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  • Jacob de la Rosa

Taking the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass

“Everytime I write something different or something new, it’s a discovery.”

– Shonda Rhimes

Idioms are often idiotic. And the idiom "Those who can't do, teach," is right up there with being the most misguided.

When I was in film school, there were professors who belonged to the can't do: struggling filmmakers who took a job at a university just to pay the bills. They didn't have a passion for teaching and it showed. 

Showrunner and creator of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, Shonda Rhimes is not only one of those who can do, but she is one of the best teachers I've ever seen. I recently took her MasterClass on writing for television, and I can say it was $90 well spent.

It's not surprising that the writer responsible for some of the most successful shows in television would have a wealth of knowledge to share. What is surprising is how straightforward and friendly she was when sharing it. There was no point during her lessons that I felt lost or bored. She is genuinely passionate and excited to teach.

Some of the things she covered were the basics (where do you get ideas from, 5 act structure, that sort of thing) and while those are not things I really need help or struggle with, she also talked about the stuff that I was more interested in learning like pitching, how to act in a writers' room, and showrunning. And I can't stress enough just how clear her lessons were.

The class also included case studies of her shows, so thankfully I had Netflix and could watch the pilots for Grey's and Scandal because I've never watched them before. I'm not sure they're up my alley, but Shonda Rhimes uses them to illustrate points that are applicable to writing for any show.

Not only was she insightful and easy to understand, but she was inspiring. Her class felt like she was taking the torch that had been passed to her, and using it to light the spark inside of her students. It made me feel more confident in my own writing. “There’s nothing wrong with having a little swagger," she says at one point. "Own it.”

There are 30 lessons in total. Also included are some valuable materials like the story bible and original pitch for Grey's, and the pilot scripts for her shows.

I would say if you are interested in writing for television at all, you should take her class. And no one is paying me to say that!

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