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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here's more of my interview with Paul Guyot, bloggist of Ink Slinger and one of the writers of Judging Amy among other shows...

AE: How do you know when your draft is ready to turn in?

PG: For me, the "first draft" I turn in is usually the 2nd 1/2 draft. I'll write what I call a rough draft - literally the first complete script. That is for my eyes only. Always. Then I'll go back and tweak or rewrite. That is my official first draft. Now I will either turn that one in, or if something is bothering me, I'll tweak again. Not a full rewrite - you don't have time in TV - but a tweak. That's where I get the half.

All that being said, I don't want to imply that I use that formula regardless. I am a feel writer. I can't turn something in just because my little formula says it's draft 2.5. If I don't feel it's ready, it doesn't go. This is why speed is so important for a television writer. You may only have a couple of weeks, or even a few days to write an episode. I have never missed a deadline in my entire career. But that doesn't mean there weren't some all-nighters and all-mornings being pulled the day a script was due.

I know mine is ready by feel. I'd say 85-90% of the time I felt like that "first draft" was ready to be turned and scrutinized. But there were those other 10-15% occasions.

On Judging Amy the staff was very close, very trusting. There were no egos, no competitive angst going on. We all loved each other and pulled for each other. So if I felt there problems with a script I was writing I was confident in that I could turn it in and say, "These are my concerns..." and it wouldn't be held against me.

AE: How important is it to match the showrunner's "voice" when you write?

PG: This all depends on the showrunner. And they will let you know early on what they want. There are many, many showrunners that want writers to simply turn in carbon copies of their own work. And then there are the good ones. ;) .

Showrunners like Barbara Hall, Zwick & Herskovitz, David Chase - they are all self-confident enough, and love and respect writers enough to let the writer's voice shine through. They encourage it. They believe it makes for better writing and I agree. But there are many showrunners out there who, because of inexperience, lack of their own self-confidence, or just because that's they way they work, can't handle ANY writer turning something in that doesn't sound like their own work.

This is something a lot of people outside the business might not understand. I'm not talking about the voice of the show. An audience member looking at Judging Amy or Thirtysomething over the entire series will hear and see a fairly seamless voice. But a good writer can look at a show and tell you who wrote probably inside of one act. A Terry Winter Sopranos episode sounds very different than one written by Robin Green and Mitch Burgess. But the shows are consistent within the voice of the series. Same with Thirtysomething. A Joseph Dougherty script sounded nothing like a Winnie Holzman episode.

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