Scriptshadow 250 Contest Deadline – 80 days left!

Genre: TV Pilot – Drama
Premise: A group of Appalachian rednecks declare war on the local government when they’re told they must leave their mountain.
About: WGN continues their slow move into scripted television. They’ve been happy with Salem and Manhattan (liked the Salem pilot, Manhattan, not so much) and now want to add another player to that list, with Titans getting a 13-episode order. Titans comes from Rescue Me’s Peter Tolan and Paul Giamatti, as well as playwright Peter Mattei, who wrote this first episode.
Writer: Peter Mattei
Details: 70 pages (6-3-14 draft)

brad-pitt-beard

Brad Pitt can obviously play a redneck.

One of the nice things I’ve noticed about television’s reinvention is the 13-episode order. As you know, networks have always ordered 22 shows, which is an insane amount of television to write in such a short period of time when you think about it. This is why old-time television was so boring. You had to have a procedural or recurring format (cops, detectives, medical, law) in order to keep the episodes easy to write (it’s easy to have a new murder every week, a new emergency, a new court case).

10 and 13 episode orders are way more serial friendly. Since you don’t have to come up with so much product, you can move away from the pre-formatted dynamic and start telling more long-form stories. This is why TV has gotten so good. It’s basically become a bunch of long movies.

Today’s show is no different. It’s about Appalachian rednecks. Would you have been able to make that show in 2002? No way. Every network exec with a beamer would have said, “Where’s the show past episode 5?” And the thing is, there may not BE an episode past 5 but at least these same execs now know that it’s possible with all these past successes. I mean when you think about how long Breaking Bad ran without a single set-structure episode, it’s kind of amazing.

So does Titans have that kind of longevity?

Not sure how many redneck clans you know but these Appalachian gypsies run a different kind of operation than you and me. While we might, say, go to a movie with our dads, fathers and sons in the Kentucky Mountains like to beat each others’ brains in for entertainment. And that’s how we meet Big and Lil Foster, members of an extended backwoods clan known as the Farrel’s.

The group is both infamous and above-the-law in these parts (we get to know them doing a Walmart run where the workers watch them steal a thousand dollars worth of items, their mouths agape like they’ve just seen Justin Bieber) but their dominance is coming to an end.

The state of Kentucky sees dollar signs under the mountain they’re squatting on in the form of coal. The Farrel Clan has faced threats like this before. But this one is official. It’s coming straight from the government.

The Farrels turn to their group elder, 75 year-old wheezing wheelchairing cancer sufferer Lady Ray Farrell. Lady Ray is not one to claim that violence solves all, but this appears to be a declaration of war, and so, she announces, that’s what they must prepare for.

Speaking of Lady Ray, it’s no secret her time on earth is as limited as toothpaste in a redneck supermarket. So a mix of power-hungry hillbillies are squaring up to take her place. Big Foster is the leading contender, but he’s no favorite of Lady Ray and getting her endorsement seems to be the key to winning the election.

Instead, it’s Asa Farrel, a dark horse, who has the inside track. The only Farrel to have gotten an education, it was just a week ago that Asa tried to kill himself. But having seen the light, he’s back with something the Farrel clan has never had on its side before – knowledge. Big Foster is quick to sense Asa as a threat and puts him on his shit list. The question is, how far will Big Foster go to become the new leader? For a community that basically prides itself on being inbred, I’m sure the answer is: far enough.

Titans is a pilot with a lot of potential that’s about as messy as the redneck clan it follows. With that said, it’s so different from everything else out there that you can’t look away.

The script’s strong-point is the set-up of an impending redneck-versus-our-necks war. You sense that these gypsies will do anything to keep this mountain, and that’s the kind of suspense that’ll keep an audience coming back week after week.

Strangely, as soon as that war is mentioned, which is around the midpoint of the pilot, the script switches gears to a set of new storylines and gets totally lost in the process. It gives us a scene where the Farrel’s rob a random old man in town, followed by the beginning of a Farrel moonshine business followed by a kid killing his father after getting drunk on said moonshine.

On the one hand, it makes sense to start setting up story threads for future episodes. But it seems weird that we’d set up this giant war in the first half of the script only to move on to more mundane stuff in the second half. Every script should build to its finale, whether is be a feature or a TV episode, with the biggest event coming at the end. We needed the announcement of war to come at the episode’s conclusion. Sure, we get a murder, but since it’s born out of a moonshine storyline that only commenced 10 pages ago, it felt tacked on and anti-climactic.

Another frustrating thing about this episode is that there are all these hints that things are going to turn supernatural, yet they never do! Half the time I’m waiting for the group to turn into werewolves (wolves are a big thing on their mountain) and the other half for someone to perform a magic spell. In the very end of the episode (spoiler) we see the ground rumbling above a grave. Does this mean we’re now going to get a zombie show???

I think you owe it to the audience to tell them what your show is about in the pilot. I don’t see how it works if you keep your main hook a secret. At the very least, have the ending shot tell us, and let that be the cliffhanger. A rumbling ground isn’t enough. Audiences don’t have the patience these days to be dicked around. They have too many options.

It’s also interesting to note that we’re seeing yet ANOTHER sitting king who must choose his/her successor storyline. We saw this with Game of Thrones, Empire, Badlands, Tyrant, and now Titans. Some of you may be wondering WHY everybody’s picking this storyline. Are they all just copycats who can’t come up with their own ideas?

The answer is CONFLICT. This concept sets up a group of people fighting for the crown, and when you have that, you have conflict, deception, betrayal, and DRAMA built into the premise. You always want to come up with an idea that does the work for you. If you set up a story where a bunch people are all fighting for the same thing, the story is going to write itself. If you set up a story where a group of people are all trying to be better people, you’ll have to work a lot harder to find the drama since it isn’t naturally there. That’s why this setup is so popular.

Titans is a little like the moonshine its characters produce. It’s not the most pleasant way to drink, but in the end, it still gets you drunk. There’s a messiness here, for sure. But the subject matter is so unique, I can’t help but see the potential in the show.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Titans only did this for a page, but it was enough to frustrate me. The end of your script should be the FASTEST PART OF THE SCRIPT TO READ. Everything’s coming together so our eyes should be racing down the page. I don’t understand, then, why writers write some of their thickest paragraphs in the final 10 pages (4 and 5 line paragraphs when the rest of their script is 2-3 line paragraphs). Minimalize your action lines in the final act. If there’s a lot that needs to be explained, rethink the act until there isn’t a lot to be explained. And if you absolutely need a lot of words to tell the reader what’s going on, break your paragraphs up into smaller pieces.

  • klmn

    Wolves in Kentucky? Coal mining? The existing mines are endangered because of the administration’s environmental program. It would be crazy to start a new mine.

    I haven’t read the script yet, but – from your review – it doesn’t sound like the writer knows anything about the state.

    • Randy Williams

      I’ve had a script idea about a Kentucky hillbilly family who stole a horse they didn’t know belonged to a Saudi prince who was having it trained in Kentucky and the prince brings an army to get it back. I was going to call it “Blue Moon”

      I know someone from Kentucky and started to pick his brain. He’s from some small impoverished town that he had to escape from because he’s gay. He’s insanely attractive so the story is probably someone drove him out of there. But, he’s also insanely conservative, anti-government. Some things he says, makes you realize, he never left the shadows of those hills.

  • Poe_Serling

    Over on the WGN America website, the show is being promoted with the title:

    OUTSIDERS

    A struggle for power and control set in the rugged and mysterious hills
    of Appalachia, “Outsiders” tells the story of the Farrell clan, a family of
    outsiders who’ve been in these parts since before anyone can remember.
    Living off the grid and above the law on their mountaintop homestead,
    they’ll protect their world and defend their way of life using any means
    necessary.

    “Another frustrating thing about this episode is that there are all these hints that things are going to turn supernatural, yet they never do!”

    Even the above blurb about the show sorta tips its hat at a future supernatural angle to the series… ‘mysterious hills of Appalachia’… ‘in these parts since before anyone can remember’… ‘defend their way of life using any means necessary.’

    • Citizen M

      So that’s where grendl’s been ;o)

      • Ninjaneer

        Maybe that’s where Lizard’s been hiding for the past few years too.

        • Poe_Serling

          Or he/she has been hiding in plain sight the whole time.

  • tyrabanksy

    Anyone got the script? *glances at Scott*
    (And if anyone has Salem…)
    I grew up in a small town, so my interest is always piqued when there are hillbillies involved. Despite its shortcomings, Titan/Outsiders sounds awesome.

    • S.C.

      Sent! I’m off to see my therapist this morning, so if anyone wants to help pass it on that would be great.

      • tyrabanksy

        Thanks so much, Scott! If anyone wants it, just paste your email.

        • S.C.

          OK, makes sense. Send e-mails to mr.scottcrawford @ hotmail. That’ll save space on the comments board. I’ll keep checking regularly.

          • tyrabanksy

            Wait, now I’m confused…
            Anyway, I’m happy to send the script on if it helps you Scott. The email I use for this stuff isn’t linked to my phone, so I rarely check it. I guess if someone wants the script, paste your email here and I can send it, or Scott can do it directly.

          • pmlove

            Hey tyra, I’ll add to the chain (lovepeterm gmail).

            Much appreciated.

          • tyrabanksy

            Sent :)

          • GYAD

            Hey Tyra, I’d love this one: 13a769cf [at] opayq [dot] com

          • S.C.

            Sent! Back from therapy.

          • Randy Williams

            I’m sending you an email to get the script or if it’s faster…
            touchthermo at g mail
            Thanks!

          • S.C.

            Sent!!!

          • tyrabanksy

            Sent x 2

        • kent

          Kent L Murray at comcast.net. Thanks!

  • S.C.

    OT: AMERICAN IDOL is (nearly) over!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/business/media/american-idol-will-end-its-run-in-2016.html?_r=0

    The highest rated show from 2003 to 2011:

    1990–1991 Cheers (21.3)
    1991–1994 60 Minutes (20.9 to 21.9)
    1994–1995 Seinfeld (20.6)
    1995–1997 ER (21.2 to 22.0)
    1997–1998 Seinfeld (21.7)
    1998–1999 ER/Friends (17.8)
    1999–2000 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? – Tuesdays (18.6)
    2000–2001 Survivor: The Australian Outback (17.4)
    2001–2002 Friends (15.3)
    2002–2003 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (16.3)
    2003–2004 American Idol – Tuesdays (Competition) (14.2)
    2004–2011 American Idol – Overall Season (15.2 to 17.6)
    2011–2012 NBC Sunday Night Football (12.9)
    2012–2013 NCIS (12.7)
    2013–2014 NBC Sunday Night Football (12.8)

  • filmklassik

    A fine, insightful review, Carson… with two ridiculous assertions. The first:

    “As you know, networks have always ordered 22 shows, which is an insane amount of television to write in such a short period of time when you think about it. This is why old-time television was so boring.”

    Yes, it was ALL boring, Carson. All 60 years of it. You’re kidding now, right? Or are you REALLY going to dismiss over half a century of episodic TV with a cavalier wave of your hand? I agree that most conventional TV was boring, but some of it was quite wonderful (like any other art form — see Sturgeon’s Law)

    And then you said:

    “10 and 13 episode orders are way more serial friendly. Since you don’t have to come up with so much product, you can move away from the pre-formatted dynamic and start telling more long-form stories. This is why TV has gotten so good. It’s basically become a bunch of long movies.”

    Correct, a bunch of long, meandering, interminable movies with no end game, in many cases. If William Goldman was right when he pointed out that screenplays are structure — and he was — then what are we to make of endlessly attenuated “movies” that often begin well, peak early, feel made up on the fly… and almost invariably peter out well before the (underwhelming) finale?

    • brenkilco

      A ten or thirteen hour story is a horribly unwieldy dramatic form. If you can’t tell a story effectively in three or less you probably don’t have one. This new long form seems an uneasy, hybrid welding old mini series, which were usually adaptations of doorstop thick pop novels, with the appeal of old time episodic TV, creating a set of characters that the audience wanted to hang with week after week. The Brits seem to have it nailed down best. Mostly crime shows. And the solution or resolution of the crime is really just the peg on which to hang all the personal relationships of the cops. And sometimes the relationships of the criminals. By the end of something like Broadchurch, which does work, it seems like you’ve gotten to know everyone in the town where the terrible crime happened. And even if the detection finally doesn’t amount to much-and it didn’t there- the audience is emotionally invested in the solution. Of course, unlike commercial American productions, these Brit shows are designed to end. So they can’t degenerate, as something like this project surely would, into the vague, endless story arcs of soap opera.

      • S.C.

        MINI-SERIES!

      • Bifferspice

        i have never got really into tv series that are designed to keep going until they get cancelled, for the reasons you point out. i like the idea of a mini-series, where you can really explore the relationships and characters in more depth, but still tell a finite story, and pace it accordingly. i have some interest in writing one of those, but not in a show that just runs and runs and you keep praying that enough people are still watching it that you can extend it for another year…

        • S.C.

          Does SyFy still do mini-series? I think Hallmark does.

        • brenkilco

          Unless a TV writer has an incentive to make something ten hours long I can’t imagine him or her ever sitting down and saying, I have a story to tell but it has to be ten hours long;

          • Bifferspice

            funnily enough, it’s pretty much where i’m at at the moment!!

          • Magga

            Sopranos and Mad Men have it figured out. Assume that people are watching all the episodes, so you can have character development over the entire series whereas before downloading and DVD sets you usually had to leave them in place. Construct an endpoint for the season. Then treat each episode as an individual story, with a beginning, middle, end and a theme, but building on what has come before, and with the end of the season as a guiding star. No breaking away in the middle of a suspense scene. Always conclude and make the episode itself something you feel a need to tell, only within an established world.

      • filmklassik

        It’s fucking madness. People don’t realize that it is all coming down to VENUE now — to Where You Are Watching The Story. And it really shouldn’t.

        This 30-second playlet illustrates my point.

        STUDENT: Professor, what’s the ideal length for a story being told in the theater?

        PROFESSOR ZEITGEIST: For plays, you mean? I’d say 2 hours for straight dramas and comedies and a bit longer for musicals. Any longer than 3 hours and the audience starts to get antsy.

        STUDENT: And what’s the ideal length for a story being told at the multiplex?

        PROFESSOR ZEITGEIST: For movies? 2 to 2 1/2 hours. A bit less for comedies, a bit more for epics. But remember: People almost never walk out of their local AMC going, “Gee, I wish that movie was longer.” Shakespeare said it perfectly: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Simplify, people! Less is more! Less — Is — MORE!

        STUDENT: And what’s the ideal length for a story I watch on the TV in my living room?

        PROFESSOR ZEITGEIST: 15 hours.

        (CURTAIN)

      • davejc

        “A ten or thirteen hour story is a horribly unwieldy dramatic form. If you can’t tell a story effectively in three or less you probably don’t have one.”

        Scheherezade’s stories were at least eight hours, maybe more. An she had to hold her audience captive plus end each one on a cliffhanger. Her very life depended on it.

        Maybe that kind of accountability is what the industry needs today.

        • brenkilco

          Entertain me or die. That would open up more writing opportunities in LA than cable.

    • Poe_Serling

      Carson is often prone to make bold statements regarding his entertainment likes and dislikes. ;-)

      “… some of it was quite wonderful (like any other art form — see Sturgeon’s Law)”

      A great point worth repeating.

      Shows like The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller and a host of others are still great sources to seek out and enjoy some classic short stories, which were adapted for the small screen and seemed to be tailor-made for a 30-minute or 60-minute time slot.

      Plus, the writers of that era are still influencing filmmakers/authors/other creative types to this day.

      Rod Serling >> J.J. Abrams
      Richard Matheson >> Stephen King
      Harlan Ellison >> David Twohy
      .
      .
      .

      • S_P_1

        Twilight Zone is in my Netflix queue. Quite a few episodes are variations of each other. I think the main appeal is Rod Serling’s voice over narration and a 22 minute ENTERTAINING morality tale.

        • Poe_Serling

          Just a handful that I would recommend watching:

          >>Nick of Time and Night Call – both written by Matheson.
          >>The Hitch-Hiker and Twenty-two – both written by Serling.
          >>The Grave – written by Montgomery Pittman… he did a lot of writing and directing for TV Westerns.

      • brenkilco

        Not to mention the big movie names who cut their teeth writing episodic TV. Sam Peckinpah, Blake Edwards, James Brooks etc.

        • filmklassik

          You can imagine the phrase being delivered with a disdainful, Beevis & Buthead-type snicker (“Heh, heh. Old TV was boring, heh heh…”) and it automatically discounts smart, inconic, enduring shows like STAR TREK, THE ROCKFORD FILES, COLUMBO, THE WEST WING, etc.

          Carson’s a bright guy but that was an unbelievably absurd generalization.

          • brenkilco

            If he wants to gush about things like Kingsmen and Ex Machina fine. But if he’s never seen an episode of The Avengers or The Outer limits- and I’ll take that bet if anyone wants to make it- he should go learn himself something.

      • Ninjaneer

        Love the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Growing up, I always looked forward to the Twilight Zone marathons.

        The kernel of the concept for the script I’m going to submit for SS250 came from how I thought a TZ episode was going to end. TZ ended up taking a different route but I always thought it would have been better the way I had anticipated it.

        • Poe_Serling

          “The kernel of the concept for the script I’m going to submit for SS250 came from how I thought a TZ episode was going to end.”

          The original TZ series is definitely fertile ground for creative inspiration. There’s a ton of films and TV shows loosely based on some of the show’s episodes.

          • Ninjaneer

            Absolutely. Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. I used to keep a log of the AHP episodes that I liked the most. If you include the Alfred Hitchcock hour there are over 300 episodes I think.

            One more thing… I also love me some Columbo.

            The funny thing is that my idea was already different than the Twilight Zone episode because it was based on what I though should have happened and by the time I was done writing it the script was even more different than my original idea. So now it bares no resemblance to the TW episode but I never would have thought of it without seeing it.

          • Poe_Serling

            You’re right – watching close to three hundred episodes of AH Presents is an exhausting thought. ;-)

            A few memorable ones that come to mind:

            >>Into Thin Air starring Hitch’s daughter Pat.
            >>Man From the South starring Peter Lorre and Steve McQueen.
            >>Breakdown directed by Hitchcock and starring Joseph Cotten.

          • Ninjaneer

            I was just reviewing the loglines for some of the AH Presents episodes. Most of them really make me want to watch them. Reminds me of how important concept is.

          • brenkilco

            Breakdown is particularly memorable. Hitchcock himself directed a few of the episodes, fewer than ten I believe, including the famous Roald Dahl story Lamb to the Slaughter.

          • Poe_Serling

            And the “Man from the South” with McQueen and Lorre is also based on a short story by Roald Dahl.

          • Magga

            First post-pilot episode of Columbo was directed by one Steven Spielberg

          • Ninjaneer

            Yeah, I actually noticed that last night. I happened to be going through Spielberg’s IMDB.

          • Poe_Serling

            And Spielberg also directed the TV pilot movie for Serling’s Night Gallery series.

          • Levres de Sang

            Columbo would almost certainly be my desert island selection TV show.

    • S_P_1

      I’ve been binge watching a few cancelled network tv shows on Netflix. Half the season is FILLER episodes. The cable tv preference of 13 episodes allows you to tell core stories versus fluff.
      If I was in a position to choose between writing for network versus cable, it’s cable by a longshot. I see creativity burnout as a reality of writing 22 episodes per season.

      • brenkilco

        And back in the fifties and sixties it was 30 plus episodes a year.

        • S_P_1

          TV was also KING back then when it came to entertainment.

  • leitskev

    “The end of your script should be the FASTEST PART OF THE SCRIPT TO READ”.

    An excellent point, and I learned this in my first use of the sequence method. The idea of the sequence method is to divide a script into 8 equal parts. 2 sequences first act, 4 for the second, 2 for the fourth, and each sequence has a beginning point, turning point, and end point. However, if one studies pretty much any film they will learn that the turning points(sequence turning points) and end points come fast and furious in the third act as the story builds.

    The balance of 8 equal sequences is an artificial human construct because we find that kind of symmetry appealing when looking at a structure. But in an actual movie(or story), there needs to be a building and an acceleration. So things move faster the further we go, especially in the third act.

    • S.C.

      The sequence approach is fine, but I don’t believe all the sequences need to be equal or that there need to be 8 of them. 12 is a good number, easily divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6.

      More importantly, each sequence or stage or chapter should have its own mini-goal. A story can be seen as a character going through a series of goals. And, in many cases, each sequence is a new location, although I accept that isn’t always going to be the case (contained stories).

      Here are some other structural approaches, out of interest:

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-syd-field-paradigm.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-robert-mckee-paradigm.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-mckee-quest.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-linda-seger-paradigm.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-truby-blocks.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-vogler-journey.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-hague-six-stage.gif

      http://dramatica.com/resources/articles/how-and-why-dramatica-act-structure.gif

      http://dramatica.com/articles/how-and-why-dramatica-is-different-from-six-other-story-paradigms

      • Citizen M

        Film Critic Hulk:

        NO MATTER WHAT THE STORY – TRAGEDY, COMEDY, OR HISTORY – SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS WERE IMBUED WITH THIS SPECIFIC 5 ACT STRUCTURE EVERY TIME. THE INTRO, THE ESTABLISHING OF THE CONCEIT, THE TURN, THE SPIRAL, AND THE CLIMAX (WHICH HAMMERS HOME THE CONCEIT).

        http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/12/11/hulks-screenwriting-101-excerpt-the-myth-of-3-act-structure

        • S.C.

          There’s also the two-act structure of disaster movies like EARTHQUAKE, JURASSIC PARK and INDEPENDENCE DAY – first half set-up and second half pay-off (one long ending).

          I’ll use all caps as well for emphasis:

          IT’S WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU!

          • leitskev

            Just to be clear, I am not a template advocate. I think there are MANY templates that MAY prove useful in helping one construct a story. EVERY successful film I watch becomes a potential template to look at when setting up your story. But there has to be a logic that guides the decision you make in creating that story. For example, in the Godfather we don’t meet the protagonist until about 12 or 15 minutes into the film. There is a reason it was done this way, and understanding that might guide you in some potential story…if you can understand the reason they did it that way(your understanding might be subjective, that’s fine, as long as it helps you in the story you are trying to use the model for).

          • S.C.

            Just to be clear, and I wrote this in another response, I think templates are really useful for brainstorming and avoiding procrastination.

            I also believe – strongly – that people should do their own analysis, breakdown of stories like THE GODFATHER or anything else they like.

            I don’t believe anyone should make a decision about their script based on the a template, i.e. this scene has to be here because McKee says so.

            As the late Syd Field said:

            IF IT WORKS USE IT, IF IT DOESN’T, DON’T.

            Best screenwriting advice ever.

          • leitskev

            Yes, it’s a matter of understanding what works and doesn’t in a particular story. Templates CAN be a helpful tool. Tools not rules!

      • brenkilco

        I’ve never really understood this stuff beyond the need for a script to have three acts. Oh, I can see how you can dissect scripts and find typical structural elements. And perhaps if some weakness in you work is gnawing at you these templates or paradigms or whatever they fancy themselves might give you a clue to what’s needed. But does anyone writing a story actually sweat over his ninth sequence or the state of his oppositional throughline? I already know the answer is yes but I’m being a curmudgeon. Can anything not utterly schematic and inorganic be the result if you do? Virtually every great script ever written was done without benefit of this stuff- not talking about outlining. That’s entirely different. It just seems to me that if you have a story to tell it will just naturally contain these elements. And if what you’re writing doesn’t have these elements there may not have been a story there in the first place.

        • leitskev

          I have never understood the “if you have a story to tell” stuff. Kind of like the sculpture is waiting to be rescued from the stone. I’ve written over 10 features and I am working on several prose stories, and to me stories are created, they are not set in stone. And structure is a useful tool toward that creation. But it’s a matter of tool not a rule.

          When I first began thinking about sequences the thing I found really useful was a more expanded idea of a turning point. We know about act turns, of course. Turning points are useful not only in sequences but I think most scenes themselves have one. Think about Jane works on a project with Harry and she wants them to go out on a date. But Harry is shy and she doesn’t want to be the one to ask him out. So a turning point is required…something that will get Harry to ask her out.

          Looking to construct these turning points is very useful in creating the story. For me it has nothing to do with templates at all. I just like to find these turning points…scene turning points can culminate in sequence turning points, and sequence turning points can culminate in act turn points. It’s very useful for building in reversals and in creating a less predictable plot.

          • brenkilco

            The other side of the coin. I’m all for outlining and organizing, though I admit I seldom practice what I preach, but I honestly think there’s a lot more instinct or maybe unconscious construction involved than you may be allowing. Most of the time when you’re writing a scene you don’t have to worry about its structure. Why? Because you’re writing the scene. You’ve decided there needs to be a scene. Which means that you’ve already judged consciously or unconsciously that it’s necessary to get your story from here to there, which means that you already know the goal, which means that you already know more or less how it ends and when it’s over. Maybe the charts help but I’d consult them last.

      • leitskev

        The sequence approach that I find useful is where each sequence has a turning point which creates a kind of pivot toward what becomes the end point of the sequence. This is not a rule, just an approach that can be useful. But what I found to be the case is that those turning points come quicker and quicker as the story reaches its dramatic conclusion. So the sequences are by necessity shorter.

        Thanks for the links my friend, appreciate the time you took.

      • S.C.
        • Shawn Davis

          Here is the typical construct to my writing style. Simplified, of course…

        • Shawn Davis

          The simplified writing method I’ve been known to use. When I’m in a hurry, I tend to skip step 9…

  • brenkilco

    If you set up a story where a bunch people are all fighting for the same thing, the story is going to write itself.

    So how come when it wrote itself for Bill S. it was like Henry the fourth or King Lear and when it writes itself for these guys it’s this messy thing about angry hillbillies?

    • S.C.

      Shakespeare drew on a number of sources for his plays; in many cases they were adaptations of previously produced plays… or REMAKES!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur-Hamlet

      The challenge for today’s writers is to try and write something that has never been seen before, and that sometimes means writing about rather odd subjects.

      • brenkilco

        Just a joke. Nothing any good even begins to write itself. Let’s not kid ourselves.

        • S.C.

          I thought my script was writing itself. I was wrong! It can go well, but you still need to put in the effort.

          I speculated that HOT PURSUIT may have failed because the writing process was too easy (including star as producer).

        • Bifferspice

          i’ve been waiting for my script to write itself for years. my script’s a lazy bastard.

  • ThomasBrownen

    Since today is TV Tuesday and Carson mentioned Halt and Catch Fire on Twitter, I just wanted to say that I really, REALLY am liking that show (6 of 10 episodes into it).

    I’ve been looking for my next show to binge watch, so I watched Turn and Halt and Catch Fire (among others). (I think Carson gave them both [xx] worth the reads.) Turn wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. There was some good work done setting up the characters and plot, but I have to admit that I was getting a bit confused about who was on which side of the Revolution, which could totally be my shortcoming. But I was also a bit confused by some of the basic plot logistics, such as, that lady would use the laundry as a signal, but how would that work? Why couldn’t she just talk to them, which is what she seemed to do after using the laundry-as-bat-signal.

    More than just my occasional confusion, the problems left to be resolved in the rest of the season seemed a little short-sighted and too easy to predict. There seemed to be a predictable love conflict with the woman who had her husband taken away, and I suppose his father would have a conflict with the main character too. And when the pilot had two characters hiding behind some barrels, I remember thinking that this is what’s supposed to motivate me to keep watching the show? It’s an easily solved problem… just keep hiding, or kill the bad guy, or something… but whatever that something was, it could probably be solved without an entire series. So anyhow, it wasn’t bad, and I probably would have kept looking, but there were other options, so I ended up watching…

    Halt and Catch Fire. And if Turn had problems that were too small, this had problems that were HUGE. Creating a new computer against the odds? While being sued / watched / threatened by massive litigation from your competitors. This is the kind of problem that can last for seasons. And better yet, it’s a problem based more on the characters’ PROACTIVE goals, instead of much of the REACTIVE actions like Turn had.

    And the characters? Mystery boxes are all over the place, and even when they’re doing something kinda-bad, I still find myself admiring them for their boldness and competency. There are some really well thought out characters here. Also, I think this show really thrives with CONFLICT and SUBTEXT between the characters. They’re all working together, and yet, each episode is filled with do-or-die high stakes as they work “together.” And this conflict permeates their discussions, and adds a whole layer to all the conversations.

    I also love the title sequence. LOVE IT. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it before reading this paragraph. When I first saw it, I thought, eh, cool. 80s music with artsy, 80s techno-colored visuals. But there seemed to be more… that’s sort of an electron travelling across the screen and the sequence ends with a computer light turning on, so it’s sort of like 80s style with computers. But there seemed to be more… and maybe I’m just too lame to notice this at first… but the title sequence is telling you everything you need to know about this show: the sperm-like electron travels to the egg-like microchip. This is a show about the CONCEPTION of the digital age in the 80s. (And once I realized this, I noticed that the conception motif is repeated a lot of other places in the show’s overall art direction.) A lot of shows just show flashes of common images or motifs in the opening sequence, but this one seemed to be both artsy and had a message.

    But is it too serious or boring? I don’t see that being the case. It seems right on par with other “serious” shows such as Mad Men or House of Cards. So I’m hoping that this catches on and becomes big, because I certainly think it has the potential.

    • charliesb

      TURN starts off slow, and yes uses well worn tropes to establish itself, But it really starts to pick up once some of the more bigger players are introduced. I’m partial to historical pieces which could be why I enjoy it so much, plus I love watching old times espionage tricks.

      I watched the first couple episodes of HALT & CATCH FIRE. It is really good, and yet I haven’t gone back (yet). I think it’s the tone. It feels too cold, detached and somber, not necessarily a bad thing I guess, but definitely not the first thing I’m checking for on Netflix after work.

      • ThomasBrownen

        There is something rather… intense (?) about the show. I feel like I have to pay attention and not miss anything because the subtlest details often play a huge part in understanding the characters and their motivation. So I’ve been balancing it with Parks and Rec, which is definitlely light entertainment, LOL.

    • wlubake

      I loved Season 1 of Halt & Catch Fire. My problem (and you might find this too as you progress), is that these huge problems resolve (or transform) rather quickly. Things that seemed like a big deal are cast aside. But the character stuff – the mystery boxes – just seem to pile up.

      Finally, I find myself desperate for someone to root for. Your choices are the asshole, the wimp or the “I’m anti-establishment because F you” person. All pretty unlikable in different ways. You kind of root for and against all three at different points in the season. It is off-putting.

      • ThomasBrownen

        Yeah, I agree about needing someone to root for, although so far the characters’ competence has nicely off-set some of their flaws. I think the writers also tried addressing this with Donna (the wife), although sometimes I think they made her a little too perfect.

        • wlubake

          All I can say is keep watching. The season took me places I didn’t expect. Looking forward to season 2. Hope the show gets its fan base. Plus it features a couple local guys (Dallas) in Scoot McNairy and show-runner Christopher Cantwell. That always makes me root for success that much more.

    • Midnight Luck

      it gets even better and better as it comes to a close. Each episode before the finale ratcheting up the pressure.
      I really liked it, can’t wait for Season 2.
      Glad they kept it on.

  • S.C.
    • GYAD

      Haven’t read the script but the cast is excellent and the director did make the superb INCENDIES so I’m looking forward to this one…

  • charliesb

    OT: Sense8 / Netflix

    Has everyone seen the trailer for the new Wachowski tv series coming to Netflix. I’m wondering if their talents are more suited to television.

    Also take a look at the talk with Reed Hasting about the future of Netflix, network television and Apple. If you don’t care about how he started then start from around 20 mins in.

    • Buddy

      the wachowski’s sound cool…

    • charliesb

      I love Reed Hasting’s, I think he’s a great visionary. I really recommend anyone interested in working in television watch his talk. He has some great things to say about creating stories for groups of people and creating content for specific countries and markets. Plus he’s got 3 billion dollars to spend on your ideas.

  • Paul Schellens

    I actually don’t think there’s much special about today’s TV. Back when the early seasons of Lost, 24, Prison Break and Desperate Housewives were on each week, now those were great TV times!

  • Frankie Hollywood

    “I think you owe it to the audience to tell them what your show is about in the pilot.”

    Related to that, you can’t keep one of your big mystery boxes hidden for the entire first season.

    J.J. Abrams has gambled and lost on that twice. Alcatraz, we never did learn exactly what was going on, though they teased it all season. And Almost Human, we heard about what was “behind the wall” dozens of times. But, again, he never showed us.

    Maybe if Abrams and staff would’ve revealed something in Eps 9 or 10, things might’ve worked out better.

    Kinda OT: here’s the trailer for the new Fox series Minority Report. The people at Irish Examiner seem to like it.

    Did you know there’s a Minority Report TV series? The first trailer kinda rocks
    http://www.irishexaminer.com/technow/movies/did-you-know-theres-a-minority-report-tv-series-the-first-trailer-kinda-rocks-330159.html


    • Frankie Hollywood

    • Scott Strybos

      I thought the trailer was a little… flat. So much so, I didn’t make it to the end. I am a little worried for the show.

    • Buddy

      It looks terrible.
      I think that making one of the precog the protag (funny nah ?) is a very bad idea. This is the SCI-FI version of EARLY EDITION…

      • Buddy

        Now watch MINORITY’s trailer with EARLY EDITION’s sound :-D

        • Eric

          You have to time it just right, so that the body hits the bus at the end of the first musical motif. Hilarious!

      • Scott Strybos

        I can’t tell from your post, but you aren’t denigrating Early Edition, are you? I thought that was a great show.

        • Buddy

          No, it was a good show, very original at the time ! I mean, the concept still works !
          Look at the minority one, it’s exactly the same thing : he knows who’s gonna die and tries to stop them before it’s too late…

    • wlubake

      I’m a huge fan of Minority Report the movie (and Phillip K. Dick’s writing). So I’ll likely tune in for this. A few thoughts from the trailer, though:

      1. This is 10 years post pre-crime, and Dash looks about 18 years old. I looked up the actor, and he’s actually 37. But dang, he looks young.

      2. It looks like Wally (the lab tech) was the only movie cast member to return. Hopefully they’ll find some cameos throughout the season.

      3. Glad to see they stuck to the movie mythology (at least somewhat). Agatha had all the talent. Arthur and Dash were worthless without her. It looks like his precognition has some reasonable limits in the show.

      • Frankie Hollywood

        Looks like Fox did a riff on Sleepy Hollow with this. Black, female cop teamed with a white guy who’s got some kind of strange insight.

        I’m getting ready to write a Sci-Fi pilot of my own, so I’m curious to see how this goes.

    • Magga

      Aren’t they overthinking this? Just have the pre crime unit get clues, cross-cut with a new, interesting story each week, allow us to see how it builds to murder in surprising ways, build suspense out of whether or not they get caught in time. Seems like a brilliant idea for a procedural, and they go and make a larger mythology?

  • Buddy
    • S.C.

      My 15 year-old nephew likes GOTHAM but thinks AGENTS OF SHIELD is “cheap”.

      Interesting article.

  • S_P_1
  • S.C.
  • S.C.

    I’m 37 this week.

  • S.C.

    Sent!!!!!

  • S.C.

    Sent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • S.C.

    Sent!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • S.C.

    Sent!!!!!!!!!!!

  • wlubake

    It’s about time someone did a show about hillbilly crime families in the coal mining mountains of Kentucky. I bet you could easily get, say, 6 seasons out of a show like that.

  • klmn
  • S.C.
  • Scott Strybos

    OT: What the FUCK are these network-morons doing?!? This past week has been a slaughter. They’ve been really cleaning house, cancelling a lot of great shows!

    Benched, Marry Me, Sirens, Mindy Project, Forever, I was just getting into Battle Creek…

    There is nothing left for me to watch on TV. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another show that I currently watch.

    (EDIT: okay, I’ve thought of a couple, but still… this has been a dark day for my television.)

    • Midnight Luck

      Fargo is right around the corner.

  • Murphy

    I would definitely watch this show if Boyd Crowther escapes from prison and joins Brad Pitt in his war against the Feds.

  • carsonreeves1

    Haven’t sent one out for a couple of weeks but one will be coming this weekend!