Thanks to The Office story editor Dennis Fletcher for taking time to answer fan questions!
I’ve done my best to edit Dennis’ responses for clarity and accuracy without affecting his voice or intent.
I gotta say straight up, though, this is not your average Q&A. You’ve been warned.
tanster: What are the responsibilities of a story editor?
Dennis: Thank you for the question Tanster. A story editor is an important position that is one of the types of writers on the staff. The story editor is one level above staff writers, and since we have no staff writers, I guess you could say I’m the lowest on the totem pole as it were, ha. Except that then I think of all the people out there who would kill to be a writer at all, like guys not just on the crew but people I know back in Boston and I’m like, ha, not so bad. And I don’t think I’m better than anyone just because of my job. In fact, my father who I am more proud of than anyone in the world is a cop, in fact he is quite literally the cop who arrested Dee Brown [Boston Celtics player who was arrested with some controversy in 1990] which generated quite a lot of attention and controversy back in the day when people didn’t realize that he didn’t mean any harm to anyone or any group of people whatsoever, he was simply erring on the side of caution to protect his community, as per his job description. I love my father quite deeply as a matter of fact and I will always stand by him.
Karen: The Florida arc was very funny and it was a great way to highlight Jim and Dwight. I miss having Jim,Pam and Dwight more in the forefront of the stories. Are there any plans for more of them? Quick plea for more JAM in general please.
Dennis: Thank you very much for the question Karen, as story editor I can assure you that I was personally involved in the discussions pertaining to what would happen in the Florida episodes. To answer your question about Jim Pam and Dwight, yes they are very funny characters and my favorites. The way to have more of them would be a process by which the writers, including story editors (such as myself, although next year I will be executive story editor), executive story editors, and so forth, decide to write more scenes with those characters, but that is only the beginning of the process because these characters are portrayed by professional actors named John, Jenna, and Rainn Wilson, who are the real people acting as the characters you described, who in the next step act the lines that the story editors and so forth such as myself have written. It is so funny to me that people think the actors make it up but they do sometimes. So that is why I might have an idea for a hilarious scene and then you will not see it on your TV screen until months later, or usually not at all because of politics. Thank you Karen.
Brigette: How did you get your job? It sounds awesome.
Dennis: Thank you Brigette, it is awesome indeed without a doubt. I was at a phase of my life where I was quite frankly getting into a lot of trouble and watching Entourage on HBO and then I came up with an idea for an episode of Entourage that was even better than anything else that had ever been on Entourage, by a lot. [In the script] all the guys came to Boston and got their asses kicked rather violently. Even Ari. I wrote it in two days, it was so easy for me it was like a joke. Then I don’t want to too specific about this next part but let’s just say I knew someone who knew someone who I had good reason to believe would know Mark Wahlberg and I asked if I could give the Entourage script to him since in fact Mark Wahlberg is the executive producer of Entourage so he would probably like my script more than anyone. He promised over and over that he would “show it around” quote unquote which I assumed meant it would end up in the hands of Mr. Mark Wahlberg. The [messed] up thing is that Mark Wahlberg never got the script due to some [screw]-up, but lo and behold I got a call from a Hollywood agent saying Mr. Paul Lieberstein has read my script and thought it was the funniest […] thing he had ever seen in his whole [entire] life, no joke. This led to a meeting where I flew to LA to meet Paul Lieberstein. I flew coach which is funny because now I can afford business or even first class if I wanted, but I don’t even think it’s worth it really, I actually prefer to keep it real and stay in coach purely by choice. I went to The Office and sat in a room and in walks Toby from The Office to interview me. Well understandably I thought I part of a practical joke as of course I didn’t know that Toby was a real person and in fact was the same person as Paul Lieberstein! I got very angry which I think is understandable and used some very expressive language that I regret to this day. However, soon enough the misunderstanding was clarified and the interview proceeded as planned. [Paul] asked me right off the bat if I meant for my script to be ironic and I told him that yes, of course, I meant for it to be very ironic, since being ironic is one of many tools at my disposal as a talented writer, such as being funny, being emotional, being sappy, being action-packed, etcetera etcetera, literally whatever I want. My script had it all. Before I knew it I was a story editor of The Office, living the Entourage life practically. I have always believed in fate.