Why don't studios consult experts on shows before releases?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Mark To, Jul 8, 2004.

  1. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    For just about every show, popular or otherwise, there are fans and fan sites. While there are a great many bozos out there on the web there are also extremely knowledgeable people. Some of these people know 10 times as much about a given show as the people who are involved in putting DVD releases together. Is it asking too much common sense of the studios to ask why they don't consult with people who really know the shows they are working on? Why wait until they put things out, screw them up because they didn't know any better and then have to apologize with egg on their faces? Wouldn't it be more logical to try to get ahold of those folks who really know these shows beforehand? For example, do the Rhino people even know that an unaired version of the My Favorite Martian pilot exists? Likewise Columbia and 2 unaired All in the Family pilots? How about MGM and the original Outer Limits pilot, titled Please Stand By? Or how about the cast films from different shows that were shot for the government for US Savings Bonds? I'm sure there are a hundred more examples but those come quickly to mind.
     
  2. Joe_Pinney

    Joe_Pinney Stunt Coordinator

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    Because studios are run today by corporations, and Legal Departments scare them away from doing anything creative or intelligent, and because temporary political regimes at studios don't want to give any of their rivals a reason to be criticized (like "having" to hire an outside expert on the company's own product). Lots of ego involved, also.

    Trust me, most of these people would be much better off running some other type of company instead of a film/television studio.
     
  3. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    To be fair, I can see the difficulty in trying to do this (partly due to legal problems).

    For starters, how do you exactly separate wheat from chaff? How do you find a "knowledgeable fan" and identify him/her as opposed to the "bozo"? The studio suit doesn't exactly know the material, which is the problem to begin with, and won't know which fan knows his/her stuff and which doesn't.

    Next, assuming you find said "knowledgable fan", would this fan be willing to work with the studio in the first place? Would it be practical, for instance, if said fan lives out-of-state, or in an extreme case, out-of-continent? [​IMG] Assuming even if the fan is LA/NY based and this isn't a problem, you then get into the sticky business of remuneration, if any, and other legal stuff, such as who has any rights to anything (less likely since the studio's lawyers, if they're worth anything, will be able to come up with a contract that precludes said fan acquiring any rights, and in any event assigns any rights that happen to accure back to the studio).

    Alternatively, you could get "sabotaged" by someone who pretends to be a knowledgeable fan, especially if the studio openly announced they wanted to find someone to work with -- all sorts of nuts and cranks would crawl out of the woodwork alongside the genuine fans, and again how would they separate them?

    Whilst I certainly can applaud the sentiment, I can see the suits "playing safe". Hence, no go.
     
  4. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    Yes, some studios consult with fans for various projects, but not all of them.

    Gord
     
  5. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    Mostly due to legal problems--with the remaining problem being that spending the time, resources and money is not deemed economically feasible when reconciled with expected sales.
     
  6. Jonathan Kaye

    Jonathan Kaye Second Unit

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    This is always going to be a problem unless the DVD producers already know who the most knowledgeable fans are (official fan clubs and the like), or are indeed fans themselves.

    An example of the latter is the Doctor Who DVD range, where the people doing the remastering and assembling the extras know exactly what exists and what doesn't. If ever awards were to be given out for TV-based DVDs based on the love put in to bring out the best product possible, the Doctor Who Restoration Team would win hands down. The comparison here between the transmission tape and the restored master of the latest Doctor Who DVD speaks volumes!
     
  7. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    If studios are looking for a way to get cheap and interesting extras for their discs, they really ought to consult fans. I'm sure most of them would contribute for free and would be glad for the chance to promote their favorite program through interviews, commentaries, or printed material.

    Some UK cartoon releases have "fan commentaries", which I think would be fun to see on some releases. Frankly the fans often know more than the directors or stars do about details of shows.
     
  8. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    Someone like Randy Gord or David would have to correct me if I'm wrong on this but, even if you got these people involved for free, there would still be some cost for producing this material anyway. You may get people to help make a documentary for nothing by contributing interviews, but it would still cost money to produce the documentary.
    In some cases, the inclusion of such material might result in say a 3 disc set becoming a 4 disc set, which effects packaging costs, where the MSRP is set and just replicating the discs.
    If a show is an older show, its not going to generate Friends like sales so the more money the studio spends on the project the harder it will be for them to make their money back, which is why they're in business in the first place.

    So basically, and again if I'm wrong feel free to correct, but even if the studio got the people to partisipate for free, it could and probably would cost them more money in the end.
     
  9. Mark Lx

    Mark Lx Second Unit

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    Well, actually it wouldn't that hard. Many popular (and cult) shows have had books or episode guides about them. It wouldn't take much to figure out which one's are well (and passionately) researched. Anything that's for sale, you can find reviews of on-line. You name any TV show, and I could get back to you a day later with who the most highly regarded experts are.
     
  10. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    Exactly my point. Anyone who wanted to could find out rather quickly who to go to that would have expertise on the show. As to the cost, I'm sure most people, myself included, would just be happy to help something be done right without looking for compensation. I don't know who they got to help with the Dick Van Dyke Show but those releases are the best I've seen done. Others should take note.
     
  11. JeffWld

    JeffWld Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, this thread went quickly off course since your original intent was to consult regarding any issues that studios should be aware of-as opposed to fans contributing material or being directly involved in the on-site production of extras.
     
  12. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    That's because the producer of that DVD, Paul Brownstein, is the expert and fan. He tracked down all of the supplemental material himself and then badgered the rights owners, if there were any, to give it to him for practically nothing (actually, usually nothing).

    Another thing to remember is that just because a DVD doesn't have material such as pilots and other supplements, that doesn't mean the studio issuing the DVD doesn't know about the material's existence.
     
  13. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    They have a fan commentary on Alias season 3, but I don't know how much the people were consulted in the making of the set.
     
  14. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    This is a current show and has nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion. I am talking about shows that are 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old that are being produced by people who weren't alive when they were on and don't know squat about the shows. These aren't 2 of my shows of interest but does anyone know why the Barney Miller and Three's Company pilots were put out running 22 minutes? They sure didn't air that way.
    This thread has gotten off track with talk about Alias and fan commentaries and other irrelevant matters. What I wanted to bring out is just the matter of having people involved in releases who are experts on a given show so that things don't slip thru the cracks that a knowledgeable person would immediately know about. As a previous poster said, go to the person who wrote a book about a series and ask their help, they would be happy to give it.
     
  15. Shawn_Sek

    Shawn_Sek Stunt Coordinator

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    i totally agree with the original point and ive been saying it for a couple years now. were not talking about putting some fanboy on your payroll and letting him produce special features. were talking about playing the movie for a fan who can say the sound is screwed up on Suspiria, there are effects missing, and the color is screwed up on Halloween, and the framing is all wrong, and there are scenes missing here, and you have a censored audio track here. all the things you read about in a review that makes you think the people running studios are idiots and even a casual fan can tell you its wrong. running the check disc by a few fans before mastering 100,000 copies would save money, not cost money.

    its a no-brainer to me and since these companies, even Anchor Bay who most of those sample problems related to, sometimes seem to have no brains, it should work out fine.
     
  16. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    What Gord alluded to, but seems to be getting overlooked, is that "Yes, some studios consult with fans for various projects". Just "not all of them".

    Universal seems to be pretty good at it, believe it or not. Image is excellent at it. Rhino's done it. I've seen indications that Warner has done it to a lesser degree, but I don't think they want to make a big deal out of it. Those are just some examples off of the top of my head, and hardly includes all the ones that deserve to be named. And I'm not prepared to name individual releases for the studios I DID name, so please don't ask. Go research it and figure it out for yourself! [​IMG]

    Why don't they ALL do it? Well, sometimes they don't realize that they need to. "They don't know what it is that they don't know." In other words, they are not experts on the material, and there's no reason for them to think that something's missing, so they cheerfully go along and produce and release something, and THEN find out after it's released, "Oh, shit...we're gettiing TONS of e-mail from angry fans who tell us we blew it!" If they have no foresight that they will end up in this position, then they won't spend the money to track down and talk to an "expert" that might clue them in to the fact. They're not bad guys, they are just ignorant. And I mean that last word by the dictionary definition. Don't think I'm calling them stupid, because I'm not. Just not knowledgable about the particular subject of the show they are producing for DVD. But they think they are; they don't know that there's some key thing missing.

    Okay, that was wordy, and if you're still following me, then here's something else to chew on: some of them (gasp!) don't care. Thankfully, that doesn't describe too many studios putting out TV-on-DVD product. But there are a few who are just in it for the quick buck, don't care about "archival records" of the show, or anything grand like that. They just want to make a profit during a given quarter, and this is a means to accomplish that end. I think we can figure out the studios, large and small, who fit this category. We don't expect them to pay for outside consultants. And they don't expect us to expect it of them.

    By-and-large, I think you'll see more consulting with the fans as the DVD-makers dig deeper into the vaults of their TV show properties. I think that they realize it makes for a better release, if a better release is their goal.
     
  17. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    I offered my services to CBS if they need help with their Survivor DVDs. I don't think they're interested.[​IMG]
     
  18. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    I know of a show where there is a whole bunch of material that wasn't included in a DVD release. The reason is that it would ALL have to be licensed, at large fees. I know of another release that included about 7 minutes of footage from another show - the cost was close to $100,000 (no, I'm serious). Then there's a show with a longer pilot, but that pilot contains music not in the released pilot, and no one can find the music cue sheets to know what songs have to be licensed, and the exact lengths of them. Yes, someone could have sat down and figured that out, but they needed to get the set out to meet a deadline and couldn't wait a few more months for the other music to be cleared.

    So you see, there are often other factors at work, and not everyone is as good as Mr. Brownstein at getting something for nothing.

    Gord
     
  19. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    David Lambert: This whole situation is why I e-mailed you to see if you had any contacts within Universal Studios that I could reach. I've made several attempts and never received a response.

    I am concerned about their upcoming (but yet unannounced) DVD release of "The Bionic Woman" and, hopefully thereafter, "The Six Million Dollar Man." As I've posted before, there are several cross-over episodes and three SMDM pilot-films that have been "re-worked" for the syndication versions. I am afraid that Universal, for reasons cited in this thread, may not be aware of the facts regarding these two series of theirs. This is definitely a case where fan input would be useful in presenting these shows as accurately as possible. And after 30 years, I'd imagine it's mainly the fans who'll be purchasing these DVDs.

    The reasons for my particular concern: I recently found out that Rittenhouse Archives was planning to release a new collection of SMDM collector cards based on seasons 1 & 2. I contacted Rittenhouse after seeing details and samples posted on their website. Well, I notified them of several errors, and the producer of the cards was more than happy to accept my input. In fact, I ended up writing the episode summaries that are featured on the back of the 70 episode cards, and suggested they include their original airdates. I was very impressed with how these cards turned out!

    I was told Universal supplied them with DVD's of the episodes to use for the screen-captures. (Does this mean they already have the show mastered for DVD?). However, the three pilot films were the syndicated 2-part versions, and one episode from season 2 was missing. Rittenhouse was told by Universal that this episode was "missing", so I loaned them my SVHS video of the "missing" episode. Luckily, I was able to alert them about the history of the pilot films and their correct titles before the cards went to press. They were originally going to issue them as "episodes 1, 2 & 3". They have been released correctly designated as "The Movies" (3 cards each). There are also 70 episode cards and other bonus autograph and "chase" cards.

    The folks at Rittenhouse were very thankful for my contribution. I was glad I was able to intervene before the cards went to press. (One week later and it would have been too late!) They only produced 4000 boxes of cards, and they were an instant sell-out.

    As I mentioned before, the majority of the purchasers, whether it be cards or DVD's, will be original fans. It seems like common sense that the studios would at least want some fan input. Universal has made some text errors on recent box-sets that any fan would have noticed, if given the chance. It would save costly reprints, and possibly remastering, if fans were allowed to play "editor" for a day. And I guarantee there is not a fan who wouldn't do it for free.

    Back to "The Bionic Woman" for a minute: I have been in contact with Lindsay Wagner's fan club director, and she told me that Lindsay's agent has contacted Universal regarding the DVD's. Apparently, no one bothered to tell Lindsay about the plans, but she really wants to contribute somehow. Her fan club director also told me she's been in contact with Richard Anderson ("Oscar Goldman"), Jennifer Darling ("Callahan") and Rita Egleston (Lindsay's stunt double). They are all interested and willing to do interviews/commentaries, etc. These people are all very fan-friendly. They all appear at Lindsay's annual fan gathering in Los Angeles. It's a private, no fee gathering. They are just the type of actors you'd want to have doing a commentary and retrospective interviews. They're all very down-to-earth and approachable.

    I'd still like to contact someone within Universal's DVD production department regarding these shows. I'd just like to make sure they're armed with the details, so they'll do a good job with these shows. If anyone has a contact, I'd appreciate it if you'd e-mail me. Thanks.






    Sorry for all the edits. It was really late and I was a bit sloppy.
     
  20. Mark To

    Mark To Supporting Actor

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    See, this is exactly what I am talking about. Matt has far greater knowledge of these 2 series than the people at Universal, who I'm sure weren't there 30 years ago, do. Likewise just about any series over 20 years old that you can name. Its just silly for studios not to seek out help from those experts who know far more than they do.
     

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