How to Nail the First Act of Your Television Pilot - With Pilot Downloads (Killing Eve, Atlanta, This is Us, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, One Day at a Time, The Expanse)

Hosted by Anna Henry

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Anna Henry

Webinar hosted by: Anna Henry

Producer & Development Executive (Clients Worked with Netflix, AMC, Amazon, Sony, HBO and more)

Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well in management at Andrea Simon Entertainment. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, POWER, IN CONTEMPT, TOMMY, VIDA, SEVEN SECONDS, HUNG, CHICAGO FIRE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, THIS IS US, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others. Anna has projects currently in development around the world. She is currently developing procedurals, crime thrillers, dark comedies, YA and Millennial-focused projects, character-driven sci-fi, and recent period. She is a member of HRTS Associates and Greenlight Women. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

You’ve heard that the opening pages of your pilot script are the most important – hook your audience early and they’ll be invested in your show, fall short and producers, managers and executives might not even finish reading your script. At many companies, your script will be handed off to a member of the development team whose job is to just read the first act, then decide whether to pass or flag your script for further consideration. Having a great first act isn’t just a good way to get your pilot noticed; it might be the only way. When you watch a pilot, though, whether on Netflix, HBO or ABC, it can feel like every show is so different, it’s hard to see a pathway to success. Or even if you master one aspect of your opening act, somehow it can still feel like you’ve not done enough.

In a TV pilot, that crucial first act is the most challenging because there is so much you have to do really well, really quickly: you have to introduce your characters, set up your world, and launch your story. What’s more, the first act sets your pilot on solid footing – nail this section and the rest of the pilot seems to develop and flow easily. Get stuck on how to start, and you might never finish writing the pilot that could launch your career. You’ve probably watched outstanding pilots where 10-15 minutes in you’re already making plans to binge the season. What do all those pilots have in common? What techniques do experienced show creators use to give them that early edge? And what exactly do producers, managers development execs and other professionals expect to see in a first act? We have the answers to those questions and much more.

Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well as a manager at Andrea Simon Entertainment. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, POWER, IN CONTEMPT, TOMMY, VIDA, SEVEN SECONDS, HUNG, CHICAGO FIRE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, THIS IS US, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others. Anna has projects currently in development around the world and is incredibly familiar with what goes into a great television pilot.

Anna will analyze pilots more deeply so you can see the tools successful writers use to set their show on the right path from the start. She’ll discuss the ingredients of a pilot in general, including the basic structure, identifying the type or genre of your show, meta-themes, and crafting characters to serve as the audience's entry point. Anna will then delve into the key elements of a first act, as well as a great teaser or cold open, including using framing devices, and a strong out. She will go over tips to writing memorable character descriptions, using physical descriptions, elements of identity, and putting thought into how you name each character. She'll next focus on introduction scenes and using them to generate interest in your characters, using dialogue to establish their voices, and introducing relationships. A vital aspect of a pilot's first act is creating character moments, and Anna will go over effective examples of many different types of these moments, including meeting heroes, meeting villains, meeting supporting characters, establishing the right amount of backstory, and the benefits of having your characters argue. She will then discuss how to create exposition and communicate your world effectively, crafting a mystery and building the rules of your universe, as well as how to avoid overused crutches. Anna will then offer her take on implementing and incorporating tone and themes into the script and how to sneak them in subtly through details and character moments. She will finally lay out how to best use your first act to bring the audience into your story and world, where exactly your story should start, and how to launch your 'A' story and introduce your 'B' and 'C' stories.

 

Examples will be used from one-hour and half-hour shows on network, cable and streaming platforms, PLUS! you will receive pilots for each after the class:

  • THIS IS US - NBC
  • ONE DAY AT A TIME - Netflix / Pop
  • MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL - Amazon
  • ATLANTA - FX
  • KILLING EVE - AMC
  • THE EXPANSE - Syfy / Amazon

 

 

Praise for Anna's Stage 32 webinar:

 

"The webinar was fantastic. I am writing my first one hour drama pilot so this webinar was packed with the exact information that I will be immediately putting to use in my rewrite. The slides were clear, concise and informative. The speaker was excellent at conveying the information I needed."

-Bobby C.

 

"It was really great information. Anna was a terrific host, very knowledgeable and shared a lot of information and tips."

-Marla H.

 

"Comprehensive, insightful. Combined a lot of material I had heard snippets of on character, world dev, etc. but artfully stitched together in one presentation."

-James F.

 

"It was amazing, enlightening - completely. I learned soooo much - especially as a feature writer who's been asked to turn a feature script into a pilot!! Thank you soooooo much."

-Kristin G.

 

 

What You'll Learn

  • Ingredients for a Pilot
    • Identifying the type / genre of your show
    • The importance of a compelling world
    • Our entry point – creating unique, layered characters
    • A checklist for character development
    • Story engine and episodic structure
    • What are meta-themes
    • Types of tone
    • Basic pilot structure and page count
    • Writing a “dense” script
  • What Makes an Exciting Teaser / Cold Open
    • Elements of the opening sequence
    • Incorporating characters
    • Framing devices
    • Our first peek at the world
    • Incorporating theme, tone and story engine
    • Strong out
  • Act One-The Basics
    • Key elements
    • Structure
  • Writing Compelling Character Descriptions
    • Physical descriptions
    • Elements of identity
    • What’s in a name
  • Introduction Scenes
    • Key elements
    • Generating interest in your characters
    • Character voices – how dialogue serves character
    • Additional elements to develop character
    • Introducing relationships
    • Using introduction scenes to accomplish more
  • Character Moments
    • Meeting heroic and relatable leads
    • Meeting villains
    • Meeting supporting characters
    • Introducing ensembles
    • How much backstory
    • Why pilots have newcomers
    • Why characters argue so much
    • Common mistakes
  • Exposition – World Building
    • How to describe your world and communicate it visually
    • Value of specific setting
    • Building a mystery
    • Rules of the universe
    • Overused crutches
  • Incorporating Tone and Themes
    • Early scenes
    • Conveying tone through details
    • Building themes subtly through character scenes
  • How to Bring the Audience Into Your Pilot Story
    • Step-by-step
    • Where to start your story
    • Launching your A story (aka inciting incident)
    • Starting B and C stories
    • How to craft a strong act out
  • Q&A with Anna

About Your Instructor

Anna Henry is a Producer and Development Executive who has worked at CBS, ABC, Nickelodeon, and multiple production companies, as well in management at Andrea Simon Entertainment. Her clients have worked on shows such as THE DEUCE, POWER, IN CONTEMPT, TOMMY, VIDA, SEVEN SECONDS, HUNG, CHICAGO FIRE, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, THIS IS US, and THE FLASH, and have set up projects at AMC, Amazon, Starz, HBO, Sony, Fox, EOne, ITV America, OddLot Entertainment, Corus, and others.

Anna has projects currently in development around the world. She is currently developing procedurals, crime thrillers, dark comedies, YA and Millennial-focused projects, character-driven sci-fi, and recent period. She is a member of HRTS Associates and Greenlight Women.

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Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

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