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Scripting a Crime Drama
Level(s): Grades 9 to 11
This lesson and all associated documents (handouts, overheads, backgrounders) is available in an easy-print, pdf kit version.
To open the lesson kit for printing, click here.
To print only this page, use the “printable version” link at the top of the page.
“Scripting a Crime Drama” is intended to follow lesson two of the Crime Drama unit: “Viewing a Crime Drama.” In this lesson, students will tackle the scripting of a television crime drama by looking at the plot formulas and structures that underpin this genre. Students begin by studying a script from an actual television series and then they script and produce their own crime dramas.
• understand how crime shows construct reality
• appreciate the differences between the constructed reality of crime dramas, and crime in real life
• understand how filmmaking techniques contribute to a drama’s overall effect
• be aware of plot formulas that underpin crime drama
• become acquainted with the script-writing process
Preparation and Materials
• Twin Peaks Script (five or six copies)
• Script Checklist
• Evaluating a Television Production
Arrange for video equipment, where possible.
Note: Scripts for other crime shows can be used. To find the script to another crime drama try Drew’s Script-O-Rama, on the right sidebar or check the library or drama department of your school.
A story idea is not enough to sell a television show. In order to sell a story, writers must be able to communicate their ideas to producers through scripts.
Television writers have to think in terms of video and audio, and both must be indicated on the script. Writers often include other information with their scripts. For example, they may write detailed character sketches, or suggest specific actors to play certain roles, to help the producer understand the character that the writer has in mind.
In 1989, a pair of innovative writers, David Lynch and Mark Frost, submitted a draft for a new mystery/crime drama to producers at ABC. Twin Peaks would become a hit in the early 1990s and has maintained a cult following to this day.
Divide the class into five or six groups and distribute the Twin Peaks Scripts. Explain that this script is just a small scene from the series’ first episode. Give students ten minutes to read the scripts in their groups, and ask them to note any script-writing conventions as they read along.
Once students have finished reading the script, discuss any conventions they noticed.
Compare the students’ observations to the conventions in the Script Checklist.
• Ask students to return to the groups they formed for Lesson Two, “Viewing a Crime Drama.”
• Distribute Script Checklist, and Evaluating a Television Production
• Discuss the parameters of this assignment. Explain that the evaluation sheet will be used for peer evaluation of the final products, and that students should be familiar with the terms and guidelines used.
• Each group is to write a script for a scene from the crime drama that they analyzed in Lesson Two. Before writing their scripts, groups must submit a plot outline for approval. The script should be approximately ten minutes in length and should imitate the style of the original program. It should include setting, scene changes, stage directions, etc. Script options might include:
o writing the beginning to a new episode
o writing a different ending to an old episode
o bringing in a new minor character
o bringing back a favourite minor character
o taking the techniques observed in Lesson Two and scripting an original Canadian program, one that people will watch!
Once the students are satisfied with their scripts, the groups will read/perform them for the rest of the class, perhaps with a few props, background music or sound effects. If video cameras are available, scripts can be performed and taped. (To “edit” their final product, students can copy from one VCR to another.) If video equipment is not available, students can shoot slides of the drama, tape their scripts on audio tape and present their performance in a slide/tape format.
Final grades for this lesson are obtained through combined peer and teacher evaluations. For each performance:
• Select four students to act as peer evaluators.
• Using the Evaluating a Television Production sheet, students tally the group’s scores according to the guidelines provided.
• The teacher reviews each completed sheet and averages the four evaluations, for an overall presentation grade.
• The teacher’s evaluation of submitted scripts is combined with presentation marks for the final grade for this assignment.
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