Game developers may feel they’re alone trying to collaborate with writers at great distances, but never fear. Television productions also manage this problem, and who better to discuss it than Neal Baer, the showrunner for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit?”
Neal, who essentially holds the titles of Head Writer, Creative Director, and Producer simultaneously, manages a show produced in New York City, but written in Los Angeles. Of particular interest, the distance may actually help the process rather than hurt it. Here are two policies he instituted to positive effect:
1. Relying on a strong go-between in New York. When the cast and crew get the script, they have a read-through. At this time, they critique the script, secure in the knowledge that the writer is not actually in the room. Then the New York producer takes the best feedback on the script and relays it back to Neal. This allows important notes to reach the writer, without the writer feeling attacked in a slam session.
Variation: Anne worked on “The Education of Max Bickford” for CBS, which was also shot in New York and, largely, written in Los Angeles. Thanks to the wonders of teleconferencing, writers were able to watch the table read from LA. Ideally, the critiquing could then proceed — off camera.
2. Bringing together the writers and the actors for a group dinner twice a year. This allows for the flow of ideas and good feelings between the designers (writers) and the implementers (actors).
Do you think these tips will work for you? Have you tried others that worked better?