Film & TV

Working in TV Production

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:35 min

Shonda talks about how a writer can best adapt to the fast-paced world of television production and the important lessons she has learned in over a decade of producing TV.

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Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.
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When you're writing a movie, what's wonderful is that, for 364 days, you can think about writing your movie, and then spend a couple of months writing your movie. With television, every eight days you need to produce a script. And if you're doing that for 22 episodes, every eight days for 22 sets of eight days or whatever, you have to produce a script. That is not a joke, and it must happen. You're in eight days in prep, eight days in shooting, eight days in post-production. And it has to continuously happen, or else the trains stop, as we like to call it. And if the trains stop, production stops, and money keeps getting spent while everybody waits for you, which you can't do. So it is a continuous race to keep ahead of production, to have scripts ready for people to shoot. And you have to have the ability to keep producing scripts and making something happen, which is very different from movies, where you write one, and then people think about it for months, and then they give you notes, and you think about it for months, and then-- I don't know, there's months of pre-production, and then months of like preparation and discussion and rehearsals. And then you shoot a movie. Movies can take years. One script could take years to get made, whereas television, it's immediate, which is both terrifying and exciting. There's something really wonderful about the idea that I can have an idea like Olivia Pope gets kidnapped on a Monday, and by the next Monday I'm sitting having a table read where Olivia Pope gets kidnapped, and by the next Monday Olivia Pope's been kidnapped. You know, that's thrilling. But it is very immediate. [MUSIC PLAYING] I would highly recommend people get a non-writing producing partner. I think it's invaluable if you can find the right person. I don't know how a lot of people do their jobs without it. Betsy and I talk about this all the time. She's my non-writing producing partner, and she and I go, why don't other people do this more? And it's starting to become more and more frequent. But I highly recommend it. Having a non-writing producing partner in Hollywood is very rare, I think, for television shows. And for me, it has been invaluable simply because my capacity for shows-- well, not even my capacity, we have so many shows. And we want to make more shows that I'm not creating, but we also want to make shows that I am creating. And on the ones I'm not creating, it's sort of like being the grandmother. You get to hold the baby and love the baby, but then you get to give the baby back and go home. But I still have my own shows that I'm still overseeing on a day-to-day basis. That's hard. That's a lot of-- I think we're going to have six shows on the air at a certain point this year. That's a lot of shows. And in order to do that, you really need to-- I couldn't imagine doing all that by myself. To hav...


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.

I thought this class was great! I'm working on a couple of scripts and with the information I gained here is definitely going to make me a stronger writer.

Loved it! I've put the five acts of my new pilot down on paper for the first time which has been great.

Amazing, Shonda shares all aspects of the process of writing a show.

This class allowed be to see inside television production, and more importantly, the how scriptwriting works. The class was well organized and in-depth. A class that can be seen akin to a graduate course in college.


Comments

Chava G.

It's just our imagination, Good in good out! Garbage in , garbage out! So exciting, I appreciate all of this information!

Graeme R.

Shonda is so amazingly intelligent and articulate. She is also immensely generous in sharing what she knows. What a fine woman!

Michael O.

Vetting the actors - I would extend that in the indie world to finding and engaging with like minded cast and crew for your particular project. In the theatre, we call it 'esprit de corps' meaning a fellowship with a common goal. "Spirit of the company." Makes sense that the esprit de corps would be key in television production. Coraggio!

Darrell H.

Wow, such amazing insight. Very intriguing to say the least. The Line Producer insight was on point. Being honest and a realist always has its benefits. I produced 3 films and 5 stage plays so far in my career so I do understand to a point of what she is saying. You have to know your budget limits, that way you won't be all over the place. The actors and other staff members I reach back to are the ones that are respectful, integral and fun to be around. Now, as far as a non- writing "Producer Partner " to help me with the load. That would be my lovely wife, Niambi Hines. She is a huge part of my success. Her assistance is appreciated in so many ways I can't even count.

Hector V.

Ms. Rhimes explains how some writers don't understand or know the limitations of the other people who are responisble for turning their words into reality. I would suggest that every writer, work on an independant film project in which they have to wear several hats. You should be a gaffer, a PA, a line director, a stand-in, a chauffer, a wrangler in order to understand what everone does and appreciate their efforts.

Ryan L.

You just have to look at the mess going on with Lethal Weapon to see how important getting an actor who's not a jackass is. The line producer stuff reminds me a lot of George RR Martin, who was notorious throughout the '80s for writing TV scripts with no consideration of the practicalities of filming them and was eventually driven back to doing novels. And then karma bit him in the ass when he had to write the Game of Thrones episode with one of his biggest battle scenes himself.

Jason H.

Vetting the Actors, I'm soooo glad she thought this was important because I know how it can be when an actor makes a set toxic and everyone walks on eggshells and it becomes "work" and not fun. From the films I've done, music videos, whatever... I learned really early one accidental lesson in casting which I've done ever since... about 15 years ago, I was casting for a project and there was a waiting area. Being lower budget, I didn't have a PA helping out, it was basically just me (and a partner inside) getting actors from the waiting area but some assumed I was just 'the help'. Even in that waiting area... you see people for who they are and you ask yourself, "Are they going to be fun to work with for a couple weeks? Will they have a good attitude if something goes wrong?" So, that day as I was checking some people in, this one potential actress had a monster attitude, wouldn't look at me, snatched the clipboard. Whoa. So I grabbed the next person slotted and we read them, went down the line. Finally, she came in and the "acting" began before the read. "Hi!! How are you everyone!!" Super (fake) perky. Then she was told that I was actually the director and, yeah, whoops. She didn't get the part :) I'd much rather work with someone with less talent and a good attitude because things go wrong on set and the last thing you need is a temper tantrum. Almost all of the actors I've worked with, I've become friends with them to this day, even when roles weren't right for them later. And Shonda, as usual, is spot-on with who she's chosen... I was fortunate to meet Kerry at a 'dinner event' after an awards 'thing' and she was sitting at the table right next to us -- could not have been be nicer to everyone, wait staff included... truly an amazing person. And, I hear the horror stories of some actors on other shows who make life miserable for everyone.

Lisa S.

Wow. This is refreshingly honest and helpful. I soo appreciate the honesty. And yes, I am irrelevant on a set. My work is done at that point. Such a great reminder of the biz meets art model of TV. Thank you!

Cherise A. W.

I love the challenge of producing a script every 8 days. Writing twenty-two episodes is unique. I believe I can do it and you as well. I believe its an attractive way of writing. Always having amazing ideas to put on paper maybe terrifying, but I believe its "ATTRACTIVE and alluring to have scripts ready to produce. We have to be like "Nike" "Just Do It." You're amazing Thank you, Cherise A. Williams

Robert

Collaboration is queen in Shondaland - awesome. The value on being a good person is something I keep hearing and find so inspiring. From teaching film for years and running a few indie sets myself, I feel exactly the same way. The people I reach back to are the ones I want to be around, I respect and trust to be professional and a person I'm proud to affiliate with.