Happy Friday, and welcome to the first posting of “Primetime,” THE GREATEST TV BLOG IN THE HISTORY OF THE WEB.
Okay, that may not be entirely true (or it may be—let’s decide later), but this is definitely the NEWEST TV blog on the web… at least for the next 37 seconds. And, hopefully, you’ll find it the most helpful TV blog on the web.
Every week, we’ll discuss various issues in the world of TV writing: questions about craft, business news and developments, new shows or pilots, storytelling techniques in reality TV and digital media, you name it. If it concerns a screen smaller than the one at your local multiplex, we’ll talk about it here.
We’ll also do other fun stuff - like take reader questions (more on that in a sec), post fun web videos and sketches, even resurrect the “Pitch Workshop” (which should be familiar to those of you coming over from “Script Notes”).
Also, for the record, I LOVE communicating with readers - so please feel free to keep in touch! I especially love when people post comments that motivate discussion and debate, but you can also email your thoughts, questions, and criticisms (or compliments, which are preferable) directly to me. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So let’s get started…
I’m gonna kick things off with a question from Lonny, one of my readers at “Script Notes.” (For those of you who are newcomers, “Script Notes” was the film & TV-writing blog I wrote for two years at Writer’s Digest. I still have a backlog of questions that I never had time to answer, so I’ll try to answer as many of them as possible here.)
Lonny writes: “I’m a baby writer who has a showrunner meeting next week for the second season of a popular cable drama. This could be my big break. How do I prepare?”
Great question, Lonny—and fortunately, you have time to do some homework. Here are 10 ways I like to prepare when I go in for a showrunner meeting:
1.) WATCH THE SHOW. If it’s a returning show, watch EVERY EPISODE (or as many as you can get your hands on). If the show’s not airing, rent DVD’s or watch Hulu, iTunes, or the network website. If there are too many episodes to watch them all, watch the pilot, the second episode, and as many recent episodes as possible.
Also, READ AS MANY SCRIPTS as possible. Scripts often read differently than filmed episodes, and you get a stronger sense of the writers’ voices this way.
2.) UNDERSTAND THE CHARACTERS – It’s not enough to simply know that “Ross is a paleontologist” or “Michael Scott wishes he were a comedian;" know these people intimately, how each character thinks and sees the world. This may take some time to think about. I often write paragraphs for each character, beginning with the words: “Leslie Knope sees the world as…” Put yourself in the character’s skin and try to articulate what life looks like through her eyes.
3.) UNDERSTAND THE THEME OF THE SHOW – What are the show’s writers trying to explore, emotionally and thematically, with their stories? Are they exploring how, even in the most mundane jobs, the politics of our workplace become the soap operas of our lives - like in The Office? Are they exploring the impossibilities of finding true love, and the difficulties of holding onto the romantic notion of true love, in modern society - like in How I Met Your Mother? Or are they exploring how -even once we’ve found our soulmate - the biggest obstacles to genuine love and togetherness are our own self-destructive flaws and insecurities, like in Californication?
I have a friend, a successful TV writer, who always says that when she goes into a showrunner meeting, she tries to casually articulate the theme of the show back to the showrunner - but in her own words (the writer’s words, not the showrunner’s). She says if you can do this, convince the showrunner you’re on the same page thematically, you’re already halfway to the job.
4.) FIND AT LEAST ONE THING IN THE SHOW YOU CONNECT TO – Every showrunner wants to know you love their show, and there’s no better way of illustrating this than by talking specifically about what moves you. Even if it isn’t your favorite program, find at least one thing—preferably more—that you can talk about specifically and articulately. It could be a favorite episode, a hilarious moment from episode 206, a storyline that reminded you of someone (or some time) in your life… whatever conveys how deeply and uniquely you connect to this show.
All right, folks—this post has turned out to be a bit longer than I anticipated - I was just so excited to be here on my first day! - so we’re gonna break this into a little trilogy. In the mean time, feel free to post questions, commonts, disagreements, or glowing praise in the Comments section below… or email them to email@example.com.