I was so done with it all. I was done with filmmaking. I was done with writing. I was done trying to convince people that story comes first...and is far more important than what camera to buy.
I was ready to walk away.
But then I was introduced to The Nevers.
I came into the first episode about 5 minutes in. True had just punched a guy right out of a window.
I was hooked.
The Never’s did something other shows (and movies) hadn't been able to; it reminded me of everything I love about writing/filmmaking.
Everything in The Pilot was on point.
And that's what I want to discuss, all the the parts that make the greater whole.
The Heroes Journey
My side hustle is Script Doctoring, and occasionally script writing.
That wasn't always the case. I'm also an unsuccessful filmmaker!
Over the years I've made several films and assisted in many more, but they were never good. This led me on a journey to figure out why.
It all came down to story. Specifically story structure.
The things that go into a script at certain points that build a compelling story in a format the audience has come to understand/expect.
I specifically trained myself on Story Structure as it relates to feature length films, but the great thing about structure is that it's scaleable. The same principles that apply to a feature can be scaled up to a serialized TV show and scaled down to something as short as a commercial.
The Nevers Pilot will be my first attempt at scaling it down to a TV show, so it might be a bit clunky...and will probably get revised.
That's the best part, it's ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and correct them.
Structure, at its core, is a series of beats that guide the story. I hesitate to say they're fixed as there is some leeway as to when they fall. For example, in our conversation about Serenity I note that Act 1 is exceptionally long, while Act 2 is quite short.
You needn't worry about being formulaic in your own writing. The beats aren't rigid rules, they're signposts to make sure that the key story moments are conveyed to the audience.
It should be noted, TV in particular plays pretty loose with the placement of story beats. In many cases a story beat is a single scene, or the Midpoint happens at the ¾ mark. The important thing is understanding what each beat is meant to accomplish.
Having said that, here's my first interpretation of the structural breakdown of The Nevers Pilot:
Prologue: Opening montage the introduces the Main Characters and provides a glimpse into their life/who they are:
Amalia True: Depressed
Penance Adair: Smart/Resourceful
Lord Massen: Commanding
Sarah: Mental Health Issues
Mary Brighton: Actor/Aspiring Actor
Frank Mundi: Cagey
Horatio Cousins: Doctor with a family
Lavinia Bidlow: Disabled
Augustus Bidlow: Head in the clouds
Some of the characters appear again, illustrating their importance to the story:
Mary, Massen, Sarah, Penance, ending on Amalia attempting suicide.
The Normal World:
Jump ahead three years
Reintroduce Amalia and Penance as the anchor characters, the ones who’s eyes we see the world through/guide the plot.
Show their daily routine
Hint at an Antagonist (Maladie)
Establish an early plot goal (get Myrtle)
The Leather faced Henchmen try to kidnap Myrtle
Reintroduce Lord Massen and other rich, old, white men as an Antagonistic force.
Reintroduce Detective Frank Mundi investigating Maladie.
Amalia and Penance meet with their team the discuss new threat, while also introducing secondary characters Lucy and Harriet.
Hint at the Beggar King, more of a Frenemy than an Antagonist.
Reintroduce Augusts and secondary character Hugo
Going to the Opera (new plot goal)
The Upside Down World:
Confrontation with the Beggar King, Introduce Odium
Arrive at the Opera, Amalia is very uncomfortable in social setting.
Reintroduce Lavinia Bidlow
Amalia has a conflict with Lord Massen
Introduce Maladie as she disrupts opera buy killing an actor (The Devil)
Introduce Secondary Characters Bonfire Annie and The Colonel.
Rating the Stakes:
Maldie Kills her target, the psychoanalyst, and others.
All is Lost/Valley of Despair:
Mary shows us she’s touched and what her turn is.
Maladie and Co. Kidnap Mary.
Maladie has a realization about Amalia
Amalia fights Maladie.
Maladie’s turn presents itself (strength from pain)
Maladie gets away with Mary.
Hugo tells Mundi who was kidnapped (hints at they’re own dealings)
Introduce secondary character Dr. Hague experimenting on henchman. Someone who may have been touched.
Penance comforts Amalia, reassures her that even if they’re not safe they’re together.
Replay of opening montage. This time showing the Galanthi dropping spores on London.
That's the structure in a nutshell.
Of course it's only one part of the greater whole, but it still needs scenes, character arc, plot, etc.
And that's what I'm going to talk about next, breaking down the whole episode scene by scene.
Be sure to come back for a real deep dive!