An actual writing-related thing.

July 26, 2007


I was reading this post about Mad Men on Jill Golick’s pilot-dissecting blog (don’t read that post if you have grand plans to watch the pilot of Mad Men unspoiled), and she mentions this theory, that an hour-long pilot’s theme is expressly stated at a point my calculator tells me is about 3/4 of the way through. Or, as The Script Enabler says:

There is a moment in the third act where the theme of the series is explicitly stated: that is, stated ‘on the nose.’ Because many pilots eschew the traditional four act structure, it might be more useful to say that this moment occurs roughly 30 minutes into the episode if you leave out the titles and commercials (the entire episode is roughly 41 to 43 minutes in length measured this way).

I have this pilot I’ve written, so of course I immediately flipped to page 30. And went OH GOD!!! because page 30 is two supporting characters bickering in an office. No theme to be found! But then, happily, math happened, and I realized that since my pilot has a… length problem, and currently clocks in at a cool 69 pages (HEY THAT IS DOWN FROM 73, SO.), my pilot’s version of minute 30 actually happens around page 50, and there it is! Right there on page 51 – people having the climactic fight! THEMES FLYING EVERYWHERE!

It’s so reassuring to me when my writing accidentally lives up to rules I didn’t even know about. Like, for a brief moment, the fog of MY FRUIT STAINS, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THEM fades a little, and all is well.


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