Head writer

Head writer

A Head Writer (HW) is a person who is in charge of a television/radio series' writing team. Head writers are part of a serialized series production team and primetime serials.


They conceive the long-term story of a scripted television or radio series, and write the thrusts, outlining their tale approximately a week at a time, along with their Associate Head Writers, the show's producers, and if they have a Story/Creative Consultant (SC/CC), then they are included as well. A writing team usually holds at least two meetings a week. Sometimes, there may be a story document for one particular plot, summarizing all of the major beats, but this isn't required for all stories.

The head writer (HW), associate head writers (AHW), breakdown writers (BDW), and consultants then divide the week's thrust into five episodes by meeting at least twice a week. During these meetings, the Writer's Assistant, like GH's Nathan Fissel, takes notes for the writers, performs research and fact check. The breakdown writers outline an episode, breaking it down into acts and scenes, with a summary of the action. Sometimes a head writer, associate head writer or other members of the crew may choose to write a breakdown. Then the script writers take the breakdown and write dialogue for each scene.

Script Editors, like Elizabeth Korte, Jeff Beldner, and Carolyn Culliton, proof-read each completed script, check for continuity errors, and search for new writers by reading spec scripts. From time to time, a script editor can also write breakdown and dialogue scripts on their respective shows like Korte and Culltion do on "General Hospital" and "One Life to Live". Most primetime TV series, like "Desperate Housewives" and "Medium", have an Executive Story Editor [http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=%22Executive+Story+Editor%22&fr=yfp-t-501&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fp_ip=CA&vc=] and a Story Editor. A script is not considered completed until the Script Coordinator, like GH's Heidi Ploen, Jim Reitzel, and Sasha Cartullo, goes through it and the head writer gives final approval. A script coordinator is the point person between the writers and production, distributes scripts to production, and takes care of clearance issues.

A television series' writing team can consist of a head writer/co-head writer, associate head writer, breakdown writer, script writer, script/story editor, script/story consultant, script/story coordinator, script supervisor/continuity, creative consultant, and a writer's assistant.

Financial Core Status Writers

*All My Children: James Harmon Brown & Barbara Esensten
*The Bold And The Beautiful: Kay Alden, John F. Smith
*Days Of Our Lives: Hogan Sheffer, Meg Kelly, Victor Gialanella, Mark Christopher, Dena Higley
*General Hospital: Garin Wolf, Michael Conforti
*One Life To Live: Gary Tomlin, Frances Myers, Jeanne Marie Ford, Michelle Poteet Lisanti
*Passions: James E. Reilly, Shawn Morrison, Pete T. Rich
*The Young And The Restless: Josh Griffith, Maria Arena Bell, Paula Cwikly

Script Supervisor

A person who tracks which parts of a series have been filmed, how the filmed scenes deviated from the script; they also make continuity notes, creating a lined script.

Current American daytime serial head writers

"The Young And The Restless"
*Maria Arena Bell, Hogan Sheffer, Scott Hamner (August 11, 2008 - present)

"The Bold And The Beautiful"
*Bradley Bell (1994 - 1/21/08, April 16, 2008 - present)
*Kay Alden (2/5/08 - April 15, 2008)
*Rhonda Friedman (1/22/08 - 2/4/08)

"General Hospital"
*Robert Guza Jr. (3/??/02 - 1/3/08; 3/17/08 - present)
*Garin Wolf (1/4/08 - 3/14/08)
*Meg Bennett (March 5, 2007 - April 15, 2007; May 21, 2007 - July 1, 2007; August 27, 2007 - October 4, 2007)

"Days of Our Lives"
*Dena Higley & Rick Draughon (co-HW) (July 1, 2008 - October 10, 2008)
*Dena Higley & Victor Gialanella (co-HW) (January 25, 2008 - June 30, 2008)
*Hogan Sheffer & Meg Kelly (co-HW) (October 2006 - January 24, 2008)
*Dena Higley announced as HW on 10/20/07

"As The World Turns"
*Christopher Goutman & Vivian Gundaker (Co-HW) (January 25, 2008 - April 17, 2008)
*Jean Passanante & Leah Laiman (co-HW) (5/25/05 - 1/24/08, 4/18/08 - present)

"Guiding Light"
David Kreizman, Christopher Dunn, Lloyd Gold, Jill Lorie Hurst (August 22, 2008 - present)
*David Kreizman & Donna M. Swajeski (co-HW) (2004 - 2/29/08, 4/14/08 - 8/21/08)
*Ellen Wheeler (March 3, 2008 - April 13, 2008)

"All My Children"
*Charles Pratt Jr. (8/27/08 - present)
*James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten (7/25/07 - 1/14/08; 1/31/08 - 8/26/08)
*Julie Hanan Carruthers & Brian Frons (1/15/08 - 1/30/08)

"One Life To Live"
*Ron Carlivati (9/11/07 - 2/14/08, 5/2/08 - present)
*Gary Tomlin (2/15/08 - 5/1/08)

*"Passions": James E. Reilly (7/5/01-9/7/07; 9/17/07-8/7/08)


A Head Writer for a 60 minute series, starting February 2, 2008, is paid $32,995 (used to be $31,879) per week, which adds up to $1,715,740 (used to be $1,657,708) per year.

The minimum for a daily breakdown of a network non-prime time serial (when written by a writer other than the head writer) is $1,076 (used to be $1,739) for a 60 minute series.

For each script on which a writer, other than the head writer, performs writing services, such writer will be paid not less than $3,180 (used to be $3,087) for a 60 minute series.

The minimum for rewriting or polishing a non-prime time serial script or breakdown (when done by a writer other than the head writer like a Script/Story Editor) is 30% of the script or breakdown fee.

The minimum for a long-term story projection (when written by a writer other than the head writer like an Associate Head Writer or Story/Creative Consultant) for a non-prime time serial is:1. 3 months or less: $15,302 (used to be $14,785)2. 6 months or less, but more than 3 months or unspecified: $22,953 (used to be $22,177)3. 12 months or less, but more than 6 months: $30,601 (used to be $29,566)

Notable head writers of scripted series

*Darren Star (Melrose Place, Sex & The City)
*Irna Phillips
*Lynn Marie Latham (Knots Landing, Port Charles, The Young And The Restless)
*Michael Malone ("One Life to Live")
*Frank Hursley and Doris Hursley
*Agnes Nixon (All My Children, Loving)
*Sheri Anderson (Days of Our Lives)
*William J. Bell
*Douglas Marland
*Harding Lemay ("Another World")
*Megan McTavish (All My Children)
*Bridget Dobson
*Robert Guza, Jr. (General Hospital)
*Henry Slesar ("The Edge of Night")
*Kay Alden (The Young And The Restless)
*Pat Falken Smith (General Hospital)
*Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives")
*Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show")
*Norman Stiles {"Sesame Street")
*Lou Berger ("Sesame Street")
*Jeff Moss ("Sesame Street")
*Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy")
*Harold Ramis ("SCTV")
*Dave Thomas ("SCTV")
*Joe Flaherty ("SCTV")
*Michael O'Donoghue ("Saturday Night Live")
*James Downey ("Saturday Night Live")
*Adam McKay ("Saturday Night Live")
*Tina Fey ("Saturday Night Live")
*Seth Meyers ("Saturday Night Live")
*Jules Minton ("Jeopardy!")
*Pamela K. Long (Guiding Light)
*Claire Labine (Ryan's Hope)
*David Chase (The Sopranos)
*Stephen J. Cannell
*David Milch (Deadwood)
*Norm Hiscock (The Kids in the Hall)
*Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue)
*Tom Fontana (Oz)
*Paula J. Smith (Paradise Falls, Metropia) [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0999997/]
*David E. Kelly (The Brotherhood of Poland, NH)
*Aaron Sorkin (Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip)
*Lorraine Broderick
*Sally Sussman Morina
*Michael J. Nelson
*Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
*Sam Simon
*Al Jean
*Mike Reiss
*David Mirkin
*Bill Oakley
*Josh Weinstein
*Mike Scully

Fictional head writers

*Matt Albie ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip")
*Liz Lemon ("30 Rock")
*Rob Petrie ("The Dick Van Dyke Show")

Writing awards

There are several awards for which a head writer can be eligible for. They include:
*Daytime Emmy Awards
*Emmy Awards
*Writers Guild Of America Award
*Gemini Award
*Saturn Awards
*Golden Globe Award


Head writers are memebers of the following groups: Writers Guild of America, Writers Guild of Canada, Dramatists Guild of America

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