Film & TV

Teach Yourself TV Writing

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:17 min

Shonda discusses the importance of knowing your television history and how you can learn some of the fundamentals of storytelling on your own.

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Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
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Preview

I always say, film is for the director. It really is. The director makes all the decisions. It's the director's vision. What's in the director's head is what's on screen. In television, what's in the writer's head is what's on screen. In film, the director fires the writer; in television, the writer fires the director. That's the joke-- which isn't really that funny if you think about it. Nobody wants to get fired. But it really is this medium in television where, when I think to myself, I want it to look like this-- interior, operating room, day-- they build the operating room that I imagined. And that's fantastic. I love the fact that I can have an idea and that idea can get realized that quickly. That is extraordinary. I think I love the intimacy of TV. You know, we spend more time with people in their living rooms-- my characters are in people's living rooms-- people spend more time with them than they do with members of their own family. You know, if you watched Grey's, you spent more time with Cristina Yang than you probably did with some of your closest friends. So when she left, you lost a friend. And psychologically that is true. Emotionally that is true. But also, you went on the journey that she went on; you learned things from her. You were with that character. There was an intimacy there. And it means that the world becomes a little bit smaller, to me. You know, 60 countries of people and 207 languages, that show. That means that the world is a much smaller place than we thought it was, because it means that all of those people are watching the same shows at the same time and caring about those characters. The storytelling in film is very closed-ended, obviously. You've got three acts. You've got your hero on a journey and that journey has to end. There's always sort of a very short character arc for your characters. A television show, what's wonderful is that your character-- your lead character or your lead characters, depending on how you're telling the story-- can go on sort of an endless journey. It's an endless adventure that you get to tell for as long as you'd like. I've been telling Meredith Grey's journey for 13 seasons now, and it's been going on and on and on. And so you get to watch a character grow and change and evolve, which is exciting. It's just a different level of activity, I think, and inner character development. I think all the writing is the same. It's not that the writing for television and the writing for movies is so different. I think any lesson I learned writing for movies is very similar to writing for television. Storytelling-- the art of storytelling is fundamentally the same, which is, if you are not writing from character, and what would a character do and is this actual human behavior, then you're not writing honestly. It's not going to resonate, and...


Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class has been such an eye opener on multiple levels. The preciseness of language and guidance, compliment the structure which in turn inspires me to be better at what I do. Bravo!

Fences have an outside and an inside and those build them get to decide

I graduated from film school a few years ago. I've been working to get experience. I had a baby and now feeling like I'm ready to go get the career I want. Master class helped me dust the cobwebs and start thinking and learning again. I'm a huge fan of all of Shonda's work and the opportunity to hear her talk about her process is one I've yearned for. I truly enjoyed having access to this class.

Fantastic info! Shonda was amazing and hope to listen to it again. Incredibly useful information to help me stay on track to become a writer in TV!


Comments

Travis J.

What I LOVE, is how the "assignments" Shonda is giving us, are actually the real methods and tools she's personally used in her own discovery of how a writer becomes their best self, how a storyteller tells their best story. Shonda isn't some figurehead preaching out of a textbook on the mass-production of generic writers. No. Shonda is a mentor.

Chava G.

Congratulations on your marriage, raising beautiful children and running a successful company simultaneously, while writing - Madam - You Rule! Thanks Shonda Rhimes, I love you and your acumen. A Shonda Rhimes story is the best way to connect to what is relevant to people today. Your gift is the telling and am grateful that you are willing to pass on wisdom and knowledge to others, frankly you are a miracle come to life just like your shows. Bravo!

Jayton S.

Thanks for the advice, Mrs. Rhimes! I'm definitely taking Mr. Sorkin's class after I finish yours!

Chelsea S.

Hello! Is anyone else here new to studying television and film writing? I am just now allowing myself to explore and figure out where/how I want to be involved in the creation of television or tv and it is exciting but I feel very behind. I haven't gone to school for anything related, as I was a sociology major, but I have always loved storytelling. I would love to connect with others and keep each other motivated! Best, Chelsea

A fellow student

Speaking of the classics, I grow up on Sanford and Son... going back and watch old Seinfeld and I Love Lucy episodes. I would love to find scripts for any of them, to read first.

ANN H.

I am still looking for scripts and or shows to read through. Like Shalin, the breakdown of the production has to be contained into the script, doesn't it? Or is there another way?

Shalini P.

Can someone tell me where to find the original scripts of tv shows online? I see many websites offering the transcripts, but it's only the dialogues, and not structured.

Derricke C.

It is really good to know that all the TV I have watched over the years wasn't wasted time. Now though, I see I need to start looking at shows with a more critical eye. I liked what Shonda said about reading the news to get ideas and understanding how stories are told.

Donald P.

I agree with Shonda on knowing the TV craft. I have always known how television shows are often credited for the writer or writers and/or creator/creators. I think of the days of Steven Bochco, Stephen J. Cannell and Aaron Spelling. I am happy I am finally attending this Master class almost 3 years late but better than never.

EK T.

I was glad to hear her comments about Mr. Sorkin. He used The West Wing as a case study in his class, but my favor Sorkin series was, and still is The Newsroom. I know every episode. And although he says he would rewrite every one of them if he could, I see what he means, but it is still my favorite. I am looking forward to seeing the difference in Ms. Rhimes' process. I already have a headstart on those old television shows, but I have a lot to do with respect to reading old scripts.