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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I was once stuck in a writers' room with a really lazy writer. And no, that's no redundant. And no, it wasn't me. I mean, yes, I am a lazy writer, but no, I'm not that lazy writer.
We were working on a script, trying to get it ready for the initial table reading the next day. The table reading of the script is the first time it's heard out loud, read by the actors. In certain ways, you want to have a good table reading -- a good table, we call it -- because that means that for that day, anyway, you get to go home early. And that's the career goal of any decent writer -- to go home.
On the other hand, a good table reading just kicks the can down the road a bit -- at some point during a production week, the thing is going to come apart, the wheels are going to come off the bus, the show is going to stink. So at some point, you're going to have to order dinner and do some serious script surgery.
But this writer, the lazy one I was telling you about, had a philosophical attitude. We'd all be banging our heads, trying to improve a line or fix a joke, and he'd shrug, open a Diet Coke, and say, "It all changes at the table."
Which is true, of course. No matter how well the table reading goes, things change. You fix stuff. You cut stuff. You add stuff. It all changes at the table. That's the first time you hear the script, so a lot of things that didn't occur to you when you were writing it suddenly occur to you. Production, writing, they're unpredictable that way.
"It's a process," this lazy writer would say, exasperated when we dwelled too long on a plot bump or rough spot. Meaning: we've got at least four days to address this stuff; four days of run-throughs and re-writes and new drafts. Four days is enough time to fix anything.
"It all changes at the table" and "It's a process" may seem like the lazy man's battle cry, but they're true. It is a process, and the process begins when it all changes at the table. It's worth remembering. It may have been slightly irritating to hear from this guy, every few moments, about how and when everything changes, and that this is a process, but it was good, solid advice.
The other thing he used to say, before he got fired for being lazy -- oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, well, there's lazy and there's lazy. There's industry-standard lazy (long lunches, missed deadlines, coming in at eleven) and there's outlier lazy, actionable lazy (saying nothing for weeks on end, coming in at four) -- the other thing he used to say was "It's all execution," which is what you say when you pitch an idea or solution that's been done before, that's been seen a lot. "It's all execution," you say, meaning, everything's been done, every story has been told, every character has been created -- it's all how you do it. It's all execution.
Again, solid advice. Because although this guy had a reputation for being lazy, he actually wasn't at all. "It all changes at the table" acknowledges that there's a long hard rewrite in your future, at some point. "It's a process" counsels patience. "It's all execution" diligence. These aren't the traits of a lazybones. These are words to live by.
Something to think about, anyway, on January 2nd, 2008. The first day of the long process of a new year in which what matters, I think, aren't our ideas, or our plans, but what we do.
It's a process. It's all about execution. And it all changes today. And tomorrow. And so on. Until we're out of production.
Happy New Year.
That's it for this week. Next week, the apocalypse. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.