The First Proposal
This past week seemed very daunting and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish everything that needed to be done. Finding out that I had so much research still left to do for my TV series was terrifying. I had already spent hours upon hours just trying to figure out the names of a few my characters, and you’re telling me I have even more research to do? Needless to say, I was not looking forward to doing more research, but things always seem to work out in the end. I have never been as excited for a project as I am for this one.
I only did a couple hours of research for this series, but I am ready to jump right into it. I ended up finishing the entire story. Before I only had the first few episodes mapped out. Now I have the entire series, and I can’t wait to start writing it. Before I even get to writing, I have a lot to do. I had to create my proposal for this series. I had never written a proposal for anything before, so I went in completely blind. After finishing my proposal, I have never felt more confident in one of my projects.
I now know the order in which I need to do things. My proposal was first on that list, so next up is to do more research. The proposal has to be able “to win their attention and investment, submit a proposal for your screenplay that explains the point of your film, its basic plot, its intended audience and your stylistic vision “(PenandthePad, Mitchell). A lot more research. I’ve recently realized thanks to my professor that the character I have created is a lot like Joan of Arc. That had never even occurred to me before, but it’s completely true. If my character is going to be modeled off of Joan of Arc, I have a lot of research to do. Luckily, one of my cousins is a huge Joan of Arc buff, so I’ve got all the inside information.
My main characters finally have a look. That’s the main problem I’ve had with this idea. I always had so many ideas of how these characters were going to look, and until I created my mood board I had no idea.
Now with actual imagery down, I can see the story coming to life. Of course, some of these character designs may change, but at least I have the foundations finished. You can’t build a house without a foundation, so it’s a step in the right direction.
One of the biggest things that had me nervous about embarking on this new project was the number of sources I needed to find. Thirty different sources in such a small amount of time seemed impossible to find. Making the impossible, possible is just something you have to do sometimes. Now, because of finding all these sources, I am more prepared to start writing a script than I have ever been. I already had all the tools and knowledge about the scriptwriting process, but now I page upon pages of research that will turn this script into the best script I have ever written. Not to mention all the movies and videos that I have to watch. Some of the videos are just research for my topic, but a lot of the others explain how to write a TV pilot and script, as well as how to make it successful.
Creating a successful script is probably one of the hardest things you can do. I’ve finished a feature-length script, which is a great accomplishment, but I’m nowhere close to being able to sell it. Of all the sources that I found, I’m most excited to watch the video from the Writers Guild Foundation (WGA) called, “Creating a TV Show from the Ground Up”. It’s essentially a movie as it’s an hour and a half, but it’s chock full of information that I sorely need. It’s a recording of a WGA event that happened in 2009, where it hosted a bunch of TV writers. (The WGA is where you go to register your scripts, so no one is able to rip them off and use them as their own). The most notable writer at this event (for me at least), was Jay Kogen, one of the writers of The Simpsons. The Simpsons have been on TV for thirty years and was recently renewed for another two seasons. If there’s anyone who knows how to write a successful TV series it’s a writer from The Simpsons. I’d recommend anyone who wants to become a TV writer to watch that video. Once I finish watching it, I’ll you all know what I learned and what’s most useful to becoming a TV writer.
On your marks…get set…GO!
Next week marks the beginning of the five week process of starting my TV series, Saving Camelot. By the end of these five weeks I will not only have a TV pilot finished, but also the first episode. This includes not just the scripts, but also all the character information as well (descriptions/costumes). I’m so excited to finally embark on this journey. I had the idea for this show about a year ago, and I only ever wrote down a few ideas for the first few episodes. Now, with this push, I have the entire series mapped out, and I actually get to start writing it!
Since I switched my major to Film, Television, and Media Arts, my junior year, my dream has been to become a scriptwriter. I love coming up with my own ideas and watching them come to life. If you’d ask my parents what they thought I’d become when I was younger, it would probably be along the lines of scriptwriter/ content creator (something creative). I was also writing and coming up with stories that my neighbors and I would put on for our parents. I was a young Orson Welles, minus being a famous director by age 25 (I still have two years to catch him though).
There’s a lot I’m going to have to learn throughout this process, so there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. I’ve never written a TV script, so a lot of the research in the first week will be focused on that. It’s a lot different than writing a feature-length film. What’s lucky for me is my dialogue-writing skills have improved a lot over the years and according to MasterClass, TV scripts are dialogue-driven (I’ll have to get out of the house more and listen in on strangers’ conversations. You know what they say, the best dialogue you find is from what you hear on the streets). The big thing I’m going to have to get used to is that TV scripts follow a completely different narrative structure. A feature-length script has a beginning, middle, and end (easy enough), but a TV script has five different acts
- Act 1: Introduce your characters and present the problem.
- Act 2: Escalate the problem
- Act 3: Have the worst-case scenario happen
- Act 4: Begin the ticking clock
- Act 5: Have the characters reach their moment of victory.
Let’s not forget about the multiple storylines:
- Storyline A: The A storyline involves your main character and is the core of your show.
- Storyline B: The B storyline is secondary and helps the narrative keep moving forward.
- Storyline C: The c storyline, sometimes referred to as “the runner,” is the smallest storyline and holds the least weight.
Doesn’t seem too hard right?
The scary thing is that that’s just for a TV script, a TV pilot is different than just a regular ol’ script. A TV pilot is how you sell your script, you need to convey everything that’s conveyed in a 90+ page feature-length script in 20-30 pages.
“When you write a TV pilot or a movie, you are in effect creating a story universe. Even if that universe is a common American suburb, you need to immerse yourself in lives its characters and the specifics of that sub-culture because in that way, you reveal the unique, compelling personality of that place and its people, transforming what appears to be typical into something distinctive and entertaining.” (Myers).
It’s almost like summarizing an article you just read. The article could be ten pages, but when you summarize it, you need to explain all the important details but in one page. In my case, it’s trying to convey a multiple season story in one 20-30 page script.
The first thing I’m going to have to do is expand the idea I have for the whole series. I have the rough outline of what’s happening from beginning to end, but the middle is a little jumbled and seemed very quick to me when I was writing it. The beginning is set-in-stone and I know exactly what I want to happen and how I want to convey it, but starting there for the pilot isn’t the best idea. I think I want to start in the middle of the story where characters are already established, which then, poses the problem, how do I establish my already established characters. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination, but I think I can do it. This is something I’ve wanted to take on for the last year, so I’m pretty passionate about it. If you have any suggestions on what could help me write a TV pilot please let me know! I’m open to all suggestions!
Mapping it all out
This was a bit of a crazy week for me, as I didn’t have too much time to work on anything. It was jam-packed with business trips and city trips, so I had to use every moment that I had to work on my TV series. It was totally worth losing sleep over. Just watching my story come to life, was amazing. I started my treatment earlier in the week, but only finished about half of it before our weekly production meeting (that was on Wednesday). Which meant I didn’t have too much to show, but I was realized when I was told that we didn’t need to have everything done or have a lot to show. A lot of other members of the group were still just doing research.
I may have procrastinated just a bit on my treatment when I found out I wasn’t behind. I knew I had other obligations happening Thursday into the weekend, but still decided to push it off. Luckily, I have a lot of free-time this upcoming week, so I’m probably going to start doing some deep work, to get myself back on track (and maybe get a little bit ahead of the game, but we’ll see). Deep work is “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate” (Newport, 3). I learned a bunch of skills on how to deep work in my Foundation to Graduate Studies class, so I know I’m prepared to do some of my best work this week.
Deciding to do deep work this week, is a huge step as I actually am getting into writing the script for the pilot episode. If I distract myself too much, I know I’m only going to be able to finish one draft of my pilot episode which would put me a week behind. Not only am I going to focus on writing my pilot episode this week, I’m also going to focus on the research aspect on how to write TV scripts. I have a bunch of articles and videos that I’m really looking forward to reading/ watching in order to better my craft. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m very excited to watch the Writer’s Guild Foundation video, creating a TV Show from the Ground Up. If anyone knows how to write a successful TV show it’s them.
For my first draft, I’m going to go in blind. I don’t mean that I’m going to go in with zero knowledge, I’m just going to use my knowledge about how to write a screenplay, in order to write my first draft. You may think that it’s a little silly to write a TV script using only knowledge on how to write a full-length screenplay, but for me it’s a learning process. I want to see how different (or how similar) writing a TV script is compared to a feature-length script. I think it would be very interesting to compare my first draft to my final draft of the pilot episode and see how much changed (or stayed the same) after reading up on how to write a TV script. When writing a screenplay there are four basic elements that are needed: “ending, beginning, Plot Point I, and Plot Point III. Before you can write the words Fade In, before you can put one word of screenplay down on paper, you need to know those four things” (Field, 199). Lucky for me, I know the basic structure of a TV script because of my research from last week.
I’ll give a little recap (or you can check out my previous post here). Within the broad terms of beginning and ending there are five acts in a TV script. Act 1 serves as the introduction to the characters. Act 2 serves as the introduction to the problem. Act 3 is the problem gets as worse as it can. Act 4 is the ticking time bomb (if the problem isn’t fixed, something bad will happen). Finally, Act 5, is the resolution of the problem and the “heroes” celebrate their victory.
The one thing I’m worried about with what Field says about the four basic elements are the two plot points. Normally, Plot Point I is the end of Act 1 in a screenplay and Plot Point II happens at the end of Act 2 (Field, 200-201). I have five acts in one script. This week is going to be a lot of trial and error to figure out the best place for my plot points. I think the plot points are going to arc throughout the course of the entire show, and what’s used in each episode are the three different storylines. Paragraph
I will definitely let you all know how it goes and what I discover the differences between my first draft and final draft are.
Getting into the Pilot’s Chair
This week I finally began writing the first draft of the pilot episode script. I know I said I would do the first draft and the final draft this past week, but I realized that was a little much to do in a week. I also think it’s in the script’s best interest to do one script a week since that would give me more time to get feedback instead of scrambling to get it all done in a few days. I had a lot of fun watching the script come to life. Writing is something I’ve always loved and at points, it seemed as if the script was writing itself (as crazy as that sounds). It just flowed. I do think for the final draft that I need to add a bit to it.
It’s roughly 15 pages, which for a TV drama is a little short. I know it’s only the pilot episode, but I still think the pilot episode should be around 22 minutes (which would be about 22 pages). But this is part of the whole process of learning how to write a TV pilot episode as well as scripts for TV. I did say, I wasn’t going to do much research on how to write a pilot episode or TV script this past week. I’m sticking to that. My research for that begins this upcoming week, and I’m very interested to see how my first draft changes once I find out the correct way to format and write a pilot episode (as well as how long it will be).
Along with writing the first draft of my script I also began the process of character costume design. That was a lot of fun to do. I have a pretty big background in theater (been doing it for pretty much my whole life), but I had never been a costume designer. I was very excited to dip my hand into something I had never done before. I think it came out very well. I had to do a decent amount of research on medieval colors and what colors knights would wear, but I think the costumes turned out very well.
For my main character, Aurora I used pretty bland colors (tan and brown). She came from a peasant family, so I had to take that into account when designing her costume. “Many colours were deemed unsuitable for the peasant class. Bright colours, it was thought, were not humble and engendered a feeling of pride which was a mortal sin” (Gilbert). Her costume was also supposed to reflect a peasant boy, not a girl. As she didn’t want Galahad to know she was a girl since she wanted to be trained to be a knight (Galahad is blind). Yes, Galahad is THE Galahad. The one from Arthurian legends. He pretty much just looks like an old hermit at this point with bland colors as well (tan, brown, and white). I did, however, put what his knightly armor would look like, which was based on a basic armor set (tunic and chainmail).
My favorite designs came when I was designing the villains, Abigor and Lillith. It is the medieval era, but I did always envision Abigor in a black suit. I think it’s within the realm of possibilities that the grand duke of Hades could be in a suit. He does have his suit of armor which is all black. “A black knight was almost a character of primary importance (Tristan, Lancelot, Gawain) who wanted to hide his identity; he was generally motivated by good intentions and prepared to demonstrate his valor, especially by jousting or tournament” (medievalists). I wanted his armor to be somewhat ironic. Normally, “A red knight, on the other hand, was often hostile to the hero; this was a perfidious or evil knight, sometimes the devil’s envoy or a mysterious being from the Other World” (medievalists). Abigor is described as a handsome knight, so I wanted his armor to portray that. I may end up going back and adjusting what his armor is going to look like.
The final costume was for the evilist character of all, Lillith. Her costume, like Abigor’s, is all black. I’m playing with two different costumes right now. One is almost like a black ranger’s outfit because I like a hood for that character. The other is a black sorceress gown/robe. I may end up combining the two of them. “Bernard replied that white was the color “of purity, innocence, and all the virtues”, while black was the color of ‘death and sin’ and was how the devil looked” (medievalists). Since, “…Lilith was known as a dangerous embodiment of dark, feminine powers. In the Middle Ages, however, the Babylonian she-demon took on new and even more sinister characteristics” (Gaines). I decided that Lillith is the complete opposite of purity and innocence, and she is 100% the dangerous embodiment of dark, feminine powers. She will also match Abigor which makes sense since she is second-in-command.
This week was a lot of fun, but I’m even more excited for next week when I will finish the TV pilot as well as start the process of the first episode. However, before I can do any of that, I need your help. I’m going to add my script to this post. I need all your feedback on it, so I have an idea of what an audience would want. That helps me adjust the TV pilot and would help me in the beginning stages of mapping out the first episode.
Out of the Pilot’s seat and into the Driver’s seat
This week was the start and finish of two separate episodes for my TV series. I finished my TV pilot, and I am incredibly proud of the finished product. I liked my original draft of the pilot episode, but I knew it was missing a lot. My pilot episode had only 16 pages, which isn’t nearly enough to sell an idea. After reviewing all the feedback I got, I was able to add so much more depth to my script. I even ended up adding a few more characters, to not only the pilot episode, but to the entire series. I got amazing feedback from my friend Matthew, who, luckily for me, is in the same field as I am. His knowledge of TV scripts really helped to bring out the best in the pilot episode. He even gave me a few ideas to enhance my script, which eventually made the pilot episode 26 pages long (which is 10 more than the original draft).
After researching how to write a TV pilot script, I feel as if I’m off to a great start. “You might still get somewhere writing a spec of an existing show. Nowadays, though, it’s more advisable to write a TV pilot based on your own original idea. People want to see not only that you can write to order, but that you have the imagination to come up with original, exciting ideas. And sustain them over the course of a whole season.” (Script Reader Pro). My idea is original, but it has its roots connected to Arthurian legends, as well as a little connection to Game of Thrones. I think that an original idea with connections to what people know, could do very well in today’s media.
Once I the final draft of my pilot episode, it was time to start working on episode one. I realized that when forming my production plan I had creating the storyboard before the treatment, which is a little hard to do. Mapping out a story before the story is created is nearly impossible, so I had to switch the order of how I was doing things. That meant that I was writing the treatment this past week and I’m going to create the storyboard this upcoming week (no big deal).
When I had originally mapped out how all the episodes would go, I didn’t think that my original idea for episode one would make it long enough. Well, that all changed when I started to actually write out the treatment. It seemed as if all the feedback that I had gotten from the pilot episode, helped me form a better treatment for episode one. One of the best pieces of advice that I got from the feedback was, “I think it has potential but you should probably leave more things to mystique.” Which I definitely didn’t do in the original draft. I was able to use that while writing my treatment. I wasn’t so upfront with everything this time and left more for the audience to try and figure out. I’m sure it’ll be easier to showcase the mystique of the episode when I start to write the actual script, but I felt as if knowing that allowed me to add so much more depth to my treatment.
Speaking of depth, one of the major things that I learned this week, is that the depth of your protagonist can make or break your story. Your protagonist can be well-written, but if it’s a typical character, the script won’t make it to the next round. Film Courage had an interview with Carole Kirschner, where she described a script, she read, that didn’t make it to the next round, “The character wasn’t that interesting. It was a female, it was a young woman who was going against what her family wanted, to do this thing in a man’s world. We’ve only seen that…a hundred thousand times,” (Kirschner). The fact that the protagonist was female, kind of scared me, since my protagonist is also female. Finding this out made me really give an in-depth look into Aurora to see if she’s a typical character or if she has layers. “…she [the character] had something that she was passionate about, but it didn’t reveal enough about her, it wasn’t a character. You know, Walter White [Breaking Bad] had layers and layers and layers. This character had a lid” (Kirschner).
Now, I have to admit that part of my backstory for Aurora (my main character) could be considered “typical”. Her parents are murdered (Batman) by demons, but I think the way that everything unfolds for her is not quite typical. As she ages throughout the series, she grows through various different events that I haven’t quite seen before, which adds new layers to her character. It also makes the audience sympathize with and like her.
Finally moving to Episode One
Last week was spent on focusing on starting episode one of Saving Camelot. I hit a few bumps in the road as I only had a couple days to work on everything, so I apologize for everything be a little later than usual. Luckily, I knew what episode one was going to be, so I wasn’t too far behind. Don’t worry, everything is going smoothly now. I started with the storyboard, which this time I decided to write out instead of using Boords.com. It’s a little messy because I wanted to convey more than the allotted space (plus my handwriting isn’t the neatest), but thankfully it is readable. I decided to do a couple more scenes than I did with the storyboard for the pilot episode. Instead of the six I did last time, I did eight this time around. There’s no real reason for it, besides the storyboard I was using had room for eight scenes and I didn’t want to leave anything blank.
The draft, is a little bit different this time around. I wrote a little over half of what the actual episode length will be, but don’t worry the story still makes sense if you read the draft now. It just leaves you on a cliffhanger. So unfortunately you’ll have to wait for the full episode to come out to quench your thirst for Saving Camelot.
Episode one is the precursor to what the main character, Aurora, will become. It takes place from when Aurora is ages 7-12. So, this happens before the pilot takes place. It’s a lot of backstory for Aurora. If you remember the pilot, she really hated demons and tried to kill an entire group by herself. Episode one explains where her hatred for demons comes from. It’s a little like the calm before the storm in Joan of Arc. Right before Joan of Arc announces that she will take down the world’s greatest army. Episode one is the buildup for Aurora to “make her announcement”. Now, she’s not going to make any announcement but episode one and the next few after are all solidifying her as that “Joan of Arc” type of hero (a young girl who takes it upon herself to challenge the greatest army and free her people).
So far in episode one, you’re only introduced to the main character, Aurora. I know in the pilot you were all introduced to Aurora, Lillith, Galahad, and Abigor. That was for a reason. I wanted everyone to get accustomed to the big four characters who will play a large part throughout the series. Episode one really just focuses on Aurora and what she went through as a child and how she became an orphan. I really want to convey all the hardships that she has to go through. By the end of episode one she’s only 12 and has had to lose three of the most important people in her life, at that time. It’s almost like a Batmanesque type of backstory (however, Aurora doesn’t run around in a bat costume fighting crime. She’s just going to try and stop the legions of hell from taking over the world – no big deal).
The next step in this process is to finish Episode One and edit it. I’m really excited for this part, because once it’s all finished I will be having a cold read-through (actors don’t have a chance to read the script beforehand) with multiple actors who have performed in New York. All of them are current students at Quinnipiac University (my Alma Mater and where I’m receiving my Masters) and are very experienced when it comes to acting. Most of them haven’t done a cold read-through of a script before (other than ones for shows they’ve been in), so it’s new avenue for them to explore. I’ve had cold read-throughs done before for the feature-length script I wrote two years ago, but that was only for the pages we wrote every week (15-20 pages). Never have I had a full script (start-to-finish) read in this type of setting before. I’m so excited for the read-through because hearing what you read aloud (and with acting) completely changes the game. I can really only read my script one way, but having six different people read it and listen to it, the feedback I’m going to get will be amazing. It’s also going to be really good to see everyone again, and introduce a freshmen I know into the theater program at Quinnipiac.
Episode One is in the books
This is it. It’s finally here. The final draft of episode one. It’s been a very long seven weeks to get here, and I apologize for those who were waiting to see what I could accomplish with this idea. I had this idea over a year ago, while I was working as an assistant stage manager for a production of Hamlet on the green. It’s been a long time coming and I have to say I am so happy and proud of the final result. I never found the time to work on this idea when I first had it. That is until I took ICM 528 Content Creation. I was not only allowed to further pursue my Master’s degree in Interactive Media and Communications but also to start a TV series that I’ve been wanting to do for over a year.
I’ve learned so much over these past seven weeks. Going into this project I had no idea how to format or write a TV script before. I’ve only ever learned how to write feature-length scripts or short 15 page scripts. It’s kind of crazy how different scripts can be. Both feature-length movie and TV scripts can be shown on television, but the formatting for them is so different. I talked a lot about the differences between the two in a couple of my early posts, but I’ll do a brief overview for those who haven’t seen them. A feature-length script is three acts.
You have the beginning, middle, and end. A TV script can be formatted one of two ways. The first way is that it’s five acts.
Act 1: Introduce your characters and present the problem.
Act 2: Escalate the problem
Act 3: Have the worst-case scenario happen
Act 4: Begin the ticking clock
Act 5: Have the characters reach their moment of victory.
That way of formatting a TV script is for shows that don’t have a linear story. For example, NCIS or Law and Order. The second way is that there aren’t acts in each episode. You don’t have to reach a conclusion at the end of every episode. Many episodes can even end on cliffhangers (which is what I’ve done with both my pilot and episode one scripts).
Moving on to the actual work that I completed this week. This week was focused completely on finishing Episode One. Although, my mind was looking ahead to when I got to do a read-through of the script. Finding the time to work on finishing Episode One was a challenge. I’d get home from work completely mentally and emotionally drained. I teach kids how to film. Which is/was an amazing experience, until this past week. I’ve worked with kids for six years and this particular class was easily the worst class I’ve ever had. Making the two-hour commute there and back was rough enough as it was, but dealing with those kids for six hours was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Thankfully, I survived the experience and it’s over. So that meant I was able to focus on finishing my script. I spent the whole weekend working on it, staying up into the early mornings both Friday and Saturday nights.
I needed the script to be as perfect as it could be for the read-through. Turns out, to working on a script sleep-deprived is not the best idea. The story was still coherent, but there were a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes that I found during the read-through. The read-through was amazing. Having multiple people who’ve acted in New York read my script was the greatest experience I could have hoped for my finished product. All of the actors got so into their parts. They were changing their voices, screaming, laughing. It’s so difficult to explain in words, the experience was just magical. Then the feedback I got, just made me over-the-moon. Firstly they were upset that it ended and they wanted to know more about what was going to happen. That’s honestly one of the best compliments a screenwriter can get (in my opinion). Secondly, they all agreed that this is a series that they could envision being a Netflix original (which is the ultimate goal for my series). The only problem that they had with the script was that they thought Aurora’s dialogue was a little too mature for someone of the age I wrote in. Her original age was five-years-old, but after we all talked it out we agreed that Aurora being seven made the most sense.
Thank you all so much for taking this journey with me. I’m probably not going to be posting as much about this project in the upcoming weeks. I’ll probably take more time on the future episodes and focus a lot on making Episode One and the TV Pilot more “Netflix-ready” and ready to be sold.
Follow the process of Saving Camelot
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