Course Title: Television Series and Serials

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2007

Course Code: COMM5128

Course Title: Television Series and Serials

School: 345T Creative Media

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6045 - Advanced Diploma of Arts Professional Screenwriting (Film,Television and Digital Media)

Course Contact : Professional Screenwriting Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4368

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Chris Corbett
c/- Professional Screenwriting
School of Creative Media
23-27 Cardigan Street
South Carlton 3053
Tel:  0403-861-667

Nominal Hours: 136

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites

 Pre-requisites: Introduction to Screenwriting, Writing for TV, TV Script Analysis
Co-requisites: TV Script Analysis

Course Description

 This course helps to develop an understanding of the genres within television series and serials categories and teaches the skills needed to write in these genres.                          

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VBB507 Television Series and Serials

Learning Outcomes

 1. Identify requirements of the television dramatic genres incorporating serials and series.
2. Develop a series ‘Bible’ in style required by industry, incorporating story capsules
3. Develop a treatment for a pilot television series or serial
4. Demonstrate techniques of sustained themes, closing scenes and story hooks for a television series or serial
5. Develop a television pilot episode incorporating consideration of outside broadcast time and budget, and programming requirements.                                                                                          

Details of Learning Activities

The course will include lectures, illustrations and discussions of recent television shows, class discussion, workshopping, individual and group projects and regular written exercises.

Teaching Schedule

Week One: 12 February: Introduction

Week Two:  19th February.  Defining series and serials; defining the roles in a script office.  View pilot episode of series and discuss.  

Week Three:  26th February.  Break pilot episode down into scenes and write one-liner discussing the function of each scene.  Discuss.

Week Four: 5th March.  Introduction to writing as a gun for hire on an ongoing television series.  Briefly discuss the skills required.  Examine sample of writers schedule. Discuss the bible of series chosen for case study. View episode of the series.  Read and discuss SBD, First Draft.

Week Five: 12th March – Labour Day – no class.

Week Six:  19th March.  Read Final Draft.  Watch the finished episode and discuss.  Feeding the Beast:  how to come up with ideas for an ongoing series.  Serving the serial threads of a series while coming up with stand alone series. Stories that reverberate with our established characters.  How to avoid falling in love with the guest characters.

Week Seven  26h March. Present story ideas prepared from last session.    Discuss. Whose story is it?  What’s the story about?  Writing to theme.  Pick an A, a B and a C story that we’ll work on next week.  

Week Eight:  2rd April.   Plot out rough shape of episode.  Plot out A, B and C stories separately. Discuss placement of commercial breaks, character arcs, how to weave together A, B and C stories.  Plot whole episode.

9th April EASTER BREAK – no class

Week Nine:  16th April. Divide up scenes and write scene breakdown together.  

Week Ten:  23th April.  Assemble SBD. Read and discuss.  What could be improved?  How is the mix of studio to location scenes?  Is it shootable?  Discuss all characters’ arcs.    Divide up scenes.  

Week Eleven:  30th April  Time available to write/edit/polish scenes in class.  Time available for each student to discuss their scenes with teacher.  Scenes submitted at end of class.

Week Twelve:  7th May. Read assembled First Draft aloud.  Discuss.  How can scenes, overall structure, characterisation be improved?  Assign editors to each block of scenes – have short meetings about how scenes can be improved.

Week Thirteen:   14th May.  Story and scene design.  How to breath life into a possibly hackneyed situation or event;  choosing the setting and look at how this informs the scene.  What is the action of the scene?  The dramatic function?  What are the main beats within the scene? What’s the best point to enter the scene?  To leave it?  How does the scene turn? Strong cuts to and from the scene?  

Week Fourteen:  21st May.  Characters.  What do the characters want and what gets in their way?  Conflicted characters.  Establishing character through action rather than quirks.  Designing stories to illuminate character.  Characters faced with making hard choices.  Cast design – how different characters will bring out different qualities in each other.  Discuss the notion of status.  

Week Fifteen:  28th May.  Dialogue.  How to do a scene with less.  Take a sample scene and demonstrate how to trim it down.  Differing speech rhythms and patterns of thought.  How to  avoid characters saying exactly what they mean.  Revision on the ever-important topic of sub-text.  Writing in short, snappy – though not necessarily grammatical sentences. Big print – what to spell out and what to leave out.   

Week Sixteen:  4th June.  Are your scenes playable?  Does the dialogue sound natural?  Do the beats make sense and build to a satisfying climax?  Examine scenes from the point of view of the actors.  What does the actors’ process reveal about the script?  Have we written what we thought we had?

Week Seventeen:   11h June.  Back to draft script.  It’s now ready for the directors meeting.  Bring in a director or producer and discuss the nuts and bolts of the script.   Discuss how major story changes can take place at the eleventh hour.

Week Eighteen  18th June.  Survival tips for writers, script editors working in series/serial television.  When to talk and when to shut up.    Bring in guest to discuss their career.

End of First Semester.

Week One:  9th July.  Start work on creating a series/serial.  Talk briefly about creating a world, cast design;  what’s the premise, what’s the hook?  The Who Cares factor.  Watch pilot episode of established series and discuss.  

Week Two:  16th July.  What sort of show do you want to make? Who’s the audience?  What network?  Who’s paying?  The timeslot?  Defining the premise of your show.  Workshop pitch lines for existing series. What’s the rough ratio of studio to location?  Think about how this affects the stories you can tell.   Writing the concept/pitch document – how to get someone else excited about your idea.

Week Three:   23th July.  Creating characters.  Types of characters.  Starting with archetypes, actors, people you know – and using this as a springboard.  Relationships between characters.  Cast design.  Defining what characters want?  What are their guiding principles? Writing effective character notes.

Week Four: 30st July.  Present concept/pitch document and character notes for class presentation and discussion.

Week Five:  6th August.  Story ideas for the first series.  Where do you want to take these characters?  Are the characters going to change or stay the same?  What are the events that best launch the series?  Work on the pilot episode.  What are the best circumstances to meet these characters?  

Week Six:  13th August.   Individual meetings with students to discuss pitch document/idea for pilot.  

Week Seven:   20st August.  Individual meetings with students to discuss pitch document/idea for pilot.  Hand in concept/pitch document.

Week Eight:  27th August.  Plotting the pilot episode – part one.  Each student will be given the opportunity to use the class as a resource to hammer out a rough shape for their pilot episode.

Week Nine:  3rd September. Plotting the pilot episode – part two.  

Week Ten:  10th September. Plotting the pilot episode – part three.

Week Eleven:  17th September.  Developing stories for the first series.  The art of writing a short, snappy synopsis.  Character and story arcs for the slow burn.  And what about a second series?

24th September   Mid Semester Break – no class.

Week Twelve:  1st October.  Writing the pilot.  Classes will be divided between exploring craft issues raised by the group and individual sessions with the teacher.

Week Thirteen:  8th October. Writing the pilot.  Classes will be divided between exploring craft issues raised by the group and individual sessions with the teacher.  Hand in stories for first series.

Week Fourteen:  15th October. Writing the pilot.  Classes will be divided between exploring craft issues raised by the group and individual sessions with the teacher.

Week Fifteen:  22nd October. Writing the pilot.  Classes will be divided between exploring craft issues raised by the group and individual sessions with the teacher.

Week Sixteen:  29th October.  Presentations.  Students will pitch their series/serial ideas to the group.  Discussion.  Hand in revised concept/pitch document and pilot episode.

Week Seventeen:  Possible holiday for Cup Day.  Classes by arrangement.  TBC.

Week Eighteen:  12th November.  Wrap up and overview.

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts


Other Resources

 Suggested reading material will be provided in class by teacher.
Handouts provided in class by teacher
Internet access through RMIT Library
Final Draft program on several computers in RMIT Carlton Library and Main Library
Publications & dvds/videos through RMIT Library, community libraries, video libraries and other sources

Overview of Assessment

 Assessment for this course includes:

  • One-liner of existing series
  • Selected scenes from scene breakdown
  • Selected scenes from first draft
  • Presentation
  • Concept and pitch document
  • In class exercises

Assessment Tasks

One-liner of existing series         5    
Scenes from scene breakdown    10    
Scenes from first draft    10    
In class exercises    15    

*Note:  Semester One’s assessment will constitute 40% of the total course mark.

Concept/pitch document
(1st draft)                5    
Character notes (1st draft)        5    
Stories for first series (1st draft)    5
Concept/pitch document
/character notes/stories for
first series (final draft)    10    
Pilot Episode    20    
In class exercises    15

Assessment Matrix


Course Overview: Access Course Overview