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Friday, September 17, 2004

References on Request

As with so many things in life, this script started with a false start. Sometime during the halcyon days of 1993, my former writing partner approached me with the idea of writing a script for "Seinfeld," which was just then going from being a well-regarded, fairly popular program into being a phenomenon. We discussed plotlines for each of the four major characters and wove them around a central plotline having to do with the four of them going to a beach house together for a weekend. We even came up with the beginnings of a second follow-up episode to this one. (But more of that in a later post.)

Mike was particularly hot on this idea, so I suggested that we work on it the way that Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman worked on "June Moon"; that is, he would write out a draft, I would mark it up, and then he could add in my edits along with any further changes he wanted to make. I was also in charge of writing the opening and closing monologues.

We followed this plan, assembled a script that we were pleased with, sent it to an agent who contacted the "Seinfeld" people. They informed him that they were no longer taking unsolicited submissions. And there it ended. Dead in the water.

Of the storylines we came up with for that script there was one, George's, that I always liked best. In that storyline, he went to interview with some temp agencies using a resume that he had faked by using only bankrupt companies as his former employers. When the time came to scavenge the files for material for "Next in the Series," this storyline seemed like a natural. Mike was otherwise engaged, but graciously allowed me to use whatever I wished to of our old material.

Of course, that story hadn't filled up the entire script. The scenes I would be working from took up only about half of it. But it was a strong basis on which to build.

My first challenge came in naming the characters. I rolled various alternatives around my head, but none took. Also, the characters actully seemed to want to be named Jerry and George. Those names felt right. Ultimately, I decided to just use those names until some better ones came up. They never did.

I've written three scripts featuring Jerry and George, and this one is the one that most resembles "Seinfeld." It opens and closes with them in a diner. Since I had the voices of two notable celebrities in my head while I was working on it, the tone of the dialogue is similar. Still, I hope that, with different casting, it will have its own life.

Rewriting in this case mostly meant opening up the existing scenes. (There's only one more scene in this script that there were scenes featuring George in the "Seinfeld" script.) I tried to polish the dialogue and enliven the supporting characters. In short, I tried to make it as good a script as I knew how.

This is a script that came easily. Instead of anguishing over every line, the dialogue flowed through me and on to the page. New complications and subtleties presented themselves as often as needed. It was great fun.

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