Author Archives: cathleenmason

About cathleenmason

I am a nurse and a film actress. I have a wonderful husband and four supportive and loving grown children who have their own families and adorable children.

How to Write for a TV Series

Imagine one day you are driving and you come up with an idea for a TV series on how to improve people’s health. You just had a neighbor die from cancer and it affected you deeply. You couldn’t stop thinking about it for months. Then this thought came to you: If people would just eat green leafy vegetables, their chances of getting cancer could be decreased.  You have read the research. You know people who believe that.

You just might have an idea for a TV series. Where do you go from here?

Formulating a game plan

Think of a good title for your show. Pick one that is compelling, short and to the point. If you do your show on eating well to fight cancer, a good title may be “Searching for health.”

Spend time watching TV series, documentaries and reality shows to select a genre for your TV series idea.  “Searching for health” can be a reality show, a docudrama or a talk show. Find out how you want to present it.  Ask industry professionals and watch these types of TV series to get “a feel” of how it would look.

Study your topic. Get all the information you can. Get expert opinions.

Note: This process is to give ideas on how to formulate your own TV series. Using others’ ideas for your own will only weaken your idea. TV producers will quickly realize your idea isn’t original.

Here are a few links to help with picking a title, genre and gathering your ideas:

How to write a TV series script.

Read some TV series scripts to get a feel of how they write. It’s best to watch a TV series after you have read the script to see how it plays out on the screen.

Here are a few websites with examples that you can obtain movie scripts from:

•Daily Script

•Simply Scripts

Once you get a feel for how to write a script go ahead and write yours.

Here are sites that will format your script into industry standard:

•Celtx free software

•Final Draft

•ehow.com/how_2098456_write-script-documentary.html

•http://www.ehow.com/video_4993154_write-documentary-scripts.html

For information on how to write a reality TV script:

•http://www.ehow.com/how_7715332_write-television-script-reality-show.html

Note: Write one episode to give the producers a sample of what you will be proposing. Create a compelling plot and interesting characters. Avoid holiday scenarios, make the story progressive, and key the story on the main character if it is for a sitcom.

Licensing your script.

If you are going to put your idea out to the public you need to protect it by registering your script. Here are a few places you can register your script:

Set up a proposal/treatment package for a network TV/Producer (www.tvmole.com, http://www.ehow.com, http://www.tvwritersvault.com/index.asp)

For the title, make it is short and catchy. Spend a fair amount of time with this. Ask your friends and neighbors and get a good concise idea before you proceed.

Provide contact information on every page of the document. When the producers look over your script they may misplace the pages in the process of sharing with others in their group.

State the duration of the episodes, state either 60 or 90 minutes.  Give the proposed number of episodes it would take to complete your idea of the show.

Give a genre for your proposed series and make sure it is appropriate for your idea.

Provide a logline: This is a one-sentence summary of your series. This needs to be short and memorable. It needs to contain the very essence of your TV series idea.

Provide a synopsis of the series: This includes a few paragraphs that describe the theme and main characters. Keep focused on brevity.

List details for five or six subsequent episodes each a paragraph long with a beginning, middle and end.

Include any name actors or award-winning director or producers associated with your show in the synopsis if applicable. This is always very important to do “name dropping”, which is what this procedure is called.

Include possible locations. They will need to know where you plan on filming. They will also need to know if you have already secured a filming site.

Include any photographs or illustrations. Including this gives tangibility to your proposal and makes it easier to understand the concepts you are proposing.

Before turning this in, write a cover letter with a date. This summarizes the highlights of your proposal.

Here is an example of a treatment/proposal which was retrieved from:

Sample “Treatment/Synopsis” For a Reality TV Show Proposal: The following original concept is protected by the Creators Vault and Writers Guild of America. If you wish to contact the author for proposal of purchase, please do so HERE. I.P. addresses and report-back features are recorded upon browsing this page for security, and to prevent intellectual property theft.

Author Name Available Upon Request

Genre: Reality Series

Title: “Broadway Bound!”

Logline (short pitch):”Waiting For Guffman” meets “American Idol.” A flamboyant Broadway director and choreographer descend on a small town, infiltrating the local play. One performer will be taken back to Broadway for a featured part in a real Broadway show.

Synopsis: [content should be 3 to 7 paragraphs outlining the content of the show as it unfolds. Be specific and original in your execution]

(Themes: reality-based, fantasy fulfillment, talent performance, comedy)

A docu-series for television:  In every small town, there are big dreams…

In Washbuckle, Missouri, the regional theatre holds open casting calls for their annual musical review. Some members of the troupe have dreams of making it to Broadway or Hollywood. Others are content in being the star of Washbuckle, Missouri, hogging what little limelight there is year after year.

But what happens when, just one week before opening night, a ruthless Broadway director and choreographer drops into town with the agenda of taking control of the small town production while scouting for talent to find his “star”? It’s a fascinating look at big dreams in small town America.

The personal stories and archetypical characters that collide as opening night approaches. The ego-maniacal local theatre director getting systematically pushed aside by the big-city Broadway director. The humorous moments as the city-slickers struggle to tolerate the small town ways and mentality. The infighting among potential cast members. The panic that ensues as the cast, choreography, and production are turned on it’s tail at the eleventh hour. The inspiring moments that rise to the surface amidst the chaos of opening night…. And “the decision”. One person from the cast will be chosen for a spot in a hit Broadway production, a trip to Hollywood for a spot on a soap-opera and every chance they could ever hope for being famous?

Seven episodes:

1. Meet the town folk. Get to know the key characters and the theatre group. We’ll also watch in parallel the merciless Broadway Director in action in New York, seeing the contrasts in both characters. We’ll take a humorous look at the awful auditions for the small town play. We’ll see the announcement (or rumor) of the impending arrival of the Broadway Director scouting for talent, and witness the anxiety that is infused in each of our small town characters fighting to get into the play.

2. In-fighting, tensions escalating, accusations, the director starts feeling the pressure. People are cast. Hearts are broken, hopes are sparked. They have a first run-through with the cast. The mysterious Broadway director in black sits in the back. (Imagine a Simon Cowell) snapping from the back row, “Stop! Every one of you STOP!!” He then marches down the isle. An imposing figure. He introduces himself and delivers the news that he has come to find talent. And someone from this town, in this play, will be chosen. He goes on about how he sees nothing but problems. The play will be re-cast, the production will stop now! (One week before opening night)

3. The new director and small-town director fight. Cast members protest. New auditions are held, and performances scrutinized. A new cast is announced, and from that cast will come his “star”.

4. The pressure is on to bring it together for opening night, we’ll cover four days of rehearsals, as well as the personal struggles surrounding the production. Anticipation, anxiety, resentment, hope, adrenaline. Opening night! We see the performance and the reactions of our Broadway director. Cliff-hanger for his decision on who will be Broadway bound!

5. Re-cap of the series, the performances, the arguments, and finally… the decision. One of the people that landed a role, large or small in this little play is chosen. We share in the afterglow, the elation, and the disappointment of others. And sharing a dream come true for that one person selected.

6. Broadway New York!! Our winner is whisked around like a star. Taken backstage of a REAL Broadway production, immersed in the whole lifestyle. Meetings with Hollywood talent scouts, directors of other productions, agents, etc.

7. We see our small town hero take his leap of faith, jumping headfirst into a Broadway show. A dream is realized.

END

Once you have completed writing a treatment, you will want to prepare to pitch your treatment and idea to a producer/network executive.

Pitch your proposal to a producer/network executive (www.ehow.com)

By using your new idea, write up a treatment as described above.

Research TV networks to see which one fits in your TV series genre.

Net-work with the industry to find someone who may be interested in your idea. This may be the most difficult steps. You can network yourself or you can have help by an agent. In order to set up a pitch meeting with a network executive you need to have this done by an agent anyway. So obtaining one to help you in your search for interested parties it might be a good idea to bring in an agent at this time. Finding an agent is a matter of foot work, door knocking and in general pitching yourself to win their approval of your seriousness in the business. No one wants to put up time and energy with someone who will give up at the first rejection

Once you have either obtained an agent or found someone who is interested in listening to your idea then you need to set up a pitch meeting. This is usually done by an agent. So if you have not obtained an agent at this point, now is the time. Most executives will not see anyone unless the meeting is set up by an agent. Set up a pitch meeting with a studio executive.

Prepare your pitch. A pitch consists of bringing in your proposal/treatment to the meeting. It is usually done in a face to face meeting with TV executives. This involves selling your idea in the most professional and prepared you can set up. These executives hear a lot of ideas. They will usually make their decision within a few minutes if not shorter on whether or not they will accept your proposal. The length of time for a pitch meeting is usually 5-10 minutes, so make every moment count. Getting a second chance on the same idea is rare.

Expert Interview

I interviewed Pietro D’Alessio, a talent agent with 90210 Talent in Los Angeles. He is also a producer and casting director. He recently started the soap opera Web series “Proper Manors,” which is being looked at for a TV series. He is the executive producer and creator of this series.

I asked D’Alessio how he began promoting and establishing a Web series and how he got the TV networks to look at “Proper Manors.”

D’Alessio found a writer who would write the concepts in the way he envisioned the series. This took a while. He went through four head writers before he found one that worked.

He licensed his idea by making “Proper Manors” its own company LLC title with the state of Utah. He established a federal tax ID number. D’Alessio is the sole owner of Proper Manors LLC. He also created a bank account for the business.

He networked by creating a social media buzz in L.A. by connecting with the soap opera industry. He also gathered tremendous local support. He created search engine optimization and branding in Twitter, Wikipedia, social networking and IMDB database.

D’Alessio wrote up a business plan and by networking he obtained a sponsor. Obtaining a sponsor is where the concept “who you know” comes into play so many times in the entertainment industry. With a crew of personal and professional contacts, his team shot five episodes of the web soap opera “Proper Manors.” He then posted the episodes on Flipside, Vimeo and YouTube.

D’Alessio pitched “Proper Manors” to TV networks with 90210 Talent set up to represent the project.  His pitch included an advertisement kit, scope of the show and name actors.

You can view “Proper Manors” at: http://www.propermanors.tv/

You can contact Pietro D’Alessio at:

90210 Talent

Producer/Casting Director/SAG Actor

801-644-0980

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0194953/

@pietrodalessio (Twitter)

 

Conclusion

Coming up with a great idea for a TV series is fun and entertaining.  However, following through on an idea is a lot of work and can be a lifelong commitment. Learning the process of putting your thoughts on a page, finding an agent who will represent your idea and a TV executive who will accept it can be daunting.   Most people are unable to complete this process. Those that have share their stories on TV and find great fulfillment in the process.

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