Buffy Act Outs - Complications Ensue
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Monday, May 03, 2010

Neil Baker has helpfully broken down the act outs from BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Season 3.

Note that B:TVS is four acts; most one hour drama has moved to five acts. But this is exactly the sort of analysis you should be doing when you spec a series, so you get a sense of the bones of the show.

I suggested to Neil:
Check out FIREFLY, too. The act outs often turn the entire episode on its head.

Also, consider doing a five act show, and characterizing the acts outs. In general in 4 act structure, the act 1 out is "it's not that simple" and act 3 out is the "all is lost" act out. But what about 5 acts? Which is the "all is lost" act out in 5 acts? Often the act 3 or act 4 out is a "soft" (emotional) act out. In FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, the act 4 out is usually the plot finale, and act 5 is all emotional aftermath. But is that true of other shows? Those are the questions I'd try to answer if I were you.
Let's see if he takes the bait.

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3 Comments:

You might also read the Deadline Hollywood interview with the VAMPIRE DIARIES creator/showrunners about the growing six-act-plus-teaser format:

http://www.deadline.com/2010/04/fang-tv-showrunners-kevin-williamson-julie-plec/

By Blogger Amanda, at 12:50 PM  

Interesting quote from you at the start (I confess I haven't read your book):

"One-hour dramas have four acts. The last thing that happens before the commercial - whatever the act "goes out on" - is called the act out. It is supposed to be an event so compelling that you absolutely must stay tuned to find out what happens next.

An act out is typically a cliffhanger, a situation where the outcome is up in the air. The jeopardy or stakes can be physical, emotional, or moral. Will he pull the trigger? Will the rope break? Will she kiss him? Will he betray her to the police? If the audience wants to find out how the situation turned out, they're going to have to leave the remote alone. (pp 67-68)
Epstein, 2006"

Here in the UK, the number of adverts varies enormously depending on the channel. Cheap channels with cheap shows have four or five ad-breaks in a one-hour show, most other channels have 3 x 3-min breaks within an hours show, and of course, the BBC have none (which means an hour long US show runs in around 42 minutes).

Do you think this can noticably affect the pacing of a show when it's shown in different regions/channels. How do BBC produced shows play in the US?

By Blogger Sam Stickland, at 5:22 AM  

@Sam: I usually watch on my DVR, so I'm not an expert on how shows play with commericals. But I did notice that THE TUDORS played a lot better in its BBC incarnation than on CBC, where it had to be cut down.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:20 AM  

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