Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Emmys 2010 and WGA's Sublime Primetime

Thu 8/26
I attended the Sublime Primetime panel discussion with the Emmy-nominated TV writers for this year's Emmys. The event was sponsored by the Writers Guild of America and held at their theater on Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills. The panel included Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy of Glee, Rolin Jones of Friday Night Lights, Andy Richter of The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien, Mindy Kaling of The Office, Steven Levitan of Modern Family, Bruce C. McKenna and Robert Schenkkan of the mini-series The Pacific and husband and wife team Robert and Michelle King of The Good Wife. The panel was moderated by Carlton Cruse who is a writer and executive producer of Lost which concluded its last season on ABC.

Carlton Cuse got the ball rolling as he introduced Kaling with an over long intro of her credits then all the panelist feigned impatient, stormed the stage and took their places on stage. Cuse baited Steve Levitan jokingly with a bogus question but not to be outdone Levitan ripped him right back as the audience roared with laughter. Levitan has a great wit and beautiful comedic timing as I have heard is the same for his show, Modern Family. Though I don't watch the show, the buzz has them as odds on favorite to win best comedy this year.

Speaking of comedy, everyone knew that Andy R. would be hilarious with his wild sense of humor and he was true to form even doing a quick imitation of how Leno and the NBC suits will act when they meet up at this years Emmys. Then Kaling chimed in with jokes about paying her mortgage when asked about her concerns about a 10th season of The Office without Steve Carrel. The Glee guys joked about their show and their past work on Nip Tuck. The playwrights joked about making more cash writing for TV and paying the mortgage and Robert King joked about the benefits of working with your wife (or not as the panel chimed in).

The panel was too hilarious and the poor guys from the Pacific were pretty much straight men for the verbal gags and play on words of the others especially after Bruce said he went on his knees for the job (dirty minds think alike).

It wasn't all jokes as the panel tried to drive home some of the tools of the trade.

Topics discussed:
-Breaking into the biz
-how to get read and how a good agent works
-To spec. or not to spec.
-Ground breaking TV like Glee (TV musical)& The Good Wife(procedural/family drama)
I especially enjoyed this discussion as there has not been a good musical on TV (no Cop Rock was not good). I also wondered how the Kings balanced the procedural and the regular drama so well especially when it has not been done before. Their answer? Carefully. They said that they always intended the show to be like this and sold it to the network as is. The network did breathe down their necks a bit but apparently they left them alone after the first 6 episodes did so well. Now the balancing is less stressful and they are enjoying writing the back 13 episodes to complete the second season order.

The floor was then opened up for questions from the audience:

-How do you spec for such radical shows?
Ans: Write original pilots and get them read
-Ryan Murphy "Glee is looking for writers"

Any advice for actors turned writers?
Mindy and Ian -"Do what you love"

Writing v.s. Directing
Ryan Murphy who directed Eat, Pray, Love has no intention of leaving TV.

Working with child actors
Steve Levitan -- "the kids are the best"

Working for webisodes and Strike and youtube performances
Mindy Kaling - "do anything to get your work out there"

Writing for stage v.s TV
Rob Schenkkan "When you write for stage, you own your copyright but TV pays much better".

Features v.s TV or lonely v.s team effort
All agree that writing with a team or writers room has many advantages.

The Writers room. What's it like for each show?
Kaling--The Office has Carel and Rain Wilson who are great at ad libbing and improv.

Improvising on scripts on the other comedy shows?
Levitan "Yeah, lots on Modern Family
Ryan Murphy-- "J. Lynch on Glee is great at it"
Kaling-- again, Steve Carrel and Rain Wilson from the Office as mentioned but Mindy Kaling admitted to being a control freak and not liking improv too much despite doing it herself.

College v.s. No college?
Cuse - Harvard
Mindy Kaling- Dartmouth
Bruce McKenna- "Yes and with an advance degree" (he went to Wesleyan U. and did work towards a Phd. in Russian History at Stanford. Can someone say "student loans" --lol.
Rob Shenkkan - Harvard
Steve Levitan - said Harvard! then whispers "of Southwestern Wisconsin" real softly to many laughs. Give this man his own comedy variety show.
Rob King - Harvard
Michelle King - said "UCLA" to some whoops and hollers.
Brad Falchuk - AFI
Ian Brennan - Loyola U. in Chicago
and last but not least
Andy Richter - says proudly, "University of Illinois AND Columbia" ... "but I didn't graduate... "you don't really need to graduate". Again, the crowd erupts in loud laughter.

Any Job Opportunities for writers on your shows?
The 3 Glee Guys have written the first 2 seasons all by their lonesomes and they are looking to pick up 6 (yes, I said S-I-X new writers)!

To Murphy, Falchuck: How was it writing for Nip/Tuck?
Murphy -- To me, Nip/Tuck was about pushing the envelop just for the hell of it".

Aside: I must confess that I absolutely HATED Nip/Tuck and would watch it just to horrify myself as I drafted letters to the FCC that I never sent.

The last question was to Cuse who joked about the fans displeasure with how Lost ended then the panel concluded and we all rushed the stage to get a chance to talk and network with all the writers. I asked the Kings about their involvement with casting Marguilles in the lead for Good Wife. I spoke with Levitan about his comedic timing and suggested that he may have a great career doing stand up. I tried to get to Richter but he slipped out the side door. I approached Kaling to compliment her on the Niagara Falls Wedding episode but ended up just complimenting her on her cute outfit and gorgeous 6 inch heels (see my pics).

There were h'ordourves after mostly cheese, fruit and chocolate desserts and most of us stayed around networking and nibbling. I headed home at 10:30 pm and met a guy who is working with E! for the Emmy Red carpet and fashion coverage and he give me some insider scoop. We chatted a bit then he gets a text saying there's a murderer on the loose near Melrose Avenue. You can imagine we were eager to get home then. God send help!

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