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09/15/2001 - Television & Story

Teleplay Tips & Tricks

Television & Story

The key to writing for television is to remember that it is primarily a storytelling medium. All other considerations are secondary.

No one in TV is crazy enough to say that character and dialog don't matter, but the truth is they don't matter AS MUCH as story. The primary purpose of a television episode is to keep the viewer tuned into that channel for the next commercial, so swift pacing, designed to capture and keep the viewer's attentin, is essential.

The TV writer's job is to pack as much story as possible into the hour drama or action show. In 55 pages and 46 minutes the average television episode will have 25-30 scenes. That means that scenes have to be short and punchy. Most series, in fact, simply won't allow any scene to run longer than 2 ? pages.

Remember, though, that this doesn't mean you can write those moody, "beach-walking" or "staring at the sunset" scenes that feature films do so well. Those are character moments, not story scenes. Besides, television's limited budget means that there's no time or money for lots of quick moments. Ever notice that on TV you seldom, if ever, see a montage?


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