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Complications Ensue:
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Q. I was wondering, five years later: is the "writing room" mentality still dead in Canada? Or has it picked up any steam since you last discussed it in your book?
I would say it has largely taken over. I can't think offhand of any prime time dramas or comedies that are still going with the old, bad system of one head writer and a lot of free lancers. So that's a bit of cheery news.



Too much the other way now. New writers have no chance to break in. Overstuffed writers rooms equals every episode stays in-house. After all, there are only 13 episodes available. WGC should adopt a rule similar to that in the WGA - for every twelve episodes of a series ordered, one must be written by a freelancer/new writer.

By Blogger deborah Nathan, at 7:57 AM  

Then the story coordinator gets screwed out of the chance to maybe pick up a script.

And with networks doing their "credit pimping" best these days -- demanding not great writers, but great credits always, the effect will probably be to reduce staffs by one position --which they can't afford.

Like the incentives to shoot "out of the zone" this rule would likely bring a whole hell of unintended consequences.

Besides, I dispute the idea that it's too hard for writers to get that first script. That hasn't been my experience looking around, and it certainly hasn't been the experience of writers, judging by the new members joining the WGC. Where the problem does and continues to exist is with writers who aren't brand-new but working to train themselves up.

Getting the first script isn't nearly as hard for someone with drive and talent as getting the third or fourth script. That's where efforts are most needed.

By Blogger DMc, at 1:17 PM  

Part of the American model is that being an assistant (rather than a freelancer) is the foot in the door to being a writer. T

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 2:55 PM  

Exactly my point. But if you only do 13 eps of a show, and they don't pay you a good weekly (which they never do in this country) then you have to have a certain number of scripts to make it worth the job -- considering, too, that a 13 ep series might be your only payday for the calendar year. So if you put together a staff, and scripts get handed round, and you're mandated to give a freelance script AS WELL, then the math of putting together a decent sized staff starts to break down.

By Blogger DMc, at 4:25 PM  

And also let's not forget the "training fetish" in this country. Between NSI, CFC, etc,...there are plenty of programs that help you 'get started.'

Again, the problem isn't getting in the industry. That's just as hard as it should be.

Staying in is the killer.

By Blogger DMc, at 4:27 PM  

@Denis -- I do wonder, though, what happens writers who have production/journalism careers first and then make the transition to screenwriter. (A LOT of people we know took this route, yes?) If the "foot in the door" is being an assistant, it's probably harder for 30-somethings to break in. Most people aren't comfortable asking a "grown up" to fetch their coffee, etc.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 8:57 PM  

By the way, Denis, I wasn't disagreeing with you earlier. I was pointing out that there is indeed a way to break in without lots of outsourced scripts.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 9:08 PM  

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