ENGL 14
Create a TV Series Winter 2022

Cross-listed ENGL 14 / THEA 14

Class Details

Every TV show starts with an idea. That idea becomes a Pilot–the first episode of a series. This course will help you learn what constitutes an effective idea for a TV show, and how to convert said idea into a pilot en route to a series. Our focus will include: What goes into a pilot that might suggest that there are many more stories to tell over multiple seasons? What makes the lead character complicated enough to support a whole world? Who are the other important characters, and how do they interact with that main character? How does the action in the pilot support the premise and promise of the series? In addition to developing our own stories, we will also analyze existing pilots to help us consider such issues as how concept and character are launched, and how to identify your “A”, “B”, and “C” stories. Along the way we will also learn about the realities of the business and the career paths of television writers, and guest speakers will include producers, studio executives and currently working writers. The goal will be a simulation of a collaborative and supportive “Writers’ Room” where students can test and shape their premises, stories and characters. By the end of Winter Study each student will have written a 5- to 7-page treatment that conveys the show’s world, people, and fundamental arcs, 5-7 sample pages of the pilot itself, and a verbal “Pitch” to be presented on the last day of class to a studio head. Class will meet three times a week for two hours, with individual one hour follow-ups.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 12
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: 5- to 7-page series treatment, 5- to 7-pages of pilot, and an oral fifteen minute pitch
Prerequisites: love stories and storytelling
Enrollment Preferences: seniors and English and Theater majors given preference
Unit Notes: An Emmy-nominated writer and executive producer, Michael Sardo has worked on hundreds of episodes of television and developed and written series pilots for HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, TNT, ABC, NBC, Lifetime and USA networks, HBO Independent Productions, eOne, Witt/Thomas, NBC Productions, Universal Cable Productions, Slingshot Global Media, Circle of Confusion TV, Storyworld Entertainment, MGM Television and Radical Media. Michael teaches writing at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Materials/Lab Fee: none
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 14 THEA 14

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