Writing With Partners

by Paul William Tenny

quill.jpgCinematical has an actual employed (and probably about to be unemployed due to the coming strike) writer on staff writing about..well, writing. What else would he write about? If you're interested in this story of thing, he has five in-depth tips for collaborating on scripts when you don't physically meet with your writing partner, which I found terribly odd. Then again I find the entire notion of collaborative writing odd. If you're supposed to write the second act of a telescript and your partner is in the process of writing the first act, how do you know where to start when you don't know where he or she is going to end?

I guess you'd have to heavily rely on writing from an outline (I despise them like evil leprechauns) which will only hobble you, should a TV show want to hire you onto their staff. I've never heard of a writing team being hired on a staff and they won't function at all once they do because it's a massive waste of resources. I can pretty much promise you that I can write a single script in the time it takes any single writing team to bang out the outline and for two simple reasons: I won't need an outline since I am writing alone, and I can write extremely fast.

1) Be on time, with everything. If you're supposed to meet online at 10AM, be online at 10AM. If you're supposed to have your half of Act One done by Thursday night, make sure it's done.

See, if he ended up waiting three or four hours for his partner to come online so they could discuss something, I can write an entire act (perhaps 1.5-2 acts with the five act structure) in that period, if I'm on top of my game. Why would you want to wait to get ideas from somebody else when you can be sailing at mach 50 on your own?

Then again, two of the most successful and highly paid writers in the biz right now happen to be career-long writing partners. Of course I'm speaking of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the duo responsible most recently for the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, amongst many other very successful films.

Anyway, it's still a very enlightening read and there's a lot you can learn from Patrick Walsh even if you are like myself, and simply don't need or want a writing partner. Being on time is something you can certainly apply to things outside of writing, as I imagine nothing will kill your chances by being late to a pitch meeting with producers or execs.
in Film, Television


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    You've never heard of a writing team being hired on a staff? Er, there are lots of us out here. My partner and I have been on five staffs, and we have several friends on teams who are on staffs right now. "Smallville" is one show that comes to mind that has at least two teams, as well as showrunners/creators who are a team. "Sarah Connor Chronicles" has at least one team.

    Waste of resources? How? Are you aware that teams split a salary, so that you're paying for one writer while getting two? This is especially beneficial if the writers are mid or upper level, so one can be writing while the other is, say, in the editing room or in casting. It's actually a good use of resources.

    And I have yet to work on a TV show that doesn't REQUIRE you to work from an outline. The studio and the network must approve the outline before you can start writing, so it's really not an issue of not knowing where to start because you don't know where your partner is going to stop. If you're writing on TV, you're writing from an outline... with VERY FEW exceptions, none of which I can think of.
    Kitty’s right on all counts. Whether it’s television or the feature world (and I and my partner have done time in both) you’re working from a detailed outline and/or treatment that is approved and annotated every step of the way by the producers, showrunners, and the studio. The outline/treatment phase is usually what takes the longest amount of time, in fact, due to all the notes and revisions you’re receiving at the story level. No studio or network would EVER commence a writer to just type away in the dark – they want to know what they’re paying for. Outlining is one of the most intrinsic steps to writing a script, and if you can’t do it, then you can’t get any sort of assignment work (the bread and butter of every writer in this current climate) in this industry. Period.

    And frankly, if you refuse to work from an outline, you’re only doing yourself (and anyone who reads your stuff) a disservice. Anyone can drone out forty pages off the cuff – that doesn’t make it a STORY. Writing fast doesn’t translate into writing well.

    As for writing teams, there are plenty of them currently working on the most popular shows on television. Not only on “Smallville,” (which is actually RUN by two partners) but also on “Lost,” “The Shield,” “Supernatural,” “Heroes,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Grey’s Anatomy” “Desperate Housewives” and many more. Perhaps you should take a closer look at those writer’s credits that flash at the beginning of every episodes. Writing teams have been working on staff since the inception of television.

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