By Melissa Weisman
Norman Steinberg, a professor in Television Production at LIU Brooklyn, visited LIU Post to talk about his two-year 48-credit M.F.A. in TV Writing and producing for television TV Writers StudioSM in Humanities Hall room 130, on Tuesday, Feb.25, during common hour.
Steinberg shared details about the program, his achievements, and a look at what it is like to be in the television writing and production industry. “The 20-25 students chosen to join the TV Writers Studio will find out what it’s like to be on the day-to-day writing staff of a TV series, where they will experience the joy of collaborating on a pilot script,
and the agony of eating awful Chinese take-out at two in the morning,” Steinberg said.
“[The program] is not about theory. It’s about the nuts and bolts of writing – of becoming an active writer in the industry,” said Steinberg, a veteran screenwriter, director, producer, and show runner.
Each year, a carefully selected 20-25 graduate student writers from across the globe, most from the US, become part of the demanding two-year program. The goal of TV Writers Studio is to educate and develop highly skilled, experienced professionals, with strong portfolios, who will be uniquely prepared to begin careers in the television and new media industries as writers, producers, and entrepreneurs.
Since television production demands that its writers function as a unit, the program concentrates on developing the skills of working collaboratively in creating a one-hour pilot script for a TV series. All classes are held at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the largest U.S. film and television production studio complex outside of Hollywood. Students learn to work in an environment that requires them to share and support their ideas. They quickly come to see the benefits of the natural give-and-take that occurs as they create.
The collaborative experience is balanced with the development of the student’s individual writing skills in the conceptualization and writing of his/her individual pilot script, as well as episodes for the jointly written, one-hour pilot script.
Steinberg’s own work has been recognized with various awards. He penned screenplays for numerous films including “Blazing Saddles,” “My Favorite Year,” and “Johnny Dangerously.” In the television arena, he has worn many hats, leaving his mark on programs such as “Cosby,” “When Things Were Rotten,” “Doctor, Doctor,” Showtime’s “Paradise,” and the 2011 CineMax series, “Chemistry.”
“There is a lot to gain out of this program, like learning to be a writer in the industry and honing your craft, but for me the best part has been all of the industry guest speakers Norman Steinberg, my professor and the director of the program, has brought in,” said Gina Massaro, a student in Steinberg’s program, who received her B.F.A. in Film from LIU Post in 2012.
Massaro’s favorite guest speaker was Gary Goldman (“The Land Before Time”), an animator, director, and producer who worked on some of her favorite films growing up. “Without Norman and this program, we would not have access to these people,” she added.
“If you think you want to be a writer, there’s no better place for you than television. It’s a writer’s medium, and there’s really no program in the country that works like the TV Writers Studio. Each week, you come into class and work in a writer’s room: you beat out stories, write outlines and scripts, argue, laugh, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite,” Massaro said. “I found Norman to be very enthusiastic and optimistic about the opportunities his program and screenwriting can offer in regards to the film industry.
Although he was optimistic, he was also very realistic about how the industry is, and how difficult it is to make a career, but he was inspiring and encouraging. As a film major, your future is very hazy because there is no defined way in how to approach getting a job, but hearing someone speak about the industry as a possibility and not as a far-fetched goal was refreshing,” said Jessica Reyes, a junior Film major.
Steinberg recalled a bit of advice from his mentor and collaborator Mel Brooks (“Space Balls”) that one must share their experience and “pass it on.”At LIU Brooklyn, the man is doing just that, teaching graduate students in the hope that they become better writers and so they, too, can succeed.