only write what is shootable...?



No announcement yet.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • only write what is shootable...?

    we hear that phrase all the time.

    if any of you read's essays written by indypros, there's an article by Nina Jacobson, an exec at Buena Vista:

    she writes about how there are tons of crappy scripts out there, and how she has to persevere and have hope that there are needles in the haystack...and then she recounts how she found a needle titled "when trumpets fade" by w.w.vought. she was so impressed, she asked spielberg to read it (she was at dreamworks at the time). he was impressed. they flew the writer in from the midwest, talked a bit, and then offered him a contract for a blind assignment.

    naturally, i was impressed and thought i could learn a lot from the script. i was given half of the script. better than none. and there are elements that i think are stylistically incorrect...

    i thought i'd copy sections word for word and i could get opinions from our little group to see if i'm just whacked...

    1. Int. Demolished Church - Day
    ...Without warning, Manning breaks the window with the stock of his Thompson machine-gun. Everyone in the church turns towards Manning. Manning is unaware that he is being watched. He is still staring at the broken window. He feels better now.

    2. Ext. In the Forest - Day
    Sitting and laying in the woods are the soldiers of Lukas' platoon. They are exhausted. Many are asleep. There is no hope here. Just men waiting for their turn to die.

    3. Ext. The Demolished Church - Day
    ...Our attention stays with the Lieutenant Colonel. Once alone, his facade drops like a lead weight. He suddenly looks exhausted. In his eyes there is a hint of something we haven't seen before. Fear.

    I think in each of these sections, there are "unshootable" elements. I've been striving to never write like this...but then if you read Jacobson's's kudos all round. Am I just being too anal? Comments please.

  • #2
    Speaking as an aspiring filmmaker (and screenwriter) sarumu, I didn't see anything there that I couldn't shoot. For example:

    Int.-Demolished Church-Day

    I can shoot the fact that Manning is unaware he is being watched by having him continue to stare at the broken window, without turning to see that people are looking at him. I can show that he feels better now by having his facial expression change from serious to a contented look.

    Ext.-In the Forest-Day

    Have the actor's slouched about, others sleeping on the ground. The expressions on their faces can convey the fact that they have no hope left.

    Ext.-The Demolished Church-Day

    Again this is shootable because the actors facial expressions and body language can be used to convey this information.

    Its just a matter of letting the actors do their part, you can shoot anything an actor can portray.


    • #3
      So, Nem, is it your conclusion that the screenwriting gurus have gone too far in their list of restrictions?

      Restrictions too restricting to tell the story in a non restricting way, therefore creating restrictions that are restricting?

      Did you see that Australian swimmer with shoe size seventeen? Are they that big? Sorry, but I'm even having dreams about those big feet. No comments about that old cliche, please. This has nothing to do with anything except big feet. Course, I have little feet, with an abnormal arch. Foot fetishist love them and ballet dancers? Ah, the jealousy.

      I'd rather be tall and have big feet. How would you shoot that, Nem?

      Isn't it amazing how body parts can overshadow our broader perceptions of other humans?

      Nem, I promise not to mention your feet again, unless I absolutely can't resist.

      lil-it is not an advantage to have your most perfect part--your feet


      • #4
        hey nem. i realize it's possible to get a 'translation' for the camera, but i was under the impression that we shoudn't write anything beyond what we can see and what we can hear...

        1. in scene one...'he feels better now.' i guess that's okay. you're throwing the actor a bone. scene 2...'there is no hope here. just men waiting for their turn to die.' i'd blue pencil that. his eyes...i guess we're throwing the actor another bone.

        i'd like to say that the pages i do have are not like this...these are maybe only 3 out of 7 or 8 examples in 50 pages of script...but still, when i write i don't want to be pegged as not knowing the rules...if any of you think that this sort of descript is okay, let me know...


        • #5

          I guarantee that if you pick up a Bill Goldman script, you will see a lot of broken rules. ("We see this, we hear that", etc.) Does this mean an unknown can get away with it? Maybe, maybe not.

          Let's face it, we're dealing with people, and everyone is different, but I doubt any reader, agent, producer or director is going to toss a good script away because of style, unless that style is just way off base. There may be a tough nut out there that is the exception.


          • #6
            It comes down to style and the conveyance of information and a definition of what is shootable. I can shoot a group of men with no hope, just waiting for their turn to die. That description conveys tone and the essence of the scene. It gives me a vivid picture in my mind, I can see it. And if I can see it, I can shoot it.

            An example of what I can't shoot (now I have to think up something that is bad writing, uh oh) might be, um. . . Mary stares at the river. She remembers when she and Bob used to come here. They used to be so happy.

            Okay, I can't shoot that. I might get away with it, if I've shown earlier scenes of Mary and Bob at the river being so happy. Then Mary staring at the river would have context within the greater whole of the script. But alone, there's no way for me to convey that Mary used to come here with a guy named Bob and be so happy. And there's no way I can shoot what she is remembering unless I do a flashback or something, so that information is going to have to be implied based on earlier scenes in the script or based on dialogue I'll have to write.

            However, if I say, Mary stares at the river. She doesn't know she's being watched --

            I can shoot Mary being watched not seeing or knowing she is being watched.

            I can say, something enters her eyes: pain. I can see that. An actress can portray that. And I can shoot that.

            I can say and convey on film lots of things that are interior things, fear, pain, joy. Because someone can act those. What I can't convey is outside information that does not relate to the script within the context of the whole or to the tone of the scene.

            Does that make sense?


            • #7

              To add an extra example. I went to a Mike Figgis presentation at the NFT London a couple of years back. The example he gave was one he'd written himself where a female character "felt sad but didn't show it". I believe the film was an adaptation of 'The Hot Spot' that never got made. However, I guess he could have got away with "she feels sad but TRIES not to show it"

              Just my 2 cents


              • #8
                Makes perfect sense to me Gig, so now I can deal with lilybet's obsession with my feet! No my feet are not as big as that swimmer you mentioned, but thats because those aren't feet, they're flippers. The Aussies are genetically engineering their athletes for specific sports to make sure they do well as the host nation. You should see the kangaroos they've got worked up for boxing... :eek

                Lilybet if you cannot stop thinking about my feet we are going to have to direct you to the psychobabble thread so we can analyze this obsession of yours. As for that "old cliche", I can state for a fact that its just a myth, my feet are far too small by comparison for it to be true... :lol

                *Running as fast as my big feet can carry me*


                • #9
                  May be right, may be wrong.


                  Before I ever tried to write a novel, i used to fill my action-passages with novel-style prose. He feels this, he feels that, he secretly knows.

                  This was (continually) pointed out to me as some kind of amateur scripting malpractise by thearte friends and actor friends. I thought, well, isn't it helpful to HAVE that info, rather than not have it. As a predilection for the actors to follow.

                  However, I finally brought up this frustration to a good guy at Working Title and he said, when he ammends scripts, if writing original material he'll simply, in that kind of case; write.e.g.

                  * Tim sits lakeside looking really sad. (A sadness due to his loss)

                  * Yanoir gives Saffrona a sly unseen wink (In reference to their secret conversation)

                  That make sense? Write stage directions in present tense and include UnVisual elements in a subtle bracket. To some this may be a subliminal exchange from the writer to the reader/user of script, whilst to others it'll be a silly, wrong interuptive device.

                  When shooting, i feel you can write pretty much how you want. I've found financial investors care about plot not scripting blueprintal guidelines.

                  Just a thought.


                  • #10
                    Hold that blue pencil, Samuru


                    Don't blue pencil "There is no hope here. Just men waiting for their turn to die." If you take that out, then what are you left with? A bunch of sleepy, exhausted men. Nothing too emotionally impacting about a bunch of sleepy, exhausted men, is there? But a group of men without hope, waiting their turn to die? THAT'S an impact.

                    How do you shoot that? YOU don't have to worry about're only the writer. The director and the actors will take over from here. Sleepy and exhausted...yawn. Without hope and waiting to die...that's something directors and actors live for!

                    Don't confuse UNWRITABLE with unshootable. Can you describe an orgasm?...yeah, sure you could, and take about a thousand words to do so...or, you could just write "Tina writhes with the most satisfying orgasm of her life," and let the director and actors run with it.

                    Your pal,


                    • #11
                      Lily - I thought about Nem too - when I heard about Ian Thorpe's size 17 feet (oars in the water). That is so funny!

                      I'm pretty tall - 5'8 and I have size 8.5 feet. While I do have a high arch - my wide - balance beam width feet are not that of a ballerina! hehe!

                      Samuri - Can you write this:

                      "The guy on the couch was dreaming of a passionate olympic moment. Would there be another just like it?"

                      ...hmmm...wonder how the actor could work that one in? A guy laying on the couch- how does he really convey what he's dreaming about (no flashbacks) when it's a sexual thing?


                      • #12
                        How to convey...

                        ...pitching a tent for the Olympics? It's simplistic, just make it realistic, leave a little lipstick on the dipstick, and that's it, you nitwit. My name is (what) my name is (who) won't the real SlimCouchguy please stand up, please stand up, please stand up.

                        Your pal,

                        Amusing himself daily

                        (There's the set--now won't someone please spike it home?)