March 2, 2011

Writing Division Gets "Modern"

Writing Division Hosts Modern Family Writing Staff

Students, alumni and guests of SCA’s Division of Writing for Screen & Television got the chance to see the inner workings of an Emmy Award-winning show as part of the Emmys from the Trenches speaker series.

Executive Producer of Modern Family Steve Levitan

In his opening remarks, SCA writing professor and multi-Emmy Award winner David Isaacs commented, “As someone who has spent their career in sitcoms, I appreciate when something special comes along. In the fall of 2009, the family comedy made a very nice comeback led by the aptly named Modern Family.”

The panel included executive producer Steve Levitan, co-executive producer Dan O’Shannon, co-executive producer Jeff Richman, co-executive producer Brad Walsh and co-executive producer Abraham Higginbotham.

The panel discussed insights into what makes the show both a critical and commercial success and shared war stories from other shows on which they have collaborated. Levitan told a story about their work on Wings where an unnamed co-worker told him that “he sees the urinal puck in the bathroom more than his kids.”

They also stressed the importance of knowing how to pitch using the skillsets associated with acting and improvisation to make your ideas as clear as possible to the other writers on the show.

Richman joked that he was “acting happy” the entire time he was working with Levitan.

When asked what motivates them, Levitan commented, “The pilot came together really nicely. We lived in fear the first season to live up to that. We had a nice season so then we were afraid of the sophomore curse. Now we basically live in fear of ‘who is going to write the first clunker.’”

The Emmys from the Trenches is part of a initiative called Comedy @ SCA which is geared towards making USC the premier destination for students looking to study the science and art of comedy.