Posted by: steveonfilm | December 2, 2008

Dusty Delivers

I asked for a White Russian recipe and Dusty McCloud delivered.

Dusty has posted up a few comments here and there before. I had a chance to check out his blog earlier today. It’s pretty cool.

Like myself, Dusty is an aspiring writer, except he ACTUALLY lives in L.A., and I’m just a poser out here in Atlanta.

At any rate, I encourage you to check out his blog, which I’ve added to my screenwriting blog links.

Make sure to read up on his current project Storyville, which has successful cable series written all over it.




  1. Thanks for the kind words. I’m just getting the hang of this blogging thing, but its good to see other screenwriters doing this as well. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I’ll take a look at your scene you put up in a day or two, and glad you liked the White Russian. Used to bartend in college and the key to White Russians is not get too overbearing with the vodka.

  2. You’re spot on with the “too much vodka” thing. That was what was killing my attempt at making them last night.

    If you get a chance to check out the scene, cool. If not, no big deal. I’ve moved on to the last 15 pages or so and am trying to tie up this draft by the end of the week.

    I’ve never read a TV pilot or TV show script before. What are the main differences from a regular movie spec script?

  3. Wow. Not easy answer…Hmm. I’ll try to answer it as simple as possible. In my blog I had mentioned that this was my first stab at writing TV on my own (I wrote a pilot with 3 other guys a couple years back that didn’t go so far as some of us couldn’t see eye to eye in the end) So it took me a couple years to get the format down and the character arcs. But after a lot of research I can comfortably answer this question.

    First, in film a character has a definite arc. It starts medium, drops below the medium, shoots back up to the climax, then plateaus back out. We get an idea for who this character is, and they are expected to do certain things. Even antagonists have expected arcs. However in Television, characters can be more flatline. Do things that are more “human” or even unexpected because we have a whole season to explain these “swings”. Heroes in film have a specific route their arcs are supposed to take, but television arcs have a slower, more defined rise or decline. If that makes sense. You have a whole season to play with, 13-23 hours, instead of 2 hours in a film.

    Second, There are more characters (in my pilot I introduce about 16 characters, and David Milch introduced 22 characters in Deadwood!) So as you can tell, in a 1 hour show, in order to cover so many characters, it is important to be as brief and as defining as possible in your scenes. It’s not uncommon to spend anywhere from 1-2 pages on a scene and move on, a little longer for others that deserve more importance. Whereas in film a scene normally lasts about 2-3 pages, and could go on as long as 5.

    Third, to go with this last point, in a movie script there is usually Story A (protagonist), Story B (Mission), Story C (sidekick, Antagonist, elements, environment, etc.) however, in television there are 4, 5, or even 6 storylines. So because of this, the pacing is different. Whoever gets the strongest storyline for one show gets Storyline A and we spend more time on them, whereas storyline E gets less time because their plot is miniscule in comparison, or the information provided for storyline E could be glossed over quickly. Then, the next episode the character who was storyline E in the episode last week could now become storyline A, or even B, in the new episode.

    As well, Some characters who are barely introduced at the beginning of a series might become an incredibly important person at the end of the season or series. So their character arc might be minimal in the beginning and gain more momentum by the end. For example, I have a character who is the strong protagonist in the beginning of my pilot who is actually killed by the end of the first season. So as you can imagine you have to start thinking about what episode you’re going to introduce certain things to the audience.

    Finally, most television shows are broken down into 5-7 Acts with 3-4 scenes a piece, whereas in film there are 3 Acts with sub-acts in each. So if you can learn to watch for when the commercial breaks come in a TV show, each Act varies, but lasts about 8-12 minutes. And within those 8-12 pages you have to get through 3-4 scenes/plot points. Some people see this and freak out because of the strict limitation in time, but I actually like it because I know to leave cliff hangers at the end of scenes or acts in order to leave your audience hungry for what’s gonna happen after the commercial…slightly different from film.

    Another thing I like about TV is you can introduce a problem the first episode, and not solve it until the 6th, stringing the audience along. In a film, this can’t be done. If a problem is introduced in the script, it will guaranteed to be solved by the end of the script or the audience will leave feeling cheated.

    It’s a whole different animal, and a lot to wrap your head around. Hope this helped differentiate.

    Good luck getting your draft done by the weekend!

  4. Great post Dusty.

    I’ve read about the structure of a TV script a little, I mean in regard to how acts fit within the commercial breaks and such, but it was cool to get a significantly more indepth definition from an actual writer.

    Actually, a lot of what you were writing was easy to visualize in the context of, say, LOST. How they’ll introduce things and it’ll be really small until 5 episodes later where it becomes a HUGE plot point.

    Would you mind if I Repost this “formally” on my blog?

    I think there’s a lot of good stuff here other writers could use.

  5. Post away. I’m glad writers are reading this stuff!

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