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Writing for TV: Breaking Bad Pilot

No matter your experience with screenwriting, it’s always difficult to pitch and eventually sell a script that’ll turn into a television show. Not to mention the number of shows that have gotten picked up, but ended up facing their demise after one episode. On the other hand, the number of scripts that were picked up, but never ended up in production.

The fact of the matter is writing for tv is difficult. Even with a good script, there's a massive chance your script will never see the light of the day. However, don't let this hurt your optimism when it comes to selling a script. Although it's an arduous path to achieve, it's certainly not impossible.

With this in mind, how did television scripts get sold and eventually made? More importantly, how do shows last for several seasons due to their writing and directing? Since its first episode, Breaking Bad has emerged as one of the most popular shows on television. Although the show ended after 5 seasons, many argue it’s virtually a perfect show.

Whether you’ve seen Breaking Bad or not, it’s a fantastic show. However, before it was made, how did the production company behind it know it was going to be a fantastic show? What did the pilot script of Breaking Bad show that most scripts don’t? If you’re wondering the answer to this question, look no further. We’re going to take a quick look into Breaking Bad’s Pilot, and what exactly made it stand out from most scripts.

Photo credit: USA Today

Creating an Essence for Breaking Bad

When it comes to scripts, they usually fall under a few different categories of mediocre, okay, good, and great. The only scripts worth being sold tend to be on the great side of things, but what makes a script great? Usually, the essence of a script has to be completely original.

The issue of originality is plagued with most scriptwriters. The fact of the matter is it's challenging to create a truly original story, on top of making it enjoyable. With television, a script needs to have an authentic essence with it right from the start. It's a nearly impossible matter to accomplish, but Breaking Bad did it perfectly.

Right away, we're introduced to our main character of Walter White. We know who he is, his family, story, and what's hurting him as a man. We see the desperation in his character and can sympathize and empathize with him as a person. Regardless of his future actions that are clearly wrong, we understand. Desperate times call for drastic measures, and as an audience, we understand entirely why Walter White is doing what he's doing.

Drawing the Audience in

Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, uses an intense amount of detail in his script. Although your script should never read like a book, Gilligan has a clear understanding of how to draw people into his show.

The first scene of Breaking Bad is a foreshadow. Still, it is a perfect introduction to the character in Walter White and who he is. The scene starts as an intense detail resulting in high-pace action that everyone surely loves. Walter has a monologue that introduces us, but not in a spoon-feeding way. We're off to the endeavors leading up to this moment.

It's essential for scripts to not give away too much. This opening scene makes us want to know how Walter got where he is and what eventually got him there. With this in mind, we get enough information out of it that we end up rooting Walter on as a character.

What Does Walter White Want?

No matter if it's a film or television series, every protagonist has wants and needs. Without them, they're a one-dimensional character that is eventually deemed useless. Well, what does Walter White want? This is a constant question throughout every episode of Breaking Bad that demonstrates precisely what Walter White wants.

We understand where Walter is coming from and where he is going forward. We're never questioning why he's doing an absolute ordeal or the purpose of a scene. Although the show is unpredictable, what something does happen, we get a sense of understanding. These aspects are essential for creating a great script.


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