Before TV, eh?, I wrote about television for other sites. American television (gasp) for American sites. Thatâ€™s how I learned that I wasnâ€™t learning about homegrown shows and a website was born. At the time I was writing an awful lot about House, so really you could credit an American show created by a Canadian for the existence of this website dedicated to Canadian TV. If you want to ignore a lot of other factors.
My first interview with a TV writer was with Larry Kaplow, who had just written Houseâ€™s second-season episode “Autopsy,” which went on to win the Writers Guild of America Award for episodic drama. And as one of the House producers he would later be nominated for a few Emmy Awards for best drama. I take all the credit.
Heâ€™d also go on to be a friend who allows me insight into the creative process of writing for television, a warts-to-wonders view I hadnâ€™t seen clearly from simply researching and reviewing books on the subject.
When he was giving a week-long writing seminar in Kiev, Ukraine recently (after talks at USC, NYU, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others), I took advantage of our friendship and his jetlag to ask him to conduct a one-day seminar in Vancouver on May 6. Aimed at aspiring and emerging TV writers, it’s for people who, unlike me, can put his hard-won experience into practice.
“I’ll show people how to do it, how to write for television in the real world,” he told me about the seminar, which will cover topics such as breaking in, pitching, story structure, the writing room, dealing with notes, writing for production, and the development process. “There are a ton of great books out there. Best of luck to you. I only understand them now because I’ve spent the past however many years doing it.”
That however many years started with assistant gigs on Clueless and Chicago Hope before writing for Family Law, Hack, House and Body of Proof as well as developing his own projects.
He explained his glamorous path to show business: “I went to undergrad for English, grad school for creative writing, then wrote a shitty novel and a bunch of scripts that got options, then I got lunch for writers on the lowest-rated show in the business, then a kindly upper-level writer named Marjorie David basically begged David Shore (Canadian) and Stephen Nathan (not Canadian) [editorâ€™s note: but who now works with Hart Hanson (Canadian)] to hire me as a researcher. I worked my ass off for Paul Haggis (Canadian) and I got my first script, and miracles of miracles I’m still here writing.”
“Passion and commitment are everything — because if you’re willing to let things go, then you’re not right for this business. And believe me, this is something I still have to learn.” In fact, he cites the most important thing heâ€™s learned over his career as “Iâ€™m here to learn.” (He’s also here to teach; he’ll be giving a couple of class talks at local schools while he’s in Vancouver.)
His advice to aspiring writers? “If it’s what you want to do, don’t give up. That ‘if’ isn’t a small thing. If it’s REALLY what you want to do, you won’t care who you are in the business, because the business is telling stories. And if you can be a part of that in any way, how cool is that? I never thought I was going to write TV. Never. And yet here I am, courtesy of kindly giants — several of them Canadian.”
As for what he wants to get out of his time in Vancouver, that would be â€œto meet the mad and interesting, of course. Is there anything else?â€ With the Stanley Cup playoffs we’ve got mad covered, no question. So come on Vancouver, letâ€™s bring the interesting.
TV, eh? presents a one-day seminar on Writing for TV with WGA Award winning, Emmy nominated Larry Kaplow (House, Body of Proof), at Vancouverâ€™s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University.
Aspiring and emerging writers will learn practical information on breaking in, pitching, story structure, the writing room, dealing with notes, writing for production, as well as the development process for their own work.
420 Strategy Room
Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University
580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Sunday, May 6, 2012
9 am â€“ 5 pm
$250 + HST, including lunch