Ok, so the feedback from the production company is that there were elements of my pilot outline that they really liked, but the mystery I chose (with Viscount Snowden and his wife) was not one of them.
So, back to the drawing board we go!
The ‘notes’ as they are called in TV-land are that the thing they love about Portia is her outsider status – as a Canadian in London, as a woman in a man’s field, that kind of thing. They would like the first case she takes on to be demonstrative of that lens.
What kind of cases would Portia be attracted to given her background?
What observations would she make because of her outsider lens?
What crime would seem important to her and the subjects because of their shared experiences?
I’ve also been thinking about my personal connection to Portia (thanks to my friend Kathryn for suggesting it) and the whole idea of ‘passing’ for white. Maybe I can incorporate that into the pilot as well.
So here I go again my friends, into the breach. See you on the other side.
I’ve taken Rami’s good advice to create a whole new mystery as the central plot in this TV pilot. I’ve picked Philip Snowden, 1st Viscount and member of the privy council as my mark, specifically that his life is being threatened due to his stance against government relief during the Great Depression.
Stay tuned for more spoilers!
I’ve started the process of ‘breaking’ the pilot. According to the multitude of books I’ve now read on writing for TV (that post is coming soon), breaking an episode is about breaking down the elements of the story. There are lots of different stages to breaking an episode, and it varies depending on your experience and the demands of the network, but I decided to start with breaking down my characters and what had to come out of them in the pilot:
|What happens to Portia in this pilot?
Portia Adams discovers her connection to 221 Baker Street, and takes on her first case trying to find prostitutes that are going missing in the Whitechapel district of London.
What is the first thing to know about Portia? She is alone.
What do we need to reveal about Portia in the pilot?
- She is alone and without options
- She is highly intelligent
- She has trust issues
|What happens to Adler in this pilot?
Adler is finally able to reveal herself to Portia, her granddaughter, she begins her campaign of making Portia a social darling.
What is the first thing to know about Adler? That she is a tough old broad.
What do we need to reveal about Adler in the pilot?
- Demonstrate her extreme loyalty to Portia (above all else)
- Demonstrate her disregard for legality
- Demonstrate her intelligence
| What happens to Brian in this pilot?
Brian is confronted with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and meets Portia Adams, and starts helping her with her case.
What is the first thing to know about Brian? That he is a smart rookie detective with high morals.
What do we need to reveal about Brian in the pilot?
- His lifelong admiration of Holmes and Watson
- His love for his family
- His instant attraction to Portia
|What happens to Michaels in this pilot?
Michaels is also dealing with the corruption at Scotland Yard, and will have a fight with a lawyer over missing evidence.
What is the first thing to know about Michaels? That his job is everything. He has nothing else, so it’s the most important thing in his life.
What do we need to reveal about Michaels in the pilot?
- Demonstrate that his job is the most important thing in his life
- Reveal his hatred for Holmes
- Demonstrate his distrust of Portia
What happens to Jenkins in this pilot?
Jenkins and Adler are working on a minor blackmail scheme.
What is the first thing to know about Jenkins? His loyalty to Adler and their friendship is tantamount.
What do we need to reveal about Jenkins in the pilot?
- He loves Adler (maybe as more than a friend)
- He’s a criminal with a past
- He’s someone Portia can trust
|What happens to Gavin in this pilot?
He is paid off to corrupt a key piece of evidence in a case against a local politician.
What is the first thing to know about Gavin? He is brilliant and corrupt.
What do we need to reveal about Gavin in the pilot?
- His intelligence
- His disdain for everyone else’s intelligence or contribution
- His attraction to Portia
Last week I had the opportunity to workshop my TV pilot with the teams at EOne and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) at their North York campus location. First of all, it’s a gorgeous place to spend a week, just take a look:
E.P. Taylor’s historic Windfields Estate in Toronto, otherwise known as CFC’s campus
Secondly, we (Kat Sandler, Michael Stewart and I) met with a fantastic range of writers and producers who took us through the stages of adapting our work for television.
Al MacGee, Lynn Coady, Martin Gero, David Shore, Morwyn Brebner and Michael MacLennan all gave us so much to think about and were incredibly open about their own journeys.
Now all we have to do is write! Next post will be about the pilot shows I’ve been watching to break them down into their act structure (thanks to Al and his day of deconstructing).
I’ve recently been given the opportunity to write a pilot for a Portia Adams Adventure TV Series, and I’ve decided to add this process to my website as well, in the hopes that fans find the development of interest.
The journey begins at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, where I attended several fascinating sessions.
gave a great demonstration of how to break down a season into acts that I’m excited to put into action. I got a chance to speak to him after his talk about pilots, and he had some specific tips and tricks for me.
’s breakdown of Damien was fascinating. He played the first episode for us but paused every few beats to explain how each scene developed.
The session that really made it hard to sleep that night, though, was Corey Mandell
’s TV Series Engine. His By Association
concept is one I’d like to try, in conjunction with the 3-act process Falk demonstrated.
This photo was taken by reporters from The Brandon Sun
I had a fabulous time travelling around Manitoba for Book Week 2016, and I cannot thank all the fans, librarians, teachers and students enough for that.
I got the opportunity to meet students at Crocus Plains School, Ravenscourt School, Wellington School, Samuel Burland School, MacGregor Elementary and Yellowquill, and many other fabulous students along the way at libraries and events.
Thank you so much for the memories!
That’s me holding one my fav books of the year The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage: The (mostly) True Story Of The First Computer
This year I was honored to support two Book City locations in Toronto, the St. Clair and Yonge store and then, the Beaches store. What a fantastic day for independent bookstores! Thank you to everyone who came out!
I’m getting psyched for my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in May, and doing a bunch of prep work.
In addition to the bookstores and libraries listed on the left, I’m visiting eight schools and 14 classrooms of kids ranging from grade 5 to 12.
Stay tuned for more!
Once in a while someone does you a huge favour in the research department and this is one of those times:
Now that No Matter How Improbable is out in the real world, I’ve been thinking about doing a bit more Wattpad writing.
I had a lot of fun writing Jewel of the Thames from Brian Dawes’ point of view (which became the Wattpad story ‘And in Walked Portia Adams‘).
For Thrice Burned, I think I will write from Annie Coleson’s POV, and I’m really excited to write Improbable from Gavin Whittaker’s POV (hence the graphic you see on the left).
How are you folks using Wattpad? Just reading and commenting or showcasing some of your own writing?