Amy Sherman-Palladino is an acclaimed American television writer, producer, and director. Best known for creating the beloved series Gilmore Girls and the Emmy-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
She is celebrated for her distinctive storytelling style, rapid-fire dialogue, and impactful contributions to contemporary television.
Our entire conversation is packed with insider info, but here’s a few ideas that stood out to me in our podcast interview.
Write quick-witted characters. “If you really pay attention to how people talk, they talk a lot faster than people tend to talk on television. When you have that pace, it does shrink up the time. Scripts might be very large, but it took us time to figure out how long our scripts needed to be to fill the time [as the one page per minute idea changes at this speed with dialogue heavy screenplays].”
Know which parts to do alone. “We’ve written screenplays and TV together,” she says of her husband. “We come up with the stories together, either with writers in the room with us, or just alone at our house. From that, we have ideas for dialogue but when we go to type the script, we go to our separate corners, put dibs on certain scenes and divide.” Amy jokes, “It’s why we’re still married.”
Give your characters greater challenges. “[My father Don Sherman] was a comic and all I heard were stories of Greenwich Village, working the Catskills, going on tour, playing Vegas — that was my upbringing… But, in thinking of that time and as much as I loved my dad, I thought putting a woman in that position was dramatically more interesting. It was such an uphill battle. Forget being in standup, she wasn’t even supposed to have a job.”
Know your North Star from the beginning. “We were always saying Midge was going to be a character who, no matter how much she thought about that tight ten, right before she goes onstage, someone pisses her off, and that’s all she’s able to have in her brain when she walks onstage. It’s either going to be great or it’s going to bomb. Good, bad or indifferent, when she was true to herself, that’s the way her career had to go.” Her superpower was her weakness.
Don’t let outside notes alter the main idea. “When you get into the screenwriting process, and everyone throws their two cents in, it’s important to keep reminding yourself why you fell in love with this in the first place? Why you love this character, this story, because there’s going to be a lot of people throwing ideas and notes, and it’s all going to get a little fuzzy and watery at times and you have to be able to go back to that feeling and zero in on what you wanted to do in the first place.”