Students learn how to develop their own TV shows in this hands-on course. The focus is on writing for television, which is at the heart of the creative process, but we also look at the history of the medium, how to pitch a show, and production. Ultimately participants film mini-pilots or key scenes from the shows they have developed.
We begin with a brief history of television in the United States – its creation and how it has grown over the past seven decades. Classic works by influential TV creators are screened, read, and discussed. Various genres of TV are explored, from comedy to drama to sci-fi to unscripted (or “reality”) television, but our primary focus will be on work within the single-camera drama and comedy genres.
While learning about the “TV greats,” students launch into the creation of their own shows, working through a series of exercises individually and in groups, developing and honing their skills in writing and pitching. Since television continues to be primarily a writers’ medium, we focus on character, story, tone, contemporary value, etc. We also cover the creative aspects of TV production, such as directing, camera, production design, costumes, and music.
The final project is a short pilot or key scene that the students pitch then write and create in groups and shoot on their phones and with basic editing software.
Mark Christopher works as a writer/director in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe and teaches directing and writing at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. His current projects in pre-production are Sara, a Czech/German thriller set in Berlin, and the stage musical, Mid-Century Moderns, set in 1966 Palm Springs. He has TV pilots with Warner Brothers and Miramax as well as a three-script deal with Avenue Pictures. He has written one-hour pilots for CBS, Fox, and Logo/MTV, and was the creator/executive producer of Real Life: The Musical on the Oprah Winfrey Network. His feature, 54: The Director’s Cut, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival to excellent reviews worldwide. Set at New York's Studio 54, the film stars Ryan Phillippe, Mike Myers, Salma Hayek, and Mark Ruffalo. It has been honored in the Gala Event, Opening Night, or Closing Night film at international film festivals in San Francisco, Turin, Guadalajara, Sydney, Zurich, Tel Aviv, Seattle, Prague, and at Lincoln Center. Christopher's festival comedy hit Pizza won an Independent Spirit Award. His award-winning short films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art and numerous international film festivals, including the Berlinale, where his film Alkali, Iowa won the Teddy Award. His work has been reviewed and he has been profiled in The New York Times, The Guardian, Variety, The Wall Street Journal, Art Forum, and Vanity Fair. Christopher holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University.