My dear friend Shelley Eriksen gave a very touching tribute to Peter Mitchell when he received the Showrunner Award at last night's 2010 WGC Awards. The theme of her speech was that Pete Mitchell does not, in fact, hate you. But one other thought stood out. Once when she was working on a show with him, he pointed to a script he had written, and said something on the order of, "It doesn't matter who's got the writing credit," pointed to the title of the show on the script, "That's
who writes the show."
The show writes the show. Your job as a writer is of course to satisfy the showrunner and make his or her job easier. YOu do that by finding the voice of the show
You do, of course, bring your own talent and ideas. But ideally you are pouring all your talent and ideas into telling stories in the voice of the show
I had an interesting experience on ep. 1.06 of NAKED JOSH, where I wanted to do an episode with a certain tone, and it became clear that the ship had already sailed on the tone, and I was trying to write an episode that was not the show. Even though I was the co-creator, I had to acknowledge that what the show wanted took priority over what I wanted.
The show writes the show.
Labels: Crafty TV Writing
I think this is my favorite post so far. It sums up, for me, why shows die. When you feel the writer's hand twisting, turning, modifying the show in directions the show doesn't want to go, well that's when shows get canceled. At least, from my standpoint as a viewer. Heroes is a good example. Season 1, very specific and intriguing tone/voice. Everything after, all over the place.
I don't have the good fortune of knowing Shelley Eriksen as you do, Alex, but it was one of the big takehomes I had from that night, as a writer just starting out it really hit home. It's on a sticky note in my office and I'll refer to it often. I feel lucky to have been given this nugget so early.
Totally! I'm focusing on specs right now - I feel like a medium, channeling characters from the show as if they were spirits in the ether. Good to know it's a similar phenonmenon when on staff.
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