On December 30th, I hosted a webinar called “How Professional Screenwriters Overcome Writer’s Block” and I talked about why story structure is so important in getting past this block. This episode addresses questions you asked in our Q&A session that we didn’t have time to answer. There’s lots of great info here, make sure you watch.

Show Notes

A Paper Orchestra on Website: – https://michaeljamin.com/book

A Paper Orchestra on Audible:https://www.audible.com/ep/creator?source_code=PDTGBPD060314004R&irclickid=wsY0cWRTYxyPWQ32v63t0WpwUkHzByXJyROHz00&irgwc=1

A Paper Orchestra on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Audible-A-Paper-Orchestra/dp/B0CS5129X1/ref=sr_1_4?crid=19R6SSAJRS6TU&keywords=a+paper+orchestra&qid=1707342963&sprefix=a+paper+orchestra%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-4

A Paper Orchestra on Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/203928260-a-paper-orchestra

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Autogenerated Transcripts

Michael Jamin:
Everyone wants to be a showrunner, which is again, why it’s so freaking

Michael Jamin:
Hard. I want to make all the decisions, but you don’t know based on what you

Michael Jamin:
Don’t know what you’re doing. Why would you want that? Is it an ego thing you want to tell people you’re a showrunner or don’t you want to learn? Do you assume? When I was starting off, I didn’t want to be a showrunner for 10 years. I didn’t want to be a show runner. Like, this is a hard job. I don’t know how to do it.

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about conversations in writing, art, and creativity. Today’s episode is brought to you by my debut collection of True Stories, a paper orchestra available in print, ebook and audiobook to purchase and to support me in this podcast, please visit michael jamin.com/book and now on with the show.

Michael Jamin:
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Well, we’re doing another q and a from one of our webinars and my special guest host is Kevin Lewandowski, script coordinator extraordinaire. He helps out with a lot of my projects, social media projects here and he’s subbing in for Phil and he’s doing a great job. So welcome Kevin.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Thank you again for having me.

Michael Jamin:
You screwed it up. You already screwed. No, I’m only messing with you. You’re doing great. Thanks.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I’m not going to apologize for not being Phil anymore, so fair Phil. But no, I’m happy to be here and this how professional screenwriters overcome Writer’s Block is one of my favorite topics to talk about. Oh good. So I think it’s super, super interesting and there’s been, when we dive into it, I’ll say my favorite line that you always say that just unlocked the excuse sometimes we use for when we have writer’s block.

Michael Jamin:
I’m curious to know what your favorite line is.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Alright, I have so many Michael Jainism that I think my all time favorite is Shit Happening is not a story.

Michael Jamin:
By the way, we have that on merch now, guys. Yeah, we do. We got merch and you can go get it@michaeljamin.com/merch where all the crazy things that I say, you can get it on a on mug or a notebook or whatever. We got merge. Go get it. I should have plugged it before, but I forgot. But anyway, these questions came from our last webinar that we did and if you’re not on my webinar list, sign up for it’s free. Go to michael jamin.com/webinar and you can sign up. You can be invited when we do our next one. And so yeah, Kevin, we had a lot of questions people asked. We didn’t have time to get all the questions answered and so here they are n

Kevin Lewandowski:
Here we go. These first couple of questions are going to be about kind of course related stuff. So this first one is from David Zilo. I feel like we see his name a lot. I feel like he comes to these webinars a lot and ask a lot of questions. The question is, how does the story structure change when say a character does not, cannot achieve a goal in the tragic story, for example,

Michael Jamin:
Doesn’t change at all. It’s the same old story structure that we use. Whether the character achieves their goal at the end or not, it’s the same damn thing.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yep.

Michael Jamin:
The guys you’re just asking, he’s just asking at the end, what if the last two minutes are different, so what? Nothing.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I think it’s always more interesting for me when that character doesn’t achieve their goal. I think the breakup with, but yeah, Vince v and Jennifer Ston, they don’t stay together in the end. No. It’s one of the few rom-coms that I think they decide to go off the beaten path and not have

Michael Jamin:
Them end often. We call this the joyful defeat in a movie or the character doesn’t get what they want, but they get what they need. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question, Rob. Robert, when is the latest the stakes should be made clear?

Michael Jamin:
The sooner the better because the story does not start until the audience knows what’s at stake. And so until then you’re boring them and you’re daring them to change the channel or read another script or do something else with their time. So the sooner the better, and that’s a note you’ll get from a network executive. They’ll always say, can we start the story sooner? And so wherever you have it, they’ll give you that note. If it’s on page four, they’ll say page two.

Kevin Lewandowski:
In your experience, is there a realistic, for instance, if they were like, oh, it’s on page three, we need it on page two, have you ever run into We just can’t. We need a little bit of room to be able to

Michael Jamin:
Set

Kevin Lewandowski:
Something

Michael Jamin:
Up. Absolutely. And so you’ll move it up a little bit, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. But yeah, like you said, they’ll always say, oh, can we start this sooner? Yeah, we’ll take a look at it. We’ll take a look at that. Coley Marie, can the goal change or appear to change?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yes. And often it sometimes will. It’s like because something happens and what the character thought they wanted is not what they want anymore. So yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So how do you feel about, because sometimes it’s, is there a fear of if you start writing it too much of a change, can it almost feel like, oh, okay, now we’re following a different story to,

Michael Jamin:
It usually happens kind of like an act top of act three with the character discoveries. This thing that I wanted turns out I don’t really want any. I got what I thought I wanted and it’s not what I want. So that’s usually late in the script.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. So you’re saying in top of act two, if they wanted to,

Michael Jamin:
It wouldn’t be top of

Kevin Lewandowski:
Act ride a pony at the end of act one. Top of Act two should be like, well, I want to win this prize at the Carnival

Michael Jamin:
Now. Yeah, top of act two is one. Well, this is what we teach in the course. What tab of Act two would be, so yeah,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Arius Kennedy. So should we avoid high stakes conflicts?

Michael Jamin:
No. The higher stakes are good. High stakes are good. Higher the stakes are better. You want to avoid low stakes conflicts.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, low stakes conflicts are not that interesting. Heather Marie, vital, how do we find conflicts for TV shows with main characters without getting stale? That’s kind of the job of a writer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly, that’s the job without getting stale, it’s like, and again, this is not her concern. Concern. Your concern is to do it once and then let’s a showrunner worried about it getting stale. Right now your job is to write one great script

Kevin Lewandowski:
Are Barry, when it comes to an episodic show, there’s the overall show conflict and then the mini conflicts of the episodes. So I’m assuming they’re talking about, there’s the A story, the B story, the C story,

Michael Jamin:
Or maybe they’re talking about the overall arch of the show. I’m watching Show Gun right now and I’m only on episode one, so it seems like the overarching stories, how is this one? I dunno if he called the futile Lord going to maintain his position in the kingdom, but within each episode he has a challenge that he has to overcome, so to make that larger prop goal happen.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Meg Parker Wilson, when you are writing a TV show, do you plot out the entire story pilot to finale and then create all those moments episode by episode in terms of the arc and the structure?

Michael Jamin:
No, it’s too much work. It’s too difficult. What you really, and again, this is not something that she needs to worry about, but maybe she’s just asking me out of curiosity, we’ll come up with a pilot and we’ll have that pilot broken. We know what that story is going to be and then we have a vague idea of what season one might be. But I’m talking vague, just enough to bullshit our way through this because it’ll change when we’re breaking the story. As we discover writing and digging into the character, we’ll discover something that might be better. So what are we going to do? Not do it just because we said we were talking out of our ass that this other thing was going to be better,

Kevin Lewandowski:
Right? Yeah. I think Vince Gilian, creator of Breaking Bad, I think he says something very similar. Yeah, we kind of have an idea, but part of going through different story ideas is you discover stuff along the way. Jesse Pinkman was only supposed to be four or five episodes, and then now they realize how much chemistry those two characters had. And could you imagine, would that show have worked if they would’ve killed off Jesse Pinkman? Because they said, well, we said our pitch, we have to kill em off after five episodes. We have to stick with that.

Michael Jamin:
I’m always surprised that people don’t know that and they’re worried about breaking the entire series. It’s like, but breaking one episode of television when I’m talking breaking, figuring out what the story is and writing the outline in the script is so much work. How could you possibly do all that in advance and you have a team of writers doing all that work.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting. Sometimes you’ll see people that’ll talk about, yeah, I have this TV series I wrote and I have the first eight episodes done, and I’m like, oh, that’s a lot to do with

Michael Jamin:
No they

Kevin Lewandowski:
Don’t. One person,

Michael Jamin:
They really don’t. They might have enough for one episode and they broke it up into eight episodes. They don’t know any better. That’s very common. I think

Kevin Lewandowski:
I remember there’s another example on friends that one of the writers was talking about. It’s probably one of the more iconic moments of the whole series is when Ross is getting married to Emily and Rachel shows up and he ends up, he accidentally says Rachel’s name, I Ross take the Rachel. And the writer was saying that wasn’t anything we would’ve ever thought of. It was one day we were rehearsing or something like that. And he accidentally said the wrong name. And as writers, we all laughed and we thought that’s super funny. He was like, we had the aha moment of like, oh, we need to include this. And that little moment had so much of a change for the rest of the series. Now it turned into, well, Emily will make them now. Okay. It’s clear that Ross is still in love with Rachel and Emily. She’s only going to come to New York if Ross stops talking to Rachel. So it was just that little moment of discovery and what would that scene or storyline have been if Ross married Emily

Michael Jamin:
And they discovered that by accident and rehearsal and what are you going to do not do with this and that, that moment everyone gasped in the audience and people at home gasped. So what you not going to do it?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, and I don’t think in their pitch they’re like, okay, season five we’re going to have Ross marry this British girl, but when he is actually up there, we’re going to have him say Rachel’s thing. It was just discovery.

Michael Jamin:
You don’t think that far in advanced. You can’t. It’s too much work.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Let’s see. So this next question from Sarah, there’s a bit of terminology from your course, so I’m going to not use that terminology, but does the end of act two have to be in direct relation to the conflict with the introduced in the first act? Can it be attributed to a different relationship conflict?

Michael Jamin:
No, no, no. Pretty much no. If you’re telling one story that’s your A story or your act two break to be on the A story. If it’s coming out of nowhere and it’s like, what’s this? It’s not going to feel earned. It’s going to be like, what’s going on?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Rob, Robert again, how do we make funny? Because it can be so subjective.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. One thing I say is in my course, I can’t teach you how to be funny. I can maybe teach you how to be a little funnier. I could give you tips that will help you be a little funnier, but if you’re not funny, I can’t help you be funny. It’s okay. You can write drama. There’s plenty of work for drama writers and just write what you’re really good at. But it is a little heartbreaking. I see sometimes when people, I want to be accommodator, but you’re not funny, so you don’t have that in you. That’s okay. Write some other stuff. Drama’s great too.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. One of my other favorite things you say, and this wasn’t the one I was talking about earlier, is you have to find new ways to say old things in a funny way. Yeah. Every version of a joke has been told to a degree. So how do you make it relevant to today and your story and your characters and make it so it hasn’t been heard that way before.

Michael Jamin:
You know what though? I just got an email from, I don’t know how I’m on this list, whatever. I got an email from a writer and she’s doing a public appearance and she said, come see me the headline, come see me. I don’t bite. And I’m like, oh God, you’re supposed to be a writer. Don’t tell me you don’t bite. That’s so unoriginal. That’s so clammy. That’s not something a writer should ever say. Find a new way to say, I don’t bite. I was so unimpressed. I was like, oh God, you just embarrass yourself. Don’t do that. You’re a writer. You have to find a new way to say old things.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Okay, so these are kind of more craft related questions, Nathan Shapiro, what are the rookie mistakes you see new writers making both in writing as well as from the business side. What is something you wish you had known when you were starting out? And then part two, which I think this is actually part three, do all supporting lead characters need an obstacle and goal? Or is it sufficient that they’re simply there to facilitate the main hero’s journey?

Michael Jamin:
This guy’s got

Kevin Lewandowski:
Questions. We’ll split this up. So the first part was what are the rookie mistakes you see new writers making both in writing as well as from the business side.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, a rookie mistake in the writer’s room is what we call when they bitch instead of pitch. The expression is pitch, don’t bitch. So it’s very easy for a new writer to shoot down an idea in the room without having a better one because it’s hard to come up with a better one. So that’s a rookie thing. I don’t care if the idea on the table is bad, if you don’t have a better one, shut up because it’s what are you there for? You’re not a critic. Your job is to make it better, not to say this is bad. And

Kevin Lewandowski:
Also don’t defend your joke if the showrunner doesn’t think it’s good. If you put something, they’re like, ah, I don’t really know. Okay, that’s it.

Michael Jamin:
Don’t

Kevin Lewandowski:
Fight for it. Don’t just let it go. Think of a better one.

Michael Jamin:
What was the other question?

Kevin Lewandowski:
So the next one is, what is something you wish you had known when you were starting up?

Michael Jamin:
Well, to be honest, everything that I teach in the course, I didn’t know any of it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I think it’s just, yeah, I mean, again, Michael’s course has unlocked a lot for me and someone that’s not a very intelligent person, he really simplifies it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, make it easy.

Kevin Lewandowski:
It’s easy to understand. I don’t understand the terminology of progressive complications and sight incidents, all that stuff. I

Michael Jamin:
Don’t understand it either.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Any sense to me? I won’t tell you what the terms are that Michael uses. You’ll have to take this course, but they’re much easier to

Michael Jamin:
Understand. Yeah, I think writing should be simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And then the last part of this question, do all supporting lead characters need an obstacle and goal, or is it sufficient that they’re simply there to facilitate the main hero’s journey?

Michael Jamin:
Well, often they are an obstacle in the main hero’s journey. Sometimes if you don’t give ’em too much to play, they can be the Greek chorus, but generally every character in a scene has to have an attitude on something, and if they don’t wire in the scene, if they don’t have, they’re not just there to stand around. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So do you also think when in the context of the story structure that you teach in your class, those B stories that aren’t necessarily as emotionally empowering as what the A story is, do you think it should still follow all those structure points or just enough or doesn’t really matter?

Michael Jamin:
No, a b story doesn’t carry the same emotional weight as the A story. So it doesn’t actually have to carry, it doesn’t have to be structured the way an A story is, but stuff does have to happen and it can’t be random. It has to be on that story that we’re following.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Okay. Next question. If it’s an ensemble cast, like Orange is a new black or stranger things, does each character have to have a stake or only a main character? So very similar to this

Michael Jamin:
Question. Yeah, usually you’re following. I mean, I haven’t watched Stranger Things in a long time. Maybe they have two or three running storylines in each episode. I don’t know. They probably do.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Who is the hero in horror movies like Friday the 13th? Is it Jason or the person who survives at the end?

Michael Jamin:
Well, you’re not rooting for Jason. You’re not rooting for him to murder everybody. And again, I haven’t seen those Friday the 13th movies, but you’re rooting for the person in the summer camp.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Michael. Is there such thing as an anti-hero?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, of course there is, and I talk about that, but the problem is I think it’s unnecessarily complicated. What’s interesting, an anti-hero and a hero. Why don’t you just call it a hero and make it easier on yourself? Oh, because your anti-hero is a little bit unlikeable or a little bit dirty or villainous. Well, that’s okay. There’s still a hero.

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think there was an example you used of if you’re writing something about the devil, him being what we all think the devil is, that’s not interesting. You make him where he has compassion with some things and you give him layers like Sopranos. You talk about the example as well, and I think it’s those villains are, they’re the hero in their own story. We may not agree with it. They’re the hero in their own story though. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
I think Tony Swan, I don’t think he’s an anti-hero. I think he’s a hero.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Okay, next question. Do you have to know the end when you start the story? Can it change?

Michael Jamin:
And often it does. You’ll get often it does. Often it does, but usually when we’re breaking a story on the board in the writer’s room, no one sent off to outline or script until we know what the ending is. But it’s not uncommon to get a draft back and you go, you know what? This ending isn’t working. Let’s figure out a new Act three.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And in your experience, do you think for something like the ending doesn’t feel right, do you think that was potentially because it wasn’t broken in the best way? Or do you think the writer didn’t maybe necessarily deliver the dialogue the right way?

Michael Jamin:
Well, often problems in act three requires solutions in Act one. So in other words, it wasn’t set up right. The ending wasn’t set up early, and so it’s unusual to say, okay, all we have to do is fix Act three. No, you got to fix all of it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And that’s when you have the really late nights and you do dinner in the writer’s room, which everyone hates when that PA comes around is All right. What does everyone want for dinner?

Michael Jamin:
Yep.

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book, A Paper Orchestra, A collection of True Stories. John Mayer says, it’s fantastic. It’s multi timal. It runs all levels of the pyramid at the same time. His knockout punches are stinging, sincerity, and carcass Review says Those who appreciate the power of simple stories to tell us about human nature or who are bewitched by a storyteller who has mastered his craft will find a delightful collection of vignettes, a lovely anthology that strikes a perfect balance between humor and poignancy. So my podcast is not advertiser supported. I’m not running ads here. So if you’d like to support me or the podcast, come check out my book, go get an ebook or a paperback, or if you really want to treat yourself, check out the audio book. Go to michael jamin.com/book, and now back to our show

Kevin Lewandowski:
From Rachel. It helps to do homework before even writing. Yes. If you’re new to fantasy, read some fantasy scripts or books first.

Michael Jamin:
Sure, a lot as much as you can, but I’d also ask you why you want to write fantasy then, if you’ve never read any or what’s attracting to you, to you if you don’t even know anything about it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question. What’s with the job titles that writers end up with? What do the different kinds of jobs actually cover?

Michael Jamin:
So there’s different levels to writers. They’re just ranks and in terms of how much it’s big pay grades basically. So the lowest level writer is called a staff writer. Even though everyone, it’s confusing because every writer on staff is a staff writer, but the lowest level writer has the title of staff writer. Then the next higher up is called story editor, then executive story editor, then co-producer, producer, supervising producer, co-executive producer, executive producer, the executive producer’s the showrunner, and so they’re the boss and everyone else. They’re just different levels that determines how much you’re going to get paid. Often it determines how much responsibility you have. If the showrunner leaves the room, often it’s the co-executive producer who will run the room in their proxy or they’ll do the set, they’ll work on the set, they’ll do whatever that’s based on their experience. But in terms of job responsibilities, other than that, it’s really up to the S to determine how much they want. Maybe they’ll say if someone’s a producer, they may let them go to the set on their own. I mean, it just depends on the showrunner, what they want them to do.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. One of the shows I worked on, I think we talked about this in the last podcast, Steve Rudnick, who wrote Space Jam and Santa Claus movies. He was a supervising producer on The Muppets, and he spent a lot of time on set and he really liked it. It’s just fascinating to watch how those puppeteers can

Michael Jamin:
Do

Kevin Lewandowski:
Their stuff. Next question from Steven. Can stream of consciousness work for screenwriting?

Michael Jamin:
Sounds terrible to me. I’m not a fan of stream of consciousness. I’m not really interested in reading your thoughts. If you’re going to take me someplace, take me by the hand and lead me there. To be honest, just going to say it right now, I feel stream of consciousness is masturbatory. I feel like it’s for yourself and no one else, but I could be. Someone else may enjoy it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
So when you say hold my hand, because I think there’s also this, people sometimes assume, well, well, I don’t want to put that on the page. It’s just going to take a page. The audience will get, the audience will understand what I’m going for, and I think is there that fine line of figuring out, okay, what do I need to hold the hand of the audience through versus what do I think they’re going to be able to pick up?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I like to write. When I’m writing, I like to check in with the audience, let ’em know. Yeah. When I say hold their hand, let them know. Remind them what’s at stake here. This character wants, I’d like to just check. So it’s not a mystery. Now, often that’s the difference between sometimes you’ll see a really smart writing, they won’t kind of do that. They expect a little more of the audience. It just depends on what kind of show you’re doing. If you’re doing a broad silly show, you check in with the audience knowing that that’s not what they’re there for. They’re there for something silly and fun. You got to keep checking in with them. But I just saw a zone of interest, which is really smart, and they didn’t check in with the audience, and that might win. The Oscars a wonderful movie also. That’s not a movie for the masses. I don’t think it’s going to be a movie that’s a blockbuster. It was a great movie though.

Kevin Lewandowski:
What are the stakes of 2001 a Space Odyssey?

Michael Jamin:
God, I haven’t seen it in forever. What were the stakes was the guy I am trying to remember. They went on a spaceship. They had a mission, but then the computer was sabotaging the mission and there was going to basically, I think the computer was going to kill them, basically take ’em on a mission that would kill them. Is that that I remember. So the stakes were life or death.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Those are pretty mistakes.

Michael Jamin:
And how do we defeat the computer? Who’s the boss of the whole thing? How do we fool the computer? I believe that’s what it was, right? It was a long time ago.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that, and I guess if they don’t, they die.

Michael Jamin:
I think so, yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Next question. How would you recommend doing a man versus a system conflict, like perhaps is seen in Cool Hand Luke?

Michael Jamin:
Well, I mean, yeah, that was the whole thing. He wanted to get out of prison. They were trying to, and again, I haven’t seen that in 10, 12 years. I don’t remember. He was in prison and the system was trying to break him down. Right? That’s like anything you escape from Alcatraz to the same thing. How do we get out of this prison? So yeah, but I’m trying to remember in Cool Luke, there was probably a face to the system. It wasn’t like a system. I’m guessing it there was a warden or something, or there were other inmates who was the face of the system trying to remember. They called me off guard.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. So I was thinking about when you said I was Shawshank Redemption, and I think it’s, yeah, there’s the system, but then kind of the warden represents the system. In that context,

Michael Jamin:
There was the warden and then the warden’s proxy, the guard, and there were definitely, it wasn’t so much the system. They were faces of the system. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Okay. Can the conflict be hidden from the hero? The hero thinks they want control money, but they really don’t want to be alone because they were abandoned as a kid.

Michael Jamin:
Well, I mean, all of that is fine, but your hero is not going to want a hero. Wanting money is not a reputable goal. Who cares? So what your hero wants it sounds like, is companionship. If they’re abandoned or or whatever. That’s what they’re really wanting. So yeah, I mean, all of that is fine, but I’m not sure why it’s not hidden for the, yeah,

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think thinking about breaking bad, I think a lot of people would think, well, Walter White wanted money. No, that’s

Michael Jamin:
Not what he wanted. Walter White wanted to provide for his family. He was going to be dead soon, so it wasn’t the money he wanted. What he wanted was very reputable. He wants to give his family something so they could live when he’s dead to, because he can’t provide for them. So it wasn’t like he wanted a new Ferrari,

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think that slightly eventually morphed into he just wants to maintain being powerful.

Michael Jamin:
Well, then it turned into something else. Then he went down this path of it was about power and control, and he went down that, but that was only seasons into it.

Kevin Lewandowski:
AI and equalizer for skill and creativity in this competitive era of artists?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think so. I think ai, I guess it’s a cheat code if you want to be a writer, if you wanted to be a race car driver, you’d learn how to race, car drive, and you’d go to courses and classes and you’d be really good at shifting and all that stuff and understand the apex of a curve and how to attack a curve. Or I suppose you could get behind the wheel of a Tesla and put it on autopilot and you could just fall asleep. But why do you want to be a race car driver then if that’s what you aspire to do? Do you just want to be a dummy in the wheel of the car?

Kevin Lewandowski:
I think one of the other things you always say too is AI may never be able to write true human emotion and never be able to really write what my personal stories have been my life. And I think until it can do that, I think we’re fine.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we’ll see. They’re doing some, I guess, crazy amazing things, and I don’t know. We’ll see. But I’m not sure. I don’t know why you or any other aspiring writer would want that. I would think you would want to root against that.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Oh yeah.

Michael Jamin:
I think, don’t you want to write stories? Don’t you want to be the author of the stories, don’t you? Isn’t that why you want to be a writer, to take what’s inside of you and express it in a way that entertains people? Or do you want to be just the person who plugs the computer in the morning and say You’re a writer?

Kevin Lewandowski:
And I think about the writer strike we all went through, and that was a huge topic of conversation, and writers took a sacrifice to stop this from happening to help protect writers that are going to be coming up. And I think it’s probably going to be an ongoing battle for a while.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, the world’s changing fast. Yeah. Scary.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Too fast.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, too fast.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Is it possible to have two showrunners attached to one project, the creator of the show, and one more experienced showrunner?

Michael Jamin:
No. I mean, they’re not going to be equal. I mean, I suppose anything’s possible, but it’s very unlikely. I’ve been on shows where someone, a younger writer created it and then they assigned a showrunner. And the showrunner on that one show, the showrunner was very gracious, and he included this young writer and a lot of the decisions, and it wasn’t like he made it a partnership as best as he could, but at the end of the day, he was still the boss. Someone has to be the boss, but he was very gracious about how he treated this young writer and he really wanted to mentor him. But again, when you’re a mentor, that means more than the other person.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And you and Seaver have run shows together, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But we’re a partnership, so that’s a little different. But this person is talking about one person created another one. Everyone wants to be a showrunner, which is again, why it’s so freaking hard. I want to make all the decisions, but you don’t know based on what you don’t know what you’re doing. Why would you want that? Is it an ego thing you want to tell people you’re a showrunner or don’t you want to learn? Do you assume? When I was starting off, I didn’t want to be a showrunner for 10 years. I didn’t want to be a showrunner. This is a hard job. I don’t know how to do it. And then you get to the point in your career where it’s like, it’s either that or unemployment. So I’m like, all right, sign me up for showrunner.

Kevin Lewandowski:
What, even with that, the rooms I’ve been in, you just see how many meetings that the showrunners have to be in that aren’t necessarily directly related to the writing and the story. It’s costume stuff, it’s hair and makeup stuff. It’s set pieces. It’s all these different things that they have the final, final approval on and

Michael Jamin:
And that’s the easy part, all that stuff

Kevin Lewandowski:
Breaking in. Any advice for being hired in a writer’s room without coming up with an original show idea? Or do you have to bring an original idea to an interview?

Michael Jamin:
No, you don’t have to. You can write a script on an existing show. You can write a great Game of Thrones spec script, and as long as the showrunner wants to read it and thinks it’s great, you’re hired.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Do you think in today’s world, from what I’ve heard, spec scripts sort of aren’t really a thing anymore. Do you think a lot of that has to do with just because there’s so much out there that if I’m like, here, Michael, here’s a specs on whatever show, there’s a real chance that I’ve never heard of the show.

Michael Jamin:
Yes, that’s exactly, and that’s why, that’s why I think it’s unfair. I mean, life is unfair, but that’s why I think it’s harder today than it was back when I was breaking in. Because you could write a spec sip on an existing show on er, and everyone knew what ER was. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
It’s interesting too, because then I’ve heard you say this too before, if you’re running whatever show and it’s in season two or season three, and you’re interviewing me and you read my original pilot, you’re more like, well, this is great, but I want to know, can you write my show? That’s what I want you for. Your original pilot is cool, has nothing to do with my show. I want to know. Can you write my show? Do you have the character’s personalities down?

Michael Jamin:
And it’s harder to create an original show, a pilot. It’s much harder, I feel, than creating a spec script of an existing show. That’s the days we live in. What are we going to do?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, I think that might’ve been all of our questions for right now, but I did want to say, so the one thing I always take away when we talk about this is when writers overcome writer’s block, something you always say is Writer’s block isn’t really a thing for professional writers. You don’t get to say, I’m going to go to the beach for three days and clear my head. And if you’re really struggling with the writer’s block, chances are you don’t necessarily have the structure down to a point. And that’ll help unlock a lot of problems for you. And that’s what Michael scor teaches is those structure points and what you need to know. And I think there’s little instances of writer’s block where if I’m just kind of like I’m a little frustrated, go for a walk for 15, 20 minutes, and I live by a mall here in Glendale, and it wasn’t too long ago, I remember I was walking and I was just thinking about something.
I saw these two people, and it looked like it was a boyfriend and a girlfriend, and she had her Starbucks, and she was taking a picture of it, and someone bumped into her and she dropped it everywhere. And I just happened to see this interaction. And the guy, his reaction was kind of like, well, and I thought that was so fascinating because I was like, okay, what’s the relationship between these two people? Because this is definitely not a first date. Because if it was a first date, he’d be like, oh my gosh, let me go get you a new one. And so then I was like, okay, so have they been dating for a while? Okay, then it’s like, okay, well, if that was his reaction, has this happened so many times? He’s just sick of her shit, always posting it to Instagram. He’s like, I told you this was going to happen.
And then I start kind of building this story in my head of what if this is her moment where she’s like, I’m going to break up with you. This is bullshit. You’re laughing at something bad. That happened to me. And I remember coming back to my apartment that day, and I felt like more just relaxed and calm. I saw this live event unfold that I don’t think anyone else was watching, but I just happened to see this unfold. And I don’t think that was anything I could have really written. I think I would’ve wrote like, oh, she drops it. He picks it up. He wants to impress her because he wants to get laid later. But his reaction was like, yeah, I told him this shit happens all the time. Stop taking pictures. Just drink the damn coffee.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s good. You’re observing. That’s what you should be doing.

Kevin Lewandowski:
It’s good. When I worked at a theme park,
Get a lot of material there from people, a lot of different personalities, I used to jot down a lot of stuff I used to see and just how people would interact. And it’s nice to, when you kind of feel those moments of writing and you’re kind of stuck, go back to those notes you took in that can help unlock something. I know you always show on your webinars, you have your black notebook that you’ve been carrying around your entire career and things people have taught you along the way, and you write ’em down in there. And that’s just, that’s gold right there.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Write it down. Keep a list of your, like what you’re saying. Those specific things are just interesting.

Kevin Lewandowski:
And because you always say too, when you’re driving, you don’t really listen to the radio or anything. You just kind of talk with notes on your phone just to get it out there and start thinking about it. And

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, if I’m working on a story, I won’t listen to the radio. I’ll just obsess over this one moment I’m trying to fix in the story. And if I get it, great. Now, that was my writing for that morning was fixing that one problem. Yeah.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Well, I think that is all we have question wise, Michael. We

Michael Jamin:
Did

Kevin Lewandowski:
It. We did it.

Michael Jamin:
We did it. Thank you everyone. What else do we got to talk about? If you want to come to our free screenwriting webinars, you could sign up at michael jamin.com/webinar if you’d like to. I got a newsletter. Get on that Michael jamin.com/newsletter. And of course, we’re unplugging my book, which I worked on for four and a half years. It’s called the Paper Orchestra, and it asks the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most? And someone asked me on the live, if I could explain it a little better what it is. And I think what the book, one way to explain it is imagine they’re very personal and intimate stories, and I’m sharing them as if, imagine me reading my diary, but performing it out loud knowing that you are going to be watching it. And so I’m going to say it in a way that’s going to be entertain you, but it’s still my diary. But it’s structured in a way, so it’s like, I know I have an audience here. And so that’s kind of what it is. They’re stories, they’re true stories, but hopefully they’re told in a way that is engaging and makes you laugh and hopefully makes you feel something. It’s more importantly.

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah. Yeah. So go to michael jamin.com, check out his book. There’s a bunch of, just go to his website, michael jamin.com, click around. There’s webinars, there’s the podcast. Get uploaded there. There’s a couple of free lessons you can download, scripts he’s written. There’s so much there. And like he said, that you can get his book there and you can get a signed copy from him on his website. And it’s Amazon. It was when you originally launched it, it was number one in five different categories on Amazon, so it was pretty wild. So yeah, check out the book, join the class, join our webinars, follow Michael on social media. He’s still giving out free tips and trying to help people. And yeah, that’s all I got.

Michael Jamin:
Excellent. Alright. Thank you Kevin. Great job. And if they want to follow you, Kevin, where do they follow you on social media?

Kevin Lewandowski:
Yeah, so it’s Kevin Lewandowski. It’s a long last name, I’m sure after you just type the first five letters, it’ll pop up.

Michael Jamin:
Excellent. Alright everyone, until next week, keep writing.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. I did it again. Another fantastic episode of What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? How do I do it week after week? Well, I don’t do it with advertiser supported money. I tell you how I do it. I do it with my book. If you’d like to support the show, if you’d like to support me, go check out my new book, A Paper Orchestra. It asked the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most? Laura Sanoma says, good storytelling also leads us to ourselves, our memories, our beliefs, personal and powerful. I loved the Journey, and Max Munic, who was on my show says, as the father of daughters, I found Michael’s understanding of parenting and the human condition to be spot on. This book is a fantastic read. Go check it out for yourself. Go to michael jamin.com/book. Thank you all and stay tuned. More. Great stuff coming next week.

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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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