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  • Brought to you by the letter from Syndi

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    Hello again, Gentle Readers! I’m fascinated by all the parts of the television writing world that don’t generally communicate with each other. Even sitcoms and dramas often seem to live in very different worlds. Get farther out and it’s a different galaxy: game shows, daytime dramas, late-night comedy… it’s all TV writing, but it can follow totally different procedures. I recently corresponded with Friend-of-the-Blog Syndi, a writers’ assistant at Sesame Street. Here’s her account of their process.

    Syndi:

    The Sesame Street writing process seems so simple compared to what you’re used to. We have a team of 10 writers, which includes our head writer. The entire group meets a couple of times for some general brainstorming. Then, the producers decide how many of the 26 episodes will be assigned to each writer. Then, to each writer, I assign a show number (we use show numbers instead of titles), a letter of the day, a number of the day, and an assortment of muppet and human cast (per script).

    Each writer takes their assignments and brainstorms on ideas for their episodes, then meets individually with the head writer to talk it out. From there, the writer goes off and writes their first draft. The head writer reviews the first draft and speaks with the writer about any changes he would like to see made. A second draft might be turned in, a third, etc.

    Eventually, the head writer signs off on it, and the script gets typed up into our script template by our script coordinator. Then I proofread it, and clean copies are distributed to our Research department. The folks in Research all have Master’s degrees and PhD’s in education, child psychology, etc. Research will review each script and give their comments to our head writer, who has the ultimate power to veto anything (of course, if Research feels very strongly, they’ll push hard.) I’ll put those research comments that were approved into the script and then the producers will meet on the script.

    Any changes that the producers would like to see are communicated to our head writer via our Executive Producer. (The Exec. Producer has ultimate say.) Once those changes are put into the script, it’s pretty much ready to be met on in a production meeting. Any changes that come out of the production meeting would constitute a revision, or at the very least, revised pages.

    How cool is that? Can you imagine getting your assigned letter of the day? It’s easy to get very near-sighted about TV writing, and to think that the whole world is primetime drama and comedy, but there are many fine streets in the world, and one of them is called Sesame.

    Look around and make sure you’re aiming at the job that really interests you, because there’s more than one way to do this.

    Lunch: a Caesar salad with garbanzo beans — nonstandard but delicious

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