How Does A Screenwriter Decide On A Television Format? by Daniel Calvisi

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Can we talk about core formats? And that’s a term that is new for me. So what should a writer know about creating story for each one? And I understand in your book [STORY MAPS: How To Write A GREAT Screenplay] you talk about the 1-hour drama or dramedy, 30 minute single-camera sitcom, 30-minute multi-camera sitcom, a 30-minute dramedy hybrid or web series which is incredibly popular.

Daniel Calvisi: Well, first things first, write something that you would want to watch. Write a format that you love, that you would want to watch so if you prefer one-hour dramas like Breaking Bad, Mad Men or something like that, then write one of those ideally you would know those formats.

So if you love Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Good Wife then you would probably know a little bit more about that format. You’ve just internalized a little bit more about that format and ideally you want to map out or outline out several episodes of your favorite shows before you tackle that first pilot. So you understand the structure a little bit more and you’re not just writing freeform, especially if you are coming from features because you really need to understand the TV structure. So write what you know and love and would watch.

The 30-minute dramedy, they tend to have more of a cultural viewpoint. There’s more diversity in the 30-minute dramedies and they’re more set in a specific world definitely more than like a multi-camera sitcom like the Big Bang Theory for example. It’s more of a subculture, it’s more of a micro-culture and I guess you’d say a personal viewpoint.

But the more personal you can get, the more specific you can get that applies to any format.

Film Courage: What do you see many people venturing into these days, like the web series space? What has been the most popular in 2016-2017?

Daniel Calvisi: Well, there are more 1-hour scripted dramas than other formats. Actually out there in the marketplace like on cable, on your TV, or on a streaming service like Amazon or Netflix, so there are more of those. But I really think you should write what you want to watch. So it’s really up to you.

There may be more 1-hours being made than any other format but in my opinion the most interesting and unique and experimental form is the 30-minute single camera show, whether it’s a single camera sitcom or a single camera dramedy hybrid, there is just more going on there. There is more unique, creator driven than ever in that format and I would like to think that networks are more open to it and streaming services are more open to it because it is cheaper to create, to produce a 30-minute show than a 1-hour scripted show, certainly like a 1-hour action show or a 1-hour period piece. Those are going to be really expensive. So it’s cheaper and some of them come from web series, something like Issa Rae Insecure started as a web series. Difficult People was a web series. So it’s easier to get in the door with an established 30-minute series.

Question for the Viewers: Have you thought about which television format you want to work in?

STORY MAPS: How To Write A GREAT Screenplay

Watch the video interview on Youtube here


STORY MAPS: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television

Pilot (Volume 4)


BUY THE BOOK – STORY MAPS: How To Write A GREAT Screenplay

BUY THE BOOK – STORY MAPS: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot (Volume 4)







Maggie’s dreams of starting a family of her own begin to take shape after she and her husband, Jonah, purchase their first home together. However, the pretty picture’s frame cracks when Jonah loses his job writing for a newspaper soon after moving into the new house. Unable to handle the pressure, Jonah disappears and leaves Maggie to deal with the fallout by Writer/Director John Goshorn. Watch it on Amazon here!