Jordon Nardino – Writer: Desperate Housewives/ GCB/ Smash/ Quantico
When did you realize, you wanted to work in television?
For me, it was a complete accident. After college, I wanted to write film, but wasn’t having much success. I got an assistant job that brought me into the television world, and I clicked with that writing process. I switched from writing spec features to TV writing samples, and within a year I had an agent and a staff job. This was without help from my boss, climbing the ladder, paying my dues, or anything like that.
What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?
I am not sure I would take much screenwriting in college. Maybe playwriting instead? The craft of television and film writing can be self-taught or learned on the job, but basic dramatic writing is something you can study and hone. I would focus on that instead. I am not sure film school is a great place for an aspiring writer, but maybe? I think having material to write about for the rest of your life is much more important than studying the skill of writing itself. So, take classes that will give you a rich source of cultural knowledge to draw on as a writer for the rest of your life. Also get good at learning, searching for information, and distilling it. This is a skill you will need, especially as a television writer, for the rest of your life. Looking for ideas to write about is a skill that has to be honed. Also, learn and practice public speaking. The most underrated, crucial skill to writing for television is the ability to speak with confidence, off the cuff, and do so in a compelling way. The job exists out loud, and you will be forever judged not merely by what you can put on the page, but what you can sell on your feet. Seriously, join the debate club.
What was your first job in the industry? What did you learn from it?
I had a few assistant jobs, and I was very bad at all of them. I learned that the best motivation to become a writer is to have absolutely no backup plan.
What is your writing process like?
There are so many different parts of the writing process. The most difficult to convey is the part where I am actually writing scenes. That is a very subconscious process and hard to explain. I just feel it out. When I am breaking stories on my own, I have a process. I use white index cards to represent each scene, with markers color coded by character. I limit myself to 5-8 words per card because I believe detail is the enemy of story. I begin with the scenes I know need to happen, or that I want to happen, locate them vaguely in the story, then move on to the scenes that need to happen to set those up, and the scenes that would follow as a consequence. Then I play with the cards, moving them around, and eventually, you have a story. I do not outline when writing on my own; I go from cards to script. Outlines and other intermediary documents are necessary when you are in development or writing for a TV series.
How has your time been so far working on Quantico?
Challenging but rewarding.
What shows made you fall in love with television? What shows are you currently loving?
Then: Moonlighting, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Now: The Young Pope