Shadowing a Writers Room

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  • Shadowing a Writers Room

    One of the creators of a hit show has invited me to sit in the room for a week to learn how they break their stories, but I'm not really sure how to maximize this experience. He's a big fan of my creative work outside of screenwriting, so I'm somebody who was discovered by him on a personal level, and not invited on the strength of a pilot, through management, or anything similar.

    There's plenty of great info available for new writers entering a room, but what might be expected of someone in my situation to make a good impression? I'm great at being a fly on the wall and absorbing information, but pretty clueless otherwise.

    Should I just keep my mouth shut the whole time, or are there ways I can participate without coming off as intrusive or out of line?

    Any help from those experienced with this type of situation is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 10-06-2020, 05:52 PM. Reason: Added tags

  • #2
    Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

    This is crazy cool and we're all jealous.

    I would not say anything when everyone is in the room doing the work in a huge group, but after they break off, I'd try to causally make conversation with the writer's assistants and the lower level writers.

    But something tells me that the creator will lead the way for you... if they invited you there, they obviously think highly of your writing and maybe it's possibly seeing if he can use you on his staff. That's how it reads to me?

    Did you ask him about coming by the writer's room or he offered out of nowhere?

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    • #3
      Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

      Originally posted by GhostWhite View Post
      Should I just keep my mouth shut the whole time, or are there ways I can participate without coming off as intrusive or out of line?
      Just shut your mouth and listen. Be the best fly on the wall you can. It's not your place or your job to chime in. Even new staff writers will wait a week or two before "chiming in" in a room and they are being paid to be there. There are egos involved so tread very lightly.

      Observe. Even takes some notes. Thank the man who invited you at the end of the day. Tell him how great it was to be there and you look forward to being back tomorrow. Then unless he offers up some small talk, hit the road. Do the same thing the next day. Watch out the room works. See the dynamics of who does what. Make a few notes to yourself for the fun of it, in case h asks you any thoughts. But keep it to a minimum. Be respectful to all. And stay humble. (Not that you would't.)

      If you haven't already, I'd even say listen the the Writers Panel by Ben Blacker. There are various/numerous episodes where writers talk about being in the room for the first time and how they handled themselves. Might be a nice warm up for you.
      Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 05-23-2019, 04:12 PM.
      Will
      Done Deal Pro
      www.donedealpro.com

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      • #4
        Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

        Originally posted by Bono View Post
        Did you ask him about coming by the writer's room or he offered out of nowhere?
        He put me in a hotel downtown over the weekend for something unrelated to that TV show, and we had dinner on Saturday night. We were talking about his writing process, and he mentioned they were about to start writing the next season of that show. I asked if I could drop in and observe for a day, and he said a week would be better. He also suggested there might be an opportunity for the following season if things went well moving forward. I didn't ask about anything like that, so I almost dropped dead when he said it. But for now I'm just looking forward to seeing how they break down stories.

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        • #5
          Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

          Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post
          If you haven't already, I'd even say listen the the Writers Panel by Ben Blacker. There are various/numerous episodes where writers talk about being in the room for the first time and how they handled themselves. Might be a nice warm up for you.

          This looks great. I'm checking it out now. Thanks for the advice!

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          • #6
            Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

            You are most welcome. Sounds like a great experience for you. Hope it goes really well.
            Will
            Done Deal Pro
            www.donedealpro.com

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            • #7
              Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

              so jelly jelly here.

              props on the opportunity.

              go in taking notes. he will lead you when/if he feels it's appropriate for you to participate. i wouldn't be surprised if he even asks you your opinion. pay close attention to everyone in the room. at the first break tell him, in your own way, how you feel about this opportunity to be in the room.

              really just follow his lead, take a lot of notes, be the positive force and make sure you try in a natural way to connect with the other writers in the room. and most of all, be respectful, not saying you won't be, but be respectful that all these people in the room want to be there. you showing up might feel a little threatening to someone who might not feel completely secure in their own position. again, not saying that's the case.

              good luck and enjoy the **** out of it.

              FA4
              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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              • #8
                Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                This happened to me before I got my first staffing job. My advice is just listen, the showrunner might actually ask you what you think about a pitch of if you have any ideas. If you do, feel free to pitch. If you don't just mention how much you respond to one of the ideas that's already being considered and state why.

                Ask the other writers questions but not during room time. Ask before room time starts or if you're in a room that has an actual lunch break ask questions then.

                Most importantly treat this as a learning opportunity for you to grow as a writer and not an opportunity to staff. Also be kind and gracious to everyone down to the writers PA.

                Good luck!

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                • #9
                  Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                  Originally posted by GhostWhite View Post
                  He put me in a hotel downtown over the weekend
                  Huh?

                  Originally posted by GhostWhite View Post
                  and we had dinner on Saturday night.
                  Huh?

                  like... you're dating?

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                  • #10
                    Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                    It's a really strange situation. I'll try to explain it the best I can.

                    So, there are these things called shows, and some types of shows take place in front of a live audience that usually consists of humans. Sometimes the people who produce and/or host these shows have guests, which means there's a possibility they could be coming from out of town. If that's the case, the producers of that show normally pay for the guest to take temporary residence in something called a hotel, which is a building designed to accommodate short-term stays. During his stay, a guest might become hungry and eat, if he wishes to survive for any significant period of time past that point. If the producer in question wants to know more about that person prior to doing an interview in front of a live audience, the possibility exists that the two of them might end up eating together at a restaurant to discuss such things. At that point, the producer has more information about the guest, and can reference those conversations that took place at dinner when he needs material during the show.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                      Thanks to everybody who offered advice. I figured I'd follow up about how this played out.

                      I spent last week in the writers room for the show I mentioned, and it was definitely an amazing experience. From the writers' assistants to the showrunner, everybody treated me really well. It was a great opportunity to watch them pitch ideas, break stories, and generally just go through their process. I've always been the crazy, creative misfit in corporate offices where I've worked, so it was probably the first time I've ever felt comfortable in a professional setting. haha

                      So, on my last day there, I asked several people in the room if I could get two minutes of their time before they left. Everybody was happy to accommodate, even the showrunner. I ended up getting a lot of great advice about how to navigate the TV world in an attempt to break in at some point.

                      Of course, the creator who invited me was at the top of the list, so I sent him a text to ask for a couple minutes of his time as well. He said yes, but something ended up keeping him away from the office for the rest of the day. Not a big deal. I was just really grateful for the opportunity.

                      So, I'm about to leave, and he responds to my text again asking if I want to meet for a drink later that night. Long story short, I show up, we make conversation, and he finally says, "So, you're looking for advice?"

                      I respond, "Yeah, what do you think I should do moving forward to give myself the best chance of writing for TV?"

                      And he says...

                      "Nothing."

                      So, I'm just sitting there with this really stupid look on my face. And he's legendary for being really funny, so I'm thinking this might be a joke, but he's not laughing. I open my mouth to try to clarify, and he says...

                      "I'm going to bring you on next season."

                      And I'm speechless, but I have to say something:

                      "Wow. So, like ... a PA or a writer's assistant?"

                      But he's looking at me like I should understand what he's saying. He continues:

                      "No. As a writer."

                      Of course, I'm waiting for the punchline. But it doesn't come. This is real. And it's one of those rare shows that will definitely have that next season.

                      "Really? Do you want me to write a spec?"

                      "No." And then he gets this look like he's about to break my heart. There's some kind of a catch. "But I'm paying you the minimum."

                      I could only laugh.

                      And I think back to one of his interviews I listened to a while ago, even before I knew him. In relation to breaking in, he suggested that ideally "...you want them to come to you."

                      So, that's what I did. I had written several pilots in the past, two of which were promoted by the Black List for high scores, but I could never get more than a couple of people to read them. So, I quit screenwriting because I knew it was my only chance to break in. Sounds crazy, but I believed it.

                      It was basically a poor man's Diablo Cody sort of thing. I made a crazy podcast unlike anything anybody else in the genre was doing. He recognized my unique voice, became a big fan, and was compelled to help me.

                      Last year, a legit film exec contacted me to say she and her producing partner, who worked in reality TV and had sold a show recently, were interested in pitching me to a network that was buying a lot of shows in the same genre as my podcast. She came to me. But when I asked about the possibility of writing for TV, she said due to my age, race, and heritage, I had absolutely no chance of ever breaking in at the entry level.

                      I never believed her. Not for one second. If she was interested in my unique voice, then it stands to reason someone else might be too. That happened.

                      When I was writing features and pilots, all I did was desperately think about what others could do for me. Once I let go of that disposition, and adopted a policy of giving as much as I could through my podcast, without the promise of anything in return, people started to notice. And I became a better person.

                      So, if I ask myself how I got that one miraculous "yes" after years of failure, it was by working on my own character arc, no matter how painful the process became. I'm not comfortable speaking into a mic. And I don't like my voice being broadcast to thousands of people. It's terrifying, and the criticism is brutal. But if I never recognized the need to change as protagonist of my own story, why the hell would anybody want to hire me as a writer who replicates that process?

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                      • #12
                        Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                        oh-mygod.

                        this is the best news.

                        congratulations GhostWhite!

                        all of your efforts and your hard work are paying off. what an amazing story. tell every new writer you meet. it's all possible.

                        i've been watching your thread because i'm like, what happened?!

                        so happy for you.
                        FA4
                        "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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                        • #13
                          Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                          I take full credit for all your hard work and success.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                            Congratulations GhostWhite! It's an incredible opportunity, and you get to write on one of the most interesting shows out there today, and one of my favorite shows ever.

                            My advice is that based on the interactions you've had with the co-creator, he's enjoyed the vibe you bring. I'd use the same template going forward.

                            Also, people often get hired on shows to bring something that's missing, so never forget the unique POV and knowledge pool that you bring. Remember what it is that makes you special, and think about how it can add value to the show (with a light brush, especially in the beginning).

                            I recommend you listen to the entire run of the Children of Tendu podcast (in case you haven't already). The advice on there about working in TV, and how to excel in a writer's room, is invaluable.

                            Best of luck!

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                            • #15
                              Re: Shadowing a Writers Room

                              Congratulations, ghost.


                              Hey! You might do it in your house, but in this house we don't lick our butts. -- Mother Teresa

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