Sunday, May 23, 2010

Peter Parnell on writing for TV: "These are not necessarily bad things."

From Adam's always essential blog.

Q:  Besides having plays on and off Broadway and in large regional theaters, you have worked extensively in TV drama. How does one navigate between the two worlds and how do you find time to do both?

A:  When I was starting out as a playwright, there was still a bit of a stigma attached to writing for TV. I didn’t actually work on a TV script until Aaron Sorkin and John Wells invited me to be a part of The West Wing in 1999. By that time, more and more playwrights were becoming involved in both being on staff and in writing pilots. Now, I think we’ve entered a kind of new golden age in writing for TV, and cable shows especially are finding provocative, exciting ways to tell stories. And it’s important for a playwright to learn the techniques of TV writing, if only to make a living while you’re working on your next play. I find the forms quite different, but that may be more because of the kinds of plays I write. Writing for TV is a job, and highly collaborative, and you’re often not the final arbiter of what gets on the screen (including your credit). But, you learn how to work quickly when you need to, and how to solve creative problems quickly, and you can get paid nicely for your time. These are not necessarily bad things.