Friday, August 06, 2010

Who do we see as Queen Elizabeth? Eliza Dunshku.

After Thursday’s Friday questions, here are Friday’s Friday questions. These have to do the dynamics of my partnership with David Isaacs. Who knew? An actual “theme”.

Jonathan leads off:

Do you write with an actor's/character's voice in mind, or is that something that emerges in rehearsal/shooting and is more a product of the actor and director?

We generally do try to imagine a certain actor in a role even if we know we can’t get him. But that way we both hear the same voice in our heads. Example: Any woman’s part -- Eliza Dushku.

Often times though we won’t imagine an actor per se. We’ll imagine friends or just distinctive people we know. That’s sometimes better because we’ll also have mannerisms to draw from. Do whatever you can to make your characters more specific.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve absolutely lifted character traits from somebody (sometimes not flattering) and they’ll see the show and say, “Y’know, I know people just like that.

just some guy trying to write has just some question.

Can you talk more about the specifics of the business relationship between you and your writing partner? Stuff like, if you write and sell a script on your own, do you share in the profits with him?

We divide it this way: I make 80%, David makes 20% but David has to do all of the work.

Seriously, we split everything we do together right down the middle. Always. There are times when we have to cover for each other, if one of us is sick and there’s a deadline, that sort of thing. But we never adjust the ratio because one of us did more on a particular project.

As for our business relationship, our partnership is structured on a handshake.

Generally when we write a script we do it together in the same room. But early on in our career we would take one assignment a season and split it up. I would write one act on my own and David would write the other. We’d then assemble them and polish the script together. We did this exercise so each of us could feel comfortable writing on our own if we had to. We are a partnership out of choice, not dependency. And by the way, if you read the two acts we wrote separately, you'd never be able to tell who wrote which act. It's not like one of us is the structure guy and the other is the funny boots. Our styles and sensibilities are amazingly similar.

Regarding outside projects, we don’t try to bind ourselves in the partnership. We allow each other the freedom to explore other pursuits. For me it was directing and of course baseball announcing. For David it was mercenary work in the world’s hotspots. Here he is in his other life:

And finally, Joe Pontillo wonders:

Does David Isaacs have a blog? And if not, why don't we ever hear from him in guest posts on this blog?

He doesn’t have a blog. Or if he does he has really low traffic. From time to time I do ask David to contribute a piece.

At the moment David is teaching at USC and writing a book, which for reasons that seem unfathomable to me, he seems to feel take precedence.

What’s your question? Again, I’ll try to add some extra question days to catch up on them all. Gracious much.


Tony said...


You need to write a biopic: Eliza Dushku IS Natalie Wood...

A. Buck Short said...

In your many trips to Hawaii have you ever been attacked by a 550 lb. giant blue marlin?

I only ask, because I was looking for a shot of the one that made the news charging the fishing tournament press boat off Kailua-Kona yesterday, and all I found was THIS.

------ The Old Man and the C-Cups -----

It had been eighty-four days the old comedy writer had been casting in the familiar waters off the Big Island on the charter excursion Big Wave Dave. Together, Kurtwood Smith and Jane Kaczmarek were quite a catch. Yet not a single network executive had so much as tugged on any of his lines. As the sun beat down on his hands gnarled as usual with writer’s cramp, he was spurred on by the baseball announcer in him reminding how often DiMaggio had played hurt with bone spurs of his own.

And then she appeared leeward off the side of the spare but adequate vessel. Twelve miles out, yet somehow buoyant enough to be transported easily by the swiftly moving current. Minus the headshot that would have been superfluous, he could still see by the chalk board she towed that her name was Candy. Appropriate, yet oddly for someone of her profession, spelled with a “y” instead of the traditional “i.”

She was no Nancy Travis, but he remembered, “After all, who is?" He learned she was now working under the professional name created for her by the network publicity department – Marlin Monroe.

He took this – or more accurately those -- as a sign his luck was changing. Until now the network had provided nothing more than a six pack and poker deck to pass the hours fishing for some sort of hook to encapsulate the show. So it eventually came to him. The log line that had gotten away from him for a dozen weeks: ,”My pilot took me deep sea fishing and all I caught was syphilis.”

"'The marvelous thing is that it's painless,' he said, 'That's how you know when it starts.'"

Matt said...


What was your process of writing a script with David. You once posted that during the writing of a Cheers episode you had an assistant write everything out on a steno-pad while you dictated to him.

Is this the way you and David work most times?

Jeff Parker said...

David is truly one of the most thoughtful and kind people on the planet. I will never be able to fully thank him for all of the things he taught me about writing. Here’s to one of the great comedy writing teams of all time!

Gary said...

So David's on probation for 4 years and cannot appear in any bowl games for 2? How do you feel about that, Mr. Bruin?

Anonymous said...

There's an 'n' where one should not be.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

You and David have a LOT to be proud of. You took comedy writing to a new level in the 70s and 80s. I would love to see the two of you reunite to do a new sitcom sometime in the near future. It is TVs loss not using your talents.

Steve B. said...

Ken, I live in Westwood. What's your secret route to Dodger Stadium?

Matt Patton said...

Having seen a few pictures of Liz Windsor before she became queen and started dressing exactly like her mother -- well, Eliza wouldn't be completely off the mark . . .