Hey Writer! Wake Up! Wake Up! Fall Is In The Air….
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association


Are you ready writer to roll up your sleeves and go back to school after a long summer of thinking about writing? Maybe you rolled over from your summer slumber and got a few lines or scenes written and then rolled over to think about writing some more?

It’s-back-to-school-September and class is in session. Period 1 is Character Driven Structure 101.

Your Textbook: The Hero Succeeds: The Character-Driven Guide to Writing Your TV Pilot. Our focus: to learn the skills to be TV writer and how the industry of TV writing works from the ground up.

Our instructor is Kam Miller who has helped thousands of students at top film schools launch their writing careers. She is a working TV write-producer and creator. She has written TV shows and features. She wrote for Law & Order:SVU. She has developed pilots with FOX, 20th Century Fox, CBS, CBS Television Studios, Universal Cable Productions, among others. She earned her MFA at USC and through staffing on others’ shows.

She sold pilots in the room and months after the initial pitch. She is a graduate of the outstanding WGA Showrunners Training Program.
She also created the highly successful USC First Pitch, the official pitch festival for the School of Cinematic Arts.
I love Ms. Miller’s opening sentence to her amazing book as she describes what the book is about; “…delivers a groundbreaking, character-driven script structure and other essential tools to create TV series that sell to Hollywood.” A great log line for the book. And deliver this book does.

Her book is filled with writing assignments and examples to dive deep into as you build your skills. She provides plenty of examples from popular shows. She will give you a spoiler alert and encourage you to watch the pilot before you come back and read the chapter and complete the assignment.

When you finish reading and working through this book, you will walk away with:

  • A Treatment
  • A Breakdown
  • A Grid: One Page
  • An Outline
  • A Script
  • And a Rewrite

Pretty amazing way to spend your September and to get your summer brain back into serious writing.
You will gain the tools and techniques that have helped Ms. Miller throughout her successful career. Her book will “guide you all the way from your idea to your polished pilot script.”

The goal of her book is to help us as writers to make better, logical, informed decisions about writing. And it is not only for the writer. She speaks to the Agent and Manager, the Producer and Showrunner as well. Her book is for anyone in the creative content creation process.
This book is not a formula but about how to create a powerful story engine through character-driven stories that maximize the story engine to increase the chance of your show’s survival.

Her chapters explore story engines, how the hero succeeds in various shows, how to dissect the anatomy of pilots, what are you really selling in the pitch: the pilot or the show? She talks about Ten essential components in your TV series treatment and six vital questions you need to ask yourself.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 5 “The Art of the Grid: The Keys To The Kingdom.” As a plotter, I love to plan and see my story before I write my story. This chapter (and the whole book) sings to my need to outline. For my readers who are pantsters, don’t stress, she makes this meaningful for you. In this chapter she talks about Story Grids and why they are so crucial to the TV writer. She also gives a strong argument about why you need to learn this as it will save you time, energy and heartache.

Ms. Miller has a great website: kammiller.com that has a great library of articles and references for the serious TV writer. I highly recommend this website as your syllabus for this book. It will get you prepared for the book.

So roll over and out of your summer chair and state-of-mind and roll up your sleeves and tackle that TV show you have been thinking about all summer long. Class is back in session and our first class is How the Hero Succeeds, Master Class.

Happy Writing and Welcome Back to the world, dear Writer. Summer’s over.

PS: If you need someone to help you with your homework, come join us the First Monday of every month in The Writers Lounge 7-9 pm PST and bring your pages or an idea you are developing or a log line that is driving you nuts. We’d love to help you.

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