Are you under the impression that writing for television and film is the same? On the contrary both industries are very different. The main players of the television industry are the networks, studios and production companies.
Writers are usually hired by a studio to write for a particular network or channel. They even have the rights to sell the material elsewhere. This material is then used by the production companies to bring the script into action.
Writers for television are offered two kinds of deals – a development deal and overall deal. A development deal requires the writer to write for only a single project. Only a single story is being developed for which the writer gets paid a certain amount. An overall deal requires the writer to write on a long term basis and the income is considerably more than development deal.
After the initial filtering, about 4 to 10 writers are selected for a project and they are placed in a hierarchy. The showrunner is at the top and is the program creator. They are chosen because they have the maximum experience in writing. They may receive Executive Producer status and earn a significant amount more than other writers.
Lower on the rung of the ladder of the television writing team are the co-executive producers, supervising producer, producer, co-producer, and executive story editor. On the very bottom rung is the staff writer, also known as baby writers, as they are starters.
Aspirant writers should start their television writing career by joining classes taught by experienced TV writers. These classes will help them get the basics right and the same time help increase their network of useful contacts and friends, which will be of help at some point of time in their careers.
Beginners can get a break by hiring an agent with good contacts. Most shows don’t hire baby writers so it would take about three years to get a break. But at this level, it is the originality of your work that matters.
Original material relating to screenplays or even a sketch material will be of help. Writers can also work on specs. These are trailers which provide the outline of the story and demonstrate the power of the writer to grasp a story concept.
Writers should choose their plays carefully when writing a Spec. Do not choose a series just because it is hot or is based on fiction. While choosing a play a writer should keep in mind what he finds interesting and what he wants to work on in future.
After preparing the spec, send it to the showrunner of the same show, because the showrunner will be under the assumption that no one knows his show better than himself. It is also advisable to send the spec to the showrunner of a similar show.
Specs reflect the writing ability, the grasping ability, the scene structure sense, story narration style of the writer. With these qualities one can land a job as a writer’s assistant and, if a showrunner hires the starter, it would be a good boost to him.
A good writer with a passion for the art must never quit writing. Even if a writer doesn’t get anywhere for a short period of time, at least he will improve his writing skills which will be of great use in the long run.
Finally, a television writer must be able to meet deadlines when on the job, even if the deadlines are short. Constant writing practice can train one in that aspect too.
Writers have the greatest power because they use the power of words and narration to play with the minds and shape the dreams of millions of television viewers worldwide.
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