Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CRTC Reports Make Me Crafty

Brain is still aching after wading through the CRTC's new TV policy report (HERE) from yesterday and today's Value of Local Television Signal report (HERE)...38,000+ words to suss and parse. And my puny thoughts thus far are that for every step forward there seems to be another step back or sideways...Denis McGrath covers it all really well in this overview HERE at Dead Things On Sticks...so instead I am going to continue what began this week in my Mamet post with more screenwriting crafty goodness.

The One Pager.

There's an excellent post HERE from the UK's Michelle Lipton on writing the "one page outline" or as she describes..."a one page selling document designed to generate interest in your project from producers."

I like this post a lot because even though we hear that producers and broadcasters need pilot scripts and bibles or mini-bibles or treatments or season arcs and character bios when you pitch them a potential project, if, at the end of the day you can summarize your concept in one clear concise effective and entertaining page, I feel you will come out further ahead more times than not. Prospective buyers or optioners of your projects will say they need all of the above to judge the value of your property, but in reality they don't really want to read all that stuff.

At least not at first.

As Lipton writes in her post:

I like to say what it is right at the top underneath the title so that whoever you’re giving it to knows what they’re reading before they start. I think it makes a difference to how you think about it as you go through the outline if you know it’s a one-off play, a long-running drama series, a three part serial, a sitcom or what have you. It especially helps to know whether it’s a comedy or a drama, and if it’s a specific genre, that helps too.


AN INTERESTING CHARACTER has a GOAL, in the way of which are various OBSTACLES which he overcomes/does not overcome and ultimately LEARNS SOMETHING.

This is a very formulaic approach to writing a logline, but it works. Telling your story in one sentence is not an easy thing to do well, and it might well take longer to get this right than it does to write the rest of the outline. But it’s worth it. It not only narrows your story down to its essence and keeps it clear in your mind what your story is really about, it helps a producer coming to your outline cold so they know what they’re being offered.

Look at it from the producer’s point of view. You’re busy working on loads of different projects in different stages of development. You’re honing pitches to take to commissioners, giving notes on drafts of scripts, dealing with casts and budgets and technical or practical problems on projects already in production, you’ve got media, marketing and press to deal with, agents and contracts and legal departments to worry about – and on top of all that, you’ve got a mountain of new material to wade through to decide which projects you want to put into development next. Some of these will be from agents, some will be from writers you already know or have worked with before, and some will be from writers you’ve never heard of who’ve dropped you a polite email asking if you’d like to look at their outline…

There is every chance that the project you, the writer, is developing and trying to sell, will be too close to another project already commissioned or in development for them to be able to take it any further. A producer might also have preferences about which genres or types of stories they’re personally interested in. If they can tell right from the off that this is a project they’re interested in because they’ve read a good logline summing it all up right at the start, they’re going to read the rest of your proposal with a more open mind.

I think Lipton's exactly right. And her post proceeds to walk you through the process section by section and makes some really good suggestions as to how to put your one page pitch...erm, outline...together. Seriously good...go read it. Now.

And as to whether having a good one page pitch will work in a new Canadian TV landscape after the CRTC decisions? Well, I need to reread those 38,000 words again to see if any of my current ideas would be appropriate for the likes of Star! or TVtropolis, which is where I could see a lot Cancon ending up in the very near future.

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