Production Blog 10/17/2007

Behind The Magic

When I wear a baseball jersey, hat and glove to a Cubs game, it’s not because I want to show team spirit: I’m secretly hoping that they let the fans have a chance to play because our team is doing so poorly.

I hope that this is also the reason that some people read the production blog; that someday they’ll have to use the information they’ve gleaned from these words to jump in and do the production assistant work if all four of us happen to be struck by a giant bolt of ightening, or perhaps stung to death by zoh my god bees.

It’s not likely that I’m going to be pinch hitting or that you’re going to get a call from the producers telling you to come on down to take over our jobs, but these blogs can serve an interesting purpose. I used to read them a year ago when I was working another job on the Paramount lot, and used to wish that I could work with the wacky jackasses who seemed to have more fun and get stuck in more traffic than I could imagine. Now here I am, and I’m writing the blog for all the other Mikes out there who will one day end up in my position.

Tonight’s episode is really fantastic, and is going to have a lot of people scratching their heads and saying “How the hell do Matt and Trey come up with that stuff?” Well, nobody really knows exactly how it happens, but in this blog I’m going to describe a small piece of the writing process that might help you eke a little creativity out of your own mind. So listen up, internet nation, because today I’m going to tell you how to create your own South Park writer’s room.

The writer’s room at the park is largest enclosed room in the office, and is located ten seconds from the kitchen and five from the door. If you’re building your own you’re going to need:

-A long, wooden table surrounded by silver chairs
-A drop down HD projection screen
-A cupboard full of candy, snacks, back up water
-A writer’s bowl
-A producer

Notified the day before, the PAs always know when the next writer’s meeting is going to be held. That we way can put together a writer’s bowl about ten minutes before they all gather to start brainstorming.

The bowl is a very delicate operation, and all the PAs have their own variations, but here’s what I like to do: you take a big, plastic serving bowl and set it on the counter. In the middle place 10 bottles of water in a tessellating flower pattern so that they grow from a single bottle in the center. Around the water place four juices, three green teas, two cans of Coke Zero and two tiny bottles of Pellegrino. This should cover the entire
base of the bowl, and the last items should be up on the curvature and held in place by the mass of the others. Take a ten pound bag of ice and empty a pile of it onto the drinks so that it resembles frosting. Now here’s the most important part: wiggle each water bottle so that the ice kind of scoots down into the crevices, creating a snug and pleasant seal of coldness that should percolate through the entire set up for at least an hour.

Matt, Trey and meet with the writers as much as they feel they need to, which can be frequent or not. There’s no telling how much of the show they’re going to be happy with at any given time, so the PAs have to be prepared to supply lunches and foods and all sorts of unexpected requests; dvds, cds and stranger stuff: a couple months ago I had to find a pan flute for them and get it back to the office as soon as possible . . .months before they wanted a Klingon dictionary. You never know what ingredients are going to go into an episode until they happen.

When the room needs something from the outside world, Anne will contact us with an instant message. I highly recommend getting an Anne before you attempt to set up your own writer’s room.

After the writer’s meetings Trey will retire into his office for any number of hours to write the actual pages of the script. This is where the bulk of the writing is actually done, the writer’s room is actually a place where the writers can talk about the ideas that will end up being written. Misnomers aside, it is best to not bother Trey at any point, but especially when he’s writing after the meetings: he kind of sits in the dark and is a little scary during this time. Honestly: I don’t know what could make me go in there and interrupt, but it would most likely involve a huge fire.

Anyway, the South Park scamps find themselves on an exciting, magical journey through imagination land in this week’s episode . . . and I guarantee at least 20 writer’s bowls gave their lives for it.