Television·HEARTLAND BLOG

Question answered - writing an episode?

In today's blog, we tackle a question about the Heartland scripts.
(CBC)

Hello Heartlanders! I hope you're having a great day. This Thursday, we're continuing our series of having questions answered by the cast and crew of the series! 

Today, I've got a question & answer for you specifically about scripts. 

Annie Mack asks: How's long on average does it take to write a whole episode?

Today's answer comes from Heather Conkie, Heartland's show runner:

When we write Heartland scripts we write an Outline, a first Draft, a second Draft and a Polish. At each stage the writers receive notes not only from the other writers in the team, but from the shows' producers and of course, the broadcaster. When those notes have been addressed the script turns into a production draft. But that's just the beginning. Now the writer needs to make the script workable to shoot, taking into account cast availability, weather, scheduling etc.

As far as how long it takes to write a whole episode, I find that every script is different. Some just fly out my head onto the page and others… well… not so much. Whether it flows easily or not, the Outline always takes me the longest time.   Starting with a blank page is always hard.  

The Outline stage is when you really have to figure out the arcs of every character. It's also when you set up the parallels in the various stories - and usually the individual arcs in a Heartland script have a common thread or theme. Most importantly, you have to make sure each scene pushes the story forward and each act drives you on to the next, right to the end. 

I can usually write an Outline in two to three weeks. If I'm under a crazy deadline, a good dose of panic and adrenaline usually helps to get it done in less time. Because I include a lot of dialogue in my Outlines, writing the first Draft doesn't take nearly as long. Usually a week to a week and a half. The second draft takes even less time, just a few days. 

So, all in all a script can be finished and polished in a little over a month.

Add to that three weeks of prep before we go to camera and the inevitable notes from all the departments. Then, finally after the very last revision is made, a Heartland script goes from paper to production to editing to post production and then finally… the finished product you see on your screen… and hopefully love!

There you have it! Have a question that hasn't been answered yet? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to track down an answer!

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