January 30, 2012

Multi-cam shows on TVWriterChat

Good morning, afternoon, and evening. How nice of you to drop by! Tea?

This week's Screenwriters Anonymous detoxification is focussed on writing MULTI-CAM TV (as seen on television). It comprises two TV Writer Chats, the first one shorter to avoid double-ups.

So step into the parlour, it's time to watch some TV.

TV WRITER CHAT 14th December, 2011

* Once you’ve sold a script, you’ve sold the copyright and your vision. Producers now own it and can make any changes without the writer.
* Single-camera shows will still be in three acts but the script may not show the breaks.
* Some single-cam scripts look like a short film (e.g. Entourage).
* Single-cam shows can tend to be less jokey and more dramatic. Where a multi-cam often ends on a comedic note, single-cam can end on a dramatic or comedic ‘button’.
* Single-cam shows have more scenes, because they’re not so restricted by locations and sets.

TV WRITER CHAT 18th December, 2011: MULTI-CAM TV

* Double-spacing and act breaks often make multi-camera scripts longer than single-cam.
* All action is in CAPS.
* Multi-cams are written a little more like a play.
* The writing schedules for multi-cam shows are often crazy; it’s hard to have a family and write on such a show. Some days you can start at 9am and go until 6am the next day!
* Most multi-cams state which characters will be appearing in the scene under the slugline.
* It’s more set-up -> punchline.
* Scenes are lettered, not numbered, as they coincide with the studio camera points.
* The faster/earlier you do your set-ups, the faster you’ll get events in motion and have more room for story conflict to evolve.
* Multi-cams tend to have more twists/reversals/complications.
* They have a comic rhythm, a certain cadence you can follow like a beat.
* Most writers consider multi-cams harder to write.
* This type of show is generally given less time on air to find an audience if they don’t rate well immediately (Big Bang Theory is one of the exceptions to this).
* One method you can use to write a multi-cam: start with a premise line before outlining – a cause & effect statement that tells the A-story as a set-up, turn, turn, then major turn.
* The live taping of multi-cams makes the schedule very strict. It’s also more gruelling because of network approvals in between, punch-ups, etc.
* This type of script format takes longer to learn.
* Watch shows, read scripts, and study what happens in the A, B, and C strands!
* Multi-cam shows can be easier to break down ‘cos the format is so strictly established. You can know where the marks should happen.
* Look at the story points at the end of each act break. This will give you an idea of the formula a show uses.

Well look at the time. Our session is up for today.  Come back next week when we present the brain pickings of screenwriter, author, and UCLA teacher, Richard Walter. It's a must-see episode!

Screenwriters Anonymous - it's like 7 Minutes in Heaven except it's you at a keyboard for 70 years, alone.

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