Television Writing Intensive

Course Fee: $200 + tuition for Columbia Students or Visiting Students
S0431D (non-credit)
S3040 (credit) - Session 1: May 28–July 5 - 6 points

Mon/Wed 10am–5pm, Thurs 6–8pm
Summer 2019
Joe Cacaci

The TV Writing Intensive is a six-week, concentrated and encompassing introduction into the field of television writing designed to prepare students to join the professional worlds of half-hour comedies and one-hour dramas across network, cable and digital platforms.


In an interconnected program consisting of two intensive writing workshops and a lecture series with guest writers and producers, students gain the knowledge and authority to explore, examine and create the kind of groundbreaking work that is taking over television here and around the world.


Participants in The Television Writing Intensive learn about half-hour comedy and one-hour drama by writing and developing spec scripts and original pilots. A spec script is a teleplay for an existing show where the writer brings original stories to existing characters. A pilot is a script written for an original series that the writer creates.


This intensive course meets 15 hours per week. On Mondays and Wednesdays students will attend the writing courses outlined above. Thursday evenings students will attend seminars with professors and other industry professionals.

The Thursday night section consists of symposium/question-and-answer sessions with guest speakers working in television today. Last year, our list included Frank Pugliese (exec producer House of Cards), Matthew Penn (exec producer Law & Order), David Platt (co-exec producer, Law & Order SVU), Jacquelyn Reingold, co-exec producer of The Good Fight, who has also written for numerous shows, including Smash, Brain Dead and In Treatment, Joan Ackerman, creator of HBO’s Arliss and Alexandra Lydon, recurring actress on many TV shows, including 24.

The TV Writing Intensive taught me the skills I needed to get an agent at CAA and get staffed on the A&E prime time show The Returned. And it was the most fun I had while still learning!

Jessie Nickson Lopez, Columbia Summer '12

The Pilot

3 hours, Mon/Wed, 6 weeks

Each student develops an original series concept and an accompanying pilot script.


There is a focus on the pilot as both a successful episode and a blueprint for an ongoing series that has a strong enough premise to sustain dynamic stories for multiple seasons.


In a step-by-step process, students move from series concept to pilot stories, to outline and lastly to writing scenes. Both ½ hour and 1 hour series are covered.


Additional course work includes examinations and analysis of successful teleplays, well established series, and the role of the writer/executive-producer in the medium.

Columbia’s TV Writing Intensive helped me build the writing portfolio I needed to gain admission to NYU's Dramatic Writing MFA. The classes were invaluable. I continue to revisit my notes from that summer.

Nina Bradock, Columbia Summer '11; NYU MFA '15

The Spec

3 hours, Mon/Wed, 6 weeks


We examine the fundamental tools of the craft of television writing while developing a speculative script for an existing television series.


The course focuses on how to tell multiple original stories for established characters within a single episode. Key to writing a successful spec is learning how to deconstruct stories, define character missions and incorporate the established templates of an existing series. This task closely mirrors the job of a staff writer hired on a prime time TV show and informs the work that takes place in the Pilot class.


The goal of the course is to create a professional script that adheres closely to the established story structure, character voices, and event of the week narratives.


Additional work includes weekly examinations and analysis of successful teleplays and well-established series, and the role of the writer in relation to the series and its staff.

The Writers' Room

3 hours, Thursday evening, 6 weeks


Features in-depth analysis of successful teleplays and series from that week’s guest lecturers. These evening sessions provide students with the unique opportunity to learn about the TV production and development process from multiple professional points of view.


Guests will include working writers, producers, directors and actors from the field. from the field. Past guests have included Jessi Klein, head writer on Inside Amy Schumer, Bryan Goluboff, co-executive producer of Blue Bloods, Will Graham, writer and producer on Amazon’s Alpha House and Onion News Network and Zhubin Parang, writer on The Daily Show.