Archive for April 20th, 2011

April 20, 2011

Using Voice-Over Effectively

This article from the Script Lab on the top ten films to utilize voice-over gives some great insight into how to approach voice-over in your own film. There are times when voice-over should be avoided like the plague and other times when it might be essential to solid storytelling, as this article will illustrate:

In Adaptation, Robert McKee (played by Brian Cox) cries, “God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.”

To a certain extent, he is correct. A lot of films use voice-over to no real effect. They tell you what you already see on the screen. Or they explain something that, with a little bit of brainpower and imagination, you could have worked out for yourself. Or they inform you about something that would have been better off left alone, for the audiences to stew on. But no. Some filmmakers just think we’re idiots and insist that every single bit of information is spoon-fed to us.

“Everything I have written is genius. I don’t want them to miss a single, clever bit of it. But they’re morons, so I’ll shove in some voice-overs to really hammer it on home.” I’m not saying that all filmmakers who use voice-over in this way are that patronizing; most of them probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. It’s just safer for them to assume that we won’t be able to figure it out.

But then there are some screenwriters and filmmakers that’ll use voice-over to compliment the work, and without it, I would argue that the film would not be as good. Their use of voice-over challenges the viewer, in some cases even upset the viewer. Either way, they will expect the viewer to do something with this narration, rather than just mindlessly breathe it in.

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April 20, 2011

Quote of the Day: Joseph Heller

Every writer I know has trouble writing. 

April 20, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Script Coverage Services

This article by Ray Morton is a response to another writer’s attack on script coverage services. Ray raises a number of valid (and thoroughly explained) points about the value of quality script coverage.

My only word of advice on the topic is this: If you’re going to spend the money on a coverage service, be sure to pick one that is well-reviewed and well-respected. A lot of people claim to be able to help you with your script, but not very many actually can. Take the time to do your research before handing over your script and your cash:

A few weeks back, Chad Gervich created quite a stir when he wrote an article for this website advising aspiring screenwriters not to use script coverage services. As I am a professional script analyst who—in addition to assessing scripts for producers, production companies, and screenplay contests—works for a coverage service (ScriptXpert, which is owned by Final Draft, Inc., the company that also owns this website), I had some strong reactions to Chad’s piece. I posted some of them in the article’s comment section, but wanted to offer a more detailed and thoughtful response here.

For those that don’t know, coverage is the name given to the 3-5 page reviews written by script analysts (also known as readers) of the screenplays submitted to their employers (producers, production companies, studios). These reviews assess a script’s strengths and weaknesses in a number of areas (premise, story, characters, dialogue, writing), as well as its suitability for production (a judgment arrived at by considering the quality of each script along with the needs/interest of the production entity—for example, if the producer wants to make a horror film, then a reader obviously wouldn’t recommend a romcom). Coverage is an internal document used by a production entity’s development staff and principals as a guide when deciding whether or not to proceed with a particular screenplay. It is usually confidential and not distributed to the writers of the script or anyone else outside of the production entity.

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