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Hollywood Writers’ Series – Part 4 with Jeffrey Berman

 

Jeffrey Berman is a mover and a shaker. When he’s not writing feature films for the likes of Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, or The Walt Disney Studio, he’s interviewing writers for his series entitled, “The Write Environment.” Jeff also works as a producer.

I’ve worked with Jeff quite a bit over the last few years, and I must say, it’s a real joy to collaborate with him. I asked Jeff if he’d be a part of this blog series, and he said he was game.

 

1. Jeff, thanks for being a part of this project. You’ve been writing and producing in Hollywood for years. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a couple of your projects. What is the most challenging thing about putting together a production team, and what do you look for in the people you choose?
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8 Rules for Team Brainstorming

Where do great ideas come from? The answer is quite simple- brainstorming. Whether working alone, or with a group of other creative teammates, great ideas often start with brainstorms.

Here are 8 rules for group brainstorming from my book (co-authored with Len Wilson) Taking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams that Work.

1.) Keep the brainstorming team small

It is important to keep brainstorming groups at a relatively small size. Studies have shown that the most effective brainstorming groups consist of around 4 to 7 people. Any more than that and it’s hard to narrow down ideas and form consensus. Any less and it’s hard to have enough minds focused to generate good ideas.

2.) Even the playing field

The best creative groups find a way to check hierarchical structure at the door. No one wants to look bad in the eyes of their superiors, and brainstorming (from an ego standpoint) can be pretty risky. Creativity flows much easier when each member feels the same amount of authority to express and give input on ideas being discussed. The “flatter” the team feels organizationally, the better the brainstorming will be.

It may not be possible to organize staff positions in such a way that everyone is “flat” outside the meeting, but position and supervisory issues should be deemphasized during the brainstorming meeting.
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Hollywood Writers’ Series – Part 3 with Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia

 

Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia are a dynamic duo of awesomeness.

These writing partners of eight years have written and produced many series including Judging Amy, Jericho, Warehouse 13, Human Target, and Charlie’s Angels. They’re currently in development on a cable pilot as well as a Zorro re-boot for Sony.

They are highly respected by their peers, and their talent has kept them consistently working from the early days of their partnership.

A few years ago I got to know Matt and Steve when they were working on the episodic television series Jericho. A couple of years later I got to work with them as a designer on a pilot they had in development, and I must say, it’s truly exciting to experience their collaborative process in real time.

On a side note, and to further reinforce the notion that it is indeed a small world, Steve grew up only a short drive down the interstate from where I grew up, and while we didn’t know it at the time, we competed in high school marching band competitions. Anyway, on to more interesting things!

1. Guys, thanks for agreeing to participate in this series. When breaking a story in the writers’ room, the writing staff has to come to a consensus. Does being a writing team give you any advantages when breaking a story? I know you don’t take a vote, but do two voices help if you’re on the same side as an idea? Or do you really function as individuals in the room?
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Hollywood Writers’ Series – Part 2 with Human Target’s Jonathan E. Steinberg

 

Jonathan E. Steinberg is one of Hollywood’s rising stars. His very first outing, Jericho, quickly gained a cult following. When the network cancelled it, the fans who loved it fought to bring it back—and won! Following Jericho, Jon wrote and sold several pilots, and then went on to develop Human Target (a DC Comics adaptation) for Fox. It aired for two seasons. Always busy, he currently has three series in development, and it was just announced that ABC has ordered a pilot for his reimagined Beauty and the Beast.

Jon and I first met in 2007 when Jericho was cancelled, and since then I have worked with him as a designer on Human Target, the Jericho season three graphic novel, and most recently on Beauty and the Beast. Jon agreed to answer a few questions about the process involved with being writer/producer on a major television series.

1. Jon, you’ve developed two shows from the ground up. Jericho was a world you created from scratch. Human Target was a world and character that had already been established as a comic book. (I’m intentionally ignoring the Rick Springfield TV show.) How did your approach to writing Jericho compare to your experience with Human Target?
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Hollywood Writers’ Series – Part 1 with Touch’s Carol Barbee

As an artist/writer/media guy, I am and always have been fascinated by the creative process. One of my greatest passions is that of storytelling. Storytelling can take many forms, from writing to video editing, from graphic arts to collaborative worship design. Inspiration for that passion can be drawn from many places, and I’m always on the lookout for things that can make me better at my craft.

Like many of the readers of this blog, I’ve been a fan of film and television for as long as I can remember. Those of us communicating the gospel in worship can gain much through an exploration of the processes used in Hollywood.

In addition to my work at Midnight Oil, I do graphic and motion design work for a number of “secular” clients. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know and work with several Hollywood writers and producers. I’ve learned so many things from listening to and watching my writer friends that apply directly to what I do at Midnight Oil, The Ohio River Valley District of the UMC, Simplifilm, and (from time to time) Ginghamsburg UMC.

After reflecting on some of the things I’ve learned, I began to envision a series of posts exploring creative collaboration and the creative process as known by Hollywood creatives. Several emails and conversations later, this series was born.

Over the next two months, I’ll be interviewing some of the entertainment industry’s most successful and up and coming television and feature film writers. If you design worship as a team, want to learn how to become a better storytelling, are fascinated by the creative process, or are just a fan of television and film, this series is for you.

First up is an interview with my friend Carol Barbee.

Carol is one of the most beloved writers/producers in Hollywood. I know quite a few people who have had the pleasure of working with her, and every single one of them has gone on and on about how great she is.

Carol has worked in front of the camera as an actor and behind the scenes as a writer/producer/showrunner. Her credits as a writer/producer include shows such as Providence, Judging Amy, Jericho, Swingtown, Three Rivers, Hawaii Five-0, and the new Fox drama TouchI’ve had the honor of knowing Carol since about 2007, and I have great respect for her and her work.

When I asked Carol if she’d answer a few questions about what it’s like to be a writer/producer, she responded within moments with a resounding “YES!” I hope her responses will help you see your creative process from a new perspective.

1.) Carol, you have experience in front of and behind the camera. How did your time as an actor affect your role as a writer?

Having been an actor helps me as a writer in so many ways.  First of all, I’m not afraid of actors.  Don’t laugh—a lot of writers have never spoken to an actor and consider them a foreign and frightening life form.  Having been an actor, I think I understand what actors can say and also what they need in terms of motivation and drive for the character.  I also act out my scripts as I write them, and therefore supply endless entertainment to my assistant. Read the rest of this entry » (4894)

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