Right then, a few double week posts to catch up. This is where things get grindy and repetitive anyway, so I don't think you're missing much.
Week 8: Albert is out writing 104, and Chris Downey heads out to write 103. By "out" I mean he's working out of the tiny supply closet upstairs, as he likes to be able to bomb in and check on the room's progress on a regular basis. Chris spent six years on staff on King of Queens, before a year off working alone, doing features and pilots (he sold quite a few pitches, actually). While I enjoy the quiet time of solo writing, he doesn't dig it. Zipping into the room for a few minutes every hour is like a drug for him.
Berg, Boylan, Rieder and Mrs. Glenn and I plow along getting the plot breakdown for 107 into shape, even as Rieder and Mrs. Glenn shine their episode story into shape for the pitch. 107 is one I was going to write, but have now handed it off to Boylan She struggled heroically with the broken outline for two weeks, so she's currently without a developed storyline. Her writing style is a good match for this episode, and the outline comes together very quickly. We slot her in for an end-of the week pitch to Dean, while Rider and Mrs. Glen have a mid-week slot.
The big day arrives. Dean comes down to the Writers' Room. Rieder and Mrs. Glenn divvy up the story outline into alternating scenes, with Mrs. Glenn tending to handle the plotty stuff while Rieder pitches the heart. (And by "heart" I mean "Chris Kane's sex scene." Make of that what you will.) The move through nice and steady, very similar to Chris' pitching style. When they're done Dean gives them maybe three notes, conrgratulates them, and heads back to his office upstairs.
During the post-pitch buzz, Berg looks at me. "Now are you going to tell them?"
"Tell us what?"
"What you just did? Baby writers pitching to the studio head? That's considered insane. Pitching's one of the hardest things to do in the job. You could screw up, get fired, wreck your rep with the studio -- but you guys did a fantastic job, and now you've got your first pitch behind you."
The writing team looks a little shaken, but takes it all in stride. "Thank God you didn't tell us what was at stake before we pitched! We would have been terrified!"
"You mean, a baby writer pitching the studio is crazy and can go horribly wrong," Boylan pipes up.
"Yes," I answer as I fiddle with the top of a Snapple Diet Iced Tea. Damn plastic-wrap.
"As in, the thing I'm doing two days from now is crazy and can go horribly wrong," she says carefully, staring at me.
" ... shit."
The remainder of the week is spent hacking 107 into pitching shape, alternatively getting Boylan to breathe into a brown paper bag. We break the show all the way down to scene/sluglines (the white cards) along with some jokes, speeches, etc. Friday morning comes, and although I'd like to drop you with another cliffhanger, the resultant action is hardly deserving. We all went upstairs into Dean's office for the pitch (all the writers present for support), Boylan pitched out the story, and she did just fine. All the writers are now on draft or off writing submission outlines (those 15-20 pagers) for studio review.
That afternoon, Dean and Chris and our line producer Phil Goldfarb head out to check the soundstages. We're in a small facility in the Valley, recently converted over from factory/warehouse space. Empty spaces, where our permanent sets will be built, our swing sets -- out home away from home for about 14 hours a day, July 14th through November. It all begins to get a bit boggling. It gets all too real. Money will now be spent. Ungodly amounts of money, based on whatever little bullshit tales we spin out in 50 page increments. 12 hours of television in four months. That's six movies in four months. I engage in the longstanding tradition of all first-time showrunners and quietly throw up in my mouth.
Phil shows us offices attached to the main building. "You can finally give the writers offices." I sigh in relief. Finally, a little breathing room, after two months of eight people crammed in one conference room for 10 hours a day. We've been promising the kids this expansion since Day One. Just hold on a bit, and soon you'll have offices. And phones. Maybe even staplers.
But yet ... we've been ferociously productive in those two months. A writing staff's a delicate thing, chemistry's so crucial ... and, most importantly, we know all the good restaraunts around the Doghouse on Highland. There's nothing more important to a writers' room than lunch.
Chris and I make an executive decision. Come Monday, we return to the room and announce that we won't be leaving the Highland office. For the remainder of their contracts, they'll continue to work in one room, a room that conveniently heats to 90 degrees at 1 pm every day and stays that way until approximately 11:45 am the next day.
What do you know -- the crazy newbies don't mind.
Week 9: Right, at the beginning of Week 9 (Tuesday, because of Memorial Day), this is where the writing staff stands.
Downey: writing 103
Berg: launched on 106. She's called 105 and 106, and as 106 could possible be a bottle-show, we're going with that script first, possibly to even shoot first. Also, she's been working on the draft on her own time for a while now, but this is her official "launch" date."
Boylan: outlining 107
Rieder and Mrs. Glenn: outlining 108
Albert: just turned in a rough draft of 104 for notes.
Rogers: ... uhhhh ... stuff. Showrunner ... stuff.
In between giving Albert notes on his script and looking over drafts of outlines, most of this week is spent hiring people. Pre-production starts in just a couple weeks, so we need to nail down our UPM, location manager, our set designer, etc. Luckily for us our set designer from the pilot, Lauren, is available, so we can jump straight to the concept meeting. A concept meeting is where the executive producers explain to a department head how much ridiculous value they want for the show, and the department head tries not to laugh as they look at the avilable budget.
We leave the week with Albert off to do his second revisions, and Chris' script due in Monday. We are six weeks away from Production. Although I cannot yet hear the train on the tracks, somehwere an engine is being stoked.
All right, let's see if we have any spiffy questions from Week 7.
Coren: Why shouldn't the Indefensible writer talk about how his show came into being? Is it because of how out of the norm getting a show that way is, or will it piss people off, or what?
You usually spend ten years or so of your writing career gettign a show on the air, if you ever do. David Feige's happenstance could crush souls.
Coren: And totally unrelated, but something in the post just sparked a thought in my head: What's the next project you've got in the pipe for DC? And now that I think of it, are you ever resuming Blue Beetle, or is it a permanent departure for you?
With all the ... suspense at DC, implied or real, I have no idea what's going on. My projects weren't going to start until after Final Crisis concluded anyway, soooo ... let's just say I'm in flux. I will return to Blue Beetle someday, and in the meantime will do a little wrap-up post about my time on the series and what the fine folks at DC have told me is coming next from the very talented mister Matt Sturgess.
Jason: You make this whole business sound like an awful lot of fun.
Writing a television show on a good day, is the best goddam job in the world. On the other hand, there is no shortage of hell stories, which may prompt a post later. If anybody has any hellacious staffing stories they want to add to my collection, drop a line at email@example.com, and I'll ad them to the upcoming post after appropriate anonymization.
Berg: You see, boss? This is exactly why I don't have a blog... so Wesley Crusher can't give me shit.
And yet, you blushed like a child-bride when Frakes came into the room to say hello. So off the high-horse.
Mark: No B plot?
Multi-character shows usually have A, B and sometimes C plots. The A-plot is the main story of the episode. The B plot is usually another storyline in the same style of the usual show conflicts -- for example, in a lawyer show, the Case of the Week is the A plot, while the other, quirky case is the B-plot. The C plot is usually some character quirk runner. There are several show styles vis a vis the plot/character interrelationships of the A/B/C stories.
Now, these plots serve another purpose besides storytelling -- they split up your goddam cast into manageable chunks of two or so people per scene. All our characters are involved with every heist/con, so we need to keep them all "alive", or active in the main story, over every scene. That is, to be short, a bitch. We can't say "Okay, this story doesn't really lend itself to Parker's skill set. We'll send her off on another case or runner this week." Nope. Our format means you find a way to use all the cast, all the time, on the main story. That's a bit easier for investigatvie shows -- just split your detectives up interviewing different witnesses -- but ours is a bear.
Mike Cane: Now that I know who (Beth Riesgraf) is, Rogers, I'm like all homina-homina-homina-OMFG!!!!!
She does seem to be getting a lot of geek love already off the leaked pilot. Hope she's ready. Which, of course, finally leads me to that Warren Ellis fanfic story --
-- whoops, it's midnight. Next time.