WRITING FOR TELEVISION
WRITING FOR TELEVISION
Instructor: Dr. Richard F. Taflinger
Office: Murrow 241 BC
Hours: MF 12 - 1, T Th 1:00 ‑ 2:00; OBA
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (office); email@example.com (home)
Web Page: http://www.wsu.edu/~taflinge/index.html
OVERVIEW OF THE COURSE:
WRITING FOR TELEVISION is not merely a course in how to write scripts, although that will be a major part. Any writing requires creativity (writing without creativity is merely words in a row), but creativity without structure, direction and purpose is self‑indulgent, confusing and, let's face it, boring. The objective of this course is to foster the critical analysis knowledge and skills, as well as the practical writing skills, necessary to achieve that structure, direction and purpose, using a hands‑on, do‑it‑and‑critique‑it approach.
Among the areas that we'll examine and discuss are plotting, characterization, dramatic structure, script and line analysis, and dramatic and comedic styles and approaches. The styles of writing we'll examine and write include comedy, drama, and serial drama. To accomplish these goals we'll look at theories, then write, read and critique our own scripts, applying those theories. Assignments will include writing and critiquing 4-page, 6-page, and 10-page scripts (all of them complete stories), and a final full‑length (24 minute) original TV show (either dramatic or comedic), the pilot for your TV series.
1) Watch an episode of a show. Stop after each act. Describe in one sentence the narrative arc of each act. Also describe, in a line or two, what happens in the final scene of each act.
2) Pick a show, identify its franchise, and write four sample story lines for that show in a paragraph or less each.
3) Write a four page script that tells a complete story (exposition, problem, crises and complications, climax). The purpose of the script is to introduce the characters to your audience and have your main character solve the problem.
4) Write a six page script that tells a complete story. Have a major twist occur halfway through.
5) Practice telling friends about the movie you saw last weekend or the show you watched last night. Pay attention to their reaction. How long did they stay interested? When did they get bored? At what point do they either fall asleep or run screaming out of the room? By doing this, you can hone the way you tell the story. Keep asking yourself how you can make your story more interesting. Are there details you should leave out? Plot points that don=t matter? How about the way you tell the story? Are you talking to quickly? Too slowly? Are you energetic, or low key? Which approach works best for you? Now try pitching those four story lines from assignment 2.
6) Write a 10-page script that tells a complete story.
7) Tape an episode of your favorite show. Now break it down into beats, scene by scene, act by act. You have now created a beat sheet.
8) Your final will be the pilot of your own half-hour TV series. These are the steps you=ll need to follow:
A) The pitch: Create the leave-behind for your show and turn it in on the due date. You will then come see me and pitch your series and episode to me.
B) The beat sheet: write the beat sheet for your show based on our discussion of your pitch and turn it in on the due date. You will then come see me and discuss your story, and how you will turn it into a script.
C) The first draft: write the first draft of your script and turn it in on the due date. We will meet for notes.
D) Rewrite: rewrite your first draft on the basis of our discussion, turn it in on the last day of class, and you=re done!
NOTE: ALL SCRIPT ASSIGNMENTS WILL HAVE TWO
COMPONENTS: A HARD COPY TYPED IN PROPER FORMAT, ACCOMPANIED BY THE SCRIPT FILE,
IN FINAL DRAFT, ON A FLOPPY,
Introduction. Final Draft. Script Format.
Dramatic Structure - action.
Dramatic Structure - action; beats. Characters. Assignment 1: 4 page script (due Thursday of week 4).
Characters. Dialogue. 4-page script due Thursday).
Critique of 4-page script. Creation and Tricks of the Trade - card system. Assignment 2: 6 page script (due Thursday of week 6).
Thought/Music/Spectacle. The Franchise. 6-page script due Thursday. Assignment: 10-page script (due Tuesday of Week 8); pitch. Begin preparing the pitch for the final project (due Thursday of Week 8).
Critique 6-page script. The pitch and doing the Final. Assignment: begin writing final projects, to be worked on and discussed during weeks 9 ‑15. Individual pitch conferences beginning Monday of Week 9.
Doing comedy. The business of being a TV writer. 10-page script and pitch due Thursday. Schedule pitch appointments for following week.
Critique of 10-page script. Pitch appointments (Mon - Wed).
WEEKS 10 - 15
Working on the Final. Write leave behind and drafts, and make appointments for conferences, according to the following schedule: Leave behind due Monday, March 21; appointments March 28 – 30. First draft of script due April 10; appointments April 18 – 20.
Final Script due no later than 2:00 pm Friday April 29.
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