Pitch to Pilot: Writing TV Drama
Format: 6-session Saturday course (Oct 30, Nov 6, Nov 13, Dec 11, Jan 15, Feb 26)
Times: 10.30am - 4.30pm
Capacity: Max. 6 participants
Many of our best screenwriters learned their craft in serial drama. It is a world which is highly competitive, and it can also be highly rewarding – which is why plenty of the best stay working there. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s a difficult world to break into. This course with writer/producer Neil Arksey aims to boost your chances.
The course is aimed at experienced writers in theatre, prose, radio, comedy, advertising, or related fields, who wish to discover how TV serial drama works.
On six Saturdays, over four months, six participants will gain a thorough understanding of how continuing and serial dramas operate. The group will be taken though a step by step introduction to the various techniques and methods employed to put together these dramas.
The course will be delivered from the point of view of a writer, with an emphasis on three main areas:
- What is required of screenwriters who are contracted to write for continuing and serial dramas.
- Developing your own original idea for a drama.
- Translating that idea into synopses, outlines, storylines, beats, scene-by-scenes and scripts.
In addition to a group project designed to enable writers to swiftly absorb some of the techniques and processes they will need to develop their own projects, each writer will also develop their own serial drama outline package, complete with a first draft pilot episode. Participants will leave the course much better equipped to understand and work in the script and story offices of a continuing/serial drama.
Topics covered in the classes include:
- Serial versus Series, Continuing versus Returning
- Team Story Development
- Original Drama Ideas
- Character, Setting and Story
- Plot and Structure
- Beats and Storylines
- Scene by Scenes
- Script Editing, Revising and Redrafting
- Script Reports
- Industry insights
The course will examine the development of a continuing serial drama in depth and trace each step of how productions are managed in-house, from initial idea to full concept, storylines, block outlines, futures and scripts. In parallel with this, each participant will also be given the opportunity to develop an original serial drama idea of their own.
Applicants will be expected to have had some (not necessarily professional) writing experience. They will be required to complete substantial in-class and homework assignments in order to achieve the course objective of completing a full outline package and draft pilot script. Email access and sharing email contact are essential.
The course has been designed with lengthy breaks between sessions to maximise writing time and allow participants to complete the scripts of their original drama projects.
By the final week, writers that have completed all their assignments will have developed their own serial drama idea all the way to a first draft pilot script and received one-to-one feedback on their project from Neil.
All sessions take place from 10.30am to 4.30pm.
- Introductions. Course timetable and outline.
- Different kinds of drama. Serial, series, continuing. Production context etc.
- Each participant will be developing their individual original serial drama to pilot.
- Brainstorming ideas for the Group Project.
- The Outline Package – what it’s comprised of.
- Group Project: Pitch Group Project ideas. Choose. Discuss setting; core characters etc.
Homework: Individual Project: prepare to pitch idea / Group Project: brainstorming ideas for stories
- Individual Project: First pitch of serial drama idea.
- Group Project: create the beats for pilot story strand.
- Storylining – strands and beats.
- Pitch, choose and allot pilot stories for Group Project.
Homework: Individual Project: revise idea if necessary and complete outline package for next week / Group Project: story beats for designated story strands
- Individual Project: Pitching loglines, synopses and other elements of revised outline package.
- Group Project: sharing/discussing story beats.
- Turning the story strands into an episode scene-by-scene.
- Individual Project: clarifying the story strands and creating the beats for them.
Homework: Individual Project: beats ready for a first draft scene-by-scene next week
- Individual Project: pilot episode scene-by-scenes.
- Discussion of the in-house team and working methods of a continuing drama production office; and also the relationship of this to freelance writers.
- Turning the scene-by-scene into a script – scene descriptions and dialogue.
- Script editing and revising drafts.
Homework: Individual Project: writing first draft of pilot script
- Individual Project: Table Reads.
Homework: Individual Project: revise and complete pilot script & full outline package, to deliver by email before individual session.
Individual Project: Series of one-to-one meetings. Each writer will receive a verbal script report on their First Draft and Outline Package, and advice on further development.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned a great deal about what it takes to write for serial television drama. Neil is a highly knowledgeable and thoughtful teacher, who not only helped us form and improve our scripts from the seed of an idea to a more complete piece, but also gave us practical insight about the industry and made each session fun and enjoyable. Thank you Neil!"
Neil was fantastic. He was clear and synthetic, not dwelling on his personal achievements or what being a writer means to him but instead focusing on giving us the practical tools needed to make progress and the right insights based on a vast experience. The group exercises have allowed us to become very fond and caring of one another by the end of the course, which I find to be a remarkable thing as we are all from such different walks of life. There was space to be critically constructive to others. Here, Neil had constructed a balance and a trust strong enough for everyone to speak truthfully and receive honest and generous feedback.
"I came to this course to improve my scene writing and came away having massively improved my story writing. It is incredible how elusive story can be and this course nailed it. Neil Arksey is a highly experienced and insightful tutor who gives 110% to each student. I learned the true nature of what a 'beat' is and how to craft a coherent visual story. The work was challenging and intense in the best of ways. I enjoyed working with my very talented peers and cannot recommend the course enough."
"I started out with a kernel of an idea and ended up with a proposal pack! The combination of the group work and the individual projects really worked for me, and allowed me to understand the best methods for properly realising a tv drama concept rather than trying to write a script straight off! Neil taught me that preparation is everything - you can't solve a jigsaw if you don't have the pieces - and he is a great teacher. The classes are well structured and most importantly, they are fun. These tools will stay with me when I work up any script idea from now on, and I completed the course with so much more inspiration than when I started."