Writing a 90’s Cop Show in 2017

 

 

4da9e0_1db93fc15fb54c9288d49c7b296207a1-mv2_d_1800_1800_s_2A few months ago they let me in on writing a TV pilot, which was an interesting surprise challenge, but kind of like getting on a bike again after decades. Growing up as an actor I can’t tell you how many scripts I’ve read in my life. I spent the 90’s reading dialogue written mostly for 90’s television – the writing of which is notoriously underwhelming. It was a good education since the well done, engaging bits were rare (limited to film) and took a discerning eye to recognize. I paid close attention. Little did I know I would wind up wanting to be a writer myself, but that’s a different story.

So my brother calls me up and starts asking if I have any ideas for a cop show he’s doing. They’re brainstorming a secondary character, female, who is somehow attached to one of the leads. So far they had ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’, so I pitched ‘young cousin with a penchant for crime-fighting and a masked alter-ego’. The story embraced that idea, as it turns out, there’s a little comic book tone to it, a little sci-fi. Suddenly the ‘cop show’ revealed itself to me to be a complex, very cool idea. It really is a cop show, I swear, but it’s a smidge of sci-fi and a touch of 90’s homage. It’s also irreverant and slightly absurd. Ir’s comedy and a drama about two detectives being irresponsible, nearly unkillable, screw-ups… and the adventures thereof. It’s the kind of show where anything happens.

So they asked me to write, and I got excited. We started working on the script with Bron Theron, the other lead. And I gotta say it ended up being pretty good, and clever, of course, but… it also turned out to be an hour long – which means a lot of filming – and the budget was, well, meh.

And it got made. Because of course, it did. Despite how much it takes to pull off any production, it doesn’t surprise me that this got made. What surprised me is that aside from getting to work with Jordan, who I already know is good at this, we ended up with a cast and crew who went above and beyond what was asked of them to make this happen, based solely on the fact that they seemed to like the idea, and like working with Jordan, and liked the script. During production, we had to deal with all kinds of crap like adapting the script on the fly to mitigate last minute snafus involving complex locations, having to make due with imperfect production settings, and so on, all with a tight budget and an even tighter shooting schedule. (Less than a month, actually.) And it still got made.

It’s a powerful feeling to have people willing to take a chance with you and work hard simply because they see potential in an idea and are willing to trust you. Keep in mind also that few television pilots go on to further engage networks to shell out money for more episodes. Even the best ideas are a roll of the dice, so actors only agree to do pilots without the guarantee of a check very cautiously.

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Bron Theron(left) – Jordan Michael(Right) – guest star Will Morales

We all expect good things to happen with The Heat of the Beat, but I don’t think anyone is sitting, fingers-crossed, banking on this being a winning lottery ticket. I think the reason it all came together is that all of us know the odds, and we did it anyway because we love doing this kind of work and we’re good at it.

Now, while sounding confident and pleased with myself, and saying how all it inevitably came together – I can really take absolutely zero credit for this production. Lots of good scripts end up in the garbage, but this one got made because of a very hard working and professional film crew.

The indie film scene is as full of first-timers as it is industry professionals, which is one of the most interesting creative aspects of independent entertainment, but also one of the big risks on any tight-budget production. You never know how it’s gonna turn out, because you don’t always know who you’re gonna get. You don’t get to have the same expectations about who is going to show up for work as you would have on a well-funded network show or movie. Against the odds, good people turned up, and it turned out really, really good.

I wish I could have been back in LA when they were filming. Granted, I spent quite a lot of time glued to Skype during the casting and production process, but it’s not the same as being on set. I ended up missing Hollywood a lot in the process and got a bit sad that I didn’t get to work with the actors. The upside of not able to go was that I got to be surprised and amazed when the editing process wrapped up.

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Zack Malloy, Director of Photography

I’m being a little dramatic. I know the quality of the work Jordan does. And I even know a few of the people he works with. Bron Theron (Primal Rap) played an excellent leading role, and delivered invaluable additions to the script. Zack Malloy is one of my favorite people to work with in general and an outstanding director of photography. And John Deyoe’s, who did sound and set photography was about as helpful on set as you can be. All of them and others are as good as anyone I ever worked with in Hollywood.

Despite this, writing for an unknown group of actors made me cautious, but in the end, they did great. We even got a surprise performance from the gracious Corin Nemec (Stargate, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose) who is a brilliant presence on and off camera. And Will Morales (Freedom Writers) also showed up to play yet another character who turned out better than I could have hoped.

As a writer, it’s to be expected that actors are going to do a different version of the character that what’s in your head, and you write lines that allow for variation. Of course, you expect them to do a good job, but sometimes they do it better than you thought it could be done, and you kinda kick yourself for not giving people enough credit. I am, as a writer, and as a long-ago-actor, impressed with everyone who worked on this. I got my fingers crossed we can do it again soon.

To reach the point of all this, the show is now in post-production, doing sound, color, VFX, and so-forth, so I don’t have access to a finished episode but I do have a link to a teaser trailer they put together.

www.theheatofthebeat.com

A lot of people worked really hard on this, me least of all, so give them some love and support. You can boost them on the Facebook Page too.

Additional special thanks go to: Matt – Skip – Jack – Corin – Lisa – Cari – Bobby – John – Will – Camille – Al – Chris – Victoria – Deborah – Louie – Rashida – Bruce – Robert – Jennifer – Josh – Angela

Even though I wasn’t there, I’m really grateful. Rockstars. Legends. Champions.

 

 

Photography by John Deyoe

Logo by White Ninja Productions

 

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