Monday, July 28, 2008

Slow News Day

I had the chance this weekend to read the winning spec of the Script P.I.M.P. TV competition. It's a Dexter spec entitled "Slow News Day", written by Ryan Harris & Brian Lubocki. I was interested for 2 reasons, one being that I didn't win the competition and wanted to read the script that did, and second being that I'm currently writing a Dexter spec myself, and have been having trouble with it.

First of all, the script flows, and fast. I read it in one sitting, almost by accident; I just wanted to take a look and read it later but ended up being swept up in it. I like how they made the episode stand-alone, not only from the series, but from the seasons. There's no mention of the Bay Harbor Butcher, the Ice Truck Killer, Lilah or even Doakes. This gives them immense flexibility of storylines since they don't have to fit within any particular timeline, and it gives the spec a much longer shelf life to be used as a sample. Unlike my Heroes spec, which will expire as soon as season 3 starts.

They had only A, B and C storylines, which surprised me. I've been trying to create mine with A, B, C and several runners, but their approach makes sense, since the runners usually have to do with the season arc anyway. As well, the A and B stories were so intertwined that almost every scene with the B story also had the A story plot pushed forward. The A story was a "killer of the week" story, the B story started out as a feud between the police station and the local news team (revolving around the A story) and eventually turned into something more sinister. The C story was the only thing separate, dealing with Dexter's relationship with Rita's family.

I asked Ryan and Brian how they structured the script, since Dexter episodes do not have clear act breaks and the scripts read like a screenplay. They said they used four acts, but with a cold open it seems almost like five, which they deciphered from watching the show and reading the original scripts.

I understand why they won. Their spec is great. It was funny and freaky in all the right places. The dialogue was spot-on for each character. The plot was the exact type of Dexter plot you'd see in the show, and it had a definite Miami feel. The plot twists were fresh and extremely satisfying. I'm jealous, actually. I hope that my Dexter spec reads as well. I'm pretty sure that reading their spec has helped me just as much as when I read the original episode "Crocodile", because it shows how others dealt, successfully, with the issues I've been struggling with in writing my spec.

Congrats, guys!

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