Friday 6 July 2012

Sitcom Pilots - Introducing Characters Early

After much procrastination, the time has finally come to tear apart the script to Dead End Job (sitcom pilot), and do a massive re-write.

With the BAFTA Rocliffe Forum competition deadline around the corner, we have set our deadline and hopefully the motivation and pushing force needed to get this rewrite off the ground.

The pilot has been sitting in the ‘drawer’ for a good half year since receiving some great and very useful feedback and now Taro and I are finally ready to tackle it - we have a board, post-it notes, and most of all, lots of notes and ideas on how to make it stronger.

One of the feedbacks we received was that our first scene only establishes a couple of the main characters and one of the ‘rules’ of sitcoms is to introduce all the main players right at the beginning, so adding a new character half-way through could be confusing.

I read somewhere that the pilot for Taxi managed to do this in a very creative way, by having a broken phone from which people could call anywhere they wished for free, we got a glimpse into all the characters, whilst still adding a little drama when Alex calls his daughter, whom he hadn’t seen or heard from in 15 years.

I recently watched the pilot to Friends and that was pretty excellent too, and if you haven’t watched it during one of the many re-plays, I recommend watching it right away. Now. Go!

Right, so as you hopefully noticed, we get introduced to all the characters from the go and through very clear dialogue, get a sense of their identity, all this whilst also setting up the Ross and Rachel saga that will carry the series through 10 seasons.

Based on that, how can Taro and I make our characters stronger and immediately tell our audience who these people are and what they are searching for? 

Before we start re-writing, and this is not procrastinating, it’s research, we have decided that we will be watching as many sitcom pilots as possible in the next week or two. Coincidentally, look what just popped up on my Twitter feed this week:

I took the opportunity to Storify the interesting conversation that followed between Bitter Script Reader and his followers on Twitter.

Lots of food for thought, and hopefully the more pilots we watch, the more we’ll start to see a pattern emerge and if we’re lucky it will be so engraved in our memories that writing might as well just happen by Osmosis. 

Feel free to make me any Sitcom recommendations, it would also be great to watch some that maybe break the rules and are still great.


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