Josie & Dale
is my comedic, episodic web series about an introverted, stick-in-the mud who decides to change her life by renting her living room to the most uninhibited guy she can find.
This is the story of how Josie & Dale the series was born and how it went from a few dreadful pages I wrote up one day, to a hilarious, well structured series (thanks to my co-story tellers Mark Rutman and Jason Kaleko.
For detailed diagrams of our episode structure, check out our STRUCTURAL BIBLE section. Once the series premieres, we will offer links to the Original Crappy Pilot Script (ugh) and Re-structured Awesome Pilot script (yay!)
The idea for the odd couple characters of Josie & Dale (an introverted stick-in-the-mud who rents her living room to an eccentric free spirit) first came to me when a friend approached me in an acting class and asked me to write a scene for us to film for our reels. I’ve had plenty of nuts and eccentrics live in my living room over the years here in LA to feel like I had PLENTY of source material.
I wrote up a few pages of dialog that I was quite proud of. So proud, in fact, that I started calling it a web series pilot and brainstorming episodes. Truth was, the thing fell into every pothole of bad writing imaginable. It was static: four pages of two people standing around talking. It was passive: the characters were talking about things that happened rather than dealing with things that were actually happening. There was no chemistry between the characters. Dale being weird and Josie didn’t like it. No love. No structure. Ugh. Who’d want to watch that, no matter how funny the repartee?
Armed with my pages and my delusions, I called up my friend & savvy comedy writer/director Mark Rutman. I asked him for his thoughts on the script and if he would consider directing my pilot. That’s when I got my ass handed to me.
Mark actually liked the characters of Josie & Dale. He said he’d direct the pilot, IF I was willing to do some SERIOUS rewriting. He pitched me a new version of my story that had actual EVENTS: an initiating event, complication, rising tension, climax and a twist. All in five pages. He also encouraged me to write more love into the scene. Not romantic love, per se, but the characters had to need something from each other.
This lead me to the idea to change Josie from an angry, passive rentee who realizes she made a mistake to a desperately shy girl who wants to change her life and purposefully finds a strange guy to live in her living room and help her do that. BAM. The characters instantly become more likeable and have chemistry. She needs him. And, he’ll find out along the way, he needs her too.
I rewrote the pilot (and rewrote it and rewrote it) based on Mark’s notes, and finally, he felt it was ready. Now we were both pumped. In fact, we realized we loved these characters enough to make this a series after all. Mark brought on his writing partner, the very talented, Jason Kaleko and we created a writers’ room of sorts to organize and structure ideas for the series.
Each week, Mark, Jason and I would meet and I would tell them about the characters and pitch a ton of ideas for different possible episodes. I made lists of each characters LOVES and FEARS. Mark and Jason would narrow down my ideas, ask me super hard questions about ‘logic’ and stuff, and help me combine and reorder story events so that each episode fit into that Three Act Structure that would sustain an audience’s interest.
Jason and Mark gave me notes on every rewrite and were brilliant problem solvers when I could’t figure out how to help my story have the right tension at the right time. Mark is a story arc master and Jason is an episode button king. There’s nothing like making your writing process collaborative and working with people you respect and admire. Every series benefits from collaboration. Both Mark and Jason have story credit on the show, of course, and I trusted Mark fully as a director (though he would have done a brilliant job regardless) because I knew he knew and loved these characters so much.
We outlined a nine episode Season One. Each episode stands alone as it’s own adventure, but Josie & Dale both have arcs of how their opposing approaches to life change each other. Check out the next section to see the Structure Bible Mark and Jason created to keep me structurally on track! It’s a great example of how to structure any episodic comedic web series.