With some of the great names in TV writing in the house, the conversation flowed, laughs abounded and eager “students” soaked up the knowledge and wisdom of the masters. This year’s Salon was divided into three categories – comedy, drama and genre But the unifying theme that rocked the halls? Love of television.
By Marlana Hope, Event Chair
(September 5, 2013)
“The comedy speakers were as funny and entertaining as their shows. Great advice on creating and orchestrating characters in a sitcom.”
– Steve Trautmann
When I decided to take up the mantle of the Writers Salon, the legacy loomed large. I was promised that it would be an “amazing event” and “a lot of work.” I can report that it was both.
I wondered what would happen when we gathered together writers from the 101 Best Written TV Series in history as voted on by the WGA membership. What themes would emerge? What makes a particular creator and staff churn out landmark television?
I wandered around during the Salon, slipping in and out of different rooms, listening to esteemed speakers from the worlds of drama, comedy and genre. The discussions flowed freely, no set content, no idea what was happening in the other rooms aside from the intermittent bursts of laughter that echoed through the halls. In each room the theme that recurred was love. Love of the work, the people, the characters, the process. Love of television.
“From the speakers to the attendees, the facility, the organizational details, timeliness of the 'classes,' even the refreshments -- it was all top shelf.”
– Barbara Nance
One speaker (whose name I won’t disclose) said, “Studio and network executives used to love television; now most of them love business.” I worry that that sentiment filters through to the writers trying to chase trends and buzz words – to create the sexiest, edgiest, youngest, most violent thing out there that wins Emmys and performs in the demo before the “pencils down” decree comes through. I wonder if it’s helping us create the next canon of great television. Do we stop to find something about it to love? I wish I could have smuggled in some of those allegedly hardened suits to see us at our best.
What I enjoyed most about the Salon was watching the classrooms full of engaged “students” waiting on their “teachers” to deliver the next bit of wisdom or anecdotal gem. The hallways of the high school were alive with enthusiasm between classes as writers connected, reconnected and scoured IMDB to figure out where they had met before. The speakers, too, seemed to get a kick out of meeting each other. How lucky are we that we get to be fans of our colleagues? I doubt seriously that accountants ever tweet about having met each other
While it was a lot of work, with the help of the incredible Writers Education Committee and our fearless leader Jeff Melvoin, we pulled it off with panache. A special thanks to screenwriter Valerie Alexander who launched the salon in 2004 and chaired the event for four subsequent years. The takeaway for me: as we endeavor to create the next 101 Best Written TV Series, we must remember to lead with our love of television and continue to support the good work that is being done by our fellow WGA members every day. As Phil Rosenthal is a fan of saying, “Do the show you want to do because, in the end, they’re going to cancel you (anyway).”