script_logoLet’s continue with our look into some of the best Script Magazine posts. To check out the full list of Script Mag contributors, go here. Website home page is here. A column of my own stuff appears here.

  • A SCREENPLAY– THE DP’S POV

index  There’s a shamanism to being a writer. It involves breaking out of your own head and becoming a character that has little or nothing to do with your own life or POV. How well one does that might very well determine your success as a writer. So yeah, when I read a pro’s POV on how they interpret my script–that’s of interest to me. Most interesting about this article from Nathan Blair is that it’s from a Director of Photography’s point of view. How does a DP see the script? How can you write more visually, to appeal to the eye of the man/woman who is going to make all the Paris-Is-Burning images in your mind happen? Read the article and get enlightened.

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  • SHOOTING SCRIPT VS. SPEC SCRIPT

index  Damn! Look at that screenplay page above… My own notes used to look like that before Columbia College moved to digital homework. I would spend 30 minutes handwriting notes on a page like that not thinking the student would have NO FUCKING CLUE what I was saying.  That’s why I was glad to find another excellent article from Stewart Farquhar about format differences between shooting and spec scripts. This article provides invaluable advice. Here’s a taste:

“There is one requirement all agree on; “DON’T BORE ME.” After that comes the page format. Readers and development execs who read expect to see certain components for a spec script in a definite style on the page. Lean is in, pedantic and descriptive prose is out. No technical direction and everything shorter (including the script).
Production and shooting scripts have a myriad of instructions on the page. For example it is not uncommon to find some if not all of the following in a shooting script: ANGLE ON, ANOTHER ANGLE, CLOSE ON, CRANE SHOT, DOLLY WITH, ECU, PAN, POV, PULL BACK TO REVEAL, TRUCK, ZIP PAN, WE SEE, WE HEAR, ZOOM, etc. in addition to editing directions: CUT TO, DISSOLVE TO, IRIS, WIPE. Unless it is absolutely necessary for the story, and then only sparingly, do not include any of the editing directions. It will do at least two things that will not endear to the other trades, 1) slow down the read and; 2) rank you as an amateur writer. Your goal in a spec script is to dazzle a READER with your story teller skill not to direct and /or edit a film.”
  • TRUE STORY SCREENWRITING

new-header I recently did a webinar for Screenwriting University on True Story Characters. The territory covered here wonderfully by writer/producer/director Bob Boris is similar– trying to help you get your arms around writing a True Story Screenplay. Let’s take a quick timeout and go to the Black List website. Go to their archive of spec scripts down through the years. Pick a year. Now tell me how many are in the list and how many are TRUE STORY inspired. A shitload, yes? Want to see the genesis of the True Story movie down through the years? Look what the elves at Wikipedia have put together. True Story movies from the dawn of cinema to today. What you see is an explosion in that sub-genre. Shit you not–if I’m not writing a micro-budget today, if I’m going Indie, then the only Indie spec I’m writing is a True Story.

All this to say, this article is a good information source from Bob Boris–an interview where he expands on writing fictional screenplays inspired by true events. Check out the article. Here’s a taste:

“A movie is a movie… It is not a front page article in the New York Times. The screenwriter should interpret historical events, not unlike Shakespeare did! The writer needs to be as close to the truth as good drama permits. The writer cannot break the fifth wall of reality. If Russell Crowe was wearing his Rolex in the arena, it throws the whole movie into the wood chipper. Professional writers know that. Telling the true story makes its own demands. Don’t be stupid. Don’t play fast and lose with the facts. Maintain the truth, or as close to it as possible…and the audience will accept the film as a true story. The moment you lose them – give them something clearly false? They are gone for good!”

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  • SCRIPT SYMBOLOGY

index Movies = moving pictures. Film as visual medium. The manipulation of     I M A G E S for emotional impact. The written word– the screenplay– is there to fill in the gap of what can’t be communicated visually. Hitchcock is studied in every film school in the country for a reason. The dude could screw with your mind– How? Juxtaposition of I M A G E S manipulated to evoke specific reactions. Far too often the screenwriter just kills us with words when words aren’t called for. A greater understanding of images and symbols is called for. Thus, I include this epic poem to film symbolism written by John Fraim. Nicely done, John–this one really made me think. Here’s a piece:

“Yet in the vast majority of films, their images don’t go anywhere… The result is that many films, unsure of their central image, unwilling to invoke the power of the single image, bombard viewers with too many images. The shotgun effect of images in modern films create what media theorist Marshall McLuhan might term “hot” images allowing for little participation by the audience. This onslaught of images are “broadcast” 24/7 through modern films like continuous images from cable news networks.

Films need to cut the machine-gun spray of small, lifeless images and focus on creating a few images full of life. They need to call back what McLuhan would term “cool” images, or images that are incomplete, requiring in depth participation by viewers in decoding their message. They need to create images that suggest rather than define, that expand meaning rather than deflate it.”

 

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