Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Community access TV soap operas

Some advice I read on how to produce a community access TV show: Quantity is more important that quality. Don't worry about getting it perfect. Just get it done and on the air.

This was probably intended for talk shows, but I don't know how a scripted show could be any different. How do you produce a half hour drama a week? And this is assuming you have a job and a life and that you're working with other people who have jobs and lives. You might have a total of only four hours a week to film half an hour of material.

The community access station here operated on the theory that they could legally use other people's music without permission. I don't know if they were right, but they did in any case. So I watched one show produced by middle school students, an hour long movie at least half of which was musical interlude, footage of classrooms and students with pop music playing. It was pretty good, actually.

There was a long-running soap opera that has about fifteen minutes of scripted material and fifteen minutes of interviews with actors and behind-the-scenes footage.

The advantage of a soap opera is that you can can have the same cast in every episode. If you do, say, a private eye show, you needs a new supporting players every episode.

But the few community access soap operas I've seen haven't taken full advantage of the genre. Real soap operas have demonic possession, spy rings, mafia murders, serial killers; General Hospital had a mad scientist in possession of a machine to control the weather that he was going to use to freeze Port Charles. They have all kinds of weird crap.

I don't watch soap operas. I did watch General Hospital for about a week once when I was in high school. I was out of money so I started walking home every day for lunch. I would eat and watch General Hospital and miss a couple of classes each day. Laura was engaged to Scottie, but Bobbie was pretending to be pregnant with Scottie's baby for reasons that were never made clear.

When I tried watching the show again a few months later, Laura and Bobbie were friends, and that sort of killed it for me. Then, even later, I think it was Luke and Laura who were frolicking on a tropical island where the mad scientist was preparing to freeze the city.

One of the local community access TV soaps was produced by a former child actor who had been on Days of Our Lives playing Neo Harrington. I read online about a community access soap producer in Tennessee who had been an avid soap viewer in the past. He was now opposed to the more colorful aspects of soap operas---the identical twins, people coming back from the dead, the supernatural stuff they threw in. These two respected the genre, and made very serious dramas.

On the other hand, you have the ones who have little respect for the genre and make soap operas because they figure it's easy.

But the results are similar. The ones who respect the genre try to be serious. The ones who don't respect the genre never really watched them and are unaware of all the stuff they're free to do. They end up being more serious than they need to be, even when they're trying to be funny.

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