Emmy-winning producer and veteran comedy writer Max Mutchnick ’87 shared secrets from the writers’ room and offered career advice to Emerson College Los Angeles students on November 4. He kicked off his discussion in Assistant Professor Debra Epstein’s Writing Television Pilots class by telling students that manners matter in Hollywood.
“A guy was in our office this week pitching. He picked up his phone and checked a text,” said Mutchnick. “He was in the middle of a pitch. I just said, ‘We’re done.’”
When it comes to pitching, Mutchnick told the students that they should be totally sure of their ability and not timid or meek. He shared tips on what students should do: be succinct but clear, only tell the show’s main story, and don’t use props. Be great in a room, he told the class.
Max Mutchnick '87 told students that pitching is an art form and they shouldn't underestimate any part of it.
During the hour-long discussion, Mutchnick touched upon a bevy of other topics, including what spec scripts to write, diversity in the writers’ room, and what elements the young writers should include in their scripts. Each of the students also shared synopses of the pilots they were writing for the class.
“You can’t underestimate writing in the way we talk,” said Mutchnick. “Fragmented sentences and ellipses are your best friends.”
Mutchnick says he “flips out” over great writing, which is why he was a fan of shows such as Soap and Roseanne growing up. These days, though, he says he is strictly a documentary consumer.
“I’m unable to watch scripted television with joy in my heart,” said Mutchnick, who’s best known for co-creating the popular and groundbreaking sitcom Will & Grace.
Mutchnick says one reason he’s encouraged to continue writing and producing multi-camera comedies—including the shows Four Kings, $#*! My Dad Says, Partners, Clipped, and the upcoming sibling CBS comedy The Happy Peppers—is because they make money.
Max Mutchnick '87 shares writing tips with students.
“This type of show is just what we’re conditioned to watch,” he said. “There’s a familiar feeling. It’s the comfort food of America. It continues to work and sell.”
At the end of the discussion, Mutchnick encouraged each of the students to write three beautiful spec scripts and commit to their careers. He told them to set the bar high.
“Push your way into our door,” said Mutchnick. “If there’s room, you will be hired.”