Thursday, July 31, 2008

Friday question of the week


Today’s Q is from Dgm:

Beyond finding a good writing partner, how do you keep one? What happens when one wants to fly solo for a while or to "see other people" for certain projects? Do you address those issues up front in some sort of pre-nup-like agreement, or do you wait for the shit to hit the fan?

I can only speak for me and my partner, David. We generally write everything head-to-head, both sitting in a room together. But early on we decided to take one script assignment a season and split it up, one writing the first act and the other writing the second. We’d then put the two together and polish them together. The point was to feel confidant writing on our own. That way our partnership is one of choice not dependency.

The best partnerships have built-in flexibility. I won’t say “as you grow as artists” because the minute you think of yourself as an “artist” you’re destined to write “Tidy Bowl” commercials in five years, but as you fight the windmill that is showbiz your interests often do splinter somewhat. One may want to direct, write plays, or the far more common – desire to become a baseball announcer. Allow each other some room.

But make sure if you want to do something apart from the partnership you discuss beforehand. Don’t just spring it on him: “Oh, by the way, I’m going to polish the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy so I’ll be in New Zealand for the next two years starting tomorrow but I think they have cell service there.”

The key to a good partnership is that you have each other’s back. There will be times when you’ll have personal shit to deal with (your kids will only fall out of trees when a pilot is due) and he covers for you and likewise expect periods where you may have to shoulder the load while he’s in prison.

And most important: You both stand by the work you turn in together. The fastest way to end a partnership is to throw your partner under the bus during a notes meeting. “Yep, I told him it wouldn’t work.” By the time you’ve said “him” he’s texting that weird but funny guy at Starbucks asking if he wants to team up.

There will always be hurdles, tough patches. Our partnership is tested every Superbowl, World Series, Rose Bowl, and NBA Finals. We have never rooted for the same team once in over thirty years. That we’re still talking to each other much less writing together is a miracle.

What’s your question???

11 comments:

Tim W. said...

So I assume your next post is going to be telling us the story of when David went to prison and...

P.S. My word verification letters were `iplug'. Just pass that on to your son. They have to follow up the iPhone with something. Amazing where inspiration comes from.

dgm said...

Thx, Ken. It's inspiring to see your partnership has succeeded for so long. I work with giving legal advice to low-income entrepreneurs, many of whom want to form partnerships with a significant other or college roommate or best friend. Within 6 months, everything falls apart, often because the parties had completely different expectations about labor or percentages. It's kind of sad, but I just assume that when a potential p-ship walks through the door it's the beginning of the end.

growingupartists said...

Do you think cartoons are dangerous?

Chad said...

Is there a character you've written for who's comic voice most perfectly aligns with your own?

MB said...

This question is definitely not of major importance, it is just something I've been curious about for awhile. In both comedies and dramas why are married couples most often shown sleeping in full-sized beds rather than queen or king? I think I understand why not king (the bed would take up too much room on the set). I do remember the days when a married couple couldn't be shown in a bed together at all but it has been a long time since two twin-sized beds was the norm.

DwWashburn said...

Here's a question to ponder on one of your Fridays. Many sitcoms used to end their tags with a freeze frame over which the beginning of the end credits was superimposed. Did the director instruct the actors to "ham it up" or something else significant so that an interesting pose or facial expression could be used in the freeze frame?

Dave said...

Question: Manny's a Dodger. Thoughts?

KEN LEVINE said...

Dave,

My post Monday will recount Manny's first day. The circus has arrived.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Any thoughts on the challenges of transitioning from stand-up comedy to writing for television? Any specific insights you've gained from working with such people over the years? Their strengths/weaknesses, etc.

Cheers,
PP

Paul said...

Here's a weird question for you. I know you wrote a few episodes of Wings, but I'm not sure if you were on set often or not. I've heard that Paramount's Stage 19, where the show was filmed, was haunted. Did you ever hear anyone on the show talking about that?

dentednj said...

On my car drive to work this morning, I was thinking of the partnership between John lennon and Paul McCartney.... They obviously wrote separately, but when they came together in band form, they really added so much to each others work.... and they had each others back for the most part...I agree that that kind of partnership seems the most flexible...
I read this HUGE=(size) book I was given on Monty Python. It was a great read, as it was about their start, and entire history. They were each given a chance to share their views on things as the book moves through the steps of their group and individual careers. Talk about the trials of writing within a group!