Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
July 2002

“Sopranos” Writer Tells His Story
By Sybil Maimin

How’s this for a dream job? Become a writer for the hit
TV show The Sopranos, the highly-acclaimed situation comedy series that takes the unorthodox view that a mob boss is in many ways like you and I, with, for example, a daughter at Columbia University and a weekly session with a psychiatrist. Terence Winter landed that job after an unlikely path with stabs at many careers and a lot of soul searching.

Born in a blue-collar neighborhood in Brooklyn, the Sopranos writer attended William E. Grady Vocational High School where he trained to be an auto mechanic. The atmosphere was decidedly unacademic but he read and wrote stories weekly which caught the attention of English teacher Lannie Gilbert who supported and encouraged him. After graduation he became a partner in a delicatessen owned by friends but left in a year unsure of what path was best for him. Wandering around Greenwich Village, he spotted New York University and, although completely unfamiliar with the culture of college and without academic courses or SATs, he decided to apply. To enhance his chances of admission he chose an obscure major which together with his unusual background gained him entry on the condition he take remedial courses. He attended college full time during the day and worked full time at night, including stints as cab driver, security guard, and, best of all, as night doorman on the Upper East Side for two years which provided opportunities to read and make up for huge gaps in his schooling. While at NYU he discovered journalism and took many courses in that discipline, building confidence in his potential but not imagining a life as a writer. Instead, he chose what seemed like a practical path – law school.

He graduated from St. John’s Law School in Queens and accepted a corporate law position. “Miserable” in his job which “did not fit my personality,” he began serious soul searching to determine “what is it you want to do when you wake up in the morning?” To counter the restraints of his profession, Winter had done stand-up comedy while lawyering, leading him to realize he wanted to do sitcom writing.

Moving to Los Angeles for “a fresh start,” he took a job as a paralegal that left lots of time to write. His attitude embraced a “single-minded purpose. I was going to make this happen. I never looked at failure as an option.” After being rejected twice, he was accepted to Warner Brother’s Sitcom Writer’s Workshop which takes 15 out of 1500 applicants a year. The ten-week long program that concludes with placement on an existing show provided important breaks. Working on The Great Defender, which had a brief, successful run enabled him to establish a reputation. Gaining a reputation and being deemed employable gets you an agent, a difficult yet essential feat in the business. While at Defender, he met the writer Frank Renzulli who introduced him to David Chase, head writer and executive producer of The Sopranos. Winter is ideally suited to The Sopranos, having grown up in a similar milieu. He does some research on criminal law, psychological terminology, and medical facts, but the characters are so alive to him, he “can’t stop them from talking.”

He is part of a four-person team of writers overseen by Chase who presents them with a broad road map for the season. The four get together for 10-12 hour days hashing out an outline of 30 scenes for each script. One then writes a script from the outline and presents it to the others for further editing and changes. A couple of days before shooting, the script is read aloud, fixed, and read again for further refinement. “Like planning an invasion,” the show involves finding locations (95 percent are in New Jersey, the studio is in Queens) and props and hiring actors, stunt people, and wardrobe handlers. During production, the workday is 14-16 hours long. Thirteen episodes are completed in nine months.

The most exciting part of being a writer, says Winter, is “seeing something you created come to life in the mouths of actors you respect” and knowing that “something that starts as a notion in your head makes hundreds or millions of people laugh.” His advice to aspiring writers is: read and compare scripts, take writing classes, believe in yourself, and “don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can just sit down and write a script. It is a real craft and skill. Lots of work and training go into it.” The hardest part of the process and 50 percent of the equation for success is getting an agent (the other half is good writing). Have strong samples, pound the pavement, and work the phones daily. “Keep at it and don’t wallow in self-pity. Ultimately, if you write a good, professional script, someone will notice it,” he promises.#


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2002.