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Writing the “Gortimer Gibbon” Amazon Studios series pilot – a brief history in tweets

These tweets mark my progress as I wrote the TV pilot script and proposal for my kid’s show, “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street”, which was quickly optioned by Amazon Studios. Comments are interspersed to clarify or amplify where needed.

You can visit my Amazon Studios project page and download the completed pilot script for yourself.

The tweets below are embedded live tweets. You can interact with them just like any tweet on Twitter’s website. Reply to, retweet, or favorite any one of them right here in the post.

[NOTE: Can’t see the tweets? Read this story over at Storify: The Gortimer Gibbon Pilot as it Happened]

This was my credo for writing my pilot. I wanted to create something I would have loved as a kid, and even now as an adult, something that didn’t feel corporate and slick. And I’m tired of seeing this message that you only have value if you have a special awesome talent. I got a little fed up watching Disney Channel:

The line was: “You are straw.”

Turns out the script template was very usable. The only drawback – no MOREs and CONTINUTEDs for page breaks. Scrivener frustrates the hell out of me. They come so close to being all you need to write and format a manuscript, and then stop short because they insist on only being a “drafting” tool.

Scrivener does many amazing things and is incredibly complex and elegant, it really wouldn’t be so hard for it to go one more step and become great at formatting.

Maddening.

I ended up not using FOUNTAIN for this draft because the script templates worked very well. My biggest problem with FOUNTAIN is that I don’t know what the hell page I’m on. That wouldn’t be an issue if I were drafting a feature — I’ve written enough of those that I have a good feel for it. But this is my first TV script and I was learning as I went. I had to know where I was in the story page-wise.

If you don’t feel ridiculously overconfident at some point, you are probably doing it wrong.

This next tweet was regarding the wonderment of PETE & PETE:

Starting, as it often is, was the hardest part.

Except for the final formatting touches.

Since I normally write action-adventure, and my pilot was filled with quirky characters and quirkier dialogue, I thought it might be a good idea to have a reading. I enjoyed the reading of my one-act play MONSTER TEST, but that was put on as part of a class and I wasn’t sure I was ready to organize a reading on my own.

I reached out to a playwriting friend who said she would put me in touch with someone who could help round up child actors, but I was never contacted. Maybe it was for the best, as I don’t think I ultimately needed the reading and it would have added a lot of stress to my life.

Scrivener did have a spell-check bug that was quite annoying. I think it’s fixed now.

It never panned out, as I said.

I ultimately decided it was unnecessary and amateurish.

For the uninitiated, a “WIP” is a Work in Progress. The quotes indicate a line of dialogue from my WIP.

One of my characters was going to have a teepee in her back yard. Not a wigwam. Or was it the other way around? Anyway, I realized there was supposed to be a heat-wave and it didn’t make sense to have kids camping out in a teepee, so I put them in a pool instead.

The outline abandoned me about half-way through this project. That’s almost always a Good Thing.

Terrifying, but I can’t argue with the results.

You know that place in your story that you are afraid to go? GO THERE.

Yes, this is pilot-related.

Had a nasty case of food poisoning that kept me down for three days. When I wasn’t feeling horrible, I was writing. I’m not such a trooper, but the project really had its hooks in me.

I almost wish this was true. MR SHOW did a sketch where people in a typical fast-food commercial suddenly started dropping f-bombs (“This burger is FUCKING GREAT!”) It was hilarious to see swearing in that context. Though, I supposed some people would get all touchy about swearing in a kid’s TV show.

Pondering this lead to a fun running-gag in the pilot script, though.

I really went completely off the map with this one. It made me nervous until I realized — if it doesn’t scare the fudge out of you, it’s probably not worth doing.

I’m convinced to you could write anything to this piece of music and it would turn out to be heartrendingly poignant.

I really have to learn to stay on a more even keel. The notes were extremely helpful and were hardly any work at all to implement. It was mostly a matter of cutting the script down to size.

The worst thing to happen to chocolate since German Chocolate Cake.

There was a moment I worried I had gotten it all wrong about crawlspaces — mostly because I live in California and we don’t have crawlspaces or basements. Then I realized I could just make shit up, it doesn’t matter.

Felt a stab of panic when I saw the first shows had been picked already for the Development Slate. There’s no “due date” or deadline or anything associated with submitting to Amazon Studios, so it’s easy to to lose that sense of urgency.

I had worked so quickly and so intensely I had mostly lost my objectivity. Very much depended on my Beta reader to steer me right.

It wasn’t over yet — I still had to construct the series “mini-bible” or pitch document. It was harder, much harder, than writing the pilot script. Ultimately, I was never satisfied with it.

The two major inspirations for GORTIMER.

Seriously, I stole the format from THE CROW for the mini-bible.

This was another huge influence on my pilot script.

I truly fell in love with my characters on a level I never really had before. I realized how much this project really meant to me. I didn’t want it to end up in the trunk like all the rest.

I loved writing the TV pilot — and I loved the results even more. But coming off a project can be a tricky thing emotionally. Post-partum depression can set in quickly. Fortunately I had another project lined up that I was very excited about. It’s good when you can do that — jump right in to something else just as fun and exciting.

Hard work is not always rewarded. In this case, I was very, very lucky.

Featured Image: “Retro Twitter” by David Glover. Used under Creative Commons License.

6 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Dave! This sounds like a rare kids’ show I’d actually like! Really excited for you and looking forward to following your progress.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Jordan! I do think the “secret audience” for this show will be adults like us. I only hope kids like it too!

      Reply

  2. I’m sure you’ve gotten tons of advice from “experts” saying you should follow the Disney/ABC Family model… after all, it works for Disney. Screw ’em.

    I am so glad you stuck to your vision. We will all be better for it.

    Congratulations! I know how hard you’ve worked for this.

    Isaac

    Reply

    1. Thanks, man. You and me, we are the NEW experts!

      Reply

  3. I like it:) Very cool way to share the developing process!! Inspiring pay off on your hard work….doesn’t always happen, but so exciting that it did.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Lynsie. The option is one step in the right the direction, and I”m grateful. We’ve got a ways to go, but I hope we’ll get there. Stay tuned.

      Reply

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