The TV landscape has changed markedly over the past few decades. The nurturing TV writers rooms which allowed us to explore stories have largely been shunted into corporate sausage factories. In the broadcast TV world at least.
The cable TV market still has room for screenwriters with edgier stories. This is because the audiences are more targeted and smaller than those in network TV. Online streaming is arguably the home of the most exciting TV today.
The TV writing landscape is increasingly fractured and confusing. This is good news for rookie screenwriters who are cheaper to hire, but bad news for established ones used to bloated pay checks. There are more opportunities than ever, but less total money available.
Fewer TV writers are being hired on staff, especially on network TV. Shows like Roseanne used to have up to 20 staff writers. Some shows today have 2-3 head writers and the remaining scripts assigned to freelancer screenwriters.
Watch TV shows relentlessly. Know which shows are renewed, which have been cancelled and which are on the bubble.
The main aim of new screenwriters today is to get read and get exposure. Be innovative. Be entrepreneurial. With the cost of filming a scene from your TV script plummeting, you can promote yourself on a host of web sites. Web series are often precursors to TV series.
Constantly reinvent yourself or you will be typecast. Be vital. Be current. Let all your associates know about your latest TV project.
Write what you love, not something you hate, but you think will sell. Figure out where your interests overlap with the marketplace. Never ignore the power of networking. You never know where your next job is coming from.
Prepare for long periods of isolation and loneliness. Join a congenial writers group to help develop your material. Get feedback.
TV executives have been criticized for their lack of risk taking. They tend to run to where the lightning has struck. However, they know what sells and what pulls in the ratings.
Many executives are still ruled by a culture of fear and wary of offending advertisers or special interest groups. However, given that network TV is suffering from a lack of fresh ideas, adaptations from popular films, or reboots of old TV shows, it has no option but to take risks.
There is no single way to launch your TV writing career. Be the master (or mistress) of your own destiny.
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