Tales from the Industry XXXIII: Sometimes I Say No

…But then I feel bad about it at times, especially when there are good people involved. I was contacted on Thursday by a producer I know (I’ve worked with her before) about contributing to a TV show on a certain topic. They wanted to shoot this week. I was to talk in very specific terms about one issue, but it would be then fit into a larger topic that the whole episode is about, and the big theme of the whole series. It turned out that I also had worked with the filmmaker (writer-director) for the episode as well, on various things for the series The Universe on the History Channel that, as you know, I contribute to a lot. (See here.)

So all seemed fine. My concerns about the topic and how my contribution might be edited began to fall away, since these are good people… I spoke on the phone about some of the ideas I could bring up, and how I might try to frame things, and maybe we’d talk again about days of the week to set up the shoot, and so forth. But I asked if I could see other examples of episodes from the series, just to make sure that I was ok with it all.

It turned out that they could show me them since they were online. I looked at them over the weekend, and, well, just felt uncomfortable with the way it was cut together, promoted, the supporting material on the site, and so forth, even though it is on a major channel. Frankly, there was just too much kookiness mixed in loudly with the solid stuff, for the whole series, and I’m not convinced that most members of the general public can tell the difference. It’s just going to lead to a lot of confusion about things, and legitimize a lot of fringe stuff that people love to believe in, but that has little or no evidence or credibility. I’m not sure I want to be involved with that.

But I feel bad, because there are good people involved in trying to make fine documentary work, but often under pressure to add some spice to get high viewership. I don’t like this particular spice, and since in this case I’ve no access at a level that could help me change minds about the spice, I think it is best to stay away. I could be wrong, but there it is.

I hope they find someone else who can speak to the issues they wanted addressed. (I’m sure they will, since it seems that almost everyone wants to be on TV, right?)


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