Friday, October 2, 2009

Screenplay Writing For The Student Filmmaker: The Home Edition

So my outline is looking good. It all fell into place randomly last night. I'm starting the first draft currently. I'm a little worried about the ending but I'm figuring that once I'm there the story may have taken new turns I haven't thought about before.

As I go on writing scripts I find myself changing my own personal styles a lot. Ten years ago I was adding camera angles to my scripts. Now I wouldn't think twice about it.

My theories have changed tremendously through experiences and suggestions from professors.

I'm not talking about stories or ideas on this. I'm talking about a formula for writing scripts itself.

First off: keeping it simple.

Here's an example from one of my scripts...
You're not going to want to over write your action paragraphs. Mine may not seem like a lot, but I could have made them simpler. Looking back, I don't mind the brief description of the location. But I should have stopped at "Adam is sitting on a grassy knoll." Then proceeded to say that the girl is walking up. There's no reason to bring up his wardrobe or the surroundings at that point. If he was playing Game Boy then I'd say "Adam is sitting on a grassy knoll playing Game Boy."

I have a buddy who wrote half a page purely on a guy pulling a cigarette out of his bag and lighting it... It's unnecessary!! You want to get straight to the point. Each page is a minute of screen time; are you really going to waste thirty seconds on this guy taking out a cigarette?

You're writing a script, not a novel!

Putting the character's emotion in the actions, in my eyes, isn't okay either. The action paragraphs are just for what you see on the screen. How do you see he's struck with disappointment? That's internal of Adam. That's for the director and actor to talk about.

The next place I went wrong on this is the parenthetical. I don't know what I was thinking... But I did it. You shouldn't put direction there. This is internal. You gotta give some room for the actors and directors to breathe.

Another thing that I've begun to stop doing... Adding action between lines of dialogue. Unless it's incredibly important and further moves the story line, then I won't do it.

If between two lines in the script it says for the character to sit down and take a drink then the actor is going to be focusing on sitting and drinking rather than deliver the lines naturally.

These are just my suggestions to you. I felt what I was doing was alright because I was directing the film. Now I keep everything toned down and I make all my notes handwritten all over the pages.

Simplicity is your friend.

See you next time guys.

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