Best TV book you'll read all year – Robert Del Valle's "One-Hour Drama Series"

There are a lot of books about TV and film producing out there, but rarely do I read one that blows me away.  And I mean blows… me… away.

Yet The One-Hour Drama Series: Producing Episodic Television, by Robert Del Valle, does just that.

Robert and I actually met this summer, when I spoke on a Producers Guild panel about Show Starter software, and afterwards we connected and swapped copies of our books.  I haven’t talked to Robert since then… and it took me a while to get to his book… but having finally gotten to it, it’s the first book– in a long time– that’s gotten me so excited about TV producing I felt like a college student again, learning for the first time how to actually make something.  It’s one of those books that’s so good you actually feel like you could go make a show RIGHT NOW, with no other tools or experience other than this book… which is, of course, ridiculous– but that’s how inspiring this book is, simply in its wealth of easy-to-understand practical information.

Basically, The One-Hour Drama Series
is an intensive, comprehensive guide to physically producing a one-hour TV series.  Del Valle is an Emmy-nominated  producer, production manager, and assistant director who’s worked on everything from the The Sopranos and Six Feet Under to Ally McBeal and The Wonder Years.

He walks the reader through every stage of physical production: hiring crew, setting up a production office, scheduling and budgeting individual episodes– as well as entire seasons (including various types of budgets– amort budgets, pattern budgets, etc.), prepping an episode (including hair and makeup, pre-shoots, lighting tests, etc.), principal photography, post-production, even accounting.

He touches on other aspects, too– writers, execs, studios, networks, ratings, etc.– but the real strength of this book is giving an in-depth tour of the production process.

In his introduction, Del Valle says “this book is meant to serve as a tool for professionals wishing to make that transition (from feature films to TV), as well as students and novice members of the industry, whatever their particular career within it.”

But I would also make this book required reading for everyone— especially writers– already working in episodic television: execs, agents, crew members with specialized areas of expertise– hair stylists, costumers, grips, etc.  There’s no other book that gives as thorough a picture of how the whole process works and how all the disparate pieces fit together.  In a medium as collaborative as television, it’s easy to forget how massive the whole machine is, how each individual position fits into the whole, and how our own job– whether it’s production designer, writer, gaffer, DP– is simply one part of an enormous process, all of which must continuously run smoothly.

Perhaps most importantly, this book will help anyone working on a show, or anyone who wants to work on a show, understand and communicate with the other departments and processes.

Lastly– at the risk of sounding all self-promotional– for anyone who’s read Small Screen, Big Picture, I think these books are great companions.

Small Screen
gives a detailed overview of the entire business, then The One-Hour Drama Series takes Chapters 10, 11, 12, and 16 (Pilot Prep, Production, Post, and Series Production) and blows them up into an entire book, giving you a much closer, hands-on study of specifics.

Anyway, check it out yourself… or give it as a gift to a TV-writer-friend… you won’t be disappointed.  (And one last thing– I even love the publishing of this book… the cover stock is beautiful, and they use great paper for the pages!  Weird, I know… I just have a thing for really nicely produced books…)

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