Episode Structure & Scene Length

Discussion in 'Dynasty 2017' started by Gabriel Maxwell, May 11, 2019.

  1. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Addict

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    While watching last week's episode it occurred to me to pay attention to the episode structure in terms of the number of scenes and breaks and though I've always known the new series had more frequent breaks and a higher number of faster-paced scenes as opposed to the original series I was quite taken aback at the gap.

    I've known (for decades now) the original series mostly adhered to the 6+6+6+5 structure, with a 23 scene total. The episode running time was about 46-48 minutes, but you had longer credits and "last week on Dynasty" segments. That still gives you the average scene length of about 2 minutes.

    Last week's episode of the new series structured the episode like this: 5+6+6+6+6+5, for a total of 34 scenes (actually second-to-last segment could also be counted as 7 scenes, which would gives us a total of 35 scenes). Given the 42-43 minute running time incl. credits, the average scene time is barely over 1 minute.

    DYNASTY is of course not the only current series to pace their scenes at this breakneck speed, in fact it's the standard today. But it makes me wonder if the writers actually had double the time per each scene, whether they would end up with more compelling character development.

    They're so scared of people flipping the channel, they don't let the scenes and people in them breathe. And that's sad we've come to this.

    (By the way, I didn't count her scenes, but I believe Elizabeth Gillies appeared in 90% of them. I don't think the original ever focused on any single character this much, incl. Joan Collins' Alexis, the Almighty New Emperor of Denver. The focus is not surprising given the network, but it's still excessive - and I say that as a fan of Gillies' portrayal of Fallon Carrington).

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Artur

    Artur Soap Chat Member

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    I have noticed that there is hardly any interaction between the characters who are put in different storylines within one episode. Since Crystal got her new boring story, she had no word with Fallon. Culhane and Fallon have been a couple once but now they act like complete strangers (till they don't get a common storyline). Fallon doesn't even mention Jeff, who was her first love interest. Sam and Anders live in their own universe. There is no constant dynamics between characters. Probably because few scriptwriters write their parts for each episode.
    It's like one day you want to marry somebody, two episodes later he may be dying in pain and you are worried that your Instagram profile has not enough followers because you both belong to the different scriptwriters that week.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  3. thomaswak

    thomaswak Soap Chat Active Member

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    Yeah, that was the incredible strength of Knots Landing. At some points, everybody was linked to the plots. And they really interacted. A character could have an impact on many different characters and families.

    I hope I don't fit in the hater category, but NuDynasty should be called "Fallon : me, me & I"
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2019
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  4. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    From my point of view this breakneck speed appears to be affiliated with commercial networks, not so with streaming services. I don't understand this incessant need from TV Executives to have episodes of drama presented like Pop Videos. Perhaps the root cause of this effect goes back to MTV. I'm guilty of laying blame on the generation of today and their short attention span but then I'm reminded that same generation is fixated on shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead; both acknowledged as being character driven with drawn out scenes.

    Others here on Soapchat had a preconceived idea what this version of Dynasty was going to look like considering it's on The CW. The Channel I believe is oriented towards the younger viewer. That's fine as long as the Executive Producers of Peach Dynasty went in with a clear mind how their vision was to be presented. I wouldn't mind if this version was centered on Fallon Carrington. I wouldn't mind if they positioned her in Atlanta and perhaps kept the family back home in Denver. Of course older fans of original Dynasty wouldn't accept this but that's okay because they would soon appreciate the producers vision; Fallon Carrington out on her own wishing to start her Dynasty with new money rather than rely on daddy's old money. A series which tells the story of a strong willed young woman wishing to make a success on her own...but without the nudge nudge, wink wink attitude.

    So. If this series was targeted towards Keeping Up With The Dashounds brigade then I would be willing to say Peach Dynasty could have enjoyed moderate success with its breakneck speed plots and pop music infused scenes.

    Or would it?
     
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  5. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's a lot easier for a TV show to film choppy, quick scenes and edit them together afterwards. The director might end up with 49 minutes of scenes, but the episode can only be 46 minutes total. It's a lot easier to just cut one three-minute scene entirely than to go in and shave twenty seconds here, ten seconds there from long, involved scenes, especially when an editor might not realize the small bit he cut might actually be integral to the scene and thus screws up the whole script. As soaps work at incredible speeds these days, it's easier for the actors to memorize a bunch of two-page scenes than to memorize three or four, twenty-page scenes. So the choppiness is easier for the editors, the directors, and the actors.

    MTV did screw up a lot of our habits when watching TV or films, since a scene longer than three minutes on a TV show is rare, when old (1970s) soaps would often have single, eight-minute scenes between actors that spanned the entire period between commercials. Now each segment might have small scenes featuring four or five different plots. Our attention span has only gotten shorter in the age of text messages, Twitter, and the like.

    Daytime soaps are famous for writing those different plots in 'bubbles', where certain characters only interact with a select number of others, and one sees very little 'crossover'. The only time you see a lot of characters interacting outside their group are large-scale events like weddings or parties. This is a function of budget, since certain actors are guaranteed (paid for) a certain number of appearances per week or per month, and if Actor A and Actor B have the same number of days guaranteed in their contracts, why not have them work the same schedule? If Actor A has to appear three days per week, you can't really have him romantically paired with Actor C who only gets three days per month. No daytime soap can have every actor appear in every episode the way a nighttime soap can (since the casts are so much larger in daytime), so there will always be this sort of compartmentalizing of characters.

    Also, when you write by committee (a daytime soap can have a writing staff of 10-12 people), certain writers may be tasked with certain plotlines, adding to the 'bubble' concept since Writer A may only care about what's happening with his/her story and has no need for his/her characters to interact with anyone else.
     
  6. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Breakneck speed is the only way to watch this show, I'm afraid.
     
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  7. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Isn't it the role of the Showrunner or Executive Producer to oversee the overall theme of story? I have no concept of the number of writing staff affiliated with Peach Dynasty but what is presented on screen tells me the producers have no central idea what the hell they are doing. I have no experience in producing television but even I could tell these amateurs this is subpar. At least with Season 1 there was some kind of story-arc. Season 2 has just been awash with bizarre story telling. Perhaps the producers were dumbstruck after those hideous focus groups and CW Executives flexed their muscle during season 1.
     
  8. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    NuDynasty seems to have people come in to direct single episodes, but I haven't paid enough attention to writer credits to see if they do the same one-off hiring to do scripts, or if they have a circle of script writers they pull from like a typical writing staff. The show-runners would definitely outline what they want to happen. There is always an issue of "notes" from the network, where the suits might decide they don't like the direction of some story--all TV producers suffer from such interference--which might derail the story outline for a season. There was also the very public departure of their second lead with very little notice, which had to have made some story projections end up in the shredder.
    But I tend to agree with your assessment that there does not seem to have been a strong plan (a "Bible") for this season, making me wonder just what goes on in their production/writers room meetings. Typically the writers will expand their story ideas to fit the amount of time (episodes) they're given, but the meandering actions of the characters mid-season could not possibly have been a "plan". I'm reminded of how CBS called up the producers of Knots Landing and requested extra episodes in (their) season six. The producers had already mapped out a Bible for that season, but when the network asked for more, they simply expanded the story projections by adding the Verna Ellers in Shula plotline to kill a few episodes, but give the viewers a great 'extra'. They would not have allowed the characters to just meander and waste time the way several NuDynasty characters did this year.

    Though they don't owe us any explanations, of course, it would be kind of nice if we could learn some reason why there was no rhyme or reason to some of their plot twists. They knew well in advance that they had 22 episodes to fill (no "requests for extra episodes," but no cuts either). But I am so tired of producers foisting the blame on those darn focus groups, so they better have something better than that old chestnut.
     
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  9. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    This was something I learned here on Soapchat. Dallas (when it became serialized) could be a contender for having a great Bible when structuring the next season. I never watched Knots Landing but with David Jacobs at the helm I'd expect the same thing. Original Dynasty may have had one to begin with but strayed away from it from one season to the next. Peach Dynasty gives me the impression no Bible has been created. This is hard to explain when we have the Executive Producer's team of Sallie Patrick, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.
    So what gives? Once Peach Dynasty was green lit for another season surely the thinking caps should have came on. Perhaps they have a high rotation of writing staff and it certainly doesn't help a different Director is hired for each episode which gives Peach Dynasty that stand-a-lone vibe.
     
  10. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I agree and this is what worries me. I tend to give them some benefit of the doubt and wait until the season is over to see if there's been something I've missed, but it feels like an overall arch is missing at this point - while I'm sure Nicolette leaving suddenly screwed things up for them (hence why at least any pay-off from the shooting is being delayed), there are so many characters who are literally just wandering around right now. Anders, Sammy Jo and Kirby serve what purpose exactly? Culhane and Jeff has been in the same situation most season too - hell, if they had a Moldavia wedding disaster they could kill off half the cast pretty much without it effecting the storylines.

    I get the feeling showrunners mark out certain events that needs to happen (episode 13 - Alexis shoots gun, episode 20 - Dominique arrives), but then just lets the script writers do their thing without any real flow between episodes.

    Oh well, I hope for an overdramatic season finale at least...
     
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  11. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Also, the CW can when they want to - Gina Rodriguez's seven minute monologue on Jane the Virgin was critically praised, which isn't very usual for The CW shows to say the least:



    Maybe the producers need to get better when selling their ideas to the Cee-Dub.
     
  12. Gabriel Maxwell

    Gabriel Maxwell Soap Chat Addict

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    My point in the OP was - with shorter episodes today you'd expect fewer scenes. But no -- not only are the episodes shorter, you also get a staggering 50% (!) higher number of scenes per episode (35 today as opposed to 23 in the 1980s).

    So this is not purely a question of quick-cut editing -- they actually write and film a lot, lot more scenes (but shorter scenes) for each episode, which in my opinion leaves very little room for character development.

    A scene simply serves a purpose to move the story forward and deliver some zinger punchlines for the audience to laugh at and that's it. And maybe that's one of the main reasons why today's shows can never achieve the greatness of the best seasons of the 1980s soaps. They are crippled by design from the get go.

    That was the standard in the 1980s, but not anymore. All "hour-long" dramas now are 39-43 minutes in length per episode. Half-hour sitcoms on CBS like 'Young Sheldon' now run for only 18-19 minutes per half-hour, which is shocking compared to the 22 minutes for 1980s sitcoms or 26 minutes in the golden days of 'I Love Lucy'. I can't even imagine how horrible watching DYNASTY on The CW must be with a total of 5 commercial breaks running after every 6-7 minutes of the show.

    It sounds a bit like the original idea for a DYNASTY spin-off from the 1980s -- Fallon Carrington moves to Miami to run a hotel to make it on her own, leaving her family in Denver behind.

    I wonder if whatever system they now have in place in the writers' room as well as these big cast departures have anything to do with the budget.

    It seems they decided at some point (thanks to the Netflix involvement) they can keep this show going for at least the minimum life-span of a moderately successful series which is 4 seasons or 80-ish episodes, regardless of the linear ratings. But, once they saw the show wouldn't be a hit they were hoping to get initially, they downgraded it in every aspect of production & broadcasting. Churn out 22 episodes per season, but cut the costs as low as possible.

    First it moves to Friday; then it's promotional budget is slashed (no more proper 30-second promos); then the show chooses to focus on Fallon and they let Cristal go and replace her with (I assume) a cheaper actress; then they want a creepy Adam on the show, so they get rid of Steven; perhaps even Nicolette Sheridan was too expensive to keep beyond her initial 22 episodes, so they came up with a story why she needed to go, instead they'll have a cheaper actress as Dominique to fill the void for a while, etc.

    I'm of course heavily speculating here, maybe I'm totally off base, but it just seems plausible to me that since they seem to be saving money left and right with this show, that such cuts would have heavily impacted the creative aspect of the show as well, including the work of the writing staff and the manner in which the episodic scripts were produced.
     
  13. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Those were the filler episodes?
     
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  14. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Wow! I could never have guessed the Verna Ellis plot was filler episodes since that plot was so good and had me completely hooked. :)
     
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  15. thomaswak

    thomaswak Soap Chat Active Member

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    Good for us, I came upon CW's Dynasty Season 2 bible !
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
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  16. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Dynasty (and The Colbys) was quite the darling of ABC interference. They would intervene on everything from how Jeff and Fallon (Emma Samms) would be lying on a bed--fully clothed--to what plots they did not like (the mafia plot in season 3--Cecil posing as a mafia boss was fine, actual mafia was not, apparently).

    Bibles were something nighttime soaps came up with in the 80s because they had to create ongoing story arcs (a new for dramas at the time) but also check out all the requirement boxes of budget, location shoots, actor contract requirements etc., something which @Daniel Avery mentioned regarding daytime. How that Bible would then turn into actual episodes was a different process for different shows. Dynasty by season 4, according to some interviews of those who worked on it, had an assembly line script production, which while not unique to Dynasty (every show has the breakdown writers who take the episode's outline and flesh it out) had a unique element in that there were too few reciprocal lines of communications between breakdown writers and head-writers/executive producers as in the Lorimar soaps. But I think with peach Dynasty, it's not even a question of the lower and upper echelons of writers communicating: I suspect that even the main three show-runners are not looking at what each other is doing (or intervene). How else can one account for the fact that different episodes are so disparate, as if coming from unrelated shows and genres? I think overall the show is "planned" only for a few shows ahead and then each chooses their episode to oversee and they go from there.

    Bibles are also elements that hark back to novel-like creations on TV, and which typical CW viewer has actually read a novel (or knows what one looks like)? They require an attention span, on the part of show-runners and viewers, that is not typical of most network shows. One of the things about shows in the binge-watching era is that, ironically, more planning is needed than before--not less. When one watches shows in a row sudden switches and non-sequiturs from one episode to the next become more pronounced. In that sense, peach Dynasty is really an awful candidate for a Netflix show. But Netflix is all about quantity, not quality. It is not HBO. So maybe it does fulfill its role for them after all, to just have content on. And it does so for the CW as well.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
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  17. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Drawing up an outline for a season's plotlines (a "Bible") is actually one of the best ways to control a show's budget. They will know ahead of time when something is coming that might take a chunk of their budget (say, a large exterior event like a wedding or a building on fire) and be able to plan around it or off-set the financial outlay. They can project how many sets they'll need and leave them up to "get their money's worth" (and re-use them to the point of irritation) rather than tear them down and re-build them every few episodes. They can also adjust their shooting schedules to film parts of several episodes' scripts when out doing exterior work, allowing them to limit the days they have to go out to film on the estate or in Atlanta.
    If the producers are indeed being pressured over financials, it is likely the "pressurers" (CBS Studios/CW) would demand something akin to a financial Bible just to see if the producers are indeed doing everything they can to trim spending.

    **If they can't justify the expense of that remote in Bavaria--they can fake Bavaria by shooting in nearby Helen, Georgia. https://www.exploregeorgia.org/city/helen
    Hey, it beats a Cardboard Patio!
     
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  18. Ferdnand Colby

    Ferdnand Colby Soap Chat Member

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    Bavaria... Moldavia... my head is gonna explode, LOL
     
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  19. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Which brings me back to the point how Peach Dynasty was advertised. We were promised how the 1% of the 1% live. You cannot fulfill that fantasy if the executives have such a tight grip on the budget. The CW (and others) cannot have it both ways if they're pretending this version is anything but a cheap knock off.
     
  20. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Eh, I don't think you have to have a huge budget to fake luxury - when the original show was at its height it looked ridiculously cheap because they ended up paying attention to ridiculous details such as "Alexis barstools should have real gold feet (that no viewers see on screen)", "the car keys used are for a REAL Mercedes" or that the food was always real etc. In fact, the show looked much richer in season 9, despite being heavily on a budget thanks to them opening up the show and shooting more outdoors.

    As @Daniel Avery said - it's more down to good planning and where to actually spend your limited resources. The Carrington mansion set is actually pretty well done on this version as an example. On the other hand sets like Club Colby, which is obviously the old Fallon / Jeff office set, looks hideously cheap.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
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