TV Producer And Showrunner Courtney Lilly Visits Venice High History Class

Alina Miller, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Television producer and showrunner Courtney Lilly visited Alejandro Arroyo’s and Drake Witham’s U.S. history class as a guest speaker last month. 

Lilly is known for his work on popular sitcoms such as “blackish,” “grown-ish,” “My Boys,” and more. Lilly provided valuable insights into the captivating world of the movie industry.

Arroyo’s class was in the process of making a project centered around creating a movie scene. Lilly took the opportunity to share his own experiences, shedding light on his early beginnings and answering students’ questions about the complexity of the industry.

Originally from New York, he found himself drawn to Los Angeles as he began to dive into the movie making industry. Through his time working on various productions, he discovered the vital role that a compelling storyline plays in the success of movies and TV shows. 

According to Lilly, it’s not just about snappy dialogues or catchy phrases—rather, it’s the emotional depth of the narrative that truly makes for a good movie.

During his talk, Lilly emphasized the importance of storytelling, highlighting the significance of showing progression within the lines rather than simply describing events. He also explained how narratives can evolve organically, with actions and obstacles shaping characters and making for a more compelling viewing experience. 

Lilly stressed the need to identify relatable elements within stories, as it allows viewers to connect with the characters and their situations on a universal level.

Responding to a student’s question, he shared his perspective on creative blocks, acknowledging that inspiration may change from day to day. 

“The most important thing is to get your sentence on paper and you can keep refining it and making it more interesting as you go,” Lilly said.

However, he emphasized the importance of treating the creative process as a job, pushing through the blocks by putting pen to paper and allowing ideas to flow.

According to Lilly, the key lies in writing about subjects that genuinely interest and resonate with people, focusing on the emotional connection that everyone experiences.

Collaboration is also a huge aspect of the television business. Writers gather to brainstorm ideas, often using a whiteboard to map out concepts and storylines, Lilly said.

“Similarly to having writer’s block, I know we just need to get it done,” he said. 

Lilly revealed that he maintains a strict schedule, starting his workday at 7 in the morning. This sets the tone as he guides his team toward the overarching vision of each episode.

To illustrate the collaborative process, Lilly provided an example from one of his shows. He shared a scenario where a family competes on “Family Feud”, but wanted to add depth to the storyline. They decided to give a character, typically perceived as the youngest, least smart person, a big moment by winning. The aim was to ensure that each character had a defining moment throughout the season, providing a more engaging experience for the people watching.

“We have general ideas for what we want, but we also want the characters to have fun,” said Lilly.

Courtney Lilly’s presence in Arroyo’s and Witham’s U.S. history class left a lasting impression on the students. His insights into the movie industry, storytelling, and the importance of collaboration provided a glimpse into the world behind the cameras.