Phil Klemmer and John Enbom (Writers)

Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and comments. (December 23, 2006) You guys have written five episodes together and you've also co-written episodes with other writers. Who decides whether you write the show by yourself or if you're going to write it with someone else?

John: That's Rob too. He just kinda...he'll clap his hands and sorta just make this announcement: "Okay, you finished that one, now you guys are doing this one."

Phil: A lot of times with split scripts, unless it's a writing team, in which case the guild insists that they write together...a spilt script will a lot of times indicate that we are trying to either make up on time or to catch up or get ahead just because, obviously, two people can write more quickly and you can get a script turn around in a week versus a couple of weeks. So a lot times when you see a lot of split things, it means we're behind schedule.

John: [chuckles] Oh, that's the reason.

John: Yeah. It happens. We had one last year where we literally had three or four days to do it. It was really the most comical style of just people...all work stopped and everyone just sorta frantically wrote a quarter of the script. That must have been a crazy week.

John: Yeah. Everyone did their thing and sent it into a big pile and Rob came in and... Fixed it all.

John: Yeah. Which episode was that?

John: I'm not going to say. So we just have to guess?

Phil: Exactly.

[Editor's note: Place your bets, VM fans, place your bets. Which S2 episode do you think was thrown together in 3-4 days?] Do you guys prefer writing the episode by yourself or with someone else?

John: It's a mixed bag. You get paid for writing them, so us being both people with mortgages and families to feed, there's the appeal of you get more money if you write it by yourself. You get total control and you don't have to mess with anybody. But it's sociable and fun to write with somebody else as well. The argument could be made that you actually do better work because someone else looks at what you have done and tells you what's crap, and vice versa. That's something I don't think you could've done by yourself. So when you split the episodes, do you split it by task? Someone writes for this character, someone else writes for that character. Or do you do it scene by scene?

Phil: By storyline normally. One person will take the A story, the mystery of the week. And then the other person will take the B and C. And we usually alternate on that just because...that seems fair.

John: [chuckles]

Phil: There are times when there's an awesome A story that... We did Rat Saw God" last year and we both really wanted the A story of Amelia DeLongpre.

John: Oh, in the box.

Phil: a box.

John: [chuckles]

Phil: So there are moments when you have this sorta little awkward stare down over who gets what. Who decide who got what in that one?

John: It might have been a coin flip.

Phil: Coin flip, yeah. Or it might have been John saying, "Go ahead and take it." and then me seeing that as some sort of emotional double cross and saying, "You take it." And then an argument about, "No, you take it." And then somehow John triple-crossed me and he got it.

John: Not unlike the Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck showdown.

Phil: [chuckles]

John: We try to be gracious, but whatever. But every now and then, you want something. But I do think it came down to a coin toss. Wow, that's pretty cool. About the episodes: in "Return of the Kane," Phil wrote the "You stand idly by" line for Duncan. And that became kinda THE defining moment...

Klembom: [chuckles] ...for the fans of how they saw Duncan. So some fans assume that line applied to the character throughout his whole life, but I always thought it meant that's how he was after Lilly's death. Could you clarify which one it is? Because the fans are like, "Well, if he's this standing idly by all his life, why did Veronica even like him in the first place?"

Phil: Actually, that was a line that I distinctly remember was a Rob line. I'll leave that up to him to verify.

[Rob's response: I only intended it as an AFTER Lilly's death comment.]

John: I do think it's more of the latter.

Phil: Yeah.

John: We were seeing a more damaged version of Duncan after the murder than before. Which is always a tough thing to portray. Like, "This was X before and now you're seeing Y." I think that was always the challenge there. "Clash of the Tritons" — the fans really dug that episode. When you guys are writing an episode, do you have a sense of whether it's a good episode, a great episode, or just ugghh?

John: A lot of factors, because usually once you get it after such a flurry of writing it, rewriting it, re-rewriting it, and doing all that kind of stuff, and they you have to go through and rewrite it with the production people and everything, so it's kinda a frenzy to get it out there, and it almost feels like your sense of accomplishment is almost based on completion rather than, "We've really delivered an awesome episode."

Phil: Yeah. And there are moments that you know that are going to be cool and you'll be really disappointed if they weren't cool. Like when we had Veronica stumbling into a secret induction ceremony, and getting chased through the school, where you're just thinking, "Oh, we've never seen the school at night. This is kinda spooky. This is something that we've never seen out of Veronica." You do...I mean, like Amelia in the icebox...

John: Yeah, we were excited about that idea. We thought it would look cool.

Phil: Yeah.

John: We were excited about how that scene would play.

Phil: You almost reverse engineer an episode. Those are both are act three outs of the shows and usually that's like our...Klembom script.

John: [chuckles]

Phil: No, that's normally like the nucleus that you can sorta work things backwards from. And when you have something great like that, even before you have an A story, you do have this sort of confidence that eventually you're gonna have something cool. It's nice to have, instead of just trying to conceive of something wholesale, to have a little foothold and be like, "Well, there can be forty minutes of suck, but when we get to this..."

John: [chuckles]

Phil: " through the school hallway at night, people are going to dig it. " That was cool how she just jumped into the car.

John: Yeah, but then again that's the sort of stuff where I think you get a sense of how they're going to be once you start to see the early rough cuts and everything. I'm not sure if we're expert enough to be able to sorta look at a script and say, "This is dynamite." But there are times when an episode starts to comes together and we're like, "Oh, this is coming together really well." For me anyways. And I'm also enough of a self-critical person that I never sit back and smoke a cigar and congratulate myself on excellent work. I'm always like, "Well, I sort of fumbled through that."

Klembom: [chuckles]

John: I hope I don't get fired. Awww. So what have been your favorite episodes?

Phil: I really like "Rat Saw God" a lot. I think that scene with Clarence and Veronica getting together is just funny and cool. I don't know why. I wrote the B and C stories in that one. What other one?

John: I like "The Rapes of Graff," which by the way was Phil's title, just because A) we got to meet the Arrested Development kids. Michael Cera. Alia Shawkat? Is that right?

Phil: Yeah.

John: Yeah, they were cool and very bright kids and everything. And it was also sorta fun to put Veronica into this environment and run her around in a way...If there is one thing that is difficult about high school, especially during the second season, is trying to figure out new things to do in a high school where the supply of problems is finite. And to sorta then be able to throw here into a new environment and cut her loose on new subjects was just refreshing.

Phil: Yeah. [chuckles] We are going to run into that same problem here, but at that time it was kinda liberating. When you were writing "The Rapes of Graff," how much of that storyline did you have plotted out? Just the main idea?

Phil: That idea that this would be the mystery that we left unsolved because this would be our season three mystery. That we knew but we had not worked out... We had casual theories about how it was going to work out, so we sort of left ourselves open in various directions, but we had not worked out the actual step-by-step details. In "M.A.D." it was revealed that Shelly's party happened on December 3rd. But in the past episode [3.04 "Charlie Don't Surf"], it was summer.

Phil: Yeeeaaahhh...

John: That was Phil.

Phil: I can clarify that. I can clarify that because these are not Earth years.

John: [laughs]

Phil: Neptune is actually on a planet that has a shorter sorta revolution around the Sun. And if you do the math, you'll find out it's actually spot on.

John: [laughs] I had nothing to do with that.

Phil: I had nothing to do with that either. And I'm not going to assign blame.

John: [laughs] So someone else.

Phil: But yes, there was a discrepancy between the end-of-year year versus end of school year. Let's just call it a play on words.

John: [laughs]

Phil: It was a mistake. So which date is the official date?

Phil: I think the official date is going to be the December one? I think it's the December one. Oh good, so we don't have to change everything on our site.

Klembom: [chuckles]

Phil: Does that make me popular? For our site, yes, very popular.

Phil: Then that's my decision.

Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and comments. (December 23, 2006)

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