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Monday, November 07, 2011

Q. We wrote a pilot, found a production company who loves it and have a network biting at it, but they're not completely hooked yet. They seem to be responding to the writing and the humor and the characters, but they're resistant to the central set-up. It's slightly off of center. Truly not that far off, but they have this note of just changing the central set-up to something different, anything really. But changing the set-up will fundamentally shift the character dynamics. We're going to schedule more talks with our network contacts, before going in officially to pitch, to get a better sense of what they are thinking but in the end...
What? No. Don't go in until you've fixed it. Networks hate when you ask them to do your thinking for you.
WTF?! How do we convince them that this idea, as conceived, works the way it does because of the set-up.
No, it doesn't. Not for them. They just told you that.
Our production company is equally as baffled by these notes, so it's not just us. They want to figure out how to explain who she is and how it works in the story so that this idea can move forward to the next phase. Any tips of breaking this down for execs?

You don't CONVINCE a network of anything. You SHOW them the thing they want.

They have basically told you that they like the territory, but not the setup. You need to blow up your set up and start thinking in fresh ways. Take it in a new direction.

Blow it up. Make the girl a boy. Make the boy a girl. Make the dad a son. Make the rich guy poor. Add a character. Subtract a character.

Their note ("change this, we don't know how") may mean, "you don't really have a hook yet. Get one."

On a show we developed for TeenNick, we had a show without a hook, and the network note was "could she have an ability." Of course they didn't want the lead character to be Supergirl. What they meant was "you have no hook, get one."

On Naked Josh, we had a show about a geeky college freshman that they sort of liked, but not entirely. We made it a show about a geeky professor, and sold it. Basically we wrote the "sequel" to the series we were gonna do, and made Josh 8 years older. Instead of being a sexual loser, he was a sexual winner.

Never ask a network how to change something. They won't like it. You're supposed to make their job easier, not harder. You won't like it, either, because they'll tell you something that took 15 seconds to think of ("could she have an ability?") and you'll be stuck with it.

Instead, figure out what they're bumping on and then fix that thing. Radically. If you go too far, they can always reel you back in, but they'll feel you listened to them.


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