Monday, March 23, 2009

Break It Down - Harper's Island pilot

It's been awhile since we've had a successful horror series on the air, and I can't think of the last time -- if ever -- there was a successful horror series that wasn't an anthology show. Nevertheless, that's just what Ari Schlossberg's Harper's Island attempts to be, and today I'm going to break down the pilot script into its component parts. Wee!!!

Thus far (that I can remember) I've done breakdowns on Kings, Castle, Grey's, Gossip Girl, Chuck, Dexter and very possibly a few more that are here... somewhere. Wanna read them? Look for "Break It Down" WAAAAY down on the right side under LABELS and then click it. It's like Staples' EASY button, only real and not as easy.

Now for Harper's Island.

Episode 101 - Harper's Island (there's no episode title, not even "Pilot" so I'm assuming it's just "Harper's Island")

Short Description

First, the usual spiel: This is premiering in a few weeks -- April 9 -- so I'm going to try not to give too much away.

In a nutshell, some really bad things happened on Harper's Island years ago, and that has kept our main protagonist, Abby, away for a long time. As the script opens, she's returning to the island for the wedding of Trish Wellington and Henry Dunn... and it seems like those bad things are starting to happen again.

Story Threads

This is one of those "every character has story thread" pilots, so bear with me...

A-story - Abby's return
B-story - The Wedding
C-story - Where's Cousin Ben?
D-story - Hunter Jennings
E-story - Uncle Marty
F-story - Madison is creepy
G-story - Cal and Chloe
H-story - J.D.

(I-story - Killer?)

No, the I-story in parentheses isn't a typo, I'm just not sure exactly how to fit it in. Several of the above stories have "killer" moments in them where something bad happens or you watch part of a scene from the "somebody's stalking them" POV you so often get in horror movies, but it's not exactly it's own story, so... I just wanted to mention it, but nothing is actually going to be marked as part of the I-story, so... hopefully I just confused you. :)

Other than that... lots of overlap and long scenes servicing multiple stories by moving around, say, a party, to check in with different groups of people. I tried to call everything a single scene unless the script had a slugline or cut away.

Length and Breakdown

Teaser - 11 pages, 7 scenes
Act I - 11 pages, 9 scenes
Act II - 11 pages, 12 scenes
Act III - 11 pages, 5 scenes
Act IV - 8 pages, 6 scenes
Act V - 7 pages, 9 scenes

48 scenes in 59 pages. It's hard to tell from the numbers, but this actually has quite a few long scenes; they're just evened out by lots of really short scenes that drive up the scene count. Acts II and V in particular have several little "check-in" scenes, which largely serve just to show us where characters are (in terms of location, mostly) so that we as an audience see their alibis -- or lack thereof -- when the metaphorical shit hits the fan. Because yes, this looks like it will be a mystery as much as it is a horror show.

The scenes are organized as follows:

A-story - Abby's return (16 beats/scenes)
B-story - The Wedding (10 beats/scenes)
C-story - Where's Cousin Ben? (6 beats/scenes)
D-story - Hunter Jennings (10 beats/scenes)
E-story - Uncle Marty (8 beats/scenes)
F-story - Madison is creepy (5 beats/scenes)
G-story - Cal and Chloe (6 beats/scenes)
H-story - J.D. (5 beats/scenes)

Teaser - A, B/C/D/H, A, D/E/A, B/C, C, C
Act I - E, F, A, G, F/A/B, D, B, B/A, A
Act II - B, F, H, E, G, D, A, G/E/B/C, C, B, A/F, B/D
Act III - G, A/H, A, H, A
Act IV - A, D, E/A/D, G, E, D
Act V - A, D, G, H, F, A, D/B, E, E

(Note: where beats include a / mark, this means that the scene has elements of both stories. When this happens, I'm listing the beats in the order that they occur in the scene. 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.)

Wow, right? 66 beats in 48 scenes. And that's not counting the ever-present "killer" I-story, which plays a modest to large role in the C, G, and the the end of the E-stories. And, arguably, the A-story as well, although that's almost more like a J-story since it's the history of the killer/island.

Surprisingly, for how complicated it sounds, the script doesn't feel complex or confusing. Everything flows quite nicely. It's only when you try to pull apart the disparate strands that it starts to feel unwieldy. Overall, it's a fun read and I'll be interested to see how it comes out. Definitely highly serialized, though -- for a while they weren't even calling it a show, but something like a 13-episode event. Check back in a few weeks and I'll put up my actual review of the pilot script.

1 comment:

Femaleprodigy said...

Great breakdown of the script. I actually had someone stumble across the script in a pdf file that she sent me and read it. It was great and now that I'm on the Harpers Globe site and its coming down to the wire, its interesting to see how they are tied together! Robin (harpers globe) is now ready to catch a boat back to the island and she can see the boat that is taking the party guests to the island! I can't wait to see the premier on Thursday to start blogging about!