Long-Distance Brainstorming
October 22, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me orchestrate long-distance brainstorming sessions for writing a TV series, at little or no cost.

I've been saying for years, "Man, if only I could get my buddies A, B, C, D, and E together in the same room to bounce around ideas for this comedy show I want to write." We're all experienced with writing scripts, and these guys are truly hilarious and talented (some already work in TV and film), so this is something I'm really serious about.

In an ideal world, we'd all meet at an agreed-upon time, I'd throw out the script outline, and we'd crack each other up in an organized fashion, developing the details and punching up the jokes. Then I'd cull the best ideas and do re-writes, repeating the whole process as necessary.

Trouble is, we're all over the country, have jobs, and half of us don't know the other half (although everyone knows me). We all have cell phones and web access, but not all of us have land lines, and I believe I am the only owner of a webcam.

For some projects, it would be OK to have a chatroom or a blog for everyone to post to with ideas as they are able to. But the real value of the meetings for this particular script is in my pals' ability to think fast and play off of other people's ideas improv-style. So I'm thinking the best we can shoot for is some kind of conference call, with participation by people as we are able to make it, and me recording the sessions and listening later.

So here's my question finally: is there a more productive way to do this? If not, how can I make the most of my situation, technologically, procedurally, and creatively?
posted by Rykey to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could use Skype for the conference call aspect of what you're trying to do. I think you might need a 3rd party software package to record the calls. Not 100% sure on that though.

For everyone else, have a butchers at Campfire and/or Basecamp from 37signals.com. Best of luck with the script :)
posted by ReiToei at 5:15 PM on October 22, 2007

s/everyone/everything else
posted by ReiToei at 5:16 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

1. You should check out Ken Levine's TV writing podcast. Email me and I'll send you the link.
2. Using Celtx will greatly improve your ability to collaborate, PlotBot is good, too...but Celtx is buying me pizza and beer Thursday night, and they are better.
3. My script, Last Chance, was made into a feature by (...) and released. I have credits, some connections, a few contest wins and want to write some TV. Am I as funny as your friends? Who can say.
posted by tristanshout at 5:46 PM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding the 37Signals suite of goodies. It sounds like the perfect blend of real-time and asynchronous collaborative tools for you and your buddies.

Plus, you can't beat the price - all of the tools are really cheap, and there are some perfectly good options there that are totally free.
posted by AngerBoy at 6:42 PM on October 22, 2007

If you're taking notes together and want to produce shared documents, yes to Basecamp - also consider SubEthaEdit if you're on a Mac (which is a nice collaborative group editor). Final Draft actually has group editing features, never tried 'em though.

IRC and Skype would seem to be your friends in this case. I imagine something like Audio Hijack will grab your Skype audio for you, after which perhaps transcription services are your friend too? :)
posted by waxbanks at 7:00 PM on October 22, 2007

Response by poster: Great ideas all around-- thanks!

Just had a thought-- can any of these suggestions do a web-based version of multitrack recording? Such that "those present" at the live meeting could record our conversation, with others able to add "commentary" later on?

Or would that be much better handled by just transferring files common to each guy's recording software?
posted by Rykey at 7:36 PM on October 22, 2007

For what it's worth - I've done this before - badly. So, I can tell you what not to do. With creative people it is hard to use chat rooms - it goes too many directions. You don't have the social cues from a roundtable meeting to keep you from stepping on each other's toes and allowing the momentum to take a direction.
Serial emails became like collaborative poetry - crappy. Basically it devolved into a power struggle between who wanted to push the hardest. There is some unwritten formula that says the person with the least talent will claw his/her way to the top. The least talented person gets no validation other than position.
How to get around those problems may be worthy of others comments.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:37 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

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