AE: What are some of the ways a scene can fail even when it's a faithful rendition of what's in the beat sheet? Are there any particular kinds of flaws you've tended to run across as scenes go from outline to pages? E.g. You notice that a scene's been written from the wrong character's point of view, or the scene "pushes" information at the audience instead of "pulling" them along with it.
SE: Well, context ... where you're following several stories in an episode and it's almost like the lip service scene ... Both the Sopranos and S&TC... give each beat exactly the amount of time the story needed. Sometimes all the scene needs to do is track the B story, and there's an inclination to make more out of it than it really warrants.
Or, I'm a big fan of collapsing stories together in a scene ... trying to do several stories at once ... But sometimes in trying to bring it all together you're not giving the A story or the B story enough room ... it can read fine and lively but it doesn't in the end quite give each of them whatever weight they deserve because it's all mashed together. To do it properly you sometimes have to get the A story people to fade into the background while you're doing the C story stuff. But then it's just an aside, then why does it need to be in the same scene.
AE: So would you say, a scene should do just one thing at a time?
SE: No, because Sopranos
does it well... I love the multitextured multiple strands stuff ... you can't treat all of it the same way at the same time ... just sometimes I've tried to do it, and it worked but it would have been better if I hadn't tried to do it all in the same scene.
AE: Do you have any tricks for getting into a scene that doesn't flow naturally?
SE (without hesitation): What's the most ridiculous thing they could be doing right now?
For example, we had a scene set in a restaurant about Kate telling David that Ben is leaving. David looks upon him as a sexual rival. So this is good news for him. We couldn't afford the restaurant. I had to rewrite the scene, set it somewhere else ... so they're having oral sex while she tells him this. It's free. What's an action they could be doing that works against the information?
That's a good way to get it started.
AE: Do you think it's important for an episode to take place within a limited amount of time?
SE: I think it's caca. I mean, that time tracking thing, it matters more to us than the audience. I'm not watching a show ... oh my god is this three days later? It makes sense in whatever way it's unfolding.
I don't think time is important. It's important for 24
. I mean, is it a hostage drama? But for drama, no.
AE: How about offscreen time, between episodes?
SE: On Show Me Yours
, between episodes, sometimes one came right after another, sometimes there were weeks in between. You'd have your little one liner that describes it [the passage of time] for the satisfaction of the network.
AE: So you feel that time tracking is more something we do for ourselves for for the network...