This post is about writing for TV.
My favourite show on TV is a series called Breaking Bad. The executive producer is Vince Gilligan. He wrote some of the X Files shows. I regard him as a TV artist writer. Sort of like Rod Serling was a TV artist writer. Serling did The Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone defined the TV zone, in a weird way, in its day. And the look of it was quite distinctive. It was great visual storytelling.
In an online interview, Vince Gilligan made an interesting comment I thought I'd post here about what he looks for in writers for Breaking Bad:
“I look for good visual storytelling. We take pride in our dialogue, but TV and movies, this is visual storytelling. It's the difference between a play and a screenplay. A stage play is all about the dialogue, and I've seen and read some wonderful ones, but that's not what we're doing here. We're telling a story through the images. I specifically look for visual writing, which is to say not the dialogue on the page, but the action lines, the scene description. How much is the writer getting across through a look, through a bit of body language, the omission of an action or the action itself? Versus a writer who
gets everything across verbally. Because in real life, very often we don't say what we mean; very often we say the opposite, or we don't say anything at all.”
Of course this is part of the reason why graphic novels often translate into film to such cinematographic effect. They also are involved in visual storytelling. In any case, I thought it was interesting that Gilligan feels that the ability to write in terms of visual storytelling is the single most important thing he looks for, and was worth sharing with you in this forum.
Particularly for those who are teaching screen-writing or those who are interested in writing for TV, I'll also mention the podcasts available for each Breaking Bad episode from the Breaking Bad web site. In these podcast audio files, Gilligan, the writer and often the director of the episode, together sometimes with cast members and other members from the production crew discuss the particular episode. The podcasts are hosted by one of the video editors who cuts the shows together. Listening to these discussions, one can learn a great deal about the processes of writing for television, the roles of the various people involved, and just, in general, all about writing for television. They're quite educational, in that sense. Gilligan is a good teacher about episodic television, which might be important to his job as executive producer and main writer in Breaking Bad. Part of the reason why he's a good teacher is that the poetics of episodic television and of visual storytelling are in his head all the time, they're how he makes sense of life. I'm guessing about that, of course, but it seems like a good bet.
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