Discussing the issue: Is TV where it’s at?

Lucky for both couch potatoes and those of us who appreciate good writing, television shows have gotten a hell of a lot better in the last several years. Beginning with the more substantive content on HBO and Showtime, and now leading up to NBC’s smart comedies and better dramas all around, not only are those shows enjoyable for writers to work on, but they have been successful as well. Being that the networks are looking for more and more material, it seems more and more feature writers I know are considering the move to TV writing. My own agent pushed my writing partner and me to do the same thing, and since we’ve been passionate about current TV content, we decided to go for it.

So I was excited to read Chad Gervich’s article, “Navigating 2010’s Staffing Season,” in the March/April 2010 issue of Script, which gave the perfect advice we needed to achieve this goal – only to find out in the end, it’s literally impossible – just like breaking into features. Chad’s article lays out the realities of how difficult it really is to get staffed on a show. In summary, “you probably won’t.”

My partner and I also met with a TV agent at our agency in order to further prepare for our takeover of the television industry. He gave some helpful advice that paralleled Chad’s article, so it’s good to know we were set up with someone who knew what they were talking about (because often times we get stuck with the new guy who’s just in a “practice meeting,” preparing for real clients). But regarding the actual reality of getting staffed, one of his responses was a tepid, “eh… it’s unlikely… two white guys…maybe if you were black or a female.” Did I mention I’m a redneck? Does that count for anything? Anyway, more bad news.

So I guess my question is this: is TV really where it’s at? The buzz I’m constantly hearing is television shows get made, features hardly do. But despite the success of all these shows, ad buys are down, and as Chad’s article points out, the economy is in the tank, and networks are cutting their writing staffs. The odds of getting the job for a new writer seem just as stacked against you as selling that feature. So is putting the time into the transition worth it?

What do you think? – Andrew Shearer

How to Write for Television, Screenwriter Blogs
Andrew Shearer

About Andrew Shearer

A redneck from Small Town, North Carolina, population 8,000, high school dropout rate, 40%, Andrew Shearer drew from that background when he co-wrote his feature screenplay Holy Irresistible. All the pain of an adolescence spent trying to avoid getting shot by bee-bee guns paid off when he was awarded the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship. Since, he and his writing partner have optioned their script Son Up, developed projects with production companies, and have won another screenwriting competition. Andrew lives in Los Angeles and is repped by William Morris Endeavor and Brillstein Entertainment.