When you get to post-production it’s easy to get annoyed with things that might have been missed. You might feel that you’re seeing poor examples of writing, poor footage and horrible execution.  You’re going to wonder how things were missed, if people were asleep and what the writers were thinking. You have to consider that it’s easy to point all this out after the fact, and even easier to miss while working on set. You aren’t going to be able to fix it all; now what you have to do is to tell the best story with the content that you have.

Post ProductionTake a Look at the Outline

During pre-production there was an outline of episodes you or the Field Producers/Producers created. It’s a sound bet that these pages were virtually ignored once shooting began and the story took over. It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly what is going to happen when you involve a whole mess of creative people and cameras are rolling. Some events that were planned might get nixed while new events get spoken about and tossed in. These first few days of post-production are often best used for evaluating the content and seeing where it deviated from the original outlines.

Consider the Picture as a Whole

Working on a show means that your story is going to have a lot more scope than you might realize. You’re going to have smaller episodes that will have to have smaller stories that will make up the main, larger components of seasons that will go on to develop and envelop the entire show. It’s best to get the largest part of it mapped out before you delve into that very first individual episode. With more mapping you do, you’re going to be less likely to get yourself into a corner that you can’t write your way out of easily. It’s easy for even the best of writers to chase a story loop down for days and weeks if they miss this step. It’s vital to spend some time at the outset mapping out the entire season.

You might have some story spots where you set a character as the villain. and another as the hero. Take the time right after production to make sure it still makes sense. You’ll want to think about the arc of the character upon first meeting to where we leave off. Consider an heiress that is snooty developing a friendship with an unlikely beach bum that is handsome (but the entire aspect of what she might naturally despise) and the things she will learn about herself and how she’ll even turn into someone we like along the way. Take the beach bum who has overcome an accident to inspire others to surf because of his motivations and watch him give a board away to another surfer and then witness that surfer throw a competition off to let the heiress’s beau win.

In this situation you should have a season that is chock full of side stories, jack pots and set ups. You can get lucky enough to have some of these be very obvious while others might be more difficult and too far of a stretch. But if you look back and forward and really spend some time mapping you’re going to have a better chance getting the story smoothly on its way. Everyone is with a journey even when some of these journeys only seem to be circles because in the end it is all about character change.

Once you have beaten this map out, figured out spin offs, setups, pitfalls and payoffs you are on your way. Make tons of character notes about milestones on index cards and get them arranged so you know what moments that are integral to each season and their episodes. Once you have the basic branches of the tree you’ll be able to fill the rest in and develop your show with smooth episodes.

Forward Momentum Full of Meaning

This is going to be the harder part, you need to flesh it all out, each episode and develop on the branches you’ve started. You aren’t going to want to be timid about skipping around on the timeline; this can be a great way to get to know your characters. Perhaps there’s a perfect scene where the heiress and her surfer argue over breakfast and it doesn’t seem like much at first. Place an interview of other characters showing how they have a resentment that’s been growing about each other and boom! It’s a scene filled with strength.

Remember that content that doesn’t have a purpose boils down to noise that is seen, it will slow your story down and lose your viewers’ attention. Each scene needs to move the story and move it forward in an uncluttered, effective manner.

Forecast Bite through Editing

While that initial breakfast scene might not be that great or encourage viewers to come back for more, you can make an all-important bite or teaser that will have viewers wanting to check in each episode because of good editing. If you punctuate the scene with a clip of one of the other characters interviewed stating something like, “I’m fairly certain that those two would rather kill each other than swim together.” Suddenly your audience becomes afraid they could miss the big break up.

It’s Mapped, Now What Do I Do?

You’ve got this lovely stack of paper and outlines, what’s your next step? You’re going to find out that the Producers (Supervising and Executive) and possibly the network guys may pass up looking at this rough cut. When they see this rough cut they may want to know why it doesn’t look like the story they signed on for. This is another reason it’s so important to get it mapped out and send the new outlines on their way as soon as you can. Get these questions answered before they have a chance to become a headache.

A Word on Outlines and Acts

You’re going to be following the three act traditional set up with each scene being anywhere from 4 to 14 minutes. Create your outline to adjust for this. You will also likely have at a main story line (A) and a secondary story line (B). Make these clear in your outline. Remember your audience- they are usually multitasking (cooking, swapping laundry, tending to kids) so you’ll want to prepare it in a manner that if they walk away for two or five minutes they will still understand your show when they get back.

What about the Stakes

Remember that without forward momentum we’re dead on the air. This means that characters and story will be driven by stakes. Sometimes they aren’t in your face like different challenges that give rewards, individuals rising to defeat groups, or groups voting others off.  You may have stakes like self-doubt and fear, embarrassment, or even whether or not to tell the truth.  All of these in a reality based show can have game ending consequences therefore are large stakes.

Consider the Clock Ticking

A great way to raise the stakes and draw your readers in is to have something as intense as a family redoing an entire home to have an open house in just three days. Inserting a clock that’s ticking away can keep people tuned it to see if they can beat the clock.

Create More Hype

Sure it can be simple if a contestant sprained an ankle on a fitness show. But how can you create more interest or drama? Do this with your interview clips from others on the show and what they don’t like about the person or their doubts about their health, clips of the ambulance and clips of the staff caring for him. Suddenly we’re concerned for his health.