Interview with Steven Prigge
author of Created
By: Inside the Minds of TV's Top Show Creators
interview by Writers Store Staff
Priggé, a one-time assistant on the hit sitcom Spin City
starring Michael J. Fox, has written a new book entitled Created
By: Inside the Minds of TV’s Top Show Creators.
the covers, Priggé delves into the minds of people like Max
Mutchnick and David Kohan (Will & Grace), Brenda Hampton (7th
Heaven), Josh Schwartz (The O.C. ), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore
Girls), Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), Bill Lawrence
(Scrubs), Ilene Chaiken (The L Word) and others, to ask the questions
all aspiring TV writers want answered, such as: How do I get an agent?
What spec scripts should I write? How do I get staffed on a show?
book also chronicles the unique journeys that many of the TV show
creators went on to get their own ideas aired on the small screen.
Legendary producer Aaron Spelling said it best in his blurb on the
cover: “The stellar line-up of creative minds in this book represents
the top talent in this business. Priggé brings out the best in
instance, Yvette Lee Bowser (Half & Half) said in my book, “The
first key to becoming a writer is writing. It is not just a thing you
say that you want to do. You have to just do it.”
is just like exercising at the gym. Depending on what kind of writing
you’re doing (comedy, drama, etc.), you’re working different muscles.
If you haven’t written in awhile, you might work at a slower pace and
have less stamina. So, it’s important to have a writing regime.
many of the show creators felt strongly about listening to one’s peers
early on during your career. You should take your bosses’ advice
seriously, because chances are they have been through the trials and
tribulations you’re experiencing at that moment.
Fontana (Oz) got some very solid advice from his boss and mentor Bruce
Paltrow during his first TV writing job on St. Elsewhere. Tom said, “He
told me, ‘Don’t believe them when they tell you how wonderful you are
because if you believe them when they tell you that you’re wonderful,
then you have to believe them when they tell you that you suck. And
believe me, they will tell you that you suck.”
think because of the digital age, making a feature film is more
accessible to the average person than ever before. Today, you can buy a
quality digital camera for $3,000 and go off and shoot a short film
that could be seen at some major film festivals.
can you shoot a television show on your own? I think the general public
believes that the “breaking in” aspect of making it in film is a lot
more possible to happen to them than in TV.
I think people have a misunderstanding that most television writers had
an “Uncle Bernie” who was an agent out on the West Coast and hooked
times than not, that’s simply not true. The people in my book broke
into television writing following their own unique and exciting path
and none of them had an uncle named Bernie.
instance, Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) was discovered
while performing stand-up comedy at Catch a Rising Star in New York
Ryan (The Shield) won a playwriting contest in college, and one of his
plays was entered into the American College Theater Festival. The play
Shawn had written ended up winning “Best Original Play” in the New
England region of that competition and it won “Best Comedy” nationwide.
of the acclaim of his play, Shawn was rewarded by being brought to L.A.
to spend a few weeks hanging out in the writer’s room of My Two Dads.
He eventually sold a story idea to the producers and his TV writing
Ball was discovered by a talent scout at Carsey-Werner Television who
came to see Alan’s play, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress. It
essentially comes down to finding a platform where your voice can be
heard by others who are in the position to hire you, or can get you
bottom line is that you have to get yourself out there and get noticed.
first is reality television. This concept has become an extremely
attractive avenue for the networks because they don’t have to pay the
talent millions like they would a star of a top-rated show.
the quality of drama series is at an all-time high. Some of the best
shows on TV, like The Shield, The Sopranos, Alias, Lost, etc. can be
compared quality-wise to any major motion picture.
of CGI, you can take a drama series further than it has ever gone
before. But, I also believe television goes in cycles. In the ‘80s,
sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Family Ties ruled the small screen.
think viewers will head back in that direction. It’s just a matter of
time. With HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and network shows like
Scrubs and Arrested Development, I think we have some prime examples of
sitcoms that are original and fresh that we can build to the future
also want to feel emotions when they read your script. “I enjoy the
writing qualities of those people who have the power to make me laugh,
cry, or think,” expressed J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost).
the writing aside for a moment, many creators also look for a person
who they could get along with for long hours in the writers’ room.
Unlike writing books or feature films, television is a collaborative
medium and good work relationships are very important. It’s a
combination of things, but a well-written script is definitely the
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