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How ‘The Flash’ Taught Me About TV Writing

by Conor O'Brien
Image result for cw the flash
Image: The CW

After five successful seasons and a sixth currently underway, you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Flash. It is a hit series for The CW that began in 2014.

Grant Gustin (Sebastian; Glee) stars as the title character; Barry Allen, a young forensic scientist who gains the power of lightning fast-speed following a freak accident.

Fans around the world have enjoyed watching Barry use his powers to fight various super villains for the past number of years, as have I. However, there are also lessons from the show that I am learning that not many of the other viewers may be interested in.

In case you are unaware although this site should be a pretty big hint, I love TV and Film. I would go as far to say that it is one of my passions. Another great love of mine is writing. Imagine my delight a few years ago when I had the ingenious idea to combine the two together?

Image result for barry and joe the flash
Barry (Grant Gustin) and Joe (Jesse L Martin)
Image: The CW

This thought process began roughly around the same time that The Flash started, so this has been a long journey, picking things up along the way.

There are also two things I should clarify – 1) I am not a successful screenwriter — yet. Hopefully. I am still just starting out rather than this being a ‘rags to riches’ type of story.

2) I am based in the UK, which has a very different way of running television. This information may have been more well-known to my counterparts in North America, for example.

Actors Hartley Sawyer (Ralph Dibny), Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost) with writer/producer Thomas Pound
Image: @dpanabaker on Twitter

Perhaps more than other roles in a production, writers are usually underappreciated in a wider sense. Most people would know well-known actors or directors though the writers tend to be more anonymous.

Considering my interest in this field, I usually pay close attention to the credits at the start of each episode. As well as listing the cast, it also lists the specific writers of an episode as well as producers.

Without sounding too cliche but I have definitely gained a newfound respect and admiration for the writers – of course on The Flash in terms of this example but also in general. They were once like me, pursued their dream and got a job on a cool show. I also looked into some of the names I saw in the credits. The backgrounds of those I could find were very interesting.

Even though the majority of the writing staff are staff writers under the showrunner Рthat being Eric Wallace on The Flash, very few are credited as such. There are titles such as Story Editor or Executive Story Editor, which, to my understanding, change very little in terms of duties though show a little cach̩ of being more experienced.

After a while, I began to recognise some of the names I saw appear in credits of later episodes. It’s fascinating to compare different episodes written by one or both of the same people. Some shoutouts: Thomas Pound, Lauren Certo, Jonathan Butler & Gabriel Garza, Kelly Wheeler, Kristen Kim, Sterling Gates, Joshua V Gilbert, Sam Chalsen, Jeff Hersh and showrunner Eric Wallace. Those are the ones I can think of on the top of my head.

Writers of The Flash in 2018
Image: FlashWritersRoom

Writing for TV in the UK, as I understand it, is a far more independent gig. Unlike having a Writers’ Room in the vein of the US, it is more commission based and solitary.

All in all, I can only thank The Flash for not only telling entertaining stories for the past six seasons but also inadvertently teaching a novice screenwriter.

Long live The Flash.

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