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Seven Minutes

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I watched an episode of Stargate SG1 that I had on my DVR a little while ago. I paused it at every scene change and wrote down how long the previous scene had lasted, a short 3-5 word summary of the scene, and my best guess as to whether it was for the A story, or B/C. I did this so I could get a better feel of how this show treats its B stories and how it composes the A stories with respect to depth of story and length in run time.

Pretty much knew what I was doing and what I was going to get out of it, but I did have two small surprises. The first was that without looking at my cheat sheet, few scenes ever lasted more than two minutes. My scenes generally range from three to five pages, which I now see is a problem -- but a fixable one. The other surprise was that the first two acts were only seven minutes long. Seven minutes, seven pages. How can they be that short?

The answer is easy: this episode had a tag that continued action from the fourth act. It didn't in fact have a tag, it had five acts. That's just stupid. Five acts instead of four doesn't mean you can squeeze more show in than you could before, it means you now have less time to tell your story in each act because now there's one more than you want or need.

Five acts (plus the teaser); seven minutes. Stupid.
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Jul 26, 2006, 11:12:00 PM
welcome to the wonderful world of writing for tv...actually - I prefer the forces you to have to make it work in a quick concise effective way...

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.