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The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 13 of 21

How to Create a Series


The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 13 of 21

How to Create a Series


Lesson Info

How to Create a Series

Let's go and talk about, um television series so characters that you create here um in a television series the lead character actor save lead character is the siri's of course the siri's is all the characters but the main thing is the characters, the character and the other characters um the uh situation of the siri's which is an ongoing story is tied up in who the lead character is just like in your feature screenplay the story and the character are linked it's the same thing here the character his story is an ongoing siri's his character is an ongoing siri's um so they continue over many episodes it's not I have one objective and I've got to get it or not get it now that can exist over the sweeping multi season experience of a siri's there's always something this character has a za major objective, but obviously as episodes go on and as seasons change, there have to be other things that person wants doesn't get goetz and moves along like that. I think a serious has to be taking place...

just like a feature film at a significant point in this person's life and we wanna watch this person at this point in their life move forward and just keep going with them um so uh two characters change the old type of of television siri's like, say, a cop show or something and I mean the older type ones you know it's not about the character changing it's the case of the week and matt characters that character and they're gonna use you know columbo is going to use his funny thing about acting like he's kind of dumb and could you clarify something for every time he says could you clarify something that reveals that he actually is really almost got the case solved and he's brilliant that will happen every time and he'll solve a case you don't watch the show to see the character grown evolved but that's kind of started to change now television um and one of the things that we're looking for is the way a character can be growing over the course of the season and still have it be something where that growth isn't so much that you don't need to tell the story anymore you don't need the serious anymore it's it's a much sort of slower burning type thing um so some shows are franchises of franchise ideas make a cop show a doctor show a lawyer show what that means is they have a built in way of generating episodes that comes from that profession a doctor gets a patient the cop gets a case a lawyer gets a case there's your episode things that are like family dramas or dramas that uh are not in one of those franchises have to generate their episodes from things that are just happening in those people's lives, so it doesn't sort of provide that spring springboard that television likes a lot. Um, so there is an exception to what I've been saying about commercial breaks, of course, and that is your premium, uh, cable network show, the kind that has no commercial breaks it all. So the question comes up, is our their acts at all in that kind of show? Um, in an interesting way to answer that is when some of those shows they were never broken up into acts like the sopranos or something like that, when they go to canada or other countries, sometimes they're shown in this syndication with commercial breaks. So how did that happen? Where did they pick him? How did it happen? Well, I think it's, because generally you're still writing in that structure, you still need that kind of flow, and those things toe happen at certain points, even though you never break for a commercial and and as a result, later in syndication, they can be broken up and have commercials inserted. So let's talk about the two major types of siri's serialized or closing it episodes, um, and by the way, these bleed over into each other, so serialized, obviously, is one, a show in which uh the end of the episode, you're just stopped the story and you're going to continue the story at the beginning of the next episode and it moves forward like that um close end it is fitz mohr of your case situation that's where this particular episode we deal with this and it's done at the end and then we go to the next episode there's a lot of debate as to whether, uh most networks want serialized close ended and syndicators as well that's because closing it is easier to syndicate it's throw up any season in the order they don't actually do that, but I think the major concern is what about those audience members who came in and they didn't start at the beginning if it's serialized it's hard for them to get into it, however, serialized is gaining more, more traction even with a commercial network television so um, it's sort of a dial that swings back and forth at some point, some executives will say, I've had it with serialized we're going backto clothes into deficits now in terms of mixing them. Um, there are serialized elements in shows that have closing two episodes, and there are episodic there's, an episodic cadence of being finished with an episode in a serialized drama as well um sometimes it feels like one particular episode has its own theme to it even though at the end of it next week we just pick up where we left off it still has to sort of have a feeling of being and episode into itself um I want to give an example of that I was looking at about em a show that has no commercial breaks in at homeland um and in it in one of the episodes they break it down they say the, um the end of it they give they say there is a teaser the teaser is where there's a bomb maker creating explosive vest and then there's uh the end of act one is saul who made a particular place is discovering that carrie who's clear days suffering from mania to solve protecting carry secret from her boss act three ending is brody character damian lewis plays picking up the suicide vest the end of act four is saul piecing together carries mishmash of information we taped it to the wall realizes she was onto something and the end of act five is carrie calling brody to tell him that the cia knows an attack is coming. This show never stopped for commercials but it had act breaks so it's always good to keep thinking in terms of ac breaks now I don't know necessarily think that a non interrupted shell like that when that you would find on a premium cable station has tohave the five act structure often they can feel like they have a three act structure just like a feature film now in writing for our television you write the same way you do ah uh feature film it's the shots, the cameras the same way the scenes character dialogue and all that it's different into sitcom but I'm I'm not really discussing those right now but um you're writing like a feature film so it has that say those same elements the slug lines the action description the characters, the dialogue the difference is you actually if it is for commercial television you actually say act one at the beginning and in developed one at that end and then you go to a new page and you started stop it says act to um or if you're beginning with teaser it says teaser and this is end of teaser and you go on so you actually interrupt the script in a way you don't with a feature film um so um the question is which kind of siri's would you want to create? And I think it's determined by whether it's serialize her clothes into the episodes is by what it is you want to write it but um and that's not to say that you know a cop show could be serialized ah family drama could be closing two episodes I mean you can make any of it go into either of these so it's ultimately an artistic decision

Class Description

Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.

Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.

You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:

  • Vocabulary and formats
  • Dialogue vs silence
  • Adapting existing works for the screen
  • Genre-writing

Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting. 

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between writing for television and features
  • Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
  • How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts

The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.


Karla KL Brady

I would definitely recommend this class for first-time screenwriters and writers in general. I'm a novelist that would like to turn a couple of my stories into screen plays. I was mostly interested in the "dos and don'ts" which he supplied in a generous number. He gave a lot of great examples. I enjoyed the format with the students and he pretty much walks you through the entire process, including and especially the three-act structure which can be applicable to novel writing, too. He gave a lot of great examples. I would have liked a more extensive discussion on loglines and writing the action, but this certainly is enough to get you started. For the price, you can't beat it.


I came to this site by accident and then found some well known internet marketers here, who had already been sending me helpful emails and offers for some time, which I have used. What I like about the video contents is, that it is good old-fashioned skills and crafts development, rather than just formulaic, churn it out in big numbers advice. Whether screen writing, script writing, creative writing, news writing, etc. there is a structure and guideline for contents, order, grammar, etc., but the appeal is towards the development of one's creative side. I am normally involved in non-fiction writing, so this is a nice, creative side-kick, which no doubt will help my other work. As prolific author Isaac Asimow said, "If you want to learn to write, then you must write".


I would certainly recommend it to others, as there are some really great tips throughout the courses, across various aspects of film script writing.. That said, I would like to recommend however: - to have one version that is focused solely on film writing; eliminating the parts about teleplays and series, as those one or two did not relate to the rest of the course. - in its place, I would have loved to observe the coaching and critique on the writers film ideas, loglines, titles and such. I was very interested in knowing the do's and don'ts, what works and doesn't work, and what the proper approach is. Although he made mention of some of them in his overall content, relating them back to the writer's specific work would have been very beneficial.