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Jane EspensonJane Espenson - About TV writing - Huffingtonpost.com Blog
Friday 23 December 2011, by Webmaster
Is TV Writing the Best Job Ever?
Hello, Gentle Readers. Who’s up for a good blogging? I know I am!
I used to blog on my own site, expounding on the art and craft of television writing. But I stopped one day when I realized that I had expounded myself into the ground. There was nothing left for me to teach. That was a few years ago, though, and since then I’ve learned new things and refined my thinking on a lot of the old things. Right now, I’m writing for the network hit Once Upon a Time (ABC), and for my own web series Husbands, so I’m topped off to overflowing with knowledge.
When I get a chance, now and then, to contribute to these pages, I can explain how storytelling has to change as audiences get better at anticipating twists, and how to write compelling stage directions, and how to deal with the fact that you can’t goddamn swear on the TV, but right now I’d like to start out by addressing the fundamental question: IS TV WRITING THE BEST JOB EVER?
Well, it is stressful. Parts of it can be awful, just awful. You will make mistakes that will be broadcast to millions of people. You will be kept away from your bed by work, and kept awake in your bed by worry. You will almost certainly be made fun of by people with cruelly fast wits. You’ll be rewritten. You will have to say "thank you" when complimented for lines you didn’t write. You will have to bite your tongue when criticized for choices you didn’t make. You’ll be asked to make decisions about costumes and hairstyles. You will have to compromise your vision because an actor or set or special effect or executive isn’t cooperating. You will be punched in the self-esteem. You will cry.
The answer is YES.
It’s the best job ever, because as down as that downside is, the upside is so much upper. The up is so up even the down is up. You are handsomely paid to sit around with intelligent people, talking about a TV show. You laugh all day long. And if you’re writing for a comedy, you get to stay late and laugh all night, too. You quite probably drive through the big gates of a Hollywood studio on your way to work, just like Lassie did. And sometimes you get to put computer to paper and put words in the mouths of talented actors who then, get this, act out your story for you. That part is crazy. Even after 20 years, it still seems nuts to me that these gorgeous talented people breathe life into words I wrote. And if that weren’t enough, another talented person points a camera at it and shows it to everyone you went to high school with. It’s frakkin’ amazing.
It does suffer a bit from being hard to attain. People talk a lot about how hard it is to get into TV writing. And that’s true. But there are new TV writers every season. I see them showing up, shiny and scared, every year. Also, there is the new and amazing world of web series, which meets almost all of the goals except the part about the handsome pay. I recently entered that world with Husbands The Series, and found that not only did it provide most of the upside, it also avoided a lot of the downside. You get to hear the words you wrote all the more clearly when you’re listening just to satisfy yourself, not several layers of bosses.
TV writing (and web writing) is the best job ever. I feel lucky every day. I learn every day. And they pay for lunch every day. Score. Hang around and I’ll tell you what I know.