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 one-hour pilot script.
A one-hour TV pilot is a fantastic calling card to show your unique writing style and voice to agents, managers, and other executives. Having a well-crafted one-hour pilot can help you find writing jobs, be accepted into fellowships, or gain representation by placing in well-established writing contests.
As mentioned in our Anatomy of a Great Half-Hour Pilot article, television executives are not only looking for a solid premise but also a series engine that can sustain your plot through several seasons. Today, we’re looking at THE BERLIN AGENT by Kevin Noonan, the grand-prize winner of our 2022 One-Hour TV Pilot contest.
LOGLINE: Set in 1956 during the Cold War, a murder in East Berlin draws a disgraced British intelligence officer and a cynical German detective into a conspiracy of espionage, scientific discovery, and the future (and the past) of world history.
Every great story begins with a strong core concept that intrigues an audience from the beginning but also entices them to keep watching past the initial pilot episode. 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.
Remember, with a one-hour pilot, you have to create enough ideas and threads to sustain six, eight, ten, or more episodes in the first season alone. One way to determine if your premise has 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.
At first glance, THE BERLIN AGENT has a deceptively simple premise. What happens when a low-level British agent, Conor Keane, is caught up in a lethal skirmish with an enemy espionage service on their home turf? Answer: He is captured and then framed for the murders they perpetrated. He is not important enough to be rescued – or is he? As the story progresses, it becomes clear that there is more to this incident than the regular tit-for-tat between rival agencies.
From this brief plot summary, there are multiple ways that this story can twist and turn. It’s a great start to propel the rest of a successful, well-crafted series. Presumably, the audience will follow Conor as he works to prove his innocence while unraveling the mystery between espionage agencies.