Teaching Notes for Writers from Script Magazine-4
45. Script- Vol.10#4 p. 76- Warning Signs- Ray Morton
1. Notes from a reader- why he sometimes stops reading a script.
2. Do not set up one story in the first act then switch to a totally new one in the second act- 90% of new writers do this.
3. He is on page 25 and has no idea where the story is going. He notes that this usually means that the writer does not know either.
4. He is on page 25 and he knows exactly what will happen next.- extremely clichéd story-
5. The first page is one big block of type- describing the most minute aspects
6. The first scene goes on for twenty pages
7. The first ten pages are nothing but dialogue.
8. The script is filled with camera directions
9. The SPELLING AND GRAMMAR ARE HORRIBLE. Usually a sign that other things are wrong with the story.
10. Proper format is not observed.
11. There are ten flashbacks in the first five pages.
12. The script is over a 120 pages
13. The script is written with too much attitude.( not like Shane Black and William Goldman)
14. The script makes me sick.
15. The script is about screenwriters.
46. Script- V10#4 p. 24- Voice in Screenwriting- Michael Giampa
1. Voice- a discernible, identifiable stamp or imprint that distinguishes one author’s combination of words from another’s- a mesh of style.
2. A movie has voice that exists in plural- voices- from the director to the actor-
3. A screenplay with voice is one that kicks itself away from the surrounding mediocrity and boots you in the cerebral cahones, yet still feels familiar.
4. Most scripts suck- thus the one with voice is on top of the pile
5. Being John Malkovich and American Beauty read as well as they are seen.
6. Voice usually seen over a volume of works
7. He gives examples of famous writers and their style
8. The Personal Voice: traits found within a writer
9. The History of Voice:
47. Script- Vol. 10, No.6- p.64-Hill- Studio Pitch
a. You are ultra prepared- audio tape of you pitch- even video
b. You are EARLY- you are nervous but you don’t show it
c. You have a three page treatment to leave ONLY IF THEY LET US THINK ABOUT IT
d. PITCH TO ALL IN THE ROOM- wait while they take a call
48. Script- Vol .10, No.6. p.60- Multiple Protagonist- Landau-
a. ensemble screenplay- story told through more than one central character
b. ensemble cast- The Green Mile/ The Birdcage
c. episodic screenplay is one which contains several complete stories all linked sin some way- these stories progress independently, but simultaneously- each linked to the others in some manner- last of which would be time and place.
d. Multiple protagonists are linked by a shared theme or goal other than just time and place.
e. American Graffiti- good example- characters linked by friendships- four protagonist linked by time, place, friendship, theme of individual stories.
f. Goal of the protagonists can be the same- to find love in Love Actually.
49. Script- p. 72,Vol 11,#1- Rewriting Hero- Last- Marilyn Horowitz
a. You main character can not be flat
b. Often the MC suffers because we use his want/needs to drive the plot
c. characters have a pesky way of changing while we rewrite them
d. Hero: the person whose story you are telling, male or female.
e. He is the only person who can be the center of your story because you have chosen to write about a person with unique gifts, flaws and a specific lesson to learn.
f. FIVE EXERCISE AND QUESTIONS THAT WILL HELP
1. What is your hero’s dream, and does he realize it?
2. What is your hero’s worst nightmare?
a. what does she fear the most? (Juliet is afraid to take any risks in life)
3. Act one sets up the dream- Act three resolves it- Act two is where your hero must confront his worst nightmare. MAKE SURE YOU SECOND ACT IS THE ULTIMATE DRAMAZITATION OF YOUR HERO’S WORST NIGHTMARE.
4. For whom or what will your hero die? ( Dorothy is willing to face death at the hands of the Wicked Witch of the The West in order to get home)
5. Why is your hero the only person who could be in this story? In Casablanca Rick’s gift is for survival, and his flaw is that he is bitter about love. He has to lwarn that love is its own reward so that he can do the right thing by Ilsa and rejoin the bigger fight, the fight for freedom.
6. These goals represent dramatic truths, not psychological facts.
7. What is the hero’s unbreakable bond with the villain?
a. The biggest challenge with a script is frequently that the stakes are not high enough. Identify the main conflict before you design the plot, you make better choices and that saves drafts.
b. High stakes problem: One: the plot does not have night EVENTS that rather the story up to a cataclysmic climax.
c. TWO: the relationship between hero and villain is not sufficiently intense.
d. WHAT’S NEEDED is a good reason for the hero and villain to stay locked in mortal combat until the final crisis in the third act.
e. The deeper the reason, the greater the tension.
f. Villain is often not actually a bad person.- Tootsie
g. Ask yourself if there is enough conflict in the relationship between your hero and villain to create the strongest possible crisis and keep them trapped together until the end of the story.
1. Five exercises.
a. each one is designed to tweak your screenplay with the least possible effort
b. 1. Have your hero tell the whole story to a trusted friend- listening to her tell the story will help you find out where it is working and where it is not working
c. 2. THE PREMISE ASKED AS A QUESTION CHART is an exercise where you take your proposition and change it to question form and then examine your script to see if it is being answered- (see magazine)
d. Other characters should help or hinder the hero from attaining his goal
e. If they are flat, your hero has nothing to work against
f. 3. OBSTACLE/ OPPORTUNITY CHART- SEE MAG- DRAW A THREE ACT chart on paper- under the line write obstacle and on top of the line write opportunity-
g. List the events in your story and set them as obstacle or opportunity
h. Events can be “changes” that require your hero to adapt and grow
i. 4. Using a logline: when…..he or she…..or….. ( see mag)
j. 5. Interviewing your villain- what is the hero’s unbreakable bond with the villain?
50. Script- Focal Points- p.76- vol.11, #1- Ray Morton
a. focus is necessary for a film to be good- not lose way through the story- limited amount of time to tell the story- efficiently- not wandering
b. films work best when they focus on a single character- or set of characters- in a single story,
c. movies tell stories through actions- dramatic action, behavior, choices, reactions, things said and unsaid, physical action.
d. Focus must exist in first draft- they must not be incoherent-
e. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CLEAR GRASP OF YOUR THEME
1. Theme is the central idea that underlines your story- lessons you want to teach- covey- foundation upon which the rest of the story is built-
2. Write your theme down and stick it on your computer- use it as the North Star
3. MAKE SURE THAT ALL ELEMENTS IN THE SCRIPT REFLECT THE THEME
4. Make sure protagonist and his arc stick to the point of the theme
5. Establish a character who needs to develop the opposite attitude- Tootsie- a man who needs to treat women with respect- he comes to realize while being Tootsie how bad men really are in treating women
6. Plot sticks to the right direction- subplots not wandering away
7. MAKE SURE YOUR PREMISE IS ESTABLISHED EARLY AND CLEARLY
8. It is the dramatic concept from which the story flows- it is the set up, the hook that gets people into the story.
9. MAKE SURE THERE IS A LOGICAL FLOW TO THE STORY
10. Act one should establish the flow
11. Make sure act two conflicts from act I set ups
12. Events in act three should resolves act one and two set ups
13. ALWAYS FOCUS THE PLOT ON THE PROTAGONIST
14. The plot should always center on the lead character and should chronicle his journey
15. Any other characters should either support the protagonist, antagonist or drive the plot. Eliminate any who don’t .
16. AVOID EXTRANEIOUS SUBPLOTS-
17. DO NOT LET YOUR ANTAGONIST HIJACK YOUR SCRIPT
18. KEEP IT MOVING-be willing to cut out good things that inhibit the flow – be willing to kill your little darlings.
51. Script- 10 Ways to Create Great Scenes- M. Horowitz
1. drama is made of conflict that forces the characters to react
2. this forces the characters to act-
3. dialogue is added to reveal the character’s thoughts and what they want to win in the scene
4. characters reaction causes the crisis not just the events
5. Num. One: Finding the Three Levels of Conflict
a. What is his inner conflict? : Peter can’t have his love and be spiderman he thinks
b. What is his external conflict?: The plot- Peter must battle Dr. Octavious
c. What is his societal conflict? Peter must decide between saving the world or having his love
6. Num. Two: Seeing you scene as part of a sequence: a series of scenes that addresses a specific idea or question.
7. Num. Three: Heightening the conflict in any scene
a. Having two events going on at once is an easy way to make a scene exciting
b. First part is between the main characters, second part interrupts this action creating tension
8. Num. Four: Creating subtext with Ease:
a. subtext is the conflict between what the characters want and what they really need
b. Key: the main character must be committed to what he wants
c. The writer knows what he really needs
d. The character arc is that the character starts off fighting for what he wants but the events in the film should cause him to wake up to what he really needs and act upon them
e. Use dialogue to show what they want and body language and action to show what they really need
f. Ask: What does my character WANT? What does my character NEED?
9. Num. Five: How to use back story in a scene without a flashback
a. bring the past into the present
b. when Harry’s wife shows up shopping we see his pain in the back story
10. Num. Six: Giving your Character a little emotional baggage
a. every scene you will write comes after something else that has happened-
b. immediate emotional baggage that a character walks around with
c. or a simple bad experience on the way over- a flat tire, ticket,
d. find out what happened the moment before the scene you are writing
11, Num. Seven: Writing a scene from two points of view-
11. Num. Eight: Writing better dialogue
a. know what you character wants
b. know from whom you character wants something
c. think in terms of verbs, action in the dialogue
d. making getting something difficult
e. by using dialogue as if it were action and knowing a great scene must rise to a crisis , you can write amazingly good dialogue in your first draft.
12. Num. Nine: Using PLACE for the setting of your scene
a. an interesting spot for your characters to make love or fight
13. Num. Ten: Using props to improve you scenes
a. the wagon wheel in When Harry Met Sally starts a fight
14. Conclusion: These ten techniques are based on a good understanding of character
52. Script- Ray Morton- Dream into Action-
1. Have a GOOD COMMERCIAL IDEA before you start
2. Learn your craft
a. there are no short cuts
b. have a solid grounding in dramatic writing
c. do a lot of writing- at least four scripts to even know what you are doing
3. Learn the business
a. filmmaking is a business
b. main job is to convince potential buyers that your movie will be worthwhile- a good investment for them.
c. Know what sort of films the producers have made in the past
d. Keep up with the people in the industry- read the trades
4. Act like a professional- there is a set of protocols and codes of conduct in Hollywood
5. Never send out an unsolicited script
6. Do not use gimmicks or emotional pressure
7. Never act rude or wacky
8. People want to respond to your talent not your personality
53. Script- The Pass Pile- Daniel Manus- The top 10 reasons I rejected your script
1. I’m on page 30…what the hell is going on?
a. first act the hardest- it must set up the story
b. in the first act SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN to grab the interest of the reader
c. in the first thirty pages someone needs to get killed, blown up, have sex, make you laugh
2. Your main character taste just like his
a. make the reader WANT TO KNOW what happens to your characters
b. blow their socks off
3. Has anyone seen my second act?
a. the second act should not be about the character arc
b. the test of a writer is the second act
4. I can see the trailer from here
5. Being limber has it advantages
6. Let it flow, Baby
7. Can you hear me now?
8. The Way we weren’t
9. Is there a program for that?
10. I have a porno with the same title.
a. you need to have a deep understanding of structure, technique, work long and hard hours
b. you must have the desire