Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Insecure Pilot Blueprint: Characters & the Why

Issa Rae

Lesson time 12:01 min

Learn what makes a strong pilot episode and, in particular, Issa’s strategy for creating the pilot for Insecure.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Setting Up Your Characters · Create a Compelling Why Today


[MUSIC PLAYING] ISSA RAE: In the next couple of lessons, I'm going to give you the blueprint I used to create my own pilots using four categories-- character set up, why today, conflict, and setting up your series. A pilot is the official access to your show. You are setting up your world. You're setting up your characters. It's basically the first episode of your series. It is the first episode of your series, and it is the guidebook for your-- the first season and the entire show. When you're starting your pilot, one of the most challenging things is to make your character active. Sometimes while writing, it's an instinct to kind of make things happen to our character, and you have to think about how your character is actively making decisions to forward the story. And it sounds simple, but so many pilots that I read don't have an active main character in the sense that they're just they're not doing anything. They don't-- you know, you can't really tell who they are or what they stand for because they're not in charge of their own journey. And you have to make your character in charge of the journey. Another pitfall is obviously, you know, starting and structure. Sometimes pilots tend to meander. You know, they can start off great. You can start off strong in the first five pages, then you're just like where did that go. And I think it's also a huge challenge to get people hooked to keep watching the next episode. Why am I going to want to continue to follow these characters in this series. What are we building toward, and have you properly set up the tension and the conflicts that I'm going to look out for throughout the season? If you keep the four categories in mind, if you're setting up your characters and you're establishing who they are and making sure your main character is active and has a strong sense of self, that is a great first step. When you're thinking about these characters, you also have to think about why we're following them today. If this is a pilot, you're starting your series, why are we dropping in on them at this very moment? What happened? Is it-- does your main character have cancer and they just found out today? Is that their birthday? Is-- you know, what's this-- what's going on in their lives in this particular moment? And then as these characters are going through their journey, if they're just coasting, that's a boring show. So what's the conflict? What's the-- where's the tension? What's happening to them, and how are they active in what's happening to them? And then you really have to draw in your audience. So you have to set up your series, and the audience wants to know what they're watching. Like, what-- when you're taking them into your world, while do you setting up for them to see? And you don't have to tell them everything up front, but it helps to drop nuggets here and there and to set up a lot of the main issues that we're going to see our character face throughout the s...

About the Instructor

The Emmy-nominated star and creator of the award-winning HBO series Insecure is here to show you how it’s done. Issa Rae uses her signature do-it-yourself ethos, humor, and voice to offer writers and creators of all types the motivation and tools they’ll need on their journey. Issa shares how she has navigated Hollywood while Black and inspires you to reach your creative dreams and never take no for an answer.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Issa Rae

Emmy-nominated writer, actor, and producer Issa Rae teaches you how to bring your creative vision to life.

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