Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pilot season

Yesterday, I was looking for some inspiration to tighten up my own scripts, and did a little perusal around the Daily Script archive. I ended up reading the pilot scripts for The West Wing and How I Met Your Mother in their entirety, and aside from being quite amused by the little changes made between draft and shooting scripts, something else occurred to me: These were damn good reads.

I know that's obvious. We're talking about an acclaimed Aaron Sorkin joint on one hand, and a Bays/Thomas piece that's become one of the more popular sitcoms of the last half-decade. But it's amazing how well these flow, even with sometimes inscrutable teleplay format, and especially in the case of the HIMYM script, how much I found myself laughing without the aid of witty, attractive actors reading the lines.

It also made me think about how I'm still not entirely pleased with the tone of the "Being" pilot script. It ends on a pretty serious note, which wouldn't bother me so much if I thought it was otherwise up to snuff. I conceived it being a drama with dry comedic highlights, such as Californication or Entourage. But it's definitely not network-friendly right now, if I were to pitch it that direction. I don't have act breaks, it doesn't sit well into either the drama or comedy categories, and while it is rife with conflicts, it doesn't have a central obstacle for the protagonist to overcome.

Then again, it's a pilot. It's setting up the conflict for the series. It's introducing the key players. It's welcoming viewers to this world, hoping to interest them enough to come back week after week.

I recently created a "bible" for a new comic book series I'm developing. That's something I've never done before -- put so much planning into a project before launching it. And creating the bible, delving into all of the main characters' back stories and synthesizing the series concept into just a few sentences, it all really helped not only hone the idea, but also provide a map of where to go from there. Maybe I need to do the same thing with this TV proposal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


First, let's get this out of the way: I did not successfully finish National Novel Writing Month. It was a confluence of bad timing, loss of personal interest in the book, and the realization that the concept was flirting a little too closely with that of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. I got about 6,000 words deep, and just gave up. best to let that one sit on the shelf until a future time when actual good ideas appear to revive it.

However, the insane month that was November (which was actually supposed to be a "break" of sorts for me, but it only worked that way for about a week) is now over, Christmas is almost here, and I've gotten back to track with renewed fervor for both "Being" and another project I put on the back burner for a while, a screenplay for an espionage-action flick that I can only describe as "24" meets "Heroes."

For "Being," I've turned the focus back to the novelization of the story that picks up about six months after the proposed first season of the TV pitch. It's helping me really get to know the characters, to fully build the world in which they live, and in the end, hopefully something publishable will come out of it. In theory, I can then sort-of work backward from there if the pilot ever sold or got optioned, bridging the two works into one.

But that's getting ahead of myself. I'm only on the third chapter of the novel and the sixth page of the screenplay. It's nice to be writing again, just purely writing without deadlines or the tedium of illustrating the stories. And for the most part, they're writing themselves -- I'm just transcribing what the voices in my head are telling me. So, today's lesson is: Don't ignore the voices in your head. No matter what your psychiatric professional tells you.