For some reason all the Friday Questions today come from people whose names begin with C. It would be really eerie if I hadn't just hand selected them.
ChicagoJohn gets us started.
I love your casting stories. It makes me curious; have you ever skipped over a performer, who later on became a superstar?
And if so, is there ever any regret that you didn't cast them?
We passed on Kathy Bates for Katey Sagal on the series we created for Mary Tyler Moore. It was a tough choice. Both were perfect for the part. But we went with Katey because no one had seen her before. And don’t regret it. She was wonderful.
Usually when we pass on someone good it’s only because they’re just not right for that particular role. But the one I still kick myself over, is not hiring Jerry Orbach when we had the chance.
Chris has a question and a follow-up
How much and what exactly do you write when you get a story credit and how do those situations happen where you just do the teleplay or story for an episode?
You get a story credit if you turn in (and are paid for) an outline. The length varies depending on the show. It can be four pages, it can be twenty. At that point the story editor can either send you on to write the first draft or cut you off and assign the script to someone else. Whoever writes that draft would get the teleplay credit. If you write the story and teleplay you get a “written by” credit.
And then there are shows like BIG BANG THEORY that are all room written and story and teleplay credits are just assigned.
If an actor ad-libs something and they keep it in the episode, does he need to get a credit for it (like producer)?
Charles Jurries wonders:
Have you ever had trouble editing scenes in an episode, just to leave one big scene intact? For an example, say on M*A*S*H* you had a great Hawkeye speech at the end of the episode, and there's not a line that you want or feel need to be cut -- but the episode is still too long. Do you trim the big scene, or, do a dozen little edits all over the rest of the episode? I know you've talked a lot about editing, but, I was wondering if you ever had to defend a special scene from the chopping block. Thanks.
Most shows, when first assembled, come in a few minutes long due to the laugh spread from the audience. That’s a good thing for many reasons. We then go back and edit and trim throughout. There are times we have to lose good jokes because we need to preserve something else – like a key speech.
As a director, in addition to everything else, I need to give some thought to possible lifts if the show ends up too long. So in my camera assignments I’ll need to build in protection so that lines can be cut easily in editing.
An example: If someone enters the room I’ll always have a single shot of him. That way we can cut any of the lines preceding his entrance. Or if there’s a half page of dialogue I figure might come out I won’t have actors crossing on those lines. That way, if you lift a line or two, the actors won’t fly across the stage.
Here’s one from Carol:
If you got the green light to do some kind of show like Sherlock, what would you do? And is there a type of script you've never done, but would like to try - like a Sci-fi type show or something? If you had the chance to write for Doctor Who, for example, would you take it?
I’m not a big Sci-fi type guy but greatly admire well-written dramas like THE GOOD WIFE. Would love to write something like that. Or a psychological thriller.
My partner and I did an uncredited major rewrite on JEWEL OF THE NILE and that was great fun writing an action-adventure movie. Maybe I’ll be considered for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 16.
I’d like to write on any Aaron Sorkin show. I know I can’t write them as well but it would be an honor just to be heavily rewritten by Aaron Sorkin.
What's your question? I hope it's okay that I won't get to it until next year.