Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Break It Down - Castle pilot

Jul and I are deep into pilot fun right now, so I thought I'd revive an old staple: Break It Down is back! Yes, I can see three of you are excited about this. Awesome. The rest of you clearly just don't remember Break It Down. Right? Right?

Anyway, if you'd like to catch up on other breakdowns I've done, look here, here, here, here, and here. I think that's all of them...

Over the coming months, I'm going to do my best to post breakdowns of any pilot scripts I can get my greedy little hands on, starting with today's gem: Castle.

Episode 101 - Chapter One

Short Description

Without giving too much away, since this pilot airs next week, the first episode deals with literary rockstar Nick Castle becoming embroiled in a police investigation after learning that there's someone murdering people in the exact way he described in several mystery novels.

Story Threads

A-story - The murder mystery.
B-story - Nick is suffering from writer's block!

And ... that's about it, as far as I can tell.

(Note: The above designations of A-story, B-story and so on are based entirely on when that story thread first appears in the script. This will become quite apparent later when you realize how few beats the B, C and D "stories" get.)

Length and Breakdown

Act I - 13 pages, 5 scenes
Act II - 14 pages, 10 scenes
Act III - 11 pages, 7 scenes
Act IV - 8 pages, 7 scenes
Act V - 10 pages, 8 scenes
Act VI - 9 pages, 11 scenes

50 scenes in 65 pages. And it's very obvious that the first act is all about introducing us to the characters and setting things up by the relatively low scene-to-page ratio. More than 2 pages per scene is really long. After that, we're launched into the Murder of the Week and the pace picks up considerably.

The scenes are organized as follows:

A-story - Murder Mystery (39 beats/scenes)
B-story - Writer's Block (9 beats/scenes)

Act I - A, B, B, A, B/A
Act II - A, A, B, A, B, B, A, B, A, A, A, A
Act III - A, A, A, A, A, A, A
Act IV - A, A, A, A, A, A, A
Act V - B/A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A
Act VI - A, A, A, A, A, A, B, B, A

(Note: where beats include a / mark, this means that the scene has elements of both stories. When this happens, I'm putting the story that the beat gives preference to as the first story. In the scene/beat count above, every appearance of A, B, C and so on is counted as one full beat rather than a half, even if there is a slash mark.)

Again, the longer, slower scenes are mostly in the first act, so it's no surprise that it also contains a significant amount of the B-story. It's also not shocking that by the time the murder mystery really kicks in (around the end of Act II), the B-story all but disappears until the very end of the script. A very basic description of a typical episode might be: A personal problem of Nick's is introduced. The case of the week ever-so-slightly relates to that problem. By going through the case, Nick is able to overcome his personal problem. Now, will this actually be the way a typical episode is structured? We shall see.

Castle is definitely one to keep an eye on if it attracts a large enough audience. It's fun and seems quite easily speccable.

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