Friday, July 9, 2010

Television or Feature Writer?

July 9th, 2010

Decisions. Decisions.

Newbie screenwriters have a tough time differentiating between features and television. I know I did. I always thought "Hey, a writer's a writer."

Boy was I wrong. And, if you're reading this and thinking the same thing, you're wrong too. You heard me. You're wrong.

Accept it. Live with it. Move on.

The essential differences are very basic. Features are full length movies. And television is, well, meant for television.

Features are usually about 90-120 pages in length, give or take. And television- well, it depends on if you're looking at a sitcom or an hour-long drama.

But those kind of differences any Tom, Dick or Harry can learn about on the Internet. I think my grandmother could explain those to you in her sleep. The biggest differences have to do with your writing style. The way you write your material and the direction in which you want to take your career.

Initially, I started off writing features. I studied the five-act structure, worked hard at keeping my material at a decent length, and made sure my characters were well developed from start to finish. I wrote about three features and then boom- I decided I was ready for television.

It's one hell of a wake up call when you realize you don't know shit about writing for TV.

Throw away the five act structure and, if you're writing an hour long drama, replace it with 28 scenes of hardcore, riveting entertainment. Forget it if you're writing a sitcom- that's a totally different monster. And your character arcs don't last for just one script- they stretch over an entire season.

Are you starting to get the picture?

If you're trying to find your niche, I suggest looking into both. You're not going to know which is the perfect fit without giving both a shot. And that's the truth.

Another factor you need to look into is how you like to write. Features can be done a number of different ways- in ghostwriter fashion, as a loner, or in a group of screenwriters. Television, however, might be created by one person- but in the end, it's entirely a group of staff members that write what we see on the boob tube. Television is all about teamwork.

Two clips of advice--
1. If you love movies, have a hard on for Syd Field, and think you're the next Christopher Nolan- I suggest features.

2. If you spend hours DVRing your favorite shows, think 28 scenes is easy, and you're a team player- I suggest television.

Or fuck it- be like me and do both. You can't go wrong in Hollywood. Unless, of course, you're Mel Gibson.

Peace, Love and Heartbreak ♥

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