The other day we talked about the fact that an an experienced reader, providing coverage on your script, can tell if you know how to write within the first three pages. We gave a couple of things to think about as you write. Here are three more:
Here’s a good test: can you tell which character is speaking without reading the name above the dialog? If you can’t, if all the characters sound the same, you need to fix the problem. Stop thinking of dialogue as a way to deliver exposition and start using it the way it should be used. Dialogue is a weapon characters use to try and get what they want (if you detect a theme here, you’re right: drama, characterization and d...
Geof Miller, Screenwriter
Here’s a fact: an experienced reader, providing coverage on your script, can tell if you know how to write within the first three pages.
As a producer, development consultant and screenwriting instructor, I’ve read a lot of scripts (2,000 and counting). For those of us who read scripts as part of their work, there are two truths. First, we desperately hope the next script will be great (although, experience tells us it probably won’t be). Second, we see the same mistakes over and over, in scripts that, with just a little work, could be so much better.
This article is not about structure; you can find dozens of books on the subject. For my money...
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Do you remember the breathtaking foot chase scene in Quantum of Silence? Bond and the Bad Guy skitter across girders, leap impossible gaps, and land lemur like on trusses. Or how about in Bourne Ultimatum – there’s a great rooftop chase showing Matt Damon balled up and freefalling from a roof into a tiny open window.
The chases are based on the sport of Parkour or Free Running. It’s become so popular it’s got its own TV show called Jump City. Contestants compete on complex stunt courses and in creative freestyle rounds. Buildings, walls, and ledges are their playgrounds. If you want to make your palms sweat, just watch an episode.
In freestyle, athletes are judged on some...
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Does your main character suffer from PHS?
Passive Hero Syndrome.
Everything happens to him. Like the Great God of Story you visit plagues, pestilence and the occasional flood onto him yet he remains passive, inert.
Meanwhile, your antagonist, ever crafty and diabolical is busy doing things. He’s got plans! He takes action. And he never gives up.
That’s why villains are so much fun to watch. They’re drivers. They make the story happen. Ideally, your main character should do the same thing. Sometimes, though, writers get so caught up torturing their hero that they forget to let the character have a will of his own.
Active characters want something. Sometimes it’s a phys...
Is your scene D.O.A.? (Dead on arrival)
You know the scene we mean. All the pieces seem to be in the right places. The characters have objectives — maybe there’s even some clever dialogue — and yet…it’s oddly vacant. Like a bad Merlot, it’s flaccid and lifeless.
Not to worry. It turns out there’s a simple fix. It’s called The Moment Before.
Picture the start of a 100 yard dash at the Olympics. Runners shake out their limbs, crouch into starting blocks, set their feet, lift their heads and…wait. In that moment, all of their energy and strength is poised, ready to spring at the crack of the gun.
Now, not every scene requires the starting energy of an Olympic...
Thursday, March 29th, 2012
Conflict comes in many forms. Not all of them can sustain an entire scene. Imagine, for example, being trapped on a long car trip with squabbling siblings. Endless rounds of “Did not!” and “Did too!” don’t really count as conflict. It’s bickering. Mind-numbing bickering at that.
It reminds me of the classic toy Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Like boxers in a ring, two plastic toy robots square off. The idea is that one child operates the red robot and another child operates the blue robot. The robots “sock” each other until eventually one of their heads pops up. The headless robot, of course, loses. His owner pushes the head back down and the battle begins anew.
Yet a real...
Saturday, March 24th, 2012
Sometimes you hit a glorious spot in your writing where everything is clicking. One scene leads to the next and the story actually makes sense! You read through your script and feel a sense of satisfaction at the completeness of it.
Congratulations! That’s a great position to be in. Celebrate. Take a break. Go for a jog, walk your dog, or grab a mocha. Then when you come back, I have a question for you…
Can it be better?
At Sceneplay we often see stories spread too thin. Screenwriters get frugal. They parcel out events, afraid they won’t be able to think of new ones. Each scene does indeed advance the story, but in a modest way. The story can become predictable and plodding.
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
By now most of us know the story of Brook Busey, better known as Diablo Cody, the screenwriter for Juno. Her blog attracted the attention of talent manager, Mason Novick. The rest is Hollywood history.
But can merely commenting on a post capture Hollywood’s attention?
Apparently it can. Especially if your comment is in the form of a multi-part narrative that reads more like a script treatment than a blog post.
Just ask James Erwin. Mr. Erwin gave up his day job to write screenplays full-time after a producer spotted his comments and offered him a deal. Read the incredible story on Wired.com.
And, if you’re looking for a lesson from this story, here are my key takeaways:
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Sometimes dialogue can feel predictable and you want to inject some energy and surprise into your scene. There’s a fun improvisation technique we use to knock the dialogue off-the-nose and open up fresh possibilities. It’s called Four Offers.
We start the scene by having an actor enter and make up a completely new opening line. The actor “offers” just the first line and then stops. We send the actor back to the top of the scene to do it again. The second time she enters she offers a different opening line. We repeat the process four times to get four unique opening lines. Then, after consulting with the writer, we choose the one we most want to explore. Usually, at th...
Here’s something I ran across that would make an interesting device for your next sci-fi thriller script…
Imagine a foreign spy forced to submit to an MRI by agents from some kind of black ops org. The agents provoke the spy’s memories of a recent mission by hounding him with questions. All the while, the MRI is scanning the spy’s brain, capturing his reluctant thoughts. A sophisticated computer program then reconstructs those thoughts into short movie scenes the agents can watch.
Think it stretches credibility, though? Turns out the application may be fantasy, but the technology is real.
Can’t wait to see what you guys do with this one. Have fun!