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Lawrence G. Dittilio and Harlan Ellison

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  • Lawrence G. Dittilio and Harlan Ellison

    What exactly do executive story editors and conceptual consultants do? Were these just honorary titles or were these actual important jobs that they did on every episode?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Delenn_of_Mir View Post
    What exactly do executive story editors and conceptual consultants do? Were these just honorary titles or were these actual important jobs that they did on every episode?
    Definitely not honorary titles. B5 didn't have the budget for people who didn't work hard.

    Larry DiTillio was quite influential in fleshing out the B5 universe. He created a document with information about the different aliens of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds which went into detail about their social cultural and physical aspects. I can't be sure, but I think JMS probably consulted this when he was writing "Secrets of the Soul" with the Hyach. And while JMS pretty much always took a final pass at the scripts from other writers, Larry was very involved in working with them.

    Harlan is a little harder to pin down as JMS has said that he was a 'free-floating agent of chaos' who did whatever he wanted.

    Originally posted by JMS
    Yes, Harlan and I are friends. His role on the show is whatever he
    wants it to be, as he wants it to be. He describes it as being a mad dog
    nipping at my ankles. I describe him as alternatively a free-floating
    agent of chaos, or Jiminy Cricket, depending.

    jms
    Originally posted by JMS
    Harlan is our conceptual consultant. His job is to sit perched on
    my shoulder like Jiminy Cricket and point out to me the chuckholes,
    detours, and disasters-in-the-making that I might otherwise stumble into
    as I galumph my way through this show...and to harangue me and keep me
    on the SF straight and narrow and to challenge me constantly to do better.

    He also reviews stories, helped write the opening narration, has
    given us several good concepts on the running of the B5 station, and
    otherwise...well...consults conceptually.

    jms
    What that means in practical terms is that Harlan would check out the scripts and if something struck him as wrong, he'd address it with JMS. He was a literal consultant, too. When JMS wanted something really, really scary for the Shadow planet-killer, he asked Harlan. We also know that Harlan is responsible for the Ombuds system on the station. JMS has said that he was allowed to go to any department and ask questions.

    It was his voice that did the ending voice-over and he was Sparky the computer voice and he played a psi-cop involved with 'adjusting' Garibaldi. He got writing or story credit on a few episodes, most notably "A View from the Gallery". And his still-not-published autobiography appeared in Larry DiTillio's episode "TKO" in the first season.

    Jan
    "Fascism always comes in quietly, holding a flag in one hand and a holy book in the other, inching its way in. The bugles and drums only sound after they've already taken over and believe it's too late to do anything about it." JMS Twitter Dec. 24, 2017

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    • #3
      Cheers for that Jan, really interesting. Are there any other episodes that Harlan gets a writing / story credit for?
      Captain John Sheridan: I really *hate* it when you do that.

      Kosh: Good!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Jan View Post
        It was his voice that did the ending voice-over...

        Jan

        I'm sorry, what ending voice over was that, Jan? I can't remember any at the ending.
        "And what kind of head of Security would I be if I let people like me know things that I'm not supposed to know? I mean, I know what I know because I have to know it. And if I don't have to know it, I don't tell me, and I don't let anyone else tell me either. " And I can give you reasonable assurances that the head of Security will not report you for doing so."
        "Because you won't tell yourself about it?"

        "I try never to get involved in my own life, too much trouble."

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        • #5
          Thank You so Much, Blessed Jan, Crazy Fountain of Endless B5 knowledge!!!!!!!!

          I was always under the impression that Joe created everything himself, that he would write the script, and that was it and they would shoot. It's fun he had writer friends to help him flesh out the universe.

          Working as any kind of writing consultant or developement editor on B5 would be the best job in the universe!!!!!!!!!!!! I envy the writers who got to write the novels as well!
          Last edited by Delenn_of_Mir; 08-12-2014, 01:44 PM.

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          • #6
            Harlan Ellison was also the voice of the annoying rebooted computer after the secession from the Earth Alliance.
            Jan from Denmark

            My blog :

            http://www.babylonlurker.dk

            "Our thoughts form the Universe - they *always* matter"

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            • #7
              Harlan got story credit along with JMS on "Objects in Motion".

              The ending voice-over I referred to was the 'Babylon 5 is a production of Babylonian Productions and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution' that was seen/heard for (iirc) the first two seasons. Harlan actually wrote a number of funny versions of that ending which, naturally were nixed but which were published in the now out of print bonus material in the Harlan Ellison "Brain Movies" volume one.

              I think I can get away with one sample:

              Babylon 5 is deviously eccentric presentation of Babylonian Productions, Inc., with the unindicted compliance of Warner Bros. domestic television distribution.


              Jan
              Last edited by Jan; 08-12-2014, 05:52 PM.
              "Fascism always comes in quietly, holding a flag in one hand and a holy book in the other, inching its way in. The bugles and drums only sound after they've already taken over and believe it's too late to do anything about it." JMS Twitter Dec. 24, 2017

              Comment


              • #8
                A few elaborations:

                Ellison only spoke the end-of-episode fine print for the first half of season two (after which it was discontinued). George Johnsen had done it in season one.

                Incidentally, Ellison's "Conceptual Consultant" title was created to describe his contribution to Babylon 5. He'd previously served as "Creative Consultant" on the 1985 incarnation of The Twilight Zone, an already (in the mid-80s) ambiguous designation that continues to grow more vague with each passing year.

                In television, "Executive Story Editor" is really more of a rank than an occupation. When a writer is staffed on a television series--employed full time to write for that show, rather than wandering from series to series as a freelance contributor--s/he enters a progression of increasing responsibility toward that show.

                After a year as a staff writer, they can expect a promotion to Story Editor, with Executive Story Editor coming in their third season. These are minor promotions that translate to a little more money, but not much more in the way of responsibility. Think of them as enlisted personnel in the military.

                (In the 1950s and 1960s--before the roles of writer and producer in television were fused together--a story editor was generally a salaried writer who interfaced with freelance writers on the producers behalf. This was the case on Star Trek [1966-9], and--despite changes in the industry--still held true on Babylon 5, with DiTillio often riding herd on freelance scripts [like "Survivors" and early on with "By Any Means Necessary"] or contributing last-minute replacements ["Eyes"] when other scripts fell through.)

                Fourth-year writers are typically promoted to Co-Producers (like an ensign in Earthforce). In the film and television business "co-" means "not-". Nevertheless, a co-producer might get a parking spot adjacent to the office rather than in the lot's parking structure.

                Producer (lieutenant), Supervising Producer (lieutenant commander), Co-Executive Producer (commander), and Executive Producer (captain) round out the titles one amasses as a writer in television. Once they hit Executive Producer, a writer can typically develop and pitch their own shows to studios and networks. If one of those shows gets the greenlight, they become the showrunner (or commanding officer) for that series.

                I suppose you could bring admirals into the metaphor for showrunners with multiple series on the air at once; Admiral Joss Whedon oversaw Captains Marti Noxon (Buffy) and Tim Minear (Firefly) as well as Commander Jeff Bell (Angel) during the 2002-3 television season.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by JasonDavis View Post
                  Ellison only spoke the end-of-episode fine print for the first half of season two (after which it was discontinued). George Johnsen had done it in season one.
                  Oops! Thanks for the correction.

                  Incidentally, Ellison's "Conceptual Consultant" title was created to describe his contribution to Babylon 5. He'd previously served as "Creative Consultant" on the 1985 incarnation of The Twilight Zone, an already (in the mid-80s) ambiguous designation that continues to grow more vague with each passing year.
                  I'd forgotten that part...if I knew it at all.

                  Cool stuff, thanks.

                  Jan
                  "Fascism always comes in quietly, holding a flag in one hand and a holy book in the other, inching its way in. The bugles and drums only sound after they've already taken over and believe it's too late to do anything about it." JMS Twitter Dec. 24, 2017

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JasonDavis View Post
                    A few elaborations:

                    Ellison only spoke the end-of-episode fine print for the first half of season two (after which it was discontinued). George Johnsen had done it in season one.

                    Incidentally, Ellison's "Conceptual Consultant" title was created to describe his contribution to Babylon 5. He'd previously served as "Creative Consultant" on the 1985 incarnation of The Twilight Zone, an already (in the mid-80s) ambiguous designation that continues to grow more vague with each passing year.

                    In television, "Executive Story Editor" is really more of a rank than an occupation. When a writer is staffed on a television series--employed full time to write for that show, rather than wandering from series to series as a freelance contributor--s/he enters a progression of increasing responsibility toward that show.

                    After a year as a staff writer, they can expect a promotion to Story Editor, with Executive Story Editor coming in their third season. These are minor promotions that translate to a little more money, but not much more in the way of responsibility. Think of them as enlisted personnel in the military.

                    (In the 1950s and 1960s--before the roles of writer and producer in television were fused together--a story editor was generally a salaried writer who interfaced with freelance writers on the producers behalf. This was the case on Star Trek [1966-9], and--despite changes in the industry--still held true on Babylon 5, with DiTillio often riding herd on freelance scripts [like "Survivors" and early on with "By Any Means Necessary"] or contributing last-minute replacements ["Eyes"] when other scripts fell through.)

                    Fourth-year writers are typically promoted to Co-Producers (like an ensign in Earthforce). In the film and television business "co-" means "not-". Nevertheless, a co-producer might get a parking spot adjacent to the office rather than in the lot's parking structure.

                    Producer (lieutenant), Supervising Producer (lieutenant commander), Co-Executive Producer (commander), and Executive Producer (captain) round out the titles one amasses as a writer in television. Once they hit Executive Producer, a writer can typically develop and pitch their own shows to studios and networks. If one of those shows gets the greenlight, they become the showrunner (or commanding officer) for that series.

                    I suppose you could bring admirals into the metaphor for showrunners with multiple series on the air at once; Admiral Joss Whedon oversaw Captains Marti Noxon (Buffy) and Tim Minear (Firefly) as well as Commander Jeff Bell (Angel) during the 2002-3 television season.


                    This is so interesting!!!! Thanks I've done stories in my head about tv writers but I never knew how it actually worked. I always wondered what all those producers did, I never realized that they all were writers. No wonder tv shows tend to be confusing, way too many writers fighting over the keyboard.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Delenn_of_Mir View Post
                      This is so interesting!!!! Thanks I've done stories in my head about tv writers but I never knew how it actually worked. I always wondered what all those producers did, I never realized that they all were writers. No wonder tv shows tend to be confusing, way too many writers fighting over the keyboard.
                      To clarify what I said above, I should also note that there are also non-writing producers outside the chain of command explained above. They effectively hold equal authority to writers with the same title, but they don't generally get promotions every year. To continue the metaphor, they'd be akin to the Chief Medical Officer or the Chief of Security; they have specific responsibilities to certain departments.

                      In Babylon 5's case, that would include Doug Netter (Executive Producer due to his co-ownership of the producing entity, Babylonian Productions, who handled all the deal making, whether with the network, the studio, or actors), John Copeland (Producer in the logistical sense of renting the studio, hiring the crew, and overseeing the execution of the series from script notes to finessing the edits with JMS), Richard Compton (Co-Producer in early season one, supervising the directors much as JMS oversaw the writers), George Johnsen and Susan Norkin (Associate Producers who oversaw post-production), and Skip Beaudine (Co-Producer in season five as Copeland's deputy on the logistical side of things).

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