With so many options available to prospective viewers at a given moment – everything from weekly episodes to binge-watches to even memes on social media – how do some of the most celebrated writers in Hollywood consider the audience when sitting down to write a script? It depends, say the writers on our “Meet the Experts” Writers Guild Award nominees panel – including Josh Gondelman from “Desus & Mero,” Brad Ingelsby from “Mare of Easttown,” Brett Goldstein from “Ted Lasso,” Little Marvin from “Them” and Paul Simms from “What We Do in the Shadows.”
Watch the lively panel roundtable discussion above. Click on each name above to watch an individual interview with that person.
“We think about the show within the framework of late night. That’s how a lot of people watch it,” Gondelman says. “But I think it’s also fun to create these [viral] moments. And we have a really wonderful digital team that really thinks about what a fun moment from the show can have a life beyond what we see. So I think we tried to write the show for what it is, right? … But then I think it’s also fun to see the ways that can be contextualized.”
“I never did in the past, I did movies that not many people went to see, so it was never on my mind,” Ingelsby, who wrote acclaimed films “Out of the Furnace” and “The Way Back,” deadpans. But as the creator and writer of a murder mystery like “Mare of Easttown,” he knew there were specific audience expectations that came with the show. Every episode, he says, had “to end on somewhat of a cliffhanger. So I think it was the first time in my life that I had to look at it as a viewer. … How do we get people coming back? And so I think, too, that was certainly on my mind and also like, how was it an earned cliffhanger? It can’t just be at the end of the episode, throw something in there, it has to be emotional, organic to the characters.”
For Goldstein, Season 2 of “Ted Lasso” taught him the viewers sometimes take things even further than the creators expected, as happened with the response to Nate’s villainous turn on the Apple TV+ show. “There’s one thing that’s really shocked us, which is how much people hate Nate by the end of season two. Like, I’m sympathetic to Nate. I know why he’s like this. We’ve done his psychology, I feel sorry for him. People want to f–king kill him,” Goldstein says of the formerly beloved character who ended the show’s second season in a dark place. In Season 3, he adds, “We don’t want everyone to hate Nate. … I think we’re aware in the writing of Season 3 of how we position him because, you know, we don’t want people to hate him even more. Like, they want him dead.”
Marvin, a first-time showrunner and writer, says he didn’t even dare think about the audience because he was too concerned with getting the project to the finish line. “I’ve just tried desperately not to be fired for like two years,” he says. “Actually, you can’t even think beyond the day, right? And it just felt like we were just making this show and then there’s a point at which it’s released. Nothing can prepare you for what that feels like. So if I’m being honest, I didn’t really think about it at all. That might shift moving forward.”
As for Simms, he says he has a more “old-fashioned” approach to “What We Do in the Shadows. “I know a lot of people binge the episodes later, but I like the fact that it airs once a week. And one thing we’ve talked about from the beginning is wanting this to be like ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’ or whatever. Like if you watched them all out of order, you would still enjoy it. For everyone who really does like really pay attention, we do tell season-long arcs, but we’re always careful. We just never wanted to have an episode where someone who’s never seen it before will go like, ‘Hold it, what’s going on? Why is this happening?’ Like we want them all to sort of stand-alone.”
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