How They're Writing The New Witcher TV Show For Netflix
The show's lead writer provides an in-depth look behind the scenes.
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A TV show based on The Witcher (the books, not the games) is in the works for Netflix, and now the program's lead writer has shared a lot more details on how the writing gets done. Across a series of tweets, Lauren Hissrich provided a fascinating look behind the scenes of how things get done in her writer's room, which opened this week. She speaks at length about the process and how it all works; it's a really nice dive into writing for TV that you don't always get to see.
Hissrich said she started off by welcoming the writers, who also include Jenny Klein (Jessica Jones), Declan de Barra (The Originals), Sneha Koorse (Daredevil), among others, by telling them they are all a family. "We're the foundation for hundreds of people who will make this TV show, and we're not only gonna be great storytellers, we're gonna be fucking great human beings along the way," she said.
The actual writing work consists of consulting documents that include information about key characters, terms, and themes that Hissrich wants Season 1 to get across. The team then dives into conversations about the characters--who they are, what they want, etc--and this eventually gets to outlines for individual episodes. After the planning phase, the writers write their episodes individually, Hissrich said, though she oversees the entire process.
"I ask the writers to 'own' their episodes: they bear the responsibility of ushering it from a kernel of an idea to fully executed script. Each writer needs to be fully invested in the vision and quality, or the show doesn't work," Hissrich said.
After that, the entire room reads a script and they all give notes; the show's producers then get to look at the scripts and they provide their own notes. Hissrich then goes over the scripts again with the writers before doing this again with an episode's director or actor.
"For me, a script is a living, breathing thing. I'm not God," Hissrich said. "I don't determine All Things. TV doesn't have space for ego or assholes, because without all the people doing their jobs, it collapses. We all own it. Together."
This is a lot of information, but we still don't know much about the story--and Hissrich isn't ready to give anything away just yet. Someone asked her on Twitter if the first season would be adapted based on the first book or the first two books, but Hissrich wouldn't confirm one way or the other.
You can read Hissrich's full Twitter thread on the writing process below.
The Witcher show for Netflix is based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's novels that inspired CD Projekt Red's video game franchise. Geralt of Rivia is the hero of the books and the games, so it's expected he will be in the show. No casting announcements have been made as of yet, however.
Back in April, Hissrich revealed a lot of details about The Witcher's TV show, including the fact that it isn't expected to premiere until 2020 at the earliest. Hissrich also confirmed that Season 1 will span eight episodes and it will be filmed in Eastern Europe.
Hissrich's Full Comments On The Witcher TV Show:
"First things first, I welcome the writers. I explain that we're more than a team. We're a family. We're the foundation for hundreds of people who will make this tv show, and we're not only gonna be great storytellers, we're gonna be fucking great human beings along the way.
"Then we get down to work. Before the room opens, the incredibly smart [writers assistant Clare Higgins] has put together documents that outline the stories, terms, characters, and themes I want to cover in season one. There are maps. There are pictures. There is a special font she chose just for us.
"Yes, the writers have read the books, but these documents focus our discussions on day 1. We move fast, and I don't bend on the schedule. There are due dates, and we must respect them so that everyone else can do their jobs when we're done doing ours. (TV is teamwork, period).
"With that, we start talking. And talk and talk and talk. We write the things we say on dry erase boards. Often the lowest level writer does it, but sometimes it's the person with the best handwriting. (That's always been me, until now mwah ha ha ha ha. Now I sit in a chair.)
"We break down characters first: who they are, what they want, who they'll do it with. Organically, those emotional moments collide with plot. Note: some writers are better at plot machinations. Some are better at emotional arcs. Some do action. Some do sex. It takes all types.
"Then we start breaking it down into episodes -- where would this plot or emotion fit in the eight episodes we have? What's a fun and unexpected beginning to the season? Where do we want it to end, and how does that keep an audience's interest until season two? [praying emoji]
"We decide on something. Then we change it an hour later because we find something else even better that highlights this character's journey, or this super cool monster that's just PERFECT for this episode. We do this all as a room. But TWIST: we write episodes as individuals.
"I ask the writers to 'own' their episodes: they bear the responsibility of ushering it from a kernel of an idea to fully-executed script. I oversee the whole process, but each writer needs to be fully invested in the vision and quality, or the show doesn't work. (Again: teamwork)
"From there, it's much like I talked about at the pilot phase. A writer writes, the room reads, we give notes. The writer writes again, we pass it on to producers, they give notes. The writer writes again, often working with me individually, to fine tune and hone and perfect.
"And then we do it again with the director, or actor. For me, a script is a living, breathing thing. I'm not God. I don't determine All Things. TV doesn't have space for ego or assholes, because without all the people doing their jobs, it collapses. We all own it. Together.
"And that, friends, is how we write. Bring it on."
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