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12/10/2006: Or Staple a Candy Bar to Every Page
I hope you guys enjoyed my Battlestar Galatica if you happened to check it out. Hope you weren't too traumatized. There was some "Espenson brings the funny" anticipation for this that had me a bit concerned since the ep wasn't so much, ya know, funny. But I did get to write the line "You've got goo in your hair" which I find hilarious in a Cylon context. Anyway, I'm just as proud as a proud thing to have been involved with that show, so... Thank You Ron! Whooo!
All right, back to our business at hand, the business of writing spec scripts. Here is more of what I learned at the round-table discussion at the Writers' Guild. The question on the table is about the dramatic build of your script. It's all right, isn't it, to let the script start out slow, setting things up for a big finish where everything pays off in a big meticulously conceived action/comedy sequence. Right?
Turns out, you've got fifteen pages. If you haven't gripped the agent, executive, or whomever in those fifteen pages, they're not going to bother finishing the script. There is nothing requiring anyone to whom you send your script to read the *whole* script. So you've got to work hard to keep them turning pages. The 15-page cut-off is one person's yardstick by the way, others will give you more or, often, less -- maybe even just the Teaser. It's not that they don't want to like your script, they do want to. But if they don't like it right away, the thing they want more than anything else is to pick up the next one on the stack, hoping that *this* one is the winner. And then there's one on the stack beneath that...
Now, that isn't to say you can let everything fall apart in the second half of your script. You still have to bring it on home. But pay special attention to the opening. If you're writing a spec pilot, consider all the different ways to introduce your characters -- if you just start with them waking up in the morning, well, it's classic, but you might want to see if you can find some other situation, some image, that tells us who they are right off the bat. If you're writing an existing show, think of all the episodes produced so far -- which one had the best opening? Is yours as good as that? As gripping? As tantalizing? Is there any way to start in the middle of some action? Consider playing with the time line of your episode to bring action to the front. If your show has jokes, pay special attention to the early ones, they're going to set your reader's expectations for what you're capable of.
Fifteen pages. Count 'em off and look at 'em. Make 'em sing.
Lunch: leftover cucumber salad and edamame from last night's sushi dinner. Even better than when they were fresh.