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Old 08-19-2019, 01:18 PM   #1
Southern_land
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Default I did it my wayyyyyyyy

So I'm taking a crack at writing a TV series. Made a few starts on a couple of ideas, came to nothing - finding it way different to writing a 90 page screen play. Episodic or non episodic, doesn't matter. Having to stretch what is going on over 10+ hrs of viewing has done my head in.

So I'm trying something different... ("Oh ****!" says everyone, "he's doin' dumb **** again!)

I'm writing the series as a single screen play - one big-ass document just following the main thread of the story and the main characters. And adding to the show bible as I go. The plan was, once I get to the end I'll add the sub plots. Once that's finished I'll break it down into episodes, I'll simply cut and paste from the main document into epoisodal documents I think there are enough existing cliffhangers, or highs and lows to get enough episode climaxes.

So far I'm at 148 pages or about episode 4-5 given its an hour long show and the subplots are absent. Obviously the subplots have a lower importance in the initial episode/s as we are introduced to the main characters. They start to be loaded in heavier about ep3.

However I've reached the point now, earlier than expected that I need to go back and build the subplots and those characters need to start interacting to a greater degree with in the main story.

So what do you think? 1-10

1 - doing it so wrongly I should have my fingers broken so I can't type another word
to...
10. the man's a frigging genius and why didn't we think of this?

and any advise you can offer?
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:50 PM   #2
GucciGhostXXX
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

STOP!

That's my advice.

You're writing something you don't know has legs. Why waste your time? Go back and cut it around 55 pages and make sure it arcs to a "HOLLY FUKK!" moment then FADE OUT.

Think Mad Men pilot "Oh sh!t... this dude is fukkin married??? WTF!?"

Just write a rad pilot... and equally important... create a fukkin AWESOME show bible. It's gotta look incredibly rad!

I feel you're spending too much time on sh!t that don't matter yet. Sell it... then do that **** once you're getting paid to. No one's gonna read a crap ton of episodes IMO. And even if they did, you're just saying "Here's a more words that'll HELP you decide to PASS."

DON'T GIVE THEM MORE EVIDENCE TO PASS!

Good luck!
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

I never heard of it doing it this way... you really did go full Sinatra.

Most TV shows take place over a huge period of time and most feature films are much shorter periods of time. That's why people love TV gives time to develop characters.

I guess my question would be why does each episode have to flow into each other that way?

You know a lot of shows sell with just the pilot and they may have a bible, but most showrunners admit they don't know what the show is until the 2nd-3rd season, so it's really just trying to figure it out as you go...

In other words, a few people come in with the complete series, but most do not. The most obvious reason being that it's not worth the time or effort to write episode 2 when first you have to see if the TV show is happening.

So my advice is write a great pilot. Make us want to see the other episodes. But don't show what I would call a "working document" to anyone at this stage.

It's way too confusing in my eyes and doesn't help you.
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Old 08-19-2019, 02:09 PM   #4
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

Quote:
Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post
STOP!

That's my advice.

You're writing something you don't know has legs. Why waste your time? Go back and cut it around 55 pages and make sure it arcs to a "HOLLY FUKK!" moment then FADE OUT.

Think Mad Men pilot "Oh sh!t... this dude is fukkin married??? WTF!?"

Just write a rad pilot... and equally important... create a fukkin AWESOME show bible. It's gotta look incredibly rad!
Agreed! I totally applaud you for being passionate about the idea but this is a pretty big misconception that people new to TV have. You don't actually write out the whole season like this prior to selling your show. Like Gucci said, focus on an awesome pilot and a short but sweet series bible (you'll get different answers on how long that should be, I personally believe that longer than 10 pages is too much). In your bible give a brief broad strokes breakdown of the tone of the show, the main characters, the general stories you'll cover over the course of the first season (and again, emphasis on broad strokes here), and then where the show could potentially head for given a second and third season.

I know it might sound crazy, not planning out every episode of your season. But 99 percent of TV seasons are broken in the writer's room, not alone by one writer like a feature. Sure, there are a couple (literally) of exceptions. But even then, I can guarantee you that someone like Nick Pizzolatto or Michael Hirst didn't map out every nook and cranny or their respective series until someone actually bought their pitch. And Pizzolatto in particular is a good example of Gucci's point. True Detective was sold on a killer pilot script and a short but sweet pitch bible. Not a massive 140 page document outlining every beat of every episode.

Trust me, you'll be able to knock out 2 or 3 pilots/bibles in the time it's taken you to do all this
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Old 08-19-2019, 03:13 PM   #5
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

Pilot!Pilot!Pilot!

People will read your well pitched pilot, they will never read multiple episodes.
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Old 08-19-2019, 03:16 PM   #6
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

i would write a killer pilot with A-story, B-story and C-story. yes, all three. compelling plots.

Scandal:

A - story: She's a fixer

B - story: She's having an affair with POTUS

C - story: one of her characters is going to propose to his girlfriend.

tight.

Grey's Anatomy:

A - Story: Meredith is an surgical intern

B - Story: her famous surgical mother has Alzheimer's and she's trying to keep it secret

C - Story: the nice surgical intern that kills his patient
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Old 08-19-2019, 03:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

Additionally you can't think I'll get to sub plots and cool characters later. You need to have an A,B, and C story line running through the pilot. A is 65% of the episode all the main characters with a resolution of the A story that introduces us to a far more interesting launching point to have us hooked. the B or C story line needs to be left open ended to grow into an A story in the next episode or two and the other concludes but advance a couple of characters to be more impactful in follow on episodes. Mind you this is very rudimentary but a great way to start looking at outlining a pilot. For a on hour you are going to need a teaser, 4 act breaks and a cliffhanger that all make people want to keep turning the page. Good luck.
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Old 08-19-2019, 04:52 PM   #8
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

I agree with what others have posted. Good on you for trying something different when the regular tools and tricks weren't working. It appears that you've fallen into the main trap that gets many, if not most, feature writers who venture into TV: you've assumed that like in features, story is the most important element when in fact it's character.

* The bolding in the quotes is mine for emphasis.
Quote:
So I'm taking a crack at writing a TV series. Made a few starts on a couple of ideas, came to nothing - finding it way different to writing a 90 page screen play. Episodic or non episodic, doesn't matter. Having to stretch what is going on over 10+ hrs of viewing has done my head in. I'm writing the series as a single screen play - one big-ass document just following the main thread of the story and the main characters.
I've heard writers say, "I have a great story idea that would be great for a series." Nope. More likely they have an idea that's too big for a feature, but maybe will work as a feature trilogy, or maybe a limited series. It's important to note that most limited series, at least here the US, are based on existing IP. The problem with the 'great story' genesis for a series is that it assumes that TV series are all about stories. They're not. They're about characters dealing with the premise of the series. It's about the 'how' not the 'will they or won't they' of a story question. A few examples:
  • Gucci referenced Mad Men, and it's a perfect example. The series is partially about how Don will navigate having an affair and his marriage. It's also about the 'how' of other characters as well.
  • How will Tony Soprano be an effective mob boss while having anxiety attacks and seeing a therapist? As a feature this would have been about how Tony, the head of a crew, took over the family from his uncle Junior.
  • How will womanizing, hard drinking, NYC author Hank Moody win back the love of his life after she moves to LA to be with someone else? This was a flaw in the premise in my opinion because it's a limited premise. Either he gets her back or he doesn't. So the audience was subjected to a bunch of up-and-back arcs that made Karen a very frustrating character because she knew who Hank was and would get all pissed off when he was Hank the alcoholic womanizer.
  • How will drug addict Nurse Jackie be an effective wife, mother, and nurse when she's surrounded by drugs all day?
Quote:
The plan was, once I get to the end I'll add the sub plots.
...
However I've reached the point now, earlier than expected that I need to go back and build the subplots and those characters need to start interacting to a greater degree with in the main story.
Here in the US we talk about the various stories that comprise an episode or the arcs that comprise a season. The good shows design the stories in each episode to fit together thematically and often times dovetail.

One other thing about writing out a whole season, dev execs like to contribute a bit and sometimes they're right. They know what their bosses will go for and nudge you in a direction that the top brass will be predisposed to. I agree with the others on the thread who recommend putting your effort into writing a great pilot.

HTH,
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Old 08-19-2019, 05:14 PM   #9
GucciGhostXXX
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

Quote:
Originally Posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
I agree with what others have posted. Good on you for trying something different when the regular tools and tricks weren't working. It appears that you've fallen into the main trap that gets many, if not most, feature writers who venture into TV: you've assumed that like in features, story is the most important element when in fact it's character.

* The bolding in the quotes is mine for emphasis.

I've heard writers say, "I have a great story idea that would be great for a series." Nope. More likely they have an idea that's too big for a feature, but maybe will work as a feature trilogy, or maybe a limited series. It's important to note that most limited series, at least here the US, are based on existing IP. The problem with the 'great story' genesis for a series is that it assumes that TV series are all about stories. They're not. They're about characters dealing with the premise of the series. It's about the 'how' not the 'will they or won't they' of a story question. A few examples:
  • Gucci referenced Mad Men, and it's a perfect example. The series is partially about how Don will navigate having an affair and his marriage. It's also about the 'how' of other characters as well.
  • How will Tony Soprano be an effective mob boss while having anxiety attacks and seeing a therapist? As a feature this would have been about how Tony, the head of a crew, took over the family from his uncle Junior.
  • How will womanizing, hard drinking, NYC author Hank Moody win back the love of his life after she moves to LA to be with someone else? This was a flaw in the premise in my opinion because it's a limited premise. Either he gets her back or he doesn't. So the audience was subjected to a bunch of up-and-back arcs that made Karen a very frustrating character because she knew who Hank was and would get all pissed off when he was Hank the alcoholic womanizer.
  • How will drug addict Nurse Jackie be an effective wife, mother, and nurse when she's surrounded by drugs all day?

Here in the US we talk about the various stories that comprise an episode or the arcs that comprise a season. The good shows design the stories in each episode to fit together thematically and often times dovetail.

One other thing about writing out a whole season, dev execs like to contribute a bit and sometimes they're right. They know what their bosses will go for and nudge you in a direction that the top brass will be predisposed to. I agree with the others on the thread who recommend putting your effort into writing a great pilot.

HTH,

Good points all the way around.

Two thoughts.

1) Sopranos. God damn, that's probably my favorite pilot ever. Fukking brilliantly crafted. Once you realize Tony IS opening up like he refused to do. OMFG! And the ducks, WOW! They represent so much more and you fukking GET IT immediately! Perfect pilot IMO. I know what Tony's "problem" is and it's fukking HUGE, but he doesn't realize it yet. This onion is about to be peeled, what's at the core?

And with Don Draper... you just know that he's playing his family like he plays business. He doesn't know the difference, doesn't know how to turn it off, and it's going to fukk him... eventually.

Both shows have great set ups. DO THAT! Then STOP!

2) GREAT point about development execs (etc) wanting to get their hands dirty. They want mental equity in the show. In film, yes, 100% it needs to look turnkey. In TV "NO!" Leave room for them to engage and make it theirs... too. SHOWTIME, specifically, is known for this. In fact, they told us "Do NOT figure out the whole show! We'll help you get it there. That's the part we enjoy!"
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Old 08-19-2019, 06:34 PM   #10
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Default Re: I did it my wayyyyyyyy

Thanks folks, what I expected to hear (which is why I posted) but obviously not what I wanted to hear (being just a tad OCD and not inclined towards delegation).
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