Step 4: Being a writer is not pretty
by Dave Addison
Hey people, Dave Addison back with some revelations regarding my first batch of network notes on my pilot: 1) I wanna shoot myself. 2) They’re not paying me enough for this kind of aggravation. And 3) Is it me or are these network development guys younger than my daughter?
Venting. Sometimes it’s all we writers have. Every TV show I’ve ever worked on had a writers’ room crammed with creative people who loved to vent. Venting about the long hours, the difficult actors, the mindless network notes and of course – venting about the huge night of rewriting looming before us. You know a rewrite is headed your way when a PA walks in with a stack of menus from local restaurants. If one is going to be writing till 2am, one does need nourishment – even if it’s cold shitty Domino’s pizza (which by the way, is just fodder for more venting).
And who hears all our bitching and moaning? Absolutely no one! Because just like Vegas (minus the hookers) – what happens in the writers’ room stays in the writers’ room. We curse like sailors, tell filthy stories, make up disgusting ditties trying to gross each other out. I’ve seen bourbon passed around the table along with pot-infused cookies and chocolates. I’ve smelled weed wafting under the door, I knew two guys who dropped acid before every rewrite (they worked on a show starring a puppet – can you blame them?) and I once saw a writer bring in his own shot glass and bottle of Jack Daniels and God help you if you asked him for a shot.
There is no proper protocol in a writers’ room. We are survivalists. Cogs in the great television machine that keeps the Hollywood factory running smoothly.
That said, a writers’ room is also a wonderfully safe haven where we are free to let down our hair and share family issues, marital problems and health scares. Which reminds me of a story.
I was on a popular network show with a large staff of writers. Our room was den-like with floppy couches and stained armchairs like some USC frat house. Jokes flew furiously around the room – we were all seasoned professionals and we wrote well together. But there was one writer – an exceptionally talented guy who coughed a lot. Deep, painful, mucus-filled coughs. He had Cystic Fibrosis – he wasn’t just sick, he was dying. He wore a beeper on his belt so his doctors could alert him if a pair of healthy lungs became available.
As we crept towards the end of our season, he became sicker and sicker, his cheeks sunken, his skin ashen as he shuffled into the writers’ room hooked up to an IV. We told him to stay home but he refused. He said writing this show was the only thing keeping him going. One day, his beeper went off and we all screamed with excitement. He looked down and glibly remarked, “Oh, never mind. It’s just my wife, she wants me to pick up some stuff from the store.” Talk about gallows humor. But in the last two weeks of his life, a pair of lungs finally became available and he had his transplant. He’s still a writer. But with a lot more to write about.
On second thought, my network notes aren’t really that bad.
Later. Dave.Tags: Dave Addison, Entertainment industry, Hollywood, Hollywood behind the scenes, Script notes, Selling a television pilot, Sitcom writer, Television writer, Writer's room