John Yearley: Helping Stories Come to Life

Doug GoldringCommunity, Training

“You know”, I said, “there’s nothing inherently entertaining about watching writers work out their stories.” The people I was talking to stared at me blankly. Perhaps it was bad timing – I was in Oslo, and the people I was talking to had flown me thousands of miles to do that very thing.

You see, I teach TV writing, at the Barrow Group and elsewhere. The method I use is derived from Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! StC had been my guide when I got my first TV writing gigs, so naturally I used it when I started teaching. Subsequently, I had come to teach workshops for Save the Cat!, which had led me here. To the gorgeous city of Oslo, which I had been flown out to (and treated incredibly well) to a teach a class. A “master class.” (Oy!)

A sparkling new cinemateque had been rented! 100 people had signed up! But the question remained – “Signed up to see what exactly?”

The plan was simple , something I have done literally hundreds of times – help a few writers to develop their stories for TV. That part I was fine. I love working with writers. I do it every day. But working with writers is, for lack of a better word, personal.

I am trying to help writers bring a story, their story, to life. A story that they very badly want to tell but has thus far, usually, only showed itself in bits and pieces. My job is to help coax that story out, while all the while making sure that it is the story they want to tell.

I love it. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done to make money. But what it isn’t is PUBLIC.

That’s what I was muttering to myself when I woke in a panic at 2 AM the night before my workshop, I began madly making slides for a new PowerPoint presentation. I only got about three slides in before I crashed. Drinking (Oslo!) and jet lag (Oslo!) didn’t help.

I needn’t have worried. The class was a delight. The writers were wonderful. They were the perfect mix of passionate about their stories but open-minded in their execution. And the audience was into it! They got invested in the stories. When I went to the bathroom on breaks I could hear them exchanging fervent opinions about which way the writers’ stories should go.

The workshop was over before I knew it. I was elated. In all my worrying, I had forgotten one very important thing – EVERYBODY LOVES STORIES. To make a living helping stories come to life – in Oslo or anywhere else – is one of the great gifts of my life.

– John

John Yearley teaches TV Writing for TBG.  His new play Triptych is being developed in conjunction with TBG, and he is currently working on a horror pilot set in the American South during Reconstruction called The Reckoning.  He is the author of The Unrepeatable Moment (“Thought provoking…exhilarating…painfully hilarious” – New York Times, “Yearley is a master” – Huffington Post), Leap (Mickey Kaplan New American Play Prize, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Ephemera (John Gassner Award), Another Girl (PlayPenn), and Bruno Hauptmann Kissed My Forehead (Abingdon Theatre), among many other career achievements. John also teaches monthly Save the Cat! workshops, which can be found at Member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, and twice a MacDowell Fellow. MFA in Playwriting from Temple University.

Upcoming classes with John include ONLINE Writing for TV I and ONLINE Writing for TV II.  Start dates will be announced soon!

You can here find TBG’s full schedule of classes .