Your Pilot in a Weekend

Are you finally ready to write that pilot? Do you have a concept you’re burning to bring to life but don’t know where to start? How about an intensive weekend pilot bootcamp taught by the author of that classic text, Writing the Pilot?

(Um, that would be me, in case anyone is wondering…)

And when I say intensive…

We’re going to start Friday, June 21 at 7pm, and wrap up Sunday 23 at 5pm. (Okay, maybe not that intensive — Friday goes 7-10, while the two weekend days are 10am to 5pm…) We’ll be covering every aspect of writing a great pilot, from defining the concept to naming the supporting characters and plotting your pilot story. By the end of the weekend you will have developed your franchise and main characters and be ready to start writing…

…and the workshop still won’t be over! Because once you’re ready, you’ll also get a set of notes on your outline… and one on your script… and a one-on-one consultation (probably via phone, unless you happen to be in the desert!).

Best of all, this class is coming to you through the delightful people at WritingPad, so when Marilyn promises that continental breakfast and snacks are included, you know they’ll be worth the price of admission alone! I can already see the glowing radioactive beverages…

As you can imagine, we’ve got to keep this class really small. It’s going to be limited to 10 people… and I understand it’s half sold out already. So if you’re interested, move fast. Here’s a link: Hope to see you there!

Me and Mad Men!

Well, maybe it’s not as exciting as it seems… I haven’t taken over the show from Matthew Weiner or anything… but I will be speaking on a great panel with two hot writers from the best drama on television.*

The panel is called “Major Drama: Writing Dramatic TV for the Big Leagues,” and I’ll be speaking alongside Michael Saltzman, who’s worked on Mad Men AND Murphy Brown… and a bunch of other shows, too… and playwright Jason Grote who moved into TV with Smash and then Mad Men.

And since the panel comes courtesy of my good friends at WritingPad, I can guarantee a great evening… complete with snacks and suspiciously colored beverages! All this for only five dollars.

For more information, or to sign up, just go here:

Oh, and I’m going to be doing something really exciting with WritingPad…. but let’s save that for it’s own post!

*Best drama that doesn’t include a Time Lord, that is…

The Best Writer in Television Today?

With all due respect to some very brilliant writers — Terry Winter, Matt Weiner, Vince Gilligan, the Kings, the Davids (Milch/Simon/Kelley) and several others who keepnturning out brilliant episode after brilliant episode — I’ve come to the conclusion that there is one whose work I would rather watch than anyone else’s, who seems to have an iron grasp on all the pleasures serial narrative has to offer, who understands how to use television structure as if he invented it, whose imagination seems boundless, whose work can make me laugh and cry, often at the same time… and who can write a scene so brilliantly conceived I want to stand and applaud.

And who also, before he turned to drama, created the funniest sitcom since Fawlty Towers.

To watch one of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who episodes is like taking a master class in television writing. And he only seems to be getting better — there’s a scene in The Snowmen in which Clara needs to convince the Doctor’s friends to persuade him to help her, but they will only allow her to speak in one-word sentences. That’s clever enough, but the whole thing turns out to lead up to a single-word answer which happens to be not only the logical response to the question, but in a different way (and without her knowing it) the only possible thing Clara could say that would bring him back to himself. (I’d give you the line, but it would only make sense if you’ve already been watching the show — because his episodes build on each other, staggering set-ups and payoffs sometimes an entire season or more apart… which is part of his mastery of serial narrative.)

The Snowmen is probably still rerunning on BBCAmerica, but to make sense of it, you really need to see some earlier episodes. You could start with the first one that Moffat did as showrunner, “The Eleventh Hour,” which was the first episode of season five. Or you could do what I did after many years of refusing to watch the show because of exposure to its earlier, cheaper incarnation and start with 2005’s Season One Episode One “Rose,” written by then showrunner Russell Davies, and then watch the next 115 episodes (all but the last handful of which stream on Netflix) in a couple of months. Moffat was contributing all along, and his episodes always stand out — but the other ones are pretty good, too.

I can’t find that Snowmen scene online, but here is another one of my favorites, from Moffat’s miniseries Jekyll. Claire Jackman, whose husband is descended from Dr. Jekyll and shares his curse, finds out why he has pushed her away when she meets his alter ego Mr. Hyde for the first time…

New session of Beginning Television Writing starts next week!

After the usual holiday hiatus, I’m starting a new session of my online Beginning Television Writing course on January 3. And this time it’s newer than usual — Writers University, its old home, has become Screenwriters University, and they’ve finally moved away from their clunky old interface to run on the standard educational system we know and love as Blackboard. You can be part of the inaugural class, but you need to hurry — the course is nearly full, and there are only a handful of spots left. You can get more information — and register — at

Hope to see you there?

Now you can read Writing The Pilot for free!

Writing the Pilot. But if you’ve got friends or relatives or writing group members who’ve been thinking about it, but can’t bring themselves to invest the massive $4.99 for the Kindle edition or the almost doubly massive $8.99 for the paperback, I’ve got great news! Now they can read the entire book for free!

Well, they can read the book for free as long as they’re Amazon Prime members.  Because Writing the Pilot is now part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program. Which means that Prime members can borrow it for free and read it at their leisure. Check it out today!