TMI TV: A Letter to Ed Decter
Dear Ed Decter,
I know that we don’t know each other, but I felt like it was important that I write this letter on behalf of the entire Mortal Instruments fandom.
Consider this our plea to you; a plea that our beloved Mortal Instruments be taken care of with the utmost care and respect.
I don’t know you. But your past work indicates that I might be able to trust you. But should I trust you? I’ve trusted before only to have that trust mislead and, honestly, I’m a little uneasy about this whole thing. This is the second attempt to get The Mortal Instruments translated on screen and, for all intents and purposes, this is 2nd down and 1 on the 1-yard line. Please don’t be the Seattle Seahawks and throw the ball on the 1-yard line. Go with what has proven to work and run the ball (excuse the sports metaphor, I honestly couldn’t help myself).
I may not know anything about running a television show, but I do know fandoms and this one in particular. So let me share my wisdom with you. Here are some things you need to consider:
Keep It Faithful
I have no idea if you’ve read any of my TMI TV Tuesday articles (or if you’re even reading this letter right now), but every week I stress the importance of staying faithful to the source material. I know I’ve said this countless times, but that is the most important factor in translating this story onto screen. You may not think it doesn’t matter whether or not the characters look and act like their book counterparts or have the same emotional journey or the story take place in New York City (which is a character in its own right), but those things are not only incredibly important to the fans but to the story itself. Sure, I know this show will attract new viewers who potentially have never read the books (what a travesty!), but you have this massive fan base already intact ready to take this journey with you. And we’re a passionate yet opinionated fan base that has the power to make this show known. You literally have us in the palm of your hands. All we’re asking is that you give us a reason to stay on the ride instead of bowing out because we don’t care for the unexpected twists and turns.
Make the Changes Acceptable
Here’s the thing, I’m no idiot. I know there are going to be changes, as there should be. This is a different medium through which the story is being told. And this is your vision of this story. But there is a fine line between acceptable changes and drastic changes that will piss the preexisting fandom off. This is where knowing the books come into play. Have you read the books? I hope you have. They are truly amazing. Cassie Clare is a brilliant writer. If you haven’t read the books I seriously hope that reconsider, because if you’re going to run a show about these Shadowhunters then you’re going to need to not only know about certain events that occur but understand the characters’ reactions and reasoning behind certain decisions. As much as The Mortal Instruments is known for its action-packed story, the strength of all of Cassie’s series are her characters. And I know the fans would tell you the same thing. Honestly, I know a good part of the fandom might react not-so-supportive to certain acceptable changes, but once they get a glimpse of how the characters remain true to their souls in the books I think you’ll see them come around. The key here? Honor the characters. Honor the story. Honor the essence of these books in the changes you make.
Make the Show Appropriate
Honestly I hope that my hunch is completely unwarranted here, but I still feel the need to bring this to your attention. When creating and running this show please keep in mind that this isn’t a story for adults. Yes, adults like me love this story, but there’s a reason why we love it. It’s a story involving predominately adolescents as they discover themselves in a very confusing time in life, and that’s what we want to see. Sure, I can understand if you want to age the characters up a bit from 15 to 17 or something, but keep that in mind when crafting the show. These characters are experiencing love, heartbreak and loss for the first time. They’re being thrown into situations that some couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams. The things that these characters in particular have to go through in this series have forced them to grow up fast to a certain extent, but these characters aren’t adults. So we don’t expect something off of HBO. If we want to see Game of Thrones, we’d watch Game of Thrones. But, hey, if HBO were the ones that happened to pick the show up then, well, I guess we have no choice. (Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen).
Mr. Decter, the ball is now in your court (once again, sorry about that sports metaphor, honestly I can’t help it). All that I ask is that you give us a reason to trust your vision of this series. Because I love it. A lot. It means a great deal to me and to the entire fandom. Give us a reason to love this show. Because, trust me, we want to love it. Ultimately the choice is up to you and how you choose to run the show. But I hope that you’ll take my words to heart and understand that that’s what this show is about: heart. The heart of the characters and the heart of the fans.
Alyssa, TMI Source
Yes!! Thank you so much for sending this letter on behalf of the whole fandom- I have crafted my own letter that I am going to send to the producers of the show because it is so important that they listen to all the fans because as you said, there is a huge fandom of passionate people who want to love this show as they- we- loved the books. Its so important that the new producers hear us and try to be faithful and take good care of the characters… Just- thank you for getting that message out.
Thank you for the wonderful letter I truly agree to this as a fan of the whole mortal instrument series along with the Infernal devices, the Bane chronicles and the new series in the Shandowhunters world.
Awesome 🙂 I couldn’t have said it better myself =)
On behalf of your fellow Shadowhunter brothers and sisters, thank you for writing this for the fandom.
Well, if you want him to read it, send it to him.I emailed the studio Constantin about this and got a reply.
@mindy, do you mind sharing what correspondence you receive from Constantin. I’m sure we all curious. !
WOW what a great letter. TMI is my favourite set of books ever and have read them a number of times. I love watching the movie but it is not the film of the book and I don’t blame the cast in any way because they only played it the way it was written. After reading your letter and I hope Ed has too I am once again ever hopeful. Thank you Alyssa from the bottom of my heart.
I can see you were trying to be polite, but I think this letter comes across as quite patronising and passive-agressive. For example, “Have you read the books? I hope you have” is a pretty insulting thing to say to a professional showrunner. How much faith can you have in the man if you feel the need to publicly ask him that? Also, writing “the choice is up to you” but he should “take my words to heart” comes across as manipulative. If I was Ed Decter and I got this letter, I would not be inclined to reach out to the fans and collaborate with them. I would feel like I was being criticised for something I hadn’t even done yet by someone who hadn’t even given me a chance. Previous TMI Tuesdays have been excellent; they have been clear, upfront and fair. This letter comes across as contemptuous. You should embrace Ed Decter and invite him into the fan community, not assume that he’s going to screw stuff up. You need Ed Decter ON YOUR SIDE.
I completely agree. This letter was an embarrasment. I can’t believe she wrote that she is writing the letter on behalf of the entire fandom. I am part of the fandom, and I would never have sent a letter like that. This man is a professional, and the letter, especially the introductory paragraph, sounds like a young girl trying to write her first emo YA novel. “But your past work indicates that I might be able to trust you. But should I trust you? I’ve trusted before only to have that trust mislead…”
Also, he doesn’t care that you like sports. And you could have helped yourself from including those sports references, its called writing professional and proof reading.
And this statement: “But, hey, if HBO were the ones that happened to pick the show up then, well, I guess we have no choice. (Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen).”
We should be honored if HBO picked up our show! Just because HBO also does Game of Thrones doesn’t mean TMI will suddenly start copying GoT. They are completely different stories.
Overall it was a childish and rude letter, incorrectly stating to be on behalf of the entire TMI fandom.
Although I agree that the letter may have come across as childish and rude, the very same studio who made the movie will also be responsible for making the TV series. Granted, we will have a different producer/showrunner, but a lot of fans were hurt by the sheer number of changes between the books and the movie.
To show that we can still have hope in a good end result, though, let me address one of them. In the movie, Clary ends up with the Mortal Cup, whereas in the book she doesn’t. It’s pretty clear why this was done — the studio didn’t want to end the movie on a down note where it would seem like the main characters lost more than they won. In a TV series, on the other hand, there wouldn’t be the same need to make such a drastic change, so let’s give Mr. Decter some credit to know how to adapt a TV series. He’s already had experience with a few other reasonably successful TV series under his belt (check his IMDB page).
I have a pretty good feeling that TMI the TV series will get a lot of things right, but I do want to emphasize that we, the fans, would deeply appreciate racially accurate casting, as well as acknowledging characters’ sexuality without using it to define them.
One other potential pitfall is that, even though the book series includes a lot of biblical references, religious motifs, etc., Jace comments that, though his late father believed in God, he feels on his own where God is concerned. Please do NOT overemphasize this, as it can easily turn off a certain segment of viewers. Simon is Jewish and it looks like Raphael (prior to being a vampire) was Catholic, so please don’t use the show as a vehicle to criticize religion. Jace’s viewpoint is just one viewpoint among many in the characters, so please keep it that way.
By the way, one minor pet peeve from the book itself (and spoiler alert for anyone who might not have read it yet). Clary asks if Alec is gay when it seemed — to me anyway — that there was hardly any evidence to go on that he was. BEFORE Clary asks, please make it a little more obvious? Let the viewers actually see what Clary sees, to come to this conclusion.
To wrap up, yes, I’m sure there will be changes. Changes for pacing, changes so that content fits into 45-minute (or however long) episodes, even changes to update technology (and cultural references) — since the series was originally set in 2007, before the advent of smart phones, for instance. I still have a lot of confidence in Mr. Decter’s abilities as a showrunner, though. I think it’s possible to successfully translate this book series to TV and please existing fans while garnering a new audience as well.
When I first read this letter, I interpreted it as a veiled threat. It sounded like your were giving Ed Decter an ultimatum: do exactly what I say or suffer the consequences. In my opinion, that’s not a particularly effective approach to take with a professional TV showrunner – it’s more like the approach a passive-aggressive person would use to manipulate their spouse.
In the weeks since this letter was published, the “consequences” I feared have indeed materialized: TMI Source has become increasingly negative about absolutely everything related to the TV show (and has influenced numerous fans to adopt similarly negative attitudes) even though the TV show isn’t even in production yet. This excessively negative approach is alienating a lot of fans. If it continues much longer, there is a real danger of a rift forming in the fan community. If a rift does form, it will be the silliest rift of all time – between people who are prejudging an unproduced TV show and those who merely want to wait and see before passing judgement.
I understand why TMI Source has taken a different tact. When the film was in production, TMI Source did the professional, classy thing: the site was consistently positive, optimistic and reasonable. Unfortunately. that approach didn’t save the movie from deviating significantly from the book and being pretty underwhelming/awful. I can see why many fans might be thinking, if we can’t trust producers to be faithful to our beloved books, let’s show them how much power and influence we fans actually have. There are already rumblings of a fan boycott. But I don’t think that approach is going to work at all. The TV production crew are not our enemies. They are the custodians of this franchise. They can’t be browbeaten into loving it. The more negative the fans are, the less they can be relied upon as viewing audiences. If fans can’t be relied upon to actually watch the show, then why should the showrunners cater to them? In other words, the more negative you are, the more likely the showrunners will dismiss your criticisms and gear the show towards general audiences.
If you honestly want the TV show to be more faithful, then you need to start discussing WHY you love the books AS THEY ARE to prove to people like Ed Decter that the things he is changing are actually much more significant than he previously thought. Stop all this negativity and manipulation. Show Ed Decter why you love TMI.
I would agree with that, but with the additional proviso that the fans don’t have a unified voice. Some people find not aging up the characters to be extremely important, while others don’t. Some people find inserting new characters like Natalie from the get-go to be a major turn-off, while others don’t. And some people are unreasonably demanding that the original cast MUST return for them to be even willing to give the show a chance, something that’s just not going to happen even if Constantin wanted it that way — which they don’t.
Given what’s been said recently, that TMI Source and Fangirlish were both involved in talking directly to Constantin about their concerns over the original movie — concerns which were, for all intents and purposes, basically ignored — there’s a lack of trust on their part that things will be better this time. Even so, what you’re saying about alienating Ed Decter before things even get started is absolutely true.
We as fans do need to be more unified, and also we as fans do need to accept that everything we might want to happen, isn’t likely to happen, because not everyone wants the same things and not all of our wants and desires are reasonable or likely.
Whether some of us may like it or not, Ed Decter *is* the showrunner. Constantin paid for the rights to do with TMI whatever they want. But one accomplishes more with honey than with vinegar, so it’s in our best interest to 1) get behind someone with the power to make a difference, like TMI Source or Fangirlish, and 2) keep positive as much as possible, despite the very legitimate reasons we might have for not trusting Constantin and Ed Decter to get it right.
I agree that many fans aren’t being realistic about several necessary changes. Partly, I think this is because book-to-TV-show adaptations are much less common than book-to-movie adaptations. With book-to-movie adaptations, most fans begrudgingly accept that because of time constraints minor characters will have to be cut, subplots will have to be eliminated, character backstories will be ignored, the central plot will be simplified, the complex world will be diminished, etc. But book-to-TV adaptations work in the opposite direction: supporting characters are ADDED, the timeline is EXTENDED, character arcs are EMBELLISHED, standalone plots are INVENTED, etc. Fans aren’t in that frame of mind yet.
So far, almost all of the changes I’ve read about are totally expected, unremarkable changes necessary to ensure there is enough material to sustain a whole season of TV. A conventional US TV show of 23 episodes is a LOT of time to fill. As this will be an arc-based TV show, characters will need to undergo a lot of growth/development in that time to keep things from getting repetitive. For example, giving Simon a girlfriend and making him an accounting student mean that he has more room to grow into his character over the whole season. Just because he has a girlfriend in episode 1, it doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily have one in episode 10, does it? Just because he’s an accounting student in episode 1, it doesn’t mean he’ll still be one in episode 20, does it? I personally believe the Simon/Natalie relationship will be highly dysfunctional because Simon is in love with Clary, and that Natalie’s ultimate purpose is to be fridged (that is, killed her mid-way through the season to create drama, raise the stakes and motivate the heroes). I also think they might be planning to make Jace more of a creepy jerk at the start of the season so that he can grow into the likable character from the books after he meets Clary. Making the characters more dynamic isn’t bad: it adds depth and strengthens relationships. I also think that the most faithful episodes of the TV show are likely to be the season finale when events will play out as close to the book as possible to setup the second season – after all, the producers have expressed a genuine interest in making six seasons, one for each book. Judging the faithfulness of this show by the events of Episode 1 is quite naive – Episode 1 is likely to be the LEAST faithful of all the episodes because the character will all be one or two steps backwards on their character journeys.
The same goes for “CIA operative” rumor. The plot of the book will fill maybe 8 episodes, the rest will almost certainly be standalone monster-of-the-week episodes. There needs to be a logical reason why the gang are investigating a demon every other week: giving them more authority/jurisdiction is totally logical. They ARE like CIA operatives, only they don’t hunt terrorists, they hunt demons. The only reason this isn’t a big part of the books is because they are so focused on Valentine’s big plans. If Valentine disappeared for a while, Clary probably would be regularly spending her nights cruising clubs with Jace, hunting down rogue demons like some sort of supernatural detective. Another rumor involves a TV bulletin about a demonic killer who has killed 7 people – creating a secondary villain is expected in a TV show. Many arc-based TV shows have “Little Bads” (villains who create havoc in the first half of the season before being eliminated) and “Big Bads” (the ultimate villain who creates havoc in the second half of the season).
I also think making the characters older is necessary. Conventional US TV shows happen in real time, that is, one week of the real world = one week in show time. Characters have birthdays every season, there are Halloween episodes, Thanksgiving episodes, Christmas episodes, etc. It’s impossible for 15 year-old Clary, whose mother has just been abducted, to exist in that sort of time frame. She’d be put into foster care, she’d be at school all the time, – those are boring mundane things that don’t have any place in this TV show. The reason why people love TMI is because of the supernatural world, not because they want to watch Clary do her biology homework or fight with her foster siblings. Something has to change to avoid all that – making Clary a couple of years older isn’t unnecessary; it’s the simplest and most elegant way of solving that problem.
Having said all this, there are a couple of changes that appear like genuine creative choices on the TV showrunner’s part. For example, adding more sex to the show. Whether that is a good or bad is totally a matter of personal opinion. It’s also something that couple be easily changed if there was enough pressure from the fan community. But the showrunners are unlikely to budge on the other deviations because they are necessary for the TV format to work. I think fans would be better off accepting the things that have been changed to ensure the TV show functions, and instead focus on the things that could be changed – keeping in mind that we should give the TV show a chance first.
TV shows, after all, can change dramatically over the course of just one season and can totally reinvent themselves from one season to the next. The TV show doesn’t need to be perfect right from the start – it’s a work in progress. MANY shows take a little while to find their feet. The showrunners will listen to genuine feedback once it starts airing and adjust accordingly. This isn’t like the movie. When they made the movie, everything they changed was set in stone before they started production. But with the TV show later episodes will still be being written as early episodes go to air. Viewers will have weekly opportunities to weigh in on whether it’s heading in the right direction or not.