Michael Jamin sits down with one of his good friends (and former bosses) Jonathan Aibel who was a movie writer for Kung Fu Panda 1-3 and has worked on other greats like Trolls, Monster Trucks, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and Monsters vs Aliens. If you dream of being a movie or TV writer, you won’t want to miss this podcast episode!

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Autogenerated Transcript

Jonathan Aibel (00:00:00):
We knew storyboards, we knew how to read storyboards. We knew what happens in an editing room and how actors perform, right? So we came to it with production skills or an, an understanding of the process that that helped us come in and say, oh, I think you can, you can cut a few frames there and actually know what we were talking about.

Michael Jamin (00:00:23):
You’re listening to Screenwriters. Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. Hey everyone. Welcome to Screenwriters. Need to hear this. I’m Michael Jamin, and I got a great guest for you today. This is my, this is one of my, this is one of my first bosses, actually. And yeah, yeah, John, it’s true. I am here with John Abel one of the partner, he, his partners Glen Berger. I’ll have him on in a future episode. So tell him to just relax. I know he wants to

Jonathan Aibel (00:00:51):
Be, let’s see how this goes

Michael Jamin (00:00:52):
First. Yeah, he’ll, exactly. So yeah, and this guy’s got a ton of credit. We, he’s a real life movie writer. So let me give, I’m gonna sell you a, I’m gonna sell you, John, and then I’ll let you talk for a second. But first let me talk, let me sell you up.

Jonathan Aibel (00:01:04):
That’s fine.

Michael Jamin (00:01:04):
Proof everyone knows, like, I’m a, people say I’m a good creative writer. Wrong. I’m gonna prove it by selling you here, by building you up. So he’s written on a u s a, he wrote run on King of the Hill for many years, including he was the showrunner, season five, cos Showrunner Mar. He also worked on Married to the Kelly’s. That was his tv. That was his run in TV, I think. And then he went on to write Kung fu Panda, Kung fu Panda two, Kung fu Panda three proving like, you know, milking that thing, just milking that Kung fu panda thing. And then trolls, monster Trucks. And you’ve had a couple, couple upcoming stuff I want to talk about. Jonathan Abel, welcome to the show.

Jonathan Aibel (00:01:46):
Thank you. That was okay.

Michael Jamin (00:01:48):
What wasn’t good? What should I have said?

Jonathan Aibel (00:01:49):
Well, you, king of the Hill is six years and like, that was six six. That was great TV. And then, and then you kinda mentioned some things. I was on six weeks with the same,

Michael Jamin (00:01:59):

Jonathan Aibel (00:02:00):
The same emphasis.

Michael Jamin (00:02:01):
I’m pretty sure, but I’m pretty sure. So they’re not equal, you’re saying, you’re saying, well,

Jonathan Aibel (00:02:07):
You know, some, some are hits and some are are learning experiences. I’m

Michael Jamin (00:02:12):
Wearing my shirt for you by the, my King of the Hilter. But let, lemme tell you something. Let me tell you let me tell you something else. So will you, you guys, you and your partner Glenn hired basically, hi. You and Richard Pell hired us to be on King of the Hill. I think there was an opening because of Paul Lieberstein who left. And we literally took his office. So I credit I thank you for that. Oh, you’re

Jonathan Aibel (00:02:30):

Michael Jamin (00:02:31):
When we got, when we joined the show, it was like, you know, it’s your responsibility to get up to speed. So I asked for every script that was written or every, you know, anything on DVD that was already shot. And I distinctly remember reading all your guys’ scripts, you and you and Glen Scripps, and just thinking, man, every script you wrote was just tight. It was so tight. And you’d come outta the box with a big joke. And it was just so well written. And like, you know, I didn’t, there was 20 writers in the show, but I remember that your, your scripts always stood out like, man, these are always,

Jonathan Aibel (00:03:02):
You know, I

Michael Jamin (00:03:03):
Appreciate that. Always good. Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (00:03:04):
I also appreciate your your diligence.

Michael Jamin (00:03:07):
My diligence

Jonathan Aibel (00:03:08):
Well, to come into a job and say, let me read everything. Lemme see

Michael Jamin (00:03:12):
Everything. Oh, is, I didn’t

Jonathan Aibel (00:03:13):
Think that was, it was a bit of a challenge with a hundred episodes.

Michael Jamin (00:03:16):
Always dreadful. The whole thing was a horrible experience. It’s a lot to, but I remember. But you have to do it. You have to. That’s how you get the voice of the characters and but the, to like, what kind of show episodes are being told. I remember, I dunno if I ever told you this, but I remember we had just, we were on just Shoot Me, you know, for the first four years. And I remember after the first season, king of the Hill was up against to shoot me. And I remember I was actually house-sitting for Steve Levitan for some reason. And and we were watching, I, we threw a big party. He, he wasn’t in the house. And, and we were watching King of the Hill. It just came on. It was the, it was, you know, the Bobby’s falls in love with the, with the dummy. And I, and I remember watching thinking, oh no, this is the competition. <Laugh>, this is really good <laugh>

Jonathan Aibel (00:04:01):
That we used to watch. Just shoot me all the time in the writer’s room feel that same way.

Michael Jamin (00:04:06):
Is that right? I didn’t know that. I don’t, I don’t think so,

Jonathan Aibel (00:04:08):
But I, I just feels like it would, it should be.

Michael Jamin (00:04:11):
Yeah. You, you actually used to reciprocate.

Jonathan Aibel (00:04:13):
That’d be a nice thing to say.

Michael Jamin (00:04:14):
It would’ve been. But yeah, so Damn, Michelle was, and I still get, I, even today I get a ton of compliments on, on King of Hill. But tell me more. Tell me how you broken. How did you guys even get on King of Hill Hill?

Jonathan Aibel (00:04:28):
We were very lucky in that before we even moved to California, we, Glen and I met, we were management consultants and we met someone at this consulting firm who was college roommate with Greg Daniel’s wife. And when we first started thinking maybe we don’t wanna be consultants and would prefer to be comedy writers, she said, you should talk to Suzanne. Give her a call. So we called Suzanne to say, could we, we know you’re Frank, could we talk to you about writing? And she said, you really wanna talk to my husband? So she put Greg on the phone. He didn’t know who we were. We, he then I, what

Michael Jamin (00:05:11):
Was Greg doing at that time?

Jonathan Aibel (00:05:13):
He had moved to la I think he was doing Seinfeld at the time or had done the freelance, the parking spot on Seinfeld. Oh, I didn’t, yeah, he’d come off of snl.

Michael Jamin (00:05:24):

Jonathan Aibel (00:05:25):
And he gave the most basic advice that now you would probably give people, or you’d Google this. And it was, and Glen wrote it down, it was moved to Los Angeles. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Okay, okay. What else do we need to do? Like the how do you become a writer? And just super helpful in that regard. And then we moved to LA and never ran into him until King of the Hill. We had our first meeting and Glenn, I think he may have brought the pad and said, it’s your fault. We’re here.

Michael Jamin (00:06:00):
But how did you get the meeting

Jonathan Aibel (00:06:02):
That, that it was just through our agent. There’s this new show starting up, it’s animated. I don’t wanna do animation. I know, I know. And it’s non gild. Yeah,

Michael Jamin (00:06:12):
I know about

Jonathan Aibel (00:06:13):
That. And you’re gonna work in a full year for 12 episodes. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Well, this sounds terrible, but it’s Greg, it’s Mike Judge who’s coming off of Beavis and Butthead. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And you will learn a lot whether it’s a hit or not. And we thought, well, that’s probably the best reason to, to take a job. There’s nothing to see. There was no pilot even, there’s just a script. Right. There are no voices to listen to. It had been cast. So it was really just going under the assumption that, well, anytime you think something’s gonna be a hit, it never is. So let’s take a job just based on the people. And I don’t think at that moment we had there, it wasn’t like, do we take this or do we take this? It was, well, do we take this or do we just hang on? And, but you had no, I think maybe we hadn’t,

Michael Jamin (00:07:04):
You didn’t have any other credits before that, did you?

Jonathan Aibel (00:07:06):
No, we had done, we started off, oh, we did an episode of the George Carlin show. We had done, you

Michael Jamin (00:07:13):
Were right down the hall from me. I didn’t know that. Cause I was a pa.

Jonathan Aibel (00:07:15):
Right. Well, we had done a freelance. A freelance,

Michael Jamin (00:07:17):
Doesn’t matter. You were in the Warner Brothers building, building 1 22 or something. Cuz that’s where it was.

Jonathan Aibel (00:07:21):
Well, here. No, cuz here’s our great George Carlin story is that we wrote this script for Sam Simon. Right. We turned it in. We get a call a few weeks later from someone at the studio who said, great episode. And we said, oh, you read the script. Well read the script. Did tape last night.

Michael Jamin (00:07:42):
<Laugh> <laugh> just slapping the face. Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (00:07:47):
We were not invited to our own tape. So we watched, we had a party, we watched it at home. Look, our first, our first big credit

Michael Jamin (00:07:54):
That, but that’s amazing too. How did you get, how did you pitch that? You’re skipping all this good stuff.

Jonathan Aibel (00:07:59):
Ah, our agent just back then we were, we were new. I think we had a couple, we’ve done a, a sketch show on Nickelodeon that got us in the guild that got us an agent. And interesting. He just put us up for stuff. So one of them was this freelance of of Carlin. And one of the other things is we went to pitch Sam mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, who it was, it was a hazard. Like he had a deadly sharp throwing stars on his table. So you’d go to like, oh, what’s the paperwork? Don’t touch those. They were razor sharp. And he also had a couple vicious dobermans

Michael Jamin (00:08:42):
In the office. Yeah, I remember that. I remember that.

Jonathan Aibel (00:08:44):
Then he also had, what we assumed was his story editor sitting at the table as we pitched him some story ideas. And then we left and realized, no, that was his next meeting. The next writer who’s gonna pitch story idea sat at the table while we pitched ours. And then we left. And he stayed and pitched his,

Michael Jamin (00:09:02):
That’s a little

Jonathan Aibel (00:09:03):
Unusual. It was a very, it was, it was a very odd thing. But that worked out in the sense that we got the freelance

Michael Jamin (00:09:10):
Your scripts must have been very good then. I mean, cuz

Jonathan Aibel (00:09:13):
I don’t think they, I don’t think so.

Michael Jamin (00:09:15):
It must have been if you would’ve got an agent that easily and got to be able to pitch these shows.

Jonathan Aibel (00:09:19):
Well, the, the agent, I don’t know if it was easy. We, well, what happened was what Mo what happens to most people is you come out and you think, we need to find an agent. We need to get an agent. We’re not gonna get a job without an agent. Right. And then you meet all these agents, they love you, they love your stuff, and they say, get a job. I’m happy to sign you.

Michael Jamin (00:09:37):

Jonathan Aibel (00:09:38):
And we realized we’re not going to get work, but just an agent. We need to get work somehow. And just by knowing people, talking to people, we wound up at M T V. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> doing a game show.

Michael Jamin (00:09:54):
Which show was that?

Jonathan Aibel (00:09:55):
It was called Trashed. Think It finally Made it there. We just worked on the pilot and then got to know people on the, on the hallway. We share, we were in damn TV buildings. And next door were some writers on this Nickelodeon show. And a couple of the writers had just left. And someone said, oh, I hear they’re, they’re looking to hire. Wow. So we said, Hey, we, we’ve got sketches. Can we, can we meet? We the executive producer read our stuff, met with us, and said, yeah, I’ll hire these guys. We went to our agent, the, the potential agent, and said, we just got offered a guild job. Do you wanna represent us? You, there’s no negotiation other than you say, yeah, I think I can get my boss to sign you. Sure. And that was it. And then we were in the Guild. We were having fun writing, and I had had credits, but I, I wouldn’t say we necessarily knew how to write. We knew how to be funny and come up with gags mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But the idea of how do you write a scene, how to you write a script was right. Was a little bit mysterious.

Michael Jamin (00:11:01):
But, and so you, I so you met Glen, you were just, you were, he was a coworker at when you were in your consulting firm. And then how did you both, like, did you, so you never even dreamed as a kid of being a writer. It was ne like, how did this come out of, where did this come from? This writing thing?

Jonathan Aibel (00:11:14):
I don’t think I had any idea that people wrote for a living.

Michael Jamin (00:11:20):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Jonathan Aibel (00:11:22):
Like, you didn’t, you’d watch shows and you wouldn’t think, I don’t, I don’t really know what I was thinking. Like, if I went to see a play on Broadway, I knew a human had written it, but there’s something about TV where you would think like, I don’t know, those are characters who would say these words and you don’t think of 10 people in a room writing those words. So it wasn’t until Stimson’s and Seinfeld started breaking through that, I started feeling like, whoa, there’s TV here that I’d wanna write. And later I found out it was because people just a few years ahead of me at Harvard,

Michael Jamin (00:12:01):

Jonathan Aibel (00:12:01):
Were writing those shows. So I was sort of thinking like, why does this feel like it’s my sensibility without realizing I was kind of swimming in the same water

Michael Jamin (00:12:09):
They had? You weren’t on the Lampoon then. No.

Jonathan Aibel (00:12:11):
You didn’t have a no idea that this is something,

Michael Jamin (00:12:14):
How did you know you were funny then? Like, you know, I

Jonathan Aibel (00:12:18):
Mean, I, I think I always had a sense of humor and was known for being funny slash maybe sometimes disruptive, but cleverly disruptive in school. Right. Like, I was, I’d done musical theater, so I was okay fam like, I, I wasn’t like unfamiliar with entertainment.

Michael Jamin (00:12:40):

Jonathan Aibel (00:12:42):
But that was different from thinking, you know, that’s something you can make a living at. And then it was right around that time where these articles started coming out about the number of people who had gone from the East coast to LA and how many Letterman writers.

Michael Jamin (00:12:56):

Jonathan Aibel (00:12:56):
And SNL writers and Simpson’s writer and Seinfeld and Frazier and Cheers and all these. That opened up my eyes to wait a minute, this is, you could make a living,

Michael Jamin (00:13:07):
But when you,

Jonathan Aibel (00:13:07):
I went to, I had no idea.

Michael Jamin (00:13:09):
When you quit your job, then you came to LA you’d had no job. Right. You were what? You were just like, I’m gonna live off my savings. Or what would you do?

Jonathan Aibel (00:13:16):
Right. We, we, we saved up from, I I, I think Glen says he sent away for grad school applications. His second day of work is how, how quickly he knew that place wasn’t for him.

Michael Jamin (00:13:30):
He did it just <laugh>.

Jonathan Aibel (00:13:32):
It was a little, a little later in the process, but we started writing at night. Like we found out you gotta write a spec

Michael Jamin (00:13:40):
Script. Right. And you guys are roommates too?

Jonathan Aibel (00:13:43):
No. No. We, we weren’t, but we wouldn’t sometimes call in sick and then work on our

Michael Jamin (00:13:48):

Jonathan Aibel (00:13:49):
Ourselves or Glen would stay home and, and turn the light onto my cubicle and put a Right. Put my suit jacket over my chair. <Laugh>, you know, it was

Michael Jamin (00:13:58):
All these, oh my God. <Laugh>

Jonathan Aibel (00:14:00):
Our heart wasn’t really in it, but we stayed and did the job and, and saved up.

Michael Jamin (00:14:05):

Jonathan Aibel (00:14:06):
So that we could move to LA And we didn’t move out to LA like I think we were, we approached it, the way we approached consulting, which was this, this was my job as a consultant, was I was given a list of doctors and it, we had sent them a survey and it was go down this list, call each doctor’s office and ask them if they filled out the survey. So it’s like, hello, Dr. Levine, my name is John Avon. I’m calling on behalf of this. And we’ve sent a survey. I was just wondering if you had a chance to, to, and I would just have to do that for hours. And the skill it taught me was just pick up the phone and call people.

Michael Jamin (00:14:47):

Jonathan Aibel (00:14:47):
So when we were thinking of moving to LA, it was, oh, you should like calling Suzanne.

Michael Jamin (00:14:53):

Jonathan Aibel (00:14:54):
Instead of saying, ah, she doesn’t know me. It was just, okay, she’s just like a doctor. I’m calling you. She doesn’t want to talk to me. She’ll just, you weren’t

Michael Jamin (00:15:01):
To call, were intimidated at all. You, you had, you weren’t intimidated at all.

Jonathan Aibel (00:15:04):
I don’t think I knew to be intimidated. We were in Boston at the time,

Michael Jamin (00:15:08):

Jonathan Aibel (00:15:09):
<Affirmative>. We didn’t, you weren’t surrounded by people who had this dream of going to Hollywood and then came home with their tail between their legs and said, now it’s awful out there. Right. It was, that place seems fun and sunshine and I knew people, people from school, people, friends of my brothers had lived were, were out there. So when we showed up, it felt like there was a, a group, there was a, you weren’t alone. It was there other people here pursuing the dream, but not so many that you felt like there’s no chance this is gonna happen. Like we were, I don’t know if cocky is the word, but because we didn’t know any better. We were just know it’s gonna work out

Michael Jamin (00:15:48):
And it

Jonathan Aibel (00:15:49):
We’re gonna, we didn’t

Michael Jamin (00:15:49):
How long did it take for you to get work, but when you moved out here, it sounds like a fa it was fast.

Jonathan Aibel (00:15:53):
Well, we moved out in September and we got the game show started in December. And then I think amazing by the following summer we were on the Nickelodeon show.

Michael Jamin (00:16:07):
What show was that? What was that

Jonathan Aibel (00:16:08):
Called? It was called Roundhouse.

Michael Jamin (00:16:10):
I don’t know that one.

Jonathan Aibel (00:16:11):
Right. Bruce Bruce Gowers who just passed away two days ago. Who did The Queen, the Bohemian Rapley video. He was the director of it.

Michael Jamin (00:16:19):
Oh wow.

Jonathan Aibel (00:16:20):
But there’s a little little roundhouse trivia. It was really fun. It was a lot of in living color writers.

Michael Jamin (00:16:25):

Jonathan Aibel (00:16:26):
Between gigs were there. So it had dancing and original music and it was a sketch show for tweens on on sncc.

Michael Jamin (00:16:36):
Sncc. Is that what it was? Really? Yeah. It’s so funny cuz this show here was on Nick at night, which was supposed to be not Nickelodeon and Nick at night. No, it’s

Jonathan Aibel (00:16:43):

Michael Jamin (00:16:44):
But it’s not because it, Nick, I don’t remember if Nick at night started at 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM or whatever. But see, my, my partner I siever it used to say, but it’s the, it’s the babysitting channel up until, you know, 8 0 1 and then it becomes racy. But the parents don’t know that

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:00):
<Laugh>. Right. <laugh> no one’s turning you.

Michael Jamin (00:17:02):
Yeah. So the, we got a lot of people

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:04):
From was Saturday night. Saturday night. Nick is a whole other

Michael Jamin (00:17:07):
Ball game. Oh, is that what that is? Sncc? Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:10):
I guess they could have also done it Sunday without changing the name. Yeah. But it was Saturday

Michael Jamin (00:17:15):
Or Wednesdays. Wednesdays or Thursdays. Anything, any day that ends with an s

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:23):
That’s true. Wednesday, Wednesdays Nick.

Michael Jamin (00:17:25):
Yeah. Anyway, that’s why we’re not in the marketing department.

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:29):
My point though is by the time we got to King of the Hill

Michael Jamin (00:17:32):

Jonathan Aibel (00:17:34):
We had had, we had worked on a, a show that was real old school in its joke telling, like real strong set up three a page, boom, boom, boom, boom. Then we worked on another show that was very emotional where it was single woman in the city kind of show. And that was, it wasn’t, not funny, but it was as a writer there it was, wait a minute, I’m supposed to tell a story that isn’t just the situation of situation comedy. It wasn’t just the character loses her driver’s license and has to go to the D M V and this crazy stuff happens. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, it was thinking about the, the internal life and they’re Okay. That’s an interesting then,

Michael Jamin (00:18:23):
But then when did you learn actually how to write like story, a story structure? When did, is that King of the Hill?

Jonathan Aibel (00:18:29):
I think so. The other, the, the show that was very joke heavy. The other thing you learn on a joke heavy show is, is the, the tricks. The okay, someone comes in and says something and then at the end of the scene someone repeats it in a callback and

Michael Jamin (00:18:44):
Right, right.

Jonathan Aibel (00:18:45):
Then people laugh and the music plays and you dissolve slowly to the next scene. And they’re, they’re like they’re like weapons. They could be in that they could be used for good or evil.

Michael Jamin (00:18:55):
Right. Right. So

Jonathan Aibel (00:18:57):
By the time though, we got to King of the Hill, I remember pitching the very first week to Greg and you just have no idea what this show you’re thinking the Simpson. So, okay. I remember we pitched something like Dale’s an exterminator. So he tens a big house and then people think it’s a circus and starts showing up at it.

Michael Jamin (00:19:19):
Oh, I like that

Jonathan Aibel (00:19:20):
<Laugh>. And Greg’s like, oh, that’s the little, probably by season eight that would’ve been a season eight idea. That’s good. But in the beginning I think that’s a little not observational enough. And, and, and it’s sort of like, well what do you mean to define observational was the, the question like how do you find comedy out of human, actual human behavior?

Michael Jamin (00:19:48):

Jonathan Aibel (00:19:48):
In the way, how do you observe what a person would do in a, in a real life situation? And no one had really done that in animation, which was Yeah. The, I think the brilliance of Mike and Greg was to say, well, what if you take this style that’s associated with unreality Right. And give it more reality than anything else you’ve seen in animation.

Michael Jamin (00:20:09):
And that’s what was unusual because we used to say in many ways just king of the Hill was less of a cartoon than, than just shooting me. I mean, <laugh> just shoot me was more of a cartoon. You know, it was, but, and it’s unusual cause you’d say, I I even back then I was like, well why is this show animated? Like, cuz you no one’s eyes popping out, no one’s running on air. You know, no one’s doing any Daffy Duck stuff. But I guess it was just because you could shoot it like a movie and it could be real. But you didn’t have the, you didn’t have the budget. Well

Jonathan Aibel (00:20:39):
You’re probably overthinking it cuz it was just the real reason is they had to deal with Mike and Mike’s an animator and this is what he wanted to do.

Michael Jamin (00:20:46):
<Laugh>. I guess so. But usually why is it animated? Like, you know, other

Jonathan Aibel (00:20:50):
Than because Yeah. That’s, that’s why are, why are, why is this? It’s cuz cuz Mike wanted, he saw it. No, that was his thing. And, and he didn’t. And, and that’s great. That’s as, that’s as good a reason. And how,

Michael Jamin (00:21:04):
How much was, and I’ve heard stories, but I think people wanna hear this. How involved was Mike like literally on a day-to-day basis in those early years with the show?

Jonathan Aibel (00:21:13):
Huh. I can’t say I know the full scope of it because I’m sure he was more involved in the production,

Michael Jamin (00:21:22):
But he wasn’t in the writer’s room. I mean, I know like,

Jonathan Aibel (00:21:24):
No, cuz he was living in Texas.

Michael Jamin (00:21:26):

Jonathan Aibel (00:21:27):
So he would come in and then we would do the story retreats, maybe you remember. Yeah. Or we’d go to Texas and and meet with him, or he would come in or we’d go to his house. It re it was Greg on the day today. And then I don’t really know what the, the communication between the two of them was. Right. I, I’m pretty sure Mike’s deal was, I have a life in Texas and I don’t wanna move to LA and do this grind cuz he had done that grind for Beefs and, but, and the Beavers and Butthead movie.

Michael Jamin (00:22:01):
Right, right.

Jonathan Aibel (00:22:03):
So I think that’s what Greg took on.

Michael Jamin (00:22:06):
But yeah, he,

Jonathan Aibel (00:22:06):
It was a great combination.

Michael Jamin (00:22:08):
He have notes though. He I remember, you know, even on on the, on the audio track, you could sometimes hear him say, I’m, that that line’s not right. He’d tweak a line or whatever, you know? Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (00:22:19):
Yeah, you get his little I’m not gonna say that. How about

Michael Jamin (00:22:23):
<Laugh> not gonna do that. But, but then, okay, so then you guys rose up to the ranks cuz only in five or six years you were running the show, which is a pretty fast climb to be able to run a TV show after only that short amount of time is kind of crazy almost. You know, I

Jonathan Aibel (00:22:38):
Think we were a and meanwhile feels like, oh, we’re not getting anywhere in this town. And some of that is because you do a show. We were, we’d probably done a year of it worked under the year before it even premiered. Right. So you’re putting all this into it and you don’t know if it’s gonna be a hit. And then the surprise was, it, it was doing really well. And then you have no time to enjoy it because you’re halfway through starting season two. It was, it was both really exciting and just crazy exhausting. And it

Michael Jamin (00:23:12):

Jonathan Aibel (00:23:13):
Yeah. Like 3:00 AM And that’s sort of fun sometimes

Michael Jamin (00:23:19):
When you’re young, it’s in

Jonathan Aibel (00:23:21):
The beginning where it’s, hey, it’s like college, right? We’re all hanging out. We’re just being funny. And then you start dating and your partners saying, what time are you gonna be home? I don’t know. Yeah. Or what time do you think I really, I don’t know. Someone could come into this room in two minutes and say, we’re good. Go home. Or someone could come in in two minutes and say, I just got Mike’s notes. We need to start over. Yeah. You don’t know. And that’s a, when you’re a staff writer, not so hard because you just do what you’re told when as you move up and take on more responsibility. It, it definitely became less fun. Aspects of it were fun. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> directing actors was really fun. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> working with editing and storyboard artists and the animation directors fun. But the more stuff like, can I go to a dentist appointment on Wednesday? Let me see what’s the staff, what, what room am I in today? Like, I, I left consulting because I didn’t wanna be a, a manager. And that’s wh part of show running is that, and for us, that was the, that wasn’t the fun part. The fun part, as we say, Glenn and I would note you rise up and become a showrunner based on the strength of your writing. And then you get to a position where you don’t have time to write anymore.

Michael Jamin (00:24:41):
Oh. It’s not only that people, cause I people, they reach out to me all the time, you know, that I wanna be a showrunner. It’s like, I just wanted to be a writer. Like, cuz be a show. It’s like you just said, you, none of us become comedy writers because we wanna be managers. Like that’s not, and when you’re a show owner, that’s what you’re doing. You are managing other people. Yeah. And and, and we’re not equipped, we’re not prepared for it. And we don’t necessarily even want to do that. And, you know, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a hard

Jonathan Aibel (00:25:06):
Leap. Right. And it was, it was definitely challenging also, cuz you’re putting all this work in, then you realize, this isn’t even my show. This is Greg and Mike’s vision, and you’re just trying to fulfill their vision. Right.

Like, I can see running my, if Im running my own show saying I love this idea and this is my baby and I’m gonna protect. And I just, I want to be the ur here. I want to see my vision through. But so much of show running isn’t that at all? It’s, it’s, Greg would describe it as it’s sort of like pottery where you would make a pot, put it on the shelf and all right, what’s the next one? Sometimes they break, sometimes they’re not quite formed. But you don’t have time. You gotta get to the next Right. Get to make another pot.

Michael Jamin (00:25:53):
But do you have, and I wanna get to your film career, which is very impressive, but do you have, did you have any like, eyes to go back and do any kind of television, even creating your own show?

Jonathan Aibel (00:26:03):
We, after King of the Hill, we, we wrote a few pilots. We were at Fox and writing pilots. And it was a weird time in TV where every year Fox would say, we don’t want single camera shows. We need, we need Multicam, we need to pair them with whatever

Michael Jamin (00:26:20):

Jonathan Aibel (00:26:21):
Hit they had there. We need another, we need to pair this. So we’d write a multi cam and then they would only pick up single camera shows. But I think that happened two or three years or what

Michael Jamin (00:26:29):
Yeah. What’s,

Jonathan Aibel (00:26:30):
What’s going on? So we started realizing, I, I think we were kind of spoiled by King of the Hill. It was, it was just creatively, it was just an amazing show. And so fun to write those characters and work with those actors and work with that staff that after that it was, I don’t, it’s hard to just go and do sitcoms. I mean, like, I enjoyed the form, but I couldn’t see myself spending 10 more years doing that. And it felt like the the air was coming out of that format.

Michael Jamin (00:27:07):
Then how did you, how did you jump into features?

Jonathan Aibel (00:27:10):
Well, it started because King, as I mentioned, king of the Hill was not a guild go in the first years mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So we’re doing it, we’re in our second or third year, and we realized we’re gonna lose our health insurance. What, what? I mean like, it was a very adult sounding realization of, oh, health insurance. What I, I hadn’t even been thinking. Because when you’re in the Writer’s Guild, it’s amazing. On a time I was 23, I had health insurance.

Michael Jamin (00:27:40):
But you had health through the Animators Guild though, through tag.

Jonathan Aibel (00:27:43):
We weren’t animated animation. We were No, it was not unfamiliar

Michael Jamin (00:27:47):
Anybody. Oh no. Wow. I didn’t know that.

Jonathan Aibel (00:27:51):
So we said to our agent, we need, we need either freelance episodes

Michael Jamin (00:28:00):
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>

Jonathan Aibel (00:28:01):
Or we need to write a feature. And she said, well, do you have a feature spec? And we said, no. And then, and to her credit, she said, there’s this director, he’s been hired to direct a reboot of Freddy, or of Friday, it was Freddy versus Jason.

Michael Jamin (00:28:20):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Jonathan Aibel (00:28:21):
And he loves King of the Hill. And basically it was, can you give him a fun, fun, he’s got an idea for story fun characters that he can then kill. Like it was right around Scream had come out. So there was this, the, the Birth of Hard comedy.

Michael Jamin (00:28:38):

Jonathan Aibel (00:28:39):
So he said, yeah, we can do that. And we, we met him, we got along, he loved the show. We, we love working with him. So we wrote this script, which then, which then didn’t get produced. But it was, oh, this features is kind of like writing King of the Hill, but longer.

Michael Jamin (00:28:59):

Jonathan Aibel (00:28:59):
You just kind of write King of the Hill and then you keep writing and keep writing and then you have a hundred pages of King of the Hill instead of 22. Right. But the three act structures similar. And the idea of thinking about a character and how do you write a character, we realized it’s kind of more cinematic than episodic television. Like the things we were learning were more applicable to writing features than writing sitcoms at that point.

Michael Jamin (00:29:28):

Jonathan Aibel (00:29:29):
So when our television deal was nearing its clothes, and we were thinking, do we renew it? Do we throw our hats out there as, as showrunners for hire? And we thought, you know, let’s, let’s write, maybe we can write some more features. And we just started getting some rewrites, doing some originals.

Michael Jamin (00:29:50):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Jonathan Aibel (00:29:52):
And you can start making a, a decent living writing movies and never get made.

Michael Jamin (00:29:57):
Oh, for sure. At least you could then. I don’t know if it’s now

Jonathan Aibel (00:29:59):
Yes. Yes. Then you then you could. But it was super frustrating. Yeah. Because everything would be about to go and then there would be a reason mm-hmm. <Affirmative> it wouldn’t go. And there were none of those reasons were under your control. And you, you could, you would do a great job and everyone would love it. And then, oh, this movie just came out. Yeah. Basically the same premise. So, sorry.

Michael Jamin (00:30:20):

Jonathan Aibel (00:30:21):
And that’s when we had been meeting this, this fantastic exec name Christine Belsen, who was then at Henson.

Michael Jamin (00:30:30):

Jonathan Aibel (00:30:30):
<Affirmative>. And we were huge Muppet fans. Right. And she brought us in and we totally hit it off. And she said, I wanna do a Muppet kung fu movie.

Michael Jamin (00:30:39):

Jonathan Aibel (00:30:40):
<Affirmative>. And we thought, oh my God, yeah, that would be so great. Yes. Sign us up for that. And we said, but you know, we read that that Dreamers is doing this Jack Black, kung fu kung fu Panda movie. And she said, oh, those movies take forever. I don’t think it’s, I I wouldn’t worry about that. So then we don’t hear from her for a while. We’re worried what’s going on. Then we get a call from her. Okay. So I moved over to Dreamworks and we’re looking for writers who come from Panda.

Michael Jamin (00:31:08):

Jonathan Aibel (00:31:08):
And we said, oh, okay. So it was just a case where it started off simple enough, they asked us to come in for just two weeks of consulting to see what they had underway and talk about the story. Cuz it was in a rough

Michael Jamin (00:31:25):
But had be different. Dreamworks has a whole different system over there. So what do you mean consultant? Cause I know they worked very differently from other studios.

Jonathan Aibel (00:31:33):
Well, so there had been writers who, well kind of what happens is, you know, king, king of the hill, the Simpsons though, shows very writer driven. Right. It doesn’t have time. You don’t have time to be anything other than ri writer driven. So the animators are given the script and the audio. Right. And they’re So draw this,

Michael Jamin (00:31:54):
Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my videos and you want me to email them to you for free, join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos. These are for writers, actors, creative types. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. I’m not gonna spam you and it’s absolutely free. Just go to

Jonathan Aibel (00:32:18):
And in feature animation, Dreamworks especially, they may take that script and they’ll take tens, the first 10 scenes of act, the first half the movie and give it to 10 different storyboard artists who will take that and read it and say, I see what this scene is doing, but maybe I can do it this way. And they will draw something and write it and animate and, and storyboard it and often record the dialogue themselves. And it’s sort of like almost like what is it? 32 short films about Glen Gould where you end up with these almost mini movies in the beginning of a movie anyway. Like at the start of a development process where you would watch this movie and say, okay, that PO is different from this PO who’s different from that po. And you watch it and you think, this doesn’t make any sense, but I can start to see a story in there.

And then they’ll do it iteratively. So then you’re on that scene there, that moment I really understood who the character was. So more of that moment. So by way of saying, you may have someone who came in and wrote a script, but they might be long gone at this point cuz now it’s been torn up it’s storyboard and now you’re walk working off transcripts where they’ve written down what’s on screen. And that’s what you’re rewriting off of. So by the team time we came in, there was like a movie ish. Like you could, there was something in black and white you could watch mm-hmm. <Affirmative> that everyone knew wasn’t necessarily coherent. But the point isn’t coherence. The point is what, what jumps out at you? Like we watched and said, oh, I think what you’re doing is, it’s kind of like a Cinderella story, right?

He’s the guy in the beginning who wants to go to the kung fu ball mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and can’t go. And then the Prince points at him, and then he goes on this thing, and now the bad guy’s coming for him and he doesn’t know. And is he the chosen one? Or isn’t he the chosen one? It’s like those are like, now it’s, it feels a little glib for me to say that as if it were obvious. It, it was, it’s it was not it obvious. It’s, it’s, you’re sitting there thinking, is it this story? No. Maybe it’s the story. Some of it is, there are, there are two, Jack, Jack has, Jack Black has two kind of two great. Our type of our typical characters. One is the high fidelity like the jerk Yeah. Who deep down is suffering from low self-esteem. Right. And then he has the friendly guy who deep down is suffering from low self-esteem.

Right. So some of the, the production of the, the development of Kung Fu Panda was, which, which Jack is in our movie. Is he the guy who’s chosen to be this kung fu guy and then realizes, oh my God, this is great. Now I don’t have to work anymore. Now I can just go to the palace and hang out and relax and, and live it up until he finds out there’s a responsibility. So there was some of that version of the movie. Then there’s the guy who’s wishes more than anything. He can be the kung fu master, but knows because of he’s a big panda. That’s impossible. Cuz Panas don’t do kung fu and then his dream comes true. And then he has to, you know, that’s what the movie ended up being. But when you started seeing that character in the opening reel, you’d say, whoa, I, I wanna, I, I wanna know more Right about that. And that’s the magic of these time. You had

Michael Jamin (00:35:51):
To sense of it. But see that’s what I’m, I’m curious though, cuz for me it seems counterintuitive. It feel, it feels like you’re putting the cart ahead of the horse. It’s like, you know, I wonder if, was that, did you feel the same way? Because usually, you know, okay, we have an idea. We come, we have Ari, the writers come up with a th a thread, you know, through line and there’s a story and Well,

Jonathan Aibel (00:36:09):
It’s, it’s inefficient for sure. But I think you can look at animated movies for the most part as a genre and say for the most part they’re really well constructed.

Michael Jamin (00:36:22):

Jonathan Aibel (00:36:23):
And I think this is, this is why, because if a writer’s gonna, it’s very hard to create a great movie off of six drafts, even eight drafts, 10 drafts. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and, and just see it on paper and say, yeah, that’s gonna work. Because no one knows how to read a script.

Michael Jamin (00:36:43):
I see.

Jonathan Aibel (00:36:44):
Like, even as a professional writer, I don’t think I could read a script and say, this is gonna be an amazing movie. You can say this is a great script. Right. But is it gonna be an amazing movie? I don’t know, an animation, you’re making the movie as you’re writing the movie, so it’s not you, it makes sense. Theoretical. Is this gonna be good? It’s ah, I, I see that moment. I see Poe and his father. Right. Having that moment where Poe is afraid to tell his dad what he wants to do with his life. I see. That’s one thing. Makes sense. How do we build on that?

Michael Jamin (00:37:17):
Right. That makes sense to So it’s very collaborative with you and the animators then.

Jonathan Aibel (00:37:21):
Oh yeah. The storyboard team, the directors, the producer, the actors, Uhhuh <affirmative>. It was it very different from TV animation. Right.

Michael Jamin (00:37:32):

Jonathan Aibel (00:37:32):
Very different. And I, our, our, one of our first the first moment we realized that was the producer said, I I want you to sit in a room with this guy, a storyboard artist and talk about the scene and what it could be. So we sat with him and we worked line by line. We hopped it and said, it could be this could be this. Yeah. I could draw this, do this. Said great, we’re gonna write it up. We wrote it up, gave it into him. Three weeks later we go to watch the scene. It’s nothing at all we discussed and went to the producer, but a, a thing. She said, yeah, I know, but I know he’s kind of out there. And I wanted to see what he would take your stuff and give you, you know, if you, if all you want, if all you’re expecting is the best version of what you’ve already done, you’re closing off the chance that you’ll be surprised by something.

Michael Jamin (00:38:24):

Jonathan Aibel (00:38:25):
So that’s cool. On the other hand, sometimes in their scenes where you just say, can you just please do the, the pages? Right. Like, we’ve thought a lot about this. We understand. And there’s some scenes in that first movie, which went pretty much from our pages to the final version. Cuz they were just compact. They made sense. Right. There wasn’t a lot of room, but there wasn’t a need for a lot of exploration. It was okay, that works. So let’s just get that right going and move on to the the

Michael Jamin (00:38:52):
Others. So they brought you in under contract for a couple of weeks just to see how you would respond to the animators?

Jonathan Aibel (00:38:59):
Yeah, we had a after, well, no, to see what we would, it wasn’t a trial. It was, they thought in 10 days we would give them an outline that they could work off of.

Michael Jamin (00:39:12):
But even still, you, they, they knew that they would probably go off via the reservation and you’d be required to Yeah. But that’s

Jonathan Aibel (00:39:19):
Collaborate more. That’s, but I think that happened a lot. It wasn’t, it was more of then when we pitched our take on it to Jeffrey Katzenberg and he said, great, when you, when can you guys start writing Uhhuh. <Affirmative>? Okay. And then the other people lo looked at each other like, oh, I guess we, I guess we should probably get that, put that deal in place. So then we wrote a draft

Michael Jamin (00:39:38):
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>.

Jonathan Aibel (00:39:40):
And then they took the draft and then started going through that process of tearing it apart. And at, at which point they realized it would probably be helpful to have us around. And I think it, what helped is that coming from tv, we, we knew storyboards, we knew how to read storyboards. We knew what happens in an editing room and how actors perform. Right. So we came to it with production skills or an, an understanding of the process that that helped us come in and say, oh, I think you could, you can cut a few frames there and actually know what we were talking about. At, at the same time, the, the big difference was television is it’s a, it’s a sprint as you know. Yeah. It’s, you need to get this done because the actors are gonna be here at 10:00 AM to read this and record this.

So you need something for them. So we were approached feature animation, we gotta get this done, we gotta get this done. And then what you realize is that you, that’s the exact wrong way to do because you, you get it all done now then when stuff starts changing, you’ve already written stuff that’s, it’s obsolete before anyone has seen it. Right. It’s like animation is best. I think it’s like, it’s a marathon of sprints where we need, this scene has to go into production and Jack is coming in Thursday to record this. We need these three pages done. All right, we’ll get it done, we’ll get it done. Great. Now in six weeks, we’re gonna need sequence 1500 going into rough layout though. That’s the next one. I know it’s,

Michael Jamin (00:41:21):
But you’re working off an an outline. You know what the story is, right?

Jonathan Aibel (00:41:24):
You do and you don’t. Isn’t that, I know that’s a weird thing to say, but you, Lenny, I can’t tell you the number of boards there that would say big battle, like act three, big battle you know, wrap up epilogue.

Michael Jamin (00:41:39):
Is this the way animation movies were done like at Disney back in the day? Is this where they’re getting this from?

Jonathan Aibel (00:41:45):
It’s possible. I I think what where it comes from is that what’s your expense, your greatest expense of time. And therefore money is the animator, the person at Disney drawing the cell mm-hmm. <Affirmative> at Dreamworks. That final, the final editor moving frame by frame. That takes a lot of time. And it is such a skill and the people who do it are so brilliant that it’s not like you can say we need six more animators who can capture Poe. It’s, there’s this guy Dan, Dan Wagner, just a brilliant animator and he was the one who could give Poe his soul.

Right. So you only get so much Dan. So you don’t want to give Dan 10 scenes to do and say, we’re not sure if these are all gonna work. But, so you are not giving the animators the scenes until they’re ready at the same time. The animators can only do so much at the same time. So so while they’re working on one scene, there’s no reason to have the other scenes done. So it’s sort of like you back, you back up into the process and you’d say, well if they can only animate these this much now mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, well let’s keep working on those other scenes and make them better and keep playing with them until it’s too late. And then we’ll, we’ll turn ’em around. Right. So you really, you have the time to get it right. And if you said no, let’s rush that. We, we gotta get All right. Now there’s no reason to.

Michael Jamin (00:43:16):
It sounds like this cuz knowing how you guys ran King of the Hill, it sounds like this is like the perfect fit for you because you guys would often rewrite the hell out of a scene trying different ways and just experimenting.

Jonathan Aibel (00:43:26):
That was, I I think Thank you. I think it was, it, it it is a good fit for us to, to have said, okay, we’ve written that scene. There, there are a lot of exercises that are, are kind of cool that you can use, which is stuff like, well let’s write the opposite. Right? You have someone come into a scene who’s really excited, like, well, what if they came into the scene feeling the other way and that you flipped. You kind of have that, the opportunity to explore

Michael Jamin (00:43:58):
More. Right.

Jonathan Aibel (00:43:59):
And then, and know that there’s no punishment for it because the whole point is to experiment.

Michael Jamin (00:44:05):
Right. That’s the point. So did they keep you under, how does it work? Do they keep you under contract at that point, Dreamworks, to do other movies? Or are you constantly pitching them to get assigned other projects or

Jonathan Aibel (00:44:17):
That No, we had, we had a, it was great in that it started off, I think it was, we were there four days a week

Michael Jamin (00:44:25):
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>

Jonathan Aibel (00:44:26):
And I think at the time we were in person then it would be three, then after six months, three days a week, as there’s less to change, they need less abuse. So then it was two days a week, then one day a week. And then at the same time we were doing other rewrites in other studios. And I think it was when we got down to one day a week, they said, you know, we have this smoothie monsters versus aliens when you wanna work on that. Right.

Michael Jamin (00:44:49):
So you were never squeeze.

Jonathan Aibel (00:44:51):
We were one day monsters. Four days.

Michael Jamin (00:44:53):
All right. So you were always

Jonathan Aibel (00:44:54):
Kind. Yeah, always. Show by show.

Michael Jamin (00:44:56):
I see. You’re always jumping. Right. So it was

Jonathan Aibel (00:44:58):
Never, and then, and it, it was nice cuz you know, you don’t wanna, we liked it because it led us take the projects that spoke to us that Right. Looked like they were gonna be fun. While also, like, the great thing about Panda was it was a hit came out. It was a hit. And when you’ve written a movie, it’s a hit. People want you to write their movies. Right. So it, and and also people want you to write movies similar to the movie that was just a hit.

Michael Jamin (00:45:28):

Jonathan Aibel (00:45:29):
So it didn’t matter that we had done King The Hill or other stuff. It was, oh, they, they wrote Fu Pan, they should write the Chipmunks movies. We’ll offer that to them.

Michael Jamin (00:45:38):
Right. Right.

Jonathan Aibel (00:45:39):
So talking Animal, oh, here’s another talking animal.

Michael Jamin (00:45:42):
So did you have to

Jonathan Aibel (00:45:43):
Ever Thenn Bozer,

Michael Jamin (00:45:46):
Did you have to pitch, when you go on further assignments, are they pretty much yours because of, or do you have to pitch? Do you have to win that assignment?

Jonathan Aibel (00:45:54):
It’s always a little of both. I mean, look, we were very, we were very lucky in that they weren’t bake offs where Yeah. Six people are coming in to pitch this. It was, I think that the Chipmunks people really like Kung Fu Panda. It was just a rewrite. Can you come? It was over Christmas.

Michael Jamin (00:46:16):

Jonathan Aibel (00:46:17):
<Affirmative>. So I think that that definitely helped that they found us saying, yeah, we’ll give up your, our holiday to, to write these pages for you.

Michael Jamin (00:46:24):

Jonathan Aibel (00:46:25):
But then the, the luck was these were, these became franchises. So then they come you for Comfort Panda Two and Comfort Panda Three and Chipmunks three. Right. And, and then we through people knew what Dreamwork got to SpongeBob. So then you’d do SpongeBob to second SpongeBob movie that led to the third SpongeBob movie.

Michael Jamin (00:46:44):
I didn’t even mention those. Cause that’s not even on your I M D B. We’ll have to update that when we get off the, the Zoom. Yeah. What update your page? I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know you did the I didn’t know you did that. And so, okay. Because that’s a big deal. Cause I, I remember, you know, when Si and I, we did, we did a couple of movies. We sold a couples, they didn’t get made. We sold a couple movies and then we were all we’re brought into you know, we didn’t realize they were bake offs. We didn’t, so we, we pitched for, you know, a couple big companies, I don’t have to mention what they are. And, and we’re told Yeah, you got the, you got it. You got it. And then only to discover that someone else got it. We didn’t even know o other people were trying to get, like, we had no idea. And that’s a lot. You’re talking about months and months of heartbreaking wasted work and then the project never even made. So, but you don’t really have it’s true to deal with that True. Because of your level, you know. Yes,

Jonathan Aibel (00:47:34):
Yes and no. The the no is if they’re, if you’ve worked with them on Kung fu Panda one, two, and three, there’s a good chance they’ll come to you for Kung fu Panda four.

Michael Jamin (00:47:46):

Jonathan Aibel (00:47:47):
So, and if you hit it off, feel like they may say, come in with some ideas and they like an idea. So they’re not just saying, here’s the deal before you’ve pitched anything. So there were meetings, but you know, they know you can deliver. That’s kind of the main thing. Right. If it’s people who you don’t really know, then yeah. It’s, they’re rebooting this franchise and their hearing takes. And what we’ve learned, actually the hard way is if you’re going to put yourself in that situation, you want to put as, I don’t wanna say as little work as possible. You want to, you wanna do the right amount of work. That’s the the best way where, but it’s, we’ve, we’ve gone in and we’ve pitched I know, but we’ve gone in where we’ve pitched, you pitched for 20 minutes and then you realize by the second sentence you said the words they don’t want to hear like, oh, that’s not the kind of movie they want to do at all.

Right. And we’ve learned a better strategies to go and say, here, I I understand you wanna do a silly putty movie. I’m, I’m totally making this up, but here’s, you could go this way where Silly Putty, it’s a revenge story where it’s a John Wick me silly putty. Right. Or it’s the origin story of how a serious putty became silly putty because of a, of a family tragedy. And he’s the clown who lasts through to you <laugh>. Like, you know, each of these is an archetype movie. Right. And then it’s, I don’t know if any of those strike, well we kind of do like that. It’s like, okay, okay, well we’ll come back to you with that. It’s

Michael Jamin (00:49:23):
Interesting cuz you set the terms then over the pitch chart. Cuz that’s not usually how we go in. We, here’s the, here’s the take, here’s our take. And then, you know, you could be your, you could be completely off. I didn’t know you had a choice.

Jonathan Aibel (00:49:33):
Well, this is a new, this is a new, this is a new realization. Uhhuh <affirmative> having, because you know, kind of what’s happened is after doing a lot of these movies, you start to think, okay, I like this. I I know what I’m doing. What’s something I don’t really know how to do that I haven’t done before mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And that’s the type of movie where a person isn’t necessarily gonna say, Hmm, get me the guys who did Kung Panda. Right. So you gotta hustle for those little more. And those were the ones where I think we were over preparing for many of them by saying we’re gonna blow ’em away with the le attention to detail. Yeah. And especially in a Zoom era where you blow ’em away with the tension detail, they’re thinking is I just need three sentences to bring the boss. Really? And it’s hard because as storytellers you sometimes feel like, I can’t, I don’t, I’m sorry, I cannot pitch this idea unless I understand the character arts and Yeah. Right. The three acts and you’re think, you know, maybe sometimes you can go in and say, and then in the third act there’s a huge battle in which the forces of evil have to go against the forces of

Michael Jamin (00:50:39):
I see. I would be worried about pitching something that I didn’t know how to actually break. You know what I’m saying? Like, you

Jonathan Aibel (00:50:43):
Know. Yes, I know. I, I you eventually, you just kind of have to have confidence and say, you know what, we’ll figure something out. We’ll figure, it’s hard. It’s really hard to, even at this point we’ll go into a rewrite and say, what is that third act set piece? I don’t know, but we’ll, we’ll, we’ll figure it out. And it’s in the back of your head thing if I don’t get that.

Michael Jamin (00:51:06):
Yeah. Right.

Jonathan Aibel (00:51:08):
And then one day it’ll be like, oh, wait a minute. Well, what if this happened? Because we just like, it will, it will come to you. And I think it’s, it’s a little, maybe this is the animation experience. It’s a little foolish to even think I know what the perfect act three is before I’ve actually written Acts one and two.

Michael Jamin (00:51:28):
Yeah. But you and

Jonathan Aibel (00:51:29):
Instead rely on your instincts and your experience

Michael Jamin (00:51:32):
Wanna build to something you wanna, I I it’s so, I’m, I’m telling you how to do it. I have no idea how to do it.

Jonathan Aibel (00:51:37):
No, but, but, but of course you will build to it, you know, you need to build to something, but you may not know the ingredients yet. Like, you’ll be writing something and say, well, I’ll give you a good example. In, in Conco Panda, we wound up having this, this pose, big realization. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> that, can I give spoilers after 15 years after movies opened?

Michael Jamin (00:51:59):
I believe. I believe so. Okay.

Jonathan Aibel (00:52:01):
So Pose opened the scroll in it’s blank, and he realizes he’s failed. And his father says to him, it’s okay, you can be a noodle old man just like me. And by the way, it’s time. I told you the secret ingredient in my suit. And the secret ingredient is nothing. There is no secret ingredient. It was just to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special. And really, that was just a joke about his father, who in the first scene we wrote that, oh, that’d be funny if he has a secret ingredient soup. And later we find out there is no secret ingredient. It’s just a marketing gimmick. And it wasn’t until he got to the later scene where someone, I think this bill Damascus, his name, he is, he was then the executive of dreamworks. And he said, I, I, I like what you’re doing there.

You’re kind of making comparison between the scroll being blank and the soup, not really having the spec, the specialness, it’s that’s it into here. And we said, that’s not at all what we’re, is that what we’re doing? That is what we’re doing. You know, like, I don’t know if we consciously did that or everyone working on the movie was putting that stuff in there. But once, so if we had started with, what is it? We never would’ve gotten there. But like, it’s funny you were talking about ingredients, but we had these ingredients of the father, the soup. We had this scroll that was blank, and it took a whole bunch of time. And thinking for a, a person to look at that with fresh eyes and say, I think you’ve given yourself the moment you need to do the rest of the movie.

Michael Jamin (00:53:37):
Do you think this is how they tell their movies at at Pixar? They have a different process. Do you think

Jonathan Aibel (00:53:43):
That I I don’t, I don’t know all I’ve, all I know of the process there is, they seem to draw on tablecloths.

Michael Jamin (00:53:51):
Is that Oh, really?

Jonathan Aibel (00:53:51):
That I don’t know. That was at, there’s some documentary where they have this, this famous tablecloth that’s amazing. Where it was, they weren’t, the Brain Trust was meeting. And I said, well, here’s some movies I think we could do. There’s what if tos come to life? What, what if bugs come to life? What if Bumper Beyond that, I don’t really know their process. It’s probably somewhat similar.

Michael Jamin (00:54:13):
So. Interesting. And when you work, you know, you’re, and I’m jumping around, but your partner, Glen, he doesn’t, he lives not in la So how do you guys do, what do you work in on Zoom? Is that how you guys

Jonathan Aibel (00:54:24):
Yeah, we, oh, we’ve been Skyped for, for years and years. Just, just audio. Just, I’m a, I’m Aist and I’ll tell you why. Just

Michael Jamin (00:54:32):
Yeah, go on. And why just audio?

Jonathan Aibel (00:54:34):
I’m a Skype because Skype lets you Skype out. So you can call people’s cell phones. So if our agent or lawyer or an executive or I know we need them to take a meeting, he’s just stays in my ear and All right, let me patch him in and then you can Okay. Call. also we started before Zoom,

Michael Jamin (00:54:49):

Jonathan Aibel (00:54:50):
So we’re And why no video?

Michael Jamin (00:54:52):

Jonathan Aibel (00:54:54):
Is, initially it was for bandwidth reasons. It was laggy at Skype at one point, and Glen was out in the sticks and didn’t have

Michael Jamin (00:55:03):
Because you could have used a cell, a phone. You know that Skype without video. It was a phone.

Jonathan Aibel (00:55:08):
Yeah. Yeah. There are a lot of other things we could do, but we realized I don’t need to see him staring at me. I, I don’t, I, and I, I’m not like the old married couple. We’re okay with the silence.

Michael Jamin (00:55:21):
And do you,

Jonathan Aibel (00:55:22):
When you’re going like this and you’re not hearing anything,

Michael Jamin (00:55:24):
Are you on final draft collaborator? Is that what you’re doing? Or what? No. Well, how’s

Jonathan Aibel (00:55:29):
That? I know there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of that You could, we could do. And if it’s real, really important, we might say, oh, let’s, like now we outline on, on Google Docs.

Michael Jamin (00:55:41):

Jonathan Aibel (00:55:41):
Instead of sending Word documents back and forth, is this, are you working on Tuesday’s version? No, this is Thursday’s. Wait. Now you, now you can see it. And that’s useful. But I, I feel like daring, there are two ways to write. One is staring at the words and the other is staring at the sky. Right. And one day, some days I feel like doing one Glen feels like one sometimes the other like, I don’t want to even know what’s there. I just want to, but who’s coming up with stuff? In, well, hopefully Glen, there have been times where we’ll come up with a whole thing and then say, you got that. I thought you were typing

Michael Jamin (00:56:20):

Jonathan Aibel (00:56:21):
So we, we usually say you’re, you’re typing, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Jamin (00:56:24):
Oh my.

Jonathan Aibel (00:56:24):
It’s like, oh God, I’m trying to remember. It’s rare. Rare. Rarely happens. That’s

Michael Jamin (00:56:29):
Pretty funny.

Jonathan Aibel (00:56:30):
We also lately have been doing more. There’s nothing, writing is harder than rewriting uhhuh. So sometimes we’ll just say, you do just the worst ugliest pass of those three scenes. I’ll do these three scenes, then let’s stick ’em together and move on. And then it might be, we’re going through this process now in a script where it’s been two months since we started some of these scenes. And now you look back at it and say, oh, okay, now I really understand what this scene wow has to be. And you’re glad you didn’t spend forever on those, those opening scenes.

Michael Jamin (00:57:10):
How many hours a day can you work, you know, on King of the Hill. Let’s talk about that. But how many hours a day do you guys you generally put in before you’re fried?

Jonathan Aibel (00:57:18):
I mean, I, I I don’t know. We, we used to be fairly rigorous about say a 10 to six, which in with an hour for lunch.

Michael Jamin (00:57:30):
That’s a long day though.

Jonathan Aibel (00:57:31):
It was a long day. But some of that is chit-chatting and

Michael Jamin (00:57:37):
Talking. Even still, even still, it’s like, I find, you know, after, you know, 10 to maybe two ish or three ish, you’re like, you’re looking at your watch, you’re like, cuz you’re, you know, you’re not, you’re not your best, but on TV you have to keep going. But in features you don’t.

Jonathan Aibel (00:57:51):
Well, we, I, I think that’s true, but I also think we’re, our consulting bones. Were, well, they’ll never fault us for lack of effort. Right. Just kind of that let’s just grind it out. And then as you get more experience, you get older, you realize, all right, well if we’re gonna spend the first half hour just chatting about stuff, an email, why don’t we start at 10 30? Or, we don’t have a lot to do today, so I’m gonna go see my son’s play. And, and you, and you kind of realize that, know Greg used to say to the, say this to us all the time at King of the Hill is that if you’re, if you have, if you’re working so hard, you’re not living your life. You have no life to write about.

Michael Jamin (00:58:33):
Right. That’s true.

Jonathan Aibel (00:58:35):
And so I think as one of the, you, I believe that Glen and I now believe in taking advantage of one of the greatest things about being a screenwriter, which is that your time is your own.

Michael Jamin (00:58:46):
Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (00:58:47):
You want to, Hey, I’m going to go, so I’m gonna go see my kids do something, my son compete in whatever it is, or this play or, or that without feeling like, oh, I can’t, I gotta ask the showrun if I can take the day off and Right. Or sh I don’t know if I should make a dentist appointment at three o’clock or get my hair cut at three o’clock because cuz that’s part of the work day. And to say, you know what? You can get your haircut in the middle of the day that that’s okay. You’ll get the work done. And to your point, realizing that eight hours is a lot of writing,

Michael Jamin (00:59:20):
It, it it

Jonathan Aibel (00:59:21):
Is six hours is a lot of writing and that you can actually get a lot of writing done in plus Yeah. Or sometimes no writing and you, sometimes you’re not feeling it, but you work through it. And then it comes, like, I, I think that’s one of the things I I truly believe in is that it’s a, it’s ridiculous to think I need to wait for inspiration.

Michael Jamin (00:59:43):

Jonathan Aibel (00:59:43):
I I, you can’t, you just, the, to me, the mark of a professional writer is you sit down when you’re not inspired and when you’re not feeling funny and when something horrible has happened, and you’re totally not in the mood to be writing a comedy, and then you just turn it on

Michael Jamin (00:59:57):

Jonathan Aibel (00:59:57):
<Affirmative> and you start writing. And I developed the ability to write anywhere I can ride on a plane, I can ride in a coffee shop, I can ride in a waiting room in a doctor’s office, sitting in an airport floor mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and just put in the earphones and not, I don’t have a ritual of a place I have to be or a drink I need in front of me, or an amount of noise and any of that. And it’s to treat it like, in a way it’s a craft, it’s not a mysterious Right. Thing where this, these lines come to you. You just, you gotta grind it out sometimes.

Michael Jamin (01:00:35):
So at this point though, you’re pretty much, you’re, you’re good with features. You don’t really don’t have any ambition, even write a pilot. Well,

Jonathan Aibel (01:00:42):
This weird thing has happened, which is while we’ve been buried in features TV has exploded and is better than it’s ever been.

Michael Jamin (01:00:50):

Jonathan Aibel (01:00:51):
So there’s that part of us that says, well wait a minute, I don’t have to do 24 of these. Like we were doing 24 King of the Hills a year.

Michael Jamin (01:01:00):
Yeah, that’s a lot. And

Jonathan Aibel (01:01:01):
That’s an insane amount of work. And some of these shows are doing eight.

Michael Jamin (01:01:07):
Yep. And

Jonathan Aibel (01:01:08):
They’re amazing. And you, it’s, and you can get into it and we could create, and we could do all this. Now, of course, the problem is that’s if I, I don’t, I’m you you’re more familiar with that. Wait, okay. So wait a minute. What do you get paid to write? Eight episodes. Okay. So,

Michael Jamin (01:01:28):
And they can

Jonathan Aibel (01:01:28):
Also then decide do you take time away from feature gigs to, to do that? Like, that’s one of the calculus calculi. But I think more of it is just busy in features. W so do we have time for tb? Maybe let’s, when you have a come up with an idea and say, oh, that being a great show. Right. We’ll write it down and then say maybe this is something I don’t wanna say never. Cuz it just seems like it’s, it’s now’s just fun.

Michael Jamin (01:01:58):
Yeah. Well, it just depend.

Jonathan Aibel (01:01:59):
Am I wrong?

Michael Jamin (01:02:00):
It totally depends on, it just depends, you know, because sometimes you’ll be on a show, you know, the writing steps are getting smaller. They’re doing these mini room things, which fortunately I haven’t ever had to do. But I’ve heard horror stories about these mini rooms.

Jonathan Aibel (01:02:15):
Are the nu is it the number of people in the room as mini, or are the rooms themselves very small?

Michael Jamin (01:02:19):
It’s it’s a closet full of 10 people. No, it’s, it’s it’s, it’s before the show gets a pickup. So they’ll say, we’ll put together a mini room. You guys will break 10 stories. But because you are not, we’re not producing any of these, we’ll only pay you your writing fee so you’re not getting a producing fee. And we all know most of your money’s producing fee because that way they can pay you less into your health and pension. <Laugh>, it’s a, it’s a scam that they pull in and now it really screws you. But I’ve, I’ve never had to deal with that. But that’s, that’s the problem with the mini room. So I

Jonathan Aibel (01:02:54):
Mean, I do, I do feel first of super fortunate that when, like on the one hand, oh, I missed, we’ve been in features and there’s been this golden age. On the other hand, it sounds like things are have been what? The stories I hear it’s really, it’s hard.

Michael Jamin (01:03:10):
Oh yeah. It’s

Jonathan Aibel (01:03:10):
Definitely because I, I can sit here and bitch about the 24 episodes. We didn’t how exhausting is, but 24 times your episode fee was a good year.

Michael Jamin (01:03:18):
That’s a good year. And now you’ll be on a show for eight or 10 episodes and now you have to try to jump and get another show or sell a pilot. And what if you don’t, you know, it’s, it’s definitely harder. Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (01:03:29):
Yeah. We had, believe me, I had the years of where you say, oh, I wish I didn’t have to spend, but look back when we had pilot season where you would say, I wish I didn’t have to spend March through eight, June, whatever it was, of every year not knowing what job I was gonna have. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> next year. And then you get on King of the Hill and it’s, oh wow, I know what job I’m gonna have for a while at least that was a, it was a great mm-hmm. <Affirmative> That’s a great feeling.

Michael Jamin (01:03:58):

Jonathan Aibel (01:03:59):
But they, they all have their pluses and minuses. It was the, then I’d see friends who get two months off or three month hiatus knowing they were coming back to a job and I’d say, Ugh, they’re doing 22 episodes in eight months. And then they come back and do another, I’m doing 24 in 12 months with maybe get you Well,

Michael Jamin (01:04:21):
Three weeks of three

Jonathan Aibel (01:04:22):

Michael Jamin (01:04:22):
Off. Yeah. Which was not, I thought that was cool. I was like, whoa, I could actually take, you know, we could plan a vacation. I don’t know. You know,

Jonathan Aibel (01:04:29):
I, I, yeah. That was, that’s when you, you start to feel like, oh, this is a job. What This is supposed to be fun and entertainment and what do you mean I gotta put in for vacation? When did this become,

Michael Jamin (01:04:41):
But that’s when it was at King of, at King of the Hill because it was literally in an office building with law firms on the either side, <laugh>. So like, it was not Hollywood at all. You were just an ordinary stick. I

Jonathan Aibel (01:04:52):
Know. Work. It was, it was really, except you’d ride in the elevator with people with their briefcases and I Right. But I could have been me, but I’m getting off on the fourth floor, not the 11th and fourth floor is where the fun is.

Michael Jamin (01:05:05):
That’s right. Yeah. Man, man, oh man, that’s so funny. But yeah, I mean, I’m just, you know, we talks, my Steve and I talk about you guys and it is just amazing the the career that you’ve put together in film. Cuz it’s not an easy jump. It’s not an easy it, it, it isn’t easy and it’s easy, it’s not easy to stay there. But yeah. You had a, that big hit and that that’ll, that can carry a long way. So

Jonathan Aibel (01:05:28):
Yeah. And look, I I, I’d say sure talent and perseverance and all those things, but you say yes to this, no to that. It’s, it’s really kind of, it’s random. Yeah. I could have like how many shows could we have said yes to instead of King of the Hill? There was, there was a time when we would be crushed every year because we were shooting, this show’s gonna be n b NBC Thursdays at eight 30 after friends, if we get on this show, we’re set and then we wouldn’t get on staff. We’re like, ah. And then that show would get canceled after six episodes.

Michael Jamin (01:06:10):

Jonathan Aibel (01:06:11):
Yeah. And then because we didn’t take that king of the Hill came our way.

Michael Jamin (01:06:15):

Jonathan Aibel (01:06:16):
And, and it’s one of the things I see is that you don’t, you can’t plan a career at all in this. You can only, you’re, you’re sort of like the, you’re swimming forward saying, I’ll eat that. I’ll, I’ll avoid that. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, then you look back and you say, whoa, look how it’s like skiing down a mountain. Yeah. You’re just going and then you turn around and look and you say, whoa, that was a pretty steep pill I just went down. Yeah. You, it’s all behind you. And, and only after a number of years can you look back and realize what brought you, yeah. What brought you the, to the, well hopefully not the bottom, a ski mountain in reverse. What brought you to the peak?

Michael Jamin (01:06:54):
You know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting. I heard, I was listening to, I can’t remember, oh, it was Jim car too. That’s who it was. His dad was, wanted to be, I guess a, a saxophone player. He was a, you know, great jazz musician or whatever, but he had a family and then gave it up. He got like a regular job. I think it was like selling insurance or something like that, like a normal job instead of pursuing his passion cuz he wanted the stability to mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, excuse me, to have a family. But then at some point he got fired from his job, like at 52 or something. This job that was supposed to be safe and secure, he got fired from because it went outta business or whatever. Uhhuh <affirmative> and that, and that crushed him because it was like, but I traded it for security. I traded all my passion for security and, and I don’t even have security now. You know.

Jonathan Aibel (01:07:41):
Yeah. That’s the, the I’ve been, I’ve been at this for a while now, and when I look back, I think, wait a minute, I’ve spent this many years never knowing what my next job is gonna be.

Michael Jamin (01:07:58):

Jonathan Aibel (01:07:59):
And, but you can’t think of it that way. Or you will curl up in a ball from the uncertainty. You just have to say, what do I know? I’m certain of that I can write well and be professional and be diligent and meet deadlines and be a, a professional. And that’s what I can, that’s what I can control. And hopefully that’s enough for opportunities to come to me. And when they come, I’ll be ready and execute and fulfill the expectation. You don’t always, you know, you turn in a script and they decide they don’t like it. Yeah. And that happens too. And that part of being a professional is saying, okay. And not, not everyone’s gonna love everything. And sometimes you, you just have a way of going. It just does not work for them. And you, you know, you, you live to fight another battle.

Michael Jamin (01:08:47):
Right. I had a a physical with my doctor a couple, I guess a couple years ago. And he, you know, I was in between jobs and you don’t know how long you’re gonna be jobs, it could be weeks or months or longer. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And he’s like, boy, he’s like, what are you working on now? I was like, ah, I’m trying to get my next gig. He’s, he goes, I don’t know how you do it. It would drive me crazy. I’d wanna kill myself <laugh>. I’m like, yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (01:09:09):
And by the way, and I can, I can prescribe a lethal dose of Barbs in case you’re <laugh>.

Michael Jamin (01:09:17):
Really? Yeah.

Jonathan Aibel (01:09:19):
But yeah, sure. Some people, some people it, it is hard.

Michael Jamin (01:09:25):

Jonathan Aibel (01:09:26):
We would our, our agent would, I I think find it at one point humorous or it seemed humorous where we would turn in a script and then the next day email our agent, say, what’s next with the joke being like, I don’t wanna be unemployed for a single day.

Michael Jamin (01:09:45):

Jonathan Aibel (01:09:45):
And what’s changed in the last five or six years is you better be sending that email four months before you’re turning in a script, because that’s sometimes how long it takes to even get a meeting on something

Michael Jamin (01:10:01):
Interesting. Even for you,

Jonathan Aibel (01:10:02):
This exec really wants to sit down with you. Great. How’s March 15th? Yeah. Like March 15th. It’s January. Well, I know, but everyone goes to Sundance, right. And then they do this, and then they do that and, and, and you kind of have to, I wouldn’t say it’s not stacking project. I’m never writing more than one thing at once. Cause I, I think that would mentally that’s pretty hard to jump around a lot. But you start thinking like, what’s out? What’s out there? Who’s starting to look? What are what You just kind of have to

Michael Jamin (01:10:35):

Jonathan Aibel (01:10:36):
Do that, do that a little bit more now of prepping, of coming up with those pitches that we, like we were talking about earlier, all right, we’re, we’re done this thing. And now I wrote a scene today, I got 20 minutes to relax. Well, what if I just came up with six silly putty movies? Right. Again, I’m not pitching silly putty. I’m just, I’m trying to pitch, think of something. I’m totally not pitching as an example.

Michael Jamin (01:11:01):
Silly Pu just called, they’re in

Jonathan Aibel (01:11:04):
Wonderful. They’re gonna like my, yeah. I like my ideas. I’m coming in

Michael Jamin (01:11:07):
<Laugh>. I like, I like Sirius buddy turns to silly petty. I have something

Jonathan Aibel (01:11:12):
There isn’t bad. But yeah. Look th that, that’s the other fun thing is to, when you write the kind of movies I write and you know, it’s a matter of time between anytime something hits eight other people will be sure that their product is similar. Like they will embrace the Lego movies. A huge hit. This fill in the blank toy is gonna be a huge hit too.

Michael Jamin (01:11:35):
Yeah. And

Jonathan Aibel (01:11:36):
It doesn’t quite work that way.

Michael Jamin (01:11:38):
I’ve actually learned quite a bit. I didn’t know any of any of this. This is what you do is new to me is unfamiliar territory to me. Yeah. So I found this very interesting conversation.

Jonathan Aibel (01:11:48):
Well, that, that’s good. I am happy to help. And I, I think at the end of the day, there’s, the nice thing is the commonality is writing from character is writing from character. Yeah. Whether it’s an animated character, a TV character, a

Michael Jamin (01:12:06):
But you know what a when we were doing our mo we did, we sold a couple movies and I I was a little, there was so much free rewriting. There was so much free work that had to be done that it really, it really took the wind outta me. And no one was to blame. They were just, everyone was doing their jobs. All the producers were doing their jobs. And I’m like, but you, you guys are, you’re gonna kill me here. You know, and I don’t get paid for this. And I was like, I, I’d rather stay in tv. I just thought it was much saner, you know?

Jonathan Aibel (01:12:35):
Yeah, that’s for sure. A, a problem because you turned into script. And I think you’re right, everyone’s doing their job and their job is to have the best possible version of the script to turn into their boss.

Michael Jamin (01:12:51):

Jonathan Aibel (01:12:52):
So you’ll get the, I love it. But before I show it to mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, this person, if you could just fix these things. Cause I know he’s really has a pet peeve about people saying the word stupid. Right. So we need to take out all the stupids and, but also I was also thinking in this scene mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, I go, okay, well, all right. Does

Michael Jamin (01:13:14):
That, let’s, does that bother you at this point? Or you’re just like, oh, okay. You know, does that,

Jonathan Aibel (01:13:19):
I’ll tell what, I guess what bothers me is there are times where a person has said, I think this part could be better because you’re missing this and I’m confused by this. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, and that’s gonna affect the read. And you look at it and you say, that’s really true. That’s good. It’s the times when it’s either based on fear mm-hmm. <Affirmative> or the supposition that this person is going to have all these thoughts. So you’ll spend a week rewriting it. And then none of those concerns were the boss’s concerns. Some we once did we wrote a, we adapted a French movie that was took place. It was cavemen and it was the world’s first murder. And these two cavemen tried to solve the crime. And we we’re started getting notes. Like, I don’t know about the, the main character’s mother who appears in this scene. I’m not sure about that scene. And maybe we should think. And our thought was either you wanna make a K man murder mystery or you don’t, no studio is going to decide whether or not to make it based on the main character’s mother in that scene. Her attitude seems a little off. Right. So then it, sometimes it just feels like, well, what are we, what are we doing? Are we, are the steps we’re making moving this towards the green light? And if they are, that’s great. You want be, but they’re always, always guilty.

Michael Jamin (01:14:56):
They’ll always try to convince you that it is.

Jonathan Aibel (01:14:59):
That’s that’s really true. Yeah. And that’s the, okay, in an ideal world, what happens is your agent and manager call them up and say, no way is my client doing this. You do that. And that’s never, no, that’s never gonna happen. Oh,

Michael Jamin (01:15:16):
I was gonna say, I don’t think I’ve ever won that fight. I don’t think I’ve ever won that fight. Like in

Jonathan Aibel (01:15:21):
Terms of No, you can’t, you can’t win that fight.

Michael Jamin (01:15:23):

Jonathan Aibel (01:15:23):
Because, because the producers and the studios controlled the narrative. So you just get played off as their difficult, they won’t do this work. They didn’t turn in the script. We thought they were gonna turn in. So you, the, the, one of the, the keys is if you work with really good people who trust you, they won’t put you in that position. They will say, Hey, this sucks. I know I hate to ask you to do this, but could you just take a look? Here are 10 notes that the junior executive gave and if you could just address these, they can give it to their boss with their full Rob, you know, fullthroated support. And then you realize, okay, I get, if you tell me the, my role in this, I can fulfill that role. But if you’re making it seem like these are actually improving, does, does that make sense?

Like, yeah, don’t tell me these are making the script better, but it’s okay to tell me these aren’t gonna make it better, but they’re gonna make it sell. Right. Because I get that, that this is a business and that you are trying to convince a person or a green light committee, however many people to spend 80 million on an idea. Right. And that is not something anyone does lightly. Yeah. And you need every cheerleader you can get. And that’s, that’s part of being a professional screenwriter is also saying, okay, what, what do you need from me? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> to give you what you need to sell this.

Michael Jamin (01:16:56):

Jonathan Aibel (01:16:56):
And great producers know those things and insecure producers don’t necessarily know that, so they just become very reactive to the latest thing the studio’s telling them.

Michael Jamin (01:17:06):
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Right. Right. Exactly.

Jonathan Aibel (01:17:09):
We had I’ll tell this story and if it goes bad

Michael Jamin (01:17:13):
<Laugh>, if it goes south, we

Jonathan Aibel (01:17:14):
Had done a pilot with someone and when we pitched it to someone at the studio, they said, oh, that is exactly the kind of show that the network should be making. Yes, yes. We’re gonna, we’re gonna pay you to write that. Then in the process of writing it, the studio exec got hired by the network where he then passed on it.

Michael Jamin (01:17:36):
<Laugh>, well, wait a minute. We had that same exact thing happen to us. I’ll tell you that <laugh>, I’ll tell you that off the air <laugh>.

Jonathan Aibel (01:17:44):
And you know, at the time it was, but of course the, in his, his defense, maybe you’re, once you’re on the inside, you realize exactly what

Michael Jamin (01:17:53):

Jonathan Aibel (01:17:53):
They’re looking like, you know, he could have said his, Hey, I steered you off, whatever, but it was just

Michael Jamin (01:17:58):

Jonathan Aibel (01:17:58):
Cause you know, they, they think, oh my God, we got the man on the inside. This is, he’s gonna fight for it as surely as he did

Michael Jamin (01:18:04):
When, when he sold. Oh no cameras. All of them. How funny is that? That’s hilarious. Well, this is a good stopping point. John Abel, thank you so much for for having me in this chat. Hopefully you’ll tell your partner Glen that, and, and he’ll, he’ll do and he’ll contradict everything you just said. I’ll get the true version.

Jonathan Aibel (01:18:20):
Lemme tell you what really

Michael Jamin (01:18:22):
Happened, what really happened. Yeah. But thank you so much. This was I, I, I know the my audience is gonna love this, but I love this cuz this is a really educational, I’m

Jonathan Aibel (01:18:31):
Here for the audience of Juan Michael.

Michael Jamin (01:18:32):
That’s me. All right, man. Thank you so much everyone. You’re welcome. Thanks for listening. And until next time, keep writing.

Phil Hudson (01:18:40):
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing, leaving your review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. For free daily screenwriting tips, follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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