Ken Levine knows all about ’em – having learned the hard way, you betcha:
by Ken Levine
Everyone has to start somewhere. For me and my writing partner, David Isaacs our first paid writing assignment was for an episode of THE JEFFERSONS. Prior to that we had been writing spec scripts, schlepping down to the Writers Guild to register them for protection, and then we peddled them to anyone who would read them.
Our spec MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (which had already been rejected by THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and RHODA) found its way into the hands of Gordon Mitchell, one of the story editors of THE JEFFERSONS. He liked it well enough to invite us to come in and pitch story ideas for the show. One hit the mark and we got the assignment.
Now came the hard part. Not the writing – but covering the fact that we were both utterly clueless of the process.
Step one was breaking the story. We met with Gordon and his partner, Lloyd Turner and worked out the beats of the story. Gordon then asked how long we needed to write the outline?
The outline? You have to write an outline?
I didn’t say that, but that’s what I was thinking. David and I wrote outlines for ourselves but they were usually handwritten scribbles on a couple pieces of notebook paper. I didn’t think that’s what he meant.
So we were on the spot. We didn’t want to say a week and have them say, “A week? It should take you two days.” Or we say two days and they say, “What? You’re just going to dash it off? It should take a month.”