Why the SPN mixtape scene from 12x19 is screenwriting gold, and should be taught to the next generations of screenwriters everywhere - analysis
20 seconds. Two lines of dialogue, three gestures, a couple more camera angles. Episode 19, season 12 of a genre TV show “Supernatural”. A single strike of screenwriting and cinematic genius. The mixtape scene.
Robert Berens and Meredith Glynn, I bow before you.
This scene should be used as an example for future screenwriters how you can put maximum of meaning into minimal time and dialogue. Should be analyzed and taught at universities everywhere, how to achieve the most using the least. How to write for TV, where you only have less than an hour to built something spectacular.
Let’s just peel off all the layers of these 20 seconds of footage and these 13 words. 13 WORDS.
(Cas knocks, Dean doesn’t say anything. Cas opens the door, apologizes for disturbing Dean in his room, and then takes a cassette tape out of his left inside coat pocket, and puts it on the desk, while tapping the label on it that says “Deans (sic!) top 13 Zepp traxx”.)
Cas: Um, I just wanted to return this.
Dean: It’s a gift. You keep those.
13 tracks. 13 words. The future. So number thirteen is important for the future. I mean, are you trying to tell us something here, writers?
(Dean takes the tape, oustreches his arm, and gives it back to Cas. We see Cas’ hand grabbing the tape, and taking it back.)
That tiny scene is ENORMOUS from the perspective of the narrative and the characterization. Let’s see what we can get out of it. (Prepare yourself: it’s gonna be long. Damn, how much meta can you write based on 20 seconds of television and two lines of dialogue?) (Hint: A lot.)