In 2011, I got a job as a page. My duties were to get the public to view new up-coming shows that had not aired yet and old TV shows that had been broadcast for some time. Escort people in and out. Network shows on the lot. I would talk to a lot of attendees during that time as they walked to the studio. I was curious….why do you care I would ask? You come to this show every week and see a taping spend hours watching the same scenes being done over and over again.
Many times they would just say, we are having fun but mostly they would say “we care “we want to see what will happen next or we like this character or that character. Or they would complain about the look of the show or worse the title of the show if it was brand new.
The bottom line was that they were attached to these characters. They were like family and they wanted to be entertained not talked down to . We want to be able to cheer or root for someone be a part of the experience.
My script (pilot) did not have that element of the underdog or any cheering and needed more laughs it was still too depressing . Rats! What to do. On a fateful night at a birthday party, I would meet a producer. She was someone I did not know but I knew some people who knew her. She had pitched lot shows and she seemed very nice. After a few drinks, I began to tell her about my pilot script she perked up bit. Weddings always are good. It sounds interesting go on.
She asked for the demographics of the show. I went through all the ages of each character. Do you have a gay guy? Yes I think. What do you mean you think? You must know what you are selling. What you are telling me sounds like a cable show and you have no twenty something in your cast. Darling… you need… “I Candy”. Sex sells. Carolyn should be twenty something not sixty something. You start pitching that…. you will be dead in the water . And when you pitch you need to describe your show in three sentences or less. Ugh.
Photo of the Character “Caroline Dingle” in our Kickstarter Promo. Actress Liz Lytle May 29th 2012.
At my page job, as I stood in the back of the studio I began to study dialogue and character development. Punch line here ..setup there but sitcom is totally different from cable. When the audience did not laugh the scribes would rush in and change a line or two or sometimes a whole scene. Not even Network was not set in stone. The audience was the boss. And so I took the producer’s advice, I changed Carolyn into Caroline and with that change a whole new world opened up. My re-writes were funnier I was learning on the job.
Also Breesy, was no longer a past drug addict and now she had never been married. Breesy was the “kiss of death”. That came from my family an “Aunt” who was very unlucky in love. So I had my underdog! And poor Winnie, just got a mention she got cut. That was my breakthrough. My aim was to make it into a really fun show! So, I went back and started revising more. So another re-write by the 8th re-write with even more changes to the script. I had another reading of this pilot script. This time in front of friends and people who I did not know. I wanted to see what people’s reaction was and I changed the title of the show to “Redneck Weddings”.
So, I cast the reading myself and the reading took place. It was a really good turn out. I wanted to see people’s reaction. From the time the first character read their lines to the end I watched where the laugh were in places I did not even know . The actors brought more ideas for me and this time I taped it.
Like any focus group, I wanted to go back and study. In a small way I was doing what the studios did (editing). People’s reaction was very good. I ask the audience afterwards would you tune into this show? Yes! What character did you like? I liked Caroline and I felt sorry for her. As I watch the tape back, Gus still bothered me. The accent was not working. Maybe he was not anything but an American. It took place in the south, in a town in Mayberry but of where? I still had no clue.
Below is a photo of that day of the reading with the Cast and kneeling is my husband Peter.
October 29th 2011