Comments from some of the brave souls who survived previous Sitcom Rooms...
"The biggest thing I learned was that it can be fun to write in a group — we pushed each other farther than any of us might have gone. At well after midnight, when we turned our scene in, we thought it was funny. But the true test would come when the actors performed our version the next day. The performance of our scene was nothing short of magical. Seeing jokes we'd written, lines we'd whittled away at, and some of the physical gags we'd put on the page…Most interesting were the times the actors made our lines sound even better than we thought they were.
"The attendees included several writers, a lawyer, a stand-up comic, a documentary writer and producer, a programmer, someone from Denmark and someone from Germany who is already writing and filming fabulous German short comedy. In other words, the only common denominators were talent and interest. I know my novel writing will benefit from this weekend, no matter what."
"I went to The Sitcom Room to experience what it's like to be a sitcom writer, and I got exactly what I wanted. We struggled together over every line. We pitched jokes to each other that fell flat. We wrote jokes together. We got punchy and vulgar. When we were done writing, we had no idea if what we had written was good or bad.
"I won't lie: There were times when I was nervous, despondent, insecure, and terrified. Only a real writing experience puts you through that many negative feelings. On the plus side, there was also megalomania, the thrill of a worthy challenge, some justifiable pride, and the euphoria that comes on the heels of inspiration.
"All the participants were funny and literate. Getting to know like-minded strangers in this weekend hotel crucible was really special, as they say. Ken was fantastic. He clearly had worked hard beforehand and worked hard all weekend to give us a valuable learning experience."
"This is the first workshop I ever took part in where you not only had the opportunity to do an actual tangible rewrite of a script (and could see the results of your efforts performed in front of you by professional actors) — but had to discover how to (and if you could) do it in concert with a group of strangers under deadline.
"The various elements we all had to deal with and the creative tools we learned to employ would work well with a wide variety of different writing genres, whether it's a script, stage play or prose. More than anything else, the weekend was fun; fun meeting and working with the other 19 people in the group, fun giving my own creative abilities a needed workout, and fun being in L.A. when it was 27 degrees back in Rochester, NY."
"I also enjoyed working with people who were not in complete synch with my particular comedy stylings. Overall, it was a great learning experience. For anyone who wants to write television, short films, features, and even Internet sketches, this workshop can provide valuable knowledge and experience."
"The other big difference, Ken takes just a few hours in the beginning to talk at you — the rest of the time is you with your team actually writing (and boy, is that the FUN part) and then watching your scenes come alive with real actors. It was a great experience that I'm 100% glad I took the chance. My overall experience could be colored by the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my team and thought we were hilarious and worked together extremely well. Oh, and what did I find out? I always knew that I loved TV and now I know that I'd love to write for it and I really enjoyed collaborating. The jury is still out on the funny part."
"It was interesting to see actors read our words. The spin they put on them brought them to life and their line readings were often better that I imagined. Ken talked about how actors influence writers' voices and I saw that in action. Fascinating to see in real time.
"Considering what we got — a main lecture room, four side conference rooms, decent Chinese food hand delivered by Ken and Dan, plus lots of pop and chips, with actual lectures by real sitcom writers and our work performed by real actors, yeah, the money 'was all on the screen,' as they say."
"Ken and Dan were very approachable as well as generous with valuable advice and insight. They never made me feel like an 'inkie newbie'. Ken and Dan are top-notch experienced professionals, passionate about the craft of writing but also interested in the attendees' experience.
"Simply put, the Sitcom Room goes beyond the 'rules' of television writing. You get hands-on experience working in a writers room with all the ups (yay, late night snacks!) and downs (wait, there's no payoff in this scene!) that come with cranking out your best material under a tight deadline.
"To top off your writerly weekend, you get to watch professional Hollywood actors bring your words to life. That moment sealed my fate. I realized that in spite of the heartaches and hurdles involved in writing, the journey is worth it.
"Uncertain about becoming a TV writer? Attending the Sitcom Room will confirm if the crazy but incredibly fulfilling ride is for you."
"Fortunately there was another attendee from Europe, and I thought, 'If that Irish guy can keep up with that foreign language, then I should also do fine.' The hours spent in the writers room were exhausting, demanding and stressful. In short: It was the best two-day-seminar of my life. Ken Levine's Sitcom Room was absolutely worth the trip. And absolutely worth the price."
"Ken had a lot of great information from his years of writing and answered all of our questions. I still refer to the notes I took down that weekend. More than anything, this workshop was extremely motivating - I created the outline for my Modern Family spec script on the plane ride home from the workshop! I also started planning my move to Los Angeles, where I currently reside."
"Just do it. If you enter The Sitcom Room with an ear to listen and an appreciation for being guided by Emmy-award-winning talent, you have found a bargain. Even if I stop writing tomorrow, I will always be happy I took the chance to be a member of The Sitcom Room while it was available.
"In the months leading up to the weekend, I didn't feel nervous (in part because Ken & Dan send weekly emails as preparation) until I noticed my body was telling a different story altogether. Immediately after entering the room, I broke out in a cold sweat. Fortunately, it had no effect on my hearing and I learned so much about the television industry as it works today from professionals who are working today.
"For me, the weekend kept getting better and by the end, in addition to working in a writers room, it felt as though I'd been invited to a dinner party. The inside stories Ken shared were great!
"One of the things I wondered about was the other attendees. Would they be a bunch of crazy people with $1500+ on hand with no experience in writing and all the faith they should be famous writers? Unfounded concern. I worked with a bunch of great people with various degrees of experience (not that you need any) and hope to stay in touch with many from the weekend.
"Ken and Dan were warm and accessible and funny and smart (and a little bit sneaky).
"Be a part of The Sitcom Room."
"Although by Sunday evening I was propping my eyes open with scotch tape and toothpicks, I was crushed that it was ending — I wanted to go back into the room for another rewrite! Thanks to Ken, Dan O'Day, and the surprise guest speakers for an amazing weekend."
"Being surrounded by motivated writers, who are also funny, created the perfect group energy. I felt inspired and totally comfortable working with this group of strangers. Additionally, Ken and Dan honestly created a friendly and welcoming environment. I never felt like I didn't belong at the workshop despite my lack of professional or television writing experience. Rather than feeling discouraged by cold and exclusive industry people, I felt like I was with people who wanted to share and help.
"Ken connected with us as a creative-human, writer to writers. Throughout the weekend, I felt that the 'lectures' were seamless with our hands-on writing room work. On top of that, Ken's experience makes any conversation with him a great, personalized learning opportunity.
"I left this weekend feeling
1) sad, like I did when I left horse camp as a kid and
2) even more motivated to continue writing with a new pool of writer friends to call upon for feedback.
I learned that I don't have to be in a cave with the perfect cup of coffee (or Swiss Miss) to try to get a story right. I also learned that writing with a group of strangers for 10-12 hours is a satisfying way to spend a workday. Instant story feedback and ridiculous conversations – that works well for me.
"I was nervous before the workshop started but once I started talking to people, it just felt like I was talking to people who are like me. I also threw out a few thoughts in the writing room that got a laugh. I didn't expect much of that but of course it was an enjoyable surprise.
"I am so grateful that I was finally able to experience how the actor run-through contributes to and shapes the writing process. It was immensely helpful to see and hear what we had on our pages. Knowing that the read-through is a part of the process also allowed me to not obsess over having things perfect in the first draft.
"The panel discussion added to the sense of warmth that Ken and Dan established. Maybe it was because we were a room full of writers/storytellers that I felt so 'normal' and things made sense, but the (famous) surprise guests were completely accessible. They shared their experiences as creative professionals, rather than as people-on-the-inside talking to us-on-the-outside. That was a huge difference from other panels I've heard speak. They were amazingly generous and funny and created a great end to the workshop. I didn't want to leave.
"The total price I paid and my time invested in this weekend was definitely worth it. There wasn't a moment that I was concerned about how much the workshop cost – I was distracted by the experience, in a great way. I think the only question that came up (in my head and in conversations) was whether or not there would be bagels in the morning. But I got my own bagel. So, no worries there."
"Ken was easy to talk to and down to earth. As far as the other attendees, I'll admit that I went in afraid we'd all be trying to impress each other all weekend, but everyone entered in a spirit of collaboration.
"Seeing our scenes performed by actors was a blast and a real eye-opener (even on 2 hours' sleep), and it was instructive and fun to see what the other teams had done. Now I feel that when an opportunity comes my way I won't be a total virgin. I was so inspired I came up with an outline for a new spec on the way home and have already written a better scene than I could have before the weekend. All this plus junk food in our writers room. What's not to love?"
"The class of 20 was separated into 4 writing rooms. My writing group was named 'Group C' — which also happens to be the name of an infectious disease. Like the disease, my group inflicted a lot of pain on each other. We stepped on each other's toes, stomped on each other's pride and fought all night long — just to write a single scene. The next morning, we finally bonded as a team — in fear — as we watched professional actors perform our scene. It was thrilling to watch the scene reveal the mistakes and successes we had made throughout the night.
"I cannot imagine a better way to learn how to write sitcoms than this 'trial by fire' experience under the funny, accomplished and inspirational auspices of Ken Levine."
"I’m not a workshop kind of guy. There is nothing more awful for me than sitting in a meeting room in a hotel listening to someone drone on about ‘how to do something.’ As Ken says about a script, “Don’t tell me it happened, show me it happening.” That’s what he and Dan O’Day do in the Sitcom Room.
"The delightful surprise from this experience was that you could take five different people from Wisconsin, California, Idaho, Texas and Alabama, put them in a room and they could all be funny. And that ‘funny’ could translate onto a page in script format.
"All through the process Ken and Dan were available to answer questions, offer insight and even laugh when they caught moments of a read-through…or more importantly, not laugh when they heard a read through. Ken is very down to earth. You would think that someone with his credentials (let’s face it, the man has written for sitcoms that defined the genre and shaped a generation of TV writers, producers and most importantly television watchers) would be inaccessible and standoffish. I found him more open and genuinely willing to help and offer advice than I ever imagined.
"We turned in our draft 11 hours after we got it. It wasn’t great. We knew we needed to polish more and got that opportunity the next day after a performance by a group of terrific actors. But we knew how to make it great. And that’s what the Sitcom Room teaches you.
"For me, what I learned really began to sink in the next day. After a glorious night of 12 uninterrupted hours of sleep, I was being lazy and decided to watch some TV before flying home. I turned to an episode of Everyone Loves Raymond. What struck me was that in my mind's eye, I saw the script. I saw the punches, the callbacks, and the set-ups. It all began to make more sense. I was able to take what I had learned the past two days and immediately see it work on television.
"I still am in awe of the experience, the people I got to meet and the access to the knowledge that was imparted. I don’t think I can ever put a price tag on that. The Sitcom Room was one of the best experiences I have ever had. If you want to write sitcoms, then do everything you can to participate in the next one. I for one would do it again in a heartbeat.”
"One of the biggest appeals for me was the limited number of attendees. It gave it an intimate atmosphere. When your team has done your rewrite, you’ll get the chance to hear professional actors perform your words. If you’ve never had that experience, it will be a real treat when you’re there."
"Yes, there are other collaborative writing workshops that ask you to travel over three time zones and spend $1500 of your hard earned money, all so you can work with complete strangers.
"But the Sitcom Room is different from those other workshops in a number of ways. First, they provide free Chinese food. Second, the complete strangers that I worked with were quite talented. The third and most important difference is that The Sitcom Room is presented by Ken Levine and Dan O’Day. These guys are real pros with lifetimes of experience. You don’t just get to meet Ken — a man whose work I have admired for decades — you also get to work closely with him over the course of the weekend.
"I can't say enough about what I got out of my participation in The Sitcom Room. I laughed and made some new friends. I got pushed out of my comfort zone and wound up learning about teamwork, collaboration, and raising the standards for my own writing. I recommend it for any writer who wants to grow."
"The folks running the joint know their stuff and have much insight to offer. (For example, Ken’s worked on some of the biggest shows of the past several decades — so many, in fact, that he and his writing partner penned two early Simpsons episodes, and never even mentioned it — now THAT’S accomplishment.)
"There was ample time to talk and ask and listen and learn. Ken and Dan and the rest were fully committed — it felt awfully labor-of-love-y, which is a very good thing."
"Ken's class offered me a rare glimpse into his creative process, as well as invaluable guidance on how to tackle a scene. Most important, he made us create. On the spot. Under pressure. With a team of strangers. Just like the pros do it.
"He threw us into a room with an assignment then dropped in with notes and other challenges that meant writing, rewriting, and more rewriting. It was fun, frustrating, exhilarating, and infuriating — just like a real TV job. In the end, we saw our work performed by a group of talented actors, and got to find out whether our material landed or not — the ultimate test."
"I have since devoted myself full-time to writing, based on what I learned during that wonderful weekend, and now know that a career as a television writer doesn't have to remain simply a dream.
"Live in a different state? I came from the other side of the world. Prefer to save up your hard earned cash for 'next time'? You’re only delaying your potential life changing experience by 12 months. And who knows what excuses you might have in another year's time?"