Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Rainbow Of Colours...

Golden Rod
Double White
Double Pink

As you go through preproduction or prep (the 5-7 days leading up to the shooting of a tv episode), changes come up that warrant a revision. A line of dialogue. A character name. All of act three. Some will be big changes. But most will be little. Whatever the extent of the damage, those revised pages are published with an asterix marked at the end of each changed line. They are then put out or distributed as coloured pages.

The order of those colours varies from tv series to tv series, but the list above is the one with which I am the most familar.

It all starts with the Shooting Script or White Script. Whatever it's titled, it generally means prep or preproduction is about to begin and the script is 'locked'. That means that from that point on all the pages and scene numbers stay the same. Scenes are numbered for easy reference, and page-locking allows everyone to keep the same copy of the script even if the script changes. For example, if you insert a new scene after scene 10, it becomes scene 10A. If scene 12 gets cut, it stays in the script but just says OMITTED beside it. If you add half a page to scene 8 that was on page 6, that extra half a page becomes page 6A. I'm sure it sounds retarded to an outsider but it's just the way it is.

Which brings me to Series TV Tip#5

The script is the map for the crew and cast. It's their guide...and bible. It's got all their notes in the margins. Once revisions start to come out, everyone has to go through their White or Locked Script in their master binder and take out all the pages that have been revised, and put in the pink page revisions. Then they (hair/makeup/costume/sound/camera/ director/actors, etc. etc.) have to transfer all their handwritten notes from the old white page to the new revised coloured page. If they have to do this over and over throughout a prep period, they begin to grumble...a lot...about the writing department.

I remember the first series I was on was with a hyperactive exec who would decide that the character Jake should say Hi instead of Hello and then make the change and order loudly: "Let's get that page out right away!"

So we would. And that one change would go to the story coordinator who would implement the change on a master script in their computer which would create pink version of that same page except the word Hi was changed to Hello and there was a little asterix beside it.

Then the office staff has to run at least a hundred copies of the pink (or whatever color we were up to) page for the crew and cast and then coordinate delivering that page to cast and crew in the production office or on set shooting the current episode, and then the crew and cast have to insert new page where old page was...hey, it was a big deal.

It didn't really register with me, but we were getting into double blue pages and double yellow pages for the first half a dozen episodes or so. Mostly due to HEP (hyper exec producer). This went along for about a month until my crafty line producer (LP) friend calls me into the office. Boots on the desk again. Waving around this one pink page.

LP: "Excuse me? We just published pinks to change Hi to Hello? Is this a joke?"

I look at my feet again (I did that a lot with him): "Uh yeah well HEP wanted to get it out right away."

LP: "What was he worried about? That nobody would understand the story if this wasn't changed? Is he nuts?" (I heard that a lot too)

Me: "Hey man, I'm just doing what I'm told."

He motions me over closer to his desk. I slowly inch forward.

LP: "Let me give you a bit of advice. Cuz you'll actually listen. Take each of these little changes and compile them in some kind of master - and then about halfway through prep (3-4 days in), put out a set of coloured revisions (i.e. Pinks). Then after the last production meeting, put out the next revised coloured draft (Blue). Do this and the crew and cast will start talking to you again, trust me."

Me: "Uh, yes sir."

As long as it's not a major change that affects story in a big way, or locations, or casting, or special effects, etc. - and the key personnel (1st A.D.'s, Director, Production Managers, Producers) are aware of the little bits and pieces, just keep track of them and then put them out in the middle of and then the end of prep. And generally the rule is if 50% or more of the pages have changes on them, you publish the entire script in the next colour. And everyone tends to prefer to see a 'Full Blue' script say, than individual pages. Again, it's just the way it is.

Your cast and crew will LOVE you for this one. (not to mention the save on paper)

SONG&ARTIST? - "She comes in colors everywhere;
She combs her hair
She's like a rainbow
Coming colors in the air
Oh, everywhere
She comes in colors..."


The Film Diva said...

Nice post! I worked on a feature as a script coordinator where we went all-white four times, then all blue, all pink, back to all white, then ran through every color twice.... It got to the point where department heads would page me to find out if they should bother bringing their scripts to the office, and folks were carrying little notebooks with their notes and not even bothering to transfer them anymore....

TV Minion said...

I know the thing that astounded me most when I started working in TV was the sheer amount of paper used in day-to-day business.

There ought to be a better way, I would think!

Lee said...

Educational stuff, Will, and ohh, I actually know this song.

She's a Rainbow - World of Twist.

DMc said...

So when the Stones did it it was a cover? Really? I didn't know that. Or does Lee have it wrong?

Hey Will, that's a great post, and since I defer to your greater experience I ask this:

you know the whole tendency that others have remarked upon that most scripts go one revision past where they were really great, and at their best.

Have you encountered any way, tricks or tips to keep that from happening?

Lee said...

Wrong? Never. The Stones may well have got there 30 years earlier, but I prefer my answer to the real one and stand by it.

Yes. Hmm. And a sheepish harumph.

wcdixon said...

Yes I believe it was the Stones first...

As for trying to circumvent the coloured page cycle - I'll try an addendum post but a short answer is a lot of it has to do with having someone in the story department who knows the show and has some authority who can stand up at the right time and say: Stop! Here's the's why we want to tell it and tell it this way... here's where its coming from and here's where it's going (in relation to the big series picture)...end of discusson. Someone who can convey this with courtesy and respect, and (here's the biggest thing) be able to do so WITHOUT FEAR OF LOSING THEIR JOB.

There's the rub. If that threat is hanging over said person(s) head, it makes going another round of coloured pages, even if convinced it will make episode worse, somehow seem okay.

Anyway I'll expand on this later, with some sneaky tips (I hope no execs/networks are reading this blog).

Caroline said...

Good advice, as always, Will. Thanks, from us and the trees.

Callaghan said...

And yet again, after giving some good tips, Dixon makes me go digging through my music collection to listen to the tune that mentioned.

She's a raaaaaaiiiiinbowwww.

Bill Cunningham said...

Being somewhat of a luddite with the whole computer game, I would think that in this day and age, what with laptops right on set and everything, that you could email changes in order and color. That way, people hold the notes then integrate them...

If this isn't a function of FD or MMS then it should be.

Make it so, Number One.

SothernGal? said...

Hah...TV is just like that but they do it everytime they have a show.Kill those trees! And people are luddites they would never go for the virtual scripts..they need the tactile. They want the paper in their hands. The want the notes-although they could get a tablet PC

wcdixon said...


I want to meet Sotherngal? - already I find her...intriguing.