15 The Operation of a Writer’s Room Part 2 from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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15 The Operation of a Writer's Room Part 2 from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

…and she tells a lovely story about one scene in which she had two — this is, of course, about the pre— the days of the Czar — and so you have lovely rich people fencing. Two lovely young men having a fencing match — a practice — and at the end of it they take off their attire and they put on their nice shirts with the lace and they walk away. And the men in her writing room — the Russian men — said “well, the scene is over when we know who won the match,” and she said “No, this is a soap opera. The scene is over when the women see their chests.” So, she was teaching them what you need inside a soap opera. So they wanted a teaching writer’s room and that’s what she was able to provide.

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14 The Operation of a Writer’s Room from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

14 The Operation of a Writer's Room from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

I wanted to talk about what it’s like. What’s the “operation” of a writer’s room and I love that this game is, of course, based on Rick & Morty, a TV show. So, we’re blending TV into all these other mediums now. You have to think about what kind of writer’s room you’re working. There are different kinds we’ve had experience with. My friend, Lisa Seidman, is a writer from Los Angeles. Some Russian producers came to Los Angeles. They wanted a woman –a person — who had written soap operas — both afternoon and evening soap operas — who could speak Russian and who had been a screenwriting teacher, because they wanted that person to move to Russia for a few years, start the show, Anastasia, Poor Anastasia, and teach a writing room how it should work. So that she could then leave and they could manage it themselves.

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13 Something’s missing in writer’s rooms from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

13 Something's missing in writer's rooms from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

Something’s missing in these early writer’s rooms. What’s — who’s not in that picture? Audience: Women. Uh-hum. it’s kind of obvious, you know, so we had these shows that we admire greatly but they didn’t have a female perspective. Hello? They were missing and their opinion is missing and I think that’s a problem. But then along came Buffy and Buffy had a staff that included many female writers — some of whom are now credited with giving it the feminist bent that it had. Joss Whedon may have started the show but now we also know that — like Woody Allen — there are things we don’t like about him. So it seems it was the women on the staff who maintained that feminist idea right up to the point where they credited the first lesbian couple on television, Tara and Willow — and that was a big step in American television. So, Buffy’s a big step. Now, here we have a room for Orange is the New Black, which has many females, but it’s missing something different. Audience: People of color. A person of color, exactly, and yet the show itself was filled with women of color as characters. So, again, we have to address that issue. We’re not getting all the perspectives we can.

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12 Kenny Johnson from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

 from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

Kenny Johnson brought science fiction more seriousness, right? So he started The Bionic Woman. He moved on to The Incredible Hulk, then V, and then Alien Nation. A beautiful show about an alien nation and assimilation into new cultures all done through science fiction. So he brought social justice to science fiction and that was a very distinct way that his voice worked. I got to be his assistant for a while.

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11 Donald Bellisario from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

11 Donald Bellisario from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

Don Belisario gave us the military on television and that is a very distinct voice in America. It speaks to a part of the population that doesn’t feel they’re serviced by television right which they think is all run by liberal elites. So to glorify our military is the thing that is very popular in some parts of the country and that’s because Don Belisario was from the military. So he wanted to express that part of his life in writing.

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10 Steven Bochco from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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10 Steven Bocbco from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

Then, of course , we have Steven Bochco, who gave us — he, as was said in the keynote, the multi-level story, many characters with different goals. He brought that to television in a way that hadn’t existed before. Adam-12 is a very basic, two guys do cop things all day. This was now groups of people. Here we had the policemen with their own personal lives at home. Later will have LA Law. The lawyers with their own personal lives and NYPD Lue. So that was what Bochco brought to television.

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09 More on Stephen J. Cannell from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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09 More on Stephen J. Cannell from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

I was able to interview a certain set of these men — actually, Stephen Cannell in the year before he died — to talk about their time at Universal and the transition from this pool into their own rooms and how they would comprise those rooms. again, all these men that I just mentioned are famous because of what they came up with. Cannel is someone we know from many action-adventure television shows. When he passed away the show, Castle, which was big in the United States — the men who worked on that show had been in his writer’s pools early in their career. So, he was famous for this ending on his show where he would type in the typewriter and pull the paper out — that was his brand. At the end of this show, Castle, which he did not work on. they gave this — colleague, mentor, friend ending — in tribute to him. So that’s how important he was to their careers. They learned how to run their own rooms from working with him. These are all the shows that we know him from at some point or another. So he’s certainly a man with a very distinct style that stood out for a long time.

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08 Stephen J. Cannell and Adam-12 from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

08 Stephen J. Cannell and Adam-12 from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

Stephen Cannell — who’s the first person I worked for as an assistant — they tell a great story when he was in the writer’s pool Universal. They came in for this show, Adam-12, they said we need an idea for the show. Who wants to write one and the first thing that came to him was — they’re policemen who rode around in a squad car all day — and his unique idea was, what if they got the squad car that was misbehaving — that had engine trouble and a flat tire and everything went wrong with the car. So the whole episode was about these men managing the tool of their job more than managing what the crime of the week was and that stood out in people’s minds. He was using the formula in a different way and that started to make people pay attention to him. So that he could leave and do other things.

For more information on the Screenwriting Research Network, visit

Screenwriting Research Network Conference, Porto, Portugal, All Sessions


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07 The Writer’s Voice from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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Srn port07 The Writer's Voice from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

And I think that’s where we started to learn that, particularly in television, you had to find people with a defined voice and that is something you could build a show around and so when I define voice everyone has a slightly different concept but to me, it’s a simple matter of your opinion and the style in which you deliver it and that tells us your different voice and I think some of the shows I’m going to mention — it’s very clear they have very unique voices and that’s where they come from. So we started to recognize that the idea of the creator and television was the writer and that person should run the entire show themselves and should begin to gather about them a group of people who could mimic their voice while still keeping their own. That was the difficult job of television which is also still a difficult thing to teach students to write a spec script that sounds like, but doesn’t obliterate, your own voice, and that’s what you’re trying to do in the room, which again, is more chaotic than I would say.

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06 The Universal Studios Writers Pool from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

With the full recording of “How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television”

06 The Universal Studios Writers Pool from How The Chaos Of Collaboration in the Writers Room Created Golden Age Television [Video]

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When the folks hosting the conference announced their theme as “Screen Narratives: Chaos and Order” the word ‘chaos’ immediately brought to mind writers rooms. I offered a quick history of writers rooms (the presentations are only 20 minutes long) and then quoted several current showrunners on how they compose their rooms and how they run them.

Transcript

But one-hour dramas did not involve writer’s rooms in the beginning and I find that very fascinating because we rely on them now, but they did not in fact — they literally had writer pools and if you were running a show — so you were the creator of the show — you would walk down the hallway to the pool, of course, that’s the typing pool, and it was a bunch of guys not too many women involved at that time and you would say I need an episode of Columbo. Who’s free this week and that person would have to come up with an episode of Columbo. The NBC Mystery Movie was a perfect example of that because every Sunday there was a different one of these shows. They weren’t a weekly show and so you had some time to prepare it. So you’d walk down the street and say I don’t know which of these shows would we need this next week and that’s — so writer’s rooms took freelance ideas and you didn’t sit in the room and break the story together and that has been something that’s evolved over time I think is interesting. In this writer’s pool at Universal, which contributed to that show, were all these men who became the show runners of the second golden age of television and they all are men whose shows have run on television incessantly.

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