Hank Isaac: It Takes a Village to Make a TV Series


Another Note from the World of Underfunded Overachievers
by Hank Isaac

We’re still in the midst of fleshing out “Lilac” for the remaining twelve episodes of Season One. As was mentioned elsewhere on the site, writing can be a lonely endeavor. Is a lonely endeavor.

That’s why I’ve assembled a varied and talented group of folks to help take the series into the future. Though I prefer to actually write alone, I feel the energy from weekly brainstorming sessions is essential, especially when dealing with an ensemble cast of ten characters and their numerous interwoven subplots.

Our group includes a pediatrician, an industrial designer, a newspaper publisher, a retired elementary school teacher, a former assistant to the executive producer of a couple of well-known TV series, and a fantasy writer. Oh, and I’m there, too.

We meet every Saturday in downtown Seattle for about three hours (including lunch). We’ve been spending one of those hours each week interviewing one cast member per session to get each of their impressions and goals for their particular character.

A number of excellent plot twists and character revelations have come out of the sessions thus far (we’ve had five). The goal is to set each character’s story in motion, understand how each individual story influences all the other stories, and ultimately to create twelve individual audience-worthy ten-minute series segments.

The sessions often turn into free-for-alls, but I believe the creative process should never be edited or controlled. There’s plenty of time later to sort stuff out. Let’s face it, a machine that makes bricks doesn’t really think about how the bricks are going to be used. It just makes bricks.

And yet, there’s no way of knowing how one seemingly silly idea may spark a more valuable one. So what may seem at first like wasted time turns out to be a kind of seed for the eventual great-idea flower. To try to approach it all in an “organized” way – everyone gets his turn to speak, ideas are evaluated on the spot, craziness is counterproductive… all of that only serves to stifle ideas and force the participants to pre-edit what they offer.

However, participation in this kind of activity requires that everyone involved have both a thick skin and boundless energy. We are – in our own small way – not unlike a traditional TV series “writers’ room.” Everyone is encouraged to defend his ideas with logic and story & character relevance.

As well, participants need to accept that every idea they come up with will not be included – many “ideas” really serve to encourage other ideas, and on and on, which eventually do lead to something worthwhile.

The (sort of) advantage of a Web series is: We don’t have a precise deadline. Sure, time marches on and all that, and yes, we need to get it done. But our particular time limit is really a concern over our young cast growing older.

Lilac is HERE

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