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  • Writer's pictureLee Hamilton

10 tips to craft a winning 30-min TV Pilot

Here's the short and sweet version...

1. Payoff most setups: Try to pay off as many established setups in the same script as possible. A setup with no clear payoff risks being seen as a potential cut and too many unanswered questions can leave a script feeling somewhat unrewarding.

2. Keep the cast small: When there’s only half an hour, it’s advised the core cast doesn’t exceed 5 or 6 characters.

3. Strong characters from the start: Establishing strong, compelling characters from the beginning is essential. Define quirks, motivations, and distinctive traits early on.

4. Streamline subplots: With less time to spare, it’s all the more important that any subplots tie in with the main plot thread at the end.

5. Stick to the expected page count: You need to be able to demonstrate that you can contain story and write to a specific remit, and submitting a script that’s gone over the 30-page mark could be held against you.

6. Buck the trend: Make your script stand out by putting your own original spin, take, or outlook on the subject that everyone else is writing about in the most obvious way.

7. Have a high gag ratio: Obviously, this only applies to sitcoms, comedies, or dramadies, but there’s no such thing as too many gags in a comedy!

8. Write to Budget: Half-hour shows aren’t exactly known for having enormous production costs, so be economical whenever possible.

9. Keep it Marketable: Incorporate universal themes, retain a diverse cast, use a more familiar setting, or introduce broader genre elements to increase marketability without compromising on originality.

10. Have a polished product: No one really has time to help a new writer master the screenwriting basics or to extensively develop their project. A script (and its writer) needs to be ready to go.

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