I was recently hired by Industry/Lionsgate/NBC to write an original episode of NBC's upcoming series "Fear Itself." The director I'm working with is Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire, X-files). The episode is a story I've been dieing to tell for years, and I'm glad that all the players involved responded to it. You can read more about "Fear Itself" on Brad Miska’s website Bloody Disgusting.
The biggest challenge for me turns out to be the format. I’m a feature writer and I’m used to telling stories in three unbroken acts over 110 minutes. Even the Masters of Horror episode that I wrote, Sick Girl, was an unbroken 60 minutes. The format for an NBC one-hour episode is 42 minutes, broken into five acts and a teaser. Each act can be no shorter than six pages/minutes and no longer than nine. Of course, between each act will be a story-stopping three minutes of commercials. With each 6-9 minute act, I have to win the audience over again and hold them in their seats through the next break.
This is hard enough to do with a regular series episode where the audience is familiar with the characters and premise, but it is even more challenging in an anthology show where your characters have to be introduced, undergo a life-changing crisis and resolve it, all in a series of 6-9 minute nuggets.
So, I’m thinking of it this way: I’m writing six sequential (or you could say serialized) short films. Each short film has to set and reset the tone, each has to have a beginning, middle and end. Each has to have a kind of independence so that the audience, fresh from a commercial break or tuning in halfway through, will be drawn in.
It’s a tough assignment but I’m eager for the challenge.