked forward to the perks and flexibility of having someone at home during the day. But in reality? It was him working from home that caused much of the stress we experienced that first year.

I work in an office and keep pretty regular hours; while I stay late sometimes, I endeavor to not work after I get home. Tim used to be this way, too. Back when he was a salaried employee at a game design studio, evenings and weekends were time for friends, relaxation, and outside interests. When he started working for himself, all of that changed. Work was now home, and home was work. Not to mention, sharing our small space became a whole lot more complicated.

Over time, we’ve managed it better, but looking back, here are three things I learned that helped us navigate the transition.

1. Agree on a Quitting Time

When I get home at the end of the day, work is over. I’m ready to talk about my day, spend time on personal projects, or watch a movie. But when your home is your (or your spouse’s) workspace, this divide becomes much harder to observe.

In the beginning, I’d come home and start chatting right away—I was, as usual, ready to talk about the details of the day, and I’d be hurt when he wasn’t.

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Peer Production: YIDLIFE CRISIS

Yidlife Crisis Capture

Sorry, but this baby’s irresistible to those of us with a certain ethnic/religious background. And we especially love the fact that it’s all in Yiddish.

Don’t worry, there are subtitles for the goyem:

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Created by Jamie Elfman & Eli Batalion
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Not only funny, but educational too, right.

Right?

Never mind. Guess you have to be there.

Yours for a less ferchachtig life.

Gehe cochen!