"Six Days" with Krista Vernoff...
Original Airdate: 1-11-07
The first thing I wanna say is, my three least favorite words in television are “To Be Continued.” Truly. I hate it and I’m so sorry to have done it to you. It was not my intention. I wrote this episode as one hour. But we shot it and it came in at 61 minutes and we only get 43 minutes per hour and so we were faced with the choice of either cutting 18 minutes – which really would have just destroyed the episode – or shooting 4 more days and making it a two-parter. It hurt. It was painful and laborious and I was terrified that the decision to go two hours would compromise the episode creatively and it really was such a beautiful episode at 61 minutes… Anyway, we did what we had to do, and I think that in the end, we made it work as two hours and I hope that you don’t hate us too much for making you wait a week for the pay-off. It’s worth it, I promise.
Here’s the thing though. There’s just not that much I can talk about in this blog without giving away stuff that happens next week. I could tell you how much I love the stuff you’ve seen and how much I think you’ll enjoy where it’s all going but… I’m thinking maybe instead I’ll save any further discussion of “Six Days” till next week and use this time to talk about some questions you guys have been writing us. (Also, I did the podcast this week – so if you aren’t technophobic, like me, and you actually know how to download and listen to a podcast , you can hear me and Susan, our wonderful editor, talk about this week’s episode in detail.)
What I want to talk about first is reruns. Yes, there’ve been a lot lately and I know it sucks. We had been scheduled to air a new episode on January 4th but when Six Days became a two-parter, it became impossible to write, shoot and edit all the new scenes and get something on the air by January 4th. The GOOD thing about the change is – we were going to air a new episode on January 4th then have another repeat on 1/11. So – yes, you had to wait an extra week for a new episode, but you will now have 7 WEEKS IN A ROW of new episodes. Yeay. We hope you enjoy each and every one of them. We do know how frustrating the repeats can be, but if you break down the math – that the TV season is 40 weeks long and that we can only physically produce 24 episodes in a season – well, there’s gonna be a lot of repeats. That’s just the way it goes.
Second, I want to talk about the process – as in – how and why we do the things we do because a lot of you have been asking. Here’s how it works: at the end of season two, we spent about 5 weeks discussing season three – really planning out all the arcs for the whole season. Then we went on a 5 week hiatus and when we came back, we started breaking story (which is what we call outlining episodes.) As we break story, we usually veer from what we had planned either a little or a whole, whole lot. Because sometimes things that work in theory do not work in execution and sometimes things that we think are BRILLIANT by 7pm on a Friday seem absurd by 9am on Monday. It’s not a perfect process, it’s not a linear process, it’s a creative process. And that process sometimes involves Shonda sitting up in bed at three a.m. having had an epiphany that completely destroys all of our plans but ultimately works out really well for the season. Or sometimes, we read a script and think it isn’t working and sit and try to brainstorm ways to make it work and we come up with major story points that way.
For example, in "Break on Through" last season, Izzie having given up a baby for adoption was never discussed in the writers’ room. I read the script and felt like it was missing a personal connection and I went to Shonda and the writer of the episode and said “what if Izzie had a baby she gave up for adoption” and they liked it so we put it into the script and put the script out and the writing staff was as surprised as Katie Heigl was because sometimes we get so far behind and so tired we forget to even put out a memo saying, hey, by the way, Izzie gave a baby up for adoption. (And that, my friends, is what we call a run-on sentence. High Schoolers reading this should NOT, I repeat NOT, try to learn anything from my syntax.) My point is, we work hard, we plan things and then just as in life, plans change and it’s one of the things I love about writing for TV. Plus we have a phenomenal writing staff – they roll with the punches and very rarely burst into inappropriate tears when things change at the 11th hour. (Usually, these days, it’s me bursting into inappropriate tears but that’s because I’m very pregnant and wow, those hormones are killer. Greg Yaitanes, who directed “Six Days” parts one and two, stopped calling me Krista and just started calling me “Pregnant Lady.” As in, “Hey, Pregnant Lady, here’s what I’m thinking of doing with this scene.” One might hear that as patronizing, but after spending 12, 13, 15 hours a day with me for three and half weeks shooting these episodes and watching me burst frequently into inappropriate tears, I felt he had earned the right. But really – which of you didn’t cry after George saw his dad post-op for the first time and shaking, grabbed Mer’s arm and said “He’s my Dad, He’s my Dad.” ?? The problem is I burst out crying ON THE SET which …y’know…inappropriate.) Okay, I digress. I was talking about process.
I have heard it asked repeatedly how much influence you fans have on our storytelling. And I know one of the writers blogged that what y’all have to say carries a lot of weight in the writers’ room. And I think to a degree that’s true. And by that I mean, we read your comments – maybe not all of them but a lot of them – and sometimes we use them as a jumping off place for discussion in the room. Like, “A lot of fans don’t like this character right now. Why is that?” We talk about the character and the things he or she has been doing and where we want to go -- we also usually discuss the fact that, for every fan who doesn’t like a character, there’s one who does. That’s one of the things I love about our show – that it is polarizing. (I used to have an acting teacher who said, “If the audience is on their feet at the end of the play, you’ve done your job. If the audience is booing and throwing stuff at you at the end of the play, you’ve also done your job. What you never want is to receive “polite” applause.) If our characters were less flawed, if say, they were just plain sweet and likable, then you would all agree that you liked them and then where would we go? How much growth is possible in a character who never makes bad decisions? How much drama is possible if people are never f**ked up, never bitchy, never raw? So…our discussions that are prompted by your feedback often lead us down interesting paths, but they never end with us going, “Yeah, some of the fans don’t like that, we should just stop it.” Ever. Because it’s our to keep you on the edge of your seats, it’s our job to inspire you to write us in a feverish rage, it’s our job to sometimes piss you off and hopefully, always, to keep you coming back for more.
Speaking of coming back for more…I have to go do work now – the writers’ room is calling. So, because I dedicated this blog to giving you some answers – I will read and answer the first five questions you write me after reading this. (As long as you aren’t asking me to reveal future story points cause you know I can’t do that.) Okay? And then next week, I promise, I will talk about 6 days, parts one and two in great detail. Alright then, Happy New Year. I hope this finds you all healthy and happy and loving your lives.
(oh, and P.S, I wanted to say thanks to those of you who went to see my play in NYC. It was an honor and a privilege to meet some of you and I so appreciated your support!)