Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Town Festival

We have an inside joke in my writer's group: whenever someone's script needs a little more plot, we suggest The Town Festival. In other words, a big event where everyone in your story comes together and finally confronts all the problems they've been dealing with throughout episode. In Brothers & Sisters it's always the family dinner. In the OC or Gossip Girl, it's a party, a charity fundraiser, cotillion. In Greek it's the frat/sorority mixer. In Friday Night Lights it's the football games and all football-related banquets. In Gilmore Girls it really is a town festival. I could go on and on. Some shows don't really need them, because their settings always keep their characters in close proximity (hospitals, offices, schools, homicide beats, etc.) - but if your characters are not all living or working together, events can be fun (and often visual) ways to get your characters together - and incite conflict.

That's not to say you should impose some kind of unnatural event on your characters. But what is the natural thing to happen the world of the show? How does everyone prepare? What confrontations occur? How does the setting affect the plot and characters? The Town Festival in its literal sense is a joke - but I think the concept behind it is very useful.


Muffin MacGuffin said...

I thought I was the only person who noticed that every episode of Brothers & Sisters ends with a family dinner party of varying size. It's a really good device, but you get the impression that none of the Walkers eat a meal alone.

Dzof said...

Whenever I write a script that has a party scene (because they're actually fun to write), my producer gets a little upset with me (because they're not fun to produce or direct).

Especially if you're stuck with actors who are naturally hyperactive and bounce of each other creating a scary positive feedback loop of wackiness at 2am in the morning.