Television writers are responsible for the production of a television series from the beginning processes of writing a script to the launch of a pilot episode. They prepare scripts for a wide range of television programs including soap operas, comedies, dramas and documentaries. A pilot episode may be “picked up” by a network for a contracted television series. Some writers also create ads for local sponsors, previews for upcoming shows and station announcements.
A major change has taken place in television production in recent years. No longer are studios spending millions of dollars on long-term development deals with writers in hopes that they will provide them with a hit show for the studio. More recently, studios engage writers to create or contribute pilot scripts to be considered for development. A pilot script, also known as a pilot episode or series premiere, is the first episode in a television series. Pilot episodes are created as a test run to determine if a television series will be well received on air. The studio is granted a number of options to involve the writer in the processes of writing and producing a script. The benefit to this is if the studio is not happy with a script, it can cut its losses early, while only having to pay the initial script fee. These deals, referred to as “one of’s”, are the dominant form of television series writing deals.
When a script is picked up for a pilot episode, the writer is involved in many aspects. He will be the one to hire the director of a given episode, work with a line producer to hire a crew, and supervise casting and post-production efforts. The head writer is also referred to as the “showrunner”.