By: Laura Huie
Shore Scripts created the anatomy articles in response to repeated requests to share successful scripts from our contests so that other emerging screenwriters could learn from their examples. Placing in a screenplay contest can create value for a writer’s IP and so meeting this request presented a challenge. How do you share what needs to stay private – at least for a while?
Deconstructing what made our Judges and readers select a script for placement, rather than publishing the script in its entirety, was a way to meet this challenge. And, we think, it is even more, useful to writers considering entering our contests. We thank our former Winners and Finalists for sharing their scripts with us and allowing us to share our evaluations with a wider community. Read on to find out what, for us, makes a great half-hour pilot script.
We’re going to break down the key elements of the 2022 Grand Prize Winner of our Half-Hour TV Pilot contest: MONKEY WRENCH, written by Ian Masters and Jon Smith.
LOGLINE: A geriatric punk re-forms a 1980s eco-terrorist group in a Cheshire retirement home to plot one last triumphant act of eco-sabotage against the UK’s nuclear future.
When writing a television show, executives want not only to see an original premise and compelling characters but that you have the imagination to sustain these things throughout a whole season (and more). So, if you’ve ever wondered what else makes a successful half-hour script, keep reading!
Not only do you need a strong core concept that has immediate appeal, but your idea also needs to be big enough to carry the series for as many seasons as possible. When writing a TV pilot, the first thing you need to consider is whether your premise has a series engine, or what drives every single episode in your television series.
One way to determine whether your idea has enough legs is to ask yourself if you can easily picture the ending or conclusion. If you can, your idea may be more suited to a movie, but if your concept contains lots of potential outcomes, and avenues, and creates new questions—then your idea could become a great match for a television series.
MONKEY WRENCH is about a grandmother with conviction and an attitude, an agenda, and a talent for acting. The protagonist, Elsie Cunningham, is on a mission to deal a fatal blow to Britain’s nuclear industry and she is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve it. In this first episode, we get a strong sense of the series arc—Elsie’s fight against Beaufort Power—through her combative visit to their headquarters. On a more familial note, Elsie also clashes with her no-nonsense, practical daughter Genevieve, who insists on placing Elsie into an assisted care home.
The first few pages of any story need to grab the reader’s attention right from the start, and one great way to do that is to subvert expectations. In MONKEY WRENCH, a bomb hoax is gripping and the surprise of finding an old lady taped up to the device is a terrific hook.
Elsie might say the stakes are planet Earth, but on a more personal level, this is possibly her last mission – although she might not be ready to admit that to herself just yet. We will no doubt learn more about what lies behind Elsie’s convictions as the story unfolds, but perhaps she wants to go out with dignity, fighting for what she perceives to be right until the very end.