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Old 04-03-2016, 01:46 PM   #11
finalact4
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

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Originally Posted by docgonzo View Post
Forgetting the concept and world for a minute, you need to find the series engine, as RG said. What basic idea will generate stories week after week for several seasons? What you described -- the fugitive on the run and ticking clock -- are not story engines. They're plot devices.

Some examples to help out. On Game of Thrones, the story engine is the pursuit of the Iron Throne. On The Walking Dead, it's trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. On any procedural, it's finding the the murderer/criminal/whoever and bringing them to justice.

I think with yours it'll be along the lines of trying to save the last remnants of humanity before everyone dies off. You can see how that might play out from pilot to series finale.

Taking this a bit further, I've found Javier Grillo-Marxuach's concept of the operational theme to be very helpful...

http://okbjgm.tumblr.com/post/778240...n-and-theme-vs

I think once you figure out this part, you can come up with a story for the pilot that will ring true to the world and characters you've created, but will actually be different from your feature. You might have to just forget the feature altogether and start breaking a new story for the pilot. While you're doing that, you'll have an eye toward what might happen over the course of a season. Most likely 10-12 episodes in your case.

Whenever I write a pilot, I'm always mindful of how things will transpire over the first season, and when I'm done, I get to work on a bible that has anywhere from 3-5 seasons beat out. Some here might disagree with having that much, but the execs I've pitched like hearing at least the major beats and character arcs for how the series will play out over that long a span. Especially if it's serialized.

The thing to keep in mind is that you're creating storylines and character arcs that won't wrap up neatly at the end of the pilot, or even the first season. You want your audience to come back week after week, or to binge watch five eps in a night, so you're constantly having to keep things moving forward. It's very different from a feature, where your protag accomplishes a single goal and that's it.
Ah, yes, I see your points well and excellent advice. The examples of GOT and TWD are very good as I can grasp what you're saying well.

You've got the story engine of the series right, I think, too. It's very much about man surviving despite our nature to destroy ourselves. As the fall of man is begun by man's raping and exploiting of the world itself.

With each antagonistic force there are mistakes they will make because they are driven/motivated by things that are not altruistic, but rather a means for the individual to get a head somehow. An opportunity for social commentary on where we might be headed as species.

I think my biggest concern is being able to let go of the feature. I suspect that might be a natural inclination to want to cling to, but I'll do what you say and hopefully come up with an exciting pilot outline and spec.

I'll take a look at the link you've provided and thank you very much for offering your insights, most appreciated.
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:35 PM   #12
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

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Yes, I can see it can go in many directions. The first season may be you movie (which I suppose ends with HER becoming the new Healer). But what about the next 5 seasons?
I have five concept story seasons two of which go back to an earlier time and one that happens just before this story with the same characters and two that follow up this one.


Quote:
"Psychological wounds that don't heal"--yes, typically when they do, the Series ends, or at least changes focus (and often fizzles out).
Got it. Understood.
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Putting the two things together, you need some psychological wounds (the internal) that won't heal for quite some time--the internal engine of the story(ies). Read those short books and it'll be clear.
I was careful to give every major character a wound and a motivation or goal, and a character arc that can be extended over time. Also as the story unfolds and new experiences happen to the character, new wounds are realized.

Think Tris in Divergent, after coming of age, she becomes terrified of letting anyone get close to her, especially Four, because "she kills everyone she cares about." As more deaths occur, the wound grows deeper until she can ultimately forgive herself which is Tris' internal struggle.


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OK, some thoughts based on my interpretation of things--not as absolutes.

Choose visuals over Voice-over.
Yes, the visuals of the opening prologue are strong visuals that have smooth transitions and are filmic. .
Quote:
Teaser plus 5 Acts seems OK. For Prime Cable you wouldn't need it, but it's good to write something that can be put in Network style if needed.

Put the blood (and nudity) in; if it goes Network, it can be toned down.

I try to keep page count at 60 or less. Sure, they can gladly read a 70 pages pilot if one is Aaron Sorkin, but if not...
Of course, since you need a lot of world-building, it may take a lot of pages...
Yes, that's always the challenge when creating a big world, even in a feature.
Quote:
I like humor. How you can use it in such a grim concept and not have a clashing of tones I don't know.
Well, it isn't outright comedy, but more levity that arises directly out of character traits. It isn't all over the place and most characters don't have it. But they are moments designed to lighten the tone and reveal character relationships and give us a reason to fall in love with a character. And it makes their death or painful moments more emotional because hopefully we've come to care deeply about the character.

It's more like when C3PO and R2D2 are playing chess with Chewie and Chewie gets pissed off when R2 makes a move... C3PO says, "he made a fair move, screaming about won't help you," and Han says, "it's not wise to upset a Wookie," and C3PO reples, "no one worries about upsetting a droid," and Han says, "that's because droids don't pull a man's arm off," or something to that effect and C3PO says, "R2, I suggest a new strategy, let the Wookie win." That kind of stuff.

Quote:
BTW, if the virus kills every living cell, it wouldn't have cells to replicate in and would also die out.
Not this virus.

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Whenever you feel anxiety, drop me a line and I'll try to alleviate it :-)
I appreciate the offer and will take you up on it, should the need arise.

Thanks, Roy, for taking the time to help me. I'm glad this board is here. There are so many, including you and the others who have dropped in to help, that are willing to help others. I am grateful for you all.

Best,
FA4
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Last edited by finalact4 : 04-10-2016 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 04-05-2016, 11:50 AM   #13
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Default The problem with converting features to series.

It's not easy to make work. The problem lies in the distinct natures of the two different mediums. Features rely on genre, story and one or occasionally two characters. Series rely on a family of characters and genre. I wrote a blog post about this recently but from a sitcom perspective. The theory holds true for hour length as well, I think.

A feature is going to spend about two hours dealing with the most important event, or series of events, in a character's life. A series is going to spend tens of hours telling dozens upon dozens of stories about a group of characters. The Walking Dead, Lost, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Star Trek (take your pick), Battlestar Gallactica, Lie To Me.

Outlander feels closest to your series in terms of character, but there are lots of characters that we stay with episode to episode. Weeds kept the family together for most of the series even though they ended up moving around a bit.

The struggle that I've seen feature writers have when turning to TV is making this shift. The primacy of that big important story and a single main character in features becomes second nature after years of feature writing. Popular TV shows always construct a type of family, whether it's a real family, a work family, or a family of friends. Even Last Man on Earth ramped up pretty quickly from Bill Hader to six or seven characters.

So this seems like it might be the biggest challenge for you since you seem to be focusing on two main characters. I'm sure you have other characters, but will they be recurring from week to week and season to season?

HTH,
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Old 04-05-2016, 01:19 PM   #14
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

I like to break things down to the rudimentary level so I can grasp what I'm doing in blunt fashion:

From that mindset it's this for me: You're writing the first act of a film large scale. What would it fit feel like to write the first act of a feature with a hook at the end [Q: "would you like to know more"]? I'm sure you can imagine that. For me, when we dumb it down, that's what makes sense to my brain -- if you've never written a pilot.

Beyond that. Yeah, engine, like was mentioned. And lots of set-up that implies years of story/drama/conflict.

Raise the central question of the show, but don't answer it. You have 5 years to explore it.

Good luck.
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Old 04-05-2016, 01:23 PM   #15
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Default Re: The problem with converting features to series.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
It's not easy to make work. The problem lies in the distinct natures of the two different mediums. Features rely on genre, story and one or occasionally two characters. Series rely on a family of characters and genre. I wrote a blog post about this recently but from a sitcom perspective. The theory holds true for hour length as well, I think.

A feature is going to spend about two hours dealing with the most important event, or series of events, in a character's life. A series is going to spend tens of hours telling dozens upon dozens of stories about a group of characters. The Walking Dead, Lost, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Star Trek (take your pick), Battlestar Gallactica, Lie To Me.

Outlander feels closest to your series in terms of character, but there are lots of characters that we stay with episode to episode. Weeds kept the family together for most of the series even though they ended up moving around a bit.

The struggle that I've seen feature writers have when turning to TV is making this shift. The primacy of that big important story and a single main character in features becomes second nature after years of feature writing. Popular TV shows always construct a type of family, whether it's a real family, a work family, or a family of friends. Even Last Man on Earth ramped up pretty quickly from Bill Hader to six or seven characters.

So this seems like it might be the biggest challenge for you since you seem to be focusing on two main characters. I'm sure you have other characters, but will they be recurring from week to week and season to season?

HTH,
Agreed. Show us the cast of characters we'll be seeing each week and show how they all serve a different purpose moving forward.

You almost have to think 'ensemble' even if it focuses squarely on a main player.
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Old 04-05-2016, 06:28 PM   #16
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Default Re: The problem with converting features to series.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
It's not easy to make work. The problem lies in the distinct natures of the two different mediums. Features rely on genre, story and one or occasionally two characters. Series rely on a family of characters and genre. I wrote a blog post about this recently but from a sitcom perspective. The theory holds true for hour length as well, I think.

A feature is going to spend about two hours dealing with the most important event, or series of events, in a character's life. A series is going to spend tens of hours telling dozens upon dozens of stories about a group of characters. The Walking Dead, Lost, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Star Trek (take your pick), Battlestar Gallactica, Lie To Me.

Outlander feels closest to your series in terms of character, but there are lots of characters that we stay with episode to episode. Weeds kept the family together for most of the series even though they ended up moving around a bit.

The struggle that I've seen feature writers have when turning to TV is making this shift. The primacy of that big important story and a single main character in features becomes second nature after years of feature writing. Popular TV shows always construct a type of family, whether it's a real family, a work family, or a family of friends. Even Last Man on Earth ramped up pretty quickly from Bill Hader to six or seven characters.

So this seems like it might be the biggest challenge for you since you seem to be focusing on two main characters. I'm sure you have other characters, but will they be recurring from week to week and season to season?

HTH,
Yes, I completely understand your concerns, and no it doesn't have a small cast. First, it's a written as a franchise ensemble piece. A feature that leads to prequels and sequels. It could stand alone, but it definitely ends with a turning point that creates expectation. The end is solid, I think, on it's own, but it's also written so that you know there is a next installment.

There are a lot of things about the world at large that are set up and create interest but not everything is explored or answered. It's very much like being dropped in the middle of a world in progress.

As I'm reading Small Screen Big Picture I am learning they are very different and it's opening my eyes to how it has to be written in a way that I'm not used to writing. That's not scary to me, because I think I see the differences.

I love Outlander, but it isn't the same as my story, and the fault is in my logline. I still have reworked it since I finished the feature. I have five main characters that converge and team up together. They fight against three (and a fourth for a while) different antagonistic forces.

And even the antagonists are interesting and have room to build stories around their own motives, needs flaws, and weaknesses. There's a lot going on off screen, too.

My story isn't told from a single POV, where we are seeing almost all the story unfolding through that one person's eyes. I know the back half of the first season of Outlander opened up with some of Jaimie's POVs, but primarily the story has unfolded from Claire's POV.

My world is set up more like Game of Thrones. The world I've created supports expansion.

The feature is laser-focused on this one event in these people's lives that happens over the course of about two days. That's not to say that the "on the run" couldn't take longer. It could and would in a series.

I can see it being a series with one family of main characters (adding new and killing off old), or it has the potential to be an anthology type of series. But it would be best told through multiple POVs.

You know, it could be like GOT, sometimes we're with the Lanisters, sometimes with the Starks, sometimes we're with Jon Snow and the wildlings, and sometimes we're with Kaleissi.

Look, I'm a nobody. I admit that I'm completely ignorant to all of this. I don't know if it's going to work, but I'm willing to try. I've created a world I want to explore. And I've got a great start on how to do that from everyone's advice here and the books that arrived today.

Thank you, and everyone for your generous advice and if you have more to share/offer, please do, I'm all ears.

I think the pitch document is a key starting point. Once that's completed I think I'll have a better idea of whether it will work.

Best,
FA4
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Last edited by finalact4 : 04-10-2016 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 04-06-2016, 11:26 AM   #17
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

Ah, an engineered virus...

Have fun with your "like GOT, only better" ;.) series.
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Old 04-06-2016, 11:49 AM   #18
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

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Ah, an engineered virus...

Have fun with your "like GOT, only better" ;.) series.
and it gets even better... Lots of secrets.
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Old 07-22-2016, 11:44 PM   #19
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

Hello everyone,

I wanted to thank you all, again. Because my pilot is done and I'm proud of it. I think it's good. The act outs are strong.

We're focusing our efforts to a specific Agent who can hopefully, if she loves it, team me up with the right showrunner. Since many are out July and August on vaca, we have some time to create some interest before they start reviewing new pilot concepts at the end of summer. It'd be great if I could get another pilot ready before then...

With that said, I have a new idea for a comedy spec pilot. I don't think of my self as "comedy" at all (not sure I can pull it off), but I did surprise myself with my pilot, and there is a good amount of levity in what is otherwise, a dark story.

It was a sci-fi action/thriller pilot. One hour.

Now I've got an idea for a "**** my Dad says," meets "Cougar Town."

It's a 30 min pilot and I have no idea how that works. The idea has a natural inclination to comedy and a limitless amount of situations that could be similar to "friends," or "Frasier." But I don't actually know if it should be a 30 min sitcom or an hour drama? Anyone have ideas on how I figure THAT out?

If there is any advice you can think that I should be aware of, that would be great. What is the typical act structure? Teaser with 3 acts? Does that make sense?

I don't mean to seem lazy by asking your opinions, I really don't, I will be focusing on research for this project, but as evidenced by my last inquiry, there is much actual advice that you can provide that I won't necessarily be able to access in a book.

If you feel inclined to contribute, I'd like to say that I am grateful. Even if you have a recommendation, I can take the research from there.

Best,
FA4
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Old 07-23-2016, 07:07 PM   #20
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Default Re: Advice on Converting a Feature to a Pilot

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It's a 30 min pilot and I have no idea how that works. The idea has a natural inclination to comedy and a limitless amount of situations that could be similar to "friends," or "Frasier." But I don't actually know if it should be a 30 min sitcom or an hour drama? Anyone have ideas on how I figure THAT out?

If there is any advice you can think that I should be aware of, that would be great. What is the typical act structure? Teaser with 3 acts? Does that make sense?
You could go with a teaser. Or you could use a tag, which is the same basic premise as a teaser or cold open, just as the ending point instead of the beginning. MODERN FAMILY uses tags. Those voiceovers that sum up the heart of the episode's story or a scene that finishes up a joke. You could use both a teaser and a tag. Or neither. Whatever works best.

As for length, I think you'd be best served thinking about the tone. If it ends up having a network or cable tone, then you probably want to keep your comedy to a half hour. I can't really think of a lot of hour-long comedies on network. But there are a number on the premium channels. And if it ends up with a premium cable tone, you don't need to worry about writing in the act breaks.

I think the only instance where writing a half-hour would be demonstrably different from writing an hour-long pilot is if you were to write a multi-cam.
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