How to write a movie for Lifetime TV.

Recently I had an email exchange with one of my regular readers*. In it, she mentioned being ill, so ill that she accidentally watched a significant portion of a Lifetime Television movie. I’m glad that she’s feeling better because watching a Lifetime Movie is a symptom of a pretty high level of illness.

Ever take this and have those "why am I staring at this" moments?

I am not part of Lifetime’s targeted audience. I have a Y chromosome. I have however, been ill. During those illnesses, fueled by cold medication or pain killers for a kidney stone, I have found myself watching bizarre things on TV. I’ve watched dopey game shows, talk shows, and even Lifetime movies.

Using my medication fueled memories of seeing movies on the Lifetime network, I am providing you all an opportunity to put a little extra money in the bank by following my template for writing movies for Lifetime.

The cast

If being well intentioned and hard working got you one of these, this would be one of the Omawari-cars. It doesn't, it isn't.

The main character in your movie script must be a woman. She is hard-working and a mother. She must be witty and clever. She struggles to make ends meet. Despite her financial struggle, the heroine of the movie drives a great car – not a new car, a great old classic car. A Porsche Speedster would probably be great enough, classic enough, and funky enough to meet her quirky style.

One more thing, and this is important. She must be capable of looking good, even when she is confronting a boss that doesn’t understand or smudged with whatever smudging material may be present at her work place or even during her battle with her enemy.

The heroine has to have a child. Make sure the child cast is impossibly cute. The child has to be spunky, clever and capable of precocious speech, even when he or she is facing risky surgery.

There should be a man. This should be a damn fine-looking man. He is equally as quirky and clever as the heroine. This is one of the things about him that both draws and repels her. He may be a doctor, he may be the detective working on her case. He could be about anything. It is really helpful though if he does something wonderfully, helpfully unexpected on the side – like leading a yoga class for underprivileged kids in his spare time.

Secondary characters

These are some people you may or may not include in your script, depending on the direction your story goes.

A female rival of sorts can helpful in establishing the pluckiness of the heroine. You might install this person as the love interest of the ex husband in situations where the ex husband is a minor annoyance and not an abusive psycho killer.  She can be one of two types – a pretty, yet vacuous younger woman who just doesn’t get it, or, an icily beautiful woman the same age as the heroine. Either way, she is a minor character in the story and will be sent packing early, humiliated by the style of the heroine.

The heroine’s mother can be useful in one particular way that I will mention later. Be sure to write her as someone who is confused by her daughter’s quirky ways, but deep down admires her because of them. She is always there to lend a hand. You could also write this character as the heroine’s sister or best friend.

The Story

Let’s get to the meat of your task of creating a Lifetime movie script.

The heroine must undertake a heroic battle, preferably on behalf of her child. You have wide discretion here. The enemy here could be a disease, it could be her ex-husband, it could be an employer. The sky is the limit. Be creative. Consider anything that puts the child in jeopardy and do it without regret because the heroine must and will prevail.

The man’s character is driven by the battle you create for the heroine. If you write her plight as a disease, it does not make a lot of sense to make the man a police officer. The man’s methods must be infuriating to the heroine. At first, he must really get under her skin, and vice versa. Over time, she comes to understand that he is working in her interest…even when he did that thing that really upset/disgusted/embarrassed her.

At some point, the heroine and the man get together. You know what I’m saying, they get together. I suggest facilitating this in your script by sending the child to the heroine’s mother’s house for a grandma/cute child fun weekend. This facilitates the heroine/man fun weekend which, if you’ve written your script right, anyone can see coming except for the man and the heroine.

Following the heroine/man night time fun there must be the final battle of the movie. For instance, the heroine slips out of bed, leaving man still sleeping. She unwittingly crosses paths with her ex-husband who tries to do her in. She battles back and finally prevails, possibly aided by man, who wakes up and somehow tracks her down based solely on his instinct.

Make your last scene very happily ever after-ish.

Coming soon: writing inspirational sports movie scripts.

*How amazing is it I can write that I have regular readers? Very.

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34 Comments on “How to write a movie for Lifetime TV.”

  1. Betty says:

    And it must feature one of the following actors: Valerie Bertinelli, Jaclyn Smith, Jack Scalia, Jack Wagner, Lisa Hartman.

  2. linlah says:

    I’m so glad you shared this because I have not seen a Lifetime movie in about 20 years and now I know I haven’t missed anything. One less thing to worry about.

  3. Karen says:

    Bravo! Bravo! I mean Lifetime! Lifetime!

  4. jammer5 says:

    Smarmy Nunchuck flipped her perfect hair, in order to draw attention to herself, as she waited in line at the new coffee house, “To Caffeine or not to Caffeine.” Seldon fiddleburger saw Smarmy swish, and said, “So, solo?”

    Smarmy, said, “What?”, got her double latte espresso w/M&M sprinkles, walked out, got in her 1994 Mazda RX7 and drove down Hollywood Blvd., looking for a man; any man. She saw one pushing a shopping cart, stopped, rolled down the window, and shot him in the head. She smiled as she drove off, whistling the tune to, “Give me that fillet of fish; give me that fish.”

    Suddenly Oscar Wortenburg jumped in front of her. She slammed on the brake, missing him by inches. She leaned her head out the window, which was kind of stupid, since she had the top down, and said, “Oscar, what are you doing here?”

    Oscar opened the passenger door, climbed in and said, “Well, I am rather hungry, and I heard you whistling that tune, so I figured we could head over to Capn’ Nemo’s genuine flaked fish fillets and eat us some lunch. What do ya say?”

    Smarmy said, “Get the flack out of my car.” When he did, she shot him in the head, drove off and lived happily ever after. The end.

  5. wordofabe says:

    This was a great blog and I’m honored to be one of your readers. I’m working on my script right now. I only have one question: Can my heroine be a heroin addict? It seems…fitting.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thanks Abe.

      On to your question, and it is a good one.

      The alliteration of the heroine on heroin is tempting but no, probably not. You could, however, make your heroine’s daughter be on heroin. That would make the man either a doctor or a drug rehab counselor.

      That also gives the heroine two enemies to battle – the drug and her daughters dealer.

      I’d recommend:

      An opening that establishes how wonderful mother and daughter both are, including perhaps daughter winning the sophmore class homecoming princess title.

      Her first heroin trip should be as soon as possible after that. If not at a post game party, in the school hallway on Monday.

      Man enters the scene. Mom and daughter hate him. Mom has read all the books on rehab, Man follows no books…but hosts a book club for sassy female ex-cons at night.

      Daughter is improving and earns a field trip with her rehab group. Mom agrees to have a celebratory dinner at Man’s house. He is a gourmet chef. She is charmed. Commence with Mom/Man fun here.

      Mom rises early. Slips out of bed, the sheet clings to her as it always does on tv but man doesn’t wake up. She dresses and is out the door. Man wakes…where is she?

      Mom moves through the darkened streets. She passes the corner where daughter used to buy smack. There she is…just arriving. Daughter has slipped away from the field trip and is about to restart her downward spiral. Mom leaps from the car and confronts the dealer. Dealer pulls a gun…

      …and is shot by Man, who went looking for Mom in that spot because he got a call that daughter had left the rehab field trip and flashed back to daughter describing where she bought her stuff.

      Daughter is changed by the near death experience with her mom. Final scene is Mom and Man at daughter’s college graduation. Mom hands over the keys to her Porche Speedster to the daughter.

      • wordofabe says:

        This is good, but I’m still confused about the Porsche Speedster. I would do ANYthing to have this car. Do you think I can get one after I finish my script? I don’t understand how the single mom in the movie can afford one…perhaps it was left to her by her jerky ex-husband. I think that’s called a “backstory”.

        • omawarisan says:

          How she affords it I will never ever know. I just know, despite working to make ends meet, people in these movies drive the coolest cars and live in the greatest apartments.

          Oh I think if you flesh out the heroin idea you will be speedstering soon enough.

        • jammer5 says:

          Mom was secretly selling crack to third-world immigrants, who became addicted to it while traveling to the United States, in a rickety old woody station wagon, from the Virgin Islands. The mom failed to tell them The Virgin Islands were US possessions so she could keep them addicted, thus making enough money to buy the Porsche Speedster. Simple.

      • queensgirl says:

        Brilliant. I have missed you. (I’ve had only intermittent computer use lately, while waiting for a new laptop battery. Unfortunately, it turns out that I need a new laptop.)

  6. Pauline says:

    I don’t have a Y chromosome and HATE these kind of movies!
    But if I had to direct one of them, I would turn the ending into some sort of “Outer Limits” or “X-Files” situation with aliens/evil clones/killer clowns! LOL

    P.S. You’ve been nominated! Visit my blog for more info! 🙂

    • Karen (henceforth to be known as Smarmy Nunchuck) says:

      If Pauline and Abe collaborate, the obvious casting choices are Mackenzie Phillips and Larry King.

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh, I dont think having or not having the Y gives you the taste for that stuff. Mrs. O hates it too.

      Love the Outer Limits idea!

      Thank you for the nomination. I’ll go to work on fulfilling the rules. Very kind of you to think of me!

  7. Counter Culture Clown says:

    I had to scroll down for twenty minutes to get through the damn comments.

    I also nominated you. Because me and Pauline know the same peeps, apparently. However, neither of us actually like you. You can go look at my blog too.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you sir!

      I do have a large entourage of people who do like me because I pay them to do things like wash my car and carry a boom box around behind me. It hurts to know that they’ll all leave when the income generating monster that is this blog flames out.

  8. Pie says:

    I don’t know about Lifetime TV (sounds awful), but I do know I’d like a Porsche Speedster, please. Ta.

    • omawarisan says:

      It is a television network here in the US supposedly aimed at women. A lot of the movies tend to be kind of sappy happily ever after things, usually with some crisis leading up to the happy ending.

  9. KathiD says:

    I had no idea what I have been missing.

    • omawarisan says:

      A woman who seemed to have it all, yet she did not know what she was missing. Can she find out before it’s too late. Kathi, in the role she was born to play, herself, in “Can these movies be any cheesier?”. Presented with limited commercial interruption.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I want to tell a true story about a family that took alot of money from disabled people for 20 plus years and got away with it

  11. michael says:

    In a previous life I used to write the movie blurbs for a subscription TV channel. I could have done with this overview and used it as a template, replacing a few names as I went along.

  12. Link Roberts says:

    So you saying it has to be about a woman to be a good story?

  13. Ali says:

    It seems as if people get ill, Lifetime soars…I’ve been hooked in for a couple of weeks now, just lying on the couch watching or recording them. I’ve got to get my life back! So as I was actually going from the couch to my bed to sleep, all the the Lifetime movies kept entering my brain. I thought, I can write one of these movies! I went on line and found your blog…You are right on! My question to you is…approximately how much money am I expected to get for my story. I just want to know if it is worth my time….I already have a Porsche, although not vintage.

    • omawarisan says:

      It is ok if your Porsche isn’t vintage, as long as it is in your movie. You haven’t said much about where you live, but you may want to pretend it is a cool loft or a funky old house.

      I’m pretty sure you should structure your contract so that you get some money up front and the right to choose the actress who portrays you. You want an actress with name recognition but not much in the way of big screen prospects.

      I think if you choose wisely and then get yourself paid each time they run a commercial or actually run your story you will be looking at millions.

      Whatever you do, don’t pick the girl from different strokes to play you. She will sink your movie because, you know, dead.

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