Work Friends

This is the story of Marta and David who met in a college theater program. They were actors who should have been writers. Realizing that, they paired up.

They wrote a few off Broadway plays. They did okay. One day a visiting talent agent said they should try writing for television. They did. They did okay on TV too.

They sold a script that didn’t get made. They sold another. The same thing happened. They sold one to HBO and produced it for six years. There they met a producer named Kevin. The trio worked better together. David said, “He’s great at a lot of stuff that a) we’re not great at, and b) we don’t care about.” Marta added that being a team was even better. “It also made us valuable as a unit. We were writers who would need a Kevin.”

Marta and David wrote another television show and produced six episodes before it was cancelled. They wrote another script but no one bought it.

They’d learned a lot in their failures and small successes. They wanted something easier. They wanted something rich in story but economic to produce. Then they came up with another show.

Rather than a lead actor they wanted an ensemble. Rather than multiple complicated sets they wanted a few simple ones. Rather than an authoritarian writers room they wanted a democratic one.

With these ideas they started casting. One early actress nailed her audition. She was more experienced than the rest, just coming off a guest appearance on Seinfeld. She told the others, “‘Look, I did a guest star on Seinfeld,’ one of the reasons I think that show is so great is that they all help each other out.’” Jerry and Julia would help Jason and Michael and the other ways around.

The ensemble took that advice. A writer who profiled this new group wrote. “It was much more like being with a band than being with a TV cast. I’ve never seen a cast, and really have never seen a band, stick together to the degree they did.”

Kevin said in one interview, “I’m not going to say we never had disagreements with the cast—or that the cast never had disagreements with each other, and yeah, sometimes there was yelling, and sometimes there we people walking off the stage. But it was always solved on the stage.”

The show would run for ten seasons and set many records. Part of that is thanks to the work of producers (i.e. founders) Marta Kauffman, David Crane and Kevin Bright. Part of that is thanks to the pursuit of truth over egos. Friends worked because the people worked well together. Even during salary negotiations the actors negotiated as a unit.

Successful organizations are composed of people who work well together. Synergy may be a buzzword but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.