Friends: The Art and Soul of Collaboration
The Story Summit Writer’s School Class is on for February 15 to 19, 2021
“There are three critical ingredients to success as a writer in the entertainment and publishing fields — talent, mastery of craft, and the ability to collaborate,” says Story Summit Founder, David Paul Kirkpatrick, former President of Paramount Pictures and former Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios.
“If you want to become a writer, write. But if you want to have a successful career, learn how to collaborate,” says Tab Murphy, Story Summit mentor and Academy-Award-nominated screenwriter for Gorillas in the Mist and Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, and Atlantis, The Lost Empire
“I have seen many gifted and able writers crash and burn because they did not develop an other-directed personality that made them an appealing creative force,” says Kirkpatrick. “That’s why this class which Debra Engle and Amy Ferris have cooked up is so incredible. It will help talented and capable writers develop that third ingredient that is essential to a sustainable career in entertainment and publishing.”
“We couldn’t be more thrilled than to welcome Marta F. Kauffman, the legendary co-creator of Friends and Grace and Frankie, to lead a live, virtual workshop-class on collaboration called Friends — The Art and Soul of Collaboration,” says Amy Ferris, co-director with Debra Engle of the Story Summit Writer’s School. “Marta is an expert collaborator. Over her esteemed and lauded career, Marta has hand-picked and worked with hundreds of writers, actors, and directors. To top it off, Marta happens to be a remarkable, kind woman who is always nurturing others toward career success.”
“I want to make people feel like they have a home with me, and that they can keep moving forward with their careers,” says Marta F. Kauffman. “My hope is that they want to keep working with me — and that we are generous of spirit and caring enough that they want to stay.”
This once in a lifetime LIVE workshop class runs on Monday, February 15 to Friday, February 19. There are two classes to choose from:
2 to 4 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific)
9 to 11 p.m. Eastern (6 to 8 p.m. Pacific)
Here’s how the week will unfold:
Monday, February 15: Ask Me Anything: The Genius of Marta F. Kauffman: Come with questions for a live Q&A with Marta. This is an unparalleled opportunity to hear how she created Friends and the hit series, Grace and Frankie — and learn what one of the most successful producers in TV history looks for when she puts together a team of writers. To make this class as real-world as possible, she’ll create breakout groups and give you assignments to work on with fellow participants. Sharpen your pen, because she’ll be back on Wednesday to hear your group present your work.
Tuesday, February 16: Collaboration Day: David Kirkpatrick, Amy Ferris, Debra Engle and publisher Thom Black will share their personal stories and best practices in a roundtable discussion about the soul of collaboration. How do you function within a team? How do you build relationships? How do you present yourself to a possible employer — whether that be a fellow writer, a publisher, a producer, even an agent? What happens in a writers’ room? On an editorial team? On a movie set? Why does simple human decency matter? Why does friendship in professional collaboration matter?
Wednesday, February 17: Here in the Real World: Marta returns, this time to hear the logline and scene your team developed in response to her assignment, and to give you constructive feedback. The writers’ room may be simulated, but the exercise in collaboration is real.
Thursday, February 18: The Power of Partnership. Be prepared to hear from Jonathan Stark and Tracy Newman, the long-time writing duo who created According to Jim and won an Emmy and a Peabody for co-writing The Puppy Episode in 1997, in which Ellen DeGeneres’s character came out of the closet.
What’s the reality of an enduring writing partnership? What can you do as part of a team that you might not accomplish on your own? Is a collaborative relationship on certain projects right for you? Can you keep your unique identity AND hand over your creative ideas for the good of the whole? In keeping with the humor to be found in this week of learning, inspiration, and encouragement, we promise you some laughter this Thursday, and collaborative tips inspired by actual scripts.
Friday, February 19: Table Reads: The Friends theme continues with actors Jane Sibbett (a Story Summit faculty member) and Jessica Hecht, who portrayed lesbian couple Carol and Susan on Friends. (The episode featuring their lesbian wedding was reported as the most watched single sitcom episode to that date.) On this final day of the course, Jane, Jessica and a surprise male actor soon to be revealed will discuss the unique synergy between actors and writers and how their collaboration can elevate everyone’s work. Plus, they’ll read scenes written by students through the week. Yours may be one of them!
“In my 30-year career, Marta set the highest benchmark in respect to respecting all the creatives,” says actress and creator, Jane Sibbett who worked with Marta on Friends. “The collaborative process was so thrilling, utterly respectful and such delight I couldn’t wait to go to work and give my all. In contrast, another non-collaborating production team drew hard lines in the sand to protect their places, and I literally heard that writers were not allowed to talk to the actors! Heartbreaking. Yes, some are soul suckers, but what a loss until I met Marta & David (David Crane) in particular. I worked with major divas in my happy career, too, but Friends was utterly without ego, all about the best for all, and I attribute that to both the heart of the cast and the heart of Marta and her standard of soulful success.”
“I try and create a quality of warmth with the work,” says Marta, the 2020 recipient of the prestigious Norman Lear Award presented by the Producers Guild of America. “Someone once called it ‘comfort food’ and I think that’s what it is.”
“What better way to learn collaboration than through a course inspired by the classic show Friends?” asks Debra Engle, the Co-Director of the Writer’s School. “Friends: The Art and Soul of Collaboration is the epitome of what the Story Summit Writer’s School is all about. It’s bringing experts who have succeeded in their field together with writers for education, encouragement, and inspiration. Your ability to work with others in a vibrant creative team may be one of the most important and overlooked elements of your writing career. Whether you want to join a writers’ room, contribute on the movie set while your script is produced, or work with editors and designers to publish your book, this week-long course will give you the essential training you need to succeed as part of a team. Your ability to collaborate is the difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a profession.”
“We are thrilled with how our monthly “themed classes” are coming together,” says Amy Ferris. “The Friends Week — The Art and Soul of Collaboration in February will be magnificent and Marta is magnificent.
“In March, Story Summit mentor, Tab Murphy, who has written all those brilliant Disney animated pictures, from Atlantis — The Lost Empire to Tarzan will be spearheading Disney Animation Week with a star-filled cavalcade of inspiring experts including Don Hahn, the producer of The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast; Aaron Blaise, the director of Brother Bear, and an animator of Aladdin and Mulan; and the directing duo of Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale who have co-directed such Disney classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Beauty and the Beast.
“No writer who has had any degree of success does it alone,” says David Paul Kirkpatrick, Story Summit Founder. “Even Emily Dickinson had her brother who stepped into the attic to discover her poems, otherwise they would have been lost forever. In your life as a writer, no matter the field, there are cover designers, copy editors, line editors, marketing executives, producers, punch-up writers with whom you’ll need to collaborate. In my career, I hired many first time writers, including Tab Murphy! If those writers were not other-directed, balanced, possessed a steady handshake and had a capacity to laugh, it’s simple — they did not get hired. The creative process is a joy and it’s brutal. I have spent many a 3 a.m. with a writer working in a hotel room on location, trying to make words work for the actors who had a 5 a.m. call to make-up and hair. You want to be with a buddy or a buddette in that bunker! That’s why you have to have relationships to be able to see the process through. Helpers. Collaborators. Friends.”
If you would like to read more or to enroll in the class, please go here. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Because of the unique workshop nature of the classes with Marta F. Kauffman, seating is limited and we expect to sell out. If you have questions, please ask John. If you would like to be kept abreast of the Story Summit Writer’s School offerings, please sign up for our newsletter.
Final Note: The classes are designed specifically for live participation, so your attendance is important. If you need to miss a class for any reason, you’ll receive a passcode-protected link to watch the recordings after the course is over.