Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You can always cut something | The Bitter Script Reader

If there's one mistake first-time writers make, it's over-writing. I'm not just talking about writing dialogue and speeches that go on too long. Often they'll write too many scenes to drive home a particular point. They won't just start with Joe on a train just as it pulls into the station in his hometown, they show Joe packing in his hotel room. Then they show him checking out of his hotel and asking for directions to the train station. Then we see him buy his ticket for home, then an entire scene of him getting on the train and watching the world go by, and THEN at last, we see him arrive at home and the story finally starts.

So what could have taken one scene and one page ends up consuming ten pages and ten minutes of screentime.

Guys like me often harp on the "Start a scene as early as possible, leave a scene as soon as possible" rule, but I'd also encourage writers to think hard about if a particular scene is even necessary. We don't always need to see A to B to C to D. Sometimes you can show us A, cut to D and leave B and C as points that we can fill in for ourselves.

If you've got a script that's 128 pages and you're convinced you can't cut any more, you're wrong. I just read a script this week that was 105 pages and jam-packed with story and character development. It was a fast moving plot that seemed to contain twice the twists and turns that I see in the first-timer scripts I sometimes end up reading.

It's amazing the blanks that an audience is capable of filling in. Trust them. Leave something to their imagination. See how much you can cut before they get confused. And true, you won't always know. If you watch DVD deleted scenes, you'll often see scenes that were cut for redundancy. Even the pros have trouble with this, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the effort to master.
You can always cut something | The Bitter Script Reader

Consequences Mapping | Time to Write

Need ideas for your novel or screenplay plot? Try Consequences Mapping.

You're probably familiar with mind mapping. If you're stuck on a plot, a variation I call Consequences Mapping might be helpful especially during the early stages of developing your story.

You start with one thing you know you want to have happen in your story. For an example, let's say you want to write a story about how losing one's job can lead someone to extreme actions (this could be a short story or part of a novel or screenplay). You know that the character will lose his job, so that goes on the left.

Draw three lines out from that, one upward, one straight out, one downward, and attach one possible response to each of them. These might be: in retaliation he trashes his office/ he takes valuable information with him on a memory stick/ he decides to sue the company.

From each of those, draw a line and jot down at least two possible consequences. 

Trashes his office: he's arrested/ he's blacklisted within his industry

Takes valuable information: blackmails to get his job back/ sells the information to competitor

Sues the company: is offered a payoff to settle/ is counter-sued

You can keep branching out with the further consequences of each development you write down (start with a big piece of paper and write smaller as you go along). It's an excellent way of generating loads of plot points quickly. Of course some won't fit the character you have in mind, and that's fine; ultimately you'll choose only the actions and reactions that make sense. 


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Seven Inspiring TED Talks About Filmmaking | NoFilmSchool

Using film as a means for communication, inspiration, and entertainment, humankind uses pictures and stories to further explore our thoughts, beliefs, and world. These seven TED talks given by famous filmmakers, producers, and directors tap into the amazing potential of film as an art form, exploring the nature of inspiration, creativity, and communication.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Masters: Frank Pierson |WGA

The Masters: Frank Pierson

Has your time as president of the Academy changed your opinion on the role of the writer in Hollywood?

No, it hasn't changed my view of the role. You know, Bob Towne once said, very famously, that the reason everyone hates the writer is because nobody can go to work until the writer is done. Everybody's always waiting.

Writers have always been in a position of being rewritten. The difficulty is that too many directors find themselves competing with the writer rather than looking for the truth or the sense of feeling or the dramatic value in whatever the writer has done and trying to express that the best way that they can. Those directors are in short supply. I suppose that's what happened mostly over the years, because of the shifts in the way that movies get made, more and more of us have tried to become directors and direct our own material, so I think the rise of the writer-director is bigger, proportionately, then it was in the past.

Full interview:
The Masters: Frank Pierson