A Teaser

Why do we start a story with the breaking point of our narration?


On television, as in any other industry, there are mass-market products and niche projects, but regardless of the type of audience for which they were designed, there are storytelling techniques that are used in almost every circumstance.


One of these is the "teaser", a narrative segment that introduces the viewer into the story, by introducing them into the world the characters have descended in , and by presenting the dramatic question that will be developed through the narration.


"Gimme a gig"

In the documentary "Jaco" (by Paul Marchand and Stephen Kijak, 2014), the first time we see the bass player is in an 1983 interview.


Jaco has a pockmarked face, speaks slowly and looks into space. At the end of the video clip, the interviewer asks him if he has one last message to leave to his fans. Jaco simply replies: "Gimme a gig." "Find me a job."


Why had the best bassist of his generation, the one who had renewed the instrument inventing the use of harmonics in solos, the one who went on world tours with Weather Reaport, Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny had reduced to begging for an assignment?

This is the question on which the entire development of the documentary is based, which shows us to discover Jaco's self-harming traits, his drugs abuse, up to the diagnosis of schizophrenia in the last year of life.

(Jaco Pastorius da "Gimme a gig")

According to an old saying, on television what counts are the first five minutes: you have to hook the viewer immediately and convince them to stay for the all episode .

Incidentally, it is exactly the opposite of what happens in cinema, where, narratively,

the most important moment is the finale, that generate the emotion that will accompany the spectator out of the room, and then, through word of mouth, to favor or not the success of the film.

In the Sky series "Angel Face" (by Andrea Porporati, 2012), the authors have adopted a similar strategy.


The series opens with the famous robbery of Felice Maniero's gang at Marco Polo airport in Venice in 1985. An investigative pool is then set up with the task to arrest the criminal, who nevertheless enjoys the protection of the Paduan villages where he has his operational bases.

Although the thesis according to which Felice Maniero is not a simple country criminal, but is at the top of a mafia system that controls the whole region, the question is clearly posed: the Mafia, understood as culture, is a problem that concerns only Southern Italy, or it could also exist in Veneto?


(Scena da "Faccia d'angelo" di Andrea Porporati 2012)


Teaser e Storylines

In the television serial, but often also in the cinema, the story takes place following different narrative lines (storylines), divided between protagonists and secondary characters.


In the two examples we have already mentioned , both questions asked by the authors (on Jaco Pastorius, and Felice Maniero) concern the protagonists of the story.

However, the teaser can also be used to create an atmosphere, to give a "flavor" to the series or the film, showing an episode that is disconnected from the main narrative story.


In the cinematographic field, the 007 franchise immediately comes to mind, where every film in the series, at least from the late 80s onwards, shows James Bond engaged in an epic mission, brilliantly resolved, before the main plot is developed.


In sitcoms, on the other hand, intended as the classic 30 'multi-camera format, such as"Friends", "How I met your mother" or "Modern Family," so to speak, there are very rare cases where the teaser is not adopted as a thematic introduction to the episode, before the opening credits.


(Opening da "Modern family" creato da Christopher Lloyd e Steven Levitan)


Whether you are a screenwriter or not, reflecting on teasers is an excellent exercise to improve your opening skills, and experiment with audience engagement strategies.


Allow me to give you sa piece of advice: if you want to stage the initial sequence of "The world is not enough", before a conference on the possibilities of influencer marketing, avoid blowing up the boat.


("The world is not enough" Mychael Apted 1999)



Michele Furfari is an author and television writer. Graduated from the National Film and TV School (NFTS) in London and student of the RAI Fiction graduate school, he has developed projects for the national and international market.

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