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New Pilot (1 Viewer)

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Dermot Murphy

Howdy all, I'm new to this forum so i thought by way of intro. I'd better post something for critique. I'm currently slamming my way through an attempted TV sitcom - I've written six episodes so far. Following are the first three or so scenes from my pilot episode. Let me know what y'all think.

Why Life ?
Pilot
Open up

Int. Apartment bathroom. Evening.

[ The bathroom is relitively small, everything in close quarters. Directly opposite the
door is a window, overlooking the courtyard of the apartment block. There is netting
over this window but no curtains. Enter Dominic, topless and sockless. He switches
on the light, turns the taps on the bath, and lets it run. In a short montage, he
undresses, buck nakedness intimated by a shot of him dropping his trousers and
pants. A quick check of the water, and then it’s to the toilet for a pre-bath pee. He
lets fly, lets out a sigh. He takes a glance out of the window. An elderly lady ( late
seventies ) is standing in the courtyard looking up, an aghast expression mixed with
some kind of anger. Dominic stops peeing ( as heard ).
Cut to later ]

Int. Apartment bedroom. Later

[ On his mobile phone to Caoimhe ]

Dominic
…no, she just stood there looking at me pee. What could I do ? I was half way through, I had to finish. It’s a natural – well I was naked. No, not always ! I was running a bath for christ’s sake, what was she doing standing out there looking into my bathroom ? If anyone has a reason to be pissed off about this it’s me. What ? Oh, ha ha. I don’t know. A neighbour, I suppose. Well I don’t really talk to them do I ? Seventy, I don’t know I can’t tell people’s ages just by looking at them. Older than me. I mean, she’s old, she’s probably seen hundreds of penises in her time, why would mine cause her any problems ? Right. No, I had my bath, what was I supposed to do ? You’re supposed to be suportive of me in this one. What ? Oh, okay. Well, you’re around tomorrow ? I’ll see you tomorrow. Love you. Bye.

Opening Titles
Int. Office. Next morning.

[ Dominic works for a small financial company, with one colleague. The office layout
is of negligible importance. Suffice to say there is a lobby floor for custom, a counter
behind glass, computers for transactions, and a fax machine. At the fax machine is a
puzzled looking Clara. Dominic enters through the front door, speaks as he moves to
and opens the security door ]

Dominic
Morning.

Clara
Morning.

[ He unwraps his jacket, readies himself for the day. He’s wearing a shirt, his tie is in
a drawer. As he puts this on, he spots Clara’s befuddlement ]

Dominic
What’s wrong ?

Clara
[ Expresses frustration with a huff and a bang on the fax ]
I can’t be doing with this on a Monday morning. We’re going to have to get a new fax machine.

Dominic
Why, what’s wrong with this one ?

Clara
It’s broken.

Dominic
How ?

Clara
It’s just not working. I’ve sent an E-Mail asking for a new fax machine.

Dominic
Already ?

Clara
We can’t do without the fax machine.

Dominic
Well how’s it broken ?

Clara
It’s not working. Take a look if you want.

Dominic
Okay. It’s not like I’ll be able to fix it if it’s broken but I’ll take a look. [ He stands next to her ] What’s it not doing ?

Clara
Well I switched it on, but it’s not coming on. It’s broken. Monday morning and already the fax machine is broken.

Dominic
Okay, let’s not panic. It is Monday morning, but it’s not worth panicking over just yet. [ He lifts the lid, looks at it ] The lights aren’t on. Are you sure you switched the machine on ?

Clara
I switched the switch, it’s not going on. Like I already told you, it’s broken.

Dominic
You switched the switch ?

Clara
[ Beginning to become annoyed with his questions ]
I switched the switch.

Dominic
Okay. Hang on. [ He flips the switch, it switches on ] You switched it off.

Clara
What ? No, I switched it on, it’s not working.
[ It makes a working noise ]
Dominic
You switched it off. It was on and you switched it off. It’s okay, it’s a Monday. It’s all right. You asked for another fax machine ?

Clara
Yes. Because I thought this one was broken.

Dominic
Okay. It’s not too late, if I were you I’d send another E-Mail cancelling the last one.

Clara
Can you do that ?

Dominic
Sure. Why – what do you mean ?

Clara
Can one E-Mail cancel out another E-Mail ? I sent it ten minutes ago, it’s probably got there already.

Dominic
Right. But – you’re sending another one to cancel it. Do you – is it that you think you’re sending an E-Mail to delete the previous one ? Like tipexing it ?

Clara
Well – no. Yes. I don’t know.

Dominic
Just write another one and send it to the same place, the same person that you sent the last one to, telling them to cancel the last one.

Clara
What if they’ve already read it ?

Dominic
What if ?

Clara
If the person has already read it, there’s no point trying to cancel it. It’s been read. So the E-Mail can’t be cancelled.

Dominic
Okay. I’m not sure if you’re confused or I am. If you send another E-Mail to the same person, they will see that we no longer need a new fax machine.

Clara
So then we don’t need to cancel the E-Mail.

Dominic
What ? No, we’re – by sending another new E-Mail – by sending that to the same person, we’re – and by another new E-Mail I don’t mean that we’ve already sent a new E-Mail by the way – by sending a new E-Mail to cancel the intentions of the last one – the one that you sent initially asking for a new fax machine – if you send one out now, telling that person that we dont need another fax machine because you were mistaken earlier, you’ll be cancelling the request you previously made. Will I write the E-mail ?

Clara
Please. I hate machines.

Dominic
Right. I’m not so sure they’re happy about you either.

Clara
And should I cancel the other E-Mail then ?

Dominic
[ After a beat ]
Why not.
[ He takes his seat, fade to later. The branch is dead, a cold sun playing through the
window at the front. Dominic is sitting staring blankly at the computer screen, hands
on the keypad, unmoving. Clara is looking straight forward. A long pause ]

Clara
[ Suddenly ]
Twelve.
[ Another pause. Dominic turns around ]

Dominic
What ?

Clara
I’m just counting the amount of Chinese people walking past the window.

Dominic
Are you ?

Clara
There’s been twelve so far. We’re infested.

Dominic
Infested ?

Clara
Well, this time last year you wouldn’t have seen so many.

Dominic
So many Chinese people ?

Clara
Yes. Ah-ha ! There’s thirteen. Although – did she already pass by ? You can’t always tell with them.

Dominic
Have you ever been sodomised ?

Clara
What ?

Dominic
You can’t tell the difference between Chinese people ? Is it their eyes Clara ?

Clara
No, I’m just saying I can’t always tell the difference, that’s all. I’m not being racist, I’m just being honest.

Dominic
But ?

Clara
No but; I’m not being racist.

Dominic
Why are you counting Chinese people then ?

Clara
To see how many of them pass the window.

Dominic
Of course.
[ He thinks about continuing the conversation, then thinks better of it, returning to his
computer screen ]

Clara
Fourteen.
[ Dominic turns to retort, but the phone rings ]

Dominic
[ Answering ]
Good afternoon, Irish Strength Financial Brokers, Dominic speaking. Can I help you ? Sure, do you have your account number handy ? Sure, I’ll still be here. [ He pauses, waiting for the person on the other line to come back. As he waits, a customer enters, moves up to the window ] Hi, Clara will help you there. Customer on the phone. I’m just waiting for – hello ? [ The customer moves along to Clara, they transact ] Okay, you have the statement there ? It’s – no, are you holding your statement ? Right. You see at the top – on the top right hand corner ? Right, that’s the account number. Can you read that – the top right. Are you holding the statement ? Well – yeah, that’s – now you have it. [ Repeats the number, and as he’s typing a second customer comes in, waits behind the first ] Okay, I’ve got the account in front of me. What can I do for you ? I’m sorry, unfortunately I’m not permitted to give you a balance out over the phone. I’ll be – is there a transaction you want to confirm ? It’s policy. For security. Because you – if you – for reasons of security we can’t read out someone’s account details or balance, in case someone else is trying to gain access to your account. Well – yes, I know it’s probably you. I can’t. It’s just - it’s policy. Sir, it’s not a stupid policy it’s for your own – it’s – I’m very sure of that – I don’t – [ Another customer comes in ] Well how would you like it if someone came into the branch pretending to be you and I gave them out your money ? No that’s – I’m not threatening you. I’m not – I’m just saying that – I’m not threatening you. I’m being calm. I am calm. I’m calm. Dominic. Palmer. We don’t have a manager here in the branch at the moment. No I’m not. I’m not lying – sir, I have no reason to – I’m not lying. If we had a manager don’t you think I’d - okay, I didn’t threaten you – and we have no manager. We have no manager. No sir, we don’t. That’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. Not option. Opinion. Sir I have several customers here and I’m – I’m – sir, I’m not lying, I could take your number and telephone you back but right now I have to serve – I have tried to help you. No, as I’ve said we have no manager. I’m sorry. Please. And you too, sir. [ Hangs up ] Now, next please.

Customer number 1
Hi, I was just wondering if I could have a word with your manager ?
[ Fade to black ]

Okay, so lemme know whether you'd want to read more ( it runs to twenty five pages ). Any critique is welcome.

Dermot

 

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
Hi Dermot.
Well you certainly were clever about formatting for the forum. Instead of whining about it like most posters :)

Your format is a little odd, but that might be an artifact of posting here. Be sure you are absolutely cold on this before showing to anybody who matters.

If you've got six episodes already, you're probably doing to much of that and not enough of tightening them up and preparing "pilot proposal material". (That's what I did on my series, though....I've got over seven hours of script and the thing's being pushed by producers, but hasn't sold :)

You are not in the eye of the TV writing storm here, Dermot. I'd suggest you look into sites more oriented to that. Foremost among them, tvwriter.com , Larry Brody's site. In addition to a forum in which EVERYBODY is interested in TV and many of them accomplised professionals, you'll also find a link there to the People's Pilot Contest, the only contest for pilots. Take a look at some of the past winners for tips on how to propose.

As far as this goes, it lacks focus and sharpness. Like so many first teleplays it wanders along, but doesn't offer any laughs. (I blame this on people watching the Office too much :) When what they should be watching is News Radio.

First episode you want to get the characters and situation out there strong and fast. The peeing scene is useless...might be worth the space later on, but think about it. This is the first scene in your series?????

[ He takes his seat, fade to later. The branch is dead, a cold sun playing through the
window at the front. Dominic is sitting staring blankly at the computer screen, hands
on the keypad, unmoving. Clara is looking straight forward. A long pause ]

Look this passage over. He sits, then go to later in same sentence. The dead branch is not something you need to get into. But hey...A LONG PAUSE???? Not in a sitcom, amigo.

Study format, study some TV scripts. You make a mistake trying to start off copying cerebral, moody stuff. That's done with actors in place and playing up to their mugging and strengths, etc. You need to string out LAUGHS. And have a plot that's going somewhere. For extra points, it's part of a story arc that runs over several episodes. But the main thing is, it's a plot that moves forwards through a series of gags.

Good luck
 
D

Dermot Murphy

Many thanks for the comments - hard to get onto this site more often, hence the delay returning. Unfortunately, posting three pages wasn't enough to get a grip on the characters or the plot of this first episode. However, your points are well-received and taken on board - in particular about gripping an audience from that start.

There is a thru-line running through the series, which obviously isn't touched on in those three pages. The peeing scene plays into it again, is in fact an escalating motif through this episode. And though your point is taken about The Office, I was never a fan. This is more inspired by Curb your Enthusiasm, and as such has to build up from a single character moment, in this case the opening scene. I also - and this is perhaps a personal thing - like the quietness of opening on a moment like this, and seeing where it goes. Much of what happens in the series is based on things that have happened to me, then escalating it to see where it can go. The piece doesn't just take place in an office - however, how are you supposed to see that from the three pages i printed, so again - i should have posted more.

Re "Taking a seat, fading to later" - point taken, however it does get across an intention, in so much as the character takes a seat in work, and we can move to later to see that he is exactly where he started - it's about the boredom, the atmosphere that leads to increasing frustration. Perhaps there is a better way to do it, so that'll go into the rewrite process - in particular taking into account running time and tightening up.

I appreciate the point about studying other pieces, the problem is i have and I'm rarely impressed. I'm a feature-length writer by nature so i studied both script-books and how-to books. With the exception of perhaps "Fawlty Towers," or "Hancock" scripts for sitcoms - and in fact sitcoms themselves - often seem obvious and contrived, not in themselves funny, well-written or character based, something i wanted to get away from - urinating in front of an old woman aside. That's a sidebar that doesn't necessarily take away from my piece being, as you've pointed out, a weak opener, but it's worth thinking about. One could be driven mad trying to recreate the style, the format, the intention of, for example "Father Ted."

As for cerebral, moody - again i understand your point. But unless I'm going to write about the pitfalls of having one too many children, or what it's like to work in a pen factory but never being able to find a pen that works, i'm unsure which direction there is to go in. A lot of sitcom is based not on recognisable situations but on out-there convolutions to keep an audiences interest and maybe get a gasp of shock or laugh from a daft tension as we wait for someone to fall over. I did want to avoid this, and move into a looser, ad-libbed appearing approach. Again, your comment about having actors in place pin-points how this can be a weak approach, but as they say, you write what you know.

I shall lick my wounds, tighten the piece, and move myself to the sites you have described. I very much appreciate the comments you have made. Good luck with your own pending piece.
 
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