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ENG7125

Course
ENG7125
Course Title
Breaking into Sitcom Writing

Description

Learn from a veteran TV comedy writer how to write professional sitcom scripts and how to break into show business. In this six-week online course, you'll discover the artistic and technical considerations that go into making a great sitcom script. You'll master the art of creating concise, sparkling dialogue and telling your story completely through jokes. You'll get easy-to-follow instructions for using sitcom characters to their fullest, creating powerful storylines, and selling your ideas to existing shows.

You'll pick up tricks of the trade and learn to avoid mistakes that mark you as an amateur. And you'll come to understand what happens to your script once you sell it, what happens in a sitcom writers' room, and what happens during the rewrite and punch-up process. Discover from an insider what it takes to get a job in this expanding and lucrative field!  Offered in partnership with ed2go.

Objectives

  • Discover what you'll need to break into the business, the varied career paths open to the sitcom writer, and what sets sitcoms apart.
  • Learn how to master three of the hardest concepts in sitcom writing: theme, story, and structure. 
  • Learn about the dramatic writing structure of sitcoms and how to create great stories using The List. 
  • Explore how to create great scenes that have plenty of oomph by learning how to continually heighten scenes with dramatic tension, and see how subplots can enrich your stories and generate more laughs. 
  • Discover how to tell a story through artful conversation, professionally known as dialogue
  • Learn how to elegantly convey background information and when—and when not—to do so.
  • Learn the dos and don'ts of writing for actors and how collaborating with them can enrich your show. 
  • Get down to the funny business of learning how to create jokes. 
  • See how to put your script together professionally.
  • Trace the process of getting your idea out of your head and onto television, moving from your spec script to your pitch meeting to your assignment. 
  • Follow the "colorful" journey of your script from the page to the soundstage. 
  • Demystify the business side of television writing.

Content

Wednesday - Lesson 01

In this first lesson, you'll learn to decipher the credits on a "crawl" and see just who the writers are in a sitcom. (Just a hint: There are more writers involved than meet the eye!) You'll also discover what makes up a sitcom--all sitcoms share certain important characteristics, and if you use these principles as a guiding framework, you'll have a much easier time keeping your story on the right track. You'll also get some practice sharpening your funny bone and enhancing the creative process. So please join us on this first step to breaking into sitcom writing!

Friday - Lesson 02

The difference between sitting in front of your television saying, "I could write that," and actually doing it is knowing how. Today we're going to tackle the most basic and most important elements of creating a sitcom: story, theme, and structure. In this lesson, I'll show you how and why sitcom stories work and how they fit into the broader context of who we, as storytelling people, have always been.

Wednesday - Lesson 03

In sitcoms, all the comedy--in fact, every story idea--has its basis in character. In this lesson, you'll get a solid understanding of character and learn how to layer this all-important variable on story, theme, and structure. By mixing them together, you'll see just how sitcom stories are created. Is it complicated? It can be. But I'll give you a tool that will make the hardest part of sitcom writing simple.

Friday - Lesson 04

Today we're going to look at the engines that run your story: action and jeopardy. You'll discover how to create action in scenes, how scenes build to acts, and how acts build to full stories. You'll add conflict and tension to your repertoire of sitcom writing tools to create well-paced stories that keep the audience rooting for your hero. And since sitcoms often involve a handful of characters, we'll talk about subplots, which will help keep all your characters involved when the story may not be about them.

Wednesday - Lesson 05

Dialogue makes up the bulk of any teleplay--yet it differs in every way possible from conversation, which is what it's supposed to sound like. Today we're going to take a look at what dialogue really is and what it must accomplish for the writer, while seeming to sound perfectly natural and funny. It's a lot to ask for, but you'll learn how to look at dialogue differently and use it to best effect.

Friday - Lesson 06

Often, the TV audience will need certain story information--say, about the past or something going on in another location--that you can't show directly. This information is called "exposition," and it's the hardest kind of material to get across in a way that doesn't sound clunky, forced, or amateurish. So today we'll explore ways to include this kind of information that are simple, elegant, and will give your scripts a professional air.

Wednesday - Lesson 07

As a television writer, you're not alone in your task of delivering a funny, intriguing, and watchable story. You have partners: the actors. In this lesson, we'll delve into that creative partnership and see how to best serve the actors who will be reading your words. You'll learn how to enrich the dialogue and its performance, make the most of text and subtext, and get your story to come across the way you envision it.

Friday - Lesson 08

The one thing you knew about sitcoms before you began this class was that they make people laugh. Just as an opera tells a story in song, so a sitcom tells a story in jokes. Today we're going to take an in-depth look at the art of joke-writing. You'll see how jokes work, learn how to make them funnier still, and discover a range of possibilities you might not have considered to expand your humor repertoire.

Wednesday - Lesson 09

The collaboration you enter into as a sitcom writer will involve everyone who works on your show. Each script you write needs to tell all the technical people who make the show possible just how it should look, feel, and sound. In today's lesson, you'll learn to professionally format a sitcom script so that just what you want to express will be clear to everyone.

Friday - Lesson 10

How do you go from wanting to be a sitcom writer to watching the first sitcom you've written air on network TV? Today you'll find out! You'll learn how to successfully negotiate all the steps that will get you there: writing a great spec script, negotiating your pitch meeting by creating a winning three-minute pitch, writing an outline that's just what the show is looking for, and creating two great drafts of your script.

Wednesday - Lesson 11

The journey from page to stage can be a surprising one, so it's best to be prepared. Today you'll see what happens to your finished script once you turn it in and collect your paycheck. We'll start by going inside the Writers' Room and taking a look at the rewrite and punch-up process. Next, we'll walk over to the rehearsal stage to learn about the rehearsal process and what the writer's job is in it. And last, we'll go to the final filming of the show, where sitcom writers polish until the very last moment.

Friday - Lesson 12

In our final lesson, we'll explore the steps you'll take to safeguard your work against plagiarism, including registering it with the Writers Guild. You'll also learn how to get an agent--or at least get your work into the hands of someone who can actually give you an assignment. Then you'll see what's involved in trying to get a job. And we'll wrap everything up by looking at the kinds of personal attributes it takes to be a successful sitcom writer.

Method of Instruction

Online

Evaluation

Class participation