Cutting the black

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  • Cutting the black

    Thanks everyone for all your past comments. I would like to be as controversial as ever by continuing the argument over too much on the page. I have a script that an actor/producer friend of mine insisted he took to the US with him on his last visit, because he felt it had great potential. Re-reading a copy, with a view to another re-write, I guess it could do with trimming by at least ten pages overall (it now stands at 129 pages). The problem with this is: 1.) The opening scenes are of a very dramatic 'wrecking' operation along the South coast of England in 1784, and as this lasts for about five minutes of screen time, it is five pages long of description. Wrecking, for those who are unsure, is a deliberate drawing of a ship onto rocks in order to plunder its cargo. 2.) The nature of the film requires some descriptions that, if not included, might be overlooked by the reader, thus diminishing his or her excitement of the read and therefore, must be included for the sake of continuity.

    A film script, and in my view one that has the definitive description for all writers of love scenes, is Lawrence Kasdans Body Heat. I notice the scenes between Matty and Rancine are extremely well described and after a very prosy fashion.

    I know this is not the way that teachers of screenplay writing see it. Keep it short is the motto here. But when we see films like Body Heat, Karate Kid, Citizen Kane etc, we realise that these films have something special on the screen because there was something special on the page.

    I'm not saying that we should write a screenplay in the same way as a novel. What I am trying to say is, after the slug-line there should be action and action should be as interesting and exciting as we can make it for the reader. I quote: 'A dusty old underwood is on the desk' is far more interesting than 'An old fashioned typewriter is on the desk.

    My script in America is about an ex smuggler wrongly imprisoned for the wrecking of the trade ship, Cecilia. He is given the opportunity to save himself from the hangman's noose by helping the King's men bring another notorious smuggler to justice. The film is a kind of 18th century 'Sting'

    Keith

  • #2
    This discussion shouldn't be in this forum. Unless you want to show us the pages you're describing.

    In my view, you're not continuing the argument. There are two separate arguments going on here.

    Your argument is that descriptions are necessary and should be interesting. Well, you're preaching to the choir on that one.

    Your readers' argument however is that in your particular case, judging by the pages you put up, your descriptions are flowery, overwritten and novel-esque.

    I envy the amount of wonderfully detailed feedback that you've been getting, with people taking so much time to help you -- and it frustrates the hell out of me that you seem to be unwilling to take it to heart.

    Just my opinion:
    - 'an old-fashioned typewriter' is good.
    - 'a dusty old underwood' is better.
    - 'an old typewriter, its housing battered with the years of use and the lettering on its keys slowly fading away into the same everlasting oblivion as most of the words and pages that were formed by its mechanical innards' -- that's worse.

    --Nooz

    Comment


    • #3
      The French Woman script, if it ever reached 126 pages like this other script you speak of, I could slice it down to probably 80 pages or less; hence, making the movie too short. You have the page count, but the content is likely lacking with not enough footage to squeeze out an hour and half to a two and a half hour film. Still, for a better look, it would help if you posted some of the pages to this other script.

      You used Karate Kid as an example of prose in a script, so let me use some examples myself, which show that large prose-like description is not needed if your a good enough writer.

      FROM:

      Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Early draft) Wri. Joss Whedon

      ----------

      Through the filth a KNIGHT walks his horse. He is weary
      but not so dingy as his surrounding; a stranger in these
      parts. He comes to an inn, where a boy takes his horse
      round back. He enters the inn.

      ----------

      A RUSTLING in the trees signifies Grueller's flight.
      Seconds late, Buffy roars into view behind him. She
      navigates the streets with less ease than determination.

      Her eyes follow him off the road and she steers the bike
      on a violently bumpy and erratic course through the
      site. She finally hits a pile of bricks and is thrown
      headlong from the bike. She hits the ground hard; she
      rolls into it but has trouble getting up.

      ===================

      Alien (Early Draft) Writ. Dan O'Bannon

      -------------

      A stainless steel room with no windows, the walls
      packed with instrumentation. The lights are dim and the
      air is frigid.

      Occupying most of the floor space are rows of horizontal
      FREEZER COMPARTMENTS, looking for all the world like
      meat lockers.

      FOOM! FOOM! FOOM! With explosions of escaping gas,
      the lids on the freezers pop open.

      =========================

      24 -- Hour Two, Ep.23 "6:00AM - 7:00 AM" (Final Draft) Wri. Evan Katz

      ------------

      JACK

      Reaches the drop between the two rooftops, sees the ladder
      has been pulled away. He runs to a drainpipe. Shimmies
      down the pipe, as fast as he can, then drops the last few
      feet to the lower rooftop.

      =========================


      The thing is, Keith, none of the above read like they're novels. We're given what's needed -- perhaps a little extra flavor -- then we move on to the next part of the story. That's what many perceive the idea of scriptwriting to be. The above examples are pulled from early drafts and shooting scripts, again showing that it may not be such a bad idea to write consistently throughout the entire writing process.

      Anyway, Keith, I hope we can all put this issue to rest. You know the general idea of what a reader expects in a script, and while their isn't anything totally set in stone on this issue, I suggest you do take into consideration as to what some of us have said. You're your own person, so don't feel as if you have to become a carbon copy clone of a writer, but don't go into this thinking you'll revolutionize the style through your work. Embrace a unique style, but be sure that that style does hits some of the general expectations.

      Again, use or ignore what you like.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Keith

        "EXT. VACANT LOT - NIGHT
        Winded, tiring, SAM takes off across a weed-choked lot. At the end of the lot is a chain-link fence, beyond the fence is home and safety. SAM reaches the fence and leaps. His hands grasp the top as he struggles to pull himself over, he is dragged down from behind by MICHAEL. The others catch up, breathing hard, their faces obscured in shadow. They surround SAM and with one last desperate attempt he tries to break away, punching and kaiing loudly but MICHAEL'S knee to his chest ends all that."

        Why this is considered prose heavy? It's action. There's no description of Sam's sneakers and his t-shirt. There's no poetic description of the flying fireflies in the night sky. There's no inner thoughts of the characters. It's nothing like Keith's pages.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Keith

          You are inaccurately interpreting and misapplying the convention that one page equals one minute. Just because you imagine the scene taking five minutes on film doesn't mean it should take five pages. You could simply say "the ship is plundered" and leave it at that.

          Writers to not document every detail, every action, every subtle shifting of light, tiny sound and shade of color to blanket-bomb the reader with every possible detail. Instead we are snipers, selecting very specific images that will burrow into the reader's mind as they advance the story and character.

          I haven't read your pages but I can tell you that I don't like any of your typewriter examples. To me they are static and not cinematic. Now if you were to say: "He rips the dusty Underwood off his mahogany antique desk and hurls it through the Victorian stained-glass window with all his rage fueled strength" then you have a cinematic moment where the details are embedded in the action making processing them less static and more filmic for the reader. When I tell a writer he is writing in an overly novelistic manner I am usually not specifically commenting on the amount of details or the style of the narrative (though that may be part of the problem), but the biggest problem which I am commenting on is the lack of understanding the basic difference between writing a static (novelistic) image and writing an active (cinematic) one.

          HTH

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes! Yes! Yes!

            Instead we are snipers, selecting very specific images that will burrow into the reader's mind as they advance the story and character.
            Now that's a quote to remember and live by.

            Comment


            • #7
              Well

              Why this is considered prose heavy?
              It's not. The Karate Kid script is anything but prose heavy, but it did appear that Keith had been trying to prove a point using an action sequence from the script to see if someone would consider it overwritten. I don't consider it at all prose heavy, not like the pages Keith presented from his script. As quoted in his other thread, I said, "Yes, effective, but you also have to take into consideration that that excerpt practically does not resemble the pages you posted from your script at all."

              Hope that clears it up a bit.

              Comment


              • #8
                Well

                You are inaccurately interpreting and misapplying the convention that one page equals one minute. Just because you imagine the scene taking five minutes on film doesn't mean it should take five pages. You could simply say "the ship is plundered" and leave it at that.
                Writers to not document every detail, every action, every subtle shifting of light, tiny sound and shade of color to blanket-bomb the reader with every possible detail.
                This is what I've been saying to Keith. I, as a writer, don't go out of my way to choreograph everything for everybody, and trust that the readers are able and capable readers. This is what I consider to be the problem with Keith's script... it, at times, choreographs too much. It gives us too much description. At one point the reader follows a snowdrift around a gate, up a sidewalk, right to the front door, and this is given in fairly explicit detail. This artificially bumps up the page count; hence, a script that falls at 120 pages may in fact end up being too short.

                I haven't read your pages but I can tell you that I don't like any of your typewriter examples. To me they are static and not cinematic.
                To me, they work well for where they fall within their respected scripts. The major point, however, is that excessive detail isn't needed to write a successful script. One-step at a time, my friend. Next time we can talk about the excitement level an action scene can reach, but if you want to see a quick example of how I approach writing action, here's a very small snippet from one of my scripts.

                A sour look explodes onto her face, eyes as cold as
                ice. She shoves him off the stage in a massive rage, sends
                him plowing head first to the ground and to a screeching halt.


                Not as flashy as your example, but I'd like to think it isn't totally stagnate.

                Instead we are snipers, selecting very specific images that will burrow into the reader's mind as they advance the story and character.
                This I like.

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