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 Subject: Re: ATTN JMS: Union script writers quote
    Date: 12/3/2005 5:57:19 PM  

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Mike Detlefsen wrote:
> Joe, I found a quote on one of the LOST forums that sounds pretty
> far-fetched to me. Surely this can't be the way things work (copy of
> text below)?
> Any comments?
> "I have no trouble believing that they had the idea of introducing a
> missing piece of the film later (perhaps they still will find more
> missing pieces after this), however, they didn't script and shoot the
> missing piece until later.
> This is a TV show being written by union writers, after all.
> While the series creators have a general overall vision for the story
> line for an entire season, and indeed, probably for multiple seasons,
> union screenwriters would absolutely vito a request for them to write
> detailed script for something that was going to appear in an episode
> several weeks ahead of the one they were working on.
> Similarly, the union camera operators, makeup people, and other crew
> would tend to balk at shooting something for several episodes hence.
> This is the way the "rank and file" would see it. Television episodes
> are written and shot more or less in sequence.
> The series creators are to a great degree tied to the "way TV shows are
> produced".
> Hence, the continuity error occurred."

I haven't seen the episode in question, and thus must plead guilty to
the crime of ignorance insofar as the *story* is concerned. But in
terms of the information contained here regarding the union -- which is
the Writers Guild of America -- and at risk of creating yet one more
disgruntled person out there gunning for me ("jms hates fans! see! he
was mean to me!") I have to say that the person who wrote this has his
or her head well and duly ensconsed up his or her posterior cavity.

Leaving aside the obvious weirdnesses and grammatical glitches of the
message -- it's veto not vito, for instance, and screenwriters write
movies, script writers write TV -- the information regarding production
is wrong on just about every conceivable level, which makes the
accomplishment just that much more breathtaking.

First, it seems to suggest that there are "series creators" over there,
and "union screenwriters" (sic) over here. But all series creators and
all TV writers are members of the same union. The division upon which
the poster's ill-drawn conclusions are based simply doesn't exist.

Second, it is *absolutely common* for something to be used down the
road in another episode to be shot during an earlier episode, if
there's a reason to do so. There's absolutely NOTHING in any union
charter or agreement precluding this. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Hair, makeup and crew members are all paid for by the season and by the
week, not by the episode, so it doesn't make any difference to them
whether the makeup or shot they're doing is to be used in the current
episode or six episodes down the road. So this bit of information is
absolutely untrue on every level. The poster is just making stuff up
at this point.

When it comes to the director's guild, the rules are variable.
Speaking from my own experience, we've often had to shoot pieces for a
later episode in the current one. In those situations, if the current
director has time to bag those shots, he or she will do so. If not, we
will either bring in the director for the later episode to get them, or
in the worst case scenario get the first assistant director (1st AD) or
the second-unit director to grab them. The DGA only gets into the
situation if a second director is brought on to shoot enough of *the
same episode* to qualify for co-directing credit, which they don't tend
to allow.

And as for the WGA, again the union doens't really care one way or
another about something like this.

Usually one shoots a scene for a later episode during the current one
if there's a specific reason for doing only have easy access
to the set, or the guest stars, or that particular location one time,
so you grab what you need and bank it until later. If that reason does
not exist, you generally shoot the scene for the episode in which you
need it, and in the case of a flashback we didn't see before, re-stage
the action so it looks like it was filmed at the same time.

I've done both on the various shows that I've run. In Babylon 5's
"Chrysalis" we bagged footage and material that was not seen until the
following *season*. (This is actually noted in the script, which is
available in volume 2 of the B5 script books, available at We re-created flashback stuff in "War Without
End." And we were *constantly* grabbing stuff shot during one episode
and using it in another for Jeremiah, on Showtime. (Only the Canadian
Writers Guild gets into this aspect of things, such that a credit must
be given for "script excerpt" if something gets shuttled from one
episode to another.)

Short answer being...there's NO stricture in ANY union prohibiting this
sort of thing, NO crew member has any reason not to do so, and it IS
done all the time.

(who is now doubtless on yet another person's shooting gallery)

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