Nick Hurwitz, a screenwriter and producer currently working on the show “The Rookie: Feds,” spoke to Upper School Tickner Writing Fellow Samuel Cheney’s Creative Writing class on Friday, March 31. He Zoomed in from Los Angeles to share with the students about his experience working in television.
Hurwitz spoke at length about character development. “Human beings are social creatures. We have hierarchies wherever we are. Sometimes the hierarchies are obvious,” he said, giving the example of a boss and an employee. “And sometimes the hierarchy is more subtle,” he continued, like among a group of friends. The students examined the ways status can be a source of conflict as well as humor in a TV show.
The class watched three clips from “The Rookie: Feds” where characters of different status levels stood their ground. Then, Hurwitz gave a quick assignment: Write a scene with a high-status character and a low-status character, and then find a way to swap their dynamic. “When you are creating characters, think about power structure,” he advised. “Being a good writer is being a good listener.”
Hurwitz has written fiction and nonfiction but keeps “getting drawn back to TV because it’s inherently collaborative.” He works alongside several other writers, and together, they build the scenes of a show, with the lead writer — called the showrunner — having ultimate control.
The class ended with Hurwitz dispensing three pieces of advice for anyone interested in working in television:
First, “If you want to be a screenwriter there are a couple obvious things to do — like go to college for screenwriting — that I would recommend you not do.” He said the things that make a screenwriter unique “come from the experiences you have, the worlds you can describe, the people you meet.” He encouraged students to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible so that they would have more stories that only they could tell.
Second, Hurwitz reminded students that there are many jobs available in television production. In addition to being a writer, there are costume designers, set designers, construction people, and even accountants, among many other jobs.
Finally, Hurwitz told the students, quite simply, to “Just make stuff,” reminding them that they don’t need fancy equipment; all the tools they need are available to them on their phones. “Telling stories visually is different from telling stories any other way.”
Hurwitz’s visit was part of the Writers at Work series.