So that's why pilot season is so spotty

Hey kids, guess what? Writing a pilot is harder than writing a spec of an existing show.

Yes, I hear a chorus of "No duh's" out there. [No duh is a product of fear.]

But for those of you who've never written a pilot before, it's a lot harder than even the people who say it's a lot harder would have you believe. 

I was feeling like my outline – which I wrote and rewrote and rewrote with input from the smartest people I've ever had input from before – was pretty solid. Nicely plotted with room for creativity and change as required. So I figured "Hey, I'll bang out my first draft in less than a week, like I've done with my other spec scripts."

[Insert sound of screeching tires post-slamming-on-the-brakes here. Or that sound they use on ANTM of, like, a needle being scraped across a record.]

I started to write, but as soon as I got to the dialogue, I realized there are no little actors' voices in my head, delivering the lines as I write them. There's no internalized show rhythm, defining how long the scenes should be. No produced scripts telling me what style the action lines should take. No audience familiarity with the characters to replace carefully worded descriptions.

All of a sudden, zillions of new decisions must be made. And they must be made by me! Yikes!

Artery Cloggery
I'm dying for a Black Eye Shake from The 101. Which is why I better find time to go to the gym today.


Stephen said...

Hi, Jane -

I originally found your blog when Alex Epstein linked to it.

I really enjoy your posts, and as a fellow aspiring screenwriter (and fellow Canadian) I find a lot to relate to, as you can imagine.

I understand the frustration in trying to nail down a character's voice when you're starting from scratch.

Just a quick thought: Have you tried casting your spec in your head? With your dream cast?

If you want imaginary William Shatner, imaginary Hugh Laurie and imaginary Kermit the Frog, then go for it! Hey, they're not likely to be imaginary unavailable, right?


m said...

but finishing a pilot is a hell of a lot more rewarding then a spec, so keep at it.

It's your world now.

Josh said...

Said the pot to the kettle:

Blah, blah, blah, whiner.

Your new pages aren't perfect--yet--but they're quite good. And Michael's right; it feels so good to have something that's truly YOURS in a career where so little will be.

Until, you know, hopefully everything is.

I'm not sure if this makes sense anymore.