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  • MOW

    Been writing features the past six years...other than the seven breaks/acts for the mow...what other trip wires should I look for?

    I'm going to be doing a true story about a murder for hire plot...this story will be based entirely on my interviews with the intended victim...also what page length should I be shooting for around 100 pages?

    Read some of Larry Brody's input...thought I would check with some you guys who've written a mow.



  • #2
    Depends if it's for network or cable or pay. Different requirements for each. If you're writing it in the 7 act structure and you know for sure there will be commercial breaks - is this a network "for hire" or a spec that could wind up at HBO? - the biggest thing to be aware of is at the end of each act, you need to keep people from surfing away from your show during the commercials and not coming back. Essentially, you need to build to the end of each act and leave them wondering what happens next.

    Sounds simple enough, but in practice it's a bit of a bugger because the tendency may be to try to force moments leading out to the commercial breaks that aren't organic to the story.

    You'll want to be in the 94 to 98 page range, but shoot for 94 because shows are getting shorter and adding more commercials. Have been for the last 8 years or so. Your first act can run a little long - say 16 to 22 pages - but the rest should be in the 12 to 13 page range. Try to contain the fade out within page 13, because you'll slug each new act at the top of the page and if you have a three or four line orphan on page 14, you've got to slug on page 15 and that's a lot of wasted space. It affects your page count.

    If you're allowed to use a teaser, this can be very helpful in solving that lead-out issue. By writing a teaser that really cooks, you can always come back to it. When in doubt, reference the teaser and remind audiences that there's something coming. Makes it easier for them to sit through the Tampax and Alaska Airline commercials.

    Movies for TV generally have lower bugets, so be conscious of the size of your cast, how many locations you use, and the fact that they will want to shoot very quickly. It being a true story, you may feel locked into the events and places where it happened. But you're not. Information can be compressed and characters combined without compromisng the quality of the story or the integrity of the writer. The intent is to tell the story in a dramatic and engaging way. It's not a doc for the History Channel so don't let the facts bog you down. If the protag has two friends in two locations that were instrumental in the story, they can easily be one friend in one location delivering the same goods.

    The best advice I could give, though, is be prepared to work quickly and be prepared to hate every single one of the "creative" people in the room. If you can find a boss among them, listen carefully to that person's notes and heed them. And keep in mind, the boss in TV land is not necessarily the guy with the biggest office and the fanciest title. That's why they're so hard to pick out of a crowd.

    Good luck.


    • #3

      good sound advice. thanks for taking the time.