Does George Lucas Expect Writers to Cross The Strike Line For Him?

by Paul William Tenny

george-lucas.jpgEntertainment Weekly is reporting that none other than George Lucas himself will be trolling the deadly streets of L.A. looking for writers to pitch ideas and get assignments for writing the first 13 episodes of his planned live-action Star Wars television series. There's only about 13,000,000 problems with his plan but I'll save you a couple of years of reading and list the most prominent ones that have the potential to delay the production and ruin the series altogether.

The Strike - The contract between the Writers Guild of America and the studios expires on October 31st, and all signs point to a strike being called within a week of that date. Lucas intends to bring his booty of freelancers back to Skywalker Ranch in November for the collective idea hashing party, which would obviously be impossible if there is a strike on. Industry writers and neophytes alike know about this and the fact that Lucas wants to press forward anyway makes me wonder if the guy has ventured outside his fortress anytime in the past six months.

Under strike rules, writers are not allowed to do anything related to writing for anyone. You can't pitch ideas, work on something you've already been paid to do, turn in already finished work, you can't even enter the building of a company that is being struck.

Whatever Lucas is playing at, the strike is going to delay it. Any hope of getting it into production in February of 2008 is a nothing but a fantasy at this point.
Freelance Series Don't Work - Lucas may be involved with the pitching and may very well be handing out assignments, but he's no show runner. This is a guy that for all his accomplishments has never run a show, and that's plainly evident by the way he's trying to throw this one together. Every writer brings a different voice to the table in what they write no matter how much they try to stay inside the box. This is why shows have story editors, senior story editors, and write collectively.

You don't want each episode having a different pace and feel such that it feels more like 24 different shows across the span of a single season, but that's what Lucas is going to get with his plan. He wants 6-13 freelance writers who will go off and write their own episode independent of Lucas and the rest of the "team", and even once those scripts filter back under Lucas' control, it'll be a grand mess and time sink trying to forge all those scripts into a single coherent series.

Worse yet, Lucas wants to employ a number of foreign writers to work on the series. That's problematic because hardly any other country does television the way American's do it, and that's neither a compliment nor an insult - it's a recipe for inconsistency.

There's a reason that hits in the United States are also #1 hits overseas, and it's not because Americans are prettier. We've crafted a fine machine for producing consistent and challenging entertainment while the rest of the world struggles to catch up. Foreign writers, especially television writers, aren't going to know how to work in that environment and unless Lucas gets the very best of the best from other countries, he won't necessarily even be getting talented writers in the first place.

This entire plan reeks of a guy too used to having enough power in the movie system that he can do anything he wants that thinks he can waltz in and play it the same way in the television system. His status and celebrity will certainly give him that opportunity, but it'll fail him. His system of directors being the creative force (who isn't but just thinks that they are) is flipped in TV, where writers are king.

If Lucas thinks he can farm out the writing and then piece it all together himself when it's time to start shooting, waiting to inject his vision and his style months after the time for creativity should have been long since baked, he's got a big shock coming in the form of having the first and only live-action Star Wars series creamed in the ratings by Who's Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

End Run Around The Networks - According to EW, Lucas wanted to shoot an entire season on his own terms before even trying to find a network that was interested in sitting on the sidelines and basically morphing into the role of a bank. Microsoft thought they could get away with that when they commissioned a script to be written for Halo with the intention of selling the rights to the game and the script as a packaged, unalterable deal.

Halo has been stuck in development hell and will likely never make it out of there because no studio wanted to cough up the money to make the film without having any kind of substantive creative say (now they know how feature writers feel.)

So to would be the situation with this series, no matter how much hype there is and regardless of who it has pushing it from behind, no network is going to agree to fund and air a series post-production.

Source: Entertainment Weekly
in Television


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Joss Whedon. JMS.
You say in article that a series with a "freelance" feel will not work. I disagree. Here are two reasons...

Twilight Zone
Outer Limits

Both shows were different every week. And both did very well. I for one would LOVE a Star Wars based "freelance" show. If there is any base story line out there already that would do well in this format it is Star Wars. Just look at how successful the expanded universe books have been.

There are so many fringe characters and worlds in the Star Wars saga that a "show" could run for years, and years.

Just one Star Wars geeks thoughts.

Tom Frack

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