Episodic and Procedurals: Crafting The Original One-Hour Pilot
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Media Studies
Department: Communication
Course Number: NSRW 3852
Course Format: Seminar
Location: Online
Permission Required: No
  • Media Studies
  • Screenwriting
  • Radio & Television
From period dramas like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire to fairy tale–inspired procedurals like Grimm to musicals like Smash and Glee, the diversity of shows on TV today is unprecedented. The industry is always innovating and looking for fresh ideas. This course begins with a guided analysis of contemporary network and cable pilot scripts, ranging from the serialized (Breaking Bad, Big Love, Mad Men) to the procedural (Grimm, Awake, Psych). Students examine the structures, episodic breaks, and essential elements of functional origin stories. They are challenged to identify the qualities of a script that make it special to viewers. A discussion of dramatic questions explored in the course of a series or season and of unique selling points follows. Each student devises a five- to ten-page treatment or pitch document describing an idea for an original series, including character breakdowns, a pilot synopsis and brief outline of the first season, a description of episode structure (A and B stories), and a statement of theme and tone. After these have been reviewed, students go on to write the first and second acts of their original scripts.
Course Open to: Degree Students