Larry Brody replies to “I’m a beginner at this TV writing thing. Please help!”

by Larry Brody

A couple of TVWriter™ visitor questions that have been gnawing at me for the past few days:

1) From JW:

‘Morning Mr. B,

I’ve written and entered a TV pilot that has done fairly well in contests but has not been picked up or optioned. Does it make sense to write another episode from the same series and enter it in next year’s contests?

For example, my Season 2, Ep. 1 has a great opening and compelling new characters added to the cast but doesn’t establish the original “big picture.” Will I lose points with the judges for that?

And my reply:

Dear JW,

I can’t speak for other contests, but I do kind of know my way around the People’s Pilot, where, believe it or don’t, people do what you’re talking all the time.

Well, not exactly all the time but fairly frequently. Sometimes they entire another episode in the same running of the PP so that in effect the judges have two pilots to choose from. In the 2016 Peoples Pilot, for example, two different writers working on the same future series sent in two separate scripts to serve as pilots.

The actual creator of the show entered his pilot script, and his fellow writer on the hoped-for series send in a later episode. Both scripts placed highly. In fact, the creator’s script finished third in its category and the other script placed second because even without including a series set-up per se, it was an excellent example of what should or would happen on the show.

In other words, I think submitting another episode of your series would be a good idea. If the fact that the script doesn’t present what you call “the big picture” worries you, I suggest you also include a short series presentation as additional material for the judges to take into consideration. We’re big on additional material in the PP.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of original pilot scripts like yours not being picked up or optioned, I’d like to point out that very few series created by writers who are outsiders in the biz are ever sold. That’s just not how the system works.

Original pilots, however, are absolutely the best writing samples you can send out because they show both how you handle material you love and your understanding of the needs of whatever genre or category your script is in. And original pilots that have won, or placed highly in contests, are pretty much beloved by agents because they also demonstrate that other readers have been impressed by your writing so taking a chance on you, the new writer seems less risky. In the People’s Pilot, by the way, those other readers are TV and film writing pros, and that reduces the risk factor even more.

2) From WJ:

Hi LB,

I’m a college student in a film and TV program that has given me the chance to write two of my own pilot scripts in the past year. Both have been well received by my teachers and advisor.

One of the scripts is drama. The other is a dark comedy. I read where writing in different genres can cause identity confusion for potential agents, managers, hucksters. Should a writer avoid muddying the waters and stick to one niche until he/she is established?

My oh-so-very-thoughtful reply:

Dear WJ:

Oh, for Christ’s sake, WJ, give yourself a break. Who are you going to confuse? You’re brand new to the writing game and not even in L.A. yet. No one in a position of genuine authority or influence even knows you’re alive.

Your job is to get noticed. To demonstrate that you’re better than everyone else who’s showing their material to all those to whom you’re sending yours. Why in the name of the Great God of Ambition would you want to hogtie yourself by hiding one of the scripts you genuinely believe is the greatest of its type?

Send them both out wherever you can. Get yourself discovered. That’s what it’s all about. Besides, most people, even knowledgeable professionals, conflate dark comedy with drama anyway because of the serious undertones that dark comedy gets its name from.

The only reason to hold back material is if you have doubts about it. I mean genuine doubts with a basis in reality, not neurotic self-doubt.

Um, what’s that you just asked? How do you tell the difference? That, my friend, is between you and your shrink.

Thanks for the questions, you two! And to everyone else out there: I love hearing from you, so, by all means, keep ’em coming!




Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.