What goes on in a TV writers’ room? Dennis Heaton answers our burning questions

On October 3, Heaton will join 10 other internationally renowned television showrunners for a 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival event entitled Meet the Showrunners.

There are few places on Earth quite like a television writers’ room, according to Dennis Heaton.

Heaton has spent hundreds of hours in writers’ rooms, as a scribe and producer on shows like Motive, Ghost Wars, and The Order, the last of which will hit Netflix next spring. He’s also the president of the Writers Guild of Canada.

If anyone can answer our burning questions about the inner workings of a writers’ room, it’s Dennis Heaton.

“For me, a writers’ room is a combination of a confessional booth and An Evening at the Improv,” says Heaton in a recent interview. “It’s got to be a place where everybody is able to talk about the stuff that you can’t talk about at a dinner party, and you know that that embarrassing story you’re going to tell about the worst date you ever had in your life that ended in you misunderstanding a social cue and making a complete ass out of yourself is not going to be shared publicly with everybody else. It’s got to be an extremely safe space.”

Oh, and it should have at least one couch, adds Heaton – and ample wall space for corkboards and Post-It notes.

Heaton has a standing list of rules for the writers’ room that he’ll run through at the beginning of every session, even if it’s with a group of returning writers: Best idea wins; improv rules apply (“Nobody is allowed to shoot down somebody else’s idea with a ‘no,’” he says.