Are Writers Still King In Television? – Bruce Ferber


Film Courage: Are you a natural-born writer? Bruce Ferber, Author, Comedy Writer, Speaker, and Former TV Showrunner: I don’t
know what a natural-born writer is. I felt like I wanted to write for a long
time when I was in maybe even in middle school and then and in high school I
didn’t know if I could be writer but I my first inkling that I had talent as a
writer was I went to a summer school at Andover Academy in Massachusetts I was a
public school kid all the way but my parents sent me to this fancy private
school for a summer program and everybody had to take English
Composition classes so the teacher of my particular English English Composition
class had us write our own poetry and stories and this guy said you know you
you’re a writer and you should keep doing this and I just listened to that
and little by little it started to come out did you go home that day and
proclaim to your parents no no no okay no it was like 1969 and I was more
interested in going to Woodstock and doing things like that Abbie Hoffman
things like no girls all right okay forget about the protest yeah what is
better the burning desire to create or the burning desire to be a star
Oh create burning desire to create is the for me the the concept of being a
star just to hear you say that it just it just makes me ill I mean if
you become a star how that’s great that’s great but when you for me
personally I mean I know maybe for an actor they have that burning desire to
be a star and it makes them a star and it makes them do their best work but for
me it always starts with the work so the burning desire to create but also the
burning desire to create something worthy
not just anything something that you can at the end of the day say yeah that’s
that’s good well I was going to your website is you have a new book out so
doing research for your your new book which I think just just came out it’s
called the way we work oh nice look on the job in Hollywood and
it’s tales from TV writing tales not only from TV writers it started out as a
book that would be about TV writers telling their stories because when you
run writers rooms when you work in writers rooms and I did this for over 20
years every single writer has many stories to tell about development hell
production l casting hell there are so many kinds of L’s that writers have to
deal with and that getting those stories and archiving them was the original
motivation for this book and then it got beyond writers i wanted to include
people from every job in the business so there’s above the line people that’s
below the line people and it’s a really comprehensive overview of what it’s like
to work in Hollywood we have a quote from Robert Towne that you that you put
with a little picture and it just said something like the writers is the one
that until they finish what they do you know sort of they’re the bleep a hole
that you know until they finish what they do no one else has a job no one
else has a job that’s right so he you know towns point of view as he states in
the book is that everybody you know is waiting for the writer to get his work
done you know so they can they can be higher than they could have a job so and
what’s more than that that’s another way of saying and this is no secret
everybody knows this that it all starts with the script if you don’t have a
script not only can nobody be hired but yeah
you can’t you have no work you can’t shoot anything and it’s also very
important to have a good script the best you can offer these actors and directors
because you know anybody can put words on paper
but to make them sing and to make a piece of work that’s original obviously
requires a lot of work well that being said so people are waiting for the
writer to finish their work but then once the works finish the writer can
sometimes be the least important unfortunately in the eyes of the
production so in in film this has been the case since Hollywood began that the
writer was totally dispensable this is why these famous novelists came out like
Raymond Chandler whoever they came out to Hollywood to work in the movies to
make some money but their scripts were you know rewritten by other people and
when it was all over it was unrecognizable to them and they just
went back to writing novels because that was really their work and that has been
magnified times a hundred today so you know you’ll see maybe six credited
writers on a finished screenplay and there will have been 20 writers actually
hired because the only ones who get the credits are the ones who there’s an
arbitration now for every film that has multiple writers so the writers guild
arbitrates every single feature film and they’re and they read all 20 drafts
written by all 20 writers and they decide which of those 20 writers will
get credit it could be two writers if there’s 20 writers it’s gonna be at
least two that get credit it could be two it could be six it’ll never be 20
because they have the limit of how many that you can credit but that’s life in
future film writing TV is different TV is different and up until not that long
ago the writer was king and if you were a writer
creator executive producer you had a whole lot of power and people went to
you as the go-to voice of the show now we have so many layers on
top of the writers people who do nothing now there are some executives that are
helpful and involved but there’s so many layers now built into the process I’ll
give you an example you want to do a show with an actor an actor has managers
it has three managers there is a production company that the actor may
have a deal with and then there’s a studio and then there’s the network so
all of these people the managers get credit as producers they get credit not
only they get credit as producers they get a per show episodic fee for doing
what for being the manager of the star and then there is a production company
maybe their production company and they’ll take a a chunk and then the
studio will take a chunk and then the network and I left that one other entity
that takes a chunk and it’s the source of what’s going on in Hollywood today
and that is the big agencies and their packaging fees and that’s what this
whole writers versus agents battle is about right now that the agencies take
these huge chunks of the budget for themselves so the show budgets are lower
and writers can’t afford to hire some of the writers they may want because the
agencies are keeping the budgets lower so they can take their their chunk so
that’s my pitch for the writers you

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