Tuesday, October 28, 2008

52 Seconds

Take a minute to read this short article in the Washington Post about the story decisions behind Jim's proposal to Pam on The Office. It made me think about the choices writers make---what to show and what to obscure, how to expend your storytelling firepower, and why honoring the viewers (or readers) should be your guiding principle.

"Yes, we know it's fiction. But when Jim finally popped the question on the season premiere of NBC's "The Office," millions of viewers instantly forgave the producers for repeatedly bringing together the small-screen soul mates over the seasons -- only to tear them apart again and again.

While the 52-second scene may have seemed sweet and simple, executive producer Greg Daniels reveals it required high-tech special effects, huge rain machines, a month of meetings and a budget that doubled somewhere along the way." The rest here.

At least when I write a scene, I don't have to worry about budget. Mine is always zero.


  1. I don't watch this show -- having been traumatized enough by the few episodes of the British version I watched -- but I had to watch that... and then wicked Youtube led me into watching a bit more ...and WOW, I love stories, and the perfection of a moment that all comes together.

    And now I'm going to get back to work in my zero budget world and make the rain fall and the eyes meet, and all the right things happen... Cool.

  2. Lovely. I haven't ever watched the show consistently and it still made me smile.

    For me, it's all about set-up and pay-off. Long, careful set-up and then the pay-off I wanted all along that somehow still surprises me. Yum.

  3. Wow. I also don't watch the show (I started out behind and then never got caught up -- hope to on DVD one day), but that's fascinating. THAT MUCH MONEY! And the attempts to give it a Hopper-esque feel. Interesting.

    I also love the notion of having done that w/out hearing their dialogue, like the very lovely ending of "Lost in Translation" where you can't hear what Bill Murray's character whispers in Scarlet Johannson's (sp?) ear. I think I would have liked that even better, but as it is, it's a wonderful scene.

  4. Well, I feel kind of bad now, ruining it for those who haven't watched it yet, because a huge part of the charm was that the viewers (at least me) did not see the proposal coming, so we were as surprised as Pam.

    Tanita, I think the British version of The Office is much more brutal. But even the American one makes me squirm sometimes. I need tender moments like this one to survive it.

  5. I am an addict, but reading this interview was such a great reminder that IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS.

  6. I really liked the way they did that scene. It didn't come across as all cheesy. The Office is full of those moments, like when Dwight suddenly realized that Angela was not going to pick him in last week's episode. I love that they take the time to have those human moments amid the hilarity.


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