Creating Television: Conversations with the People behind 50 Years of American TV

By Robert Kubey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
A Different Kind of Writer

Here are four writers who work in different formats: TV movies, drama, soap opera, and comedy.

Though she also produces, Aria Sorkin Manson is a writer and has a writer's sensibilities. Because she tells us a lot about the problems that television writers encounter, I decided to have her lead off this section. She knows how writers, producers, and executives interact and gives us a list of executives' pet peeves. Manson also provides insight into recent changes in the business that have altered the playing field for everyone concerned.

T. S. Cook started out telling scary campfire stories to his Boy Scout troop. Today, he specializes in suspense movies and has written for a number of dramatic series. He is also known for doing a lot of technical research on movies, which is one of the reasons he was asked to help write The China Syndrome. From Cook, we learn about the life of a freelance writer and how the business operates. Cook, like Manson, is especially good at listing the unwritten rules and demands that studios and networks place on the TV movie writer. Producers and directors often pressure writers to hurry up the story and reveal more of the story's premise earlier than the writer would like, and they often emphasize action over dialogue. As Cook notes in the interview,

Directors do this all the time. They have a tendency to skip over the dialogue to get to the action. Because that's the way they're trained in TV. They're not really trained to work with actors. They're trained to do set-ups to get on to the next piece of action. There is no rehearsal time. You shoot the rehearsal. There's no taking people aside and working on the lines for a few days.

Both Cook and the next interviewee, Jean Rouverol, also discuss the industry's discrimination against older writers.

Rouverol's personal story is fascinating. There aren't many people in Hollywood who have written soap operas and been a victim of the

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