Tanster: Can you talk more about the editing process?
Michael: The editors assemble a massive cut of every single scene in the show, which is inexplicably given the bizarre name: “The Editor’s Assembly.” Just one of those weird show-biz terms. Like I said, it’s usually about twice as long as it should be. The directors then get to sit down with the editors and do something called a “Director’s Cut.” (Again, don’t ask me why they called it that.) It’s really great to see what the directors cut and what they leave in … Joss Whedon’s director’s cut for “Business School” was mind-blowingly good. And then after a few days it gets turned over to the writers for good.
If there is time, we like to let the editors then go through and do a cut of their own, since they, after staring at every take of every scene, know the material better than anyone. Also, if they don’t have something to work on, they come upstairs to hang out with us, and they’re super annoying.
Once the writer is involved, we just sit down in the edit bays with Dave or Dean, depending who is editing the episode, and go through it over and over again, tightening things, cutting things, choosing different takes. It usually goes like this:
Mike: You cut that scene? I think we should leave that scene in.
Dave: (rolling eyes) Okay.
Mike: Why did you roll your eyes?
Dave: No reason. I mean, I guess you don’t want the show to be funny.
Mike: You think we should cut that scene?
Dave: Well, given the fact that it’s completely unfunny and bores me to death, yeah, I think we should cut it. But no — definitely leave it in. You’re the “writer.”
And so on.
Tanster: This sounds like a deleted scene in itself!
Michael: There is a very funny documentary waiting to be made about Dave Rogers. I promise you.
Tanster: Do you ever second-guess yourself on whether a piece of dialog sounds real or not?
Michael: Second-guessing yourself is pretty much the definition of writing. That should actually be the new credit — instead of Staff Writer, when you first start you should be called Second-Guesser. Then Co-Second Guesser, Supervising Second-Guesser …
Tanster: I would like credit for inspiring that credit, then.
Michael: You are now an honorary Second-Guesser.
Tanster: Does Greg sign off on all scripts?
Michael: Greg is the ultimate arbiter of all things, and he wields his power like a thug dictator with a score to settle. We are not allowed to look him directly in the eye, under penalty of contract termination. His black Dodge Magnum must be washed daily using the tears of a thousand children. And whoever is “in his doghouse” has to spend all day massaging the massive hump that protrudes from his back.
Nothing is ever truly official until Greg okays it. Which, in all honesty, is why the show is good. Showrunners are forced to make dozens of decisions every day, and starting in the very early days of developing this show, Greg has made 19,200 consecutive correct decisions. Which I believe is some kind of record.
Tanster: Will there will be any new “special guest” directors for Season 4? (I know you can’t tell me who they are; I was just wondering if there are any.)
Michael: I know that we’ve started pursuing some super cool people … we definitely want to continue having new directors around. The writers love it, it’s fun for the actors, and it keeps the show fresh. So, win-win-win.
Next up: Part Two — Writing the characters and working with the other writers