Monday, February 12, 2007

In the Writer's Room

Last week, was a busy one for me. My car broke down. It needs a part, I can't afford. Things are taking off in my g/f's life, so it's hectic, but in a good way.

As I have mentioned before, I am interning on a television show. What I haven't mentioned is that I drive a fair distance to and from this internship each day. And it's starting to add up. Wearing me down. Time spent in the car (and normally I love driving) could be spent doing other things.

But they let me sit in the writer's room and listen to them break story. Somehow, this makes it all worthwhile.

And yet, I am afraid I may have made a complete jackass out of myself.

You see, I am the type of person that is very shy. I can not possibly ask to be let into a room like this. I beat around the bush. A lot. It also doesn't help that the writers are also Executive Producers of the show. Not only do I look up to them as possible mentors, but they are the ones in charge. Every reason in the world to be nervous, right?

I have read all their scripts, kept up to date with the story, and am writing a spec based on the show (Not necessarily for them, but I figure if the show takes off, being a front-runner with a spec in a medium where speed is prized couldn't hurt). And here I was... simply listening to them break story. The really interesting part is that they are down to their last three episodes of the season. So, things are really heating up story-wise.

There were numerous ideas pitched back and forth and not one was shot down. I know! All of you writers, and soon to be writers, out there gasp in amazement. There was no teacher, agent, or anybody criticizing. The good ideas would stay afloat and bad ideas would simply fall out of discussion. Very interesting. Film school, nor any experience I've had with features (which admittedly is limited) has had anything to do with developing ideas into the best they could possibly be. Usually they are deemed interesting enough to read (send your script in) or not. There is none of the back and forth to really make a story shine. In the old days, I believe this was called development.

I listened for hours, and they finally hit a sticky point that had split the room.

The problem was... I was bursting with ideas. I wanted to add to the discussion, so badly... but who am I? I am just an unpaid intern. Bite your tongue peon! I had been for the duration, but at this lull, I politely asked if I could give my two cents.

And they said, "Go ahead."

I don't know how it happened, but my body was instantly covered in sweat. Head to toe. The room was red-hot. My face was flushed. I immediately regretted piping up. I stammered out an idea that I thought would not only up the stakes for the episode, but provide jeopardy for the remainder of the series.

But I could hear it. I probably shouldn't have said anything. They were all very quiet. They let me explain, but I don't think they liked the idea. In fact, at that moment I had the feeling that they thought the idea was stupid and undermined the concept of the show. It may have. Then I politely, if not awkwardly thanked them for letting me speak. As soon as the words "Thank you" left my mouth, they rung in my head as if a judge had made his final verdict. Solid. Definitive. God, I hope it didn't come out like that. I think it only sounded like that in hindsight. In the echo of my memory.

I was truly honored that I was given a chance to say anything. My thank you was very sincere.

Luckily, it was treated as such. They very politely thanked me for my idea, told me it was a good one, but not to be surprised if it wasn't used. And the session continued on.

Now, I have no idea if they were just brushing it aside or if they really felt like it had merit. But you know what? I really don't care. I was able to sit in on the process of a television show as it is being created. Not only that, but I got to speak up, even if just for a moment. And I did so without making a complete jackass out of myself.

To me that was worth it. Especially, the not making a jackass out of my self part. I tend to be a master at that, unintentional or otherwise.

Now, I have to work up the nerve to see if I can sit in again, and this time not say anything at all.


Anonymous said...

is that why writers always wear sweat pants in meetings? (ha, good stuff here)

Shelley said...


If talking in front of people makes you want to lie on a bed of nails, I recommend Toastmasters. I'm not a member any more, so no reason for me to push it -- but it really does help with ad-hoc and public speaking.

Emily Blake said...

In the end they'll probably remember that you had the guts to speak up and respect that. It shows you have potential but maybe aren't ready yet to join the big leagues. And there's nothing wrong with that because every writer in that room was there once.

James said...


Shelley said...

Yup., with several different branches in the LA area. They basically work on the art of public speaking.