Threshold Writers’ Workshop

1/3

This 8-hour seminar focuses on teaching writers how to successfully work in a writers’ room.

 

Confused by how a writers' room functions? Nervous about whether or not you have the chops to work as part of a TV room? Completely unsure which questions you should even ask? Yeah, we’ll cover that.

 

The seminar will start by covering the skills every TV writer needs to have but might not have ever been taught (episode and season structure, successful character creation, building compelling emotional arcs). From there, participants will split into three groups to take turns acting as the writers’ room on a fictional show as we break an episode together.

 

Background material on our practice show will be sent to selected participants in advance—we move fast, so please read everything before the session starts. There will be lots of time for questions about the television industry as we go, and we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can.

 


Saturday, October 12
9:30am - 4:30pm

 

Next Steps

Sign up! A specific pass must be purchased in order to be admitted into Threshold Writers' Workshop. General festival passes and creator badges do not apply. 

Once you purchase the pass, you will receive information on how to submit your own pre-workshop materials to Threshold which will be reviewed before the workshop begins to help create compitable writing groups.

Background material on our practice show will be sent to selected participants in advance—we move fast, so please read everything before the session starts. There will be lots of time for questions about the television industry as we go, and we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can.

More Information

You Have To See It To Be It

Television has a representation problem. Many kids (and adults) look to the tv shows playing on their iPads and don't see people from their communities creating the stories they love. Because they don't see it, they can't imagine doing it themselves. Writing for television might be a real career, but it's a real career for other people.

Hollywood, meanwhile, desperately needs the voices of the very people going underrepresented in media. Unfortunately, the systems that keep the industry running make it nearly impossible for newcomers to break in unassisted. For those who want to make the attempt, the lack of real clarity about what a tv writer does day to day can make it hard to successfully navigate the maze of meetings and politics that stand between them and joining a writers’ room.

 

What Can We Do About That?

The Threshold Workshop exposes aspiring writers to the elements of a television writers’ room, from building strong character dynamics to navigating the ins and outs of creative collaboration. The workshop is run like a television writers’ room, with everyone discussing ideas and breaking story together under the supervision of the room’s showrunner. By the end of the workshop, the writers have a better sense of what’s really involved in writing for television, and whether or not that’s something they want to pursue. After the workshop, Threshold’s staff remains a resource for writers who do decide to try for a job in television.

 

The Skills

Although sessions are tailored to the needs of the specific participants, in general, the core skills covered are:

Character dynamics and generation.

How do you create a character set with the kinds of conflicts and connections that will keep generating interesting stories? This skill is fundamental to writing compelling stories, and to making a series sustain its energy over multiple seasons.

Structure.

How can you structure a plot for an episode, a season, a series so that it has a natural flow? This skill is vital to writing sample scripts that will catch the interest of agents, executives, and showrunners.

Room dynamics.

Every writers’ room is a little different, and it can take time to master the art of speaking up at all. This is a chance to learn how to manage all that without worrying about whether or not the showrunner will fire you for making a mistake that most of the other writers know to avoid. Having this skill already in the bag when you start your first job on a writing staff can be the difference between being a rock star and a wallflower. This is also the aspect of television writing most likely to surprise aspiring writers.

 

Our Methods

 

We use a number of different formats for our workshops, but for Catalyst we’ll use the following structure:

We begin by teaching the fundamentals. Even working writers can benefit from going back to basics, and for writers who are trying to break in, making sure foundational skills are strong is vital. Our first two hours will cover character building (how to build nuanced characters, how to create organic character interactions, how to niche protect), episode/season structure and emotional arcs. There will be plenty of time for questions as we go, and we encourage participants to engage with the material as much as possible so that they’ll be confident using these skills to craft their own material later.

 

For the reminder of the seminar, the participants will split into three groups. Each group will have a turn acting as “the writers’ room”. We’ll break an episode of a fictional tv series (background information on that series will be provided in advance) together, and while the showrunners will guide the story break, each participant will be expected to contribute by pitching ideas during their time in the “room”. Becoming comfortable presenting ideas in public, considering colleagues’ ideas, and letting go of your own ideas if the room has moved on are all a vital part of the writers’ room experience, and we want everyone to get as much as possible out of this seminar. There’s no need to worry about having a perfect idea here: this is a chance to practice, make mistakes, and learn how to bounce back if your pitch falls flat.


So, Does This Actually Work?

 

Yes! Our first workshop took six alumni from SkinsFest Native American TV Writing Lab and led them through breaking a short season. At the end of three days, that room of writers who’d never before broken a season of television had created a six-episode season arc and detailed plots for each of the six episodes. 

Some writers were already comfortable working in a group, and found that adding to their toolbox of skills for creating sustainable stories reliably and quickly was the most valuable takeaway. Others grew in confidence as the workshop progressed, moving from being afraid to pitch anything that wasn’t perfect to being willing to throw an unfinished idea on the table for the room to consider. Still others realized that this career they’d been pursuing with some trepidation really was important to them. In three short days, it was transformational - for the writers, and for us. 

Since then, we’ve continued to run these workshops as our schedules permit, and have refined our methods to best serve each group based on skill level and time. Working as a writer in television is challenging, and the way in is often harder for writers from underrepresented communities. Every extra tool in the toolbox helps.

 

The Staff

 

Threshold Workshops is the brainchild of Jennifer Court and William Jehu Garroutte.

Jennifer is an Executive Producer with Kung Fu Monkey Productions. Many of the techniques we teach come from the standard practices used at Kung Fu Monkey, adapted for time and skill sets.

William is a graduate of the SkinsFest Native American TV Writing Lab, the NBC Writers on the Verge Program, and the ABC Diversity Writers Program. He is currently staffed on a show that is deep enough under wraps that we’re not allowed to name it here. 

During a Threshold Workshop, Jennifer and William act as co-showrunners, guiding the room but letting the writers explore ideas as they come whenever possible.


An Important Note for Participants

 

Threshold Workshops has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassment of any kind. Anyone who creates a toxic environment for other participants will be asked to leave. Yes, this is at our discretion. Yes, we mean it. There are enough barriers to entry to television writing; let’s not add to them.
 

Catalyst

Content

Festival

Contact us:

office@catalystories.com

(218) 208-0140

Mailing Address:

PO Box 1

Duluth, MN 55801

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

Independent Television Festival, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Copyright by Independent Television Festival. Design by ITVFest.