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Where’s myyy credit?

by Rebecca Stay

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman

Recently, my son got upset when some of his classmates were copying his creative ideas. His school is progressive so I tried to convince him that it’s a form of flattery when they reproduce his drawings, games, or stories. Yeah, uh, that didn’t fly with him.

After lounging and eating some dark chocolate acai blueberries, my conversation with my son led me to ruminate on my past experiences as a Development Executive. I had witnessed and been privy to many stories of the borrowing and stealing of ideas. Or, as we say in TV land, credit. I kept circling back to the same question that was haunting me (not really, but it sounds dramatic): is it really about receiving credit? Or is there more at the core to what could be deemed a Once Upon An Epidemic?

Non-industry people reading this post are saying to themselves, “I don’t get it. Credit for what?” Well, long before a program hits the airways, there’s a lot of layers that a show must endure. Did I say a lot? I meant too many. Executives, writers, producers, agents, and managers get together in their respective corners to try and come up with brilliant concepts. They zero in on particular genres that might be good “companion pieces” for already existing shows. In the midst of the craziness and attempt to create original content, it would not be surprising to hear the following:

“What about Game of Thrones (set in present day) meets Major Crimes? Or Girls meets Grey’s Anatomy? I mean, it’s on its last legs . . . am I wrong?” Or wait, I know . . . Big Bang Theory meets Magic Mike?”

“Instead of the lead being a male . . . stay with me . . . what about a…female? Genius, right?”

“What if, (said slowly) instead of a vampire . . . wait for it…they’re a . . . werepire or vamp-wolf? Brilliant, no?”

Once things are solidified, there’s always someone who says, “The vamp-wolf? Totally my idea.” Then the dominoes fall. Whether at a read-through, on set, in post production . . . everyone is giving their two cents on how to make the best product. And so they should, it does take a village.

I’m going to share a secret. TV executives start out normal, but gradually turn crazy. Not all. That would be generalizing. But the neurosis stems from their participation in the process and then feeling abandoned or lost in the shuffle of all those that have contributed nuggets (see any of the above examples).

Everyone wants their recognition, especially when something becomes a huge success. And when they don’t get it, it festers inside, sometimes years, and they cling to that credit with all their might. They wind themselves up to the point where bitter becomes their middle name (Uh, I’m assuming).

Other gems you might hear:

“Title of the show? My idea.”

“You know the scene where he turns and gives that second glance, tears in his eyes right before he gets blown up? Totally mine.”

“The showrunner we got on such-in-such show? Yup, my idea. And did I get credit? Of course I didn’t.”

By the way, if you say credit slowly, it almost sounds like a virus. At least for me, but maybe that’s because I contracted said virus in the not so distant past.

I watched, both as an assistant and an executive, the almost Lord of the Flies actions that happen when people get worked up about who did what on a show. It isn’t pretty.

When executives move from one job to another or get a promotion, their bios always reflect hyperbolic credit for the success of the show du jour. When I try to update my resume, my fix-it friend always gives me a hard time because I have such a hatred for making myself look fancy. Our conversation may have looked like this:

Friend: How about, you were responsible for . . .

Me: I know where you’re going and no, I wasn’t. The writer was.

Friend: But you worked on . . .

Me: Not me. It was the writer. Well, and the producers. And the studio.

Friend: Stop it. Right now. Stop.

She was right to get frustrated with me. I just have a hard time partaking in a trend that begins to bleed into borderline lying. If I joined in, my bio would reflect that I was responsible for (to name a few) Nip/Tuck, Veronica Mars, Kevin Hill. See what I mean? Ridiculous.

After I finished the dark chocolate acai blueberries, I realized it’s about feeling worthy for the part you play in the process. From all sides. Most times, everyone is so paranoid about their own well-being that they forget to look over and around to all that contributed to say job well done.

Having said that, I was recently reminded of my time at a network where the producers of one of our shows put together a fantastic poster. In the credits, everyone was mentioned. Executives, assistants and all those in between. It’s a fond memory and a nice reminder that it’s not always ugly in the trenches and people are recognized for their healthy contributions. I still agree with Harry (uh, Truman). I’d rather be a part of an amazing accomplishment than get caught up in who came up with what. I may still have remnants of that virus, but I think it’s mostly gone.

I wish there was a joke about stealing credit. Like, “How many executives does it take to screw you/steal credit?” Answer: “All of them.” Yeah, not very funny, but I bet someone out there can come up with a better one. If you do, e-mail me.

Rebecca Stay

About Rebecca Stay

Rebecca is a native of So. Cal. A former TV executive, she recently finished a feature spec and is working on her blog, “It’s Rebecca not Becky…Or Is It?” When not busy with her duties as room parent, she’s hanging with her wonderful hubby and nine year old son. You can check out her blog at It’s Rebecca, not Becky . . . Or Is It? and follow her on Twitter @stayrebecca

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