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Thursday 26 February 2009

New Stuff

Well, I'm told that the information's shown up on Wikipedia, so I suppose I'm safe to blab about it now... the good folks at JBTV were kind enough to invite me to take time off from development work to pitch something for the US version of Eleventh Hour, and my episode Subway will air on CBS on March 5th. It guest-stars Mariel Hemingway and is directed by ER alumnus Paul McCrane. My thanks to Cyrus and Ethan and everyone in the writers' room for letting me play in their yard.

My second show is titled Medea, and it'll be the season finale on April 2nd.

Can't say too much about that one yet as it's shooting right now, other than that it features Sleeper Cell's Melissa Sagemiller (pictured).

But I will say this - I reckon I've been seriously spoilt by the American pace of creation and production.


Piers said...

Ooh. Nice!

Start bringing some of that expertise back with you and soon we'll be having writers' rooms and fast-paced production and shooting on high-end media and longer runs and foreign sales and writer-producers in the UK.

Can't wait.

Gail Renard said...

And bring some experienced managements and execs back with you, who don't interfere without reason and aren't afraid to trust good writers. Tell you what... we'll throw in a myriad of accountants, suits and jobs-worths in exchange.

Bravo on your American success!

Stephen Gallagher said...

Seems to have gone down OK. We got 12.7 million viewers and pushed up the season average.

Unknown said...

Can you tell us some of the differences between American and UK formats?

Stephen Gallagher said...

Hi Antonia

Are you thinking of the layout of the script on the page, or the structure of the show on the air?

Script layout-wise I've experienced no difference at all -- I used the same set of Final Draft 'screenplay' defaults that I use for all my UK scripts. The same film script layout you'll see in all the screenwriting books. If you don't have FD then the same layout can be achieved with tabs and carriage returns.

If you mean episode structure, that varies from show to show depending on the broadcaster's requirements. CBS's Eleventh Hour is a 44 minute show in a teaser and four acts -- ie, a pre-credits sequence followed by four acts averaging around 8 or 9 minutes each. Crusoe was a teaser and five acts, in the same running time. NBC were partial to a long first act and a short fifth act, but that was just their preference.

The 44-minute hour seems the predominant length in network drama. The cable channels have different advertising policies and break patterns, and these affect the length and act structure of the shows. I think Dexter (made for Showtime cable) is around 50 minutes, for example, and has no teaser. What it does have is a set of opening credits that last one and three-quarter minutes, which takes a big bite out of the running time!

My last script for the BBC was a two-parter and each of the parts ran almost the full hour, about 58 minutes. But there's more than one 'BBC hour', the length depending on the slot and the time of day.

Of course with the BBC you've got no ads and so your internal 'act structure' exists mainly in your imagination. Back when I was doing BUGS, producer Brian Eastman had the writers work to a commercial-style act structure even though the shows were for BBC1, because it imposed a certain pace and rhythm to the hour.

Daveon said...

Cool - this is sitting on the DVR as I type. Might be worth doing over lunch :)

It's interesting reading some of your stuff in parallel to Wil Wheaton and the work he does from time to time on TV. You should check him out...

AND... when are you on this side of the Pond again?

Stephen Gallagher said...

Sometime soon, for sure. But as to when... I think my distance vision extends about 2 weeks into the future at the moment and everything gets hazy beyond that!

Chris said...

Always remember Paul McCrane from "Robocop" - he met a decidely gruesome end!