How to Staff Your TV Writers Room

You know you’re going to have to deal with this situation someday. It’s just a matter of time till you start showrunning. The Hollywood Reporter and the showrunners of a little thing called ONCE UPON A TIME really, really, really want to help y’all become – their rivals? Yikes!



‘Once Upon a Time’ Showrunners Reveal How to Staff a TV Writers Room
by Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis

Staffing up a TV show is joyous and terrible all at the same time. Joyous because it means your show has been ordered to series. Celebration time! Your baby is going out into the world. Terrifying because, well, your baby is going out into the world.

So how do we staff our shows? It’s a difficult process because there are so many amazingly talented writers out there. It really comes down to the meeting for us. Because the truth is, when we get to that stage, it means we’ve read your material. Loved it. Heard fabulous things about you. But now? Now it’s time to see if you can make it … on the road trip.

Because in many ways that’s what a writers room is: A road trip in a giant car with a big table, whiteboards and lots of snacks. With one big difference (other than the whiteboard and table) … when driving from L.A. to, we dunno, Las Vegas, you know you’ll be in the car four or five hours, give or take. But with a show? It could be four or five years (or hopefully at least four or five months). So when we look across at the people we meet, we wonder — is this person gonna eat lots of Doritos and stink up the car (metaphorically, who doesn’t love Doritos?) — or will they be the sane voice of reason that tells us, “Yes, it’s a long trip, but we can get there by taking this route that you never thought of, and wouldn’t it be fun because we can see the world’s largest potato that looks like Abe Lincoln along the way?” This is what’s critical because, to us, writing a show is about the journey, not the destination. We want to be surrounded by folks who will make that journey — both onscreen and in the writers room — the most enjoyable one possible.

So how do we know who to squeeze into our VW bus of a creation? It’s all about chemistry. On a road trip you need all types — the practical, the fun-loving, the “adult,” etc. A writers room is no different. The last thing we want is a homogenous room where everyone has the same skill set and life experience. And that’s what we try to find out in the meeting. Yes, you’re a good writer, but what’s your worldview? What part of you do you bring to the table? We want different voices. Different ideas. And we also want to feel like we want to spend time with the person.

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