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12/13/2006: What I Learned From Stephen Colbert
I was lucky enough recently to get to hear the writers and producers of The Colbert Report talking about what they do. Stone Phillips moderated, asking Stephen (I like to call him 'Stephen') and the others questions of his own and some submitted by those of us in the audience. It was absolutely fascinating. The very idea of putting together a new show four days a week is stunning to me. I know how long a half-hour can be.
But anyway, there was an answer to one of the questions that I thought you'd enjoy hearing about, Nation. Stone (I like to call him 'Stone') asked about what they look for in a guest. The answer was "someone with a strong opinion." That, more than issues of subject matter or position on the political spectrum or degree of fame, is what guides their choice. It makes perfect sense. They want a guest who comes on with something to advocate, a position to argue.
It occurred to me that spec scripts are like that. A spec *pilot*, especially, is populated with people we've never met before. One of things that's going to power that script is a good guest-screening policy. No one gets on that page until they've got a position to take.
This doesn't have to apply to Waiter 1 in the restaurant scene, but your major characters are going to work together really well if they've got strong clashing opinions and a willingness to let you know about them. Battlestar Galactica is a great example of a show that seems to have an infinity of stories to tell, because every character on there has passionate beliefs, often about things as important as how best to ensure humanity's survival. Big beliefs, big stakes.
If your spec pilot is feeling pale and wobbly, reconsider your booking policy.
Lunch: cold meat and cheese selection, white wine, fresh-baked cookie. High-class lunch.