Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sitcom Room 2015

Highlights from the Sitcom Room.

Attendees were treated to a great panel on writing. From left to right, the moderator (only me), Jane Espenson (ONCE UPON A TIME, GAME OF THRONES, BUFFY, HUSBANDS), Jim Vallely (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, GOLDEN GIRLS, TWO AND A HALF MEN), and a couple of young writers talking about breaking in today, Annie Levine & Jonathan Emerson (INSTANT MOM, GOOD LUCK CHARLIE).
I believe these were the attendees.
After my long-winded lecture on comedy writing the attendees were split up into four four "writing rooms."  They were given a scene to rewrite.  The problems were all on the page.  The actors were great.  Andy Goldbert, Mandy Kaplan, Jack Zullo, and Annie Abrams. 
The writing teams were then given network and studio notes.  "Studio Head" Bob Rosenfarb gave them the bad news.
At this point the groups went to their writing rooms.  Lots of smiles.
But within twenty minutes...

The next morning the groups got together to watch the revised scenes they had written.  Here are a few of the actors rehearsing tirelessly.

They then performed the scenes.  Every one got big laughs.   My kids grow up so fast.

SITCOM ROOM was a great weekend.   Thanks to Dan O'Day, Andrea Wachner, Bob Rosenfarb, my cast and panel, and especially my attendees.  Hopefully they had fun, learned a lot, and will catch up on sleep by 2016.  


MikeK.Pa. said...

Looked like a great event. Would love to hear from some of the participants on what they learned and how they plan to use it.

Steve Mc said...

Ken missed his chance to cash in with "Let It Go". I attended a few years back (pre-'Frozen') and the most valuable thing I came away with was to just move forward when an idea or joke doesn't win the room. Don't keep trying to sell it or the whole process gets halted.

AlaskaRay said...

Was it hard to get Annie Levine to participate?

Johnny Walker said...

The main thing I learned when I was there (a few years back, not this year) was the difference between a "yes and" room and a "no but" one. I was coming directly from a startup where you need people to say "no but" in order to try and avoid mistakes, but in a creative field you need to make mistakes in order to get to somewhere, and so someone who tries to add to what's being said ("yes and") is far more helpful. I could have been more helpful.

Listening to a lot of improv and attending improv classes has been personally invaluable in making that change for me. (Possibly life-changing.)

I learned more, but that was definitely a big realisation for me.

You learn an awful lot, and it's a once in a lifetime experience, but if I had to improve it, I would say it would be to work under an experienced show runner -- which is never going to happen, but I can dream.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the other day you had a lot of comments, today not so much. Even if I don't comment--and I rarely do--I just want to let you know I read your blog every morning (this is known as afternoon on the East Coast) and usually check back in the evening to catch up on comments. So on this slow comment day, know that I really enjoy and appreciate your work on this blog. Thank you.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Jane Espenson! I've heard some interviews with her and she seems like everything an aspiring writer would want or need in a teacher. And I think her blog about writing is still available online. Lucky lucky people to get to learn from you and Jane.

Lee Ann Scheer said...

I am still catching up on my sleep from writing most of last Saturday night during the Sitcom Room. I learned so much about writing, how to be an asset in the writers room and how to approach the episode in a constructive way. The other writers were very talented - especially Group C- and it was fun to get to know everyone.

The pluses - as we were working, Ken checked on us frequently. He helped us work through the tough moments, when we weren't sure how to go forward. He answered our questions thoughtfully - never telling us what to do, yet always finding a way to move us forward.

The panel discussion with the writers was very enlightening and funny. Lots of practical info and a bit of inside scoop.

I learned a lot about how I operate in a group (the good and the bad). It is a very high pressure situation and you have to bring your best stuff.

I wish I was able to get to California sooner. For the folks who are always on West Coast time, 2 am isn't so bad. But for those of us still on East Coast time it was 5 am.

I would definitely recommend attending the Sitcon Room if you can.

Mike said...

I believe these were the attendees.
You're not sure? There's a few long, black gowns. You may have double-booked with a Covern. There's usually a giveaway like a boiling cauldron in the corner of the room.

Mike said...

I misspelt Coven. But then it's not easy to type when you're a frog.

Johnny Walker said...

Jane Espenson is wonderful, and her blog an absolute treasure trove for aspiring writers. It really cannot be overstated how useful it is.

Dhppy said...

I did the Warner's Writer's Workshop, and the sketch writing courses at UCB, but this is the first time that I worked on a scene as a group instead of as an individual bringing in my work for group notes. It was challenging. In a way, I was shocked at how long it took. Usually, when I have the plot laid out, I can crank out a scene in short order, however, this involved parsing every line and agreeing in committee. That was new. Fortunately everyone was on their best behavior, but I can see how people who are used to each other, lose it after awhile. I was often reminded of George from Seinfeld and his insistence on "jerk store!" despite the nays from everyone else. On the other hand, I found the group dynamic useful for getting the plot smoothed out much faster than I usually do it, and I even found a new way of approaching it involving a chart of all things.

I loved hearing from one of my idols, Jane Espenson. We had no idea she'd be there and my jaw dropped. I've occasionally taken her up on her twitter writer sprints, and I told her I found them very inspiring. She was very gracious about it.

I also hugged Ken as we wrapped up the weekend. Poor man. I'm not sure what came over me. I blame it on sleep deprivation.