Writing About Writing About TV

Gather ’round, aspiring writers about TV writing, we at TVWriter™ are proud to bring you this truly intellectual discussion about the kind of thing we do right here every day (till we get a gig writing actual TV, in which case, “Whoa, Nellie!”)



by Linda Holmes

It was years ago that TV critic Alan Sepinwall said something to me that I’ve remembered ever since and that he doesn’t remember saying: that writing about television was shifting its focus from what is said before shows are on to what is said after shows are on. It made sense to me, since my career writing about TV started with writing recaps of shows I used an actual VCR to record. With tapes. I didn’t get screeners, I didn’t get advances — I just taped things, and then I wrote about them. I think now, that shift is so obvious that it’s taken for granted.

This came up again recently when Quentin Tarantino sat down for a long and searching interview with New York Magazine. After he expressed, among many other things, his affection for the departed HBO drama The Newsroom, interviewer Lane Brown mentioned the show’s mixed reviews. Tarantino’s response, in addition to wondering whether anyone reads TV criticism, included: “TV critics review the pilot. Pilots of shows suck.”

There’s plenty of room to debate whether anyone reads TV criticism anymore (or any other criticism, for that matter), but the other part of the response suggests it’s maybe been a while since Tarantino did. (In fairness, he’s busy.) While looking at pilots is certainly part of what lots of critics do and a bad enough pilot, or particularly an actively off-putting or offensive pilot, can get your show written off if it’s bad enough, criticism of television has long since become — particularly in the case of anything with any ambition — much more about the visit and revisit and re-revisit. There are shows that don’t get that treatment, but The Newsroom did. Whether you think its reviews were fair or unfair, they were not, in the main, the result of nobody reviewing anything after the pilot.

Writing about TV is in a weird place, for some of the same reasons TV itself is. “Here’s a new show; they sent it to me in advance; here are some thoughts including whether it’s good or not” is still part of the picture, just like the traditional fall rollout of broadcast network shows is still part of the cycle of TV. But just like delivery has changed and content has changed, writing has changed, too. And that traditional vision, in which your task is to generate a single review of a new show based on a pilot and then perhaps to do a remembrance when it ends, is entirely incomplete.

As shows have gotten more serialized and more complicated, and as online writing has provided a lot more space, the practice of writing about every single episode of a show has gotten more common. Shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad have been proving grounds for people who built audiences by breaking down metaphors, commenting on form, dissecting story directions, and generally working alongside viewers who want a more thoughtful experience out of watching television.

Of course, even that has gotten trickier to do. Early in this series, we talked about how the full-drop model, in which seasons of shows are released all at once, complicates public conversation. It complicates criticism, too (in a way that, were it true that TV critics just review pilots, it wouldn’t). Just now, The New York Times is posting two-a-day reviews of the episodes of the new Netflix show Narcos, because … it’s as good a method as any.

Well, wait. Technically, those aren’t reviews; they’re recaps, and if you want to get a weird and surprisingly boisterous argument going that’s of interest to a tiny number of people, get the TV critics of your acquaintance to reach agreement on how different those things are and how you tell them apart. (Spoiler alert: they won’t.) For me, recaps are a little more driven by the structure of the episode and the commentary follows that structure, while reviews are structured more like traditional cultural criticism. But there are countless gray areas and countless writers where “recap” and “review” both seem like reasonable labels to attach to their work. Of course, I came up writing 15-page scene-by-scene epics about episodes of Survivor that didn’t publish for four days, which is the kind of thing that simply wouldn’t/couldn’t happen now. At the time, people sort of went with it. You will now typically be asked at least once why a piece is so long if it runs past about 500 words, and the actual answer I would have given then – which was “…For pleasure?” – would not suffice….

Read it all at NPR

13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished

At last! Just what we’ve been waiting for. A guide to getting our writing, erm, written. And being finished is just as good as being brilliant, year?

Maybe better cuz for some of us it’s even harder.

dreamstime_xs_16028339by Gretchen Rubin

One of the challenges of writing is…writing. Here are some tips that I’ve found most useful for myself, for actually getting words onto the page:

1. Write something every work-day, and preferably, every day; don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Staying inside a project keeps you engaged, keeps your mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s often easier to do something almost every day than to do it three times a week. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.)

2. Remember that if you have even just fifteen minutes, you can get something done. Don’t mislead yourself, as I did for several years, with thoughts like, “If I don’t have three or four hours clear, there’s no point in starting.”

3. Don’t binge on writing. Staying up all night, not leaving your house for days, abandoning all other priorities in your life — these habits lead to burn-out.

4. If you have trouble re-entering a project, stop working in mid-thought — even mid-sentence — so it’s easy to dive back in later.

5. Don’t get distracted by how much you are or aren’t getting done. I put myself in jail.

6. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that creativity descends on you at random. Creative thinking comes most easily when you’re writing regularly and frequently, when you’re constantly thinking about your project.

7. Remember that lots of good ideas and great writing come during the revision stage. I’ve found, for myself, that I need to get a beginning, middle, and an end in place, and then the more creative and complex ideas begin to form. So I try not to be discouraged by first drafts….

Read it all at Aerogramme Studio

Follow Your Opportunity, Not Your Passion

Say what? Doesn’t advice like “follow your opportunity” directly oppose following your passion? But we all know that life’s all about going where your enthusiasm leads you, don’t we? Hmm?




by Carol Roth

With a job being something that we can no longer count on and more demands than ever on our time, we seem to be in constant search of balance and fulfillment. This has created a huge “follow your passion” movement, which suggests that you should earn a living by creating a livelihood from your greatest life passion.

But getting intoxicated by the passion story is akin to “business beer goggles.” You aren’t thinking clearly or seeing the reality.

For businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

While I do believe that successful businesses have leaders — and often employees, by the way — who are passionate about the business opportunity and their customers, you do not need your life’s passion as a starting point. If you were passionate about the television showDexter, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t translate into you starting a serial-killer business — despite being amoral and illegal, I don’t think the market opportunity is that large. But seriously, why do so many people think that you need to earn a living from what you love to do the most?

Passion isn’t a starting point.

Zappos.com is a business where passion followed opportunity, but wasn’t the starting point. I can’t imagine that Tony Hsieh is more passionate about shoes than most of the women that I know. He is, however, completely passionate about customer service, which helped take that business to the top of its game.

But people’s life passions generally aren’t around concepts like customer service, which drive successful businesses. Kids grow up wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, baseball players or Star Wars characters, not community builders. If you ask someone their passion, I can guarantee that 99 out of 100 times or more, you will get answers like golf, dancing, wine, scrapbooking or sex before customer service, community building and customer loyalty. If you start with passion, Imelda Marcos or Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw end up running Zappos.com before Tony Hsieh.

Successful businesses identify a customer need or want — an opportunity. When the entrepreneur is incredibly passionate about filling that customer need and is uniquely positioned to be the best person to do so in some way, that’s where business success happens.

And here’s the brilliant part: As long as entrepreneurs aren’t a bandwagon hopper trying to jump on whatever is hot, they will likely find an opportunity from an area of interest. For example, if you have no interest in green technologies, it’s not likely that you will notice a customer need in that area. On the other hand, if you are a foodie, it’s quite possible that you will run into an opportunity in or around food….

Read it all at Entrepreneur

Like Athletes, Writers Need to Warm Up

Know all those jocks who mocked you way back when cuz you were busy writing instead of playing sports?

Well, guess what, fellow scribes? We’re much more like our braggadocio-filled brethren than they – and we – ever thought:


by Srinivas Rao

When people exercise they stretch. When basketball players warm up the shoot free throws and shots from other areas on the court. Runners might do a slow short distance run to warm up. Tennis players hit a few tennis balls.

Writers have to warm up too. We warm up by putting our pen on a page and fingers on the keyboard and tap, tap, tap. It doesn’t really matter if anything particularly coherent shows up. We just need to get our fingers in motion. We need our fingers to loosen up. After all, painting vivid pictures that engrave deeper memories by tapping away at a keyboard is not exactly a natural state. But it is what writers do.

As we do, ideas start to bake, thoughts start to percolate, and subjects start to announce themselves saying “write about me.” And a montage of chocolate cakes, sunset kisses, perfect waves, and certain moments that are destined to be put into words starts to play in our mind. We might find a word, a phrase or a full sentence to describe those moments. If it sounds right, words make their way onto the page. If it sounds wrong we stare blankly off into space or at our screen, in the life of a writer known as “thinking.”

Perhaps we’ll find the words, the sentence or the paragraph to paint this picture that captures and leads the imagination of the reader. We want more than anything to take them to that place with us, so they can live it, breathe it, feel it….

Read it all at Medium

Cartoons: “The Pefect Idea”

You know what the perfect idea is, don’t you? After all, we’ve all had ’em, right? But nobody illustrates them as perfectly as Grant Snider:

The Perfect Idea Capture

See more Grand Snider genius HERE

What you need to start your first film

While clicking around the interwebs recently we found this primer for novice filmmakers. And when we say “primer,” we mean “basic.”

And when we say “basic,” we mean “in a webiverse where we often assume visitors to sites like TVWriter™ know way more than they really do, this article is unexpectedly essential to all those who’ve never gone through any form of video-creation process before:”

 What-Do-You-Need-To-Start-Your-First-Filmby Bhushan Mahadani

If You want to start your first film what resources do you need? I am writing just random thoughts. Lets say next week you want to start your first film what will you need. Today you can start filming anytime you want. There are numerous opportunities for upcoming filmmakers and I wanted to discuss here and thats why I ask ,what do you need  Start Your First Film? The answer is very simple. Please also watch the following video.

1) A Story/ Idea

Its not at all necessary that you should have a screenplay ready for your first film. This is just an exercise and you are just testing waters. You can make a documentary or a music video where you don’t have to hire actors. Just go out there look what is interesting and related to your idea and shoot it.

2) A Camera

Most of you must be having a digital camera which have video recording capabilities. Other options are your cell phone /ipad cameras. Go out there and just shoot whatever you like. Just keep in mind don’t take every shot more than 15 seconds. There will be some shots which will be exceptions. Follow your gut.

3) A Computer For Editing

These days everybody has computer.So now you have shot your first film and you want to edit it, so transfer your footage to your computer and use Microsoft Movie Maker which comes inbuilt with your PC. For mac users VideoBlend  is fantastic option. Try to avoid dialogs or voice overs(for the first film). Follow the instructions of the softwares which are very easy. Hurray you have made your first film.

Read it all at Bhushan Madadani’s blog