Max Borenstein’s Furry Friends Assisted in ‘Winning Time’ Writers’ Room

·4-min read

For Max Borenstein, penning Season 1 of “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” wasn’t his ideal writing situation. While he used his home office in Venice and spent most of his days there alone with his cats — more on them below! — now he’s excited to be in a real writers’ room for Season 2.

“We have the house for the second season that we’ve been renting in Venice,” he says. “After spending the duration of the quarantine writing one on Zoom from home, I’ve had about enough solitude for a moment. I find it much more inspiring to be around the other people that I’m collaborating with.”

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While working on the first season of the HBO series, he started a new tradition with his writers. After putting together an outline, he’d bring them all together on Zoom and they’d all chime in to get it into script format.

“They would be able to sort of pitch too, and we could kind of just have that collective experience because everyone was sitting alone feeling despair. It kind of got us through,” he says. “Now that’s become part of the practice, a way of really making that ‘first draft’ something that’s much more evolved, where it has more collaborative input from everybody, the way you would normally get when you tabled it afterwards.”

While he “riffs” with the other writers now, during Season 1 he was surrounded by some of his favorite and most personal belongings, which helped when he’d “venture into moments of intense, banging my head against the wall solitude.”

. - Credit: Michael Buckner
. - Credit: Michael Buckner

Michael Buckner

A Piece of History

“The table was a piece of the Forum floor. While we were editing episode 110, one of the editors, Max Koepke, was alerted by a friend that that someone who had a bunch of pieces of the Forum floor in their garage was giving them away. Max happens to be a giant Celtics fan, and so he had to really fight through that in order to notify us and he got the floor and gave it to the writers’ room as a gift. And it’s become our writing table. It’s funny because Jim Hecht, who’s the co-creator and executive producer, has been collecting pieces of the Forum floor forever. We could probably almost assemble our own soon.”

. - Credit: Michael Buckner
. - Credit: Michael Buckner

Michael Buckner

A Personal Gift

“That ring was a gift from John C. Reilly that he gave and personalized for all the cast and crew as a wrap gift. It’s an imitation of the 1980 Lakers’ NBA championship ring.”

. - Credit: Michael Buckner
. - Credit: Michael Buckner

Michael Buckner

Doing the Research

“The books are a little bit more than a scratch over the surface, but it’s not all of the books that we’ve read. There’s two more shelves of books. I’ve read them all and everyone in our writers’ room — from our assistant research staff, all the way up through the executive producers — read them. It’s an amazing wealth of material. Part of the gift of this show is that we’re able to really draw on all these facts and these great, crazy-to-believe stories. Then we have binders on that bookshelf as well that are just binders of newspaper articles that a researcher has pulled from Nexis. There are all sorts of little tidbits that are such a wealth of inspiration. We’re telling a story of a great American epic and that’s all the grist for the mill that goes into it.

. - Credit: Michael Buckner
. - Credit: Michael Buckner

Michael Buckner

The Perfect Duo

“Sometimes you’ve got to get up and sometimes you need to come down. I’m a big drinker of tea and that’s my daily post-lunch caffeine intake. On special days, suppose we just finished the script or really got stuck on a script, there’s the tequila. That particular bottle of tequila was a gift from Michael Chiklis. It’s a brand he’s involved in. My drink is tequila and lime juice, and everyone knows this. Adrien Brody, it turns out, makes an incredible tequila at home. He infuses tequila with jalapeno, and it’s just delicious and he’s given me a bunch of those. I didn’t have it to picture — I drank them all, but he promised me more when he comes out to L.A. So that’s become my ups and my downs.”

. - Credit: Michael Buckner
. - Credit: Michael Buckner

Michael Buckner

These Are Their Stories

“My collaborators were my two cats, who, because we got a dog, Munch, were exiled into only my office. The cats are named Detective Olivia Benson and Detective Elliot Stabler. The dog is Detective John Munch, but they really don’t collaborate well, unlike their namesakes. Munch was not allowed into the office during the pandemic. It was just my cat collaborators, and they were inspirations, hanging out, drooling and getting into all the notes on the desk. And now, it’s Munch who gallivants around the writers’ room, tormenting and delighting everybody.”

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