People ask me questions. They call. They email. They rush up to me on the street.
The most frequently asked question, especially by those rushing up to me on the street, is “What the #&$@! do you think you’re doing?”
The second most frequently asked question is “Mind if I ask you a question?” Which almost always is the sign that a showbiz question is coming.
The most commonly asked showbiz question, as I’ve said many times (usually when answering a question about my questions), is, “How did you get started?”
The second most commonly asked showbiz question, as I’ve also said many times (often without being asked because I tend to get on a roll), is, “How do I get an agent?”
And, right up there in the Top Five, is the following question, asked this time around in an email from a new visitor to this site:
I have read your book (Television Writing From the Inside Out – I won it in a contest – “thank you”) and I realize that different shows have different expectations. So if I wanted to write a script for a specific program, would I be able to find formatting rules somewhere (besides and beyond your book) that are specific to each particular show?
I understand that all programs have their own writers, but I think the experience of writing for a show that is already running would be challenging and exciting. If a resource like that doesn’t exist, can TVWriter be a resource for that kind of information?
So, since I received this inquiry just the other day, and I’ve got an answer right at hand, I’m going to sit back here and now with a broad smile and say:
Thanks for the great question. Yes, my definition of a “great question” is one I can answer, so you know they’re few and far between. I understand the desire/need to feel as comfortable with what you’re writing as possible and I too need to feel that I’m using the correct format when I write.
(And when I do most other things because, frankly, one of the worst feelings in the world to me is that of being ignorant/out of it/just plain – gasp – wrong.)
Fortunately, after a few years of trudging in the trenches I became the person who decided the format on the shows I did, and I hope you will too.
Until you reach that point, though, here’s what I think you should know. The two top-selling screenwriting programs, Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, both come with templates for as many current/recent series as they can get hold of. So that’s one avenue to explore. The other major place to find what you want is via the magic of Google because teleplays written by staff members on most shows definitely are available on the web.
Which brings me to the fact that TVWriter™ has for many years indeed been a “resource for that kind of information,” although not on the main site because the sources are always changing and it’s hard to keep specific pages current. So what we’ve done instead is put all the info we’ve gathered over time on the TVWriter™ Message Board in a thread, reasonable entitled, I believe, called Places to Get Sample Scripts from Current Series.
I encourage all of you to check out the link above. And I hope you’ll go further and take advantage of the fact that the TVW Message Board is filled with almost a decade’s worth of nuggets on a wide variety of topics (most of them related to that thing we do called “writing,” others focusing on, well, just about everything). You’ll find answers you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. And you can answer other people’s questions and post your own as well. If anything was ever win-win, it’s this.