Note: I’m in housekeeping mode and hence this oldie but goodie has been switched over from a “page” on WordPress to a “post.” If you haven’t read this before, and are interested in writing for television, it’s worth a read:
EUREKA Interview – Missouri State University – April 2, 2008
Executive Producer Jaime Paglia, Co-Executive Producer Bruce Miller, and Staff Writers Eric Wallace and Nick Wauters
Ross – Q: Id like to get everyone thoughts on the current state of the new media, particularly the internet shows such as a Ask a Ninja, Quarterlife and CHd Vader and where you think its going.
A: The transition to internet, I Imagine, will look a lot like the transition from network tv to cable tv. More channeled, more options, but the basics will remain the same.
Aric-Q: I’m in the idea stages for a pilot right now and i was curious about your methods of fleshing out character development or plotlines for self-contained episodes?
A: While writing a pilot, one story doesn’t have to carry out the person. What we do is figure out 5 dramatic turns and then place them on notes cards, and then peel them out as they would in the story. Best way to figure out one story at a time, and not try to figure out how they all weave together. In term of char it happens at every stage, and as you break those stories, characters make decisions that reflect their personality. The question you asked is the question we ask every single day, and you will find ways to get a little better at it.
Diana – How was EUREKA Born?
Pagila, A: Well what happened Andrew Cosby he and I had written several movie together, he got another TV series “Haunted” and we were going to work on another script. We had no done any TV. I enjoyed Northern Exposure, small down feel and then throw in some scifi. The idea was a 30 minute anime where a guy would be moved to a smaller town because of this intelligence, where he would hfit it. What if we take that and do it live action, small town, x-files, twilight zone, shows we loved. So this turned out as good balance of everything and we littery figured it out right there.
Caroll Q – You seem to working on four episodes at a time according to your blog from rewrite to one starting with cards. Correct? Tell us more about the process. Thanks. Love the show.
A: Thats true. You start working on number one, someone goes away and works on an outline. You can be working on many at a time, this is why we have a large staff, to keep the creativity going. Talk about what the characters are doing, and also continuity. IE Someone might be writing 303, Bruce will be writing 303, hell come in and ask: What happened in 302?!?” He’ll go away and continue along in the process. Thing to remember, if you went to a bar and said this is what happened on some show, and this is what we do and rely it to out scripts. Its throwing our ideas around and then continue working on the ideas. The process is not so much of a mystery.
Diana - How did you guys break in?
Nick: A – I think there many ways on going at it. I think being out here is a big plus, meeting as many as you can. In the mean time you keep doing it getting better and keep meeting people.
Eric-Being the most important thing, is the easiest thing. Writing is the hardest. If you break in and cannot write, you’ll die. So many aspects about TV is so easy, you can learn in two days. Writing is the thing you SHOULD FOCUS ON! As of today, stop worrying about the business, and WRITE!
Matt: Q – re there any special problems that you seem to encounter while you are writing science fiction? How do you deal with these problems and do you have any suggestions for avoiding them?
Bruce: A – the largest problem is when it stops being SCFi and becomes fantasy. When its fantasy, means it impossible now, but we;re going to make it happen. What you want to do is not look at it from the point of a scientist but more as, what’s fun? Or what’s cool? Then I know I hit on something that is a balance of science and fiction and getting the value of entertainment.
Lindsey: Q – I notice that you all come from producing/production type backgrounds, I’m just wondering how you made the transition into writing (was it terribly difficult or was it just a natural progression) and was writing really what you primarily always wanted to do anyway?
A – Thats where we all come from and what we all do. You start as staff writing and then you acquire the producing titles until you become the exec producer. We are writing until we get the skills needed and then become producers.
Jackson: Q – How important is a degree when persuing a career in writing? Should I continue into graduate work or take my chances jumping in head first?
A: Well a degree is only important on what you can learn in that process. I was on ER for years and every person I worked with 4 had never been to college. Thing to think, can my writing benefit by going to grad school? Will this experience make me a better writer or not.
Eric - Something school does well is create a peer group, and writing is lonely and depressing, but one thing I get from school related experiences is the peer group. These are people you can goto with the same mentality you talk with them and bounce ideas and such. It learning form those with good habits. No one can have a writing carreer is TV alone, thats why you need to proactive and seek out professionals to read.
Tim: When just starting out, how do you find adequate writers to critique your material? Oh, and can you get Colin Ferguson to come to my house? My mom REALLY wants to meet him.
A – That is something you must be concerned about. I find I will out grow my writing peers and try to find those who are better so I can get better and better critiques. If you get into a writers group, or seek out professionals.
Tristan - What’s it like to work in a writer’s room? Teamwork is so important, but do you struggle with putting your ideas in other people’s hands?
A - I dont struggle, because if I come up with a great idea there are many who can take that idea and elevate it to a new height. The great thing about writing for TV is you are never alone. So when you go out and write our outline you will really have something solid and awesome. Its really a group effort and in the end you want the best episode possible and we are working as a team to get that.
Samantha C.: When pitching a series do you usually just go in with a pilot, do you write maybe a second and third episode as well, or do you just go in with a general idea for the season? Also, how far in advance do you start planning your season long arc for the next season?
2nd: You start to talk abhotu things you want to happen and take over the season. Most of the things will come in durring writing. IN terms of pitching theroies, there are many. remember, no one wants to buy something that is 6 ot 7 years and it only lasts a few epiodes. SO when I pitch the series I pitch the piolet and many 5 or 6 ideas from the series.
Brett: How does audience feedback affect the writing of the show? Also, who is your favorite Eureka character to write for and why?
A- Eric – As far as audiences feedback, at the beginning of S3 we got audiences research from SciFi and it had questions and answers and showed us an aspect we didnt see before and allowed us to explore that avenue. But its also easy to hear to much outside and it makes you want to consider and takes you away from your ideas.
N.S. Rose: Is there a lot of pressure from network executives to change certain things they may not like? How much sway do they have over your final product?
A- They have strong opinions at time but most of the time they have very good notes and ideas sometimes against ours and either we broke and just rewrote it, or we figured something out.
Aric Abraham: when you’re writing your episodes/treatments, what kind of write/rewrite process do you go through?
A – Sometimes i fel bad for our staff because sometimes they have to give up their ideas and I dont think they resent me to much for it.
Lindsey Davis: How closely do you as writers work with the cast and directors, and how involved are you in the production process? I guess, essentially once the script for an episode is complete are you then back writing the next episode or are you still actively involved in the execution of what you’ve written?
A - Alot, the rewrite process continues through post because you’re adding lines and tweaking in editing. We then get production notes that give us a go or no go on some shoot, so yes we are very integrated with canada and the others.
Brett: With so many characters, how do you incorporate all the characters into an episode to fit around the story?
A- Its painful, we have so many character that we love, and we want to use them all the time, but when you have loads of characters you;re going to see them lighter in some episodes. Keep focused on just a few of the characters. We have a character board up with all the characters and we track what happens through out the season, and lets see what their arc is going to be throughout the season.
Diana - When considering new writers, what shows would you like to see spec scripts for?
A- Shows that do have more of a comedic bench. Desperate House wives, Weeds. Anything Joss has done. House. We try to have shows different every time but yet still within the template and pattern. The mystery solving is a paramount aspect. Have you A story, and your B story and have them dove tail at the end, doing your job. Why are we telling this story.
Tristin: With all the changes going on with pilot seasons now–networks taking on fewer pilots this year, for instance, do you have any insight as to how shows will be picked up in future?
A- A lot of it is going to the web. A lot of writer have formed their own groups that are producing content for the web, a more creatively free format that gives them the edge. And some type of larger company saying they are going to give you a certain amount without restrictions.