Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

May 2021

June 2021

November 2021

December 2021

January 2022

February 2022

August 2022

September 2022

November 2022

February 2023

March 2023

April 2023

May 2023

July 2023

September 2023

November 2023

January 2024

February 2024


Thursday, July 15, 2004


I've never been a head writer before. On my previous show, there were just two of us creating and writing the show equally. On Galidor, I was Executive Story Editor, but the other staff writers and story editors were in Los Angeles, and most of the show was written (first drafts anyway) by free lancers. This is the first time I've run a writing room. It's exciting. It's also exhausting.

Writers are not by nature friendly sociable people. Writers are by nature people who observe other people being friendly and sociable and then go home and make fun of them on paper. TV writers have to be much more friendly and sociable than novelists; TV writers have to have the most social skills of any writers alive, really, except for gossip columnists. But they are still artists, full of pride, a little touchy. And when writers are angry or upset, they generally can't concentrate on their work. In fact when TV writers are angry or upset, their being friendly and sociable means they vent like crazy for hours. Often hilariously. But no writing gets done. A graphic artist can do their thing angry, but when the writing staff gets in an interpersonal jam, no work gets done. As Head Writer, I'm responsible for nudging people back to a state where they want to get work done again.

We have pretty high morale in our writing room. I've made a point that we don't talk about what idea came from whom. In a previous situation I worked with someone who always made a point about which idea came from them, and it was a big fat waste of time. I don't believe that the person who first articulates an idea in a writing room has a right to claim it as their own. The conversation that lead up to the idea is just as important, as is the conversation that made the idea into someone worth putting on paper. It's rarely obvious exactly how the precursor conversation contributed to the articulation of the idea. But it's clear that few ideas pop up without some kind of conversation coming first.

What happens when you don't credit individual people with ideas, and don't tell people outside the writing room who wrote what (aside from the first and second drafts, which belong to the credited writers) means that everyone feels good about the successes, and everyone has responsibility for the failures. When someone lays into a script, no one person has to feel singled out for it, so they don't have to take it personally. When a script is praised, everyone can feel good about it. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only sane way to run a writing room.

In particular it is crucial for the Head Writer. As Head Writer you are the person ultimately responsible for what comes out of the writing room. You are entitled to the last rewrite. You should not need to lay claim to any of the good ideas personally because YOU GET CREDIT FOR THEM ANYWAY as the guy who ran the room that had the good ideas. Your name is in the main titles. How you manage to deliver those ideas -- because you thought of them or because gremlins put them in your shoe every morning or because (hopefully) you encouraged the writers to have them and helped select the best ones -- should be irrelevant. You shouldn't need to stroke your own ego.

And just as importantly, if you don't lay claim to the ideas, then you are slightly insulated from your failures, or what producers perceive to be the failures. Of course this is only slightly because ultimately any failure is your responsibility. You are the guy out in front. That's what they hired you to do. But it feels better saying "we failed" than "I failed."

As Head Writer, you can boss or lead. Bossing is no fun for anyone. Leading is much more fun for everyone. And if you're not having fun, what's the point?


Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.