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Geof Miller: 5 Things the Reader Wants to See – Part 2

Geof Miller:  5 Things the Reader Wants to See – Part 2

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: Dialogue 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...

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Geof Miller: 5 Things the Reader Wants to See – Part 1

Geof Miller:  5 Things the Reader Wants to See – Part 1

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...

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Do Your Scenes Have Flow?

Do Your Scenes Have Flow?

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...

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5 Ways to Make Your Character More Active

5 Ways to Make Your Character More Active

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...

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How to Make Your Scene Pop Before it Even Starts

How to Make Your Scene Pop Before it Even Starts

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...

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Just Beat It – A Quick Way to Improve Conflict in Scenes

Just Beat It – A Quick Way to Improve Conflict in Scenes

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...

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3 Quick Tips to Make Your Scenes Work Harder

3 Quick Tips to Make Your Scenes Work Harder

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. We’r...

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Post Comments Earn Screenwriting Deal

Post Comments Earn Screenwriting Deal

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: Writ...

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How to Write Fresh Dialogue: Four Quick Tips

How to Write Fresh Dialogue: Four Quick Tips

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...

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Computer Reconstructs Movie Scenes from Your Brain?

Computer Reconstructs Movie Scenes from Your Brain?

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.  Cool, huh? 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! ...

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I still think your workshop...was one of the greatest things to happen to my writing; it had me seeing the written word in ways that opened up new and creative horizons. Thanks.

Jill Hoven
Writer

It was very well structured. The improvisation was magical. The actors really worked with character motivations and goals and took them to another level.

JoAnne Edwards
Writer

All four performers were terrific and I loved everyone's instincts, knowledge and professionalism. I felt I learned a lot, not just about how to improve my scene but how to make my screenplay better over all.

Karen Walton-Rolls
Writer

A storyboard of the scene was perhaps the most surprising and useful tool! It was absolutely inspiring!

Olesia Shewchuk
Writer

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