As of the publication of this article, Trey Parker has created 283 episodes of South Park.
He had a lot of help, of course. Trey has a writer’s room that helps him ideate and outline. And a team of artists that help him storyboard and illustrate. But the writing and editing work — the lonely work — that’s on Trey.
“Even though we’re a partnership,” said co-creator, Matt Stone, “the way the stories in South Park are expressed is completely through Trey. Trey’s the chef.”
Moreover, given the nature of the show (every episode is based on current events), Trey does all that work in less than 6 days. (He’s never missed a deadline.)
That is the premise of 6 Days to Air, a documentary that follows Trey and his team through the making of a South Park episode.
IMO every creator should watch 6 Days to Air.
Because it’s entertaining. You’ll have fun, even if you don’t regularly watch the show.
These are my 3 favorite quotes from the movie...
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“[Editing] just becomes brutal because you have to go back in tomorrow and you’ve got to start taking scenes that are there and figuring out, Okay, how can we make this same thing happen in half the time and rewrite it.
I always call it The Rule Of Replacing ‘Ands’ With Either ‘Buts’ Or ‘Therefores’.
So it’s always like, This happens AND this happens, AND then this happens...
When I can go back and write it and change that to, This happens, THEREFORE this happens, BUT this happens — whenever you can replace your ‘ands’ with ‘buts’ or ‘therefores’ — it makes for better writing.”
This quote alone is worth the 40 minutes and 21 seconds you’ll spend watching the doc. But there’s more…
On avoiding burnout:
“Sometimes, to get my brain working in a different way, I’d sit there and put LEGOs together. Because you’ve got an instruction book and you just sit there and you do exactly what something else tells you to do — instead of you having to tell somebody what to do.
And that’s just therapeutic.”
Plus, playing with LEGOs is an analog activity, which is good if you’re constantly working through a screen, on a laptop or a phone. It balances you out somehow.
On doubting yourself:
“Every Tuesday, [Matt] has to talk me off a cliff. Every show, I’m like, This is a horrible show and I don’t want anyone to see it.
There was one episode we did, the first show of the season. And I’m like, I’ve lost it… I don’t know how to do this anymore… I just went home and I was depressed and I couldn’t sleep. But I got here the next day and people were like, Hey people really liked that show. It was the World of Warcraft episode.
And it’s still, to this day, one of our most famous episodes that people cite as one of the best of all time — and I literally wanted to kill myself with that episode. It’s crazy.”
The moral? Step away from your draft. Staring at it for too long will cloud your judgment.