You know, the difference between TV, obviously, and movies — movies you are going to tell me the most interesting 2 hours in someone’s life. What are the most crazy, interesting 2 hours and we’re done. Maybe there’ll be sequels, of course, blah, blah, blah — but, in general, that’s what you’re going for. In a TV show — especially a pilot — you need to give me enough fodder to understand that there are at least 20 hours — nowadays with streaming, 40 — used to be 100 — in order to get to syndication — but that there’s that much interesting embedded conflict among this group of people that I’m going to be constantly interested in watching them overcome whatever their problem might be. Whatever their issue might be. So, every show has what we would call an overarching dramatic question that is trying to be answered. It’s like — and it can be — it should be — the bigger it is, the more universal. So, for me, an easy example is Bones, right, which some people realize what was — she’s uber-smart and autistic and he’s uber-Catholic and, you know, goes for the emotion. Which, of course, is a flip to what we think gender-wise. It should be the dude being super-logical and the girl being super-emotional, but they flipped it so that’s interesting. But really it’s a show about science versus religion and the 2 characters represent those 2 points of view and there’s never going to be an answer to that question. Except if you accept that the answer is you need them both and that’s how they solve their crimes is the 2 of them together are better than each separately. So, you’re overarching question every week is being addressed. The individual question each week is simply who committed this murder. That’s always going to be solved but the overarching dramatic question can never be solved or your show’s over.
It’s always fun to sit down with students and share stories about entering the television industry and how things work at all stages and I had that opportunity the other day.
Daniela Torres, a just-graduated (Congratulations!) student of the Columbia College Semester in LA program asked me to guest on a podcast she had recently begun hosting with another college student she met during her internship (good example of networking in action!).
We could have talked all morning (the benefit of a 3 hour class session) but we held it to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so. Hopefully, along the way I answered some questions you might have about how the business works. So often it amounts to working hard at being a better writer and gathering a group of other talented, hard-working people around you so you can all rise together.
Dr. Rosanne Welch is a television writer with credits that include Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, ABCNEWS: Nightline and Touched by an Angel. She also teaches Television Writing and the Art of Film at San Jose State University.
Rosanne discusses what made shows like Beverly Hills 90210 compelling, what to do and not to do when attempting to pitch a show to broadcast or streaming, what most young writers neglect in their writing process, and much more!
The Courier Thirteen Podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Audible.