Breaking a pilot

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:

Katie-McGrath-asPortiaWhat 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
Irene JonesWhat 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
 BrianWhat 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
MichaelsWhat 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
'Bruiser' Jenkins

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
Picture shows: RICHARD ARMITAGE as ThorntonWhat 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
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4 thoughts on “Breaking a pilot

    • I think so. I’m still trying to decide which mystery to feature in the pilot. I’m leaning towards the prostitute/priest story because it has some literal flash-bang. But the first few chapters of Jewel have to be in the pilot because it’s the origin story.

      • If I were you, I would do an original story. One that has flash-bang, perhaps some mistaken identity or false accusation, and a little bit of mystery left over, as if to hint at a wider plot.
        But that’s just what I would do. You do what you feel is best for your story.

  1. You may be right. I’ve been thinking about how to better weave her arrival in London with a crime she has to solve. Whereas the first few chapters of the book occur over weeks, I have less than two days (according to my books and advice from others) to cover in the pilot. That means a simple crime, and a quick solve. Thanks for the advice Rami, I may hit you up for more over the coming months, so keep it coming!

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