One of my upcoming books about writing for “TV” has me
hopefully thinking wisely about what a Professional
Screenwriter must do to write a successful TV Pilot (or first episode in a TV series).
“Successful” being defined as writing a script which a network/production company decides to finance... And the shooting of the pilot ends up being broadcast...
And the show captures the interest of hundreds of thousands of viewers who commit to watching the series...
At least for the next episode.
I recently watched the pilot on Amazon.com titled “Sneaky Pete.”
Before I go into my enthusiastic response to the show, I need to declare my past connection to the star of the pilot show.
I produced a movie, “According to Spencer,” that
Giovani Ribbisi, the star of “Sneaky Pete,” also acted in.
Ribbisi was part of the production for a couple of days in a cameo part as a favor for one of the writers of the film.
With my integrity no longer in question, I want to declare
that “Sneaky Pete” is a TV Pilot I strongly recommend
Professional Screenwriters writing a TV script might want to check out. I believe they will see what I saw -- a nearly flawless execution of a very difficult aspect of what we do as an art and craft -- writing TV pilots.
No one in the industry is surprised by the top-quality work in “Sneaky Pete." The show was conceived and
written by David Shore, the creator of the critically acclaimed show, “House M.D.”
But even those who work in the industry could miss what is often overlooked, or just not appreciated by those who are non-writers. There are so many variables that go into the making of a great TV series, but much of the foundation of successful series begins with a Series Bible... and then a well written pilot episode.
For the sake of comparison, I believe one of the most perfect TV pilots written and executed in the last ten years is Justified. Though the series wavered over the years in what creative direction to take -- a season-long story arc and/or 13 episodes of one-night-stand storylines - the TV pilot was so perfect it allowed for both options.
There are many critical elements to writing a great TV
pilot episode. So many that attempting to create a TV series and writing the first episode is the area where only angels and daredevils end up flying.
And getting the wings to fly usually only comes with experience and knowledge.
I leave you with one of the elements I will be writing about--
A TV pilot has some critical similarities to writing a screenplay for theatrical release.
However, there are some huge differences.
And understanding the differences is critical to being
successful in writing for TV.
Or at least writing a TV pilot.
This is why so many who have written for theatrical films have failed when they try to write for TV...