“The Twilight Zone will be directed, written, produced, and acted by television’s elite.” —Serling before TZ premiered
I focus heavily here on the writing of Rod Serling and other talented authors — and rightly so. Their imaginative scripts were the launching pad for some of the most memorable and timeless television ever filmed.
But you need more than that to create a Twilight Zone episode. To truly bring the fifth dimension to life, you need first-rate actors in front of the camera, and a top-notch crew behind it.
I couldn’t help reflecting on the crucial role played by the head of that crew, the director, when I heard that James Sheldon had died on March 12. His many credits include six TZ episodes, three of which are bona fide fan favorites: “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, “Long Distance Call” and “It’s a Good Life“.* Read the rest of this entry
“This is a series for the storyteller, because it’s our thinking that an audience will always sit still, and listen [to], and watch a well-told story.”
That quote by Rod Serling is from a short film made in 1959 to interest potential sponsors in buying ad time on a brand-new series called The Twilight Zone. It’s a telling remark — one that, I believe, offers a key insight into why the show succeeded, even beyond Serling’s expectations. It helps us understand why the show still appeals more than 50 years later.
In short, Serling had the formula correct from the start: tell a good story.
Think of an episode like a wheel. There is acting, directing, music, special effects. All of those elements are important, but they’re like the spokes of the wheel. They won’t work unless they’re attached firmly to something strong and well-structured: a hub. Read the rest of this entry