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Writing Hollywood [SURE Stories]

Jacob Garber and Prof. Phalen working together.

Jacob Garber and Prof. Phalen working together.

The following post is written by UHP student Jacob Garber, who received a UHP SURE award for research in Spring 2013. —

Hollywood TV is created behind the closed doors of the writers’ room. The writing staff brings life to comedies and dramas alike, yet the operation of these writers is largely unexplored. I am assisting Professor Phalen conduct an in-depth study of Hollywood writers, venturing into the writers’ room, exploring the relationship between the writer and the program, and tracing the history of TV writing from its roots in radio and stage performances. We hope to provide a holistic view of TV writers, from professional microculture to their larger role in the Hollywood system. 

The UHP/SURE award has opened the door for our research on TV writers through funding our membership to Studiosystem. The program – a steroidal IMDB, often used by studio executives – is the basis for all of our television data research. It contains virtually all television shows with extensive lists of writers and producers. It is the perfect tool for accruing and checking data on all things television!

Our project explores notions of media creation and representation in new ways, questioning the foundation of Hollywood itself. This ambitious and novel goal was what originally drew me to the project. (That is, aside from my own TV addiction.) I am particularly interested in exploring media culture through the valence of literary criticism, and studying its manifestation in creative texts. In my English and creative writing major, I concentrate on the works of David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo, and the theories of Jean Baudrillard and Martin Heidegger, topics that I had the opportunity to study with Professor Mark Ralkowski in our Honors Independent Study (another incredible UHP creation that you all should take advantage of).

After we complete our research, Professor Phalen and I will begin writing articles for her book. The result should be fantastic!