March 28, 2008


Reports are just coming in about the fallout from the writer's strike which ended last month. Seems like there's lots of ugliness and uncertainty, particularly on the TV side of things, what with the pilot season being pretty much obliterated.

This from an article entitled Recession, post-strike blues grip town in Variety earlier this week:

Thunder Road producer Basil Iwanyk
said that the overall level of anxiety and stress around town is "very high," and that anyone who claims otherwise "is lying."

"Everybody is shocked there wasn’t a barrage of scripts," he said. Iwanyk, who also works in TV, said the small-screen biz is "a complete catastrophe."

A little further down the column, Canadian writer Hart Hanson attempts to set the record straight about the feeling that producers are wreaking vengeance, intentionally screwing writers and sabotaging deals.

"Nobody’s getting a big fat raise, at least not easily or automatically," he said. "I feel I have to justify expenditures even more than usual. I have to say, though, I don’t get the sense of the companies ‘taking revenge.’ The strike hurt their bottom line, and they are trying, as corporations, to mitigate the financial hit they endured. There’s not the feeling of personal vengeance behind it."

Vengeance can be a tricky thing. And expensive. With the recession looming, everyone's watching their bottom line. Or at least the bottom line of their shareholders. Sounds like business as usual if you ask me.

Of course it looks like the studio bosses might well be in for more of the same in June, when the Screen Actors Guild contract expires.

March 19, 2008

Day Job

In previous posts I've hinted at and alluded to various projects on the go without taking the time to explain them properly, mostly because I either didn't have the time or the freedom to do so. But as I sat down to write a blog about my afternoon yesterday, much of which was spent in a studio in front of a camera recording DVD extras for an anime series I've been working on called Hunter X Hunter, I realized a little housekeeping was in order.

The first thing people always ask me when I tell them I'm writing for a Japanese animation series is if I speak Japanese. And the answer is always the same. No. I don't. I work from translated scripts. What I do is called ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) writing. The company I work for does post-production for Japanese animation that's being redistributed in English to North-American audiences.

This is my day job, so to speak. The thing that pays the bills. And, like a lot of day jobs it can be a real grind at times. But let's face it, I'm essentially watching cartoons for a living, so I have no reason to complain. I've done a lot worse. A lot worse.

So basically what I do is take a direct-translation line like this:

The world is filled with mysteries.

A hunter is a person to pursuit those mysteries and precious items that are hard to obtain.

And rewrite it to become something like this:

The world has many mysteries and hidden treasures...
And a Hunter is someone who goes out to uncover them.

It's not as easy as you might think. If you're paying attention you might've noticed that the original lines and the rewritten lines are different lengths. That's because in addition to making the line coherent and palatable for North-American audiences, I also have to make it fit the pre-existing mouth flaps on screen. Those don't change.

Hunter X Hunter is an adventure story in which a young boy goes on a quest to become a Hunter in order to find the father he never knew. 'Hunters' in the context of this series, are members of an elite society of people with super-human skills, like ninjas. Or Jedi. Come to think of it, our hero's not unlike Luke Skywalker in Star Wars in many ways, a gifted young kid being raised by relatives who discovers he's part of a world he never knew existed.

So back to me, sitting in a dark studio in front of a camera answering questions for the Hunter X Hunter DVD extras with a little cover-up on my face.

Q: What's the biggest difference between writing an original screenplay and writing ADR on a show like Hunter Hunter?

A: They're very different in that when you're writing an original screenplay...

Q: Excuse me Angelo, begin your answer by restating the question, please.

A: Right, sorry, I keep forgetting...

The biggest difference between writing an original screenplay and writing ADR for a show like Hunter Hunter is that when you're writing an original screenplay you're creating the entire world - the characters, the story, the dialogue, everything. But when you're writing ADR you're just focusing exclusively on the dialogue. Sometimes there are ways to enhance the story through the dialogue, and in that sense it's not unlike re-writing an original screenplay. You're trying to make each and every line as good as it can possibly be.

Q: Cut, print. That was brilliant!

A: Gee, thanks!