Crushing Your 2nd Draft - Rewriting Your Pilot

Hosted by Wes Ambrecht

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Wes Ambrecht

Webinar hosted by: Wes Ambrecht

Director of Development at Viewfinder Pictures

Wes Ambrecht is a bleeding-heart romantic and a self-proclaimed Renaissance Man. Recently, Wes has served as the Director of Development for Viewfinder Pictures where he helped set up projects at FX, HBO and Amazon. Wes has worked closely with James Franco's Rabbit Bandini Productions, producing both the upcoming feature film "Killing Animals" and the digital project "Departure.” He also worked in the Motion Picture Literary department at the Gersh Agency. The eldest of 3 children, Wes originally hails from the small Long Island suburb of Bellmore. His well-documented love of pop culture initially drove him towards entertainment journalism, and a BS in Communication from Cornell University. But, his desire to create content quickly got the better of him. Wes enrolled in UCLA's prestigious MFA Producer's Program. One year later, he produced the university's first sanctioned television pilot, "doubleblind," which went on to win the Caucus Award for Best Television/New Media Program. Not long after, his branded entertainment spot, “No Doubt About,” was named a finalist in the Sprite Young Filmmaker Series.  Full Bio »

Your host, Wes Ambrecht, has helped sell projects to FX, HBO and Amazon and previously worked with Gersh!

So you’ve finished your pilot, congratulations! The first step is out of the way. Now, it’s time to get things into shape. Very rarely does a first draft come out like a golden egg. In fact, by the time you actually see something on TV, it’s probably been through upwards of twenty drafts. From initial notes and revisions to producer notes, studio notes, network notes and maybe even a note or two from an actor who thinks there’s a better way to word that one line.

In this webinar, Wes Ambrecht will walk you through the process of getting your pilot to a place where it’s ready to be looked at by representation and producers. A writer, producer and former development exec, Wes has been on both sides of the table. This class will offer an unabashed look at the development process and help students see their pilot not just for its story but also its component parts.


What You'll Learn:

  • What type of pilot did you write? Being able to confidently discuss the genre and format is the first step. Is it a multicam? If so, did you make sure to double-space?
    • I want to hear from the class - hit me with your elevator pitches!
  • Digging down, the next question you have to ask yourself is “what is this really about?” I can’t tell you how many pilots I’ve read that lack a clear answer to this question. They may have a clever idea or premise but they don’t actually say anything and that can often be the kiss of death.
  • Building off of the last bullet point, is your pilot thematically rich? We'll discuss THE AMERICANS pilot and how it had a ton to say about the 80s but also about present day politics. 
    • We'll send you THE AMERICANS pilot once you sign up so you're prepared.
  • Character! Character! Character! Is your lead well-defined and unique in the vast landscape of TV? If it’s a comedy, what makes them funny? What makes them tick? How about the supporting characters? Archetypes exist for a reason and you may want to embrace them but there are also ways to break the mold.
    • CASE STUDY: HOUSE
  • Detour to discuss outlining for a moment. I hate outlining. It’s the bane of my existence but it also saved me on a recent pilot that I developed. Here’s why…
  • WHY NOW? The pilot that outlining saved me on wasn’t timely in concept. In fact, it was pretty staid. But, through the process of outlining, I found a way to make it incredibly relevant to the world around us today, even while setting it in a place more fantastical than our own. One of the first questions every writer will be asked in a pitch meeting is “Why you? Why now?”
  • Understanding act breaks. The way that acts are broken has changed over time and many pilots no longer have act breaks explicitly written in but they remain exceptionally important. You need to pepper cliff hanger moments throughout your pilot to keep the audience (and more imminently the reader) from tuning out.
  • Building off the above note. ENDING IS EVERYTHING. With the sheer number of things on TV today, it is very easy for viewers to sample a pilot and never return. What is the hook that your pilot has to bring them back? This is a more difficult question for situational comedies or multicams and that’s worth discussing too.
  • Time for a dialogue pass! If you’ve locked down the tone and the characters then it’s time to do a dialogue pass. Does everyone in your pilot have a specific voice? If I read the line of dialogue would you know who said it?
    • CASE STUDY: NEW GIRL and how it stumbled to define the voices of its leads before becoming one of the single best examples of specificity.
  • Where does it live? To bring things full circle, in a way, writers need to be asking themselves who the audience for their pilot is and where it lives in the greater TV landscape. The peak TV bubble has burst and the business is contracting in certain respects. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

About Your Instructor:

Wes Ambrecht is a bleeding-heart romantic and a self-proclaimed Renaissance Man. Recently, Wes has served as the Director of Development for Viewfinder Pictures where he helped set up projects at FX, HBO and Amazon. Wes has worked closely with James Franco's Rabbit Bandini Productions, producing both the upcoming feature film "Killing Animals" and the digital project "Departure.” He also worked in the Motion Picture Literary department at the Gersh Agency.

The eldest of 3 children, Wes originally hails from the small Long Island suburb of Bellmore. His well-documented love of pop culture initially drove him towards entertainment journalism, and a BS in Communication from Cornell University. But, his desire to create content quickly got the better of him. Wes enrolled in UCLA's prestigious MFA Producer's Program. One year later, he produced the university's first sanctioned television pilot, "doubleblind," which went on to win the Caucus Award for Best Television/New Media Program. Not long after, his branded entertainment spot, “No Doubt About,” was named a finalist in the Sprite Young Filmmaker Series. 


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