WRITING A SAMPLE PILOT TO SELL
OR GET YOU HIRED AS A TV WRITER
How do I break into TV?
Write and sell a hot script!
Back about 10 years ago if I was asked this question, I’d tell people to pick their favorite TV show and write a “spec” version of it. Craft your own story, borrow their characters, story paradigm and act structure, and make your script exist in the world of their show but with ideas and scenarios that are all your own to show the TV world that you know how to take their characters and write in their unique voice while serving your own unique vision. BUT NO MORE! Gone are the days of the great “NYPD BLUE” spec getting you a job. Now, all agents and TV shows looking for writers are interested in reading are FRESH PILOTS. Pilots, either one-hour or half-hour, are now the way that writers are introduced to producers and the TV community. IF DONE RIGHT you have accomplished two things, you’ve written a great sample to GET YOU WORK, and you’ve written a great pilot to try and SELL AS A TV SHOW.
Having done this successfully with a few of my own pilots that have turned into countless jobs for me, I would love to share my insight and expertise in this area to WRITERS TRYING TO BREAK THROUGH the hard shell of scripted television.
In reality, there are tons of pilots out there. And everybody is trying to get representation. You’ve written a pilot, haven’t you? So why don’t you have an agent? Why haven’t you met on a TV show? Because the truth is, pilots need care, though, commitment and logic – along with original characters, fresh situations and a fertile setting that is ripe to grow episodes from and the way to do that is to create a pilot with a mechanism in place to tell stories that will work for your future episodes .
SO I’M JUST WRITING A PILOT, RIGHT?
Not exactly. You are writing a pilot, but a pilot specifically engineered to show the TV community that you know how to tell a story that is both new and old. The pilot must command the reader immediately to let them know that the writer is coming from a fresh original place, but with enough knowledge about how TV and storytelling works that they’re comfortable to bring you in to the “writer’s room.” Your pilot needs to not just tell a one-off story, but be a true beginning of many great seasons of storytelling. You need to introduce great conflict, memorable characters and consequential incidents that keep things moving while providing a real peek into your specific voice. Your voice is what makes you marketable and your voice is who you are as a writer. And I’m not talking about commercial viability – that doesn’t matter for this game. A compelling script is what matters. And that’s what we will set out to accomplish together. That is what will get you an agent and a chance to potentially get your pilot script sold as well as represented.
TAKE IT FROM ME:
My entire TV career (20 years of being on almost every different kind of show there is) has been achieved through spec scripts and spec pilots. When we used to do “specs” of existing shows, I had SHIELD and NYPD BLUE sample episodes that were used to get me work. Once things switched to pilots, I wrote a spec pilot called AFTER SUNSET which was a blend of all the types of shows I liked but with my own point of view. This script probably got me over 15 writing jobs and still is used occasionally even though it’s over 10 years old. It amazes me when a script can do it’s job of getting YOU a job. I would be honored to help you do this.
You will bring your TV pilot ideas and we will go over every beat of this idea of yours, and I will help you execute in a way that you can hand your pilot off with confidence that your pilot will be recognized as one with originality that will position you for success.
About this course:
My goal here is to help you do what is widely considered the first step into this business. It’s also a step one must take no matter where they are in the biz – if they want a spec pilot that is going to get them reps, managers and most importantly, a meeting with a show because THEY LOVED THE PILOT YOU WROTE. Getting feedback from both me, classmates and industry professionals will allow you to have a nice headstart into creating a wonderful to read pilot that hopefully will help you kickstart the writing career you are after. None of it is easy, but is sure helps to have a good pilot for people to read.
This is a FIVE WEEK PROGRAM that requires you to show up just one day a week ( attending online). The five classes will mostly roll out as follows:
WEEK ONE: THE IDEA
Bring your ideas! On day one, you will get to hear from me, an industry professional, I will talk about my journey from writer to busy working tv writer. After that, I want to hear your ideas. Students should be expected to bring at least 2/3 ideas so that we can decide on which one makes the best pilot for you to write in hopes of using it as a selling tool for yourself. Make sure this is just a longline – no more than 2/3 sentences at most.
If all goes well, you will leave the first day knowing that you have an idea in hand.
WEEK TWO: THE STORY
Again, we will hear from another working TV writer and what their journey was and how their spec pilot got them rolling into the industry, and then I want to hear the basic informal pitch of the pilot you are setting out to write. This pitch should include characters, a beginning, middle and an end. Then we can make adjustments before sending people out on “BEAT SHEET” assignment for the following week. Each participant will have 5 minutes to pitch and five minutes for feedback.
WEEK THREE: THE BEATS
I want to hear all your beats. And I want to read them, too. A basic “beat sheet” is something we do before getting into an actual outline so that we can make further adjustments. An industry professional will also be weighing in and the goal is to make sure that you are ready to go into your outline. By the time you leave on week three you should be ready for: What we will do is SHARE the screen with your BEAT SHEET so we can GO THROUGH TOGETHER.
All participants will either read out their beat sheet or give a copy of it to me and the rest of the class to read and get feedback on it.
WEEK FOUR: THE OUTLINE
This is where we expand the beats into a working outline – for a sitcom or half hour/ a page. For a one hour – two page max. (WHAT YOU GUYS THINK?) You are to bring this in and I will go over it along with an industry professional. Only I’ve had the outline for a couple of days because you’ve emailed it to me – this way we have a nice headstart for the class, because when class is over, for our final week…
Outlines to be sent to me the day before the class so I have a chance to read and make notes for feedback to be given in the class.
WEEK FIVE: I WANT PAGES! 5 to be exact!
Yup. The first 5 pages in SCRIPT FORM.. And then two people from the TV industry are going to read those pages and talk to you about them and your concept. By the time you leave this class, you will be off to write a pilot script. If you’ve been paying attention, I’m sure you’ll be off to a great start. THE IDEA BEING, by the time we are done – you’ll have a working outline/treatment – and you’ll have a few pages of proof of concept to go off and write a great pilot.
(pages will need to be sent to instructor 3 days before class)
These pilots are the most important tool to have when it comes to breaking into the tv writing business and I would love to help get you started. By the end of the course you will have all the tools you need to get writing and the best chances of creating a TV pilot that you can get representation with and jump start your career!
Who should attend?
Writers, directors, aspiring showrunners, and anyone interested in breaking into the world of TV.
About the instructor
Working in so many genres out of necessity, David began his career with an episode of SILK STALKINGS, then used an NYPD BLUE spec script to get his name around in the TV business, eventually starting his TV staffing career on an NBC one-hour “Thrillogy” show called SLEEPWALKERS. One hour dramas like SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and KYLE XY followed, which lead to a pilot deal at MTV. After the pilot failed to get cast, he continued to work in one hour, including THE CLOSER with Kyra Sedgewick. After a break from drama, he began a comedy career, writing for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, then the half-hour Larry Sanders-esque AFTER LATELY for Chelsea Handler and STEVIE TV for rising YOUTUBE star Stevie Ryan. He also sold his own pilot, MUNCHIE THE AGENT to VH1. Another comedy pilot (half-hour comedy) sold to CBS called MURSES about the day to day plight of male nurses. After a one year stint writing for the WWE, David returned to Drama in LUCKY SEVEN, UNREAL, and CHICAGO MED. He currently has many shows in development, a book deal with Jimmy Kimmel that is being developed into a series and mostly is staying indoors with his cats during Covid19.
Craig has served as Executive producer/writer on S.W.A.T, Chicago PD, Cult and Defiance.
Joshua is both a graphic novelist and top TV writer with numerous projects in active development as TV series. He has written on many TV shows including Young Justice, Skylanders Academy, Wisdom of the Crowd, Incorporated, Chicago Med, and Ultimate Spiderman.
Mike is a writer and producer, known for American Dad!, Family Guy, and Off Centre.
A busy working writer, Matt has both written for and served as a producer on many TV shows including Superstore, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Community, and Men at Work.
Attending the course online and on VOD
LIVE ONLINE: Every attendee gets an email invitation for the online classroom 30 minutes before class start times. All you need to do is to click the link provided in that email and watch the class on your computer’s web browser without needing to download any special software. If you are attending on your smart phone or tablet, please download the ClickMeeting app.
VOD: Video on Demand is a great option if you want to repeat what you learned in the class or you didn’t have time to attend the class in person or online. Each attendee gets a Vimeo link 24-48 hours after each week’s Directors Foundation Certificate LA class.
Did you know?
- Raindance members save 15%? You can join online >HERE< and start saving immediately
- This course is FREE for our postgraduate/MA/ students
- The Raindance Guarantee: If this course fails to meet your expectations, let us know before lunch of the first day after the first section of the class and we will make a full, 100% no-questions-asked refund.