On this week’s #WebSeriesWednesday I watched the foodie themed web series ‘Pairings.’ Here I take a look at how screenwriter Ed Robinson created an engaging character, and used the plot to develop him further. I haven’t talked too much about writing for the web lately, so ‘Pairings’ is a great opportunity to jump back into the topic.
Before I jump into discussing the writing I want to comment on my love of the use of the opening food preparation motif. Each show starts with some artsy-fartsy shots (a technical term obviously) showing the preparation of some dish that will play a role in the upcoming episode. It’s a great way to keep the intro fresh, display the show’s titles and tell a little bit of story at the same time. Easily one of my favorite episode framing techniques I’ve seen.
I watch a lot of web series and one of the biggest challenges comes from writing a balanced script. Most shows can put forward a decent character, or decent arc or at the very least some good character moments – but few can really drive home a complete story at a high level in the hour or so that most web series take.
This is usually the part of the article where I tell you exactly how long the series was, but in the case of ‘Pairings’ I am not exactly sure because it just breezes by so easily. The show never drags or lulls, it just keeps on truckin.’
I can say the show is divided into 6 episodes, all with tight 3 act structures. The six episodes together form a nearly complete story that really feels like a full seasons worth of shows.
Where the show really shines is with its main character, Allen, and his character arc. Web series writers should take note of how this series went about creating and telling this story – it’s classic screenwriting.
We meet Allen at the start of the show where we learn that he loves making food. We also learn that he’s on something of a lifelong losing streak with women. These are simple character traits given early on in the first episode.
Ed Robinson, who also executive produced the show, breathed tons of life into the character while playing Allen. His subdued introversion came off as sort of sad early on, like there was some kind of pain or loneliness hidden under the surface. For him creating and tasting quality food seemed to quell some unseen fire inside.
This is something a writer can put in a script, but it’s up to an actor to really sell. I was absolutely delighted around episode 4 to see Allen give his little monologue about his father’s recent death and then seeing the family bonding in the kitchen – making food like their father had taught them. There really had been something beneath the surface.
I instantly caught the contradiction in his life – that he was taking girls out on dates to restaurants he did not like. Perhaps it was no wonder that he couldn’t get it right.
This was where the story throws the main character the curve ball. A bet for $10,000 that will force him to get out of the tedious routine of his current life. He stops going to lame restaurants and starts cooking dinner for his dates. He is in his element and he hits it off with every girl.
Of course the bet has consequences as Allen starts becoming someone other than himself. This is the classic late second act in screenwriting. In fact together all six episodes form a very nice three act structure:
1) We meet Allen
2) Something happens to Allen to change him but is it for better or worse?
3) Allen reflects on what happened and grows as a person
Many series try to forego this classic storytelling structure – like my Dad forgoes seasoning on his chicken. But the web is no different from television or film in this way, web series are simply more challenging. Writing a great script using the classic three act structure is not all that different from following a recipe. You have to supply all of the quality ingredients but maybe someone has already figured out when to add them together and how much to use to get the best results. See how I tied that altogether!? 😀
‘Pairings’ is one of THE best examples I have seen of writing a very tight, well structured screenplay for a web series, and pulling it off with all the depth of a well written feature. For anyone currently attempting to write a web series script, or really anyone who is a fan of quality writing and acting I’d recommend you check out ‘Pairings The Series.’