Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Script writing

by Nathan Stout

Before you can really get going on a successful TV project (or any acting project for that matter) you need a script. I will talk a little bit about scripting (at least from the aspect of a show like According to Whim).
When I came up with the idea to script out the whole of season 2 I had a general idea of what I wanted to do; six thirty minutes shows about friendship. I drew on themes from Spaced and Clerks 2. I had the formula of two best friends that hit rock bottom and make their way back to the top (and then some). I formed a rough story arc via outline and then divided the arc between six parts.

I drew on my experience with season 1's scripted pieces and scripts that Miguel and Chris had written for various projects. I knew that in each episode I needed to incorporate opening and closing credits as well as 'next time' and 'last time' segments and then needed to divide up the left over minutes to the story. This left me with roughly twenty six minutes to fill. From Miguel's Denton Texas script I learned that one page of script is supposed to equal one minute of screen time. Now this isn't always the case (in fact it is rarely the case) but it is a good standard to use. That means I basically needed to fill thirty pages for each episode.

I began writing episode one and I found it fairly easy to do as long as I had the basics already laid out in my head. The first episode only took me three days to write. I quickly finished the other five episodes. After that writing stage was complete I decided I needed to go back and actually mark each scene for later 'ease of shooting'.

When it came time to edit the footage I realized that I didn't have enough. What was one page of script would only turn out to be about thirty to forty seconds of screen time (and sometimes less).

When all was said and done I came up very short on time and Chris and I had to write out shoot small 'inserts' to place between scenes. Usually they didn't fit (story wise) into the script but they worked out well enough.

You might ask why the focus on exactly thirty minutes? Well, you don't need exactly thirty minutes on the web BUT you do need exactly thirty minutes for broadcast television (public access). If you don't your show will just end and there will be dead air on TV (I've seen it)! I am guessing that once someone complains about it the public access office would pull the offending show. So it is very important to get the full thirty minutes.

This brings us to the next issue I have had with season 2 (and am still having). I have 'completed' season 2 for the web and have started posting it. It is quite a few minutes short of the prerequisite thirty minutes for television but that didn't stop me posting it to the web. Once we finally get the extra bits filmed I can then master it to DVD and submit it to public access.

As I began to write season 3 I decided to keep the whole 'coming up short' in mind. I tried to get more than thirty pages in the script. We are also heavily ad libbing to add content (that are usually fairly good gags) so add to the script time.

In the end season 2 has the honor of having a formal script that I can post with pride. Season 3 does not (since so much of it is ad libbed) but it has been easier to do.

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