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The Trouble with Showrunners

The Trouble with Showrunners

When I first heard the job title “show-runner” I pictured a young man fetching coffee for a producer. As it turns out, I wasn’t far off the mark. A “show-runner”, as I understand it, is paid to fetch plot points to keep the action—“events”—on the screen from letting up.

In the old days, we had ‘writers’ who worked from a Theme and a Narrative, two of the basic elements of good prose (the others being Voice, Setting, Character, Dialogue, and Syntax).

So, for example, a respected writer like Graham Greene spent much of his time on all 7 elements, and in fact, Greene wrote The Third Man—a great movie—as a novella before writing the screenplay. As he himself said:

“To me, it is almost impossible to write a film play without first writing a story. Even a film depends on more than plot, on a certain measure of characterization, on mood and atmosphere; and these seem to me almost impossible to capture for the first time in the dull shorthand of a script… one must have the sense of more material than one needs to draw on.”

During the lockdown, like many others, I spent most evenings watching Netflix, wondering after a few weeks why their shows seemed so boring. It wasn’t because of the actors, most of whom had to perform backflips to motivate the plot twists that the “show-runners” had scripted; and technically, the shows were proficient. No, the fault was in the writing, or lack thereof—a tone-deafness—a failure to understand good writing: “The Plot is what the writers tell the characters to do; the Narrative is what the characters actually do.”

What has happened is that Business, like a pandemic, has infected our culture with the result that creative decisions are now made for commercial reasons, not creative ones—producers are folks who can get pictures made; they are not the people who know how to make them. The shows we see on our screens contain now more sex and violence, and the insertion of these gratuitous elements slow—even prevents—the development of story. To quote the great American writer John Cheever:

“I don’t work with plots. I work with intuition, apprehension, dreams, concepts. Characters and events come simultaneously to me. Plot implies narrative and a lot of crap. It’s a calculated attempt to hold the reader’s interest at the sacrifice of moral conviction. Of course, one doesn’t want to be boring… one needs an element of suspense. But a good narrative is a rudimentary structure, rather like a kidney.”

Perhaps one day producers will “get woke” and invite the ‘writer’ in again to participate in telling us our stories; while Netflix and others, having bored the audience silly, are tossed into the dustbin of cultural history.

Barry Healey © All Rights Reserved June 2020




Scenario For a Modern
Major Motion (Western-type) Picture

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So here’s the story a’ all the trouble what happened when the books came to Sexy Gulch.
A’ course that were back in the days afore folks was starin’ at the internetty all day. In them days, Sexy Gulch… what were known as Dentonville… were a right peaceful place… ‘cept for the usual gunplay an’ killin’. It weren’t till Miss Abigail DuWright, the town Librarian an’ a fine upstanding’ young woman, sent fer some books back East that caused some ruckus. When them books arrived, Miss Abigail were showin’em to everybody what come t’the Library, pointing out that Jesus were a liberal, an’ a socialist, an’ how he were preachin’ the Golden Rule, an’ givin’ the inheritance tax to the meek, an’ tellin’ the money changers… them bankers… that they was runnin’ whatchya a ‘thieves kitchen’. They’s wasn’t the kinda books that decent folk’d wanna read… like how to make a billion dollars an’ pay no taxes.
Naturally, this made the stalwart folk of Sexy Gulch mad, damn mad, so Mrs. Dumont who were the head a’ yur local crem della crems, called in Sheriff Norman to git rid a’em. Norm, who were also president a’ the local chapter of the Guns For Life Club, didn’t care fer Miss Abigail none too much cause she were so uppity an’ righteous all the time an’ refusin’ his attentions, but there weren’t nothin’ he could do ‘bout them books. He hated them books. Books like Candidee by some Frenchie (Norm hated Frenchies), an’ Knuckleberry Finn by that mealy-mouthed Mark T’wayne, books that hadn’t oughta bin where decent folks might see one an’ get all kinds a’ bad iders. The other thing, a’course, were that Sherrif Norm couldn’t read, so’s the sight a’ them books, well, they just made him plumb mad.
But the real problem were Coup, the local billionaire. Coup Burdoch (folks said he were named Burdoch cause he stuck to ya like one, heh, heh) owned the Burdoch Saloon, the Burdoch Gun shoppe, Burdoch Hardware, the Burdoch First, Second & Third Local Banks, the Burdoch Feed Store, the Burdoch Gazette, the Burdoch Printing Establishment, the Burdoch General Store, The Burdoch Liquor Store, Burdoch Realty, Burdoch Gas, the Burdoch Hotel an’ the Burdoch Video Outlet.
But what he really owned were the biggest business in Sexy Gulch. You see, the trouble started back years afore when ol’ Poop… that is, Coup… folks called Coup ‘Poop’ cause he also owned the Burdoch Sewage Works (except for Miss Abigail who called him Mr. Burdoch cause she were so polite an’ all) had bought hisself Ye Olde Pajama Shoppe, a bow-teek on the main drag fer whatchya yur sleepin’ apparel, and which were goin’ broke cause t’weren’t nobody in the desert wearin’ them pajamas.
Then one day, the Shoppe got a shipment a’ jist pajama tops. Well sir, most a’ yur business types woulda giv up at that point, but not ol’ Poop. No sir, he had a real nose fer opportunity, an’ he could smell it knockin’. He got the Burdoch Printing Establishment to run up a bunch of posters that read, ‘Is You Sexy Enough?” an’ ‘Get Sexy’ an’ ‘Be Sexier Than a Rattlesnake’ wit a picture a’ a girl weaing jist a top wit her buttons undone, which he got posted for miles around. Soon everybody in the territory was all hepped up ‘bout ‘gettin’ sexy’ an’ ‘bein’ sexy’ an’ spendin’ they bucks buyin’ them pajama tops. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail




“It never ceased to amaze me, until suddenly one day I felt beautiful and holy for having had the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I’d seen and been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude, and slowly I came to the realization that my work was hurtling me headlong into an infinite field of omnipotence.”  —Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude



Flying home to Vancouver in the Fall of 1974,  I was semi-catatonic, road-fatigued, suffering lapsed Catholic guilt.  I’d jumped ship from the band I’d toured with for four years and knew I had no future.  For the next few weeks, I cleaned and cooked while Fiona spent her days at the casting agency to keep up the mortgage payments on our houseboat.

Late one afternoon, a middle-aged, salt and pepper-haired bohemian appeared on the dock.  Fiona introduced us, and Keith Pepper pulled spices, an onion, papadoms, and a chicken from a leather satchel, and proceeded to the galley to concoct a delicious curry.  He had charm, wit, a proper English accent and worked in movie art departments.  I liked him.

Returning home from work one evening, Fiona asked if I would like to be George Segal’s stand-in.  Yes, indeed.  I’d seen George on screen at the Hollywood, my neighbourhood cinema where I often watched a double feature for 50 cents.  George was one of my heroes.
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The Sex Life of the Amoeba::


The Sex Life of the Amoeba
• By (author): Barry Healey Canada

This is a novel about passions – a passion for movies, a passion for sex, and a passion for one’s country.

Sarah Fielding wants to turn the great Canadian novel into a “quality” movie but everyone else (the sex-mad producer, the psycho Hollywood star and the avaricious distributor) has their own idea of what it should be.

Will Sarah pull it together? Not likely.

During the 1970s and 80s, Barry Healey wrote television variety for such performers as Milton Berle, Arte Johnson, Soupy Sales, Lionel Crane, Andy Griffith, Sally Kellerman, Jackie Mason, Henry Mancini, Van Johnson and others. His motion picture credits include the award-winning shorts: “Outtakes” (1978) writer/director /producer; “The Night Before the Morning After” (1979) writer/director; and the feature films: The Grey Fox (1982) co-producer; One Magic Christmas (1985) writer; Big Deal (1985) director; Hollywood North (2003) writer. The Sex Life of the Amoeba is his first novel. Barry Lives in Toronto.


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Macaloon Chapter 37 – Final Chapter – Book One

This Dell
is Our Dell 

This is not good duff, thought Manley.  Grubs were nowhere to be found, the beetles were tiny and the worms fleshless.  The earth was barren, hard clay with little leaf mold.  Hearing so many animals crossing the dell, he had hoped the soil would be black.  Perhaps it was fertile further down, towards the pond.  He started digging and almost immediately ran into rock.

Coming to surface, he bumped into a leg and, turning, hit another leg. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Macaloon Chapter 36

The Howls of Owls

With the last light fading, Malcolm lumbered up the incline.  Theobald, clinging to his back, had hoped to have gone to the pond.  He was in need of floating.  He was tired of bouncing; it wasn’t natural.  He was also fed up with having to put up with other animals.  he found irritating, especially in mobs.  He wanted to be alone, to float down to the bottom of a body of clear, fresh water, leaving all this noise and chaos behind; but here he was, back on Malcolm, bouncing along to a place where (no doubt) they would find other packs of deluded animals behaving, well, embarassingly.  He tried to remember if he had ever met a normal animal, or lived any other life, but it seemed so long ago.  He could not… what was that?  “Did you hear that?” Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Macaloon Chapter 35


Peace In Our Time

 As pink morning light began to silhouette the pines and aspen, Theobald pulled himself closer to Malcolm’s hoof.  The sudden flushing of rain had brought him physical comfort but hadn’t eased his anxiety.  He needed to express his misgivings to Malcolm privately.  Surely he had more sense than that pompous deer.  He waited until Manley and Miranda had moved off to forage.



“It won’t work.” Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Macaloon Chapter 34

Spreading Freedom

Miranda pulled herself up on the enormous rock.  Endless trees and rock in front and behind and, peering back, she could make out the upper rim of the wolf pit in the distance.  Walen and Willary stood on the top strata of rock, grooming themselves.

“This isn’t a good idea,” Miranda heard Bewley mutter. Continue reading Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Macaloon Chapter 33


Lupis park

Theobald, rocking back and forth on Malcolm’s back, staring out over the vast pond was troubled.  Leaving here was madness.  Where else would they find a plentiful fresh water and forage?  The wolf had assured them that they would “have a plentitude of earthy delights” and “a most luxurious pond”, in Lupis park, but Theobald didn’t trust Wolfie—he was too assured, too full of himself.  Why was he being so gracious, and welcoming?  What did he want?  He must want something.  No animal is generous without wanting something in return.  And although Theobald had never met a wolf before, he had heard the disquieting stories about them.  So he was resolutely against going with “Wolfie” when they discussed it.

“Why would we go there?”

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