Screenwriting

How to Format a One-Hour Drama for Network TV

How to Format a One-Hour Drama for Network TV

When writing a drama for network television – particularly a pilot – you need to divide your story up in to five sections. There are two ways to do this:

1. 4 act episode with a teaser at the beginning or…

2. 5 act episode. The final act is shorter than the rest and is often referred to as the tag.

You need to decide for yourself, which format best suits your story. Your overall page count should be between 55-60 pages, with each act being between 12-15 pages each. If you do choose to write a teaser, it should be under 10 pages.  Make sure your teaser introduces your main character, establishes the world, sets the tone and leaves the reader in suspense. If you choose to use a tag, the final act should be 5-7 pages.

The act break coincide with commercial breaks, and always leave the audience with a question or cliffhanger before every break, which will make them want to stick it through the commercials and come back for more.