FRIENDS: THE ART AND SOUL OF COLLABORATION
February 15 - 19
2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific)
9 p.m. - 11 p.m. Eastern (6 to 8 p.m. Pacific)
"If you want to become a writer, write. But if you want to have a successful career, learn how to collaborate."
—Tab Murphy, Academy-Award-nominated screenwriter for Gorillas in the Mist and Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan and Atlantis, the Lost Empire
There you are, sitting at home in front of your computer, thinking your script or novel is
just about you and the page. But what happens once your story feels complete or needs help? What lifts your words from the page onto a screen or bookstore shelves?
That’s when you’ve got to have friends. Relationships. Helpers. Collaborators.
Your ability to work with others in a vibrant creative team may be one of the most
important and overlooked elements of your writing career.
Whether you want to join a writers’ room, contribute on the movie set while your script is produced, or work with editors and designers to publish your book, this week-long course will give you the essential training you need to succeed as part of a team.
What better way to learn collaboration than through a course inspired by the classic show Friends?
The name says it all. Friends was not only about a tightly knit team of characters, it
was a model of creative collaboration, led by series co-creator and legendary producer
Marta F. Kauffman.
In this week-long course, you’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to learn from Marta
on Monday and Wednesday as she answers your questions, provides feedback on your
work and simulates writer’s rooms so you can practice collaboration in real time.
On Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll widen our circle of friends to discuss collaboration in
TV, film and publishing, featuring successful writing teams and professionals who collaborate with writers on a regular basis.
We’ll end the week with live readings (maybe of your work) by some of your favorite players from Friends. Hearing your words read and interpreted by professional actors is one of the most affirming and instructive experiences you can have as a writer.
Here's how the week will unfold:
Monday, February 15: Ask Me Anything: The Genius of Marta F. Kauffman: Come
with questions for a live Q&A with Marta. This is an unparalleled opportunity to hear how she created Friends and the hit series, Grace and Frankie—and learn what one of the most successful producers in TV history looks for when she puts together a team of writers. To make this class as real-world as possible, she’ll create breakout groups and give you assignments to work on with fellow participants. Sharpen your pen, because she’ll be back on Wednesday to hear your group present your work.
Tuesday, February 16: Collaboration Day: Writer’s School Co-Directors Amy Ferris and Debra Engle will join David Kirkpatrick, Story Summit Founder, to share their personal stories and best practices in a round table discussion about the soul of collaboration. How do you function within a team? How do you take a note, whether that be from an agent, producer, or publisher? How do you present yourself to a potential employer? How do you do this without appearing too aggressive or phony? How do you build relationships? What happens in a writers’ room? On an editorial team? On a movie set? Why does simple human decency matter? Why does friendship in professional collaboration matter?
Daytime: Expert story developer Paulo de Oliveira will join Collaboration Day for the daytime round table. Paulo is probably best known for birthing and developing everyone’s’ favorite hit series, Outlander.
Evening: For the evening class, Gary Lucchesi brings his depth of experience to the round table. Gary has experienced every form of collaboration as an agent for William Morris, as President of Production of Paramount Pictures, and as an award- winning producer of such films as Million Dollar Baby and Primal Fear.
Wednesday, February 17: Here in the Real World: Marta returns, this time to hear the logline and scene your team developed in response to her assignment, and to give you constructive feedback. The writers’ room may be simulated, but the exercise in collaboration is real.
Thursday, February 18: The Power of Partnership: What can you do as part of a team that you might not accomplish on your own? Is a collaborative relationship on certain projects right for you? Can you keep your unique identity AND hand over your creative ideas for the good of the whole?
In keeping with the humor to be found in this week of learning, inspiration, and encouragement, we promise you some laughter this Thursday, and collaborative tips inspired by actual scripts from some of the wittiest writers on earth.
Daytime: Get ready to be engaged in the life lessons from Bennett Yellen and Bobby Farrelly, long-time friends and collaborators on one of the most outrageous and iconic comedies of the 20th century, the box office sensation that made Jim Carrey a superstar, Dumb and Dumber.
Evening: Be prepared to hear from Jonathan Stark and Tracy Newman, the long-time writing duo who created According to Jim and won an Emmy for co-writing “The Puppy Episode” in 1997, in which Ellen DeGeneres’s character came out of the closet. What’s the reality of an enduring writing partnership?
Friday, February 19: Table Reads: On this final day of the course, Friends cast members will read scenes written by students from the Wednesday simulations of the writer’s room. Your scene may be one of them! The actors will discuss the unique synergy between actors and writers and how their collaboration can elevate everyone’s work. What a way to end the week!
The internet is alive with speculation as to whether there will ever be a Friends reunion, but at the Story Summit Writers' School, we are having a mini-Friends reunion all of our own, thanks to the help of Marta F. Kaufmann and Story Summit mentor and Friends alum, Jane Sibbett, who played Ross’s ex-wife, Carol Willick.
Daytime: Joining us for the daytime discussion and table reads are Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht, who portrayed lesbian couple Carol and Susan on Friends. The episode featuring their lesbian wedding was reported as the most watched single sitcom episode to that date. Rounding out the read will be Tim Bagley, one of the country’s foremost character actors, who plays Peter in Marta’s production of Grace and Frankie.
Evening: This might be called the “mini-reunion of the Friends Exes,” as we have three of them for the discussion and table reads. There’s Jane Sibbett, of course, who played Ross’s ex-wife on the show. There’s the versatile Tate Donovan, who played Rachel’s boyfriend, Joshua, in Season 4. And finally, there's the unique Maggie Wheeler, who played Chandler’s love interest, Janice. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime evening.
Marta F. Kauffman and Jane Fonda on the set of Grace and Frankie. Image Credit: Deadline
Your ability to collaborate is the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a profession.
To be a successful collaborator in the real world of publishing and entertainment, you
need to ...
- Work with people who may not always support or agree with your ideas.
- Champion the ideas of others and parent them just as you would your own.
- Show up prepared and on time, with respect for your co-workers.
- Accept constructive feedback gracefully as a way to grow and improve.
- Recognize there’s a greater goal than simply seeing your name on the credits or
- Work with integrity and honesty.
- Advocate for your ideas and be willing to see them shift and evolve for the good
of the whole.
- Communicate clearly.
- Project the most attractive aspects of your inner personality.
- Enjoy a sense of partnership and support.
Playing off one another’s talents, making a good idea even better, learning from those
who have come before—these are the hallmarks and joys of professional collaboration.
No writer who has had any degree of success has done it alone. Even Emily Dickinson
had her brother! There are cover designers, copy editors, line editors, marketing
executives, producers, punch-up writers with whom you’ll need to collaborate.