Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: Right now there is an oil boom going on in America, one that will change everything about the world, as well as everything about the town it inhabits.
About: We’ve got writers from two different worlds colliding on this one. Josh Pate has been writing for television for 20 years. His credits include shows like Falling Skies and Legends. Rodes Fishburne, on the other hand, is a novelist (Going to See The Elephant – about a man who moves to San Francisco) and journalist, who’s written for such publications as The New Yorker and The New York Times. Boom seems like one of ABC’s big guns this coming season, so we’ll likely be seeing it in the fall.
Writers: Josh Pate and Rodes Fishburne
Details: 60 pages (January 16th, 2015 – Second Network Revision)
When I first started reading Boom, I wasn’t sure if I was reading reality or science-fiction. The U.S. has found some previously unknown oil well in North Dakota that’s bigger than any other oil well in the world? When did this happen? Have I been so wrapped up in pointless entertainment news issues like whether Robert Downey Jr. likes independent movies or not that I’ve managed to overlook the most significant find in the history of the world?
Here are some facts I learned from Boom –
1) There will be a city the size of Dallas in North Dakota by the year 2030.
2) A new millionaire is made in North Dakota every day.
3) North Dakota’s unemployment rate is currently 0%.
Considering I always thought North Dakota was a lake that existed in either Canada or Poland, I find this all very hard to believe. But assuming it’s true, today’s writers might have stumbled on the subject matter of the decade to base a TV show on.
Billy LeFever’s a dreamer. Always has been. So persuasive are his dreams, he’s even roped his wife, Kelly, into them, convincing her to head to the growing oil-rich town of Williston, North Dakota to set up a chain of Laundromats there.
But as you all know, being screenwriters, dreamers can be a little blind. We can get a little ahead of ourselves and maybe not have a Plan B. This is exactly what dooms Billy, whose truck full of washers crashes just outside of Williston. His UNINSURED truck. All of a sudden, these two have to go back to square one.
Which is really what the Boom pilot is about. Billy gets a tip about a piece of property that’s over a previously unknown oil reserve and uses a series of shady investments to buy the place from the clueless owner. He’s doing this all on blind faith. I mean, he’s pretty sure the tip is good. But he’s not positive. Lucky for him, the bet pays off when the richest man in town, billionaire Hap Boyd, offers to buy the land from Billy for a cool million.
You’d think it’s happily ever after from there, but it turns out a lot more is going on in Williston. Hap’s hated first son starts a business siphoning oil from his pop’s reserves. And the Middle East even has spies in Boom Town, here to report back about their competition. Add a local Indian Tribe who’s about to find out they’re sitting on a billion dollar piece of land and you can imagine how crazy things are going to get. Sounds like lots of exciting times ahead for Williston, North Dakota.
Here’s the refreshing news about Boom. It’s not about superheroes. It’s not about cops, or lawyers, or doctors. It’s not about a morally ambiguous anti-hero doing something shady to make a living. Well, actually, it’s kind of about that. But still, there’s no doubt that one of Boom’s biggest strengths is that it’s DIFFERENT. And that’s hard to do right now, with every writer and their mother writing TV shows.
The script smartly centers on a pair of underdogs, Billy and Kelly (everybody loves underdogs!), nobodies who’ve put every cent they have on the line and then lose it all in a car crash the second they get here (ironically pushed off the road by an oil truck). Who’s not going to root for these two after that?
Stakes play a big part in why their plight works. Remember, the more you can put on the line for your hero(es), the better. These two haven’t just invested their own money, they’ve taken all their friends and families’ money as well. Then, when Billy needs to buy the land, he borrows more money, putting them even further in the hole. If his plan doesn’t work out, he’s really f*&ed. And that’s the way you want it. You need your character to be f*&ed if the plan fails.
Another cool thing about Boom is the cast. And this very well may be the show’s secret sauce. The way this boom is shaping up (I’m talking about in the real world), EVERYBODY is coming from EVERYWHERE to be a part of it. This allows Boom to have a really diverse cast of characters, from Caucasians to Mexicans to Native Americans to Middle Easterns to even Nigerians! Not only does this keep the show feeling fresh but networks love this. They want to have diverse casts. And if it’s organic to the story, like it is here, all the better.
If Boom has issues, it may be in its 3rd Act plotting (3rd Act in TV terminology, not feature terminology), where Billy goes from owing $100,000 to becoming a millionaire in the span of two days. This happens literally within 20 pages and while the plot points were plausible enough to buy on their own, it was hard to concede all of them falling in line together. I mean, who do you know that can raise 100k in 24 hours who doesn’t have the last name of Zuckerberg?
But if you get past that one flaw, it’s a fun ride. Like every TV show, it’s going to come down to how it’s directed. But I’m excited to see how it turns out. Even the cable channels are getting stale with their ideas. It’s time we put something different on the air.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: It doesn’t matter how many times you use this one, it always works. Set up something really valuable that one of your main character’s owns, and then force them to have to sell it at some point. The more personal the item is to your character, and the more emotionally attached they are to it, the better. So here, Kelly owns an emerald necklace that literally came from her 3x great grandmother. It’s priceless. When Billy needs that last 25k to buy the land plot, Kelly offers up the emerald. We GASP at the thought, since the importance of the necklace was set up earlier. Not only does this get the reader screaming “No!” when it happens, but it raises the stakes of your story as well. Because now, if Billy’s plan fails, it’s not just money that’s gone, it’s an irreplaceable piece of history.
What I learned 2: A feature script must end on a solution. A TV pilot script must end on a problem.