Screenwriting : Quick questions by Frank DiSalle

Frank DiSalle

Quick questions

How many "scene cards" should there be in a half hour? Is it 14? So, 56 for a two hour script? Can the "resolution" of a TV Pilot be the setup for the series? Or must there be (pilot) plot issues resolved, as well? Thanks in advance

Jon Kohan

This might not be 100% correct, but from my experience I think it depends on what kind of show you're writing when it comes to resolving a plot in the pilot. If it's a show like Law and Order, then yes, because each show begins and ends in one hour. Yes there are smaller story arcs that can carry over a whole season or even entire run of the show, but for the main story line, they're wrapped up in a single episode. Now a show like The Killing (which is one of my favorite and I've drawn inspiration from) it's main story line runs for the whole season, and more. So in this case, no. The pilot is setting up the "world" and the issues the rest of the season is going to deal with. I'm putting the final touches on a one hour pilot called "Dreamer" that is a season long episodic story. There's a few questions raised in the beginning of the story and are answered at the end, but the major plot points are not answered at the end of the pilot. As for scenes, I've heard about 14 for a half hour and so on, but I just write how many I need. I don't know who important that is compared to page count. For an hour show you're looking for a page count around 60 pages, if you're show is on a network with commercials, and a little longer if one a network like HBO.

Frank DiSalle

I have in mind a series that should last a while, so the pilot is really meant to be, more or less, a two hour "set up": We meet all the players, and their back stories, and then we "launch" the series with the ending of the second hour. At least, 14 per half hour is a good working number; not carved in stone, but a good goal. Thanks for your help, and keep in touch! Frank D.

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