A day at a NCIS
On Tuesday we visited Scott Williams on the set of NCIS! He is a Co-Executive Producer for the show as well as a writer. Scott attended Suny Cortland in New York which is about 10 minutes from my college! He began school with a major in physical eduction, but ended up flunking out. The dean was willing enough to allow him to come back to Cortland if he changed his major. Because of this change in events Scott became an English major. Soon after he began college again he caught the acting bug and was insistent that he would move to NYC and live the dream. He did end up moving and after being in NYC for a while he realized that he really didn’t know shit about acting. In 1990 he moved to Los Angeles and found himself competing for parts with people that had the same look as him, which was a real eye opener.
He told us how important it is to stick to what you love and if you want to be an actor, you do it. He know’s many people that gave up that dream because they weren’t able to stick with it. After some time he found himself writing plays for a theater company that he had started up and began taking extension classes at UCLA. The catalyst for his writing career was Sean Penn, who relayed his writing to a women who told Scott that he needed an agent. He came a long way before he made it has a writer. ”You have to survive a lot of shit before you make it. Nothing’s handed to you.” -Scott Williams
Scott showed us around the NCIS set and spoke a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in regards to writing. At one point he showed us fake blood and spoke about how people don’t care if there’s blood on camera, but once they see urine, well, lets just say it’s frowned upon.
We had the opportunity to see the wardrobe department, which is huge. It’s like a giant walk in closet. I even had the opportunity to see Abby’s closet, which was stocked full of gothic apparel. All the outfits are labeled based on the episode they were shown in and to help keep track of who wears what storyboards and scripts mention what outfit will be worn and in which episode.
At one point in the tour we stopped by the editing department to see what happens in that area on set. I learned that the editors are always one day behind production and that they are the ones that make sure emotions on screen match the dialogue. If they don’t then that scene is scratched.
Scott spoke about subtext and how important it is. As a writer you never want to come right out and say certain words. For example, Star Wars. There’s one scene where Hans Solo is saying goodbye to Princess Leia. She say’s “I love you” and his response is “I know.” This was done on purpose, and if you follow the characters you will understand what he is actually saying “I love you too.”
"NCIS works like a well run machine." -Scott Williams
Everyone know the rules and people listen to other’s opinions on this show. Not all set are like this and Scott gave us a few examples of shows where the cast or crew didn’t work very well as a team. A well integrated writing staff is very important if you want a show to run smoothly. It helps keep every weeks episode different and allows for the audiences interest to stay consistent. As a writer you must stay current and always watch other shows. This way your characters are always growing and becoming more interesting to the viewers and to you. Plot is what happens and story is what happens to the characters. Every show must have a plot, but if there is no emotional pull for the characters then the audience gets bored and will change the channel. He stressed that fact that you must value other’s opinions in this industry if you want to be successful. I learned that the life expectancy for a writer is 4 years because it’s so easy to get burned out. Scott is the exception to this rule and has been working as a writer for 16 years. He has worked on shows such as, Castle, Bones, Without a Trace, and Crossing Jordan and NYPD Blues, which was also the first job he had.
Scott spoke about so many fascinating topics and I was literally at the edge of my seat. There was something about the topics he spoke about that really got me interested in writing and I now have a strong desire to read Moby Dick. Which I will read once I get back to New York.
One last subject I believe is important to mention is Scott’s organization called Shane’s Inspiration which began in honor of Scott’s son Shane. This organization helps builds playgrounds that allows disabled children to still be able to have fun just like anyone else. This was amazing to hear about and I applaud Scott for doing this. It’s a really beautiful outcome that came out of such a tragic beginning. Check it out at shanesinspiration.org
At the end of our tour I received a signed picture and a script that Scott signed for me! I won’t post the script for obvious reasons, but just know that it’s pretty sweet. Today was an awesome day.
After NCIS we went to a show taping of Two Broke Girls. It was a longer taping then I am used to and I noticed that it didn’t run very smoothly. It really spoke volumes when writers would stop the scene because an actor messed up a line. It reiterated what Scott said earlier in the day about how some writers have more control then directors do on set. I was a little indifferent about this taping and noticed that there was a lot of tension amongst the cast and crew. I could tell that the cast was getting tired and stressed. I won’t say much more because I don’t want to bad mouth anyone, it could have just been an off day for everyone.
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