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Old 10-10-2016, 03:06 AM   #1
ScreenRider
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Question TV Pilot Endings

Hello all,


I had a question about writing original pilots. All my scripts and story concepts are for serialized shows which seem to be pretty successful these days. I've read that it is recommended that a pilot should itself be a self contained story. So even if the pilot is part of a longer story arc, it should have some sort of resolution and should serve as a model or format for future episodes. The advice is puzzling when I think of the Lost pilot which was one of the most successful pilots of all time. Even with two part pilot episode it did not have a resolution. And while future episodes may have followed the format, it was only in continuing the pattern of deepening the mystery and not providing any answers or closure.


My pilot scripts are good at establishing setting, premise and characters but at the same time leave the the resolution of the story arc for future episodes. Would I have any luck querying with these type of scripts? What about with TV script contests like Scriptapalooza TV? Would I be judged on the strength of the writing, or would the readers prefer a story with a resolution.
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Old 10-11-2016, 10:39 PM   #2
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Exclamation Re: TV Pilot Endings

I'm not sure Lost should be used as a typical example.

It might be best to have SOMETHING resolved within the episode, even if it's not a big part of the overall story.

Maybe a character investigates a robbery and captures the criminal responsible, setting off events.

Or maybe the protagonist goes through the hassle of moving to a new city and starting a new job.

The character should encounter a problem and eventually overcome it. The tricky part is to make it meaty enough to satisfy a viewer while keeping it small enough AND interesting enough to lead on to the rest of the season.
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Old 10-12-2016, 03:42 AM   #3
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Hey Rider,

I feel your pain. Before I dig in, I want to point out that "Lost" is probably not your best choice of a template because it's such an anomaly in terms of network TV. Look up the back story of its development to see just how out side the norm it is.

The tough part about pilots is that you have to introduce all the characters and create a template for the series. Part of the template is outlining the nature of the different stories that will be part of every episode. Procedurals have the crime of the week and also the character/personal story lines that arc through each season.

So you need to set the larger personal stories and set them spinning, and you also need to set the episode-specific story and wrap it up by FADE OUT of your pilot.

HTH,
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Old 10-13-2016, 12:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Even Lost managed to have self-contained mini-goals in each episode. The characters wanted something... faced some obstacle in obtaining it... reached a resolution... and then that resolution opened up a new mystery for future episodes.

The A-story of Part 1 of the pilot was simply about stabilizing the situation; the characters had to find food and treat the wounded. By the end of the episode, the chaos has subsided. The B-story was the expedition to find the cockpit. Which they find at the end of the episode... only to be attacked by a monster.

Part 2 had an A-story about an expedition to find a radio signal. Which they accomplish... only for that radio signal to be a mysterious French transmission. The B-story was the mystery of who the US Marshal was guarding... which at the end we find out was Kate.

So, yes, there's a larger story at play, but these moments are all very self-contained. We go into the episode with a certain question or goal, and we go out of the episode with that goal resolved.
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Old 10-14-2016, 01:29 AM   #5
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Thanks for all the replies.

I don't think the Lost pilot is such an anomaly these days. It might have been an anomaly that started a trend. I could say the same thing about pilots for shows like Gotham, Wayward Pines, and Stranger Things. The pilot establishes setting, characters and kicks off a bigger mystery that is only explored and the next episodes.

I think Bunker has it right. These episodes often end with a pause where the chaos subsides. The main character chase their own tails trying to solve one problem only to realize right at the end that the danger they face is much bigger and much more elusive. The endings provide an emotionally satisfactory stopping point for the viewer even if it actually provides no answers and often starts a new bigger mystery.

The problem I have is that I am writing pilots on spec and not pitching whole season. From what I understand most TV pilot competitions don't accept show bibles. Would my scripts be judged on the quality of the writing even if the story doesn't end or would it be smarter to stick to writing less serializes pilot scripts?

I'd be curious to hear if managers and agents prefer to have show bibles submitted with pilots.
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Old 10-19-2016, 01:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Pretty straightforward that a procedural is easier to judge based only on a single episode (in this case the pilot) since they're intended to be viewable as a stand-alone for syndication purposes.

On the other hand, I personally find the writing in serialized shows to generally be of much higher quality. But if all you have is the pilot to go on, it requires some projection on the reader's part.

It's a difficult question to answer, if the question is, "Do I write a procedural/sitcom or do I write something serialized to get noticed?"

I suppose you could add a couple pages at the end of your serialized pilot, briefly explaining what comes next. The worst that happens is people don't read it.
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Old 10-19-2016, 10:41 AM   #7
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Don't write an episodic pilot just because you think contests will like it better. Stick to what you love (if that's serialized) and write a great script. That will take you farther in most contests anyway.
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Old 10-19-2016, 11:05 AM   #8
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Default Re: TV Pilot Endings

Quote:
Originally Posted by juunit View Post
I suppose you could add a couple pages at the end of your serialized pilot, briefly explaining what comes next. The worst that happens is people don't read it.
I've considered this strategy a few times but never pulled the trigger on it. A former agent of mine always told me to never give them a reason to say no. Granted, this was usually in the context of pitching where if you have a "yes," or at least interest, stop talking.

I think it could be helpful if you have a concept that doesn't evoke numerous other stories to provide a few possibilities or character arcs showing that a series does have avenues to explore. I would definitely frame them as possibilities.

I'm currently out with a pilot that I considered adding a page or two at the end covering background and potential story-lines for the supporting characters, but the decision was made to exclude it due to the feeling that the premise was going to be the go/no-go decision point.

HTH,
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