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Writing

Working in a Writers’ Room

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:36 min

Shonda discusses what she looks for in writers when staffing her shows and how her own writers' rooms are structured.

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Shonda Rhimes
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at the board. That is always a great way to go, because it makes you seem energetic and like you're doing something. Two, try to talk when you're in that room. Try to say at least one thing a day. Three, make sure you've read the writer's room notes the night before, and be the person who, when somebody asks, what did we say? Remind everybody what you said. Try to be useful. Try to be helpful. Be kind and be nice. And be the first one there and the last one to leave, always. That's what I think will help you. When I'm looking to hire somebody, I like to find people who not only have a real individual voice in their writing, so I don't want to read a spec script, which is just a script written for somebody else's show, meaning you can write in somebody else's voice. I want to read an original piece of writing. Sometimes it's an article, sometimes it's a play, sometimes it's a novel, sometimes it's a script. But I want it to be original, it has to be original. Not only do I want to read that and find out that you have an original voice, but I want people who aren't afraid of me, which I've found is interesting. People come in afraid to sort of express their opinion. They think they're not supposed to have one. But not only are you supposed to be not afraid to express your opinion, you have to be willing to argue. You have to be willing to fight for your opinion. Because to me, a writer's room where everybody is in agreement all the time is not a writer's room. That's just me listening to the sound of my own voice. And that is boring. And I can't possibly be right all the time. So I always want a room in which everybody has different opinions, everyone's from sort of a different background, everybody has different experiences, different ages, different everything, so that people can bring that to the table, and then argue their points of view and their ideas. That always makes for much better television. I think a writer's room can be a very wonderful place to be, but I also think that there are so many mistakes that writers can make in writer's rooms that I've seen over the years that I think can really be detrimental to their career. And I don't know that everybody really knows it or understands it. And you have a responsibility, every evening, to go home and have come in, having read the writer's room notes from the day before, to have some ideas about what you want to talk about the next day, even if it's not your episode that's being placed on the board to be discussed. If it is your episode, you cannot show up in the writer's room the next day with no new ideas or work. You really have to go home and come up with a bunch of new pitches, come up with a bunch of new ideas, having forwarded your story, have things to put on the board to fill it up that can be then discussed or changed or challenged, but you have to have done so...


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.

It helped me focus, gave me confidence, and insight. :-)

I have learned tactics of TV drama and i will try to implement in my writing. Thanks Shonda Rhimes for your valuable thoughts......

I enjoyed it immensly. It was honestly such a life-changing experience. I'm ready to write stories from my mind/heart and experience.

I feel like I have learned the anatomy of how to write a pilot/script for television. Thank you for creating the Masterclass. I have learned so much information I now feel empowered to create memorable characters and how to structure a script for television. I now have a creative place to come to for support as I walk on this journey and for that, I am truly grateful.


Comments

jane S.

open and honest and helpful. Love her desire to share her expertise so sincerely.

Wendy J.

I've seen this lesson six or seven times because I keep trying to get credit for finishing the whole course. Working imm a Writer's Room should make me scream in frustration but I still find something interesting to mull over every time I see it.

Mikaylynn W.

Hey Everyone, So I know in this lesson the assignment was to set up a google hangout and to break a new episode. I am interested if anyone else is :) Also I am looking for other writer's to connect with.

A fellow student

How do two women age 62 and 68 living in South Carolina break into the industry? We have been writing and honing our craft for the last seven years; have come up with a faith-based mystery movie series and want to move forward but where do we go?

ANN H.

Who is the industry? How to break into the industry? How to get a manager, an agent, someone to look at my stuff. How?

Jonas K.

Are there different categories for writers in a writers room? (Outliner, Dialouge Writer, Head Autor ...)

ernest C.

i love behavioral research studies for this purpose of charactization and the idea of emotional intelligence truly helps guide my ideals for character building ESPEC-SILLY when the behavioral ideal is influencing a social change. Mmmmmm.....I'd follow the single malt Glenmorangie trail to anyone's table! I'd probably write like Hemingway then with the same ATTITUDE of the writer. I recognize the group pattern Shonda refers to as the PACK, it's needed in the wilderness to survive. Anyone think TV Land isn't a wilderness that Shondaland has to fight to survive is definitely NOT sitting at the table - a lone wolf effect might unfold to prevent recessive dangers of Pack inbred story line plots.

Scott V.

But what if you are stupid and/or really don't have anything to say? lol What little experience I've had in writer's rooms with friend's projects has really taught me that's where I seem to be at. I have shows I want to make and scripts I want to write, but I don't actually think I can survive a writer's room.

EK T.

Great session. I probably would have gotten fired for being too quiet at one point in my life. Then at another point, I may have run into trouble for not being able to shut up. Those who are just coming into this field, with all of these great resources are really lucky. Take advantage of all these instructors have to offer.

Nancy P.

I very much respect the point Shonda made about writing from character. I have encountered actors and directors who have asked me why I have so much focus on the character. I am taking away a great deal of information from the pitch and working in the writing room. Thank you.