Introduction to Cagney and Lacey Scripts

For those who have not seen a TV script, there is a lot to learn. I made a lot of errors before I learned anything, but since the only show I ever had any desire to write for was "Cagney and Lacey," and it went off the air, I quit trying to write for TV before I sold anything. But I did learn a lot, so here it is.

Stage plays are usually written in one or three acts. They may be any length, but the total should be at least an hour, and seldom longer than three hours. Television plays, commonly called Teleplays, have to conform to a rigid time schedule.

A thirty minute TV show is written in two acts, and an hour show in four. In "prime time" each act has to be twelve minutes long, and the rest of the time, ten minutes. The total is forty minutes and prime time forty-eight. Timing is of the essence since the show has to be paid for by sponsors.

There are two general sorts of scripts. Selling scripts and shooting scripts. Selling scripts have just the title page, character names, and the dialog, which makes it somewhat easier for the writer. It also makes it easier for the producers since they can read it faster, and they have a bunch of scripts to read for each episode of the show.

When a script is submitted it must first pass the inspection of the staff writers of the show who decide if it's too much like something they say last month on another show, or something they did last year, or something. It needs to be a fresh new idea. Then it has to get the approval of the producer. After that comes the agent of the sponsor, or sponsors if the show has more than one, and they all do today. If they buy your script, it goes back to the staff writers for revisions, then to a cast reading, then more revisions, and so on. Then they add all the other elements, such as camera directions, scene numbers, so on and so on.

Then it goes to the scenery designers, the costume department, and so on and on, and finally to shooting. Whatever doesn't work out there calls for more revisions. When it's all in on film, it goes to the cutting room where it is polished by cutting out perhaps as little as a single frame of film, or whole scenes can be cut out. Then the audio is added, and finally the music. When it's all done is said to be "in the can".

I knew nothing of all of this, so I asked them for a copy of one of their scripts to study. They were kind enough to send me one. It was an actual script they had used for one episode. It was a shooting script. So I studied it and began writing shooting scripts, which wasn't what they wanted, but they were kind enough to at least read one and even though they rejected it, they did say that they felt I have the talent to be a good writer if I just keep at it. Their letter was good enough to silence my friends who had laughed at me for trying. When I learned what I had done wrong I felt foolish, so if you want to write for Television, and you don't want to end up feeling foolish, don't make the mistakes I made.

As you read my scripts, remember that they are shooting scripts, not selling scripts. The read like watching the actual show on TV, if you have an average imagination. Some of the terms used need to be explained. V.O. means voice over, the voice is recorded so it can be heard of the background sounds, such as people talking in a room with a TV playing. Stock means that they have already made numerous filmings of certain locations and placed them in a file called "stock". Each is different, but all they have to do later is pull out one and insert it in the finished film. They make these by filming once at the location and having various people coming and going till they have around two hours of film, which they can cut into segments as needed. They will have several locations they use for stock filming, but they film only once at each. The rest are easy to figure out. I hope you enjoy reading these scripts. I certainly enjoyed writing them.

John M. Riggle

By these presents be it known that Orion Pictures Corporation did in the year 1985 give to John M. Riggle express permission to use the characters owned by them and created by Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday to write speculative scripts for the Television Show "Cagney and Lacey". I did so, and all scripts not bought by Orion Pictures Corporation remain the exclusive property of John M. Riggle. Copyright 1983-1985. All rights reserved. I do hereby give permission to James T. Crawford to exhibit and pass on to anyone the scripts copyrighted by me, John M. Riggle, for the exclusive enjoyment of any and all readers. No monetary compensation is involved for this permission. All other rights such as filming, stage production, and so on are reserved. Further, the scripts not bought by anyone were converted by me, John M. Riggle into scripts for a new series of television shows, movies, or stage productions, or as chapters of a book, using characters conceived by me and entitled "H. P. D". The same rights apply to these scripts and the same permission to exhibit and distribute them in written form shall apply for the enjoyment of any and all readers, for no compensation, with all other rights reserved. Signed, John M. Riggle, this 29th day of May, 2000.

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