Q: I have a very important question to ask from one of my favorite Searching Bones readers. Her name is Annie and she lives in Sweden and she often sends me tips and messages. She’s also deaf. She asks about the possibility of including more deaf, blind or otherwise disabled people in the show in the future. Do you think there might be a possibility of that?
Answer: We think that’s a very good question and it’s something that we will talk about. We’ll have to see, but we might have some opportunities for that.
Q: could you explain just a little bit more about how much of your own creativity enters into writing the episode and how much comes from the group?
Craig: We’re all nodding. The writer comes in with an idea saying that they want to do an episode about this.
Liz: I guess they sort of lead the discussion on their own episode so they have a little more say. It’s definitely a group effort, but they do have a little more influence. And when we leave the room with the story beats worked out, those are plot points, they’re not the full plot. We fill it out and open it up and give the characters life. It grows and it’s definitely affected by each writer’s input.
Craig: In terms of the long arch like characters that are going to be new characters and be on multiple episodes. That comes from the mouth of Hart. He will sit at the head of the table and tell us the major elements. We don’t now how they are going to be incorporated, but they are the elements that have to be incorporated into the stories for the season. So while you are coming up with your stories, you look for places where those can fit.
Liz: We’ve been joined by one of the Co-Executive Producers, Scott Williams.
Scott: *laughs* Yes, I’ve stepped won from the mountain and here I am.
Q: Thanks so much for joining us!
Scott: You’re in very good hands here without me.
Answer: He came in for snacks! *laughter*
Q: Have any of you ever written a scene and when you saw it on screen you felt it had been interpreted differently than you had intended?
Answer: No. We often write scenes and they never see the light of day because they get cut before they get to the set, but I think it’s always a surprise that the actors, the directors and everything bring so much to the scene that it’s sometimes surprising. But it never is completely off.
Once a script is sent to the set and they’re shooting it, Hart has a policy of “No changes.” So no big changes happen unless they are run by him. So the script that is shot is the script that was approved. And Hart really talks to the director about what the scene is supposed to be. So really it would be very unlikely that something would get shot that was completely unintended.
Answer: There’s almost always a writer on the set as well to see the rehearsals and the beginnings of the scenes. So we know how it’s going to run before it’s actually shot.
Answer: And the process from when a script goes into production is a whole other thing. We have heads of departments here; the scenic department, the costume department, props. Even every computer you see in the lab that has a visual on it – that has been discussed in meetings and the writer and producers have been present so there are no surprises.
Scott: Because of the time and money involved as well. If they want to make a change, they have to come up with another solution and that takes time. When you’re on the set, the clock is ticking and there are only so many hours in the day.
Q: Speaking of the computers on the set. I’ve had several people ask about the Angelator – the 3-D rendering of the victims. People miss it and wonder why there isn’t more of it in the show.
Answer: Talk to Hart. *laughs* It’s expensive to do.
Answer: Tell them we will take that up with Hart.
Q: As for each of you, what experience did you have that helped you get to be a part of the team that creates Bones?
Scott: It tends to vary. Each of us write TV, film, plays – so at the end of the day, what you are writing is interpersonal relationships. And it certainly helps, for example a law show will have a few lawyers on the writing staff. We don’t ask everyone here to be a forensic anthropologist, by any means. We have very good researchers and we do a lot of very good research on our own as well. We don’t “fake” the Dr. thing, we try to be as accurate as we can be. But at the end of the day, writing a law show or a show about firemen or a show about forensic anthropologists, it’s all sort of the same. You get your technical stuff down and you use it as accurately as you can, but at the end of the day you’re still just writing good interpersonal drama.
Liz: The experience that brought us all here is that we were all writers who had demonstrated with some of our sample scripts that we could do the type of scenes and tone and voice that Hart was looking for.
Liz: I am a playwright and I’ve written for two seasons of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and I know that Hart had read one of my Law & Orders and some “kooky, artsy-fartsy plays” (he says) that I wrote. Then we had a nice meeting. Then I got a call from my agent.
Generally, everyone has to submit samples of their writing and have meetings with the executive producers. Then they have to get approval on the writer.
Q: So if Bones fans – and there are many, by the way – who aspire to be television writers like you, how would they go about it?
Craig: You have to write a script…and not a Bones script. Don’t write a script for the show that you want to get on.
Answer: They’re called spec scripts.
Craig: There are different philosophies about this. You can write an original play, an original screenplay, a pilot that shows what your voice sounds like and the kinds of stories that you want to tell. Then you’ve got that hunk of 50 pages in your hand and you just try to get it to agencies or people you know or anything you can. If it’s good and somebody reads it they can turn it into… It’s a bit of a meritocracy, you know? If it’s good, it will find its way into the hands of somebody who can do something with it.
Answer: And some people go to school, to writing programs and network through them.
Answer: I would have to add to what Craig said about the importance of doing an original piece, but personally feel that it’s important to do samples based on shows that are already on the air. It’s a little bit different, but I feel that when you’re joining a television staff, you are trying to emulate a voice that has already been created for the show, so I think it’s important to show that you can watch a television show and read the scripts and absorb a different voice of the characters and how the scenes are done. You should demonstrate that you can do that. Because Bones is a different show than, say Grey’s Anatomy but a professional writer in TV should be able to write on different types of staff.
Answer: And also when you do that, go online and find a sample script of the show you are going to write an episode of – and not a transcript – but a .pdf of a sample script and make your script look exactly like that, in the same format. Or write with a screen writing program that will put it in the right format. You don’t want to get knocked out because somebody opened the front page and it didn’t look like a professional script.
Answer: There are some really, really good books that address just that technical aspect. But also getting your ear trained by watching as many episodes of the show you want to write. Getting your ear trained for the characters to be able to think of things that they would do. Because that’s what you would do when you got on a show.
Craig: Also, when we talk about writing a script… I know a lot of actors, for instance, that say they want to get into writing and they’ll write A script. It’s a bit of a slap to people who actually write for a living because all of us have written, I won’t say hundreds, but lots of scripts before we ever even get a sniff. Don’t just write a script, write many scripts and keep writing. Because you’ll have a lot of scripts that will never see the light of day, that are never going to be produced before you get that first script that’s going to get you on the road. It’s definitely an art that you want to practice and practice and practice and re-write and re-write. Good scripts aren’t written, they’re re-written, so it’s not a matter of writing a script for television and you’re a writer and you send it in they put you on a show. It really comes from a cumulative effort over time. You write a lot of scripts before you even approach mastering the craft enough to even start looking for work, frankly. All of us are working toward mastering it, really. It’s one of those things, like playing gold. Your game can always get better. That’s what we always tell young writers to do. If you aspire, just keep writing.
Q: I have a couple more questions for you and then I’ll let you get back to writing.
Answer: We actually have a spoiler to share with you after you ask the rest.
Q: Great! OK, the Bones fans want to know from each of you what is your most challenging part of writing and what is the most rewarding part?
Answer: Rewarding is being on the set and seeing the actors bring life to the script. It’s pretty thrilling and I don’t think that ever goes away.
Craig: And having people watch your episode and say they were moved by it.
Answer: The most challenging is the re-writing – trying to incorporate everyone’s notes and trying to figure out how to put it in your own voice…or put it in Hart’s voice. *laughs*
Q: Will any of you be taking part in the commentary for the DVD of season 3?
Answer: We don’t know. We really don’t have any information about or control over the DVDs. We might, but we haven’t been approached for that yet.
Answer: We were part of a special edition of a DVD that came out for Best Buy. It was their in-store promotion only for their copies of the Bones DVD and they did a feature, inside with the Bones writers for season 2 and how the show works. We were interviewed quite heavily for that.
Q: I had maybe 50 people ask me to see if you know when the season 3 DVDs will be out.
Answer: We just don’t know. Since we’re not on the business side of things we just don’t get information like that.
Craig: It’s all up to Twentieth Century Fox Television home video department. They have the budget and schedules and they know when things might time. That’s all they do is figure that stuff out, but they don’t tell us.
Q: OK, that’s all from me, but now I know that everybody’s going to want to hear the spoiler.
Liz: Brennan would like Booth to be the father of her child. That’s something to look forward to this season. That’s our big spoiler. We know that Hart gave quite a few spoilers at Comic Con. He promised that Booth & Brennan will be naked in bed together
Answer: Which is still on, by the way!
Liz: You will be seeing Zack again. You’ll be seeing Brennan’s dad Max and not like you’ve ever seen him before…but not nude. We can’t promise that. *chuckles* Any other spoilers we were trying to think of, Hart had already given away.
Answer: We’ll be seeing Angela’s ex-girlfriend from college. Roxy would be making an appearance. Because of an investigation, she comes back into her life. We’ll be exploring a little more of Booth’s family life.
Q: Wow! That spoiler is going to have people jumping out of their seats!
Liz: You can thank Hart Hanson!
So you see, dear Bones fans, this was a chunk of stuff to type up!! And with a family emergency that took me out of town for most of the weekend, I’m terribly late getting this to you. I truly apologize for making you wait!
Just know that all of the people on the call were so nice and they were making little jokes and laughing. It was easy to tell that they enjoy working together. I didn’t ask all the specific plot questions because they asked me to send over a list of all the questions ahead of time and they would know what to prepare. They did give us the brand new spoiler, and they reiterated the ones we had already heard, so they gave us a lot. Besides, we don’t really want to know everything that happens ahead of time, do we? That would take all the fun out of watching the show!
But I know that many of you hope to someday write for TV and perhaps their advice can help.
And for the rest of us, we now have some insight into what happens to create the show. We can now better understand how the characters and the stories are written and how they are brought to life. And it is interesting to me to find that even though each episode is primarily written by one person, they all have the same feeling to them when they are finished and on the screen.
I hope my questions meet with your approval. I truly did my best to get the information that you said you wanted. And thanks so much to all of you who left questions in the comments or sent me questions through email. You are all terrific!!