Screenwriting : Acts in a 1hr drama by Byron Q.

Byron Q.

Acts in a 1hr drama

So..3 acts, or 4acts? What do you guys usually do??

Phil Clarke

Hey Byron. As a general rule of thumb, I'd aim for 4-5 acts plus a teaser for hour-long series; 3 acts for half-hour. I would advocate finding a series that's most similar to what yours and emulate those act breaks. For example, the Breaking Bad pilot runs like so: Teaser – 3 pages Act One – 14 pages Act Two – 13.5 pages Act Three – 11.5 pages Act Four – 14 pages Hope that's of some help. If you'd like to discuss your work in more detail, do get in touch anytime.

Aray Brown

Phil, can the teaser be more than three pages?

Regina Lee

Just as an example, I picked up the Pilot of FX's THE STRAIN (a script that I like and used in my Stage 32 Next Level Class) - the Teaser is nearly 8 pages.

Byron Q.

Regina, is that pilot script available online?

Conrad Ekeke

Aray, teasers can't be more than 4 pages long for a 1hour pilot and Byron, you might see the standard format for an hour pilot here: http://www.movieoutline.com/articles/television-script-format.html But if it's an assignment that has its own specifics, you might write upto 75pages, sometimes more. But you can keep to standards all through.

Regina Lee

Byron, I don't know if it's online. I received the script from WME.

Regina Lee

Conrad, I obviously disagree with your assessment of Teasers, but I respect your POV.

Regina Lee

I just picked up the Pilot script of MTV's SCREAM, which I also like. 6 1/3 page Teaser. I don't know why someone would say a Teaser cannot be more than 3-4 pages long when that's not what US networks are saying. But that's just my perspective. Other people have their own reasons and personal context.

Conrad Ekeke

Regina, most people blog on several such topics and perhaps there's no standard limit for a teaser but if there is, I would really love to know as well. I read almost everything but my evaluation was on an average you know... What's your own POV? It may make more sense.

Regina Lee

I'm not here to argue, Conrad. I believe I have already stated my POV.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Conrad, perhaps check Regina's bio. ;)

Phil Clarke

I'm not sure why you would need a teaser longer than 4 pages for a 1-hour show. They are called teasers for a reason. :)

Regina Lee

I completely respect Phil's perspective. And he's right; you may not need a long teaser. He gave a great example above by breaking out BREAKING BAD. However, I want writers who do feel they need a longer teaser to know that they can utilize a longer teaser. My 3rd example: CBS's CODE BLACK Pilot Script by Michael Seitzman - 8 page Teaser. I am looking at the 3rd Revised Network Draft dated 1/25/15.

Regina Lee

Btw, please also note once again that I'm speaking from my US perspective. I can see that Phil is in London, and perhaps that informs his perspective in the same way that my domestic buyers inform my perspective. It's quite possible the Beeb or C4 only wants short teasers; I don't know! All valid.

David Levy

I have read pilot scripts for one hour dramas that range from three pages to about 7-8. I've stuck to 5 pages or less for a teaser then the typical 4 or even 5 act structure for a one hour tv pilot. Google has a page of nothing but Pilot scripts per year so you have many to chose from. Look more for the "writers drafts" than the "production" or "revised network" ones: https://sites.google.com/site/tvwriting/us-drama/pilot-scripts

Regina Lee

Hi Oliver, I'm pretty sure LAW & ORDER: UK uses a Teaser. I know that's cheating a bit since it's a US format. :-)

Aray Brown

I get that teasers sole purpose is to hook readers into the first 4 or 5 pages so they will read more of the story, so while I respect Phil's opinion I have the BATES MOTEL script (similar to my genre), which has an 8 page teaser and will be using that as a blueprint.

Regina Lee

Hi Aray, I wouldn't characterize that as a Teaser's sole purpose. Teasers have different purposes in different shows. For example, the purpose of the Teaser in LAW & ORDER is to introduce the "case of the week." Very utilitarian, and it works perfectly for that particular show. Go get 'em!!

Regina Lee

Oliver, I feel half a point is totally fair in this situation! I know I cheated!

Regina Lee

Hi Aray, please don't feel obligated to answer this question. I like to learn where people are coming from because it helps me to become a clearer communicator. If you have the BATES MOTEL Pilot, and you know it utilizes an 8-page Teaser, then why did you feel like you had to ask if a Teaser can be longer than 3 pages? I'm really not trying to pick on you. I hope you are empowered by your own research, and I hope you don't feel the need to ask about Teaser length if you have already done your own research.

Michael L. Burris

I suppose you could dissect the intellect and reasoning with any teaser. Teaser's are where persuasion and wantoness lies if done correctly as there is no exact science of right or proof with it. It's about interest, passion and relativity along with some sale ability, not to be a smarta^* or simplify: even though that is also a workable approach to teasers. While it is good to see how teasers are done if you follow some template from something else (Not that generalized borrowing isn't acceptable) it simply wont have legs no matter how passionate or convincing you try to be that it is different. Nothing unique is a good attitude but its a dance and your teaser is one place to be totally unique. Perhaps this is within the steps to production that I don't want to blabber about right now and why classes are offered for such.

Doug Nelson

Byron,. I assume you’re talking TV. As the writer, it’s your job to deliver the audience to the commercials with a strong enough story to hold them until the next commercial. I’ve been a staff writer on some 1 hour and half hour shows. Basically I like 2 minute teasers and tags – also less than 2 minutes. Take counsel from the network or showrunner.

Dan Guardino

Four acts is just a variation of the standard three acts.

Jeff Lyons

4 acts with a teaser and a tag is pretty typical for an hr drama, but every showrunner has their own way they like to structure their scripts. Depends on the show. And the acts have nothing to do with anything, other than selling soap, btw. :) HBO and other networks don't have act breaks because they don't have commercials. BBC is like that too.

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