The Differences Between Writing for Film vs Writing for Television

While there are fewer differences between film and television today than in the past, there are still some distinct differences when it comes to content. Screenwriter, author, and MFA educator Michael Tabb says the key difference is how the stories are told. Movies are self-contained stories with a solid beginning, middle, and end. The viewer must walk away feeling satisfied that the complete story has been told. In television there are two storytelling formats - serial and procedural. A serialized TV show will be one, long story that plays out over the coarse of the season. A procedural TV show includes one complete plot per episode, such as one case per episode in a crime show.  Writers also need to consider "act outs" when writing for television, which are cliffhangers that happen just before the show cuts to commercials.

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