things to think about when writing a pilot script

i want to write a half hour comedy pilot to use as a writing sample.

here are some things i’ve been thinking about:

premise

i had several different ideas, but narrowed it down and decided on one after brainstorming and pitching to some friends.

the idea i picked is high concept, but i don’t think that’s necessarily an advantage. most sitcoms are not high concept at all. most are some variation of family show, but the specific characters and the execution are what sets them apart.

animation or live action

i have some ideas that i think might work as an animated show, but i think to get the most out of the particular concept of the show, it needs the reality of live action.

character

sitcoms are all about character, and most of my effort recently has been developing the characters and the relationships on the show. originally, i thought the main character would be in his 30s. but then i wondered what would happen if i made the main character younger? what if he’s 13? this takes me to…

demographics

i remembered reading this article about how cartoon network is expanding their programming to include live action shows, so having the show be for a younger audience could work out well, but i don’t want to force the issue. i’ll have to develop the idea more and see where it goes.

locations

his age would determine the main locations of the show; either home and work if he’s older, or home and school if he’s younger.

episodic vs serial

i’m thinking the stories would be like HIMYM, which are mostly episodic but there are also bigger story arcs that take place. i’m only going to write the pilot, but i want to have loglines of the other dozen or so episodes that would make up season 1, as well as loglines of story arcs for other seasons.

single camera vs multi camera

this pilot is a writing sample and not something i’m trying to get into development, but still, i’ll need to decide whether i want to format it as a single camera (the office, 30 rock) or multi camera (big bang theory, HIMYM) show.

i prefer the visual style and lack of laugh track of single camera shows, but i know multi camera is cheaper, and cbs is doing very well with their multi camera sitcoms.

i’ll need to know so i can at least format accordingly. single camera shows are written similarly to feature scripts, whereas multi camera shows usually have double spaced dialogue and action in caps.

status

so that’s where i am so far.  i’m trying to keep all these little fragments organized in a mori file, and once i flesh out my ideas more, i’ll start outlining the actual pilot script in omni outliner.

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