Shows

screenwriting for television and streaming series

 Alistair Owen

Adapting Fiction for Television: Purvis and Wade on SS-GB

Adapting Fiction for Television: Purvis and Wade on SS-GB

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade discuss adapting a complex plot into series format, turning budget limitations into creative opportunities, and delaying the moment when the gun comes out.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade discuss adapting a complex plot into series format, turning budget limitations into creative opportunities, and delaying the moment when the gun comes out.

 Ramona Zacharias

John McNamara & Sera Gamble: The Magicians

John McNamara & Sera Gamble: The Magicians

John McNamara & Sera Gamble discuss finding the best version of the moment, the importance of not knowing what happens next, and the value of treating everything as practice.

John McNamara & Sera Gamble discuss finding the best version of the moment, the importance of not knowing what happens next, and the value of treating everything as practice.

 Brock Swinson

“One Script does not make you a writer.” Gloria Calderon Kellett on One Day at a Time

“One Script does not make you a writer.” Gloria Calderon Kellett on One Day at a Time

Gloria Calderon Kellett talks about how a show is developed, writing for television, and how exactly a writers' room works.

Gloria Calderon Kellett talks about how a show is developed, writing for television, and how exactly a writers’ room works.

 Brock Swinson

“I could hear their voices.” Michael Hirst on Vikings

“I could hear their voices.” Michael Hirst on Vikings

Michael Hirst discusses the process of writing historical fiction, the importance of poetry, and how Vikings has rejuvenated interest in Scandinavian culture.

Michael Hirst on the process of writing historical fiction, the importance of poetry, and how Vikings has rejuvenated interest in Scandinavian culture.

 Brianne Hogan

Nadiya Chettiar: An Emerging Screenwriter on the Rise

Nadiya Chettiar: An Emerging Screenwriter on the Rise

Nadiya Chettiar on the importance of networking, what you should consider before signing with your first agent, and what really happens at one of those infamous LA meetings.

Nadiya Chettiar on the importance of networking, what you should consider before signing with your first agent, and what really happens at one of those infamous LA meetings.

 Brock Swinson

Blunt Talk: No Unkind Humor

Blunt Talk: No Unkind Humor

Jonathan Ames on writing about friendships, his rules of screenwriting, and ideas for a film of his cult show Bored to Death.

Jonathan Ames on writing about friendships, his rules of screenwriting, and ideas for a film of his cult show Bored to Death.

 Brock Swinson

“I want to entrance and surprise.” Stephen Poliakoff on Close to the Enemy

“I want to entrance and surprise.” Stephen Poliakoff on Close to the Enemy

Stephen Poliakoff discusses handling multiple characters, seeing what your protagonist sees, and avoiding the distancing effect of period dramas.

Stephen Poliakoff discusses handling multiple characters, seeing what your protagonist sees, and avoiding the distancing effect of period dramas.

 Brock Swinson

Into the Badlands: Blood-splattered Heroes and the One Degree of Jackie Chan

Into the Badlands: Blood-splattered Heroes and the One Degree of Jackie Chan

Alfred Gough and Miles Millar on keeping the martials arts authentic, why a fight scene is like jazz, and writing for Jackie Chan.

Alfred Gough and Miles Millar on keeping the martials arts authentic, why a fight scene is like jazz, and writing for Jackie Chan.

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #151

Understanding Screenwriting #151

Westworld, Lethal Weapon and more! Tom Stempel takes a look at the 2016 Fall Television Season.

Westworld, Lethal Weapon and more! Tom Stempel takes a look at the 2016 Fall Television Season.

 Brock Swinson

Banshee: Brutal Good Fun

Banshee: Brutal Good Fun

Jonathan Tropper on collaborating with your actors, imperfect characters, and saying goodbye to a show.

Jonathan Tropper on collaborating with your actors, imperfect characters, and saying goodbye to a show.

 Ramona Zacharias

“There’s both light and dark…There’s a lot of dark!” Black Mirror

“There’s both light and dark…There’s a lot of dark!” Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker & Annabel Jones on screenwriting levers, satire, and why checking your phone is like smoking. Plus great practical advice for writers!

Charlie Brooker & Annabel Jones on screenwriting levers, satire, and why checking your phone is like smoking. Plus great practical advice for writers!

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #149

Understanding Screenwriting #149

Tom Stempel on Indignation, Café Society, Florence Foster Jenkins, Complete Unknown, Morgan, Rizzoli & Isles, and BrainDead.

Tom Stempel on Indignation, Café Society, Florence Foster Jenkins, Complete Unknown, Morgan, Rizzoli & Isles, and BrainDead.

 Ryan Gowland

“Ever fancied yourself a filmmaker? Guess what? You are!” Kevin Smith

“Ever fancied yourself a filmmaker? Guess what? You are!” Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith on Yoga Hosers, Mallrats the Series, and inviting Tarantino to direct The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

Kevin Smith on Yoga Hosers, Mallrats the Series, and inviting Tarantino to direct The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

 Sam Roads

Julian Fellowes: Looking Forward to The Gilded Age

Julian Fellowes: Looking Forward to The Gilded Age

Julian Fellowes on his new show The Gilded Age, the truth to rumours of a crossover with Downton, and what he wishes he had done differently.

Julian Fellowes on his new show The Gilded Age, the truth to rumours of a crossover with Downton, and what he wishes he had done differently.

 Sam Roads

Julian Fellowes: Looking Back on Downton Abbey

Julian Fellowes: Looking Back on Downton Abbey

Julian Fellowes on multiple narratives, balancing light and shade, and writing period dialogue.

Julian Fellowes on multiple narratives, balancing light and shade, and writing period dialogue.

 Ryan Gowland

Burnie Burns: From Red Vs. Blue to Lazer Team

Burnie Burns: From Red Vs. Blue to Lazer Team

Burnie Burns on the problem with The Empire Strikes Back, keeping a fourteen-year-old show fresh, and his biggest pet peeve in science fiction writing.

Burnie Burns on the problem with The Empire Strikes Back, keeping a fourteen-year-old show fresh, and his biggest pet peeve in science fiction writing.

 Brianne Hogan

A Woman’s Voice in the Writers’ Room

A Woman’s Voice in the Writers’ Room

Rosanne Welch on writing for female characters, changing the pronoun in a script, and the power of research.

Rosanne Welch on writing for female characters, changing the pronoun in a script, and the power of research.

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #147

Understanding Screenwriting #147

Tom Stempel casts his eye over Genius, Finding Dory, Central Intelligence, The Shallows, and Our Kind of Traitor.

  So Why Are We Watching This? Genius (2016. Screenplay by John Logan, based on the book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. 104 minutes.) Within the first week of its American release, this film only had a 45% favorable rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes (the audiences liked it a little better, with a 58% […]

 Jennie E. Park

Writing for Television

Writing for Television

Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad: Daniel P. Calvisi discusses television pilots, defining character arcs, and mistakes new writers make.

Daniel P. Calvisi is a writing coach and former Story Analyst for Twentieth Century Fox and Miramax Films. His latest book, Story Maps: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot, follows his earlier Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays, and Story Maps: The Films of Christopher […]

 Sam Roads

“Both collaborative and challenging.” Straczynski on Sense8

“Both collaborative and challenging.” Straczynski on Sense8

J. Michael Straczynski discusses social issues in a sci-fi setting, collaborating with the Wachowskis, screenwriting formulae, and relying on your gut.

J. Michael Straczynski is a rare beast, fêted by his TV fans for the ground-breaking five seasons of Babylon 5 (1993-98), by comics fans for his audience tripling run on The Amazing Spider-Man (2002-06), and film fans for the Oscar-nominated Changeling (2008), starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. He broke into the business […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #146

Understanding Screenwriting #146

Tom Stempel takes a look at Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Nice Guys, Obvious Child, A Bridge Too Far, The Night Manager, and Roots.

  Well, It’s Not as Badly Directed as Linda Woolverton’s Last Screenplay… Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016. Screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based on books by Lewis Carroll. 113 minutes.) Linda Woolverton wrote the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, which as you can read here, I liked in spite of Tim Burton’s direction. Her […]

 Sam Roads

“The characters do the work for me.” Straczynski on Babylon 5

“The characters do the work for me.” Straczynski on Babylon 5

J. Michael Straczynski discusses writing for children, arc-driven television drama, and letting the characters do the writing.

J. Michael Straczynski is a rare beast, fêted by his TV fans for the ground-breaking five seasons of Babylon 5 (1993-98), by comics fans for his audience tripling run on The Amazing Spider-Man (2002-06), and film fans for the Oscar-nominated Changeling (2008), starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. He broke into the business […]

 Brianne Hogan

Don’t write what you know! Stan Zimmerman on Skirtchasers

Don’t write what you know! Stan Zimmerman on Skirtchasers

Stan Zimmerman on the changing landscape of television, greenlighting gay stories and maintaining a long-term writing partnership.

Growing up, Skirtchasers screenwriter Stan Zimmerman knew what a writer’s room was — thanks to watching The Dick Van Dyke Show — but he had no idea that he would eventually work in some of the most famous writer’s rooms in TV history. “I had a habit of rewriting plays when I was younger,” says […]

 Brianne Hogan

Meet the Reader: Jhan Harp

Meet the Reader: Jhan Harp

"Other readers might think characterization or premise as the most important, but I think a reversal is the strongest way to go."

Script reader Jhan Harp was pursuing two degrees at Purdue University – a B.S. in physics and a B.A. in theatre – when he first discovered his passion for screenplays. “Screenwriting, more specifically working on teleplays, was a hobby in college,” he says. “I guess it wasn’t easy enough with the two majors.” Blame Joss […]

 Robert Arnett

Funny Guys: Garry Marshall & Bob Brunner on Comedy

Funny Guys: Garry Marshall & Bob Brunner on Comedy

Garry Marshall and Bob Brunner discuss writing comedy, the importance of pauses, and taking notes in good humor.

By Robert Arnett. This article first appeared in Creative Screenwriting Volume 6, #3 (1999). As a producer, director, writer, and actor, Garry Marshall found success first in television, then in feature films. He has worked with many partners, but Bob Brunner goes back with Marshall not only to The Odd Couple TV show but to […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #144

Understanding Screenwriting #144

Barbershop: The Next Cut; The Jungle Book; Hello, My Name is Doris; From Here to Eternity (book); A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (stage musical); Mrs. Sundance; and Wanted: The Sundance Woman.

By Tom Stempel. Fan Mail. Back when I was writing this column for the House Next Door, one of my joys was reading the comments section. The readers of House were very smart, very opinionated, and avoided the usual depressing Internet “You suck,” “No, you suck,” “No, YOU suck.” I very much miss the comments. […]

 Donna Marie Miller

Avoid the Formulaic: Gale Anne Hurd and Natalie Chaidez on Hunters

Avoid the Formulaic: Gale Anne Hurd and Natalie Chaidez on Hunters

Gale Ann Hurd and Natalie Chaidez discuss the ambiguous nature of character, and explain why screenwriters should never attempt to figure out a screenplay’s plot before writing it.

By Donna Marie Miller. “They are many. And they are angry,” reads the tag line for the new television series, Hunters, which premieres April 11 at 9 p.m. CST on the Syfy Channel. The hybrid gritty crime drama and sci-fi thriller based on best-selling books by Whitley Strieber, puts a new spin on aliens as […]

 Brianne Hogan

Taking Dramatic License with the Bible: Chris Brancato on Of Kings and Prophets

Taking Dramatic License with the Bible: Chris Brancato on Of Kings and Prophets

Showrunner Chris Brancato discusses the challenges of heavy source material, his experience with hard drama, and giving his latest project a “modern pulse.”

By Brianne Hogan. The new biblical drama Of Kings and Prophets has everything you might expect from a premium cable series: sex, violence, and bloodshed. Except it isn’t on a premium cable channel, it is on the Disney-owned ABC. Perhaps this is one reason the series has received so much criticism. For example, the Parents […]

 Ramona Zacharias

Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

Vince Gilligan on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul

Showrunner Vince Gilligan discusses structuring an episode, pacing a season, character development, and Easter eggs for fans.

By Ramona Zacharias. It’s not every day one has their work referred to as quite possibly the greatest television series of all time. And creator Vince Gilligan may humbly compare the success of Breaking Bad to “lightning in a bottle”. But those who avidly tuned in to the show week after week (or later binge-watched […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #141

Understanding Screenwriting #141

The Big Short, 45 Years, and Midseason Television 2015-2016.

By Tom Stempel. The Financial Maguffin. The Big Short (2015. Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, based on the book by Michael Lewis. 130 minutes.) Boy, talk about your degree of difficulty. Lewis’s book is a detailed non-fiction look into one of the elements that led to the Great Recession. It’s about sub-prime mortgages…zzz, […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #137

Understanding Screenwriting #137

Brooklyn, Spotlight, Our Brand is Crisis, Colin Welland and Melissa Mathison: Appreciations, Amarcord, Supergirl and The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?

Nuances Are Us. Brooklyn (2015. Screenplay by Nick Hornby, based on the novel by Colm Tóibín. 111 minutes.) Virtually every review of this movie I have read uses the word “nuance” in one form or another, and rightly so. This is maybe the most nuanced movie I have ever seen, and coming in the middle […]

 Sam Roads

John Yorke: “What You Don’t Do Is David Copperfield II”

John Yorke: “What You Don’t Do Is David Copperfield II”

John Yorke discusses his new book on Screenwriting, offers invaluable advice to screenwriters, and reveals the secret of the Duff Duff moment.

By Sam Roads. John Yorke has been at the forefront of British TV drama for over twenty years, as showrunner on popular soaps such as Eastenders and The Archers. He has also been behind dramas like the Emmy Award-winning time-travel cop show Life on Mars, spy drama MI-5 (Spooks in the UK), and Wolf Hall, starring […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #136

Understanding Screenwriting #136

The Martian, Bridge of Spies, Crimson Peak, Sicario, Aloha, For Your Further Reading.

By Tom Stempel. Not Marvin. The Martian   (2015.  Screenplay by Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Andy Weir. 144 minutes.) You should know up front that my wife did not elbow me in the ribs once during this film.  My wife is a scientist (molecular biology) and hates it when movies get the […]

 Brianne Hogan

Write Like It Will Never Get Made: 24 Hour Rental

Write Like It Will Never Get Made: 24 Hour Rental

Al Kratina and George Mihalka discuss their latest show's origins, writing for unlikeable characters, and balancing satire and drama.

By Brianne Hogan. The days of the video store might be dead in real life, but it’s alive and well in the dark comedy TV series, 24 Hour Rental. Okay, maybe “alive” and “well” aren’t the most appropriate adjectives to describe a show that follows a former Mafia boss named Tracker, who now runs a […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #135

Understanding Screenwriting #135

The Intern, James Dean’s Live Television Work, and the beginning of the Fall 2015 Television Season.

By Tom Stempel. Office Porn, Not Kitchen Porn The Intern (2015. Written by Nancy Meyers. 121 minutes.) You generally do not want to start a script with a pile of exposition delivered in voiceover. It shows that the writer does not know how to subtly show and tell exposition. When writers try it, readers tend […]

 Sam Roads

Alan Tudyk’s Con Man

Alan Tudyk’s Con Man

Actor and voice actor Alan Tudyk on his record-breaking new comedy show Con Man, Mel Brooks and reuniting the cast of Firefly.

By Sam Roads. If you aren’t familiar with Alan Tudyk’s vast acting resume, including roles on Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Dollhouse, you probably know his voice work, from films like I, Robot and Frozen. Recently, Tudyk raised over $3 million on crowdfunding site IndieGoGo, for his new comedy show Con Man, currently released on Vimeo, where it […]

 Brock Swinson

Sam Shaw’s Manhattan

Sam Shaw’s Manhattan

Sam Shaw on historical verisimilitude, the collegiate nature of a writers' room, and writing as work, not art.

By Brock Swinson. Making the transition from a prose writer and journalist, Sam Shaw has shifted into becoming an expert in suburban deception, metaphorical slang, and the relevant period piece. As somewhat of a combination of Dr. Strangelove and Mad Men, Sam Shaw’s Manhattan is masterfully written, both in structure and character. The WGN show […]

 Brianne Hogan

Narcos: “I can’t help it, I like this guy.”

Narcos: “I can’t help it, I like this guy.”

Chris Brancato on Netflix series Narcos, rooting for a psychopath, and how to cope when your series is cancelled.

By Brianne Hogan. Look up Chris Brancato on IMDb, and you’ll find a slew of television and film credits ranging from his start with Aaron Spelling on “90210” to “Species 2,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and “Hannibal.” Not bad for a writer who says that his initial venture to Hollywood “had more to do […]

 Christian Divine

“Idea is Everything” – David Lynch

“Idea is Everything” – David Lynch

David Lynch on the importance of intuition, his writing process, and the necessity of remaining true to oneself.

By Christian Divine. David Lynch is an audio-visual artist whose primary canvas is celluloid. His enigmatic films are perhaps the closest the American cinema has come to capturing the otherworldly sensation of dreams – and nightmares. The hallmark of Lynch’s films is that they look and sound like no other. His scripts are not based […]

 Jason Davis

Joss Whedon: The Master at Play

Joss Whedon: The Master at Play

Joss Whedon discusses genre writing, the difference between writing for film and television, and how Alien: Resurrection proved to be the breakthrough in his writing career.

By Jason Davis. Joss Whedon arguably needs no introduction. Screenwriter, producer and director, not to mention composer and graphic novelist, he is the creator of television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. On the big screen, his credits including Toy Story, The Cabin in the Woods, and most recently as […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #133

Understanding Screenwriting #133

Irrational Man, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Grandma, American Ultra, A Foreign Affair, Exodus: Gods and Kings, True Detective.

By Tom Stempel. Too Much Bait, Not Enough Switch Irrational Man (2015. Written by Woody Allen. 95 minutes.) When I saw the first trailers for this, I almost decided not to go. It looked like yet another Woody-Allen-Young-Woman-Enchanted-By-An-Older-Man flick. He’s been doing those for nearly forty years. Then the reviews began to come in and […]

 John Rhodes

Silicon Valley on Silicon Valley: Blake Ross’s Viral Spec Script

Silicon Valley on Silicon Valley: Blake Ross’s Viral Spec Script

Firefox co-creator Blake Ross swaps code for comedy, as he discusses his viral spec script for Silicon Valley.

By John Rhodes.   Like many people in the industry, I saw some tweets early this week about a spec screenplay for HBO’s hit comedy series Silicon Valley, written by an actual Silicon Valley insider. The story showed up in Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and TechCrunch. The writer of the viral spec is none […]

 Donna Marie Miller

Alec Berg on Silicon Valley

Alec Berg on Silicon Valley

Alec Berg: why fact is funnier than fiction, the advantages of HBO's 10-episode seasons, and writing the way a musician would play.

By Donna Marie Miller. Screenwriter and producer of HBO’s current smash hit series Silicon Valley Alec Berg, who formerly worked on television sitcoms Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, unabashedly admits to using other people’s real-life stories. In fact, he has built a lucrative career writing TV scripts about the real things real people say and […]

 Christopher McKittrick

Ed Burns: An Independent Force

Ed Burns: An Independent Force

Ed Burns discusses the long genesis of Public Morals, how his screenwriting process has developed and changed, and why he needed to relearn structure.

By Christopher McKittrick. Out of all of the independent film success stories to emerge from the Sundance Film Festival in the 1990s, writer/director Ed Burns has done the most of any of his contemporaries to champion independent filmmaking. While working as a production assistant in the early 1990s, Burns wrote, directed, and starred in The […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #130

Understanding Screenwriting #130

Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Spy, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Gemma Bovery, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Bessie, Olive Kittridge.

By Tom Stempel. Has Nobody Here Ever Read the Book Understanding Screenwriting? Jurassic World (2015. Screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Colin Treverrow & Derek Connolly, story by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. 124 minutes.) In my 2008 book Understanding Screenwriting: Learning from Good, Not-Quite-so-Good and […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #129

Understanding Screenwriting #129

Clouds of Sils Maria, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Kings Row, Chariots of Fire, Mr. Arkadin, Mad Men.

By Tom Stempel. It Certainly Passes the Bechdel Test Clouds of Sils Maria (2014. Written by Olivier Assayas. 124 minutes.) As we were coming out of the theatre after seeing this movie, I said to my wife, “I can’t wait to go check out the reviews of this aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes and see if […]

 Shanee Edwards

Julian Fellowes on Downton Abbey

Julian Fellowes on Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes talks about the upheaval of the early 20th century, and what the Crawley family might make of Caitlyn Jenner.

By Shanee Edwards. “Another clang in the march of time.” – Mrs. Patmore. With less than 3 months of filming left at Highclere Castle, the stand-in location for Downton Abbey, the show’s sole writer, Julian Fellowes, sat down with us to talk Season 5 and discuss the shocking challenges he masterfully wrought upon the Crawley […]

 Ramona Zacharias

“I’m not a big lover of fantasy, generally.” Peter Harness on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

“I’m not a big lover of fantasy, generally.” Peter Harness on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Peter Harness discusses his television adaptation of the much-loved "unfilmable" book.

By Ramona Zacharias. It’s not often you hear a body of work referred to as “unfilmable” these days. But that was precisely the reputation attached to Susanna Clarke’s epic novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. A ten-year effort for the author herself, this 1000-page story of two magicians in Napoleonic England is renowned for its […]

 Tom Stempel

Understanding Screenwriting #128

Understanding Screenwriting #128

Effie Gray, The Rewrite, Pride, The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild (book), Richard Corliss: An Appreciation, Don M. Mankiewicz: An Appreciation, Justified.

By Tom Stempel. How The Hell Can We Figure Out What Went Wrong? Effie Gray (2014. Original screenplay by Emma Thompson. 108 minutes.) As you may have been able to tell from her picture appearing on the cover of the 2000 edition of my book FrameWork: A History of American Screenwriting, I am a big […]

 Michelle Houle

Tenured: One-Upping the Script

Tenured: One-Upping the Script

Chris Modoono discusses directing his own material, the challenges of adaptation, and the differences between writing for film and for television.

By Michelle Houle. Tenured, penned by Chris Modoono and Gil Zabarsky, premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival this past April. The film tells the story of depressed, elementary school teacher Ethan Collins, who is forced to direct the school play as punishment for his poor performance. But inspired by his wife’s recent departure, Collins […]


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Joss Whedon on Screenwriting

MFA in Screenwriting