Hey Pamie: “How do I Contact a TV Writers Room?”

More importantly: I want to know if it’s “Writers Room” or “Writer’s Room” or “Writers’ Room.” I work in these things and I’m not sure if I’m spelling it correctly. I think people write it “Writers Room” but that looks all kinds of wrong to me.

What I write following this email probably isn’t the answer she’s looking for, but…

[readermail]
Greetings Pam

I am asking a question about writers rather than writing: how does a person go about contacting the writers of a sitcom? Your first reaction to this question may be to say: DON’T and I can understand why that would be. I am hoping my reason for wanting to do that might make doing it less annoying or creepy.

I am researching why high school students aren’t taking up IT degrees. I am interested in the reasons, generally, but I am even more interested in why young women are not attracted to the field. Before I even started this research it was evident that the media play a big part in reinforcing stereotypes. One of the theories I am testing is “stereotype threat” where people who might want to follow their interest reject it because they are unwilling to fit, or do not believe they fit, the stereotype associated with IT.

I would like to write to the people creating the characters in The Big Bang Theory to make a suggestion and I am hoping you can give me some pointers about how I might do that successfully so I can avoid it being like the Seinfeld episode where George tries to give Corbin Bernsen and George Wendt ideas for their shows.

Thanks very much

Madeleine
[/readermail]

Here is where I give a big plug for America in Primetime, a series that you should be watching, particularly with this question in mind.

Madeline here is trying to do some good in the world, so my immediate instinct is to do everything I can to help her while simultaneously hosting a screening of Miss Representation in my living room. (That documentary actually seems more like a better place to start). Privately, I’m trying to help her get her message to the right people.

But I think most writers/showrunners who hear that someone wants to give them some “suggestions” on their show and the characters they create… might want to try a different approach.

The holidays are coming up, which means every writer and comedian is about to hear, “You can use that for your show,” or “You should do an episode about my friend Karen; her life is crazy” or “You can use my peas joke the next time you’re on stage” or the dreaded: “Oh, you’re funny? Say something funny right now. Make me laugh. You won’t be able to do it.”

I’m not saying that’s what Madeline’s trying to do here; I’m just saying people get a little defensive when someone (especially a stranger who came from the internet) wants to tell him or her how to do this job.

But. Madeleine is writing a paper, she’s trying to be a force for good, and because of that she’s probably going to get a little more attention than Uncle Cody, who always does that grinding-his-thumb-against-his-finger-right-in-your-ear move every time he walks behind you, crop-dusting the couch on his way to get another plate of pumpkin pie. (“You should do an episode about how much I love this pumpkin pie!”)

Writers are needy, and they spend an extraordinary amount of time in front of their computers, usually ignoring their best instincts (read: keeping the wifi on), which means they are pretty reachable if you know how to use the internet to your advantage. Some writers like to keep a strong connection between their work and the people watching it. Dan Harmon comes to mind as a showrunner who often addresses the fans of Community and their concerns. (Particularly his latest post.)

Many writers rooms have Twitter accounts now. And maybe that feed is monitored by an assistant or an intern, but probably the writers are looking. I know of a writers room that once spent roughly an hour pitching out and gang-deciding the first Tweet. Shows have Facebook pages where you can link to your own thoughts and opinions. But realize what you’re writing is public and searchable, and… I mean, you can see some people know how to do it, and some don’t. Remember it’s like leaving a note in the suggestion box.

Which is really the more polite way to do this, don’t you think? On a show like Big Bang Theory, where it all seems to be working for them and pleasing their audience, it’s hard to believe they’re going to pull a STOP THE PRESSES for Madeleine. But someone might read it and someone might listen. And it might start a conversation in the room, and maybe it will lead to something a little closer to what you were hoping. (Here’s the Twitter account for Big Bang Theory.) But know that a tv show is a giant machine that’s churning forward, a train that is going faster than you can comprehend, and there are reasons within reasons for everything you see. Nothing is arbitrary and everything is balancing on top of everything else.

For a chance at more immediate contact, you easily find the writers on the show you want to …change. The writers are the names listed at the front of every episode, under various “producer” titles. Try a search for their Twitter feeds (Shawna Benson has a huge, ever-growing Twitter list) and/or Facebook pages, and/or personal websites, then send a (nice, polite, un-crazy, err on too gushy rather than too angry, try not to use the phrase “best friends” in your opening line) note, and then see if they respond.

Listen. Here is where I ask that you try this method of contact only once. You do not need to check to see if they got the letter or it went to spam or maybe they accidentally deleted it. If it got deleted, it wasn’t an accident. It’s not personal, and it’s not your fault.

…It might actually be both– I didn’t read what you sent to those people — but do yourself a favor and tell yourself it’s not personal and shrug it off, okay?

A warning: Having an open dialogue and public forum about your personal opinions on what writers are doing to a show and what they could do better WILL NOT ALWAYS HAVE A HAPPY ENDING.

[If you have a question about writing or television or any of these places where I write words and other people read them, send an email to pamie at pamie dot com with the subject line: YOUR WEEKLY PROCRASTINATION.]

5 thoughts on “Hey Pamie: “How do I Contact a TV Writers Room?”

  1. It might also be worth noting, Madeline, that none of the characters on the Big Bang Theory are actually in IT — of the seven major characters on the show, five are scientists, one is an engineer, and one is a waitress at the Cheesecake factory. When faced with IT situations, their brains actually get in the way (they can’t put an entertainment center together without saying the words “aircraft grade aluminum” and “heatsink.”)

    Chuck, Jeff and Lester, however, are IT guys. A palpable and timely angle here is that many people who went through the work and expense of earning a bachelor’s in IT, racking up accolades and certifications, end up working at the Genius Bar or for the fictional (but realistic) Nerd Herd.

    Just a thought.

  2. Thanks, Paul

    I do know the characters in BBT are not in IT.

    I want to target this program because it: is very popular; is likely to contribute to the influence stereotypes have on people’s psyche’s and attitudes; and could serve as a vehicle to challenge the widely-held and accepted beliefs embodied by the stereotype of the smart but socially non-functional character – especially as it is applied to women and embodied in the Leslie and Amy characters.

    It’s too bad the series containing the Chuck, Jeff and Lester characters is not broadcast where I live – it may certainly have been a better target, had I known of it.

    Cheers!

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