Recently, the hit television show Modern Family won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series for the third consecutive year. Since it first premiered three years ago, Modern Family has garnered a total of 12 Emmys for categories that include acting, directing and — perhaps most importantly — for writing. Without a doubt, Modern Family is firing on all cylinders, which is great news for the Los Angeles economy. Each year, more than 200 cast and crew owe their jobs to the success of Modern Family, a production that rains $20 million on L.A. each production season.
But before any of this good newscan happen, it all has to start with a script. Without a team of great writers crafting stories audiences want to see, the jobs and spending would not exist. We thought it was time for Film Works to get an inside look at the life of a screenwriter working on a L.A.-based television production. Modern Family was an obvious choice.
The team at 20th Century Fox Television, where Modern Family is based, recognize the economic importance television production has on the local economy and share Film Works’ commitment to educating Californians about the importance of keeping TV in the state. Earlier this year, the production team at the studio incorporated the Film Works logo into their “Made in L.A.” messaging that adorns the Modern Family production trucks.
Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, the creators and executive producers ofModern Family liked our idea for a story and graciously arranged for Film Works to visit the writers’ offices on the 20th Century Fox Studios. There, we met with Bill Wrubel, one of the “Modern Writers” and a co-executive producer on the show.
Wrubel’s career as a Hollywood screenwriter spans more than 15 years and includes writing and producing credits on critically acclaimed shows like Modern Family, Ugly Betty, Will & Grace and Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night. Wrubel, who was born and raised in New Jersey, earned a degree in English from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. After college, Wrubel moved to New York and worked as a playwright and backstage at the Atlantic Theater Company. While Wrubel’s time in New York did little to prepare him for television, he proudly notes that New York City is where he “learned the craft of writing” by working with great writers like David Mamet and Spalding Gray.
Wrubel said it “was very hard to earn a living” as a New York playwright. At the same time, he never gave much thought to writing for television. But then things started to change. Wrubel said shows that came along in the early 1990s likeFrasier, Seinfeld, Friends and NYPD Blue (which is one of Wrubel’s favorites) began to change his mind. “I started to feel that the quality of the writing on television was as good, if not better, than for plays produced on Broadway,” Wrubal told Film Works.
After making the big decision to come to Los Angeles, one of the first jobs he landed was …
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