Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Agh, my eyes! How NOT to write a screenplay

I just got sent a short script that is a nightmare.  Sparing y'all the pain of slogging through this mess, here are a few tips.

WRITE IN THE PRESENT TENSE.  Whatever is going on, even in flashback, happens right in front of your audience.

If a character's 'eyes well with sympathy' chances are he's not going to throw the other guy to the ground yelling 'What the hell are you doing you basted!'.  And it's bastard. Unless you are covering the stewing character in his own juices to make a tasty roast.  Which could be interesting....

An upper crust exec would probably not wax poetic about how his lost love 'hypnotized him with obsession, created a love beyond ages'.  This is the over poetic hype of an angsty, psudo artsy college student.  If that's your guy, fine.  Otherwise, the leave the antequated prose to Yeats and Poe.  It lacks authenticity.

Vietnam vets will rarely just sit down and say that thier experiences were anything like yours.  Especially to a stranger.  If you are lucky to find one of these back porch story tellers, the level of detail in the storytelling will be amazing. not 'I lost a lot of people in 'nam, it get's easier'.  Sheesh.  If you have no idea what went on, or have never spoken to a veteran, don't put that there.  It makes you sound like an idiot.  And the vagueness of the statement in this script will merely confuse the viewer.

NARRATION.  There have been great films that use it.  Probably not yours. Especially when the narrator is talking about exactly what's happening in your frame. REDUNDANT. The whole medium is 'show'.  If your audience can't tell what's going on by the action, or the narration doesn't take us farther into the character's head, lose it.  Remember fight club? The narration brought us deeper into the character's mind, enhancing the relationship with the viewer.  It was not there to tell us 'so and so was on his way home from work when....' If you can't show that, you have no business directing.

I'm sure I will be subjected to many more miserable scripts before even the end of the year.  If anyone has a specific question, feel free to shoot.

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