DVD Series Review
The Write Environment: Interview Series with Top Television Writers
Created and hosted by Jeffrey Berman
The Write Environment is a six DVD series of 50-65 minute, in-depth, one-on-one interviews with some of the most lauded and prolific writers in the television industry today including Joss Wedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Damon Lindelof (Lost), Tim Kring (Heroes), Phil Rosenthal (Everybody Loves Raymond), Doug Ellin (Entourage) and Sam Simon (The Simpsons).
Created and hosted by screenwriter and journalist Jeffrey Berman, each episode takes the viewers backstage into the here-to unseen world of the writer's room for intimate interviews that offer a rare look at these diverse writers and what inspires them. From that first idea to the finished script, the writers share their views and stories, examing their successes, failures, and everything in between.
In two of the episodes we reviewed (Phil Rosenthal and Doug Ellin) the DVD's follow a basic pattern of introducing the writer and their typical work environment. This leads into a discussion of their process and approach to story, how the writers got their start, who were their influences, how their most well-known series came about, show anecdotes, and other matters related to the craft of writing for television. The DVD's typically end with the host asking the guest for advice for aspiring writers.
There is a commonality to some of the answers given by the writers that is universal to all writers - write what you know, and find and depict a compelling story...these are the most important aspects of writing well. Character, dialogue and jokes take a backseat to the importance of story.
The DVD's offer up some intriguing ideas about writing for television. In Doug Ellin's interview, he makes a point that the show Entourage works because they approached the friends as a family (the same approach that make the Godfather films work), and they use realistic dialogue to give you a sense of reality. But then Ellin makes a point that depicting a real entourage wouldn't work because they are often filled with hangers-on who are looking out for themselves. So the sense of reality we experience in watching the show Entourage is really a stylized reality in order to make the characters likable. Both writers stressed the importance of outlining and allowing a good idea to come from anyone if it makes the story better.
The guests are entertaining and the host personable. Phil Rosenthal is particularly funny - he's what you would expect a top show-runner of a comedy sitcom to be like. We noticed that the production values aren't as high as they might have been. And, it would've been nice to have seen some stills or clips from the shows being discussed, interspersed with the interviews. But that could well have been a budget-buster, so it's understandable.
These are minor points and don't take away from the relevance of the interviews. The series as a whole is well thought out, entertaining, and informative. The DVD's definitely bear repeated viewing. And any series that focuses on writers and the writing process is more than welcome as few titles such as these exist. The DVD's are value priced at $12.99, with additional discounts for purchasing bundles of disks. This DVD series will appeal to fans of the shows that are the subject of the DVD's, as well as aspiring television writers. On this level, the DVD's succeed very well.
We look forward to viewing the entire series and hope that the producers extend the interview series into the feature film world as well.
StoryPros Verdict: Recommended
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