josh friedman

Who are you and what do you write?

I’m Josh Friedman. I created the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, co-wrote War of the Worlds, and adapted the James Ellroy novel The Black Dahlia.

I used to have a blog called I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing but we broke up a couple years ago and I haven’t heard from it since.

I’m also working with the one and only John August on Chosen, a very cool pilot John’s writing for 20th TV and ABC.

Where and when do you write?

workspaceI write almost exclusively in my office at 20th Century Fox. I have a TV deal there and with it comes a wonderful office in a building with a number of other writers.

It’s a perfect set-up for me — I love sitting at my desk with the door open so I can ensnare any of the other writers and suck them into a conversation. Any pee-break can easily turn into a fifteen minute rant about whichever network executive has given whichever one of us notes on this particular day; it’s a nice way to vent, procrastinate, bond, and, lest it get lost in the sentence, procrastinate.

I’m not a fan of writing in public spaces because it reminds me of when I used to write in public spaces. But I do like the constant distraction and stimulation I get from seeing other writers pacing in front of the Xerox machine trying to figure out how to cut twelve pages out of forty-three.

Perhaps due to these tendencies I tend to, as my co-showrunner on TSCC used to say, “burn a lot of daylight.” But I’m at peace with that: I get most of my actual typing done in the late afternoon and the evening. When I’m really working hard on a script I’m probably most productive from 7PM to 11PM. I like ordering in dinner, eating at my desk, and cranking out three hours of really focused writing. I’m a big believer in stopping when you’re on a roll so you can more easily pick it up the next day.

I listen to music all the time when I work; I think it’s because I used to do my homework in front of the television. But I can’t stand silence. I’d guess eighty percent of everything I’ve written has been accompanied by Bruce Springsteen bootlegs. Like Bruce, I believe there is no such thing as writer’s block.

What software do you use?

Final Draft. I’ve never known anything else. I don’t even understand why people don’t like it. It’s better at its job than I am at mine. I choose to remain ignorant to its shortcomings.

What hardware do you use?

MacBook Pro 13”, a big ol 27” iMac, and an iPad for reading scripts and emails and such.

I also use legal pads for early stages of doodling and asking myself questions. I like to put a question mark at the end of almost every sentence when I’m starting a project — it makes me feel like I’m not committing to anything and I have less anxiety. “He is a cop” will always be written as: “Is he a cop?”

The most important writing tools I use are my four whiteboards hung on my walls. I never used them when I wrote movies but since I started doing television I have become totally addicted to them. They’re on almost every surface of my office.

I have a swivelly chair in the middle so I can sit and spin round and round looking at the different boards. One board usually has all of the characters listed. One has ideas for scenes. One is near my desk and I use sort of as scrap paper. The fourth is reserved for the outline as I break the story. Eventually all of the boards will be covered with the outline and then I start writing my draft…

When I’m finished writing a draft, I read it backwards. I can’t explain why. It’s the same way I read magazines.

What (if anything) would you change about how you work?

I would write more for myself. Either a screenplay on spec, or prose, or resurrect my blog. I’d write nonfiction, maybe. Just more writing in other genres, I guess.

Too many screenwriters tend to forget they were writers before they were screenwriters. Maybe some of them weren’t. But I was. I miss writing other types of things and I’d like to do that more.

Also, I wish I wouldn’t get so pissed off when people give me notes. I’m working on that one. Sort of.