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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



Last night I had the good fortune to meet Matthew Weiner, he of Mad Men (and Emmy nominee for some show about mobsters that listen to Journey or something). He was a panelist at this year's Sublime Primetime panel of Emmy nominated writers presented by Variety and the Writer's Guild.

L-R: Daniels, Parriott, McGibbon, Selman, Zohn, Weiner

After the panel, I spoke to him briefly and expected to make no impression whatsoever. Just the usual "dig your show" kinda thing. Then I mentioned to him that I had begun outlining a Mad Men spec to add to my portfolio.

"Oh. Wow." He was speechless. I know this because he said "I'm speechless." He'd never considered that a show that he created might be something that other writers would spec. He took this as quite a compliment and arranged for me to get a copy of a show script. Thus, we think very highly of the only guy I have seen in quite some while who can pull off a plaid jacket. He's a stylish guy. Being a TV writer, that's a rare thing indeed.

Now, a few bullet points from the panel.
  • Matt Selman's advice to new writers involved getting a time machine and going back to the 90's when TV was big. Now it's small. Other panelists nodded in agreement. It's true, but odd because there's actually more series and outlets for TV, but harder still to get into. A painful reminder.
  • The panel opened with a clips package that featured not just the panelists shows, but all nominated shows. The biggest-- THE BIGGEST laugh (of the whole night, in fact) came from my favorite comedy, 30 Rock. They showed the introductory scene of recurring character Dr. Leo Spaceman. The whole audience busted out in so much laughter that in drowned out some of the next. At first, I was gratified by this because it proves how much Tina Fey rawks. Then it occured to me that maybe the laugh was so huge because none of those fuckers actually watched 30 Rock last season.
  • Matt Weiner explained a few cryptic Sopranos titles. His nominated "Kennedy and Heidi" was not some bizarre reference to the series end, but was the names of the two girls driving the car that did the thing that the episode was about (how's that for spoiler-free).
  • Spike Ferestein (he was the moderator) cannot speak a sentence without the word "Seinfeld" in it. And Matt Selman totally called him on it. I suppose if I wrote "The Soup Nazi," I might do the same.
  • Weiner's advice on pitching pilots (if you're not some established showrunner or big name writer): Don't pitch it. Write it. "Ideas are a dime a dozen...don't just be a guy with an idea, sit in a chair and write it...that makes you a guy with a..(miming the holding of a script)...a property. Sheryl Zohn said it a bit better. "It makes you a writer."
  • Weiner also advised to really think about who you give a script to and why. Feedback from some people can really screw you up.
Also in attendance: Greg Daniels, Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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