Photos of the WRX Public Read-Through kindly provided by Noted Festival.
The format of Writers Room X had two huge risks at the centre of it. Proving that the model in my head could work was entirely dependent on whether those risks would pay off. Thanks to the amazing group of writers that came together for the project I can soundly say that said model has legs (at least as long as you have amazing writers involved).
The first risk was the group-devised nature of the project. The classic TV-writers-room model that I was basing everything on traditionally hinges on one, maybe two people to devising the premise and vision for a show. I was asking my writers to do that part in the room together, eyeball to eyeball.
The second risk was working around the individual work and life schedules of 6 independent writers. Our working week necessarily looked like this:
9.5 straight hours on a Sunday
Separate for three days to each write an episode draft
Reconvene for 3 four hour sessions over 3 days, in which every draft was reconciled with each other a taken to final edit as a group
Live public read-through on day 8
My hunch going in was that paying off both risks would come down to that huge long first day. We kicked off with several hours of framing- talking about all the thing that we loved about TV, as well as all the things that we haven’t seen in the medium and would like to. We set goals for what we wanted to achieve and spent time just getting to know each other. I’m pretty sure that time spent getting on the same page was what made the rest of the week go so smoothly.
And really, it went crazy smoothly. Sure, there was a fair chunk of staring at each other fearfully on the first day, but once we stopped trying so hard the premise and characters came quickly. The last big chunk of Sunday was spent beating out the plots for our 6-episode season (of 6 minutes episodes) and assigning each writer an episode. I was sure that our first drafts would be all over the map in terms of character and tone but when we read them through start to finish on the Thursday they were shockingly cohesive. The last three days were exactly my dream of what the format could be; a group of writers polishing and punching up the scripts as a group, everyone pulling in the same creative direction.
One of the great things about this format is reading a draft by a writer where you already know the plot and the beats that they’re working with, but being surprised and delighted by their execution. We did constant out-loud read-throughs of everything which meant these delightful surprises were experienced as a group right there in the moment. Unbelievably fun. Doing the final group pass on all the one-liner jokes was a highlight too.
So after 21 hours or group work and who-knows-how-much off-site solo writing, We completed Season One of Drunk White Friend, a sitcom by Writers Room X. We wrapped up the week with a live reading of the scripts at the Noted Festival publishing fair, and despite the variance in voice-acting experience among our group the reaction was great.
The next phase is moving toward production, watch this space for all the details. In the meantime colossal shout-outs to the other members of Writers Room X- Tasnim Hossain, Linda Chen, Khalid Warsame, Chiara Grassia and Emma ‘Make It Happen’ McManus! You guys are the bestestest.