See also:
TV Writing Intensive
Up next:
TV Writing II Pilot
TV Writing I

TV Writing I is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

The best TV shows are addictive, beckoning us to bring the characters into our homes or devices, episode after episode. The people might be cops, thugs, monsters, geeks, doctors, lawyers, fixers, or just ordinary people with everyday problems. The format might be network, streaming, or a web series. As long as it hooks us.

Each TV show is a unique story-machine, with its own rules and formulas. Here you’ll learn how to write for TV and how to market your work.

Whether you seek to write comedy, drama, or something in between, we’ll show you how to write TV episodes that might, someday, get everybody buzzing.

About TV Writing
TV Writing I

A perfect guide to writing a spec script (even if you've written one before).

Chris Beier

digital video producer

Notes

TV writers either work on the staff of an existing series or they create an original show. To break into the business, you need samples of your work—either episodes of existing shows or original scripts, the latter more desirable these days.

TV Writing I focuses on writing “spec” scripts for existing shows, which is the best way to learn how TV episodes work. TV Writing II Pilot focuses on creating an original series and “pilot” episode.

These courses cover “scripted” shows, as opposed to reality TV.

Upcoming Classes

Price

Registration fee $25, paid once per term

See Payment Options

To register for a 10-Week course, you need to pay in full to guarantee your place in class. Or you can pay a $95 deposit plus a $25 registration fee (total $120) to temporarily hold your place, but tuition must be paid in full 10 business days before your class starts or you risk losing your spot.

10-Week

Syllabus

This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of TV writing craft and gets you writing a TV script for an existing show. Course components:
     Lectures
     Writing exercises
     Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. Many topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.

Online classes 
Week 1
Introduction to TV Writing: Writing samples—specs for existing shows, original work. Elements of a TV series—type, premise, episodes (self-contained/serialized, storylines, signatures), characters, setting, tone, secret theme. How to choose a show to spec. Studying shows.

Week 2
Episode Ideas: Getting storyline ideas. Finding ideas inside and outside the show. Vertical exploration of regular characters. Interaction of multiple storylines. Using the expected and unexpected.

Week 3
Mapping It Out: Finding the storyline beats. Plot basics. Prose outlines. Segments. Step outlines. Tips for outlining.

Week 4
Character: Understanding the regular characters. Desire—super objective, episode objective. Strengths/flaws. Personality. Relationships.

Week 5
Format/Description: Examining the technical format for TV scripts. How to handle description.

Week 6 
Scene: Scene defined. Scene guidelines—importance, desire, structure, character. Scenes analyzed—short, medium, long.

Week 7
Dialogue: Naturalistic dialogue. The art of compression. Stylized dialogue. Lingo. Character through dialogue. Subtext. Stage directions.

Week 8
Drama/Comedy: Drama—character complexity, emotion, suspense, action. Comedy—character folly, extreme situations, verbal wit, physical humor. Comedy/Drama—finding the right balance.

Week 9
The Process: The real-world process of writing TV shows. Your process-beating it out, breaking story, scenes, transitions, length, finishing touches. Making sure a script is ready.

Week 10
The Business: Building a collection of samples. Getting in the door-connections, non-writing jobs in the business, agents/managers, production companies. Who to contact. Query letter. Response. Meetings. Ways to maximize your chances.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.

Teachers

Jim Mendrinos
Jim Mendrinos

Jim Mendrinos wrote, directed, and starred in the web series Living in Exile (New Media Comedy), which airs on Amazon Video on Demand. He is the chief creative director for New Media Comedy Worldwide, a full-service television/film production company and studio. His network writing credits include Amazon, NBC, USA, FOX, HBO, and the WB. He wrote and directed the short film "Gail's New Boyfriend," which debuted at the Hoboken Film Festival, and his comedy special Not Dead Yet premiered on Amazon Prime. He is also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Comedy Writing (Alpha). He holds a BA from Baruch College.

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Laura Cahill
Laura Cahill

Laura Cahill wrote the play Hysterical Blindness and adapted it into the film of the same name (HBO), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, a Writers Guild Award, and a Primetime Emmy in Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries/Movie/Dramatic Special. She wrote the pilot and six episodes of the TV series Pornopolis for IFC, and has written pilots for HBO, Touchstone, Paramount, and WB. She adapted the screenplays for What Matters Most, The Down Low, and B Mother (all for Lifetime), and wrote the original screenplays Witness Protection (CBS) and Boston Strangler (USA). Her plays include Sondra (Apothecary Theater Company), Mercy (Vineyard Theatre), Jersey Girls Go to the Park (Urban Empire), and The Way and Stalker (both Naked Angels).

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Pamela Harris
Pamela Harris

Pamela Harris created Married by the Hour, a half-hour comedy (Howard Stern Productions) and served as a staff writer for Life on the Line, a one-hour drama (Oxygen Network). She wrote the feature screenplay Joyville, which was selected for the Writers Lab, a program sponsored by Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey. She has also written and optioned feature screenplays. She co-wrote and directed the short film “En Route,” a selection of the New York Short Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival, and the Blackbird Film Festival. She is an award-winning visual artist whose work can be viewed in private, corporate, and embassy collections across the world. She holds a BFA from the Hartford Art School.

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