Mar 12

3 Things Before You Write Your Sitcom Pilot

You’ve had an idea for a sitcom. You need to find out not only if it has legs for a pilot but also for a series. Now, you don’t necessarily have to write al the episodes, especially if you’re trying to get an agent. You just need a pilot script. But it would benefit you knowing if it would work as a series. Particularly if you get to the point where someone wants to know more information about it and whether it would work as a series. Or if you decide to produce it yourself.

Here’s what I did.

After exploring the information provided by Dan Harmon on The Hero’s Journey, which I have prior experienced with, as well referencing Ellen Sandler’s book. Both of these are mentioned in a previous post. I after a lot of research, began working an idea for an original sitcom pilot which I’ll call Untitled Jason Peck Pilot (UJPP). Technically, I have 3 ideas for original sitcom pilots, but this is the one that has resonated the most with me right now. I may go through this process again at a later date.

1. Write an Outline

I plotted out an outline. My outline is 2 pages long, as I’ve left in the act the act breakdowns in. I think one page should be enough. And if you need to know, the font is Courier and the size is 12. This is the industry standard. In fact, I used Courier Prime create by screenwriter John August as it’s a little thicker and easier to read than regular Courier. I figured this is only for my information, so what does it matter?

2. Write a Treatment

I then expanded this into a treatment, which is currently 2 pages. I think that’s about the right length. I did this so I am familiar with the process, and so it provides me with enough information I’m not winging it when it comes to writing the script.

3. Write a Series Overview

I also decided to write a series overview. This was originally because I was considering entering into the Sundance Episodic Storytelling program, but I didn’t enter in the end. I didn’t enter because I didn’t want to rush the project for the sake of the contest. However, it provided me with a lot of useful information so I could see if the project has legs for a full series.

Here’s the breakdown of what I included in the 5-page document, which is about the right length:

Show’s Themes
Central Characters
World of the Series
First Season Episodes: Plot Synopsis
Season One: Story Arcs & Character Arcs
Future Seasons (Broad plot outlines for each season)

This is all useful information to help explore the idea of your sitcom pilot. I am in the position now of having done all this preliminary work, and have now written the Cold Open for my pilot. But, to borrow from Neil Gaiman, I just have to finish the damn thing. Whatever you’re working on just finish it.