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.
Well, first of all, I wanted to pitch a show. I’d read an article about a priest in LA who worked with gang kids who were also parents and I wanted to do something where a boy had to pick whether he should be — oh look it’s a father episode — more devoted to the family he created or to the gang that was his fake family right? He had to learn that the gang wasn’t real but his own family was real.
I wanted to pitch that but I knew that one of the other episode guys– one of the other writers — didn’t like to do things with gangs. I was like well that’s stupid that’s writing out a whole sort of storyline. So I had to get my boss alone and the boss on this show happened to be a female and interestingly enough there’s one place that a girl writer could follow a female producer that none of the boys could follow us — the loo — ladies and gentlemen, so I waited until she went to the bathroom one day and I followed her in and while I was washing my hands very vigorously I said “Martha I’ve just read this marvelous article about this priest who works with gang boys and I thought what if he did an episode about a teenage gang dad,” and she was like “Well that’s marvelous. We should do that. Let’s talk about it,” and we went back into the room, where there were two guys I knew didn’t want to do anything about gangs and she pitched it and they can’t say no to the boss. So I got it.
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