What I Learned About Staffing from Mad Men
CONSULTING PRODUCER ON MAD MEN
After all these years in the business I had never worked in a real writers’ room but that all changed when Matthew Weiner hired me to consult on the last season of the brilliant Mad Men. Of course the chance to work on a great show was extremely appealing but I was also interested in seeing what the storied writers’ room was like and how I would function there. Luckily, the Mad Men room was filled with writers who were not only talented but whip smart, curious about the world and very welcoming. I thought I’d make a list of a few of the things you should know about a writers room for those of you that are staffing for the first time.
1) This is not your show. You are here to help the creator make the best version of his/her show that you can. Keep your ego out of it.
2)Don’t keep score. It isn’t about you getting your idea into the script, it’s about continuing to offer lots of ideas and suggestions. Some will work, some won’t. You’ll probably always like yours better than anyone else’s and that’s okay. Just don’t voice this aloud.
3) Stay present. the hours are long and it is easy to mentally drift off when locked inside for that long. You’re being paid, probably a good amount, for your input and you can’t give it if you aren’t paying attention.
4) Some shows are more difficult to work on than others. I was lucky enough to be in a happy, functional room but I’ve heard some horror stories. Just remember, there are tons of writers out there who would kill to have your job and will if you can’t handle the situation, Make the best of it and if it’s really miserable know that you can quit at the end of your contract.
5) Enjoy the job. Good or bad, it isn’t going to last forever.