Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pilot Light

I've just received some feed back from a head of drama. And it is what feed back should be in a perfect world [for writers]

The first line tells me he enjoyed it but he ain't gonna do it.

The second paragraph explains why, mainly to do with the fact they currently produce two shows in that genre and have no real appetite for another.

The rest of the feedback tells me IF they were going to do it, these are the changes they think it needs. Detailed, logical, creative changes.
Ah if only 'twere always so.

Anyway the main point is that I seem to have made a basic writing mistake. I had a cardboard antagonist who was there to set up danger rather than having a fully fledged character.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

But I know why it happened. I was too busy making 'please like me' protagonists. Nearly every major story moment and character piece went to the protagonists. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because ultimately it is the protag the audience tunes in to see on a weekly basis. But if as a result you fail to develop your antagonist then.......

Who am I kidding. Did I not post a few blogs ago that my belief is antagonist + goal = Story?

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

It didn't help that the pilot has two different antags. An episode antag and a series antag - the arch nemesis if you will. Spending too much time on the protags left both antags light.

Having said all the above, if I fix those problems will that increase the chances of a sale?

Probably not. Those are script points. The type of notes you get on a draft after it has been sold. Execs buy projects more on the concept and protags. Script points can be fixed, a bad concept will always remain just that.

I'm not saying you can write any old bollocks if you have a good concept. Giving the impression that you have the ability to pull it off is equally important. That means the writing has to be of a high standard. You are asking people to put a lot of faith in you, so though no one expects a spec script to be perfect in all aspects of story, character and tone, it still better be pretty damn good.

So I've sent back a nice e-mail, thanking him for his time, trouble and valuable comments. Because taking time and trouble is far from the norm. When it happens, the least I can do is show my appreciation.

It's already with 10 or so other producers anyway. If they all come back saying the same thing then I've learned it needed another pass before it went out and been reminded of a valuable lesson. But is that what has stopped them from buying it? In this case no. It is wrong concept wrong time. Dead in the water from day1.

If it was right concept, right time despite some story issues? It would be a quick -'would you be willing to change that motive and change this character to this?' type meeting. Hopefully followed by a cheque.


wcdixon said...

Script points vs. wrong time/wrong concept - good distinction...great post. But I am a little confused as to how much attention you could really give the antag(s) in an episodic one hour pilot. Are you saying you could've bumped them up in the bible? I think I'll reread.

English Dave said...

You know what Will. I'm with you on this. A little confused. My first thought on a pilot is to get your protags out there, loud and proud. But I think maybe in this case I overdid it to the extent that after act 1 the antags became story 'puppets' rather than story movers.

Some of the feed back was along the lines of....'I realise your intention would be to develop this thread/character over the course of a series but in terms of audience satisfaction for this particular episode I felt that character X should do Y'

There's a problem in itself for every writer. How much of the ranch do you sell in Ep 1?

Who knows when enough is enough?

In truth, probably only the writer does because he has the series arc in his head.

Probably why I'm not running off to re-write. lol