Creating The Next True Detective: How The One Hour TV Drama Works Right Now

Creating The Next True Detective: How The One Hour TV Drama Works Right Now

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In 2013, newcomer to Hollywood Nic Pizzolato sold his first pilot script, the brilliant hit TRUE DETECTIVE. That couldn’t have happened five years ago - but now in 2015, for the first time in history, due to the fabulous expansion of the marketplace, ‘unconnected’ TV writers can actually break into the biz. All it takes a great script. How do you create one? One great way is to study the best - and in this class that’s just what you’ll do -- we look deep into just how TRUE DETECTIVE works so you can apply those devices to your own original, groundbreaking spec script.

The best way to learn TV storytelling is not to read ‘screenplay theory‘ - it’s to look at great stories. In this OnDemand webinar, we break down the devices used in the critically-acclaimed masterpiece TRUE DETECTIVE - beat by beat, scene by scene, showing you a host of tools and patterns that you haven’t seen before, ones you can employ in your own TV drama pilot spec. (Or to deepen your existing script. You’ll use these forever.)

The TV market is white hot, and it demands far richer, deeper characters, darker dilemmas, more complex storylines, conflicts, and time-shifts. Sparking this shift is the ever more ‘wide open’ Internet studio venues -- it’s the most exciting time in television history to be starting out. Your guide to understanding how to create this story in this OnDemand webinar is Peter Russell, who works as a story doctor in Hollywood and an award winning professor at UCLA and Pepperdine. His vivid style of teaching you these patterns will help you learn quickly, will inspire your story-telling, and give you practical tools you can apply directly to your own script - as soon as class is over.


  • How TRUE DETECTIVE creates the rich, dark new heroes of the new TV drama - TV heroes that change in a particular way - we’ll show you how.
  • How TRUE DETECTIVE uses a powerful moral assertion to supercharge all its story lines (an increasingly common device in ‘cool’ TV today.)
  • How Rust and Marty’s ‘core wounds’ propel the story forward, and the relationship between them drive the whole story arc of season one, and how you can use this same technique to drive yours.
  • The ‘irreconcilable dilemma’ that lies at the heart of nearly every great hour drama and how to create it in your story.
  • The (very important) technical ABCDEF storyline structure of all great hour drama -- no matter how hip or unhip.
  • How to create the ‘hook’ of a show that keeps audience’s returning (TRUE DETECTIVE does it with a ‘buddy arc’ -- but there are many ways to do it.
  • How theme drives all your storylines -- every week.
  • How to create the ‘hook’ of the show that keep audiences returning.
  • Your hero needs a super talent -- and they are often misusing it at the beginning of the story. We’ll show you how to construct your hero’s talent.
  • In TV, characters don’t heal, as genius Aaron Sorkin famously said. But that is no longer always true - and we’ll show you how and why you need to change your TV hero today.


  • New writers who want to learn the new TV story forms.
  • Experienced writers who want to shape TV stories not just for network, but for cable and internet.
  • Editors, producers, agents who want to more deeply understand modern TV story.
  • Screenwriters who want to become TV writers, too.
  • All story creators who are shifting their focus from short form to long form.
  • Writers who don’t believe in ‘how to’ books, but who learn by studying actual stories.
  • Creators who want to sell not just to networks or cable, but to Internets too.

Peter Russell is a Screenwriter and Teacher of Film & Television who sold two television pilots in 2018/19. Peter started as a story analyst in the 1990s, and has read over 3,000+ screenplays for major film and television giants including Imagine Entertainment, Participant Productions, HBO, CBS, Walden Entertainment and others. Peter was invited to teach at UCLA in 2004, and it became a passion, too.  He was UCLA’s Teacher of the Year in 2009. He has taught  Television pilot and Film story creation at Pepperdine University’s Seaver College Screenwriting MFA program, at Story Expo in LA and New York, and many others. Find out more about Peter's online classes at

The Writers Store does not offer any refunds for the webinar. All sales are final.