The latest updates from the creators, cast, and crew of The Cape.
January 18, 2011 10:24 AMHow do the ideas from the writers' room get transformed into a script? Well, it doesn't happen right away. After we "break" the story as a group, the script is assigned to a specific writer, or two writers if the script is to be co-written. That writer has to then create an outline of that episode.
The outline is intended to be a detailed scene-by-scene account of how the script will flow. It needs to incorporate all the themes and nuances discussed in the room as the group broke the story. The outline is broken down into ACTS, each act consisting of SCENES, each scene with a HEADING describing the scene's location and time of day. In each scene the writer must describe the action taking place, and what each character is trying to accomplish. Bits of dialogue are often thrown in as well, often used to SELL the scene to the reader. Basically, the outline is a series of scene previews - like a trailer for a script. The result is ideally no more than 12 pages long, slightly more than one fourth the length of a typical episode of The Cape.
The outline goes through a series of notes. First all the other writers get to read it and give feedback. Then the outline goes to the "Studio" (BermanBraun, for our show). Executives from the studio give notes, often pointing out areas needing clarification, or highlighting problematic elements. The writer does another pass on the outline, implementing any appropriate changes. Then the outline goes to the "Network" (NBC Universal). The writer gets a round of notes from the network, makes changes if necessary, and then they're off to write the script.
This, of course, is in an ideal world. When the first script came out of the room ("Tarot," part two of the pilot) both the outline and the script went through this process. "Kozmo" got similar treatment. Six months later, however, it's a very different writer's office. With several scripts being written, others being prepped, one or two being shot, and multiple episodes being edited all at once...time is a valuable commodity. At any given time, Tom is writing or doing a "Wheeler pass" on at least three scripts. It's an incredible workload, but he powers through, knocking 'em out of the park.
It was on the heels of breaking episode 1009 that things got particularly crazy in the writer's office. Tom was assigned to the episode along with his brother Bill. However, both of them were tangled in previous scripts, buried in work. Another episode of Bill's was in being shot, with re-writes for production in demand. Meanwhile Tom was polishing and re-writing scenes for other scripts in the pipeline, as well as for pick-ups from past episodes. In addition to that, all the other writers were off writing their own episodes. In the midst of all the writing and re-writing, Tom and Bill re-examined the work we had all done in the room and decided they wanted to take the script in a new direction. What was broken in the room was no longer what they wanted in the episode.
Tom called me into his office. He discussed what he liked and disliked from the older version of the episode, adding great ideas to streamline the story to make it heavily driven by our masked hero. Then he asked for my help. Could I write an outline based on these new ideas? My answer? "Of course! I'd love to!" I was ecstatic for the opportunity to be helpful, with writing! He asked that I try to get through the first 3 acts, asked how long I would need. I guessed, "Give me 'till the end of the day?"
I was over the moon. I could be useful! I tore into the outline, didn't leave my seat until just before the end of the workday. I sent Tom and Bill what I had written (the first 3 acts) and crossed my fingers.
The next day Tom called me into his office again. Bill was on speakerphone, and they were both really pleased with the work I had done. They discussed how to finish the episode, and asked that I take a stab at it. I spent the day doing just that, then sent off a completed outline to Tom and Bill that night. Then I waited. Then the weekend came. Then, I got this email from Tom... "Impressive, keto. Really good job.
let me connect with bw [Bill Wheeler]. tweakify. get this to jw [John Wirth] and then we can definitely get this off to the races by end of day monday. thank you."
My head just about exploded. I was thrilled by his response. Weeks later, I was even more excited to see that -- although all of the outline dialogue was different and some of the scenes were cut -- when the SCRIPT for episode came out a great portion of the outline I had written still lived in its bones.
I had been placed in the ring with an outline, and had successfully kicked its butt.