Shonda Rhimes didn’t have a mentor but she did learn how to make great TV from Twitter — her followers, actually. Every time her fans bemoaned or fell in love with one of her scenes or characters in a tweet, she honed her skills.
According to Quartz, Rhimes shared her digital learning curve during a Women on Wall Street conference Q&A moderated by CBS news business analyst Jill Schlesinger this week. Said Rhimes,
“I learned how to write television by writing Grey’s Anatomy. And you had asked me if I had a mentor. But I didn’t, because I didn’t know anybody in television when I started working in television, because Grey’s was my first job. But what’s been great about having this access to the fans is you do hear what works and what doesn’t. And I don’t mean ‘I like the storyline, I don’t like the storyline.’ I learned this type of storytelling device works, or this way of telling a story works, or this character makes sense, or this idea I’m trying to get across is effective. I learned what works by listening to the audience.”
She even learned about the New York Times calling her an “angry black woman” from her social media network.
“The only way I knew the article in the New York Times existed was because I turned on my computer in the morning and all of my Twitter followers were enraged. And I thought, ‘Well something’s happened here,'” she said at the Women on Wall Street conference. “And so we were having a conversation.”
But the best part is Rhimes introduced ABC’s old executive male crew to the idea that smart women have one-night stands.
“I remember being pulled into a meeting with a room full of men. I don’t know who any of them are now, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them again. …It was a room full of much older white men and I was told in a very concerned, very paternal voice that they felt that nobody was going to watch a television show about a woman who had a one night stand with a guy the night before her first day of work. That women did not do that, that she was—I’m just going to say the word—she was a slut, that they were very disturbed about the message that we were putting out there and that it was going to be a disaster. And I remember sitting their thinking, like ‘Wow, they have no idea what women are doing.'”
"Wow, they have no idea what women are doing." Among the most apt assessments of the TV industry we've ever heard.
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