Exclusive: Dawson’s Creek Scribe Gina Fattore Shares The Creative Process

14 02 2010

How does a writer get from King of the Hill to Dawson’s Creek and later Gilmore Girls to Californication? Who chooses episode titles? Do The Powers That Be buy into “ships”?

In our exclusive phone interview, Gina Fattore, who went from writer to co-executive producer in four seasons on Dawson’s Creek, gives her answers to those questions, sharing her personal journey in the world of television.

TeenDramaWhore: How did you first get involved with Dawson’s Creek?

Gina Fattore: It was very straight-forward in that my agent just called. I started out in comedy. The first show I worked on was a sitcom and the first episode of television I ever wrote was a show called King of the Hill. At the time my agent said to me, “You gotta write something with a girl in it. This King of the Hill script, not really working for you.” At the time Ally McBeal was on and it was during that moment when that was a really interesting show. I just decided that that was what I was going to write for my spec script, my writing sample. It seemed a good show to write but it was a one-hour show and I had never really written any one-hour shows before and I wasn’t consciously trying to move into drama. That was just the sample I chose to write. My agent showed it to this guy [Dawson’s Creek executive producer] Paul Stupin, who was also a client of my agent. He said, “You know, I have this comedy writer and she wrote this drama script for Ally McBeal. Would you give it a read and just tell me what you think, what your thoughts are?” Paul read it and brought me in for a meeting and then hired me. Then four years later, it was like I had written a zillion episodes of Dawson’s Creek without ever really intending to become a drama writer.

TDW: Wow. Can you walk me through the process of writing an episode? Viewers don’t usually know all the steps involved.

Fattore: Right. We always thought it was funny back in the day when I would go online and look at the recaps and stuff like that people had done, because obviously the episodes start as an outline. They always start as some sort of prose document and then you have to turn it into an actual script and then they film it and then people out there on the Internet are always turning it back into an outline, which always amuses me.

A typical episode of a show like Dawson’s back in the day, we’re in a room. We have ideas and we know what the larger arc of the season is. It’s either a 12-episode arc or a full-season arc. Within that framework, ideas will be pitched or presented. I didn’t write this particular episode but let’s say it’s prom. And you know in that particular episode it’s going to be promo. It just gets more specific as the week goes on and if things are going well, you might spend the week trying to break a story and figure out what each individual scene is going to be in the show, who’s in the scene, what’s the dramatic purpose of the scene and how does it move the story forward. You just spend a week getting it all outlined and then someone gets the assignment. You probably know going into the week that this is your assignment. You’ve probably been given [notice]. “Oh, here. Episode six is going to be yours. Here’s the heads-up.” So, especially if you know it’s your episode, you want to show up there prepared with ideas. Ultimately, the decisions all lie in the hands of the showrunner, the head writer, who’s going to decide and sign off on every single one of those scenes. Then once you’ve got your basic story in outline form, it has to be approved by the network and the studio, depending on who else is involved. Then once you have that approval, you go off and begin writing the script.

TDW: So when you’re not actually the person with the “written by” credit on an episode, you’re still responsible for generating ideas for it?

Fattore: Yes. That’s an interesting question. Different shows do it different ways. Most of the ideas, I think, on any given show are coming from the showrunner because he is the ultimate authority on what is going to end up going in the show. But if you have a group of writers–we had only four on the last year of Dawson’s Creek to as many as maybe 12 or 15 back in the glory days when the economy was different– you know your job is to show up every day and have ideas and ways of executing the stories that everyone has in mind for the larger arc. There aren’t a lot of serialized shows left on TV anymore. A lot of the crime shows, those people show up every day with lists of, “here’s stories about crime” but it’s harder on a serialized show because ultimately whatever you’re pitching has to track with what happened the episode before. But, yes, if you’re on staff, you’re definitely expected to show up with as many other ideas as you can. If you have a good idea in the room, you’re more likely to be given the assignment. If it was your idea originally, the showrunner might say, “Okay, this is going to be yours.” You get to go off and write that.

TDW: Focusing specifically on the ones you did write, a bunch of them happen to my favorites and some of the most memorable ones of the series. Going chronologically, the first one is The Longest Day [Episode 3.20], which has just such a fascinating frame to it, the way you tell the story repeatedly from all these different angles and it’s not until the end that the whole picture becomes clear. How did you come up with that?

Fattore: That is very funny because I was just telling that story to someone recently because I do remember it quite well. It was very exciting. At that point, in the overall arc of the season, the next thing that needed to happen in episode 20 was Dawson [James Van Der Beek] finds out about Joey [Katie Homes] and Pacey [Joshua Jackson]. That was the one thing that we had. In a traditional Dawson’s Creek story structure at that time, we’d start out and say, “How are we going to tell that story?” Probably we would put that event at the end of the third act. First act, establish the problem. Second act, talk about the problem further, because nothing ever happened on Dawson’s. There wasn’t a lot of action. But then third act, you would want the conflict to come to a head. So we were talking about the story and the most traditional possible way and I think it was [writer-producer] Greg Berlanti–at that time he was sort of the showrunner; he was an upper-level writer–who said, “How can we make the third act break the first act break?” So, essentially, we started talking about that. The idea of seeing that moment where Dawson finds out about them became the first act break.

People always mention Rashomon, the Japanese movie, which, frankly, I’ve never even seen. But the structure we came up, having three characters we would follow through the day, allowed us to have that moment everyone wanted to see before the first commercial break. I can’t remember exactly what the second act is but it takes that scene a little bit further and shows you a little bit more and then the third act, you understand finally what it is Dawson knows and how he already knows. To this day, it is one of the best creative experiences I ever had because it was just so much fun to do as a puzzle. It was really exciting. Telling stories is often about, what is the information you have left out? What have you not shown the audience? When you show it to them, it makes an impact. It’s a really great memory to think about that episode.

TDW: It really just has double the awesomeness, because we had been waiting for that story to climax for so long and then you added the unique storytelling on top of it.

Fattore: Yes. It was a question of, “Well, how can we have this thing happen but have it fill up that whole hour of television? And that was where it started from. My hat is really tipped to Greg Berlanti on that one because there were a bunch of us in the room that day or that week trying to figure out the story but it was his inspiration that kind of led us down that road. The whole thing was a really fun experience because it was kind of the only time in Dawson’s Creek history that I had such a warm reception to a script. Everybody really liked it and it was a great experience for me.

TDW: Continuing with that season, the season 3 finale was the first of several finales that you wrote. That one was True Love [Episode 3.23]. The title alone is nice because it harkens back to the name of the Pacey’s boat. It made me wonder, though, how episode titles are chosen.

Fattore: Usually the writer, when you’re writing the actual episode, has a shot at coming up with the title themselves. Like when you turn in your draft to the show runner, on most shows, you probably give it a title yourself based on what you’ve written. I am obsessed with the movie The Philadelphia Story [which has a boat named True Love]. I think it was probably Greg Berlanti writing one of those early episodes in season 3 that involved Pacey’s boat and I was just joking with him about The Philadelphia Story because it is one of my favorites. I think he used [the boat name] based on me joking with him about it. Then we all worked on the finale of season 3. I honestly don’t remember in that specific case who came up with the episode title but I would venture to guess it was probably Greg Berlanti who did. It could’ve actually been a title that we sort of knew all along because we knew we were going to end up having the boat be a big part of the whole year.

TDW: It was. And then the next season, season 4, you also wrote that finale, Coda [Episode 4.23], which is just cleverly named given the structure of a television show. But the final scene also mirrors the season 1 finale [Episode 1.13, Decisions].

Fattore: That episode [the season 4 finale] [writer-producer] Tom Kapinos and I wrote together. When he and I would do that, he would write the first act & the fourth act and I would write the second act & the third act, because he likes to begin things and he likes to end things. He doesn’t really like to do the middle of things. But the scene you’re referring to is a really long scene between Dawson and Joey in his bedroom.

TDW: Yes.

Fattore: Tom wrote that. That’s 100 percent Tom. I can’t take any credit for that. But for me, with season 1 of the show, I always tried to go back and reference it. I watched it over and over to keep in mind. Not every TV writer is like that but I like to re-watch things and keep it in mind. When you’re desperate for ideas, you can find inspiration anywhere.

TDW: Then the season 5 finale [Episode 5.23, Swan Song] you wind up with everyone in the airport.

Fattore: Yeah, that one I probably don’t remember quite so well but again, Tom and I wrote it together. He would’ve written the beginning and end. I wrote the middle. It’s so funny the things I remember now after all these years. I do remember there was a Jen [Michelle Williams] and Jack [Kerr Smith] scene in the airport that I was happy with and proud of. That was another thing I did–over the years I wrote a lot of little Jen-Jack moments that I was very happy with. It was fun. So obviously everybody was going on a trip or not going on a trip; that’s the whole point of the airport. But it’s kind of a dead zone in my memory. You hit upon one I really don’t remember that well.

TDW: Jen finally relented and was going to spend the summer with her parents. Jack stumbles across the guy in his fraternity who was secretly gay. Then Joey and Dawson had one of their confrontations.

Fattore: Of course.

TDW: And Pacey got onto the airport speaker system to profess his love for Audrey [Busy Philipps].

Fattore: Yes, it’s all sort of coming back to me now.

TDW: I understand it’s hard for you when you’ve done so much work since then.

Fattore: It’s funny because back in the day, I had a pretty amazing recall of the episodes. And to be honest, it’s funny what you asked about the episode titles because I often refer to the shows by their number. Like The Longest Day is 3.20 to me. I think it’s because the titles do change. The first draft might be called something and then there’s a legal clearance issue so it may change. But obviously we do the episodes in order and every episode has a number that never changes. So for me, it was always like, “Oh, episode 3.15 [Crime and Punishment] and 3.16 [To Green, With Love] is Joey paints a mural.” I just have it in my head based on the numbers and not what the actual titles of the episodes are.

TDW: That’s so interesting. There’s been random fans I come across that do know the episodes just by the numbers and it blows my mind.

Fattore: I realize that it sounds crazy. One of the executives from The WB used to tease me about it because it makes you sound a little crazy. But around here, around the office, there’s always about 5 different episodes in play. There’s one that’s shooting that day, one that’s prepping that day, one that’s in editing, one that’s being outlined, one that the first draft is being read by the showrunner. If a TV show is running successfully, there should be about five or six episodes in play at any time. To keep track of them all, it always just seemed easier to me to remember the numbers.

TDW: Wow. Well, I have a couple more episodes. In season 6 you have Spiderwebs [Episode 6.08], which is when No Doubt performs. I’m curious to know if you find it limiting or easier when you have a central event that everyone has to be at.

Fattore: That’s a very good question because a lot of times with TV, I think it is easier when you have something that’s so specific that you have to work around. I don’t remember when exactly that idea of the tie-in with the concert came up but in terms of what we knew we had to do–we were going to showcase the concert and we needed to get everyone to go to the concert–in a way, that is an easier assignment. Anything that narrows down your options is easier because you’re just like “This is what we’re doing this week. We’re gonna get those kids to a No Doubt concert if it’s the last thing we do!”

TDW: That episode really showcases Jensen Ackles [C.J.].

Fattore: Oh, yes! He’s on Supernatural now!

TDW: Yeah, he’s gone on to have a great career with that.

Fattore: He was a really nice guy, I have to say. I like people who just show up and know the material and they’re really professional. I didn’t know him all that well but he was a good guy so I was not surprised that he went on to do other things–with Dean [Jared Padalecki] of Gilmore Girls!

TDW: I do have a Gilmore Girls question a little later one . The next episode on my list is another one with unique storytelling and that’s Castaways [Episode 6.15]. You have a unique location, limited characters and a balance of tension, seriousness and fun.

Fattore: You’ve hit on my mom’s favorite episode of Dawson’s Creek that I ever wrote! Again, that was a really good experience for me. It was kind of a gift from Tom Kapinos. There’s some old 80s movie that involves being trapped in a department store. I had never actually seen the movie but we were just sitting around one day joking about it and the idea of Joey and Pacey being trapped in some sort of department store. It just seemed like, especially after all the years I had worked on the show and all the episodes I had written at that point, it was like a little present to me that I would get to do this and have it sort of be like a play. It was fun to write. Tom gave me little notes on it that helped me get the fight scene to a place where I was really happy with it. They shot it and they did a great job. I think it ended up being the Kmart where we actually shot it. I was really happy with the way it turned out.

TDW: The last one is Joey Potter and the Capeside Redemption [Episode 6.22], which, to me, is like a series finale but it wasn’t actually the series finale.

Fattore: I would agree with that. That’s how it was always intended, as a series finale. We knew at a certain point, I guess, that [creator] Kevin [Williamson] would come back and do his two hours of TV but we were operating under the assumption all year season 6 that it would be the last year of the show. From the beginning of the season, what we were doing was ending the series. That was a cool experience to have as a storyteller, to say, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to figure out a way to end this series.” We intended it to work, obviously, without anyone ever seeing the other [episodes, 6.23-4, All Good Things…Must Come To An End] and, again, that was a funny one because Tom wrote the beginning and the end and I wrote the middle parts. By that point, that was just the way that we did it. The end was so memorable. He wrote this huge voiceover for Joey. The song that plays at the end of that episode–maybe it didn’t make it on to the DVDs because all the music got changed–it’s one of my favorite songs and Tom ended up using it in the show. It was very meaningful to me at the time.

TDW: What song is that?

Fattore: It’s a Hollies song; The Air That I Breathe. It’s from the early 70s maybe or the late 60s. It was always one of my favorite songs from when I was kid and we didn’t usually use a lot of old songs. We used very much the more contemporary music. At the time, the “chick rock,” they called it.

TDW: In one of the episodes, it might’ve been True Love, Jen makes a joke about that. It was a very meta comment. She says something like “soon to be out-of-date contempo-pop songs plays” in the background of their lives.

Fattore: Oh, yes. That sounds like a Kapinos kind of thing. It really has been a long time since season 3.

TDW: Joey Potter and The Capeside Redemption was directed by Michael Lange, who I interviewed a few weeks ago. I was wondering, now that I’m also speaking with you, what relationship, if any, does the writer have with the director?

TDW: In TV its kind of interesting because the directors just come in and do an episode here or there. If you’re a writer and a producer on the show, you’re there the whole time for every episode and you’re involved in the conversations that are going on usually for all the episodes. But it’s a lot of fun if you’re allowed to participate in the filming. We always had to get on the plane and go to Wilmington to meet the director. Michael Lange also did one of my other episodes. 4.04 [Future Tense], actually, he did. When I was early in my career, just starting out, you can learn so much if you’re just sitting there in the chair next to the director, watching how things get from the script to actual film. That helps you with your writing immeasurably because you realize what can be accomplished in the time that we have. TV is like making an independent film. Every Dawson’s Creek episode was shot in seven days. We had, you know, not tons of money. The visual style of The WB was very conservative, so it’s not like the directors were doing amazing things visually. But Wilmington is a very pretty place and I always felt Dawson’s as a show looked great, compared to a lot of the shows that are shot mostly on stages.

TDW: You did a lot of episodes but several of them were key Joey-Pacey episodes. Did you find yourself getting into them as a couple or did you end up liking a particular character more than another?

Fattore: When you get a job on a TV show, you didn’t create the show. It’s not your voice or your vision. When I got the job on Dawson’s, there were already 35 episodes of the show in existence. All of season 1 and all of season 2. I watched them all and tried my hardest to make it my own and learn how to write it. Greg Berlanti would tease me sometimes because–I realized it I guess as we were doing it–there’s a lot of parts of my life that are sort of similar to the Joey Potter saga. I did grow up in a fairly small town. I did get very good grades. If you remember the snail episode from season 1 [Episode 1.10, Double Date], Joey was clearly established well before I worked there as the kind of girl who needed to get an A+. She was really a perfectionist when it came to her school work and she clearly saw that as a way to get out of this small town and go to a good college. In some odd way, that was exactly who I was as a person. I grew up in a small town and all I ever wanted to do was go away.

As writers, what we all had in common with the character of Dawson was that Dawson was essentially a writer. I know Dawson was a filmmaker but Kevin Williamson was a writer and that was his vision of his own teenage years. It was easiest for me to relate to Joey as a character and also Dawson. That’s how you find your way into something you didn’t create. You figure out where it intersects with your own life and your own concerns and issues. And it’s always been my own personal theory that to have succeeded on Dawson’s Creek and not get fired, it was crucial that you had a really horrible experience as a teenager. Because I think that anyone who was happy as a teenager couldn’t really understand that show and couldn’t really write it because it was about teen angst. So if you were a person who really thought it was awesome to be a teenager and you went to parties and had fun and no angst about it, probably you were not going to succeed writing that show.

TDW: With identifying with Joey and Dawson, does that mean they were also your romantic preference?

Fattore: No. You know, it was always funny to me at the time the way people got so invested in that stuff. I do love old movies, especially romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s. Joey and Pacey had really been established from the get-go as this bantering duo that argued with each other and writing them was always very fun for me. When you look at season 3, I wrote an incredibly large number of episodes and the main arc of that season was about Joey and Pacey coming together as a couple so I think people thought [I favored them]. I’m sure if you go back and ask everyone who worked on season 3, it wasn’t like I was pitching things that were particularly, “Oh, we have to do this with Joey and Pacey!” We all just got the assignments that we got and at the end of the year, I had all these assignments that seemed to involved those stories. I think it was easier for me to write–not easy but it was fun for me to write–because of my love for those old, traditional romantic comedies, like It Happened One Night, The Philadelphia Story, Holiday and all those movies which are about bickering people who discover they’re really meant for each other. That was a story I found interesting and fun to tell. It was so fun to hear what the fans were saying about it at the time, to look on the Internet and see what people were saying, because when you’re writing it, you just process it differently, I think. You’re not really rooting for anybody. You’re just doing your assignment.

TDW: At what point did you get the co-executive producer title?

Fattore: After season 4, Greg Berlanti left the show and went on to develop and do Everwood. Tom Kapinos took over as the showrunner and the head writer at the beginning of season 5. My original contact had been for two years, season 3 and season 4. When I came back for season 5, Tom became executive producer of the show and that’s when I became co-executive producer. That was my title for seasons 5 and 6, which just means you have a lot more responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the writing process. That was my big promotion between seasons 4 and 5.

TDW: About two years after Dawson’s ended, you had Reunion, which I was a big fan of.

Fattore: Well, that was not my show. I was just a co-executive producer on that show, which was created by a guy named Jon Harmon Feldman, who funnily enough worked on season 1 of Dawson’s Creek and season 2 of Dawson’s Creek. That was just a weird coincidence. He created Reunion and then he hired me to work with him on that show. It was just funny to meet him because we both worked on Dawson’s Creek but at different times. But, yeah, that was a show that not a lot of people saw. It was only on for a short time.

TDW: It left us with so many cliff-hangers! Do you think your experiences with Dawson’s Creek, which had a long run, and Reunion, which had a short run, prepared you for Gilmore Girls?

Fattore: You know what, what really did prepare me for Gilmore Girls was the Dawson’s Creek experience of actually ending a show. I had done that last year on Dawson’s, where we always knew it was going be the end of the series. On Gilmore Girls, I worked on the very last year and that whole year we weren’t certain that the show would end because there was talk about Lauren [Graham, Lorelai] and Alexis [Bledel, Rory] possibly renewing the deals and maybe the show would continue in some form. But we had to prepare in case the show was ending, so for me, it was an interesting experience to have again, from a storytelling standpoint of finishing something. More often, the more typical TV writer experience is just to be canceled. You come into work one day and it’s like “This is the day” and you’re canceled. There’s no sense of completion and there’s no ability to finish telling the story that you started telling. That was one of the reasons I took that job on Gilmore. It’s an interesting creative experience to have.

TDW: Were you executive producer on that?

Fattore: Nope. Still co-executive producer. I’m not as successful as you think I am!

TDW: Oh, goodness. Well, I want to give you the credit anyway.

Fattore: I really appreciate that. That’s good to know because, of course, in Hollywood how you’re perceived is really more important than who you are as a person.

TDW: I don’t really know if this question applies as much anymore but did you feel pressure coming into a show that was so established, had been nominated for many awards…

Fattore: Yeah. It’s a very unusual experience to come into something that late in the game. [Creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino is like a legend. That was her show and she wrote and directed so much of it, even more than a usual showrunner. Not all showrunners direct their work. It was her world for 6 seasons. That’s more than 100 episodes. I had to sit down and watch 6 seasons of Gilmore Girls because I wanted to do my homework and I had really only been an occasional viewer of the show over the years. It was daunting because so much of it had already been put down. It’s so far along in its history and that means everything  has already been done and there’s that frustrating feeling of, “Oh, this would work!” but no, we’ve already done that already.

TDW: From there, more or less, you went to Californication.

Fattore: Yes, that is exactly what happened. That year when I was doing Gilmore Girls, Tom Kapinos, who had been my old friend from Dawson’s Creek, was essentially doing a pilot and that pilot got picked up March of the year I was doing Gilmore and that was the time when we weren’t sure whether Gilmore would come back. It was looking like Lauren would walk away and the show would end. But he had said to me all along that he wanted me to come work with him if his show got picked up. Frankly, I was pretty much hoping at that point that Gilmore would end. There’s a part of me as a TV writer that wants every show to have a fair ending and not sort of continue in some other form with the stars doing limited commitments or changing it up in some odd way. It’s always nicer creatively if something can just end in the moment in its original form.

TDW: You know, that really applies to me and some others fan who look at One Tree Hill that way right now. This season, two of its main cast members didn’t return and there’s three new ones.

Fattore: Right. I heard about this.

TDW: Not everybody agrees but I think it should’ve ended last season with the cast still “intact.”

Fattore: Obviously the networks have a lot say over these types of things and Gilmore in its seventh season was still doing well, as far as I know. I’m not a big follower of the ratings. Every show I’ve ever been on, they just tell you when you’re canceled so I feel like you just keep doing the job and when the ratings are so bad that you’re canceled, they’ll come in and tell you you’re canceled. But Gilmore was still doing well at the end, at least by WB–I’m sorry–CW standards.

TDW: It’s interesting that you went from King of the Hill to Dawson’s Creek, which is very different in terms of audience, theme and content. And then you went from Gilmore Girls to Californication, which is also very different in terms of audience, theme and content.

Fattore: That’s true.

TDW: Is that a weird transition for you?

Fattore: It’s funny because most people that know me think it’s weird that I work on Californication because I’m not the sort of person who really watches a lot of that stuff. Like I said, I watch a lot of old movies and they’re Turner Classic Movies and they’re mostly rated G. But Tom is my friend and the experience of working on Dawson’s together was very bonding. TV is like boot camp. You’re making 23 hours of TV.  We did that every year on Dawson’s for four years in a row. The experience of making TV is so collaborative. So, really, when you’re taking a job, I feel like it’s almost less about the material and more about the people. Who’s doing it? Who wrote it? What are their creative goals? What are they trying to accomplish? And I have to say, it’s so cool to work on a Showtime show just because there’s such a reverence for the writer, a real respect. They really let the writers and the showrunners and the creators of the show have a real vision and do what they want to do without a lot of interference, and that’s a real gift and a blessing to anyone who’s trying to be TV writer because it just gets exhausting when you work in an environment where you get many, many, many notes and not just from the network but from actors and studios, too. So just imagine everything you write, you’ve written maybe 12 drafts of it before it even reaches the TV screen. It’s just very exhausting and it burns you out and it zaps your spirit so you just end up losing whatever joy you had originally in the job.

TDW: So how’s your spirit right now? What are you up to right now?

Fattore: That’s a good question. We’re just starting season 4 of Californication so we’re in the earlier planning stages, which is fun because you just have, like I said, so much freedom on a cable show to do whatever you want to do with the characters and that’s what we’re doing right now. I’m not a big multi-tasker. I try to focus on one thing at a time. All my years on Dawson’s Creek kind of led me to that. TV is very all-encompassing. Once you’re going and you’re in the middle of the season, you just start living completely in the world of that show.

TDW: It’s been about ten years since your first Dawson’s Creek episode. Besides making you feel old, how does that otherwise make you feel?

Fattore: It’s funny because I still every day work with Tom Kapinos. We met on season 3 of [Dawson‘s]. We had never met before. There weren’t enough offices so they forced us to share an office. We’re both kind of shy, like most writers, and I think we didn’t speak for like the first week or so and then we eventually became friends. For me, there were a lot of really stressful experiences, especially during season 3 when there were a lot changes at the last minute but it was really learning to write, learning to write TV. Instead of going to film school or taking a class, they paid me and I got to make these little films. It’s very unusual in TV to be writing something and not be rewritten substantially. Season 3 early on or parts of The Longest Day were probably written by Greg Berlanti. Obviously I was getting rewritten at various points. But it’s such an amazing feeling to have your work produced, to have millions of people see it. I just have nothing but warm feelings for that time. We joke about it and laugh about it and, you know, I’m not proud of every single episode I wrote but if you’re going to write hours and hours and hours of TV, not all of it is going to be great. Some of it is going to be at a certain level. And honestly, I’ve watched a lot of these other teen shows come on and I am an old fogie but I have to say I think Dawson’s was different and special because it was emotional. Almost all these other shows that I’ve seen–like I tried to watch Gossip Girl and I didn’t get very far with The O.C. I feel like there’s something about being a teenager and the friendships that you form when you’re a teenager and that they’re so important to you and capturing the essence of that is what I think Dawson’s captured so beautifully. It wasn’t about sex and partying and all of these sort of Gossip Girl-type things. Obviously all of these shows are different in different ways but I always look back to the moments, especially in season 1. Frankly, people, I think, like to be glib and cynical but I think when you’re teenager, you don’t want to be glib and cynical about your friends or your love life or what you think at the time is your love life. I think Dawson’s had something there that really captured people’s attention and the actors obviously really caught on at the time. It was able to convey this genuine teenage angst and this emotion that people make fun of but is real. I know I felt it and I think most teenagers felt it.

TDW: I agree and I think that was beautifully put. My last question was going to be asking what you thought the legacy of the show is but I think you really hit that already.

Fattore: I think about this stuff a lot, which is probably kind of sad but a lot of my career has been spent writing this kind of thing. I do try to watch these other shows because I think, “what are they trying to do?” And obviously all the writers I worked with on Dawson’s, we talked about this stuff all the time. Dawson’s was, originally from Kevin’s pilot, simultaneously funny and emotional. There are moments in that pilot that really are quite funny and there are moments where, like, Joey’s predicament just struck home for everyone involved. That idea that you like someone and he doesn’t like you back is so primal to every teenager. I guess that’s my weird way of saying that I am proud of it. And it’s always nice to talk to someone who has seen and understood and appreciated the work because it was a long time ago now but obviously it lives on.

Come back next week for another exclusive interview!

TDW Interview Index

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5 responses

14 02 2010
em

Wow, this interview was amazing. Really interesting to read! Thank you. For me having Joey/Pacey as my all time favorite couple, I’m so happy Gina Fattore was a writer because she wrote my three favorite episodes of the show , “The Longest Day”, “Castaways” and “True Love”. She’s amazing!

14 02 2010
Lexy

wow she wrote my favorite episodes! and i loved reunion. i feel like fox cancels shows way too soon.

also about the calling episodes by their numbers – i do that all the time! with one tree hill and the oc. i know some dawson’s creek, too. every time i’m talking to my friends about the episodes they think im crazy when i go “oh, you need to watch episode 118 of one tree hill….its episode 3 of disc 5.” haha

14 02 2010
Meriam

Very insightful interview! I knew very little before this about how episodes are written and the whole creative process behind one-hour drama’s, so this was very interesting. I was also a huge Dawson’s Creek fan and found what she had to say about her work/experience on that show very entertaining to read.
I agree with her-I definitely wouldn’t put Gossip Girl and Dawson’s in the same category at all, as fun as GG is to watch at times-it’s not nearly as deep on the emotional and sincerity level as Dawson’s was. I also loved learning about how my favorite couple on that show(joey&pacey) were written!
Great work!

28 03 2011
Isadora

I LOVE me some Gina Fattore. And I love the writer of this piece for obsessively focusing on The Creek! You did fail to mention my early favorite of hers (3.9)!

29 03 2011
Shannon

Gina Fattore brought a lot of awesome heart to Dawson’s Creek. It’s a little weird to think she is now associated with Californication. Based on the episodes and storylines he brought to the Creek (where they obviously did not fit) I can totally see how Tom Kapinos went there, but–to me–Gina Fattore is too closely associated with that sweetness and sarcasm of Dawson’s, and later the quick-witted comedy of Gilmore Girls. Californication is the polar opposite of these types of shows.

And I *always* caught that kind of classy old romantic comedy vibe to her writing for the couple of Pacey and Joey, which was so wonderful! It’s funny that she calls the Castaways episode a “gift” to her–because that’s exactly how it was perceived by so many fans themselves.

It’s no secret that the quality of the show went downhill, characters became barely recognizable, and the true heart of it basically disappeared in the last 2 seasons, but for one brief and shining moment Gina Fattore brought it all back, and returned Pacey and Joey back to the story we knew and loved. And I always love her for that!

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