Studio 60/30 Rock...? TV Writing by the numbers

A little foreshadowing for you: The Nov/Dec issue of mental_floss (due to hit newsstands any day now) has a fun Scatterbrained theme: TV

So, to get you all in the mood, I thought I'd ask a professional TV writer some questions and give you a little inside look at what "scribes" actually do"¦ "˜cause you can bet your TiVo it ain't like what you see on Studio 60 or 30 Rock.

Allow me to introduce, then, Aury Wallington, a friend, a colleague, and a really funny writer. She's written for Sex and the City, Courting Alex, Veronica Mars, and just had a new, splendiferous YA novel come out called POP! (Razorbill Books), which you can read all about over at her website: AuryWallington.com.

Go check out our Q&A, after the jump...

Q: A 30-minute network comedy is actually how many minutes minus commercials? How about a 1-hour network drama?

A: A comedy is around 22 minutes; a drama is around 45 minutes. But contrary to the old adage that 1 page of script equals 1 minute of screen time, a 30-minute multi-camera (sitcom) script is usually around 45 pages, a 30-minute single camera script is around 34 pages, and a 1-hour drama script can be as short as 45 pages (Nip Tuck) or as long as 80 pages (Gilmore Girls.)

Q: How many writers are usually on a drama? comedy?

A: Dramas: 6-8, comedies: 10-12, but it can be more or fewer, depending on the show and the show-runner (executive producer/head writer).

Q: How long is your average work day?

A: Dramas "“ 10am "“ 7pm. Comedies "“ 10am "“ 1am.

Q: What's the longest day you've ever had at the studio/office?

A: 31 hours. 10 am Wednesday to 5 pm Thursday

Q: How many days off a week do you get?

A: 2 (weekends), but I work 7 days a week (writing or coming up with story ideas to pitch or reading other writer's scripts on at home Saturdays and Sundays.)

Q: How much money does the lowest paid writer earn? Average? Highest?

A: Staff writers (the lowest position) make $3000 a week. They don't get paid extra for any scripts they write, but they do get residuals. Story editors (the next level up) make $5000 a week, get $20,000 for each comedy episode and $30,000 for each drama episode they write, and get residuals. After that, salaries are negotiated by your agent, and are usually paid per episode as opposed to per week. The executive producer (head writer) of a hit network show can make millions.

Q: What percentage do you give to your agent? To your manager? To your lawyer?

A: Agent "“ 10%, literary manager "“ 10%, business manager/financial advisor "“ 5%, lawyer "“ 5%

Q: How many seasons before a show is considered a hit? Gets to syndication?

A: 1 episode (Grey's Anatomy was considered a hit after only the pilot aired.) 5 seasons is definitely a success. 100 episodes for syndication (although now some shows sell to cable stations with far fewer episodes "“ for example, My So Called Life has aired on MTV and The N, but only had 19 episodes "“ not even a full season.)

Q: How many jokes need to be on every page of a comedy script?

A: 8 (which is the average number of lines of dialogue on a page "“ because every single line needs to be a joke) or: 100%

Q: How many pilots get ordered per season?

A: 100s

Q: How many pilots get greenlit for shooting?

A: 12s

Q: How many pilots go to series?

A: A handful (sorry these aren't exact numbers—it changes so radically every season and depends on each specific network and studio. If I had to guess, I'd say around 200 are bought, 60 are made, and 15 make it on air. But these are wild guesses, and the exact info isn't available "“ I tried my agent, the Guild, and a pal at a studio, and none of them could give me specifics"¦)

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you this Q&A is over?

A: Um, a billion?

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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
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Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

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