Drama Structure

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  • Drama Structure

    With the popularity of cable and streaming content, is everyone still writing with traditional act structure to accommodate commercial breaks? So many dramas now no longer follow that format, so should all pilot specs still adhere to it? Someone once told me that one should stick to traditional, instead of assuming where it will land. However, writing that way assumes it lands on network. But if the content is definitely not network-friendly, then what? Is it bad to write your 60 pages as a straight shot with a more cinematic structure, with no indicated acts/commercial breaks?

    Just curious about everyone's thoughts on this.

  • #2
    Re: Drama Structure

    You can't go wrong writing a spec pilot that feels cable and is not network friendly. Networks love to read "cable" samples. If they like it enough to buy it, you'll end up redeveloping it anyway. That's when the act breaks appear.

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    • #3
      Re: Drama Structure

      "Breaking Bad" was originally written as a "Hard R" type series with nudity and F-Bombs and in fact the Pilot and maybe a few episodes had that. Then when AMC picked it up they had future episodes written/developed from a "PG-13" aspect.

      Same with "Walking Dead" recently. The first episode of this season as well as the last from last season was written with Negan dropping F-Bombs all over and was in fact filmed that way but the broadcast version was edited to remove that language.

      However I think the unedited versions are available on Blu-ray.

      EDIT: I have to apologize for the "what in the world is he talking about" nature of my post. I was more referring to artisone's post above mine regarding writing for cable vs. network tv and not addressing at all the "commercial break" nature of network tv.
      Last edited by UneducatedFan; 01-06-2017, 02:54 PM. Reason: Clarification
      You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

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      • #4
        Re: Drama Structure

        The way I look at it, the more likely (of two potentially very unlikely) outcomes is that your script will not be purchased at all but will be used as a writing sample.

        To that end, I write act breaks even in cable-feeling scripts, because A) I like the ability to weave in multiple "cliffhangers" in a way that doesn't feel unnatural, but mostly B) I don't want to limit myself in terms of staffing opportunities. I think it's a lot easier to show you CAN write adhering to the format if need be.

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        • #5
          Re: Drama Structure

          Wrote my first pilot with act breaks, which was more of a legal procedural structure and would have been at home on basic cable or network. All the others since have been no act break and more pay-cable/streaming oriented.

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          • #6
            Re: Drama Structure

            Great feedback, guys. Thanks!

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