Have you submitted your Friday Question yet? Here are four readers who have.
Steve B. is first:
How do you decide whether to make a sitcom pilot single or multi cam?
It depends on the premise, the tone of the show, and how you want to tell the story. Some premises are no-brainers like MASH. You can’t exactly shoot that in front of a studio audience, so you’re pretty much locked into a single-camera format.
But let’s say you’re doing a show about funny police detectives. You could center the action in the squad room and easily shoot it multi-camera. That’s what BARNEY MILLER did.
On the other hand, you could decide to show the detectives at work out of the station. You’d want more flexibility and more sets. Single-camera might be the way to go in that case. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE for example.
And then there are shows like THE ODD COUPLE and HAPPY DAYS that both started out single-camera and converted to multi-camera.
Sometimes networks will dictate the format they want. Multi-camera shows are cheaper to produce so some networks may favor them. Other networks prefer single-camera shows. Fox has had trouble for years launching a multi-camera show. They’re trying with DADS (and trying is an apt description of that show). CBS, on the other hand, has had great success launching multi-camera show – from BIG BANG THEORY to 2 BROKE GIRLS.
So if you have a premise you think might lend itself better to single-camera you might pitch it first at Fox, and if your show is more multi-camera-friendly, CBS might be your first destination.
Don Graf wonders:
Who would be on your All-Star team of character/supporting actors from the 50's and 60's?
The Bumble Bee Pendant asks:
What are your thoughts on how Writers are paid compared to "the on-screen talent"? Writers are generally underpaid and under-appreciated unless they are the creators.
This is certainly true, but audiences don’t tune in to see writers. They watch actors. Actors attract viewers. Actors open movies. Without James Spader there is no BLACKLIST, despite the writing. MASH survived when Larry Gelbart left. I don’t think it would have survived if Alan Alda had departed.
So naturally actors demand higher salaries. They have the leverage. When WEST WING can continue without Aaron Sorkin you know a co- producer of LAST MAN STANDING can’t hold out for Tim Allen’s salary.
That said, I find it heartening that after firing Dan Harmon, NBC brought him back to COMMUNITY. But truthfully, if Harmon had declined to return, NBC would have just found somebody else – probably for a lot less.
If your primary goal in the entertainment industry is to make as much money as you can, don’t pursue writing. Those of us who are writers do it for a different reason. We’re nuts.
And finally, from Carson:
Has modern technology made it easier to write scenes? By that I mean that it used to be that for a character to receive outside news that could be important to the plot, they needed to be by their home phone. Now you can just script that they received a text.
For me, the jury is still out on whether it’s better. Yes, now any character can be reached, and you don’t have to figure out how a character is going to get to a phone in the middle of the desert, etc.
But easy access to communication can sometimes be a problem for comedy. You want characters not being able to get ahold of each other at times. You want confusion, you want mis-information, you want people over-reacting to what they think is the situation. If a quick cellphone call can clear up everything, you forfeit lots of delicious comic possibilities.
On the other hand, his story that a one-armed man committed the murder could today be checked from DNA samples. The one-arm man probably had a rap sheet and Richard Kimble could identify him from photos emailed from headquarters. Maybe Richard Kimble wouldn’t have to run at all. You’d have no show. Damn this technology?
If you have a question, please leave in the comments section. Thanks.