NOTE FROM LB: Troy’s article today is on four key written elements in today’s “reality” TV world. (They’re also key elements in “fictional” TV shows, but most of the time the networks take them out of your hands, whether you want them to or not.) You may not know the following terms:
Superteasers. Teases. Next Ons. Prev Ons.
Look these up! Master them! I know people who’ve had huge careers based on their handling of what Troy’s talking about right HERE:
Pro Tip: Superteases, Teases, Next Ons, and Prev Ons
by Troy DeVolld
Since a good friend asked me for my thoughts on these today, I thought I’d share them with everyone.
Before you read on, just know that this is how I generally approach this stuff in a vacuum if I’m not given any sort of directive. Mileage and notes pass experience may vary.
SUPERTEASES and SUPERTRAILERS
You’ve culled the best moments from the series (so far) and need to cut a Supertease for the end of the
first episode or a longer Supertrailer for web use. How do you put it together without it seeming like a lot of unrelated noise?
First, look for an opening bite that works as a thesis statement for the season, even if it’s as loose as
“It’s about to get crazy up in here” or “Bad news, guys, we might be losing the business.” This frames the action as you burst into it from there.
I like to group the Supertease/Supertrailer action by moods, and make sure each section is clearly set apart from the one before and after by a shift in music and tone. Make the division clear.
Try this combo: Opening statement, scene selects that are happy, scene selects that are sad, scene selects that are loud/confrontational, then end on the loudest, biggest clip you’ve got. It’s nice if you can find a good closing statement that bookends the whole mess with a thought not unlike the one you opened with, but implying big risk/stakes.
For Act 2, I always end with a deeper tease letting you look ahead to something big in act 6 (or 5 if you have a 5 act structure). For all other teases, resist the urge to completely give away the biggest moment in the next act… I often look for a bold statement and end on an exaggerated version of the reaction shot. You want the moment that’s about to explode, not the whole explosion.
These should generally only contain material that sets up or reminds us of what’s being paid off or advanced heavily in the current episode. Nothing else matters, no matter how loud or visually attention-getting. The whole deal is about making sure viewers, especially new ones, understand where tonight’s action is coming from.
Don’t forget to use these as the foundation for your previously-ons and next-ons for the episodes before and after. Why do these completely from scratch?
Next ons should hint at further development of something already in motion as of the current episode OR tease something really big and new that’s coming down the pike. I usually limit myself to two or three beats of general action, loudest/most active last. If you’ve got big action, consider hiding the real physical action, covering it with big reaction shots. That way, revealing the real image/action in the next episode will feel like a surprise.
That’s all for this entry. Story pals, any favorite approaches to these? Leave ’em in the comments section.
Troy DeVolld is a Larry Brody buddy, former senior story producer of Dancing with the Stars, and all-around true master of the reality TV genre. This article originally appeared on his Reality TV blog. And while you’re thinking about him, why not buy his book, Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market?