Posts tagged ‘The Script Lab’

May 31, 2012

10 Best Revelation Scenes

Meredith Alloway of The Script Lab has posted a great list of the top ten revelation scenes. These scenes give excellent examples of how to reveal information both to your audience and to your characters. Take a look:

Some of the most crucial scenes in cinema come when important information is revealed to us. This key information can be learned at the same time the character does, it can be revealed to us before the character finds out, or we may discover it after the character already knows. Often, however, the revelation occurs with the character because when it’s a simultaneous discovery, we empathize, often experiencing the exact same emotions that the character feels, and this usually creates a closer connection to that character. But regardless of how we find out, an good revelation scene is not just about the moment when the twist occurs, when things are revealed and surprise ensues, but also about what leads up to this scene. If characters are developed properly, and the information is withheld until the right moment in the plot, BAM! Revelation!

10. Fight Club (1999)

This revelation scene is both jarring to the narrator (Edward Norton) and the audience. Up until this point, the narrator is influenced by the stronger, better looking and more ferocious Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).

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October 21, 2011

Story v. Character: Which Matters More?

This article from The Script Lab takes a look at the battle that every writer fights to not just create an unforgettable story but unforgettable characters as well AND to make the two fit together flawlessly. When push comes to shove, which will make a better movie?

There are 12 index cards on the black pegboard in front of me.

Card #1: An explosive opening. There is no way I can write an opening more perfect.

Card #2: The introduction of my Hero- in one scene, I’ve made him likable, relatable, and simply an overall badass.

Card #40: A climax of fantastic proportions. Brave. Jaw-dropping. Exactly the climax I want to tell.

Card #50: A dynamite ending. Emotional. Inspirational. Faulkner would be jealous.

Card #12: Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty.

Here I am, in the middle of the story, and all around me I have index cards that all tell some semblance of a what I want to write, but no idea how to piece it together. A story that I want to tell, and a character that I absolutely love… and the two just don’t go together.

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September 20, 2011

Top 10 Script Monologues

This list from the Script Lab is a valuable read, both bcause it includes the written out monologues right in the article and because writing the perfect monologue is such an elusive talent. Finding the right moment, the right words, the right length, the right subtext — it’s a very delicate art that most screenwriters could use some help with.

A poignant and memorable speech is often what gives a film its place in cinematic history. When someone references Pulp Fiction, we often think of Jules’ Ezekial speech, when we think of A Few Good Men, it’s impossible not to remember “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” Speeches and monologues are the moments in films where writers and actors can really show off; and not with effects or actions sequences, but with great writing and tremendous performances. They can be the simplest and yet the most effective moments in a movie. These speeches can make us laugh, make us stand up and applaud, or even inspire us to take action. Here are arguably 10 of the very best.

10. Good Will Hunting

In this scene, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a genius who chooses to work as a labourer, has gone to a bar with some friends, including Chuckie Sullivan (Ben Affleck.) Chuckie has attempted to chat to some girls at a bar when a pretentious male student interrupts and tries to undermine him. Will comes to the rescue to take this guy down a peg or two.

Will:  You’re a first year grad student. You just got finished readin’ some Marxian historian — Pete Garrison probably. You’re gonna be convinced of that ’til next month when you get to James Lemon, and then you’re gonna be talkin’ about how the economies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were entrepreneurial and capitalist way back in 1740. That’s gonna last until next year — you’re gonna be in here regurgitating Gordon Wood, talkin’ about, you know, the Pre-revolutionary utopia and the capital-forming effects of military mobilization.

Clark: Well, as a matter of fact, I won’t, because Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social –

Will: Wood drastically — Wood ‘drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth, especially inherited wealth.’ You got that from Vickers, ‘Work in Essex County,’ page 98, right? Yeah, I read that too. Were you gonna plagiarize the whole thing for us? Do you have any thoughts of your own on this matter? Or do you…is that your thing? You come into a bar. You read some obscure passage and then pretend…you pawn it off as your own idea just to impress some girls and embarrass my friend? See the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One: don’t do that. And two: You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f—-n’ education you coulda’ got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.

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August 31, 2011

Choosing the Right Music for your Writing Sessions

This short article from The Script Lab makes a great point about music and writing. If you listen to music while you write, listen to music that’s going to get you in the right mood, the right headspace, and the right alignment with your characters and story:

In 1999, I wrote a script titled Sausage. It was a comedy about a struggling gay opera singer who finally finds acceptance when he joins a 80s glam metal band. It was well received (plot, story, characters), but the glue was always in the music.

It was the music that connected the characters. Music found them. Music united, then divided. And it was music that brought them back together. Not unlike Spinal Tap and The Commitments, Sausage was first and foremost a real movie band.

So I devoured glam metal: Kiss, Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe… and became a connoisseur of opera: Purcell, Handel, Mozart… and then, I made a soundtrack. And whenever I sat down to write, that soundtrack played. It became an extension of me, of the script, of the characters, of the writing itself.  This is not to say that every script demands its own modern version of the “mixed tape,” but there’s something to be said about music being part of the writing experience. First, figure out who your characters are – what kind of music they listen to – and then literally… LISTEN TO IT! You might be surprised what you discover.

July 27, 2011

15 Films You Shouldn’t Attempt to Emulate

This list from The Script Lab (they have a number of these — I highly suggest checking them out) is entitled The Top 15 Movies You Should NOT Watch in Film School. Find out why by reading on:

Beginning screenwriters learn by example; in fact, it’s really one of the best ways to master the art of screenwriting. The problem is, there are so many iconic and cult classic films that end up sending the novice down a road to ruin before they ever learn to write a simple plot. The following list should not be considered a list of bad films – far from it. But it is a list of films that break rules with such skill and acumen, it’s best to steer clear before you get any bright ideas that you’re ready to do the same.

15) Troll 2 – Alright, so this is the only one on the list that’s technically a “bad” film (kind of arbitrarily put on here to piss off Leroy James King, per Preston.) That said, this movie is totally enjoyable, albeit super kitschy and poorly executed. It’s not like one of Tarantino or Rodriguez’s Grindhouse films that are trying to be terrible. So watch out film school nerds – enjoy this at your own risk.

14) Million Dollar Baby – You know the old adage “Voice over is a tool of the lazy.” MDB uses VO to frame mood and genre, but even this movie at times feels like Eastwood might have been like, “Oh shit! We’ve got Morgan Freeman – let’s add VO just because he has the voice of God.” Prove that you can describe by showing, before you fall into the lazy trap of VO.

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July 18, 2011

15 Movies that Changed Film Forever

The Script Lab put out this list of fifteen films that had a lasting effect on the world of cinema:

The internet is littered with scores of “Best of…” movie lists; we even have a few. The angle of this list is a bit different though. These films, for good or bad, changed the course of the movie industry and forever altered how movies are made, marketed and viewed.

15. Avatar (2009)
Time will tell how truly game changing Avatar will be remembered, but it’s easy to see it’s immediate impact. 3D cinema is seemingly here to stay and Avatar made it cool to wear the glasses. Besides the amazing technical accomplishments of the film and the ground breaking way films will be shot in the future – Cameron devised a stereoscopic ‘virtual camera, allowing him to move through a 3D terrain as he shot – Cameron’s baby brought in such staggering dollars – 2.73 billion worldwide – we are guaranteed to have 3D versions of nearly every popcorn blockbuster for the near future.

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July 8, 2011

Top Ten Cult Films

This list from the Script Lab is sure to feature some titles you’ve never heard of before. Trying to mimic one of these films probably isn’t your best bet for selling your next screenplay, but watching these movies would be a great way to up your film knowledge and see the bizarre reaches that movies are capable of:

Mind-bending. That’s how I can describe the last couple of weeks I have spent researching for this article. I always love to learn about new areas of cinema, but nothing could have prepared me for this series of weird and wonderful films that should NOT be watched so closely together when you’re in the middle of doing your finals! Some I loved, some not so much, but then that’s what I discovered cult films are all about. Films that bring a particular group of people together. Films that can be so bad that people end up loving them like a dumb, yet affectionate puppy. Films that the critics didn’t care for, and in some cases, films that have grown in popularity because it’s the fans themselves that warrant more attention that can’t be ignored.

Whether it’s the one-night drag queens of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or the plastic-spoon-throwers from The Room, it’s great to see people so enthusiastic about the movie they love! And it’s also amazing to see these films being passed down to younger generations. I’d certainly never heard of some of these before! And I’m sure I’ve missed some absolute classics here that will piss a few people off, but then what do I know, eh? Treat this list as an opportunity to feast on a few of the sideshow oddities that cinema has to offer.

10. Brazil (1985)

Brazil is often referred to as Terry Gilliam’s “masterpiece,” and I must admit, there is something unique and pretty spectacular about it. I’d certainly place it above the rather messy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus! A science fiction black comedy, Brazil is set in a dystopian world where everything is engulfed in red tape and reliance on machines. Imagine Blade Runner but made by a member of Monty Python.  Robert De Niro even makes an appearance as a renegade air con engineer. Due its dark ending and the fact that it was made three years after Blade Runner, Gilliam had a long fight with studios to get it released. He eventually held his own private screenings behind the backs of studio heads. This paid off in the end when Brazil was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Picture, and the studios finally agreed to release it. Brazil has since gained a cult status and been cited as an influence for films such as The Hudsucker Proxy, Dark City and Sucker Punch. Clearly, Brazil is a very interesting take on political satire.

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April 29, 2011

Watching Movies from a Critical Point of View

The first time you watch a movie, just watch it. Let yourself get lost in the experience of the film. That’s why we screenwriters work in this business — because we know the power of film to transport, to transform, and to transcend.

The second or third go ’round, bring a critical eye to your viewing experience in order to improve your craft and your film knowledge. Here’s how the Script Lab suggests us writers watch a film:

Many films are made to entertain. But cinema can also educate, indoctrinate, or propagate by allowing us to experience multiple perspectives: cultural, political, or ideological. Hence, we subscribe to the so-called experts, but who’s to say the average moviegoer can’t add to the discussion. Enlightenment is often a product of hard work and practice, so for the aspiring home-based couch “critics”, here is what to study when watching a movie:

(1) Screenplay. Hitchcock said, “The three most vital elements in any good film are the script, the script, the script.” And watching a movie in the right way can teach you a ton about how to structure “the script”. One of the best ways is to watch the clock as you go. At about 12 – 15 minutes in, you should hit the inciting incident. 24 -30 minutes – the character is locked-in, propelling him into the Second Act tension. The practical experience of seeing and analyzing the parts of a script, with stopwatch in hand, is key to identify major plot points, three act structure, and the eight sequences in a film.

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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 13, 2011

Finding Your Voice as a Writer

The Script Lab posted this great article on finding your voice as a screenwriter, not to be confused with the voices you give your characters in their dialogue. This article is about your voice as a storyteller:

The writing itself is for the artist to do; there are no rules, no magic recipes to apply, no golden ticket. But all good writing has a distinct voice. Why read one columnist over another in the Sunday Times? It almost always comes down to that writer’s original voice. The way two or more writers would describe the same element in a script might be quite different, yet they all could accomplish the writing objective with equal quality. 

“Words are the voice of the heart.” – Confucious

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