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Old 08-20-2015, 10:07 PM   #1
HairyOtter
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Default Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

Hello everyone!

I'm new to the forum and was hoping to ask a quick question. For a 30 minute comedy pilot (single cam) should I write in a cold opening/tag? I've tried looking at some sample scripts but the only pilot scripts I can find seem to be early drafts and not shooting scripts, so not sure if cold opening/tag were edited in eventually. Just don't want my script to look unprofessional! Thanks!
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Old 08-21-2015, 07:53 AM   #2
Staircaseghost
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

If your show has a cold open, your script should have a cold open.

If your show does not have a cold open, your script should probably not have a cold open.
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Old 08-21-2015, 05:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

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Originally Posted by HairyOtter View Post
Hello everyone!

I'm new to the forum and was hoping to ask a quick question. For a 30 minute comedy pilot (single cam) should I write in a cold opening/tag? I've tried looking at some sample scripts but the only pilot scripts I can find seem to be early drafts and not shooting scripts, so not sure if cold opening/tag were edited in eventually. Just don't want my script to look unprofessional! Thanks!
Hello Hairy,

Unless it's changed lately, TV scripts are pretty specific to each show. You could probably find a similar show in these scripts to what you have in mind.

http://www.dailyscript.com/tv.html

Good luck.
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Old 08-21-2015, 06:08 PM   #4
Zodraz
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

The Big 4 networks gave pilot orders to 40 sitcom scripts this year.

16 of them did not start with a Cold Open/Teaser.

21 of them did not end with a Tag (interestingly, 10 of the 19 that did were ABC sitcoms).

So even though Teasers and Tags are pretty common in actual episodes of network shows (presumably to create more commercial breaks), it really does seem to be writer's choice when it comes to including them in pilot scripts.
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Old 08-23-2015, 03:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

Hey Hairy,

This probably would have been better asked in one of the TV boards, but as a Sitcom writer, and teacher, here's my response:

A Cold Open and three acts are the norm for most shows on the air. What my friend Bill Taub recommends in his excellent book Automatic Pilot, available in eBook, Trade Paperback and Audio, is establishing as much of the premise as you can in the CO and then running two stories (instead of the currently accepted three) through the rest of the script giving you ample room to introduce all of your regular characters.

Your CO shouldn't be tacked on after the script is written. It should be designed into the episode. There was a period of time in the 90s where teasers/COs were stand-alone scenes, but with the shrinkage of story time from 26 to 21.5 minutes per episode there's no screen-time to waste.

Bottom line: I strongly recommend designing/outlining/writing your pilot with a tightly interwoven CO. Also you can check out the Google TV Pilot Script Archive for more examples of pilots.

Best of luck.
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Old 08-23-2015, 04:07 PM   #6
Zodraz
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

I think the only important criterion for including a cold open is whether you have a strong joke worthy of a 1-3 page build-up at the end of the cold open. Because if not, readers will notice that your cold opening had a weak ending. (btw, that doesn't mean you need to get rid of an otherwise fine Cold Open-- just call it the start of Act One so you don't build up expectations.)

As for KitchonaSteve's suggestion that you need to integrate the CO into the storylines because of shorter modern-day episode run times-- I don't really see how that's relevant, since single-cam pilot scripts are still on average 35 pages (indeed, they may even be slightly longer than they used to be 10+ years ago), which should be more than enough time to tell your story.

That's why I think the best use of a cold open in a sitcom pilot is to introduce your main character in a funny and unique way-- even if it has nothing to do with the rest of the pilot's storyline.
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Old 08-24-2015, 11:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

Quote:
That's why I think the best use of a cold open in a sitcom pilot is to introduce your main character in a funny and unique way-- even if it has nothing to do with the rest of the pilot's storyline.
Why not aim higher than that? Why not introduce the character in a funny and unique way AND set the main story in motion?

In most well-written scripts, the set-up to the story doesn't feel like set-up. It's only in retrospect that you can look back at the opening and see how it's launching that particular story. So if launching the story feels to set-up-y, the solution isn't to push that later in the episode ... it's to launch the story in a better way.
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Old 08-24-2015, 11:40 AM   #8
Zodraz
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

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Why not aim higher than that? Why not introduce the character in a funny and unique way AND set the main story in motion?
Obviously, but my point is that setting the main story in motion is not nearly as important in a sitcom pilot as establishing a great character.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronaldinho View Post
In most well-written scripts, the set-up to the story doesn't feel like set-up. It's only in retrospect that you can look back at the opening and see how it's launching that particular story. So if launching the story feels to set-up-y, the solution isn't to push that later in the episode ... it's to launch the story in a better way.
Again, this is besides the point.

The problem with most of the 150+ sitcom pilots I've read is that they fail to quickly establish funny characters-- so if you can best do that by putting your a character in a cold open situation that is unrelated to the rest of the pilot, I think it's worth it.

Because if you can consistently make the reader laugh, they're not going to care nearly as much about the story (whenever you get major story-related notes on a sitcom pilot, it's usually because the reader didn't think it was funny).
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Old 08-24-2015, 03:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

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...(whenever you get major story-related notes on a sitcom pilot, it's usually because the reader didn't think it was funny).
Wow! Major story problems AND unfunny. Forget a rewrite, that person needs to enroll in an LSAT prep course.
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Old 08-24-2015, 08:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Question on proper formatting for 30 min pilot?

For what it's worth, MODERN FAMILY uses cold opens, but doesn't bracket them in the scripts.
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