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Old 09-22-2019, 08:55 AM   #1
JoeNYC
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Default Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

In the script pages forum, Gucci posted some pages to a potential TV series. The majority of Gucci’s style of writing for character introductions is TELLING, not SHOWING. He SHOWS on screen what he TELLS after the character introductions.

When it comes to character introductions, I believe a discussion on SHOWING and TELLING should be done publicly, so this is why I’m posting here and not in Gucci’s private thread.

Please, don’t reveal any details about Gucci’s pages without permission from Gucci.

There are some writers pro and non-pro who don’t like the style of TELLING. They believe it’s stronger to reveal character through action, which I agree with, but if TELLING and/or the use of unfilmables is the writer’s taste and style, I don’t have a problem with it -- if it’s done well.

There are some writers who are dogmatic about TELLING, but when it comes to creativity, I believe a writer should be allowed leeway.

When I pointed out to Gucci that this style would bring the wrath of Craig Mazin down upon him, Gucci replied:

“I guess my overall is: I don’t like character intros that feel pat and stale. So, maybe he (Mazin) and I are saying the same thing differently.”

No, you and Mazin are not saying the same thing in a different way. Far from it.

Mazin has made it clear, when it comes to character introductions, he believes your style is “not good craft.”

From Mazin on character introductions:

“I’m saying yes... leave out things I can’t see. What this forces you to do, of course, is SHOW ME, in the introduction, what it is you want me (and the audience) to know. It forces you to think about how you want to parcel out information about your character to the audience. It forces you to visualize the traits that you want us to know RIGHT NOW, and it forces you to plan on how to reveal the traits you want us to know LATER.”

More from Mazin:

“I’m not saying people don’t do it, or that people who sell scripts don’t do it. I’m saying... don’t do it, because it’s not good craft and it will hurt the read. Will it hurt a great script? No. Nothing does. Will it hurt a good script? Yes, I think so.”

Gucci, a writer gave Mazin an example of a character introduction that had your type of style and Mazin’s opinion was the following:

“All of that was fine except ‘a pleasure to be with’ and ‘her usually lively attitude’. Let me decide that as I read.”

A writer gave Mazin an example with the type of attitude that your protagonist has in the pages that you posted.

From writer:

“Craig -- How do you feel about something like this?

Tess makes a beeline for the only EMPTY STOOL, but --

REX VARNER (40s, as*hole to the core) plops his ass down on it before she can get there... and then SMIRKS as he raises his Budweiser in a fake toast to her.

REX: Next time, sweetheart.”

From the writer: “To me, his actions make the parenthetical a bit superfluous.”

From Mazin: “’as*hole to the core’ does seem superfluous. Actually, worse than that. It’s annoying, because you’re not letting me draw a conclusion from the action you’ve written, so you’re hurting the stuff next to it.”

Mazin’s reply when it was pointed out that Quentin Tarantino used a summing up intro for one of his characters in PULP FICTION:

“Also note that you’re not Quentin Tarantino. If you are, you can cheat more than the rest of us.”

To which a writer responded:

“I must have made this point a dozen times here, and all I ever get in return are sneering remarks about how if Tarantino can do something in his scripts, anyone can. Maybe now that a pro has said it people will stop recoiling in horror at the idea we’re not all Quentin Tarantino.”

This comment from the writer forced Jeff Lowell to get involved in the thread:

From Jeff Lowell:

“The point a lot of people (including, apparently, you) make is that there are different rules for pros and amateurs. The point that I and others (apparently sneeringly) made was that Quentin Tarantino got to be Quentin Tarantino because of his style - a style that flies in the face of what a lot of gurus say. ... Maybe Mazin will disagree with me, but I think that if you’ve got the talent to pull it off, there’s nothing wrong with an unfilmable stage direction, if it helps the reader enjoy the story.”

Mazin’s reply: “I agree. However, none of the folks in here have yet to demonstrate a level of talent commensurate with Quentin Tarantino.”

Gucci, I believe your protagonist’s character introduction in the pages that you posted “demonstrates a level of talent commensurate with Quentin Tarantino,” so it would be interesting if Mazin read this, would he change his opinion about “summing up” characters.

Personally, I don’t think he would. He seemed to have a non-wavering opinion on the matter, considering how he pointed out how pros sold scripts with summation of characters and he still says, in his opinion, it’s not good craft.

But you never know. We all, pro and non-pro, grow as writers. Maybe Craig Mazin has changed his opinion about “summing up” characters and allow a writer some creative leeway with his character introductions.

But, of course, like Mazin said, you must have the talent to pull it off. Summing up characters could certainly be done badly.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 09-22-2019 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 09:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

Craig says he likes to add wardrobe, hair, makeup to his character descriptions. CM is one opinion, not gospel. Most of us always do hair and age as defaults.

I'VE always gone with tell me what I need to know to understand the story. Most of the time the reader doesn't need as much as you think they do in these lines to get it.

However, I do like having fun sometimes with them and if it works, it works. I don't care if it's "filmmable" I want the person reading it to know easily who this person is.

Because CM isn't against other things other pros would be like camera directions -- so this is just really personal preference. Honestly.

I never had a note about my character description good or bad. Probably because they know when we make this, and hire a certain actor, that is all we need to know told to us almost instantly. And how funny is it, that some of our favorite movies and scripts were written for someone else -- so what's even the point when the whole character can change on a dime like that? Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop is not the same person Sly Stallone would have played... The movie character isn't alive until you're actually making something. It's all just placeholders...

Do what I do. I read other sold scripts and see what they did and got away with -- and "borrow" from them when I want to add more than SARA (33, blonde, feisty).
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:15 AM   #3
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

First off: Lemme say that I give you guys full permission to dig into my pages in any way you'd like, positive or negative. That's the reason I posted them, in hopes that they could help in some way (help other writers know better what they LOVE or HATE).

Having said that, I don't disagree with either of you.

Character intros are a tough thing for the reasons outlined above "How far do you take it before people call bullsh!t? Tough call."

Okay, so let's assume that CM would hate my character intros. I could easily imagine him reading my pages then turning to me and saying "Ummm.... NO! And here's why _________________________________________." And me nodding like "Yup, that's a really good point, you always make good points... but... can't do it. This is just my style." Him shaking his head, then "You're dumb." And me with "Prolly..." Ha!

I dig CM, but like Bono said, it's one guy's opinion.

Having said that... I DO NOT recommend doing it my way. I GET that it's technically WRONG, craft-wise. Doing it my way IS taking a huge risk that you're gonna turn off the reader. I GET that I break a lotta rules in those pages... And I know exactly which ones.

I think #1 is to know how to do it correctly, so that you know what rules you're breaking and to what degree, so you can estimate how far you can bend the rules... if you're gonna go that way.

I didn't post those pages to say "Listen up... this is how you do it!" My show didn't get MADE, so that's apparently NOT how you do it. It's merely the way I do it and will always do it, likely. Or maybe I'll see the light some day, IDK?

I can imagine CM shredding my pages. If he did, I'd still like the guy, and I'd understand why he did. I just wouldn't agree.

For me, if the character intro is EXPLOSIVE! I don't give a fukk if it's unfilmable RIGHT NOW. But, like I've mentioned "I had better see this sh!t filmed SOON! Like in the next few pages, or I'm gonna start to think you don't know what you're doing."

Thus, I don't think I'm super arguing AGAINST CM's point. I think I'm agreeing with him with the caveat that if you think you can 'pull off' character into's like mine, fukkin GO FOR IT! But, if you bore me, I'ma slap you!

Here's why: It's such a small moment on screen (time wise). If your character hinges on the intro, your gonna die on the page anyway, so what does it really matter? So, for me, let's have fun with it.

I did catch your accolade, thanks for that! Humbled. I try like fukk!

ps... I'm not super awake yet. NEED COFFEE...
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

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Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post

I GET that it's technically WRONG, craft-wise.
It's statements like this that causes double digit threads. The TELLING camp says it's not wrong and the SHOWING camp says it is wrong.

It's not wrong. It's just the personal taste and style of the writer, but I do want to point out something:

TELLING

A very NERVOUS MAN sits in a chair surrounded by three BIG APE GOONS.

MAGALETTI, 50s, saunters in like he owns the world. And in his world, he's the meanest son-of-a-bitch.

Magaletti reveals a baseball bat that was hidden behind his back. He swings it with the might of a Babe Ruth at the Nervous Man's head.

BAM!

Pieces of brain and blood fly everywhere.

-- "he's the meanest son-of-a-bitch"

Considering the following action after Magaletti's introduction, was it really necessary to TELL us that he's the "meanest"? Didn't his actions by SHOWING demonstrate this?

Yes, in the character introduction, the writer TOLD the reader that he was the "meanest" and he paid that off by SHOWING it on the screen to the viewing audience and the reader -- again.

I know something like this is the writer's personal taste and style, but it just seems redundant and unnecessary to me. Maybe the writer felt the reader would enjoy that line.

Not saying all TELLING and/or unfilmables are bad, or that a reader is not going to enjoy a line because it's redundant. I'm just suggesting to be aware which way, TELLING or SHOWING, will be the best to get across your artistic vision and expression. Sometimes new writers automatically use TELLING because that's the easiest way to reveal character for them.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 09-22-2019 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

Well... I'm obviously in the TELLING camp. But, I will admit that it's technically WRONG 'to me'. I've said before that I believe character intros THEMSELVES are wrong and kinda stupid. We don't actually need them IMO. If we're splitting hairs I'd say "cool, lets get rid of character intros... who cares..."

Which is probably why I don't mind bringing my character intros in late (although I know that bugs some people.)

But here's reasons why one MIGHT want to do it like I did in CARNIVORE.

1) We're not Craig Mazin. People will stick around to READ what he wrote until the very last page. No matter what he does.

2) Gives us an opportunity up front to engage readers with 'I know how to write engaging sh!t'.

3) Most readers don't understand you're breaking the rules by doing it (By readers I mean: Agents, producers, studio execs... although managers might, as some are ex-writers).

It doesn't bother me when someone does it your way (by the book), I just think "okay... they want me to know they're by the book. But, I hope this whole script isn't so 'by the book' that it's predictable and now I'm bored."

For me, IT'S A READ DRAFT. I'm just trying to sell this sh!t. If *I* was directing it and was already a MADE dude, like Tarantino, I may not write character intros at all. People like "But... dude, where's your character intro?" Me "Don't need it, so I didn't write one." I bet Tarantino could get away with that.
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Old 09-22-2019, 12:50 PM   #6
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

I don't even know what side Joe is on because he just tells me what others think -- what side (camp) are you on bro? Sorry, Gucci -- bruh???

Either way -- for character intros -- I think this is stupid. Honestly do. We all should know how to do this the basic way, from writing and reading other scripts. It's easy. But the right way isn't always the most interesting... so stick to basic way if you want. No harm. But then again, when you go for it, maybe that helps people sit up and take notice.

I think when it comes to dialogue and that's where showing vs telling comes into it... screenwriting is mostly subtext, just like real life. You don't tell your dad you love him usually, you say "let's have a catch" like at the end of field of dreams.

What happens in action lines, mostly for the reader, to me is to make sure I convey the information and keep the reader interested.

I think in one of my last scripts I wrote something like BETH, she looks exactly like the great actress that is cast in this award winning role. I just went for it. Because I said, that's funny and it's true and everyone is falling asleep. They just need to know her name.

My advice is know the rules, so when you break them, you know you're breaking them and for a reason.
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

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Originally Posted by Bono View Post
I don't even know what side Joe is on because he just tells me what others think -- what side (camp) are you on bro? Sorry, Gucci -- bruh???

Either way -- for character intros -- I think this is stupid. Honestly do. We all should know how to do this the basic way, from writing and reading other scripts. It's easy. But the right way isn't always the most interesting... so stick to basic way if you want. No harm. But then again, when you go for it, maybe that helps people sit up and take notice.

I think when it comes to dialogue and that's where showing vs telling comes into it... screenwriting is mostly subtext, just like real life. You don't tell your dad you love him usually, you say "let's have a catch" like at the end of field of dreams.

What happens in action lines, mostly for the reader, to me is to make sure I convey the information and keep the reader interested.

I think in one of my last scripts I wrote something like BETH, she looks exactly like the great actress that is cast in this award winning role. I just went for it. Because I said, that's funny and it's true and everyone is falling asleep. They just need to know her name.

My advice is know the rules, so when you break them, you know you're breaking them and for a reason.
Yup... same!

I mean, can't you kinda just tell when someone KNOWS the rules but is purposefully breaking them to try to engage you in the read? If I see someone doing that in a script and it engages me I'm like "Dude, this is RAD writing, I don't even care that they're breaking the rules because they're more or less winking at me, like they know I get what they're doing and WHY." For me, that writer just went 'next level'. But, I get that not everyone likes that style.

I've said before, if I turn the page and it just said "DEAD!" right in the middle of the page, super-sized, in some rad font, I'd be like "Holy fukk bruh, you are SMASHING this and don't give a fukk! You're ballsy enough to waste an entire page on ONE FUKKING WORD????? WHAT?????? LOVE THIS!! I'm sitting up now. What else you gonna do? I'm engaged!" I'd imagine the writer responding "Yup... don't care, I don't NEED the extra page... WATCH!" Right then I look at their page count. 110? I flip to it. It's EXACTLY to the last possible margin. "Okay... this writer is fukking with me. My hunch is that they're REALLY FUKKING GOOD and CALCULATED!" But, obviously, the rest of the script has to be bitchen! And if it IS, dude you've convinced me that this can work.

For me, what bumps me is when someone is TRYING to follow the rules, and you can tell they are, but it still reads like sh!t. That's when I'll make my Craig face. :-[

And agreed, all we really need to know is their name. So, why even write that? I'm dead serious. Someone will say her name at some point. So...? Even simply writing "BETH, 24" That's not filmable. So, if we're splitting hairs, I'ma say even that is too much and cheating the screen.

MOST of what I'm trying to do with my character intros is set up TONE, seeing as I think character intros are generally stupid and unnecessary.

And you are correct, it's "bruh" Ha!
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Last edited by GucciGhostXXX : 09-22-2019 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

My favorite script pages is in the script THE BABYSITTER and it got made by McG and it just said

WHAT. THE. FUCCK. in a giant font. And it was perfect. Funny and you got it. It was somehow the perfect way to communicate the visual images...
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Old 09-22-2019, 01:31 PM   #9
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bono View Post
My favorite script pages is in the script THE BABYSITTER and it got made by McG and it just said

WHAT. THE. FUCCK. in a giant font. And it was perfect. Funny and you got it. It was somehow the perfect way to communicate the visual images...
Ha! Haven't read that, but that IS funny. I love when writers do that sh!t.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Note To Gucci: Mazin's Point On "Summing Up Your Characters"

I'm in Lowells' camp:

"...Maybe Mazin will disagree with me, but I think that if you’ve got the talent to pull it off, there’s nothing wrong with an unfilmable stage direction, if it helps the reader enjoy the story.”

And it's clear Mazin agrees with Lowell:

“I agree. However, none of the folks in here have yet to demonstrate a level of talent commensurate with Quentin Tarantino.”

Given Mazin's last sentence, I have no idea why this debate is taking place within the context of Gucci's pages (as per thread title) because the script sold and Gucci has demonstrated his high level of skill and talent in Carnivore.
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