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Teleplay Writing

By Expert Author: Ralph Brooks

The term teleplay was coined in the 1950's when there became a need to make a distinction between scripts for theater, film, and television. A teleplay is the representation of dialogues and a story in its manuscript form, but it spells out the provision for characterization, scene, and commercial breaks. Irrespective of being a drama or a comedy, the play for television suffered several constraints during the days gone by. It was through the widespread use of intimate scenes and airing of a slice of real-like life that the lackluster, live-from-studio television plays were written to become interesting. With the development in technology down the years, recorded programs surfaced as the major form of teleplays. The teleplay contains delivery suggestions and shot and action description in a fixed format and could be an adaptation for the small screen. With technology changing at a brisk pace, the process of writing plays for television has been undergoing kaleidoscopic changes.
The rule of thumb is to consider that a page of the written teleplay will translate into a minute on the screen. An average one hour television show should run for a maximum of 50 minutes, giving leeway for commercial breaks. It is common for teleplays to be 60 pages in length. Stories with dialogues that are fast paced may be about 70 pages long. Longer episodes should be very interesting to offset their length. Generally, the pilots and finales tend to run for a longer time. Intro credit sequence must never run for more than 60 seconds when the names of directors, creators, writers, producers and recurring actors are shown. Due to the need for building in time for commercial breaks, every act of the teleplay must ideally end in a cliffhanger. It is customary to have four well structured acts in a 60 minutes episode, although some may have five. The teaser is a kind of a pre-act which should run for about 6 minutes and must be extremely interesting, humorous or dramatic. This is crucial for keeping viewers' attention. The teaser should incite them to continue watching the show.
The rest of the 60 minutes teleplay is broken up into well thought out acts, usually 4 in number. They are fairly the same in all the television shows. Act one runs for about 7 minutes, introduces the setting, establishes the occurrences, and ends with a complication. Act two runs for roughly 15 minutes makes the existing complication worse or brings a new problem into limelight. It is here that most of the actions and dialogue take place. Act three is an extension of act two, with stress on heightened sentiments. This act of the teleplay runs for another 15 minutes and contains most of the action, and much dialogue. All the characters carry out whatever they were supposed to do now. Act four, also named denouement, goes for 6 minutes, ties up the loose ends, contains reflective scenes and gives a sense of closure. The four acts have 3 minutes of showing commercials in between, totaling 9 minutes. The closing credit sequence runs for 60 seconds and gives a brief summary of the rest of the cast and crew members, company logo, and legal information.

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