WTW – Beyond Hollywood Formula

I recently did a brief post on “Hollywood Formula” and now I’m going to muse briefly about how I think it’s becoming less prominent, and why that might be.

Spoiler Alert: It involves systemic changes in the way films/television are produced.

With the caveat that I’m neither a screenwriter, nor am I a student of film and TV history, it doesn’t take much to see that the landscape over the last few years is radically different than it has been from the dawn of the talkies up to maybe five years ago.

I’ve noticed something about Netflix and Amazon Prime shows recently that really crystallized: Producers/writers/show-runners seem to be far less beholden to fast-paced programming, to setting a hook 9% of the way through an episode, to “traditional” screen writing forms than they used to.

I recently watched the Netflix animated show Castlevania, and that’s when it hit me that it was written in a way that was remarkably different than I was used to.

The first episode of Castlevania is something of an extended prologue that introduces Dracula, paints him as a fairly sympathetic character, and more or less just sets up the fact that bad things are about to befall this geographic area (also, the Catholic Church is very, cartoonishly, evil). The next three episodes of the four episode first season are essentially a super-extended prologue in which the main character gets his allies together, culminating in a season finale in which the three, together, prepare to march off to face Dracula and defeat evil, or something (also, the Catholic Church super-ultra-mega-cartoonishly, evil).

It’s a radical departure from what we expect structurally. It was such a departure that I realized that the whole release an entire season in one day concept of Netflix broadcasting might be changing how stories get told on the screen. I think they’re saying “hey, stick with me for more than 9%, we’ll hook you, just not quite right away… give us time because you don’t have to wait a week between episodes.”

It didn’t work for everyone.

Just something to think about the next time you’re watching a Netflix show and feel like there’s a slow burn going on. Maybe it’s the writers feeling unconstrained by traditional formulaic writing. Of course, maybe those formulas exist for a reason…

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