Fansplaining: The Powers That Be

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Title: Fansplaining: The Powers That Be
Created by: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): March 9, 2016
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The Powers That Be is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


"In our first SPECIAL DOUBLE EPISODE, “The Powers That Be,” Elizabeth grills Flourish on how the sausage gets made. Topics covered include how a TV show gets picked up for pilot, how a pilot turns into a series, how casting decisions are made, whether network executives really ruin everything, and a whole bevy of listener questions about the entertainment industry! Plus get ready for your new favorite ship, Alex/George on “Supernatural With Vampires.”

ERRATA: We say one of our reader questions is from @imaginarycircus when it’s really from @kyrieanne! Egg on our faces. :("


Topics Discussed

  • Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders' knowledge and awareness of fandom; Hillary Clinton's gif-able face
  • TPTB, showrunners
  • all shows are written by committees, there is a fallacy of an all-powerful creator
  • how to create a fandom
  • casting and ethnicities
  • queerbaiting
  • manpain
  • showrunner's knowledge of slash fan bases
  • Does fandom benefit from having a contentious relationship with the powers that be?"
  • actors who don't return: killing off characters rather than letting them simply leave
  • can you be a showrunner nad a fan?
  • Buffy, Star Wars, Twilight, Supernatural, East Los High, X-Files, Sherlock, Joss Whedon


FK: ... I’m just gonna talk about Moftiss now. Because it’s really complex and it’s weird and it’s hard to hold in your head and, like, you never know the details of the interior of what’s going on because it’s so political, and no one’s gonna tell anybody in the industry much less anybody who’s not in the industry, right? Cause it’s a private, basically it’s an office argument, you know? A lot of decisions get made as a result of what are essentially office arguments. Except that there’s like, outcomes that result in your favorite character getting killed. But from the industry perspective you have to think about it like, that asshole down the hall is trying to do X and I hate him so I’m going to—
FK: OK. So fundamentally there’s two basic ways this show might begin its journey to life. The first one is the way that I think most people think of when they think of a show which is there is some writer out there, he or she but statistically probably he has been working as a writer almost certainly on other shows for awhile, and is now pitching a show of their own. In which case he is going to be basically going around and trying to find partners to make the show with him who can do, well, I’ll get into who those partners might be in a moment, but he’s got the idea, he’s got, like, the pilot script and he wants to go and get this show made, right?

FK: (laughs) But the point is, the first step is, if you’re a writer and you’re writing something that’s unmarketable in the sense that it doesn’t fit in with what any of the networks are envisioning, it’s not ever going to get a pilot, so it’s just never going to come to anybody’s consciousness. So that’s actually the first rung, so you’ve already got, like, quite a lot of things ruled out from that, right? For a variety of reasons.

Then, throughout the process of development, basically—alright, the way that scripts get written, the way that a story gets broken is this. The showrunner comes up with the ideas, the fundamental ideas of the season, right. Sits down in the writers room, the writers room as a whole breaks the story together, meaning they sort of figure out what’s gonna happen in the episodes, a general sort of line of what’s gonna happen. Then individuals go off and write scripts on their own, then they come back and edit together. This is a typical writers room, right.

So then when you’ve got a set of scripts everyone feels pretty good about, it goes for notes. And then notes are gonna come from other people who are involved in the production, which includes the studio and includes the network. So you’re gonna get back network notes that say things—and that’s the point at which your hard power thing might come into play. Right? The network notes might possibly say, “can we not have the character smoke because that is not gonna please our advertisers.” “Can we not have the character do this. Can we have the character do this because we really think that we’re going to get so and so to buy a bunch of ad time and that would be nice.”
EM: OK, that was very interesting, I think that answers the question. OK. So the second question we want to ask also comes from a friend of the show, I think most of these come from friends of the show, this came from F Yeah Copyright, the blog that Heidi co-runs, Heidi Tandy. I’m not sure if it came from her or her blog partner. So F Yeah Copyright essentially asking, they’re saying that they have mixed feelings about the Powers That Be, but it’s interesting that it no longer seems like a monolith the way it has in the past, talking about how there’s so many more fan-to-pro showrunners, talking about Moffatt, JJ Abrams, and then also saying that it’s also people who work in production and PR at the movie and TV studios. Bunches of creators and producers are fandom insiders and Power That Be outsiders. As there’s movement between the two groups, does that mean they aren’t separate groups any more? That’s interesting.