Tuesday, May 17, 2016
I was hired to join the staff of FRIENDS, probably as a producer. I was the new guy. It was the beginning of a season. I didn’t know any of the other FRIENDS writers. (In truth, I know most of the FRIENDS writers.)
Our offices were in a cool house set up on the Warner Brothers lot (much like the “Big Brother” house ensconced in the middle of CBS/Radford). There was the writers’ room in one part, and living quarters for the actors in another. Yes, the cast of FRIENDS all lived together. (Why would Courtney Cox buy her own mansion when she can share a room with Lisa Kudrow? But I digress.)
I still don’t know what motivated me. Did I think I was that brilliant a writer that I could just go rogue and everybody would be blown away? Was I trying to impress Kaufman & Crane? Was this one of those horrible side effects they list on TV drug commercials?
In any event, I bang out this script, and in the dream I’m really proud of it. I have a PA make a couple of copies. The copier, of course, is in the actors’ living quarters.
I’m now in the break room, still enormously impressed with myself when Jennifer Aniston comes in to pour herself some coffee. She’s talking to the PA and I overhear her say, “Do you know who wrote this script? I read some of it and it was just horrendous. Who is this person? He obviously doesn’t know the show.” Then she turns to me. I had never met her. She squints and says, “Did you write this piece of shit?” At that moment I panicked and lied. “What? Me? No way.” She walked out saying, “Good luck when Marta (Kaufman) reads this.”
So apparently I couldn’t write a FRIENDS – certainly not without the benefit of the staff’s input (or permission). Mercifully, I woke up before Marta could hand me my head.
I wondered what the point of this dream was. Surely, there had to be some point (other than a chance to kick my own ass during peaceful slumber time).
I think it’s maybe that I made a common rookie mistake. Instead of doing the hard work and really coming up with the story, and seeking help from those more experienced, I chose to just go off half-cocked. In my twisted mind I must’ve thought I had enough talent that I could just bang it out without an outline or even firm grasp of the show and the brilliance would still just shine through. Uh...WRONG.
I’m still a little puzzled as to why I had this dream. Like I said, I NEVER just go off and write a script without at least some outline. I always know my ending. I always devote time to knowing my characters, what makes them interesting, and what are their goals? So why? But then again, when I have the standard college nightmare that it’s the day of the final and I never studied and my alarm didn’t go off – I was always way too organized in real life to ever let that happen. And yet I dreamed it anyway.
The moral here: Don’t just dash off work. Take the time to do it right. It was humiliating enough for me to be rejected by Jennifer Aniston, but for my writing??? That’s five more years of therapy for sure.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM