Weekend Post

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  • Weekend Post

    When my partner and I started out we would lock ourselves in a room whenever we wrote. We couldn’t have any distractions. Most of the time that meant working in one of our apartments so it was easy to do… except for the neighbor across the courtyard who kept playing the Jethro Tull WAR CHILD album over and over. But we eventually killed him so that problem was solved.

    When we finally went on staff of a show and got our first office we would always keep the door closed. Just the idea of people going by or our secretary answering a phone was too distracting. How could we be funny if we saw two people walking down the hall?

    Then we got a job on MASH. By then we had worked on staff of a show and were somewhat used to being in a writers room... with other writers. It's a different form of writing, everybody pitching at once. You learn to fit in.
    But it was still a writers room. And a writers assistant sat in the outer office keeping anyone from disturbing us. Genius at work -- that sort of thing.

    The first day of filming every episode was a rehearsal day. The cast would move from set to set on Stage 9 at 20th Century Fox and rehearse their scenes. Once they were satisfied, David and I were summoned to come watch the scene and then go off and do any rewriting that was necessary. But since it made no sense to keep schlepping back and forth between our office and the stage every half hour, we just did our rewrites right there on the stage. We commandeered a table in the mess tent and that’s where we worked – with actors, crew people, extras, God-knows-who walking by. And in some cases just sitting down and joining us. We’re trying to fix a scene and some extra plops himself down at the table and begins eating a burrito. We eventually killed his character.

    Again, it’s a skill that most writers have to learn. A lot of writers prefer working in public, like Starbucks. There was a lot more of that before the pandemic. So for them, I'm sure the Mess Tent would not present a problem.
    What you realize when you're lucky enough to enter the business is that a big reason TV writers are paid more than police dogs is that they're not only talented, but they can create on demand. We couldn't afford the luxury of isolating ourselves because we felt more comfortable that way. You work when you're sick, you work when you're tired, you work when you're aggravated, and you work on a soundstage.

    On multi-camera shows in front of an audience, writers will huddle to fix jokes that didn't work. So there's a hundred member crew and two-hundred member audience staring at you. Oh, for the halcyon days when it was only the Mess Tent.




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