ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Take Me To The Pilot

So things have been happening. My Nicholl Semi script finally has a little bit of heat, though it's heat being applied in an unexpected direction; the industry people who have sparked to it think it would work much better as a TV series.

And they are probably right. It's the kind of thing that does more often turn up on TV, while the fact that it is so character-driven -- and that the world of the tale is so rife with possibilities -- that the feature version always seemed rushed and limited. It actually briefly existed as a TV pilot early in its incarnation, but has changed a lot -- a lot -- since then.

So I'm immersed (as immersed as anyone can be who still has way too much other stuff to read and cover) in doing a TV pilot version of the screenplay, and doing it quickly enough so that a) the heat won't have cooled, and b) they'll say, "hey, he can write pretty quickly". Which I can, if I have the time.

Of course, it's not as simple as putting in act breaks. The main storyline of my screenplay, which built to a fairly major resolution of the characters' storyline, needs to be completely reinvented. Third act plotlines now need to be saved for the mythical season 2, 3 or 4. The whole feel needs to be reshaped; less visual, more dialogue-driven.

It also needs to be a 2-hour pilot. It has to be; there's just too much core story that needs to be in the pilot. Though it makes it less effective as a TV writing sample (should it ultimately be relegated to that route); apparently one-hour is the way to go for unproduced writers.

The good news is that chunks of my script can translate whole. The core storyline is solid; it just needs to be snipped and changed and tucked and rearranged. Sort of like a sex-change operation. It's even getting a new name.

I took the first 27 pages to my writing group last night, and though they hated-hated-hated my teaser (which has since been wrapped in chains and dropped in Lake Casitas) otherwise they were largely captured by the story and the characters. So it's back under the knife today.

Aside from Alex Epstein's "Crafty TV Writing" (which someone is supposed to be lending me -- sorry Alex), are there any other books or resources that anyone wants to recommend? Advice? Tales of the Frankenstein monsters that emerged when you tried this with your own scripts?

Also, if anyone has a line on scripts from the TV series "Criminal Minds" (particularly the pilot), which I understand has the sort of structural template that my series should aim for, give me a heads-up.

9 Comments:

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous apextwin said...

Try Janeespenson.com - lots of tips on TV spec-script writing.

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous apextwin said...

And here are some good posts from John Rogers' "Kung Fu Monkey" blog:

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2005/09/writing-pilot-pitch-background.html
http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2005/09/writing-pilot-pitch-prep.html
http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2005/09/writing-pilot-pitch-room.html

P.S.
The links got truncated in the preview window, but if you double click on them and 'copy' the highlighted text, you should still get the full address.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Lee Goldberg's Successful Television Writing is also pretty handy.

You can get scripts of Buffy episodes bound in groups of four and the commentary on the DVDs is excellent.

And Stargate DVDs have commentary on every single episode.

But the best source I've found is the late Michael Pillar's setup for the Dead Zone. If you go to the website they have writer's guidelines and produced scripts and treatments available for free download.

usanetwork.com/series/thedeadzone/

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

I am doing the exact opposite of what you're doing - turning my serial into a feature based on feedback and interest from a prodco.

I'm excising a lot of material to make it fit into feature length, hopefully in record time.

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger ECHenry said...

Sounds like a nice problem to have, congradulations!

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I did the exact thing on Cricket Hill. My guys had directed me to a couple of pilots that you could probably get a hold of, stuff like Desparate Housewives, The Wire, and my fave was Big Love.

 
At 1:52 AM, Blogger Systemaddict said...

Hey good stuff Scotty-

Nice to have people backing your work, even if it happens to be in a different space than you first pictured it. Hopefully it works out.

Cheers

 
At 12:03 PM, Blogger Alex Epstein said...

So make the first HALF of the story into a one hour pilot. Don't squeeze it in. If at the end of the pilot, the audience is going NOOOO! IT'S OVER??? WHAT HAPPENS NEXT???? -- while still feeling you told a good story -- then you've done your job.

 
At 1:08 AM, Blogger Dennis the Menace said...

Scripts for Criminal Minds - the first two seasons.

 

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