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Old 10-19-2007, 12:34 PM   #21
Kevan
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

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Originally Posted by cool running View Post
Thanks Kevan, some useful stuff there ....

110 pages ?
Thinks it's because the page count is between 100 and 120. Unk seems to consider this a good page count.

There are arguments for and against.

Most action films run 90 mins or maybe up to 100. Some thrillers and comedies too. That's probably a rule-of-thumb.. 100-110-120 for a drama, any more and you run the risk of not getting your script read.

These are all guesstimates.. Guess Unk's using that as an example..
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Old 10-19-2007, 12:42 PM   #22
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

La Femme is a pro Reader & can speak w/ authority on this.

But my impression of the dichotomy is this:

From a writer's POV... or a "good script " POV... you want the action to carry the story in most instances. This is where Martell was coming from.

I think La Femme was speaking of the reality of what people in the industry practice on a day-to-day basis.

Good or bad, people in the industry read dialogue & the quality of the dialogue goes a long way in determining, for them, the quality of the script.

IMO, people in the industry are overly impressed with flashy dialogue (& writers who can write it) and assign it greater importance than it warrants.

Flashy dialogue blinds them to flaws in the story. B/c of this, writers who write flashy, entertaining dialogue have something of an advantage.... but that's just my opinion.
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Old 10-19-2007, 12:55 PM   #23
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

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That implies the script should be almost all action, little or no dialogue.
No - just that the story should be told through the actions of the characters so that the dialogue can be free to be clever and interesting, instead of burdened with carrying the story.

My answer to readers & execs who skip the action? Take 'em out back and shoot them. Seriously. In a visual medium, they are not doing their job. Of course, in the real world we have to deal with these folks... so the best thing to do is write great dialogue and great action and make the action so exciting to read and important that they can not skip it.

When I read a script for rewrite assignment, I skim the dialogue and read the actions, because that's where the story is. The dialogue is the most changed element - not that you should write crappy dialogue, but that when the film is made, actors will change it. But when you have a scene where a character must make a big decision and *do one thing* or *do another* - that's the character and the story and removing it or doing something else screws up the whole film.

You need great dialogue. But if the dialogiue is telling the story, it tends to be OTN. It can't be subtle - then the reader doesn't get the story. It's can't have characters who lie or avoid the truth or say one thing and do another (to show character) because readers will believe the lie - they have no other choice if the dialogue tells the story.

Actions speak louder than words.

- Bill

PS: Two ways to improve your action sentences: 1) No sentence is allowed that is not describing an *action* - things have to be moving, no "still lifes". 2) If the sentence doesn't move he story forward, cut it.
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Last edited by wcmartell : 10-19-2007 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:10 PM   #24
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

I guess, then, that my example in post 3 could actually be an example of a viable scene, provided that CLAUDIA (30) steps through the office door at the end and says "If you guys don't start taking this training seriously, NOBODY's getting lunch. Now do it over."

That would be the only piece of dialogue in the scene that actually advanced the story.
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:15 PM   #25
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

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I guess, then, that my example in post 3 could actually be an example of a viable scene, provided that CLAUDIA (30) steps through the office door at the end and says "If you guys don't start taking this training seriously, NOBODY's getting lunch. Now do it over."

That would be the only piece of dialogue in the scene that actually advanced the story.
Exactly...
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:16 PM   #26
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

sorry guys - I was too busy skimming scripts to respond to this.

I jest. Too busy READING scripts. Ideally, a script has action lines and dialogue that are equally entertaining and compelling. Most scripts are poorly written, that's a given. In a poorly written script, it is merciful to skim over action lines. I am not saying it's okay, I'm saying it happens so get used to it.

What should you strive for? To write action lines that are so pithy and compelling that the reader doesn't skim over one word on one page. And, as Bill said, so that the narrative is moved forward by both action and dialogue.

One little trick I learned early on is to cut out the first and last paragraphs of action lines on your page and then see how it reads. 9 times out of 10 that seemingly arbitrary cut makes the page read better.

Bottom line, as I am wont to say, is that the real estate on a script page is the most expensive real estate on the planet. So you can't afford one word that isn't doing it's job - moving the story forward while revealing your character more deeply and - job #1 - effing entertaining the reader.
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:20 PM   #27
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

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Originally Posted by La Femme Joyeuse View Post
sorry guys - I was too busy skimming scripts to respond to this.

I jest. Too busy READING scripts. Ideally, a script has action lines and dialogue that are equally entertaining and compelling. Most scripts are poorly written, that's a given. In a poorly written script, it is merciful to skim over action lines. I am not saying it's okay, I'm saying it happens so get used to it.

What should you strive for? To write action lines that are so pithy, compelling and compelling that the reader doesn't skim over one word on one page. And, as Bill said, so that the narrative is moved forward by both action and dialogue.

One little trick I learned early on is to cut out the first and last paragraphs of action lines on your page and then see how it reads. 9 times out of 10 that seemingly arbitrary cut makes the page read better.

Bottom line, as I am wont to say, is that the real estate on a script page is the most expensive real estate on the planet. So you can't afford one word that isn't doing it's job - moving the story forward while revealing your character more deeply and - job #1 - effing entertaining the reader.
Man... our actions lines have to be pithy, compelling, AND compelling?

I'm ****ed.
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:24 PM   #28
La Femme Joyeuse
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Ha. You get a charlie horse
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:41 PM   #29
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

I've also been told execs read down the middle. And I've gotten some notes that confirm it's true.

I had a script where the couples are sent to a military-sytle boot camp to work on their marraiges.

They go through this orientation process where they're stripped of their cells, laptops, Blackberry's, jewelry, their luggage is taken away and at the end handed fatigues to wear with their last names printed on the pockets.

At each juncture there's dialogue with the characters complaining about it all and arguing with each other.

I put this in the action lines, each no longer than one line separated by dialogue.

I get a studio exec note back on the script:

"Shouldn't they be wearing fatigues?"

It was a big studio too.

So, in the rewrite I added dialogue where one female character said something snarky about the fatigues.

Exec says -- "Oh good, I think that works now."

Forgot to add -- they ultimately passed saying no one wants to see a comedy about couples with marital problems.

I guess Dr. Phil is low in the ratings.

This is the reality we deal with -- polish your dialogue.
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Old 10-19-2007, 04:09 PM   #30
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

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Man... our actions lines have to be pithy, compelling, AND compelling?
Yes - it must be twice as compelling as anyone else's script.

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