Archive for ‘Lists’

May 12, 2011

The Top 5 Screenwriting Mistakes to Avoid

This list comes from Hal Croasmun of ScreenwritingU. Here’s what Hal had to say:

Mistake #5: On-the-nose writing.

When characters consistently say exactly what they think and feel, an audience quickly gets bored. They are being spoon fed and that doesn’t require their attention or entertain them in any way.

Instead, you need deeper meanings that adds interest, intrigue, and causes an audience to have to interpret, thus giving the audience an internal experience of the story.

BTW, on-the-nose writing is fine for early drafts of your screenplay. It serves as a place holder, but before you turn in the script, you need to make sure that each line delivers as much meaning as it can.

Solutions include pouring character into the lines, delivering subtext, creating anticipation, setting up or paying off, and others. Take the time and effort to become an expert in OFF-the-nose writing and every reader will respect you for it.

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May 2, 2011

10 Writing Tips from the Great Billy Wilder

Scott Myers of GoIntotheStory.com recently posted this list of ten writing tips passed down by the amazing Billy Wilder. Wilder was the scribe behind such classics as Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, The Seven Year Itch, Sabrina, and Double Indemnity, to name a few. Wilder’s gravestone reads “I’m a writer, but then nobody’s perfect.”

1. Grab ’em by the throat and never let go.

2. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

3.The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

4. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

5. Tip from Ernst Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.

6. The audience is fickle. Know where you’re going.

7. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they are seeing.

8. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

9. The 3rd act must build, build, build in tempo until the last event, and then…

10. …that’s it. Don’t hang around.

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 18, 2011

Ten Tips to Get You Writing

This list of ten tips for screenwriters from FilmScriptWriting.com is a useful resource for avoiding writer’s block and inspiring creativity. The list is hardly perfect — I wouldn’t take these tips as gospel — but it’s a good starting point for getting those typing-fingers working:

1. Read more scripts.

That’s what the sample script section of the site is for. We’ve also got a link to a site that is chock full of scripts in the use resources section.

There are many advantages to reading scripts. First is it allows you to become very knowledgeable when it comes to formatting. When you read an original draft of a screenplay that you’ve already seen then you get to see what was changed from the initial script. You will also get a better idea how to layout and transition between scenes.

Read a couple of scripts over the weekend and write down everything you’ve learned. Keep it blue tacked to the wall behind your monitor to remind you until it is ingrained in your brain.

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April 9, 2011

5 Lessons from the Work of Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet, director of such masterpieces as 12 Angry Men, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Verdict passed away this weekend. S.T. Vanairsdale was quick to report on the life lessons we can all learn from his work:

1. First impressions are everything
Contemporary filmmakers could learn a lot from Lumet’s openings, the most expressive of which feature long, gradual shots working from the outside in. Sometimes this is literal; take 12 Angry Men, which marvelously sets up the entire narrative in about seven shots — a courthouse exterior to a young murder defendant’s close-up — before getting to the opening credits. The effect compels viewers to digest the stakes while entering the deliberation room with the jurors. Subtle stuff, but utterly standard-defying for its time.

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