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Television and Screen Writing, 4th Edition

Book Description

Now in its fourth edition, Television and Screen Writing: From Concept to Contract is a classic resource for students and professionals in screenwriting and television writing. This book will teach you how to become a creative and marketable writer in every professional arena - including major studios, production companies, networks, cable and pay TV, animation, and interactive programs. Specific techniques and script samples for writing high-quality and producible "spec" scripts for theatrical motion pictures, the sitcom series, one-hour dramatic series, longform television, soaps, talk show, variety, animation, interactive and new media are provided. Television and Screen Writing: From Concept to Contract, Fourth Edition also offers a fully detailed examination of the current marketplace, and distinct strategies for marketing your scripts, from registering and copyrighting the script to signing with an agent.

This new edition has been expanded to include the most up-to-date creative and professional script samples, marketing resources, and practical information possible. The companion website ( offers a wide range of contacts and resources for you to explore, and Internet links to professional resources. There is also an Annotated and Selected Bibliography for your reference

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Halftitle
  3. Title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. 1. Introduction
  9. Part One: Creating Marketable Premises for Motion Pictures and TV
    1. 2. How to Create Marketable Premises for Motion Pictures and Tv
      1. The Importance of a Producible Plot and Castable Characters
      2. How to Create Quality Premises for Spec Scripts That Will Be Producible and Marketable
      3. Creating the Driving Force for Characters in the Premise
      4. Motion Picture Loglines
        1. High Concepts
        2. Successful Loglines for Current Screenplay and Pitch Sales
        3. Successful Independent Film Loglines
        4. Loglines From Other Successful Motion Pictures
      5. Adaptations
      6. Television Loglines
        1. Sample Loglines from Successful Comedy and Drama TV Series
      7. Television Films and Movies of the Week
      8. Animation
      9. Interactive and New Media
      10. Nonfiction Entertainment
  10. Part Two: Story Development
    1. 3. How to Develop a Marketable Story
      1. Genres and Themes
      2. Plot Patterns
        1. Love and Romance
        2. Jeopardy and Survival
        3. Vengeance
        4. Success and Achievement
        5. Search and Quest
        6. Group and Family Ties
        7. Fantasy
        8. Return
    2. 4. How to Write the Story
      1. Where to Begin: Choosing the Story Area and Lead Characters
      2. How to Advance the Story Effectively
      3. The Treatment and Step Outline
        1. Sample Narrative Treatment
        2. Sample Step Outline
      4. Storylines for Television
    3. 5. Dramatic Elements and Act Structure
      1. Dramatic Elements in a Story
      2. Classical Three-Act Structure
      3. Act Structure in Motion Pictures
      4. Act Structure in Television
        1. Half-Hour Sitcom Act Structure
        2. One-Hour Dramatic TV
        3. Long-Form Television
      5. Plotting Audience Interest in Your Story
      6. Sample Audience Interest Curves
  11. Part Three: Characters and Dialogue
    1. 6. How to Develop Credible and Castable Characters
      1. How to Create Credible and Castable Characters
      2. Creating Credible Characters
      3. Using Method Acting Techniques: “The Method Writer”
      4. Character Arcs
      5. Setups and Payoffs
    2. 7. How to Write Realistic Dialogue
      1. Problems and Solutions in Writing Dialogue
      2. The Top-Ten Worst Dialogue Problems and Solutions
  12. Part Four: Motion Picture Screenplay Format
    1. 8. Spec Screenplay Format
      1. Spec Screenplay Format
      2. Master Scene Screenplay
      3. How to Prepare Your Screenplay Professionally
        1. Other Format Distinctions
        2. How to Set Up Camera Angles
        3. How to Structure Scenes
        4. Special Techniques
      4. Shooting Script Format
      5. Screenwriting Format Software
      6. Software for Script Development
    2. 9. How to Write Effective Scenes in Screenplays
      1. Problems and Solutions in Writing Scenes
      2. Eight Pitfalls in Scene Descriptions, and How to Solve Them
        1. 1. Too Choppy
        2. 2. Too Confusing
        3. 3. Too Redundant
        4. 4. Too Long
        5. 5. Too Expository
        6. 6. Too Technical
        7. 7. Too Expensive
        8. 8. Too Potentially Litigious
      3. How to Write Effective Opening Scenes in Screenplays
    3. 10. Script Revisions
      1. Revising Your Script
      2. A Checklist for Script Revision
        1. 1. Is the Script Visual?
        2. 2. Is the Script Producible?
        3. 3. Is the Script Format Professional and the Content Readable?
        4. 4. Is the Story Focused and Well Developed?
        5. 5. Is the Dramatic Conflict Strong and the Pacing Effective?
        6. 6. Is the Mood Accurately Conveyed?
        7. 7. Are the Characters Likable, Identifiable, and Consistently Developed?
        8. 8. Is the Dialogue Realistic and Sharply Defined?
      3. The Final Polish
  13. Part Five: Television Scripts
    1. 11. Television Sitcom Format
      1. Writing Spec Sitcom Scripts
      2. Comedy Theory
      3. TV Sitcom Format
      4. Title Page
      5. Tape and Film Formats for Current Comedy Series
      6. Format Samples for Current Sitcom Series
        1. “Frasier”
        2. “Friends”
      7. Film Format for Current Comedy Series
        1. “Ally McBeal”
      8. Cast and Set Lists
        1. Sample Cast and Sets List from “Frasier”
        2. Sample Tentative Production Schedule from “Becker”
    2. 12. How to Write Professional Scenes in Sitcoms
      1. Sitcom Characters and Dialogue
        1. Sample from “Frasier”
        2. Sample from “Becker”
    3. 13. Animation, Interactive and New Media, and Nonfiction Entertainment
      1. Writing for Animation Series
      2. WGA Animation Writers Caucus and Animation Contract
      3. Format Samples for Current Animation Series
        1. “King of the Hill”
        2. “The Simpsons”
        3. “South Park”
      4. Writing for Interactive and New Media
      5. Multimedia Script Format
      6. Interactive Program Contract
      7. Nonfiction Entertainment
      8. Informational Program Contract
      9. Documentary Format
    4. 14. Television Drama Format
      1. Writing Spec TV Drama Scripts
      2. Act Structure in TV Drama
      3. TV Drama Format
      4. Format Samples for Current TV Drama Series
        1. “ER”
        2. “Law & Order”
        3. “NYPD Blue”
        4. “Star Trek: Voyager”
        5. “The X-Files”
    5. 15. How to Write Professional Scenes in Tv Drama
      1. Action, Characters, and Dialogue in TV Drama
        1. Sample from “Star Trek: Voyager”
    6. 16. Soap, Talk Show, and Variety
      1. Writing Soaps
      2. Format Samples for Current TV Soaps
        1. “Days of Our Lives”
        2. “General Hospital”
      3. Talk Show and Variety Format
        1. Sample Song Segment “The Late Show with David Letterman”
    7. 17. How to Create New Television Series
      1. How TV Series Concepts are Developed
      2. “Put” Pilots
      3. Series Concepts, Presentations, and Series Bibles
      4. How to Create Marketable Television Series Concepts
      5. What Makes an Effective Series Concept?
        1. The Desirability of the Inherent Idea
        2. The Ability to Sustain the Concept Over Many Episodes
        3. Internal Conflict Among Series Characters
        4. Sample Concept from “Coach”
      6. How to Write Original TV Series Presentations
        1. Concept (The Arena/Setting)
        2. Characters
        3. Pilot Story
        4. Sample Future Stories
      7. The Art of Pitching Ideas
      8. Personal Ingredients for Successful Pitching
        1. Honest Enthusiasm
        2. Abundance of Detail
        3. Humor
        4. Conviction
        5. Adaptability
      9. How to Create TV Series Bibles
  14. Part Six: Marketing and Selling Your Script
    1. 18. How to Sell Your Motion Picture Screenplay
      1. What You Should Know Before Marketing
      2. Register and Copyright Your Script
      3. Joining the Writers Guild of America (WGA)
      4. The Release Form or Submission Agreement
      5. Writing a Query Letter
      6. The Synopsis
      7. How to Prepare Your Script for Submission
      8. Submission Status Reports
      9. How to Get an Agent
      10. Analyzing the Marketplace
      11. Major Studios and Production Companies
      12. Sources for Top Grossing Films, 1998
      13. Spec Screenplay Trends
        1. Script Sales by Studio, 1999
        2. Script Sales by Genre, 1999
        3. Script Sales by Source Material, 1999
      14. The Million-Dollar Spec Script
      15. Pitching
      16. Development Trends in Theatrical Motion Pictures, 2000
      17. Sample Going Rates for “Star” Screenwriters, 1999-2000
      18. Business Deals and Contracts for Spec Screenplays
      19. Writer's Theatrical Short-Form Contract
      20. Rules of Spec Contracts
        1. Options
        2. Spec Sales
        3. Guaranteed Rewrite/Meeting
        4. “If-Come Deals”
        5. “Shopping”
      21. Screen Credits and Arbitration
      22. Writing Violence in Films
    2. 19. How to Sell Your Television Script
      1. What You Should Know Before Marketing
      2. Register and Copyright Your Script
      3. How to Get an Agent
      4. Analyzing the Marketplace
      5. Marketing Trends in Television, January 2000
      6. The Television Writer's Marketplace
      7. Network, Cable Channels, and Pay TV
      8. Independent Producers
      9. Production Companies
      10. Major Studios
      11. Writing Professionally for Television Series
      12. Pitching
      13. TV Series Concepts
      14. Long-Form Television
      15. Business Deals and Contracts for Television
      16. Credits and Arbitration
    3. 20. National and State Funding Sources
      1. National Funding Sources
        1. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
        2. Public Broadcasting Service
        3. National Endowment for the Arts
        4. The National Endowment for the Humanities
      2. State Funding Sources
        1. State Arts and Humanities Agencies
        2. State Film and Television Commissions
      3. Private Foundations and Corporate Sources
      4. How to Write Grant Proposals
        1. The Face Sheet
        2. The Narrative Proposal
        3. The Budget
      5. How Projects Are Evaluated
      6. Rights, Profits, and Royalties
  15. Appendixes: Where to Go Next
  16. Index