Thin Scrpts



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

  • Thin Scrpts

    I know, its the same old story. Every time a script hits these boards for comment we are advised to "Cut this out" "There is too much of this or that, make it leaner, keener. But hang on just a minute. Where does all this advice originate from? Mainly books by those who say they have made it and are now making a side-line fortune from peddling their books to us, I would suspect. I don't know how anyone else feels here, but thin scripts, telling the bare essentials of a story, must actually be a boring read; which I guess is why those adhering to this advice - to the letter - hardly ever get a sale.

    There must be many more "would-be" screen writers trying to strut their stuff, based on all this advice given to them from books, than there are screenwriters who are actually making a descent living from it. In my view, that makes the would-be screenwriter KING. What we need to do is unitedly take back the creative force which drives us do what we love doing and actually have the guts to tell producers to go suck 'emselves if they don't like what we have written. The power comes with the majority, we must stop doing the sucking.

    Keith - controversial as ever.

  • #2
    "Mainly books by those who say they have made it and are now making a side-line fortune from peddling their books to us, I would suspect."

    Nope. It's from identifying the frequently recurring characteristics of scripts that actually sell. Many of those scripts are available on-line and at no charge.


    • #3
      I know George Romero said in his interview in "Document of The Dead" that the "Dawn Of The Dead" script was over 300 pages for an hour and a half movie. He favors long prosey detailed scripts but he's still an independant filmmaker of sorts that doesn't really do things "The Hollywood Way".

      Why he gets away with it:
      * He's not exactly submitting scripts for sale. He writes a script then shoots it himself.
      * This makes him responsible for the end product but not the readability of the script.

      I think the folks pushing thin are pushing thin because if a 300 page script hits thier desk they won't even read it based just on the number of pages. They will read scripts that are fast reads.

      I'm sure if Alan Ball had a 1000 page script for a 90 minute movie it would still get read by every person he handed it to, but none of us are Alan Ball. Not saying there aren't some great scripts posting here, but without the NAME to back it up we have to appeal the the professional script readers.


      • #4
        Are you going to be "controversial" every time you post script pages and someone gives you advice you don't like?

        The produced scripts I've read are nowhere near as wordy as yours. They focus on the important visuals. They run faster, they don't bog the reader down with thick details (or when they do, it's for a good, dramatic, emotional reason). 110 pages of a well-written script translates into approximately 110 minutes of screen time and that's the way it's supposed to be. Your latest posted sample seemed much wordier and much slower than necessary, making me think there's an imbalance between what you're writing and what would appear on film, i.e. that you're padding because you don't have enough story to fill an hour and a half or more. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm saying that's how I felt. If you don't agree then big shrug, you evidently know more than I do, that's all there is to it.

        Have fun.

        One of the many reasons you should never listen to dpat ~PipeWriter


        • #5
          Augie nailed it. (not that the others did not as well) Listen and learn

          Succinct is good and desirable. The best scripts are so, and the best writers have a firm grasp of the english language and don't think a thesaurus is a dinosaur0] . A great story takes significant effort to get it into 115 properly formatted script pages, but it has to be done.

          Notice how your eyes glaze in five pages on a rambling amateur script, and you're licking your finger to turn the page on a great one.

          Read, read, read. Read another (quality) one until your script doesn't look right to you until it has single lines that carry the power of three.

          If this doesn't make sense now, it will.


          • #6
            Re: Thin Scirpts - Derek

            No, not at all, Derek. This thread has nothing to do with stuff I have posted on these boards. Criticism for my work so far has been fair doos. It just seems to me, by reading professional scripts, that some are nicely detailed whilst others are not. From this point of view there seems to be a double edged industry standard which actually doesn't do creativity any favours at all.

            If producers only want the best, why are they asking for thin? That's all I am saying. After all, they will read a whole 300 page novel to come to the conclusion that they want to make the story into a film. In some sense, surely, the spec script has got to be about story first before production needs. If the story is liked, I'm certain the following drafts will pare it down to thin. That's all I'm saying.

            I just wonder how many readers actually get to their desks in the morning and think: "Oh my god, not another day of boring rookie scripts to read". Perhaps their dream is to one day read an exciting rookie script, one like, say, Kasden's Body Heat, or whatever, a somewhat prosy script I personally thought, but nevertheless a brilliant story.

            I guess instead of worrying about an extra sentence or two of description, we ought perhaps to be considering more, the quality of the story and its telling, and that if producers want to see us rookies deliver a really good story, one that deserves to be made into a film, then they had better let us tell it in that first submitted draft. As most drafts never get read past the first ten pages anyway, I see no problem with that. But we are all hooked on this idea that readers don't have enough time to fully read a script. If that script was to be the next Godfather or some other great box office potential, and it really grabbed the reader's imagination, they would take it home and read it in bed, in the loo, while they were taking a shower, having breakfast, etc, etc.

            A well written story, even in script form, should have all the qualities of a novel with regards to pace and structure. I am not saying it should be as long winded and as flowery. As screenwriters, we will try to get it as tight as possible without loosing the the sparkle; this is part of learning to manipulate the craft. But whatever we write, it should make the reader forget the words on the page. I haven't yet got that far ahead with my writing.

            I suppose in the long run I will have to conform to thin, but I will never believe that a thin script will convey my stories, our stories, in the way all of us would like to tell them. That means compromise and I hate that word.

            Love you all



            • #7
              Re: Thin Scirpts - Derek

              keith, can you please consider the time frame the script was written, who wrote it, what version (shooting or not) etc. . .

              you overwrite - bottomline. keep the content, lose the the abundance.



              • #8
                Re: Thin Scirpts - Derek

                A well written story, even in script form, should have all the qualities of a novel with regards to pace and structure.
                Actually, a screenplay should have all the qualities of a movie with regards to pace and structure.

                That said, I have no problem with a somewhat wordy script, as long as it's engrossing and would make a good movie.


                • #9
                  Re: Thin Scirpts - Derek

                  A script should read as if it is describing a film that is already made. -- Robert Towne

                  Imagine sitting in a movie theater watching a film and describing what happens to the blind man sitting beside you. That is how you should describe the action in your own script. There is no time for details about clothing and sets, no time for nuances of facial expressions and and gestures, there is only time for details relevant to the story because the story continues to move before your eyes so you have to keep up with the film.

                  A novel has the luxury of allowing the reader to slow down, reread, ponder and put the book down to contemplate. A film doesn't have that luxury, it must grab and hold the audience's attention and keep it focused on the unfolding story ahead of them. A script should create that same filmic experience for the reader.


                  • #10
                    Re: Thin Scirpts - Derek

                    I wonder, just as a matter of curiosity, if "The Thin Man" was a thin script?

                    I recently saw an ad for horror genre and the Production firm specified 85-100 pages. Mine normally come in at less than 120, usually 105-115. I attribute this not to coincidence but rather good outlining which, unfortunately for me means more "work", like scene cards and a solid three act "game plan" including plot points, etc.

                    I always know how my story will begin and end before I attempt to write it!

                    I don't know if that's why I have few problems bringing in most of my projects under 120. Rewriting is the science and craft of condensing/simplifying and clarifying!

                    Every rewrite should see further compression of the story until it's a lean mean fighting machine!


                    • #11
                      Re: Thin Scirpts -

                      Usually when I read a script that I think needs to be thinned out it's because as a reader, I'm like 'okay I get it[whatever the author is saying] and now I would like the STORY to move forward. It boils down to, 'okay I get it, then what happened?'.

                      It becomes a frustrating read for me when I have to sift through too much to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

                      That's not to say the script won't make an excellent movie (depending how it's shot, who directs, who show her boobs, etc), but as a reader it's often times a frustrating read when my only job is to find out about story and the writer is feeding me too much 'other' stuff. Dude, just tell me what happened, and what happened next.

                      You want 'style' in your writing?
                      Be a novelist.
                      Be a writer/director and amuse yourself.
                      Be screenwriter who has the exceptional talent to back up the stylized egotistical writing.

                      I like the way Bruce Lee said, "The best style is no style". Or take two swordsmen(pen mightier than sword). One swordsman has perfected his style and craft. When faced with an opponent he draws his sword, goes through all types of elaborate, eye popping techniques that inspire awe in those who watch. And then through the course of showing off in battle, the swordsman finally cuts the other guy's head off. Take swordsman number two, a highly skilled samurai, who believes in economy of effort and wastes no moves. The act of simply drawing the sword is actually the first, last, and only move performed as he draws and cuts in one fluid motion leaving the opponent headless.
                      Now both swordsman are highly skilled and both have accomplished the same thing.(cutting the opponent's head off) But which one was amazing?

                      When I read a writer who is being the samurai, I think that writer is amazing and I'm thorougly impressed, want to help the writer, appreciate the read, etc.

                      When I read something that is wasting moves just to show off, I think 'well we've all seen enough crappy, fluff martial arts movies', and hollywood has enough fluff scripts. = Pass.

                      Bring back the days of Bruce.


                      • #12
                        Best post

                        Every rewrite should see further compression of the story until it's a lean mean fighting machine!
                        I think you have hit the nail on the head, Duchpo. Apart from one or two practice pieces, in everything else I write, I plan from beginning to end, including sub-plot, long before I start to type up. This means I can tell my story the way I want to tell it, and be because I know my story best. Yes! I think once the story has been written, with all its spontaneity still intact, the rewrites on the road to production can sort out the wheat from the chafe.

                        I can't fault anything you have said here



                        • #13
                          Re: Thin Scirpts -

                          Yay, Deus!

                          Tight <> Thin. To me, "thin" implies that the script is shallow, that necessary elements are missing. The challenge is in writing something tight that's not also thin.

                          An actor who can boil pages of inner dialogue down into an effective (and affecting) look or gesture that lasts all of three seconds or less has a mastery of craft. And a writer who can boil pages of backstory and description down into a few lines of very carefully chosen words, a few lines that manage to succinctly convey everything that was truly important from those many pages, has likewise mastered an important screenwriting skill.


                          • #14
                            Re: Thin Scirpts -

                            I disagree about not describing facial expressions.

                            Someone says "Have a nice day," but subtextually means, "Drop dead," you have to give a hint to that,
                            maybe in a wrylie, maybe in the action line. But
                            some hint.

                            Have a nice day.


                            Jack curls his fingers into a fist - -

                            Have a nice day.

                            I saw an interview of Meryl Streep. She said when she did
                            her first film, she didn't bother reading action lines in the script, just dialog. She ended up delivering her lines all wrong in rehearsals. The director told her to read descriptions so she could see, "What the writer intended." (I love that quote). And go from there.

                            And that's it - - we have to be clear on our intention. Too much description distracts from the story. Too little, and you leave the reader's mind to fill in the blanks which can easily go awry.

                            You have to write just enough to steer the boat, so to speak.
                            However, I do think there's wiggle room for the writer's style and voice.

                            Bottom line - - writing a good script is not easy. Writing a mediocre script is not easy. When I switched from novels to scripts two years ago, I thought, "How hard could this be."

                            Three completed scripts and two half-finished scripts later, I know the answer: very hard.


                            • #15
                              Re: Thin Scirpts -

                              So there we are then. Too thin a script and it could be possibly too shallow. Too thick a script and most agree it could be overwritten. With the best will in the world no one on these boards is ever going to write the perfect film script in terms of technicality - well, not in the first, second, or third draft anyway. Some of the screenplays we admire so much have actually gone through as much as twenty rewrites before we see them in Drews Script-O - Rama. They should be damned good, and we should aspire to getting our scripts as tight as they are. But that is going to take more than writing a script that sells in twenty-eight days. Take Witness as an example. It took five years to get it from script to screen, its success dependent on three very experienced writers. Some scripts get worse with every rewrite, others get better. I think that is why this kind of discussion, and especially this forum is so good to belong to. We may not agree with everything posted, but the point is we are learning all the time from each other and that can only be a good thing for our chosen craft.