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Old, Bad System

Last updated on November 25, 2010

Montréal-based screenwriter Alex Epstein has an interesting blog often full of pithy insights to the screenwriting side of (live-action) television. But here’s one article that especially twigged with me:

“Q. I was wondering, five years later: is the “writing room” mentality still dead in Canada? Or has it picked up any steam since you last discussed it in your book?

I would say it has largely taken over. I can’t think offhand of any prime time dramas or comedies that are still going with the old, bad system of one head writer and a lot of free lancers. So that’s a bit of cheery news.”

On the animation side, I can’t think of one animated tv show that’s done in Canada that actually uses a writing room. At all. Or a story room for that matter.

It seems the ‘old, bad system of one head writer and a lot of free lancers’ is still the norm up here – and is one of my pet theories behind the dearth of successful indigenous projects not already based on a children’s book. I think the slide in quality only increases exponentially when board artists are also run under the ‘old, bad system’ and denied the opportunity to crawl out of their drawing caves to jam on a board in an attempt to better an episode.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on…let’s see…2 tv shows that ran story rooms in my 12 years of working as a board artist. It’s as rare as hen’s teeth. So are decent shows. If you are working on a show that uses a writer’s room or a story jam session, let us know in the comments. I’m curious.


  1. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson November 25, 2010

    I have been apart of a system like you mention in the past. When I was Line Producer on Seasons 2 and 3 of Untalkative Bunny.
    The Director had set up a pretty awesome collaboration between the board artists, himself and the animatic department. Most were all in the same room with the ocasional board dude out of house but required to come in and pitch ideas.It was a great experience.
    In a lot of ways it was a system born out of necessity. 5 minute shows that would typically have a 1 page script. This left a lot of room for exploration.
    I think that is the only real story room that I have had the pleasure of being a part of in my 25 years.

  2. bob bob November 25, 2010

    many shows at Nelvana are using a writer’s room. have been for 3-4 years. Spliced is one such show.

  3. sir warren b leonhardt sir warren b leonhardt Post author | November 26, 2010

    Hey Bob,

    What other shows are there that you know of? I was at the WGC presentation by on of the co-creators of ‘Spliced’ last year and he had mentioned that as far as he knew, they were the only show running an informal writer’s room.

  4. J. Ho J. Ho December 12, 2010

    a.k.a. Cartoon Inc. did more than that when producing “Ed, Edd n’ Eddy”. Everybody was in the same room. That’s right, everybody. Writers, Board Artists, Prop Designers, Colour Stylists, etc. all were well within punching distance at all times. I never learned more, had more fun, or did better work. People up here don’t know how to run shows. Come on, figure it out, people. Get rid of the script lottery!

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