Thursday, May 18, 2006

Daytime in the Nighttime

My UCLA TV writing class had a guest last night: John Loprieno, best know for starring as Cord Roberts on "One Life to Live." John's now a scriptwriter on the show, and talked to us about writing for daytime television, which is a whole different satchel of eels than writing for primetime.

The show's head writer devises the overall direction and arcs, which is then hashed out into episode breakdowns by the breakdown writers. Those documents, basically detailed beat sheets, then get handed off to the scriptwriters like John.

Every Monday the scriptwriters get their assignments, and they have until the following Monday to write the script, 85 pages. That's impressive right there, sheesh! 85 pages a week at minimum, more if the staff is trying to bank for the holidays. No revisions outside that week. The draft you hand in is what they shoot. The writers work one month ahead of air, and the show shoots two weeks ahead of air.

The writers that work quickly then have time to pursue other projects (John teaches and writes screenplays), and they live all over the country, another key difference from primetime. By John's account, it's a machine, but a great gig, the well-kept secret of professional screenwriting.

John had all kinds of stories about what episodes were hard to write (big party scenes), how happy the young studly actors are to have a guy writing dialogue they would actually say, and the challenge of dramatically getting characters from literal or emotional point A to B when the outline has been written by someone else, sometimes with huge or insufficient ground to cover.

You can't mess with the tags (act outs/act breaks in primetime parlance), likewise anything in bold. Stuff in bold comes from The Network. Ah, so network execs are a universal pain, whatever time of day you're writing for...

I'm intrigued to check out the format of the outlines and scripts, since daytime script layout is again something wholly different from primetime TV or film, utilizing the two-column format folks may've seen in other media (some computer game scripts use two-column).

Really interesting peek into a different sphere of writing.

And I resisted the entire time from squealing, "OMG, it's CORD ROBERTS!" I didn't even ask him what they thought when they switched Tinas. Discipline, people. It's all about discipline.

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