‘Company Picnic’ Q&A with Jen Celotta

Here it is, our last OfficeTally Q&A of the season — The Office’s executive producer Jen Celotta (and co-writer of this episode, with Paul Lieberstein ) answers your questions about Company Picnic! Thank you, Jen!

Some keywords: mirrors, tears, Mose, and wedding.

Q. Was Holly & Michael’s skit scripted or were they able to improvise a little? | Pudge

Jen C: Holly and Michael’s skit was mostly scripted, but they did improvise a few things (including two of my favorite moments) — Steve improvised doing the accent of the kid in the movie and he improvised his “yay!” and throwing his hands up in the air after he got a question right.

He changed around his accents in different takes and went in and out of accents which we thought was funny so in editing we kept the Indian accent for the first two skits and had him drop it for the last one.

They also improvised the bow, which I loved. Steve is a master improviser and one of the things that’s fun about about Amy is that she’s really very good at it, too so it’s fun to watch them come up with things so effortlessly (things that would take us a while to write!).

Like they came up with the Jaws thing and saying Dunder-Dunder-Dunder — which led so nicely into Michael’s line that they were circling around their good idea/michael’s circling around looking for his moment with her. All Steve and Amy.

Q. When Tanster was invited to be an extra, was she specifically placed with Buffalo to get the most exposure or was it a happy accident?

Michael’s predicted that his relationship with Holly would last a long time, maybe she’d be with someone one year, then he’d be with someone the next year. This seemed like a subtle jab at the usual “Ross and Rachel” relationships that we get on TV so often. Was it? | Rachel

Jen C: Tanster should answer the first part!

tanster: A week before flying down, I was told that I might play some kind of volleyball ref. Then on the first day of shooting, I was given an apron to wear because my assignment had changed to a grill cook. An hour later, someone found me and gave me a Buffalo shirt to wear. I assume I finally got placed in Buffalo because that branch had a prominent role in the episode, and for that, I am forever grateful to The Office staff!

Jen C: Second part — it wasn’t meant as a jab. And we didn’t mean it literally, either, that he would specifically be with someone and so would she, just that they have a longer story in his mind.

We liked the idea that he had this master plan to try and make his move with Holly but then over the course of the day as he spent time with her, he was reminded that they have something special and he had a more mature way of looking at this relationship (more than he would’ve had with Jan or other women from his past) and he became calm and confident, quieted by that thought.

Q. The way some scenes were shot were not in a documentary style, for example the scene with Michael and Holly discussing their little ’skit’ there was about 3 cameras on them. Was this a deliberate choice to shift towards more of a sitcom style? | jessica

Jen C: Hmmm … you caught us. No, what happened here is that we used a third angle for the first and last shots (maybe one of the cameramen ran over there … sure, that could happen …) because it helped us in those two moments.

In the beginning of the scene, it helped us establish where Michael and Holly were — we could see that they were still tied to the picnic. And we used that angle again for the last shot because we felt that it had the performance that best captured a little bit of that anxiety/awkwardness between Michael and Holly that was there early on in their scenes during the episode.

To get even more specific (and it could get really boring real quick so feel free to skip ahead to when I talk about Pam being pregnant with octuplets), okay, so I wasn’t there on location for that scene, but I heard that the take (for the first and last shot) was shot through a mirror — apparently there were space difficulties, so Randall shot it through a mirror and then in post production they took that shot and reversed it (so Holly was on the left of the frame and Michael was on the right) and I think Jake (our post guy extraordinaire) undistorted the image (don’t ask me) and voila!

So, no, not a shift in our style just, you know, one of your typical good-establishing-shot-good-performance-takes-left-in-and-fixed-because-shot-through-a-mirror kinda-decision :)


  1. Thanks a lot, Jennifer. Your answers made me salivate for season 6.

    And you definitely need to play a Schrute. Else, your resume would just state “Street Hooker #1” in the acting credits section and that’s not a good thing to find a job.

  2. I don’t think it would be that hard to get Jen on as a Schrute. Considering how difficult it will be to get Mike Schur on the show now, they can have it where Dwight deports Mose back to the “Old Country” (Germany)for stealing beets and is given back his 20th cousin once removed, Annie Schrute to help tend to the farm, livestock, and Dwight’s bunyons. She wears an actual chastity belt.

  3. Thank you so much, Jen and Tanster! These Q&A’s are always amazing! Jen and Mindy are my favorite writers and I just love anything that they do! Wonderful episode, Jen (Paul too)! Thank you so much!

  4. Yay! Such a great Q&A — thanks so much for answering my question, Jen. And thank you, Tanster, for your continuing awesomeness! I’m totally on board with the petition to get another Schrute in the show!

  5. Great Q&A for the final episode! Especially liked Jen’s comments about the creative choice for non audio at hospital, and that we were privy to some of it – but not all of it! Wish she explained how Pam found out so quickly she was pregnant though…the hospital would have done blood tests and they take longer than that for results! Can’t wait to hear what made you cry Tanster!

  6. Thanks Jen, Tanster.. now to get season 5 DVDs so I can watch all the deleted scenes, and commentary.

    Is it too late to ask NBC to insert the deleted scenes into the episode.. Have two options, as aired, and with deleted scenes?

  7. I don’t know if I can wait until for the next season!

    And I would totally sign a petition for Jen to be a Schrute. Question: why not in her next episode she write in a Schrute for herself to portray? Just a thought.

  8. This was ridiculously awesome as are all the Q & A’s. Thanks so much. It’s great to hear the writers’ perspective and to know how passionate they are about their show.
    Also, Jen deserves to be a Schrute! Where do I send my Beet-O-Gram?

  9. Thanks for the interview. (both parts)
    Jen could so play a Schrute.Didn’t Dwight mention having a cousin named Helga? They’ve already got a name, and person to be her. It’s perfect.

  10. I always thought that it would be really funny if Dwight had a totally normal sibling. (after all wasn’t it mentioned that he has quite a few brothers and sister?)

  11. Ok where’s the petition? I’m so ready to sign! It’d be epic if Jen appeared as a Schrute in the episode as Mose!

    Thanks again tanster & Jen for taking the time to do these for us!

  12. Wow! You saying John is most like his character seriously made my week! There is hope that men like Jim do exist in this world!

  13. I respect Jen, and all of the writers, so so much for coming up with such amazing material. They are truly inspirational to me as I am aspiring to be a director/actress/screen-writer. Great question and better answers! Thank you Tanster for always making my week with these Q&As!

  14. On Dwight’s Dunder Mifflin emergency chain of power chart there is a Shirley Schrute, that could be Jen!

    I’m glad you guys were honest about the Volleyball thing, so I forgive you guys!

    I don’t mind Michael/Holly taking awhile since as Jen put it Pam/Jim are evolving and progressing. So no Ross/Rachel please! :)

    This was a great episode and a great Q & A.

  15. a possible explanation for the pam volleyball story:

    she played in high school, but pretended to have pms during gym because, come on, why would someone on the volleyball team want to play with a bunch of idiots who can’t play?!

    i played softball in middle school, but whenever we played it in PE, i hated it, because everyone else sucked.

  16. Thanks for setting up this Q&A! Regarding the Karen thing, I swear I saw her playing volleyball at one point (I paused it on my tivo and it looked exactly like Rashida Jones.) Her pregnant bump was gone, so I assumed she’d “had” the baby and was just there for the day. But I guess not, especially because Rashida was probably working on Parks and Rec…

  17. Am I missing something here? I didn’t really see tears rolling down John’s face, but I definitely saw that he was teary-eyed. I even rewatched it on iTunes and saw the same thing. Did people who have HD televisions actually see tears rolling his face?

  18. Thank you Jen and Tanster for caring about us fans so much and giving us so much! I really thought that was Jenna in the Mindy song. The double even walked like her!

  19. Thanks a lot, both of you, for the Q&A that will help me get through the summer without a new Office (webisodes notwithstanding). Great work!

  20. Thank you Jen and Tanster! Awesome Q&A from the best show ever! Glad Jen was straightforward about volleyball thing… but really wasn’t that big of a deal- even for us diehards :)

  21. JennyL, the hospital wouldn’t have had to do a blood test- simple urine test! went to doc about 4 years ago thinking my appendix was bursting, found out in less than 3 minutes about my pregnancy with now 3 year old twins!!

  22. Awesome Q&A! Thanks for answering my question, Jen! I will totally sign the petition to make you a Schrute!

  23. Thanks yall for the Q and A! It answered quite a few questions I had and I am excited about that little spoiler. I was hoping though to see what Pam and Jim actually said since we won’t be getting audio. Never the less, thanks :)

    It would be awesome for Jen to be a Schrute. Maybe have her be a distant relative in from Germany during Oktoberfest, getting away from all of us tourist and drunkies. (I went over to Germany last year, it was fun, but the locals just view it as another day with the U-Bahn packed with more drunk foreigners.)

  24. This is great! And about the volleyball thing, I just think that Pam being Pam really wouldn’t want to play volleyball in gym class… even if she liked the game. Oh well, doesn’t really matter!

    Vote Jen for Schrute!

  25. My first thought was, “Jen Celotta is way too pretty to be a Schrute.” Then I thought, well what if Dwight had this super-hot cousin who was totally normal, and she had been somewhat exiled from the family because of her normality? How would Dwight handle someone like that sharing his superior genes?

  26. This is great Tanster! It was so nice of Jen to give us so many answers! Loved the conversation betweeen Jen, Paul and Mose, lol! And I can’t wait to hear about how Jen made you cry. :P
    (and I would sign that petition in a heartbeat)

  27. This is why The Office is the best show on television. Period. Thank you Jen, thank you Tanster. You rock.

  28. You know how Jenna Fischer once mentioned that she’d love to see the JAM wedding take place at Schrute Farms, maybe the writers will consider that and Jen C. can be a Schrute girl then! He he

    Thank you for the awesomeness in this Q&A!!

  29. I totally echo Katie, #14! What a great read. I’m so surprised that the Jaws thing was improvised!

  30. I’m right there with flonkertonchamp. I played volleyball in school and after playing team volleyball for a year, playing PE volleyball sucked. I would totally lie to get out of it if I was Pam. Still, like other people said, the “oops” isn’t that big of a deal and I enjoyed the episode immensely.

    I know I’m being all “high school crush” here but to hear that John is most like his character and to hear that his tears at the end were real and all his, just made me a little weak at the knees. I hope to find a man as awesome as he seems to be.

    Great Q/A! Thanks :)

  31. I’ve been a big fan of Jen playing a Schrute ever since she originally mentioned it in a commentary or at the convention…can’t recall the specifics. I think it would be hilarious if she popped up as the long-lost totally normal Schrute that Jim and Pam have theorized exists but never believed they would actually encounter. There could be some before and after pictures as proof of her childhood Amish-ness. Kudos to Melissa (#29) for that idea!

  32. *cough cough*, where is the uncontained excitement over hearing that erin will be returning for season six? that was the best news of all! i am so glad the writers also think she is a fabulous addition to the dynamic of the show. one of my favorite moments was when she sprinted off to join her volleyball row. yay! erin!

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