I just went to a spectacular episodic section at LAFF and I think it comes down to 3 things.
- Point of View/Voice
The pilots I fall in love with, no matter their budget or production value always stems on whether the voice or point of view is unique. If it feels like something that can uniquely be told in a short-form format or something I don’t see anywhere else, it draws me in and makes me want to find out what other ways they are going to push the envelope.
Second, I need to care about the characters - and quickly. jokes are great and funky formats are great but character is still queen in my mind.
and lastly, I do care about structure in a webseries pilot. It’s sometimes an after thought for some people but I think as a medium, it’s important to tell stories that fit the medium. If you write a half hour pilot and then break it up into chunks - that’s not short form. That’s a show cut up haha. I LOVE when series use the time restraint as a way to elevate the story. And the arc and the payoff are that of any other show or movie just condensed. it’s amazing how much drama you can fit into 10 minutes or how many jokes you can fit into 90 seconds.
After that, performance and direction are important but they tend to hinge on the above elements.
My favorite web pilot at this point is probably Brown Girls. I think it really hits on the above elements. I also loved a few of the Wigs series - specifically Blue and Paloma. High Maintance is an excellent example of voice and point of view because you don’t really get to know the delivery guy outside of his brief interaction with the other characters. The pilot does a great job of establishing the format and structure. And the buy-in is huge for the audience.
At the festival a few of my favorite pilots were Revenge Tour (US), Flatbush Misdemeanors (US), Kiki and Kitty (AUS) and Fresh! (AUS).