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Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday February 26th, 2001.
Comments: Buscemiarts@Hotmail.com



TWO POLICE MOTORCYCLES escort a GOLD ROLLS-ROYCE through the majestic gates of Hollywood's most influential studio. A RED CARPET is unrolled to the edge of the driveway - ending precisely at the PASSENGER DOOR of the Rolls.

"THE WRITER" steps out of the car onto the red carpet. His ASSISTANT, who carries his GOLD PLATED KEYBOARD, greets him. His AGENT has arrived with today's SUITCASE full of MONEY as well as a STUDIO EXECUTIVE - who carries the KEYS to "THE WRITER'S" new BUILDING....


Oh, sorry, dosed off for a minute. The dream may be a BIT exaggerated but hey - the Writer's Guild is in negotiations right now (for better compensation for writers).

Our own office buildings.
God-like treatment.
Hardly too much too ask for. (Start off with outlandish demands so you have room to compromise later.)

So what is the TV writer's life like really? What is this dream job all about? We all toil at our scripts, weather for TV or the movies and if you're like me, you can't help but think in the back of your mind: "Oh, I can't wait until I sell one of these - life will be so much easier..."

Reality check time. Sure - our writing life will be much sweater, but no less easy. In fact, get ready to work longer, faster, and harder. Last week Josh Berman, Co-Producer and Staff Writer for the CBS series: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," gave us great insights on the TV Spec script world. This week he graciously enlightens us on the toughest job you'll ever love. I wanted to know what it's like on a daily basis to be a staff writer on a television series. Of course one assumes long days, lots of coffee and sore fingertips, but that is just the icing on the cake. So take it away Josh and give us a slice of that TV writer pie!

"I get here around nine and every day is different," Berman explains. "If I'm in pre-production, then I'll go to casting meetings and I'll get notes from the studio or the network or Jerry Bruckheimer's company. I'll meet with my executive producers and see what they want me to do that day - anything special."

You might think at this point Berman sneaks off to his office to write an ACT or two. Actually he still has other business to take care of first. " I'll talk to production (about special props for example). If were (shooting) an episode and it's my script, I'm usually on the set. That's one of the great things about being a writer on a TV show, as opposed to a feature, every eight days we have a new episode. So no two days are alike."

So if you're a staff writer, you're probably a producer on the show as well, which means you're job is a lot more than writing scripts. Berman explains a job full of many, many duties in this concise way: "My biggest responsibility is to make my Executive Producer's life a little easier." Making an Executive Producer's life easier must be a full time job by itself. So when does Berman actually have time for his Staff Writer responsibilities? At four o'clock? Or maybe five? Is this the time he settles down to the den of creativity? The ?cone of writer's silence' and belts out a couple acts? Nope.

Berman actually does very little writing in the office. "A lot of the writing is actually done on weekends at home and at night," he explains. "We spend time as a group breaking the story. Then I'll take the story home to write the script and it could take anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks (to write the episode) depending on how good the outline is. (Generally) It takes about four or five days to write an episode."

You might think working long hours all week at the studio and writing in the hours in between, might get old real quick. Wrong! Not if you love to write. Maybe that is the ?Wrath of Creativity.' A love for writing and creating that is so strong, we devote our lives to it. Well if that's Kahn's wrath then bring it on baby! Just ask Josh what he thinks of his job: "I love my job - it's a dream job. I can't believe I get paid for it!"

Oh, by the way, I felt really bad last week about not having a pun that involved the word ?conundrum.' Well, I still don't have one, so I thought maybe a rhyme involving ?conundrum.' Yeah, that's sufficient, right? Let's see...

Not having much luck with the rhyme either, so I contacted Pat O'Brien. He is, of course, host of TV's Access Hollywood and wordsmith extraordinaire. After I asked this unusual request he looked at me for a moment and said: "You want a rhyme with the word ?conundrum'...how about: da-da-dum?" You know, sometimes the answers are so simple. Thank you Pat O'Brien!

Good night everybody! (Sorry, I borrowed that from Pat too.)

WEEK SEVEN STEPS: We now know the TV writer's life from someone on the inside and we can combine that with last week's great TV spec writing insights. Add this with last weeks viewing of taped episodes from the series our spec was written for. It's rewrite time. Time to make sure each character's "voice" is true to the show. Time to make sure our script fits the form, tone and style of the given series. That's what I'm doing. How about you?



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