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TV Writing for PROFIT
You'd have to agree that television is one of the miracles of our modern technological age. It’s all around us. News, drama, sports, sitcoms, reality and game shows pour mercilessly into our lives. It’s so prevalent, we take it for granted – and we writers still don’t get it.
The simple fact is: the entire TV industry is based on writing. Nothing gets made, no programs commissioned, no stars employed without tons and tons of writing behind the scenes. All of which is very well paid and easily available to freelance writers.
So why do freelance writers often ignore writing for TV?
TV networks and producers are always complaining that there simply aren’t enough writers in the business. This seems crazy to me. As an online writing mentor I’m in contact with thousands of freelance writers that would kill for a gig. Any writing gig. And yet, most writers either think that TV writing is beyond them or perhaps, beneath them.
TV unites and comforts us all. It enriches us and our families. The small screen inspires, informs and entertains, transforming our lives since its invention last century in a myriad of incalculable ways.
Let's face it - we love it.
But have you ever asked yourself if you could write for TV?
Fact is, someone has to - because the TV networks need a constant and never-ending supply of new shows. And they pay freelance writers extremely well to invent and produce them.
Did you know you can walk into a TV network with just an idea for a TV show – having less than half a page of words actually written down – and walk out with $5000?
This is no fantasy. It happens every day.
It’s called ‘development money’, and to a TV network it’s chicken-feed compared to what a program costs to make. That’s why they don’t mind giving it to you.
Recently my wife and I were involved in a TV workshop that was paid for by various funding bodies including production companies and the networks. The workshop’s sole purpose was to generate commercial ideas for TV drama shows. There were seventeen of us in a hall designed to hold three hundred – and seventeen was all the freelance writers they could find who were interested in TV writing in a state of over one point six million people!
Of the seventeen, a whopping nine participants, including my wife and I, got development money and promises of more once we actually started writing. Basically, more than HALF of us got paid to write a short proposal for a TV drama series. When you consider that the odds of getting a $5000 advance from a book publisher is about one in ten thousand, you can immediately see that TV writing is an obvious way to go – for any writer who actually wants to get paid.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that development money doesn’t need to be repaid. If our program goes to air then the money will be absorbed into the budget. But if the program doesn’t manage to make it to the screen – then the money’s written off. The fact is only about one in a hundred shows that go through ‘development’ ever make it to the screen anyway – so you can actually be a very well paid working writer, even if nobody’s ever heard of you or your work.
And of course, if your writing does make it to the screen, the rewards are astronomical. $100,000 for a forty-two-minute broadcast script is the starting point.
Okay, so now you’re thinking you should give this TV writing thing a try, right? I hope so!
Your next question is bound to be, do I have what it takes?
And the answer is: if you’re any kind of writer, of course you do.
The fact is writing for TV is not that hard. It’s certainly easier than writing novels, even short stories and articles. This is because, get this, the actual writing is literally the last thing most TV executives want to see. They’re happy to discuss ideas, commission development, perhaps see the odd proposal and pay you to put together some kind of ‘bible’ for your series idea – I explain all this stuff in greater detail in my TV Writing book – but really, the writing is, at first, seemingly the thing of least interest to them. They assume you can do that because you came to them – and, if by some chance you write very badly, as far as they’re concerned, they can always get someone else in to write the scripts – but you’ll still get paid as the creator of the idea.
Because it’s ideas that TV thrives on.
And coming up with ideas is what we writers do best, right?
So let’s get to it! Click on the link below to discover the inside info on this fascinating, glamorous and fun writer's market.
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