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WSP 321 — TV Writer for a Day: Crafting a Television Series Pilot

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Saturday
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 1 day
Date(s): Oct 7
Time: 10:00 am—4:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Sep 30
Unit: 0
Tuition: $255
Instructor(s): Adam Tobin
Limit: 21
On-campus course
10:00 am—4:00 pm
Oct 7
1 day
Drop By
Sep 30
0 Unit
Adam Tobin
From Black Mirror to Black-ish, This Is Us to Westworld, some of the most compelling stories today are created in television writers’ rooms. But how do you wrangle an idea into a series? What exactly is needed from a pilot, and how does it sustain and evolve over seasons? And what does “television” mean when traditional networks battle Netflix, Amazon, FX, and even web series?

This one-day intensive workshop will introduce you to the form and content of writing a television pilot. We will start with a more general discussion of the current landscape of TV and the forms series can take—comedy versus drama, hour versus half-hour, commercial versus streaming, single-camera versus multicam, serial versus episodic. We will then move on to the concept of a “franchise” of a series and the underlying premise material of a show, with exercises that will help you develop your own specific TV idea. Finally, we will discuss plot and structure, with an eye toward shaping your pilot episode.

Short writing exercises will be interspersed among lecture, clips, and discussion. Whether you’re a TV addict or an experienced writer, come spend the day getting a taste of what it means to be “in the writers’ room.” All experience levels are welcome.

Grade restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade

Adam Tobin, Senior Lecturer, Film and Media Studies Program, Stanford

Adam Tobin is a screenwriter and an actor. He created the sitcom About a Girl and the reality show Best Friend’s Date for Viacom’s TeenNick (formerly The N channel) and has written for ABC, ESPN, and Discovery Channel. Tobin was a story analyst for Jim Henson Pictures and has taught story and pitching seminars at DreamWorks Animation, Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios, and Aardman Animations. He received an MFA in screenwriting from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) William Rabkin, Writing the Pilot (ISBN 0615533612)