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View Full Version : ...must be a team player...


yeehi
09-18-2006, 11:59 PM
Hello!

I would like to hear from people about what it is like to join a writing team, newly formed or otherwise.

I would say that there are pros and cons. On the plus side, one gets a job, meets people, and so on. On the minus side, is where it gets interesting. What do you say to the following picture:

The average writing team would be, lets say, 8 people. Everyone is desperate to stay employed, all are hoping to break through to (even) bigger things. The team is insecure and somewhat paranoid. Each member fears non-renewal of their contract, for they all have mortgages or a daughter's pony lessons to pay.

There is back-story, too. Power struggles, bruised egos and disputes have happened, creating an atmosphere of distrust, vanity and mental ill-health.

Welcome to the team.

During your first meeting, you keep a low profile and try and get the lay of the land. It becomes apparent that, to keep things sweet, you must phrase your comments and suggestions v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y.

It is difficult to shine, but not too brightly, to make a valuable contribution, yet without taking limelight, to have any of your own ideas accepted without robbing someone else of their own shot. Each of the ultra-vigilant, fearful members of the team are hyper-sensitive to anything vaguely approaching a threat to their re-hiring.

You keep focus. Somebody there has to be the one to hold it together as a group. Your creative input is checked, while you attempt to
'enable' the others. That is the way they like it, but pressure inside you is building, and you know you can't hold it forever.

Meeting after meeting, you become increasingly frustrated by keeping everyone mollified. You want to let rip. To speak your mind in that atmosphere would be career suicide, but eventually you can no longer sit in that room and perpetuate the delusions.

In one delicious moment you tell them all exactly what you think.

tha son
04-22-2008, 09:48 PM
Bump....

Jake Schuster
04-23-2008, 08:05 AM
It depends upon what form you're working in. In TV, you could have teams as large as eight; in feature writing the more typical configuration is two. I was one-half of a writing team that was as streamlined and tuned-up as a fine car should be. We worked seamlessly together, never getting personal in our criticisms, and always deferring to the other when wisdom reared its classically-beautiful head. I loved working in a team, and can't imagine not doing it again.

Vital things to keep in mind:

1. When something about the work or the process is bothering you, speak up. If you keep it contained everyone senses it and it slows the process down.

2. If you don't understand someone's contribution, ask for clarification and press on until you get it.

3. Trust the other as much as you trust yourself. We all have different ways of writing. We can be individuals with our own interests and passions and still be part of a great team. Understand your partner's (or partners') strengths and recognize your own weaknesses, and use that dynamic to produce great work. A great partnership shouldn't be made up of two weak links, always giving in to the other. A great partnership is made up of two (or more) wholly individual personalities with individual tastes, influences and interests. Meshing these together towards a single goal can produce gold.

4. If your partner asks you to write a scene, sit down and write it. Being a writer means writing, not putting it off till after you've watched TV for an hour. Rhythm is vital to a writing team. Respect your partner's way of working (and recognize that your partner may have important things to do: pick up children at school, see the dentist, etc.), and make sure that while he or she is off doing those errands you can be writing. She'll pick it up when she has the time.

5. Be available. You're at the gym, you're in the zone, and your cellphone rings. Your partner has a great idea. Listen to it, absorb it, get back to her ASAP. Treat the writing of a spec as though it were the most important thing in the world.

6. Remember your partner's birthday and all holidays worthy of celebration (and remember one observes Yom Kippur, not celebrates it). It shows that you care about the person as much about the work. Be sympathetic when your partner is going through a bad patch. Be not just a writing partner but a great friend and ally.

rhubarb
04-23-2008, 05:45 PM
What do you mean by "writing team"? What are you writing?

If you're writing features or TV as a unit, writing teams are two people. There are elusive rumors of three-person teams, but I've never run into them in real life. You can't have more than that. An eight-person team is not realistic.

Are you talking about something else? Like a sketch comedy troupe? That's something else, and that's cool. But I can't imagine any other scenario where you'd seriously have a team that big. Even in a TV writing room, the staff only kinda-sorta functions as a team. You're not actually a writing team in the sense that industry people will use the phrase.

A team is one unit. You take meetings together, you write together, you get paid together. You're going to be treated as one person who happens to need two chairs.

Being a writing team is a serious commitment. I used to have a writing partner, and while our split was extremely amicable, I would probably not ever go back to it. There are a ton of pros (someone to bounce things off of, it's easier to write comedy with another person) but the cons (juggling egos, schedules, levels of commitment) can be tough. The commitment one in particular is a bugaboo. A lot of teams will have one person who's deadly serious and committed and another person who starts strong and then always has something come up. That will kill your partnership.

Another thing to consider is that if you start getting traction as a team, that is it for you. Uninformed writers are always thinking things like "First I'll write this comedy, and then later I'll write a horror, and then after that--"

No. What you break in with is going to be within a few degrees of what you're going to be writing for the foreseeable future. If you break in with a broad comedy, you're going to be put on the broad comedy-writer lists, and that's how people will think of you.

Similarly, if you start meeting with people as a team, but in the back of your mind you're thinking "My partner and I will write romcoms as a team, but I have this whole other interest in thrillers that I want to do by myself", that's not gonna happen. If you break in as a team, people will absolutely expect you to keep working as a team.

Finally, consider what you'll do in the event of a split. My ex-partner and I have two specs we took meetings on that are dead in the water because we don't write together anymore. I'm 100% okay with that, because those specs were where I learned to write break-in quality stuff. But think about it before you commit: if you're the kind of person who's going to resent those lost projects until the end of time, a team is not for you.

yeehi
04-23-2008, 09:46 PM
Thank you, rhubarb.

I have had no idea what an industry writing team is like, but I figured that, for a popular TV series, 8 people sounded normal.

I based this number on seeing that there are several different writers given credit during a TV season, though there are only 1 or 2 people credited at the end of each episode.

I guessed that you would have all these people in a smoke filled, Californian room, at some stage.

Thank you for the heads up about being branded on the head with one's break-in genre.

Jake, would you really press on for comprehension in a meeting? I would assume a veil of comprehension and then talk to the most kindred spirit afterwards.

Thank you tha son, for resurrecting this thread. I was a bit disappointed that earlier nobody "spoke to it", as Washington parlance has it.

I thank you all.

Thank you.

Most of all, I would like to thank my agent. And you, Mom, Dad. Thank you.

You know it means so much to me.

tha son
04-24-2008, 12:56 AM
lol.....

velysai
04-24-2008, 01:11 PM
Thank you, rhubarb.

I have had no idea what an industry writing team is like, but I figured that, for a popular TV series, 8 people sounded normal.

I based this number on seeing that there are several different writers given credit during a TV season, though there are only 1 or 2 people credited at the end of each episode.

I guessed that you would have all these people in a smoke filled, Californian room, at some stage.

Thank you for the heads up about being branded on the head with one's break-in genre.

Jake, would you really press on for comprehension in a meeting? I would assume a veil of comprehension and then talk to the most kindred spirit afterwards.

Thank you tha son, for resurrecting this thread. I was a bit disappointed that earlier nobody "spoke to it", as Washington parlance has it.

I thank you all.

Thank you.

Most of all, I would like to thank my agent. And you, Mom, Dad. Thank you.

You know it means so much to me.
Dude, you totally didn't thank God. People ALWAYS thank God! :rolling: