Whether a good idea gets our next academy award, or remains an anecdotal and ephemeral inspiration mostly depends, even if it’s obvious, on how we work on that idea. All of us who have ever shown interest in the world of audiovisual scripts have often heard that what makes the big difference in the creative world is not the “what”, but “how” it is told. Beyond incurring in futile dissertations on the matter, given that it is evident that an idea by itself is not enough to make a movie or a TV series, we will try to delve into something that, no matter how obvious it may seem, many screenwriters sadly overlook:
How to choose the format in which the idea will lead.
By format, we mainly refer to the type of project we are preparing, whether it is a horror feature film or a thirty-minute-per-episode sitcom series. In this, as in everything else, there are a multitude of options and variables, and in the contemporary audiovisual world the alternatives are increasingly innovative. Therefore, the need to know how to properly format an idea is imperative, because otherwise, the chances of shipwreck increase a lot.
Is my idea strong enough to sustain a series of sixty-minute-per-episode, or is it better to reduce it to just thirty minutes? Do I have enough content for a feature film or a TV miniseries? How many seasons can I sustain the intrigue around the central dramatic issue?
Many times, we find ourselves in the situation of listening to a masterful premise, a magical elevator pitch, but when it comes to seeing the project in more depth, we realize that the idea cannot be sustained within the format chosen by the screenwriter. And it is not that all premises are suitable to sustain five seasons of twenty episodes of one hour each. Not all short films can be a feature film, nor can all movies be adapted to TV series and vice versa. A 160-page feature film might work better as a series, and a sitcom probably won’t be able to sustain hour-and-a-half episodes on script. Not being aware of the true potential and limitations of an idea within the format can lead to inconsistencies in its development, and ultimately to the death of the idea or a life sentence to the graveyard of forgotten scripts.