Getting a show from script to screen is
a fast and furious process. Some crews make thirteen episodes of scripted TV
in the same amount of time it takes to make a single blockbuster movie. So how do they do it? This process applies to all types of scripted TV shows – both dramas and comedies – but we’re gonna use an hourlong drama with a 13 episodes season as an example. Let’s say you’re the showrunner. This is what the next year of your life is going to look like. First thing’s first: you and the writers break the story. Meaning you plot out the major moments of the season. And then you assign writers to break the story for each episode. After multiple drafts a script around 45 pages is created. That’s about six hundred pages of material for
the whole season. At this point episodes are assigned to directors and
directors of photography who begin planning on their own and then there’s
the art department. They’re in charge of the whole look of the show. Let’s say the
show takes place in New York City in 1980. The art department researchers the
period so that everything as big as buildings and cars and as small
magazines and jewelry look realistic. Now let’s get shooting. To shoot 45 pages of material in about 8 days you need a serious schedule. A traditional script isn’t all
that helpful to a crew. So first each scene is assigned a location, time of day, and actors. After all these factors are prioritized the result is a document
called a white schedule. Once shooting begins every episode requires a table read.
That’s when the whole cast gets together and reads the script from beginning to
end. At this point the director works with the
director of photography to correctly block all the actors and every scene is
shot from multiple angles. A one-minute scene in a show could easily take a few
hours to shoot. Now you might not think your typical drama would not have a lot of
visual effects but something as little as a TV playing in the background of a
scene requires post-production work. Ever heard the phrase “we’ll fix it in post.”
Here we go. A post production team is comprised of
editors, sound designers, visual effects artists, and all the assistants and
coordinators that go along with them. Editors make the first cut of the
episode and give it to the director. Then the director’s cut goes to the showrunners.
The showrunners give notes, create a producer’s cut, and that goes to the
studio which then becomes the network cut. During this entire process things
like that TV with the green screen get pushed through visual effects. Once all
of the edits are final, a color corrector and sound designer begin to work their magic.
The dialogue needs to be cleaned up, sound effects put in, and the entire edit
needs to be mixed. OK, we’re almost done. It’s now several months after writing
began and the episode, fully mastered, gets serviced to broadcasters around the
country. But the rest of the show isn’t finished. Every episode is finalized just a few weeks, and sometimes just a
few hours, before it premieres.