THE WRITER BOMBComplications Ensue
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Every now and then I'm in a story meeting with a non-writer with more authority than I, and we flat out disagree. I argue, I persuade, and they're just stuck on something I see as a fool-headed notion that will crap up the series or the movie. Sometimes I resort to the Writer Bomb.

What is that, you ask? Is that when you propose quitting?

No, only a fool offers to quit. If you're not seeing eye to eye with people, they may actually want you to quit. However, in most cases, I like the people and they like me, we just don't agree. And they're in charge.

I say, "Okay, look. I don't think that works all. But I'll write it that way if that's what you want. But I don't think it works."

Surprisingly often, this gives the other creative (actor, producer, director, exec) pause. Surprisingly often, when they've not been listening to my arguments, this makes them listen. If they're worth their salt, it does. Because it reminds them who's responsible for a bad decision. Not me. Unless you're the showrunner of a tv show or the director of a movie, your job is to offer your opinion and then go with other people's decision. Your job is to make their lives easier, not to write the best script. When you remind people that it's their responsibility, they often start to act more responsibly.

Also, it makes them feel good to be reminded that theirs is the power. No one can be offended when you offer to do what they're asking. But you're not obliged to agree that it's a good idea, whatever it is. In fact, it's your responsibility to say when it isn't a good idea.

Another way to put this is, "Look, it's your money." Which means (a) you're paying me and (b) it's your money to lose when you don't listen to the pro writer you've hired.

In the right situation, the Writer Bomb can be powerful. Use it only for good, never for evil. And use it cheerily, not resentfully. In fact, the cheerier you are when you offer to do their bidding, the more it unnerves them...


Lately I've been keeping the finger in the pin ring on just such a grenade. I find this happens quite a bit as you near production. People who have been quiet before suddenly feel the need to piss on the project and make it theirs - "Couldn't we add a monkey?" and other nonsense. I try not to personalize it, but there are some days this script ape just wants to rips some arms out of some sockets...

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 10:48 AM  

Thank you.

A couple of years ago someone told me some great advise. "Don't be an asshole and make everybody hate you."

I've been an ashole at times since then, and I can't say it's done me any good.

This is a nice little tip for my continueing efforts to be a swell guy ;)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:21 AM  

I have a feeling you and I will be having several such conversations should we join up in the writers room for The Black Tower, Alex.

So, when you tell me "I don't think this is gonna work, Kel. But if it's what you want, I'll do it. It'll be a disaster but I'll do it." that'll be the moment I either slap you for trying to manipulate me or hug you for saving my ass.

By Blogger Kelly J. Compeau, at 12:23 PM  

Bill, a monkey always me.


By Blogger John Donald Carlucci, at 8:07 PM  

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