this is how we do it

I’ve been getting up earlier than my body wants to on Monday mornings for almost two months, now, and I’m still not used to it. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m upside down in a pool filled with goo, but I’m still a little slow and easily confused until I get my CON and DEX bonuses from my morning coffee.

I don’t know if I’ve talked about this, but the way we put The Wil Wheaton Project together goes something like this:

We have a great staff of associate producers, researchers, and staff writers who are responsible for certain shows. We do our best to assign shows to each other that we wouldn’t normally be watching, so that we all bring different perspectives to the shows that we cover. All of us are constantly on the lookout for stories, videos, cats, and things that would probably be interesting and/or amusing to our audience, and we have a private mailing list for that.

We take all that research, and have a couple of creative meetings during the week that helps us narrow down what we’re going to do on the next episode (tonight, we air S01E08, which we call 108, so we’re working on 109 this week).

On Thursday, there’s a thing called a clip meeting, where everyone gets together to look at clips that have been gathered, along with some jokes or insights or other commentary that may go with those clips.

On Friday, I come into the office for a table read of the script with a the senior producers, and we all work on figuring out what sorts of jokes we’re going to do, and how the show is going to come together. We usually leave the office very, very late on Fridays.

Over the weekend, we watch all of our weekend shows, and keep looking for box office news for movies that are in our world. Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning, the producers and editors put together material from those weekend shows. Around 8am, I head into the office and look at everything they’ve been working on, and we make a final decision on what’s going to fill out act one of the show.

Usually, we have three bits in act one that are more or less locked in, and we add up to three more based on that early Monday work.

After a bit of work on Monday morning, we all head to our studio and tape the show. It’s usually done in the very early afternoon, at which point the network executives and our executives get to work on putting together the final cut of the show, which is sent into space and then down to New York for broadcast about 30 hours after I walk out of the studio.

It’s not as harrowing as I imagine @Midnight must be, but we all work very hard without ever feeling like we have as much time as we want, and I’m super proud of the work we’ve been delivering since episode 104, which is when I think we finally found ourselves and started making the show that I hope we’ll get to make for at least another year.

So, I want you to know this about tonight’s episode: yesterday, we built act one from the ground up. We didn’t keep anything that we had planned to put there, and a few people — including our amazing editors — worked their asses off to build the longest act of the show, the most important act of the show, in just a few hours, when all of us are at our most exhausted. And get this: we ended up having to cut some things that we really liked from the first act, because it was too long! I’m intensely proud of the team I get to work with, and so grateful for the privilege of working with them, and what we did as a single unit yesterday is a very big reason why.


35 thoughts on “this is how we do it”

  1. Wil, I had the pleasure of being in the audience yesterday (the guy who had seen enough Dominion to get the Vega joke), and I think it is the funniest show so far.

    One of my takeaways from being in the audience was that the people there really seemed to be having some fun working on the show. The whole environment was great.

  2. Of course I was in the episode #103 live audience… :-/ It’s interesting to get an insiders view of the process, especially after you’ve seen a show live. Every time I go to a studio, I am amazed at how small they are. I guess part of that is because you get to see all the bits and pieces (cameras, lights, etc.) that you don’t see when watching from home. It reminds me of when I am working on a project at home. The early stages are all messy and ugly, but it’s all worth it when you see the finished end result. Good job on the show – and thanks from another fan of the genre.

  3. I wonder if you could make a longer, uncut version for the online / on-demand versions. Or release the cut bits on youtube. If you’ve already filmed it, you might as well try to make more money on it.

  4. Thanks for post, Wil. Don’t know why, but I always imagine your battled discussions with SyFy is like you vs Kim Jong-Il. “Sooo, Wirr Wheatahn. You charrenge our poricies?” anime style jump with moving background -The nerds have spoken! They want to see our content, but you’re sacrificing loyalty for profit that will lead to the fall of SyFy! continued battle with speeches and a variety of nerd puns and cheesy lines xD

    Will enjoy tonight :) peace.

  5. Very interesting piece, thanks for sharing. My dad was a program director in the early days of television when everything was live and it’s surprising to me how little has changed in terms of the work environment.

  6. It would be great if you saved all the pre-edited shows for posterity or an extended version Blu-ray. TV may have time limits, but you could keep all the juicy bits and release them on the web or disc as extended cut versions of the show.

    Keep up the great work, Wil et al!!

  7. You need a full 60 minutes. There’s WAY too much material out there to stop at 30. Also then you’d have more on-screen time to interact with guests and the show would feel less hurried. Keep up the good work, love what you’ve done so far!

    1. 30 minutes is good, it feels slightly rushed and leaves me wanting more, and I really like that.

      If it was an hour, it might get to be too much. Talking Dead became unwatchable when the pressure was off.

  8. Moving to 10pm after Face Off doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. Its a great lead in. Maybe get a lot more people watching next week. I love both shows. (Yours is waaaay better.) 😉

  9. Glad to hear that your team is becoming increasingly efficient. If you guys are able to follow the process improvement curve of South Park, I expect that, in a few years, you’ll be able to turn around an entire episode in a few hours. : )

    1. I just figured we were in a Call of Cthulhu universe cause Coffee just seems to restore a few sanity points for me.

  10. Your shows have improved. The first ones reminded me of “Fun With Flags’ You know what show that is from.

  11. Hey wil I wantedto ask you if you’ve heard anything about startrek titan I Would make one hell of an Officer I think I know you will Be playing Lieutenant Commander on it I wouldn’t mind Being your First officer.

  12. Thanks for the insight into the process, and I have to say I think it was the best episode so far.

  13. This was by far the best episode of The Wil Wheaton Project that there has been, lots of laughs and I loved the Shane West bit, he was a true sport. More like this!

  14. Trust your crew, Wil Wheaton.
    Trust what you don’t even remember learning from the best.
    Don’t duplicate yourself exactly, or you end up with a clone.
    I prefered someone who knows how I’d do things,
    And smart enough to offer alternatives when I’m stuck
    Without being a total ass with the neeners..

  15. “Then, at are-you-fucking-serious o’clock on Monday morning” This had me laughing my ass off at work, thanks Wil =)

    1. I snortled dairy products on that one too.
      We called it ‘O-dark-30″, and were marching to the mess hall when I was still on a Chicago bartenders sleep cycle.
      Marching towards a gorgeous sparkling Venus.
      I think it was Venus….it kept sparkling and to me, it was changing colors just like a diamond. Other girls saw it do that, most didn’t.
      I wondered about my Navy issued glasses…..
      It was more like sleepwalking to chow hall at the time we’d be getting home from work!

  16. Finally got to watch 108, best episode yet I thought. Several LOL moments. And the Mazes & Monsters clip, makes me want to dig out my old Betamax tape of that tv movie. Awesome!
    Thanks Wil. Keep up the great work.

  17. Totally not related to this post, but I love it when you’re on @Midnight. You and Chris are great together! It’s hard to watch when my husband is sleeping because you guys make me laugh out loud.

  18. Mr. Wheaton –

    I recently read that some of the Star Trek TNG fans were or are highly critical of the Wesley Crusher character and perhaps you personally. No doubt, the Ewoks can relate entirely to how that must feel. Personally, I thought your acting steadily improved over the run of TNG. Your last appearance on the Native American planet was very good. You played the part well, showing a good range of emotion. My other favorite episode which featured you was the episode with Ashley Judd. The two of you developed some solid on screen chemistry. The problem I had was not with you, but with the heavy handed writing style which marked the early years of TNG. The writers overplayed and over emphasized Wesley’s status as a prodigy, like we would all forget if it wasn’t in nearly every scene in which you appeared. The episode where they had Wesley undertaking a repair to the Holodeck which could have killed the Captain, two other senior officers and an additional officer was just plain absurd. The show was asking too much of the audience to swallow that the ship would have a recreational system that is potentially lethal and that the best person to fix it was a 13 year old kid whose qualifications consisted of having read the specs for the system. None of that was your fault.

    1. Prodigies of Geeknation understood.
      And it would do this generation a lot of good to rerun the series.
      I’m watching Voyager in a virtual world with Buffy fans now.

      When STNG happened, we were getting downgraded before we were anywhere near the height of our potential.
      It’s really Freudian, and I’m not a fan.
      And why I was often in the mood to handle the “Irate” callers.
      A woman’s voice in tech support was met with “various attitudes” by male end-users we bailed out of trouble on the regulah.

      It was probably the first time I’d ever seen any program that addressed it so well.
      Every “next generation” has the same problem. The baby boom, baby bust ego trip-page is a quest for
      “Who am I? And where can I do the most good with what I have to work with?”

      The previous generation has ego issues. If their children surpass them, it’s a kind of death they are not ready to accept.
      Consider Benjamin Franklin and the rest of the Lonely Hearts Club band of oppressed and privileged folks who unsettled the America’s.

      The lands were settled, they were just ignorant of it.
      It was beyond their capacity to understand that people would consider a grove of oak trees as family to people who grew up with them.

      To the indigenous people, “That’s a real nice house, there buddy, but you just wiped out a neighborhood (Trees, the birds living in them, etc) to build a box to hold your um…books of your own stories of how you justify doing this to our neighbors, before you got here? Ego much?”

      What is the thing most people miss when they leave a place?
      Oddly, I didn’t get “there” until I really had time to reflect on it.
      Trees grow up together just like our families do and they’re roots don’t care what a fence tells them to do.
      And the network analogy follows the neural net as Fibonacci goes, so goes intelligence.
      Fighting that causes Newtonian fall-outs like the what we got going on here.
      Jean Luc Picard’s brother was passionate about protecting the organic grapevine of their legacy. Jean Luc was responsible for carrying that legacy as far as his ship could carry it.
      Replicators and whatnot sustain a crew, but everybody knows there’s No Place Like Home.

      At the time, we were at dial-up and real geeks knew what we could build on the world wide web, while our folks were working on it.
      We grew up learning what our folks did for a living, AS they were building I.T.
      Information technologies depend on the transport it rides on.
      The OSI Model was build on the 3 Laws.
      The Three Laws were built on a great TRUTH.
      We’ll call it, “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”
      That was the consensus of the day, with the absolute certainty that some greater minds would be discovered, so it’s best to look busy and meet it on it’s level, as best we can.

      If we can dream it up, the odds favor someone out of our scope (line of sight), with a higher mind out there who thought it up first.
      “Genius” is a fact, not an opinion. It’s a potential rating that shows how much we can do,
      and therefore

      *sorry, can’t edit…eyeburn

  19. My wife and I are huge sci-fi buffs and love the show. Here’s hoping you get to keep doing it long enough for it to become iconic.

    I’m sure you get tons of suggestions for ideas, so I hesitate to add to the list. But how about, amidst all the frivolity, taking a minute or two to highlight some good, but overlooked sci-fi? It’s very easy to find cheesy sci-fi– just turn to the syphilis channel… oops, SyFy (I mix the two up all the time. They have similar effects on the brain).

    1. I’m glad you like this show! There’s no canned laughter; it’s an actual studio audience. It’s just a small one, in a small studio, so it sounds a little off on your TV.

      1. Hi Wil, I was in your audience on show #3. Great job and coming along nicely. The reference to having no audience probably comes from the fact that you don’t interact with them (us) when shooting, as is common on talk shows. If it weren’t for the fact that you only have a 30 min show it would be cool to have a bit of give and take with the audience. It would make you seem a bit more approachable as well. Just my .02. Keep on going with the show…it’s refreshingly different!

        1. A real sci-fi talk show would be amazing. If he expanded to an hour he could not only interact with the audience a bit but also have guests that actually talk about things. The “Tosh.0″ format is fun, but those style shows wear thin after a while. A sci-fi “Tonight Show” would be groundbreaking.

  20. We really are enjoying the show, and are getting a lot of real laugh out loud laughs. We watch the soup and husband DVR’s Tosh, (but I delete them both off the DVR all the time and he doesn’t notice, ssshhhh).
    I like you.
    OMG you are so much better than those other similar ish type shows.
    I hope I get to watch more of these, very fun.

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