George Sloan ’04, graduated from Quinnipiac University‘s School of Communications with the goal of writing for television. Sloan has since written several episodes of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” In an interview with Sloan, he spoke of the show’s series finale, set for 8 p.m. on March 31 on CBS, and gave advice to Quinnipiac students and alumni.
What was it like to work on “How I Met Your Mother?”
Working on “How I Met Your Mother” was truly a dream come true. Growing up, I always dreamed of working in Hollywood. So when my bosses called me last year and asked if I wanted to become a full-time writer, it very much felt like my dream was being realized. I’m still just beginning my career as a writer, but I will always look back at my time on “How I Met Your Mother” with great fondness. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the four people who run the show – creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, director Pam Fryman and producer Suzy Greenberg – are four of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met in my life. They care so much about the people they work with, which creates a truly joyous working environment.
What could you tell us, if anything, about the finale?
It was really important to Carter and Craig that the show has closure. They didn’t want to leave any loose endings. It’s sort of become common knowledge that the ending was filmed many years ago. And while the specific details of the finale weren’t figured out until recently, somehow, after all this time, Carter and Craig stuck with their original vision. But as we all know from watching lots of series finales, ending a show is a very tricky thing. Some people are going to love it and some people are going to hate it. Unfortunately, I think it’s impossible to avoid that polarization because every fan wants something different out of the ending. I will tell you, though, that by the end of the final table read, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It’s a very moving ending. It was a really special thing to be a part of.
How many episodes did you write?
I wrote three episodes. My first episode, ironically titled “No Pressure,” happened while I was a writers’ assistant. I wrote my second episode, “Weekend at Barney’s,” the following year when I was the script coordinator. And I wrote my third episode, “Platonish,” this past year as a staff writer.
Of the episodes that you wrote, which was your favorite and why?
I really like all the episodes I worked on, but for nostalgic reasons, my first episode is probably my favorite. I frantically wrote the first draft of “No Pressure” over the course of three days while sitting at the kitchen table at my grandparents’ house in Florida. And when we filmed the episode, a big group of my family and friends flew out to LA to be extras in it. I remember a very surreal moment on the set. On the video monitors in front of me was Neil Patrick Harris, behind Neil was Conan O’Brien, who was gracious enough to do a cameo for us, in the background of that same shot, sitting at a booth in the bar, was my girlfriend, Meredith, and three of my best friends – Brian VandeBogert, Andy Soares and fellow Quinnipiac alum Justin Galui. And in the reflection of the monitor, sitting behind me, I could see my mom. It felt like my whole life had been leading up to that moment.
How and when did you get involved with “How I Met Your Mother?”
I started as a production assistant on “How I Met Your Mother” at the end of season three. My first day was June 13, 2008. I remember the exact day because it was my birthday. I got the job because the production coordinator, Reid Watanabe, called me up and said this show he’s working on needs a production assistant to work over the summer and help out the writers. I had worked with Reid about a year earlier on an HBO show called “In Treatment” and I guess he liked me. Honestly, I don’t know why, because I quit that job after only a couple months because the pay was terrible and I wasn’t making enough to pay my rent. But for whatever reason, Reid believed in me and he’s the reason I ended up at “How I Met Your Mother.”
Who is your favorite character to write for? And why?
All the characters are fun to write for, for various reasons. It’s hard not to say Barney, though, because you can get away with some pretty crazy things. One second he’s the smartest person on the planet and the next moment, he can’t do simple math.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When I was really, really young, I wanted to be a director. At some point, I realized there’s nothing to direct if you don’t have a script. So I started writing short films and sketches and forced my younger brothers to act in them.
How did Quinnipiac prepare you for your current success?
My favorite thing about Quinnipiac was the freedom we had to go off and work on our own projects. Not everyone did this, but my friends and I would go to the Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center equipment room every week and take out whatever cameras and microphones they had and just go off and shoot a short film. It was great practice and gave us the opportunity to fail without consequence.
What advice do you have for current students wishing to emulate your success?
If the only thing you can see yourself doing is working in TV and movies, then I encourage everybody to just move out to LA and give it a shot. There’s no shame in moving back home if it doesn’t work out, but at least give it a shot. Work as a production assistant for a few years to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Ask lots of questions. Read as much as you can – newspapers, magazines, books, scripts, everything. And then write as many scripts as you can. Writing is one of the few activities in life that is completely free. Write all the time. Everyone will suck at first. It’s important to write a lot so you get all the crap out of your system early. I still suck. But I’m way better than I was when I went to Quinnipiac. And for the love of god, be nice to everyone you meet.
What were you involved with at Quinnipiac?
I worked in the equipment room at the Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center. I did Student Programming Board for a little while. I took a great course at the Albert Schweitzer Institute. I wrote and directed a one-act play. I acted in a few comedy shows at the Clarice L. Buckman Theater. I submitted poems to the literary magazine. I tried to get involved with whatever writing or film-based activities I could find. I also did a work-study job at the Boys and Girls Club in New Haven and at an elementary school in Cheshire, which were both incredible, eye-opening experiences. And those are the kinds of thing I’ll probably end up writing about.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you want to be successful, you need to take the reins. Nobody is going to hand you anything, so go out and make it happen. Go out and be creative.