Series = Ensemble

Series = Ensemble

When coming up with an idea for a television series, and writing a pilot script, writers often make the mistake of approaching it like a feature. Meaning, they focus on a single main character, with a single problem and goal. That’s not how television works. I can...
What are the stakes?

What are the stakes?

It’s a constant question producers, agents and executives will ask: What are the stakes? And it’s maybe the most common thing that causes a script to “not work.” If the stakes aren’t big enough, the audience won’t tend to care, or...
Perfect Counterparts

Perfect Counterparts

What makes an audience root for two people to be together? The Save the Cat books have a name for the type of story where the primary external conflict is that two people who are “perfect counterparts” have something big in the way of “living happily ever after.” It’s...
Web of Conflict

Web of Conflict

What’s the key thing to focus on when developing a TV series idea? The answer is simple: the characters. Specifically, a web of entertaining-to-watch characters who have conflicted relationships with each other. Ideally, you would also have a big, intriguing,...
8 Characters of Comedy

8 Characters of Comedy

When I work with anyone developing a half-hour pilot, I always recommend Scott Sedita’s book The Eight Characters of Comedy.  Written primarily for actors (Sedita is an acting coach in Los Angeles), it can also greatly help writers.  It presents eight archetypes found...
The Idea is EVERYTHING

The Idea is EVERYTHING

I’ve consistently found that most of the notes I have on any script I read — and certainly all of the most important ones — are notes I would have had on the basic idea behind the story, if it had been pitched to me before it was written. And so, the #1 piece of...
Unmet Needs

Unmet Needs

I think the best television characters want something they can never have — and spend every episode pursuing it.  What makes them compelling is that they are under siege, in some way, by the world around them, and unable to secure that version of their life that they...
Flaws and Character Arc

Flaws and Character Arc

The best movies tend to have a growth arc for the main character.  In the end, they have often somehow become better versions of themselves, as well as having solved some big problem in their world.  This means they have to start the movie as the “not best version of...
Internal Stakes

Internal Stakes

The main character in a movie generally has a big problem that it takes the whole movie to solve. And this is what a professional reader of a script is generally focused on understanding first.  What is that problem?  Why will it be so difficult to solve that it takes...
Audiences are sadists

Audiences are sadists

If I could sum up the number one most common overall weakness in screenplays I read, it would be that the main character does not have a big enough overall problem, and a high enough level of difficulty and complications as they try to solve it. When you get the...
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