Thanks to the gracious invitation from my Screenwriting Research Network colleague Paolo Russo – and a grant he was able to procure (and in the before-Covid time) I was able to spend a week at Oxford Brookes University working with the screenwriting masters students in Paolo’s course. At the culmination of the week, I gave this lecture on how writers rooms worked in the States.
Where am I going to find a piece of wood on Christmas Eve that only an angel can deliver that I can’t throw in the trash?
Audience: Christmas tree?
Rosanne: Close. That was the first thought. Christmas tree. Christmas tree is not spiritual. It’s not connected to the Christmas story.
Rosanne: Cross is close but that’s Easter — that’s Easter but you’re close. What involves wood and Jesus and Mary and Joseph?
Audience: The Manger?
Rosanne: Thank you! So I got the idea while I was sitting around the table with everybody but I knew this guy didn’t like to be one-upped and I didn’t want him on my bad side because he helped sign my contract later right, but I got to get this idea out there but I can’t pretend to be smarter than him because that will not make him happy. So I sit there at a table of like 10 people and I got the idea and I thought well luckily I’m a pretty loud person. I’m considered Italian where I come from but clearly not here because my grandparents are from Sicily. So all of a sudden I just went — Uh!
Not the whole table but the guy sitting next to me went what and that’s all I needed was someone to ask me what I was thinking right? I was like oh I just I’ve been thinking about this problem and I had this idea but I don’t know if you’ll like it… Oh, what’s your idea? Well, what if the wood came from the manger and like four people around the table went oh yes and the guy who wrote the story was about to say no. I could see his face but when his colleagues all went yes. he was like oh yeah that’s a great idea. We should — okay that’s what we’ll do. So I wasn’t one-upping him. I was just accidentally having a moment and it allowed me to get my idea out. Now that sounds ridiculous but I got what I wanted out of it right? So you have to learn to read the room. How is it operating? Who are your — who are your allies in the room?
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