Writing for TV and Beyond: Network vs. Cable vs. Online Media

by Jason Hellerman - updated on September 16, 2019

In an age where distribution channels and platforms are changing rapidly, creative content producers are finding themselves faced with a unique set of challenges and opportunities brought about by this new medium. How have the new online platforms influenced how content is consumed and created? How has screenwriting evolved for each platform?

  • John Rice - (writer: BONNIE & CLYDE - TV miniseries on History and A&E)
  • Lauren Morelli (writer: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, Netflix)
  • Brett Konner (creator/writer: DEADBEAT, Hulu original series)
  • Jeanine Daniels - writer of THAT GUY web series on YouTube (300,000 views)

And, Our Moderator:

Jen Grisanti - Acclaimed story consultant, writing instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge, blogger for The Huffington Post and book author. Jen’s clients have sold dozens of pilots, with two going to series. She has helped several writers sign with top agencies and she has helped staff over 40 writers. Before launching Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc, she was Vice President of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount, where she covered numerous shows including Medium, Numbers, NCIS, 4400 and Girlfriends. Jen was a judge on the 2nd annual Pilot Launch TV Script Contest.

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We had a packed house last night and the enthusiastic audience sat attentive as the night began with breaking-in stories and advice about where/how to get your first jobs. The general consensus among panelists is that being an assistant or working at an internship are some of the best ways in the door.

Jeanine Daniels talked about being an assistant early on and how the long hours and pressure helped her find her voice and way out as a writer.

Brett Konner seconded that piece of advice, stating he was writing to find a way out of Los Angeles and four years later . . . he set his show in New York so he'd get a vacation to the East Coast once a year.

One thing rang true, many writers find they not only break in one but several times. John Rice stated that after a decade of solid hits and jobs he spent three years without a paycheck just to find that some of his older work that had not been optioned wound up resurfacing and his career began again. Then the question was how to stay interested.

"Why and how could I write it for seven years? Keep changing so it always matters to you."

The focus of the evening was on how things are changing with the rise of Youtube and Netflix. Lauren Morelli opened a lot of eyes when she said she went to school for Modern Dance (she has a BFA!) but really hit home when she said binge-watching TV is now the new norm. When they break stories in Orange Is the New Black they don;t have to worry about how many weeks go by between episodes therefore recurring characters and leads can take several episodes off while they explore other facets of their world.

"We're not writing worrying about weeks going by, we're worrying about hours . . ." said Morelli.

Seconded by Jeanine Daniels, who detailed that on the internet you know who's watching and their reactions immediately.

"On the web it's all about instant gratification. That means right off the bat you'll know if it sucks. So don't suck." Our Moderator, Jen Grisanti, stressed the value of structure on the web.

"Structure is your friend. Trigger, dilemma, clear pursuit...the audience knows what it wants."

One thing that made everyone clap was John Rice's words about the possibilities of writing today.

"You can do anything now. Anything. People want to see it all. The only thing holding you back is the worry."

Jeffery Bell followed all of this with his passion for genre but making each genre tale about something he deeply cared about. He also said network stories are being forced to change because of the speed the audience demands.

"The velocity of our story is reaching an all time high. Quality and amount."


In such a packed evening it was great to see all the panelists coming together and agreeing that since the rise of the internet and digital platforms have given people the chance to express themselves in ways they never thought possible that the ingredient you need to succeed is passion for what you're doing.

Jeffery Bell expanded . . . "The democratization of film is the most interesting part of today. Opportunities have increased exponentially."

Each writer left us with a nugget to end the evening . . . 

"It's so easy to get wrapped up but write something you love. Something you want to watch. And you'll find your voice." - Lauren Morelli

"Fail forward." - Jen Grisanti

"Take your passion with you." - Jeffery Bell

"Resilience is the key. I waited three years without a paycheck after a decade of sales. Hang in there. It'll happen." - John Rice

"Respect your audience. Believe in them. If they come to you they will help you." - Jeanine Daniels

"Write what you want to watch. Be specific. Tell something you care about ... you'll find your way." - Brett Konner


In the end it was another successful panel - the Q&A from the audience was fantastic. We love having our fans in the house because they come prepared. Afterward we all spent some time at District 13 - a great local brew pub - chatting with the attendees.

You can find more highlights of the night @screencrafting on Twitter and @Screen_Craft on Instagram.

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