Spartacus

IMDB: Spartacus

Seasons Type Genres
4 Serial Action/Adventure/Biography

Drama/History/Romance

Scene Count
Pilot Screenplay
19 19

Main Characters

Spartacus

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The Thracian

Mid 30s. Well Muscled. Dirty and battered. Long matted hair partially obscuring his searing eyes.

Claudius Glaber

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Glaber

40, handsome with the keen eyes of an ambitious man, is the LEGATUS (regional commander) of the Roman Army.

Batiatus

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Batiatus

A thick boisterous man in his 50s.

Lucretia

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Lucretia

Batiatus joins his wife Lucretia, a striking woman very much his junior.

Ilithyia

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Ilithyia

Glaber’s young wife. Early 20s, beautiful, with a body built for mischief. Rich. Privileged. Spoiled.

Crixus

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Crixus

Smaller than Barca but more powerfully built, Crixus radiates calm, deadly menace.

Other Characters:

Sura

A raven-haired beauty with the edge of a woman you do not want to fuck with.

Drenis

Drenis is a brute of a man, early 30s, with an unruly black beard.

Byzo

aka “The Goat” because of his looks and rather strong odor.

Senator Albinius

No description given.

Solonius

Mid 40s, a tall, severe man with a shaved head.

Character Differences

Based on the description, they clearly went in a different direction with Batiatus and Solonius. In the pilot, both men are skinny and old with their intimidation lying in their power not their stature.

Act Breakdown

The screenplay was not structured in acts so I broke up the acts where I could locate potential commercial breaks from the pilot.
There are very few scenes in the pilot, but plenty of POV shots.
I picked this pilot to see how fight scenes were written so as part of my analysis, I will have a section focusing specifically on the battle scenes.

Excel Breakdown Pilot Screenplay
Spartacus Screenplay Breakdown Spartacus
SCREENPLAY PILOT
Teaser

Structure

The animation of the map is cut entirely.
Instead there is a title card, and then straight to the fight in the arena.

POV shot order:

Gladiators fighting.
Arial view of Arena.
POV of Murmillos.

Several shots of pulvinus  and crowd are added.

Main Points:
Spartacus sits below the stands in a prison as two gladiators fight to their death in the arena.

Breakdown:

Spartacus is a prisoner awaiting to fight. We have no idea how he got here or why he is a prisoner. All that is conveyed is that he is scared and pissed off at his predicament.

End of Teaser: Close up on Spartacus clenching his fists.

Best Scene from Act 1:Drenis fighting Arkadios

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Spartacus is standing and watching the fight from behind bars.
In the pilot, Spartacus is kept below the stands and cannot see any of the fight.

Act 1

Structure

A tasteful sex scene is added between Spartacus and Sura after he tells her that he is going to war.

Main Points:
Spartacus and the Thracian warriors agree to fight for Rome on the condition that Rome help them kill all the Barbarians in their land.
Spartacus tells his wife he is going to war.
Spartacus and the Thracian warriors battle the Barbarians.

Breakdown:

Spartacus does not want to help Rome fight, but sees the benefit if Rome helps kill his enemies. Spartacus is a man of honor and takes his oath to Rome seriously, even though Rome is providing very little help.

Spartacus proves to be a capable warrior in battle.

Battle Breakdown: The Thracian Warriors VS. The Getae Barbarians.

The fight scenes have a very specific structure in the screenplay. There is obviously chaos going on in the battle in the background, but there a few key events noted in the fight. I will note the order of the pilot fight and then note the differences between the pilot and screenplay.

Epitone, the old man from the beginning, has his throat slit.
Romans arrive and watch the battle.
Spartacus throws his sword at an archer and hits him in the face killing him.
The archer manages to get an arrow off that Spartacus deflects with his shield.
Spartacus decapitates a barbarian.Glaber orders troops to move forward as horn sounds.

Differences:

In the screenplay, Epitone is not present at the battle.
In the pilot, Epitone gives one last battle cry before being killled.

In the screenplay, Spartacus decapitates a Barbarian, throws his sword at an archer and then the Romans arrive.
In the pilot, the Romans arrive first, then Spartacus throws his sword at the archer and finally he decapitates the Barbarian.

End of Act 1: The Barbarians retreat.

Best Scene from Act 1: The Thracian warriors vs. The Gatae Barbarians.

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, the barbarians have facial tattoos and piercings on their faces.
In the pilot, the barbarians are wearing partial animal skins masks on their faces.

In the screenplay, the last shot after the battle transitions from blood splatter to the moon.
In the pilot, the blood splatter just covers the entire screen.

Act 2

Structure

A shot of a roman guard standing watch above the Roman encampment is added before the scene with Glaber and his wife.

Main Points:
Spartacus and Drenis scout the Gatae and realize they are trying a sneak attack on the unprotected Thracian villages.
Spartacus and Drenis are dismissed from Glaber after suggesting they head West.
Spartacus and The Thracians rebel and kill the Romans after Glaber refuses to go after the Gatae.

Breakdown:

Spartacus is a man of his word, but decides to break it after the Roman’s prove their word means nothing.

It is interesting to see Glaber’s perspective, as we know he has high ambitions. It is reasonable for him to want to move East towards better glory from his perspective. In fact the story could probably easily frame Glaber in a sympathetic light if he were the main character given the fact that he is dealing with the equivalent of Wildlings. However Spartacus is the star of the show and we know his personal investment in returning home to defend his land.

Battle Breakdown: The Thracian Warriors VS. The Romans

Glaber draws his sword.
Spartacus grabs the bridle of Glaber’s horse causing the horse throw Glaber to the ground.
The Tribune yells “Kill them all!”
Byzo tries to calm everyone.
Roman Soldier 1 is killed with spear to the side.
Roman Soldier 2 is yanked from his horse and then attacked on the ground.
Drenis attacks the Tribune, but is kicked away allowing the Tribune to escape on horse.
Spartacus kills the Tribune with a spear.

 

Differences:
After knocking Glaber to the ground, Spartacus is passive the entire fight and watches as the Roman’s and Thracians fight. He finally snaps to action after Drenis tells him to kill the Tribune with a spear so he doesn’t get away.

In the screenplay, the Tribune and another Roman soldier hack their way through a mob.
In the pilot, the Tribune and Roman soldier are immediately swarmed by the Thracians.

In the screenplay, the Tribune first swings for Spartacus and only manages to cut a piece of his hair off.
In the pilot, The Tribune only fights with Drenis.

In the screenplay, the Tribune falls off his horse and then runs away.
In the pilot, the Tribune remains on his horse and rides away.

End of Act 2: Spartacus and the Thracians head back to their villages leaving Glaber in the mud.

Best Scene from Act 2: Thracians VS. Romans

Script Notes:

Dialogue is cut from Drenis and Spartacus scene.
Dialogue is cut from Ilithyia and Glaber scene.

In the screenplay, Drenis and Spartacus trade blows in their fight.
In the pilot, the fight is exactly as described in the screenplay, but there is no extra trading blows.

In the screenplay, Ilithyia enters the command tent from the entrance wearing a cloak.
In the pilot, Ilithyia is already in the tent and sneaks up behind Glaber wearing a fur coat.

In the screenplay, it describes what is happening in the Barbarian camp as Spartacus and Drenis scout.
In the pilot, the camp is too far away to see anything.

In the screenplay, the scene of Drenis and Spartacus scouting transitions into a map and then into Glaber’s tent.
In the pilot, the scene of Drenis and Spartacus transitions by starting with Spartacus’s dialogue about what the Gatae are planning.

In the pilot, Glaber’s second dismissed is more emphasized and filled with anger.

In the screenplay, Drenis and Spartacus walk through the Roman encampment as they discuss Glaber.
In the pilot, they walk through dirt terrain as they discuss Glaber.

Dialogue is cut between Byzo, Drenis and Spartacus as Glaber arrives to meet the Thracians before battle.

Act 3

Structure

Another Sex scene is added between Spartacus and Sura after she heals his wounds.

Main Points:
Spartacus saves Sura from the Barbarians, but finds their village destroyed.
Spartacus is captured by the Romans and Sura is taken from him into Slavery.

Breakdown:

After a tense rescue, Spartacus goes through a tremendous amount of loss. First Spartacus and Sura see their village being destroyed, then after reuniting, we see Spartacus lose the love of his life.

Spartacus left Glaber alive which was a big mistake and it comes back to haunt him.

Battle Breakdown: Thracian and Sura VS. The Gatae Barbarians

Sura runs but is grabbed by a Barbarian.
Sura is pinned downed, but she grabs a rock and hits the Barbarian in the head multiple times and then kicks him in the crotch.Sura grabs his sword and swings around to defend herself.
Spartacus throws his sword and kills a Barbarian.
Spartacus rushes in and kills a Barbarian with his shield.
A Barbarian grabs Sura’s hair and gains a hold of her.
Spartacus cuts through the rest of the Barbarians including the one holding Sura.
Sura uses the Barbarian’s sword to stab him to death.
The final Barbarian knocks Spartacus to the ground and then attempts to choke him.
Sura kills the final Barbarian by stabbing him in the back.

Differences:

In the screenplay, Sura headbutts the Barbarian to get free.
In the pilot, Sura uses a rock.

In the screenplay, Sura immediately starts fighting when Spartacus arrives.
In the pilot, Sura is grabbed by a Barbarian and then gets free after Spartacus cuts him.

In the screenplay, Spartacus’s attacks are detailed for each Barbarian.
In the pilot, Spartacus just cuts his way through before being knocked to the ground.

In the screenplay, Spartacus kills the last Barbarian by decapitating him.
In the pilot, Sura kills the last Barbarian by stabbing him in the back.

End of Act 3:  Spartacus is knocked unconscious after being capture by the Romans.

Best Scene from Act 1: Spartacus rescues Sura.

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Sura senses someone is watching her.
In the pilot, Sura just turns and sees the Barbarians are coming.

In the screenplay, Spartacus has several bruises, scrapes and gashes.
In the pilot, Spartacus has one giant gash that is the focus.

In the screenplay, Spartacus and Sura kiss in the silhouette of the fire.
In the pilot, a sex scene is added between the two.

In the screenplay, Sura is the first to awaken and notice the Romans.
In the pilot, Spartacus is the first to awaken and notice the Romans.

In the screenplay, Spartacus screams Sura’s name as she is taken away.
In the pilot, Spartacus yells as he struggles to get free, but never screams her name repeatedly.

In the screenplay, Glaber has a gash on his head when captures Spartacus.
In the pilot, Glaber does not have any mark on his head.

In the screenplay, as Spartacus falls unconscious, he is described as falling into a void.
In the pilot, Spartacus falls and the background briefly turns to fire before the next scene.

Act 4

Structure

Quick shots are added of a lightning storm and Spartacus throwing up on the ship.

A scene of the Thracians talking about their fate during the party is cut.

Main Points:
Spartacus is condemned to fight in the arena against trained gladiators.
Spartacus and the gladiators are presented a party the night before the gladiator fights.

Breakdown:

The rest of the cast is introduced at the lavish party. The tension between characters is evident and highlighted. Solonius and Batatius dislike each other, and somehow Solonius has more favor with Albinius. Albinius has disdain for Glaber after the incident on the battlefield. All the focus is on the people of power and very little focus is spent on the gladiators and Thracians.

End of Act 4: Arkadios threatens Spartacus with a gesture.

Best Scene from Act 4: Party

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Ablinius addresses an Ancient Friend with a great white beard.
In the pilot, this character is briefly seen but never mentioned.

In the screenplay, Arkadios is peforming mock combat and only grins at Spartacus knowing his fate.
In the pilot, Arkadios stops his mock combat and points his sword at Spartacus to signal his fate.

In the screenplay, the transition from the party to the arena is two wooden swords turning into steel swords used during the arena fight.
In the pilot, the scene transitions from Spartacus staring at Arkadios to Spartacus sitting in the cage under the arena stands.

Act 5

Structure

A scene is added of Spartacus being brought from his cage below to the bars where the combatants enter.

Main Points:
Spartacus defeats four gladiators at once in the arena to avoid death.

Breakdown:

Spartacus is clearly outmatched in a 4 versus 1 fight against trained gladiators. However his opponents underestimate him and the rage he carries with all he has been through. With Sura on his mind, Spartacus has a reason to live and survive until he finds her.

The Red Serphant is present on the shield of Arkadonis.

Battle Breakdown: Drenis Vs Arkadios

Drenis laughs as he sees Spartacus.
Drenis launches an attack but is killed by Arkadios.

Differences:

In the screenplay, Drenis smiles as he dies.
In the pilot, Drenis smiles and laughs when looking at Spartacus but shows no emotion when he is dying.

Battle Breakdown: The Thracian Vs. 4 Gladiators

Spartacus defends a spear attack.
Spartacus is tripped by the net.
Spartacus is sliced in the back and kicked while on the ground.
Spartacus is hit in the face with a shield and then cross checked in the neck with the axe handle.
Spartacus hears Sura’s voice to kill them all.
Spartacus gets up and stabs Arkadios through the chest.
Spartacus attacks the remaining gladiators and cuts the Spear Gladiator’s arm off.
The Axe Gladiator tries attacking Spartacus but accidentally kills the Spear Gladiator with an axe to the back of the head.
Spartacus then ducks under the thrown net and cuts off the legs of the Trident Gladiator.
Spartacus avoids another axe attack, slices the Axe Gladiator’s stomach and then stabs him through the neck.
Spartacus kills the Trident Gladiator with the trident as he tries crawling away.

Differences:

In the screenplay, Spartacus is caught up in the net after being knocked down by it.
In the pilot, Spartacus is just knocked down by the net.

In the screenplay, it states the gladiators play cat and mouse with Spartacus.
In the pilot, they quickly attack him and knock him down before he mounts his comeback.

In the screenplay, Spartacus is just hit with the shield before making a comeback.
In the pilot, the cross check scene is added after Spartacus is hit in the face by the shield.

In the screenplay, Spartacus sees a vision of blood turning into the red serpent, hears Sura’s voice and then snaps back to reality as he sees the red snake on Arkadios’ shield.
In the pilot, Spartacus just hears Sura’s voice and then sees the red snake on the shield.

In the screenplay, the axe is thrown at Spartacus, but he dodges it and it hits the Spear Gladiator. Spartacus also sees the Trident Gladiator coming at him from behind in the reflection of the axe as it passes his head.
In the pilot, Spartacus cuts the Spear Gladiator and then uses his head as protection from the axe. Spartacus then rolls away and engages the Trident Gladiator.

In the screenplay, as the Axe Gladiator tries to retrieve his axe from the dead body, Spartacus hurls a sword at him and kills him.
In the pilot, the Axe Gladiator immediately attacks Spartacus after he cuts off the legs of the Trident Gladiator.

End of Act 5: The crowd chants Spartacus.

Best Scene from Act 5: Spartacus VS. Four Gladiators.

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Spartacus looks at the dead bodies behind him before seeing Drenis die.
In the pilot, Spartacus sees Drenis die and then looks back at the bodies.

In the screenplay, Arkadios says nothing to Spartacus.
In the pilot, Arkadios calls Spartacus a cunt.

The proper classifications of fighters is used as names for each fighter:

Secutor (Axe)
Hoplomachus (Spear)
Retiarius (Trident and Net)

In the screenplay, the crowd goes silent at points during the fight.
In the pilot, the crowd is always cheering during the fight.

In the screenplay, Spartacus is carried off like Jesus after the fight.
In the pilot, Spartacus just stares at Glaber after his win.

Overall Breakdown

As mentioned before, I picked this pilot because I wanted to see how fights were written in a screenplay. With five major fights, I wasn’t disappointed as the fights are clearly directed and for the most part remain exactly as scripted.

This is small sample size of fights, and some other scripts may just say that they fight, leaving it to the fight choreographer to figure it out. However for writers who have an idea of how they want a fight to go or if the story has fighting as a major part such as a medieval setting, Spartacus gives a great example of how to write it.

Spartacus shows us two sides to the same war with both Spartacus and Glaber’s POV. Spartacus has honor and is willing to fight for the Roman’s if they help get rid of the Gatae permanently. However Glaber only sees the Thracian as soldiers and orders them to aide in his cause without really helping in theirs. Spartacus finally goes back on his word knowing full well his wife is in serious danger if he follows orders. Spartacus makes his decision and does save his wife, but makes the mistake of leaving Glaber alive. Glaber, a man of considerable power, takes his revenge on Spartacus, but does not see it all the way through as Spartacus survives.

The show focuses a considerable amount on Spartacus and only shows the rest of the main cast in the last ten minutes of the pilot. However the remaining cast is quickly and effectively established. Power is the main theme here, and it is clear from all the character’s actions that it is the motivation behind what they do.

During the first forty minutes we see the reason why Spartacus and Glaber will go on to hate each other. Spartacus wanted to protect his land and Glaber wanted to gain power and build his name up.

 

Screenwriting Techniques

Fight Sequences

As mentioned before, there are plenty of fight sequences to analyze and incorporate the techniques into your own writing.

POV Shots

DeKnight utilizes the use of POV shots and spaces out the pilot in this unique manner.

Slowing Time

Probably not useful unless it is part of the story or creatively used in your pilot. Spartacus slows time during fight scenes in both the screenplay and pilot, something it continued to do throughout it’s run.

Flashback

Not necessary, but because the teaser is show in present day, the rest of the scenes are considered a flashback. It isn’t necessary to note this, because you can always add the title card of (# Days Earlier) at the beginning of the Flashbacks instead of writing Flashback in ever slug line.

Scene Count

There are 19 scenes in total. Sometimes less can be effective.

Transition Shots

Every scene has a transition shot noted in the screenplay. The pilot effectively uses transition shots to move from scene to scene.

Map Shot

Spartacus tries to use an animation of the map at the beginning to give the audience an idea of where the story is taking place. This was scrapped for the pilot, however some elements of zooming in and out of a map remain throughout the pilot.

Hiding the Identity

Spartacus is called The Thracian throughout the screenplay until the very last scene. If your character has a hidden identity or you don’t want to reveal their name until later, Spartacus is an example of how to effectively do that.

Next Pilot: Game of Thrones

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