My research is about done and I have a good idea for what lies ahead of me.
An episode of Boardwalk Empire typically consists of one A Story of 7 scenes, two B Stories of 5 scenes each, and two C Stories of 3 scenes each. Each scene runs slightly more than two pages. Each story has an Inciting Incident and a Climax, and in the case of a C Story, a reversal. The A and B Stories are more complicated, but continue to follow a classical plot structure.
At the end of the day I’m still looking at approximately 54 pages of script, but it’s no longer an intimidating mountain to climb. I’m writing five short stories, the longest of which will run 16 or so pages. I weave these short stories together in a manner that best permits a flow. If I eat my Wheaties, I can unify them all under one overarching theme – each scene representing a positive or negative reinforcement of that theme.
Research has been key, and that research has also followed two streams of thought. The first stream involved understanding the series on a deeper level. Season 3 remains unavailable on DVD, so I’ve been left to read summaries of each episode to see what happens to the series’ central characters (and perhaps guess what lies in their future). I have been reluctant to hitch my wagon to any particular story idea until I’ve had a chance to learn more about these characters.
I have researched in-depth a typical episode structure, and gained insight into what drives the series as a whole. I’ve read countless interviews and articles. I read the book that the series was based on, and reread a couple of key chapters. Made notes. Took names. Drew conclusions.
I have concluded that I won’t worry too much about how my episode will fit into the producers’ plans for Season 4. If anything, mine could take place in Season 5. I base this decision on a pattern I’ve seen emerge from my research. Seasons 1 & 2 took place in 1920 & 1921. Season 3 jumped ahead to 1923. Nucky Thompson, the series’ main character, is based on the life of Nucky Johnson, who reigned as Boss of Atlantic City from 1913 – 1941. Key events of his life were dramatized for this series (with certain creative liberties taken for dramatic effect). Other historical figures and events have also been woven into the series (with creative liberties also taken).
My A Story will focus on a key event in the life of Nucky Johnson that happened in 1926. Though his reign in Atlantic City had 15 years remaining, this event marked the beginning of the end for him. I can also tie this event into the fiction of the series’ backstory, giving the story an ironic twist – in righting a wrong that continues to haunt him from his distant past, Nucky Thompson sets the wheels in motion for his own eventual downfall.
It sounds like a daring move – writing a key event in the series’ arc – but I think I can get away with it, because I have historical events on my side. By setting my story three years into the future from where the series left off, I can safely navigate past anything the producers are currently working on. They’re going to reach 1926 eventually, and maybe upon their arrival, through some strange form of happenstance, they may encounter my script waiting for them, ready for use in whole or in part.
As for the B and C Stories, I am content to leave those self contained, not relying on anything that came before in the series. These stories won’t have much of an influence on the series’ future direction either. One mustn’t be too bold or ambitious.
Instead, I draw upon history. I’ve have previously researched and produced a documentary about the KKK and fraud in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in the 1920s. I’ve also researched and produced a documentary on the Willow Bunch Giant. Both of these stories will fit well into the world of Boardwalk Empire. What remains is for me to figure out a couple more minor stories, and then I can begin.
I’m excited to see where I’ll be in my progress by this time tomorrow.