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February 22 2007

An Atypical Route to Spexcellence. Jane Espenson blogs about writing spec scripts with a structure that is atypical for the series - and uses Firefly's "Out of Gas" as an example.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-02-22 07:24 ]

Of course, "Out of Gas" is a brilliant example of atypical script structure - and one of my favourite episodes ever of anything anywhere - but oddly the first thing that sprang to mind when I started reading this blogisode of Jane In Progress was the Seinfeld episode "The Betrayal".

I was not a big Seinfeld fan, but I love this episode - it not only runs backasswards, echoing Pinter's "Betrayal" - it also birthed this line:

"You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister!"

than which few things in this life are better. Well, chocolate and Buffy, and Angel and Firefly and Serenity, but not much more...
Atypical structure always makes me think of 'Memento', which is more or less in reverse and split into 5-10 minute segments. Whereas 'Out of Gas' (also my fave 'Firefly' episode and up there with the best of TV IMO) used its structure mainly for emotional impact and insights, 'Memento's structure is absolutely intrinsic to the story and themes of the film (oops, just gave away why Jane probably didn't mention it - it's not TV ;). 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is another good recent example from the movie world.

The 'House' episode 'Three Stories' is a terrific illustration though of how the creators mix up the formula on that show (the season 2 finale 'No Reason' is another) and again like OoG brilliantly uses the structure to give us character insights and emotional resonance.

(a few weeks back while talking to a mate about the BSG episode I actually said it was 'Out of Gas-ish' in its structure. He only knew what I meant cos he's one of my brainwashing victims converts to 'Firefly' ;)
I love Out of Gas, and to think that the network wanted it in chronological order because it confused them.

http://whedonesque.com/comments/7928
Now there's a depressing link Simon.

"Timmy, babe, we love it, it's beautiful, really terrific. One thing though, where they're out of gas could they actually be in gas, like a big pool of it ? On fire ? Also, don't worry about the messed up order, we can fix that in editing. Great work though, love what you do."

Saints pre-frikkin-serve us. Who are these people ?
Who are these people ?

I hope and pray, not the same evil overlords network people who are working with Tim on Drive. I hope Tim has good and wise overlords this time around. *sneaks out to start writing Save Drive postcards, just in case* ;-)
Reading anything from Jane Esp always makes me smile.
I guess the bottom line is, if you write a good episode it will show.

Do we need to start sending Fox old ruddy car keys or something to save Drive already?

[ edited by war_machine on 2007-02-22 15:22 ]
I hope and pray, not the same evil overlords network people who are working with Tim on Drive

Nah, those're the nice evil overlords network people. For now ;).

Well, given Simon's link, it's not so much 'Save Drive' as 'Keep Drive about Cars' so it might make more sense to send them pieces of tarmac instead of keys war_machine. Unless you're the postman/woman ;).
If we're going to be sending tarmac I'm glad that the USPS has the new flat rate boxes. $7 all you can fit into a box regardless of weight. You have no idea how much I want this show to be awesome. I'll find a way to stuff a transmission into that box if I have to.

[ edited by war_machine on 2007-02-22 17:56 ]
I am ashamed I didn't know Jane wrote Out of Gas, which is probably one of my top five favourite episodes of anything ever. Way to go Jane, just one more reason to love you. Oh and her next BSG ep is on this weekend! Hurray!
Tim Minear wrote Out of Gas.
Could you believe "The Betrayal" is the first episode of Seinfeld I ever saw?
I love Out of Gas too, and I think director David Solomon also deserves a lot of credit. It's my favorite Minear script, which is saying a lot.
David Boyd (the director of photography) and Greg Edmondson for his truly beautiful, haunting score also deserve a big nod (I don't think Edmondson put a foot wrong in the whole series but 'Out of Gas' is close to my favourite of his stuff from the show and, as it says in Simon's link to the older thread, Boyd's 'washed out' effect on the flashback sequences gave them a unique look without letting style overpower content).

It's really one of those episodes that highlights the pluses of a collaborative medium because everything (script, direction, photography, acting, score) just works together to such fantastic effect.
Add me to the list of OoG lovers. David Solomon was my favorite Buffy director after Joss.
I think I've found writerly geek heaven. People who read Jane E's blog! And "Out Of Gas" is possibly my favorite ever "Firefly" ep, because of the atypical factor. I've yet to encounter another Firefly fan who liked it much, until now.
In violent agreement there, Saje. I gushed enough about Greg in another thread, but Boyd and everyone else in the crew and our BDHs are part of the magic.
I've yet to encounter another Firefly fan who liked it much, until now.


That's odd, Shey, almost all the Firefly fans I know - including myself - rate it among their favourite episodes - usually along with Objects in Space

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