Starting that pilot over

Animator_LOW-500x0Ok, so the feedback from the production company is that there were elements of my pilot outline that they really liked, but the mystery I chose (with Viscount Snowden and his wife) was not one of them.

So, back to the drawing board we go!

The ‘notes’ as they are called in TV-land are that the thing they love about Portia is her outsider status – as a Canadian in London, as a woman in a man’s field, that kind of thing. They would like the first case she takes on to be demonstrative of that lens.

What kind of cases would Portia be attracted to given her background?

What observations would she make because of her outsider lens?

What crime would seem important to her and the subjects because of their shared experiences?

I’ve also been thinking about my personal connection to Portia (thanks to my friend Kathryn for suggesting it) and the whole idea of ‘passing’ for white. Maybe I can incorporate that into the pilot as well.

So here I go again my friends, into the breach. See you on the other side.


Breaking a pilot

I’ve started the process of ‘breaking’ the pilot.  According to the multitude of books I’ve now read on writing for TV (that post is coming soon), breaking an episode is about breaking down the elements of the story. There are lots of different stages to breaking an episode, and it varies depending on your experience and the demands of the network, but I decided to start with breaking down my characters and what had to come out of them in the pilot:

Katie-McGrath-asPortiaWhat happens to Portia in this pilot?

Portia Adams discovers her connection to 221 Baker Street, and takes on her first case trying to find prostitutes that are going missing in the Whitechapel district of London.

What is the first thing to know about Portia? She is alone.

What do we need to reveal about Portia in the pilot?

  • She is alone and without options
  • She is highly intelligent
  • She has trust issues
Irene JonesWhat happens to Adler in this pilot?

Adler is finally able to reveal herself to Portia, her granddaughter, she begins her campaign of making Portia a social darling.

What is the first thing to know about Adler?  That she is a tough old broad.

What do we need to reveal about Adler in the pilot?

  • Demonstrate her extreme loyalty to Portia (above all else)
  • Demonstrate her disregard for legality
  • Demonstrate her intelligence
 BrianWhat happens to Brian in this pilot?

Brian is confronted with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and meets Portia Adams, and starts helping her with her case.

What is the first thing to know about Brian?  That he is a smart rookie detective with high morals.

What do we need to reveal about Brian in the pilot?

  • His lifelong admiration of Holmes and Watson
  • His love for his family
  • His instant attraction to Portia
MichaelsWhat happens to Michaels in this pilot?

Michaels is also dealing with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and will have a fight with a lawyer over missing evidence.

What is the first thing to know about Michaels?  That his job is everything. He has nothing else, so it’s the most important thing in his life.

What do we need to reveal about Michaels in the pilot?

  • Demonstrate that his job is the most important thing in his life
  • Reveal his hatred for Holmes
  • Demonstrate his distrust of Portia
'Bruiser' Jenkins

What happens to Jenkins in this pilot?

Jenkins and Adler are working on a minor blackmail scheme.

What is the first thing to know about Jenkins?  His loyalty to Adler and their friendship is tantamount.

What do we need to reveal about Jenkins in the pilot?

  • He loves Adler (maybe as more than a friend)
  • He’s a criminal with a past
  • He’s someone Portia can trust
Picture shows: RICHARD ARMITAGE as ThorntonWhat happens to Gavin in this pilot?

He is paid off to corrupt a key piece of evidence in a case against a local politician.

What is the first thing to know about Gavin? He is brilliant and corrupt.

What do we need to reveal about Gavin in the pilot?

  • His intelligence
  • His disdain for everyone else’s intelligence or contribution
  • His attraction to Portia

Announcement: I’m Writing a TV Pilot!

I’ve recently been given the opportunity to write a pilot for a Portia Adams Adventure TV Series, and I’ve decided to add this process to my website as well, in the hopes that fans find the development of interest.

The journey begins at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, where I attended several fascinating sessions.

whiteboardStephen Falk gave a great demonstration of how to break down a season into acts that I’m excited to put into action. I got a chance to speak to him after his talk about pilots, and he had some specific tips and tricks for me.
The session with Nicole Clemens of F/X was a little less useful to me specifically, but interesting.
Glen Mazzara’s breakdown of Damien was fascinating. He played the first episode for us but paused every few beats to explain how each scene developed.
The session that really made it hard to sleep that night, though, was Corey Mandell’s TV Series Engine. His By Association concept is one I’d like to try, in conjunction with the 3-act process Falk demonstrated.