At the SXSW festival in Austin last month, CreativeFuture chatted with Alec Berg, Executive Producer of HBO’s Silicon Valley, who opened up about the creative process and what goes into making one of the hottest shows on television.
Here are six things we learned:
1. On set, sometimes things fall apart.
Even for Berg and his team of seasoned writers, once production starts, “things always fall apart, and you’re always fixing things at the last minute,” he says.
2. Even successful comedy writers have trouble predicting what audiences will find funny.
Despite credits that include Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Berg says: “As I do this more and more, I don’t get any better at knowing what will work and what won’t. There’s no ability that you get that you accrue over time.”
3. Casting rules are meant to be broken.
When casting Silicon Valley, creators Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky sought out “funny and interesting” people rather than actors with clout. That has proven to be a winning formula.
4. Sometimes you have to kick the door down.
Berg immersed himself in creative writing and filmmaking from a young age. Upon moving to LA, he and his writing partner were persistent, taking every meeting they could. “I don’t want to say we kicked the door down, but we forced it open slowly one inch at a time,” Berg said. “The barrier to actually making something has more or less disappeared. You know, there are YouTube stars and Vine stars who are getting the notice of the established TV industry. So people are breaking in in a lot of different ways.”
5. Being a creative can mean hours of self-loathing.
“What does [creativity] mean to me? A lot of agony, a lot of hours of self-loathing, a lot of self-denigration, stomach issues,” Berg joked. “But ultimately, the reason that I got into this business is that I am not interested in or qualified to do anything else.”
6. Great television shows are expensive to make and employ a lot of people. Piracy means less of what we love, not more.
“The show that I do requires… a huge crew—a lot of really talented skilled professionals – hair, makeup, wardrobe, set design. You know, the grip and electric departments are all super skilled crafts people. And they all earn their living doing this. If people can’t spend the money to make these things and actually make a profit on it, this whole system goes away… “You know, Game of Thrones is an amazing television show. It’s also unbelievably expensive. So, if you steal Game of Thrones, eventually they don’t make the money they need to make to spend more to make more. They spend less, the quality drops, and it cycles all the way down.”