Q&A with Michael Schur: Part 1

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

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85 comments

  1. Wow he was funny and it was such a great interview, I can’t wait. It seems so long, and hard work, but at least it also seems like they enjoy it.

  2. Wow, great interview! He seems like a very down-to-earth, cool guy. How am I supposed to hate him for having my dream job? Did you talk by phone? It sounds very conversational. By “a series of conversations” I wondered if you meant e-mail.

    Anyway, once again, great job tanster.

  3. Tanster, that was really interesting! Thank you so much for posting that; it must have been really cool talking to him. Can’t wait for part 2!

  4. Awesome interview! That blew my mind that the first cut of The Job was 73 minutes.

  5. Tanster you’re so lucky. Great interview! I love when anyone in the show sits down to really explain their job and what it entails.

  6. This sounds like a really cool interview. Thank you and I can’t wait for more! Did you get any spoilers for season 4? :)

  7. Please, someone start working on a documentary about Dean and Dave for next summer’s break Webisodes. “Why did you roll your eyes?”

  8. That was a great interview! Can’t wait for the second part. Thanks for sharing, tanster! Michael Schur comes across as such a cool person! Then again, aren’t everyone who works on the show cool? Dean and Dave are probably among the most under-rated of the folks who work on “The Office”. Imagine having to edit 40 minutes worth of brilliant “Office” reel to fit into a 20 minute broadcast time each week…yikes! Both of them were Emmy-nominated last year for their stellar editing work and I hope the Academy will once again recognize them with richly-deserved nominations this year.

  9. Wow, thank you SO much for sharing this with us, Tanster. This this is fascinating stuff. I can’t wait for Part 2!

  10. Michael’s work has been awesome on the show, the scripts he has written are usually my favorites. Branch Closing, Traveling Salesman and The Job are all in my top 5.

  11. Very cool. I love hearing about the writing process!

    Also, new Creed Thoughts up, just so you know.

  12. WOW! This is an awesome interview Tanster! Great job with the questions, I can’t wait for part 2!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Fantastic Q&A!

    Such a great read — especially for a writing geek. I can’t wait for part two.

  14. Tanster, this interview is awesome! I love that Mike is writing one of the hour longs!

  15. Great read! Eagerly awaiting part 2. I had know idea Cousin Mose was on the staff!

  16. This was so much fun to read, Tanster! You ask great questions. And Michael – how nice was he to take so much time to be interviewed?! Looking forward to part 2.

  17. That was great! I love hearing about the inner workings of this show, especially the writng process! Keep it up Tanster.

    You can see why this show is so funny, the writers and editors are just oozing with sarcasm and wit. They are just so naturally funny. And if they ever did a documentary on what goes on in the background of this show, specifically with the writers, I would SO watch it.

  18. yes! This is a sweet interview. Michael is so funny just being himself. It is easy to see why Greg D. wanted him on the show!

  19. haha on man this is so funny…this is great tanster!i love hearing about behind the scenes stuff, can’t wait for part 2!

  20. Hey, this is majorly awesome.

    I don’t know if you’ve been alerted to this, but your RSS feed is acting weird. XML Parse Error. Thought you’d want to know.

  21. What a great & insightful interview, Tanster! Thanks for going behind the scenes for your OT fans. Michael Schur is a true talent. Looking forward to Part Two!

  22. Oh Tanster, great interview! I’m a hobby writer, but definitely a professional second guesser.

  23. thanks for posting! i always worry about the office’s ability to maintain its immensely high quality, but these interviews with the writers give me hope.

  24. Wow! Great interview. I’m super impressed with you for doing this, tanster. Loved the win-win-win thing at the end.

  25. Kudos on a great interview, Tanster! So funny and interesting. I’m impressed he remembered all the details of your magical moment together. ;-)

  26. wow! i’m impressed…this is great! interviews are always so much better when the person asking the questions is educated on the subject :) looking forward to the next part!

  27. This was SO interesting to read! I can’t wait to read part 2. Thanks for doing this Tanster!

  28. Awesome interview! It is so interesting to hear behind the scenes stuff. Can’t wait for part 2.

  29. Reading this made my heart go all aflutter. What a wonderful interview! I love learning more about the writing process. I can’t wait for part 2!

  30. Great interview Tanster! You have a great reparté with Michael! Looking forward to part 2……the only problem with these interviews is that it reminds me how much I miss the show!!

  31. You have come a long way Tanster, this site is official in everyway it is more than a fan site, but like an Office Insider Site.

  32. There’s a part two? You’ve got to be kidding. That was already too amazing. Thanks a million, tanster!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Great interview! So awesome to see the uncut, non-Us Weekly take on things. Schur is probably my favorite writer, and that’s saying something on this show. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  34. Mike was a writing machine during season 3. This is really amazing Tanster, thank you so much!

  35. amazing interview, tanster!! it is so interesting how the show comes together…kudos to all those writers, editors, etc. behind the scenes!

  36. You so lucky Tanster! You really do run the best site in the whole world!! Yay to hour long episodes!

  37. I would cut off my left arm to edit/write/get coffee for anyone involved with that show. Hell, I would cut off both arms. Though that would make getting coffee kind of hard, I think I could manage.

    Anyways, great, fantastic, wonderful interview. It amazes me the amount of work and talent behind “The Office.” So great hearing about it. Thanks tanster and Michael Schur!

  38. What a fun and interesting interview! I love to hear about the writers and the various shenanigans that go on around “The Office”. Can’t wait for part 2!

  39. Fantastic interview! I love getting behind-the-scenes information for the show. :)

    Michael Schur might just be my favorite writer on the show. He wrote nearly all my favorite episodes for Season 3. :D

  40. Michael Schur will one day be in charge of his own show, much like Daniels is in charge of The Office. Odds are high it will be absolutely fantastic.

  41. Thanks, tanster! As an inspiring writer myself, I always am anxious to read these interviews. And you did a great job with the questions!

  42. What a great interview. Michael Shur sounds like an awesome guy, and you asked some really great questions. It’s always so interesting to find out about all the behind the scenes stuff that is so important. I can’t wait to read the next part!

  43. This was so fun to read–thanks! What a great interview. I love Michael Schur’s writing and he seems like such a great guy. He is hilarious! Can’t wait to read part 2 of the behind the scenes look at putting the show together. Whew–what a huge amount of painstaking work and effort it takes to make an episode! No wonder this show is so consistently awesome.

  44. Thanks so much for posting this. It’s wonderful to read interviews from people we don’t get to hear from all that much. Great interview!

  45. Great interview. Thanks also for letting me know that Michael Schur plays Moes! I love that character.

  46. This was really fabulous to get to read! It would have been better to be you!

    Thanks for all the great inside information that you get us. :-)

  47. Sorry for my second post in this thread, but I’d just like to add my thoughts on Michael Schur’s comment that the time allocated to the show is likely going to shrink with each passing year. While I understand that ads pay the bills, surely there’s no need for 500 promos of “The Age of Love” during a half hour timeslot?

    It’s not uncommon in the 80s for an hourlong drama to have close to 50 minutes that is dedicated to the show. Now, the average is closer to like 42 minutes, and some dramas on The CW even clock in at less than 40 minutes. This egregious decrease is exacerbated especially for half-hour comedies, where every minute given up for ads and promos takes away precious additional footage that could have been added in, as we “Office” fans know all too well.

    I know there’s probably nothing that can reverse this trend. However, I think it would be great if “The Office” could put more of the extended cuts of episodes (e.g. the “Editors’ Assembly” or “Director’s Cut”) on iTunes, especially since, according to the interview, the extended cuts are already available before they are edited down for time.

  48. That Mose interview was really great. (Rolls eyes) I can’t wait til you interview the editors of the show. I’m sure that they’re very witty and good-looking. And very skilled at making home-made action figures of canines.

  49. Thanks for the OT Classic, tanster! That was almost as fun to read the second time as it was the first. :) I know Mike’s busy these days with Parks & Rec, but I hope he’s able to find time for another Mose cameo soon!

  50. I hope Mike makes some more Mose cameos too. He’s hilarious. It’s too bad Dwight and Angela are broken up. That road trip idea Mike mentioned in part three sounded great.

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