Warning... Do Not Read

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  • FilmTony
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Signal30 View Post
    Just write the goddamned thing while the fire is hot. Worry about the so-called rules during the revision process. Anything else is procrastination.
    Warrants repeating.

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  • Ire
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    All good stuff here. I'd agree that screenplays are more like puzzles.

    Structure is essential to screenwriting, but a strict fealty to templates at a certain point could possibly result in forcing pieces of the story to fit a puzzle that represents a traditional perspective. So I create a puzzle much like all the rest of the puzzles in that genre. (Yes, there's the "Hollywood wants the different but same" paradox.) That's another thread in itself.

    Writing screenplays is tough enough in many regards. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The rules are there, the templates are there. They do give me comfort. Maybe too much at times. Maybe I'm sticking to puzzles that are easy to solve, easy to put together.

    Zach Helm created a "manifesto" about sticking to his own vision before he wrote Stranger Than Fiction. Granted, he had been a working writer prior so he wasn't trying to break in. Not everyone needs to create a manifesto. But it is an example of a writer making a conscious decision to stick to a vision and it possibly opened up his writing. Stranger Than Fiction had a fresh, less than traditional perspective. Still imo, it's a brilliant puzzle.
    Last edited by Ire; 03-14-2012, 02:52 PM.

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  • Richmond Weems
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    I guess I'm having a problem getting my point across here.

    I'm not saying that screenwriting requires more or less talent than writing short stories. I'm saying that the structure and elements of a screenplay are much more defined than that of a short story. Grammar, character, story. They're all needed in both, but when you're writing a screenplay, there are more rules that you need to know that you wouldn't necessarily pick up by watching movies or reading other scripts.

    Short stories don't necessarily need the same tension and release. If they do have it, that's great, but I've read beautiful short stories that are just descriptions of people walking through wheat fields. Could that make an interesting short film? Possibly. A feature? No.
    Larry McMurtry said that during the recovery from an illness, he found it nigh near impossible to write a screenplay. A novel, no problem 'cause he said he could let the writing flow, but a screenplay was like a puzzle and needed a certain amount of discipline and problem solving that novel-writing didn't necessarily require.

    I think he's right.

    HH

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  • UnequalProductions
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    You'e still losing me a little here. There are tons of self-published, crap short stories and novels. No argument there. But *good* short stories and *good* novels require a lot of skill -- just different than some of the skills required in screenplay writing. I still think you're undestimating the skill required to write good short stories (especially) -- since everything you say about screenplay building tension, etc., is required in a good short story. As a matter of fact I see screenplays and short stories as being much more similar than screenplays and novels.
    I guess I'm having a problem getting my point across here.

    I'm not saying that screenwriting requires more or less talent than writing short stories. I'm saying that the structure and elements of a screenplay are much more defined than that of a short story. Grammar, character, story. They're all needed in both, but when you're writing a screenplay, there are more rules that you need to know that you wouldn't necessarily pick up by watching movies or reading other scripts.

    Short stories don't necessarily need the same tension and release. If they do have it, that's great, but I've read beautiful short stories that are just descriptions of people walking through wheat fields. Could that make an interesting short film? Possibly. A feature? No.

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  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    Before anything else, I'm not saying that story isn't important in screenwriting. What I'm saying that compared to other forms of writing, structure is far more important in writing films.
    Okay, I guess I misunderstood you a bit there. But I still think structure is very important, to short stories especially. It's just different than screenplay structure which, to me, is a kind of shorthand.

    In novels and even plays, you can be much more playful with time and space. Film and TV audiences are trained for things to be much more chronological. If you're going to start going out of sequence and back and forth in time, you'd better be Quentin Tarantino, or you're going to lose your audience in no time.

    Also screenwriting much more about the build and release of tension. Set up and pay off. In the overall script but also in smaller sequences and even the scenes themselves. You'd better give us all your major characters before page 30 and a strong feeling what the central question of your script, or it doesn't matter how good your story is. It's going to fall flat.
    You'e still losing me a little here. There are tons of self-published, crap short stories and novels. No argument there. But *good* short stories and *good* novels require a lot of skill -- just different than some of the skills required in screenplay writing. I still think you're undestimating the skill required to write good short stories (especially) -- since everything you say about screenplay building tension, etc., is required in a good short story. As a matter of fact I see screenplays and short stories as being much more similar than screenplays and novels.

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  • UnequalProductions
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    Not to be a monotonous drip, but I don't agree. The best structure in the world won't sell a flawed story. But I agree with SC111, I would like to see your elaboration or an example.
    Before anything else, I'm not saying that story isn't important in screenwriting. What I'm saying that compared to other forms of writing, structure is far more important in writing films.

    In novels and even plays, you can be much more playful with time and space. Film and TV audiences are trained for things to be much more chronological. If you're going to start going out of sequence and back and forth in time, you'd better be Quentin Tarantino, or you're going to lose your audience in no time.

    Also screenwriting much more about the build and release of tension. Set up and pay off. In the overall script but also in smaller sequences and even the scenes themselves. You'd better give us all your major characters before page 30 and a strong feeling what the central question of your script, or it doesn't matter how good your story is. It's going to fall flat.

    Leave a comment:


  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.
    Not to be a monotonous drip, but I don't agree. The best structure in the world won't sell a flawed story. But I agree with SC111, I would like to see your elaboration or an example.
    Last edited by Centos; 03-12-2012, 09:32 PM.

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  • sc111
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.
    Can you elaborate? Or, give an example if possible.

    Leave a comment:


  • UnequalProductions
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    Well, here I would have to disagree with you. Screenplays are mostly about the story, you just trim it to fit into screenplay structure. There's a certain shorthand to writing scripts, but if you don't have a compelling story and interesting characters, it won't draw the reader in, no matter how well structured.
    And I would have to disagree with you. Of course story and character are important to screenplays, but not any more than any other genre or writing.

    Though screenplays are much more dependent on structure. What happens when. What scenes come after each other. When you introduce characters and how. Editors and screenwriters are on the opposite sides of productions, but their responsibilities are very similar.

    I would (and I guess am) arguing that when it comes to a screenplay, how you structure your story is more important than the story itself.

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  • Ire
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Bill is the Uncle Bill I've never had.


    And + 1 on Centos' reply. I think he stole the corner where I was standing and yelling. I'm the guy with the steel colander helmet, talking into the wooden spoon.

    Leave a comment:


  • Laura Reyna
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by wcmartell View Post

    Oh, and don't fear failure - you have to fail a lot to succeed.

    - Bill
    This is a huge lesson to learn and I wish I had learned it earlier.

    I hate failing. I hate sucking. Man, do I hate sucking.

    And that aversion kept me from writing the crap I needed to write in order to get better.

    So listen to Uncle Bill, kiddies... it's OK to suck at first. Everyone does.

    Just keep writing. You'll get better.

    Leave a comment:


  • Centos
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    One thing missing here is that screenwriting is unlike any other type ofwriting. Anyone with an understanding of grammar can write a short story or novel. Some people do without even knowing that. But you have to know more to write a script.
    I wouldn't say anyone who understands grammar can write a short story. I spent a long couple years trying to be a small press magazine editor with a small press magazine that actually paid by the word, so we got a LOT of submissions -- and believe me -- a lot of people who have a grasp of grammar don't understand how to write a short story.

    First of all, you have to learn format. Slug lines. Action. Dialogue. Youcan't do that by watching movies. Even reading screenplays won't necessarilyteach you everything you need to know. Hollywood readers will be able to tellright off the bat if you are unfamiliar with the format, and even if you havethe greatest story in the world, varying from it too far will get you stuckwith a pass.
    I think formatting used to be intimidating to new writers, but now with free or cheap screenplay formatting software everywhere, formatting should be pretty much automatic. At least you can easily make your screenplay *look* like a screenplay.

    Second, screenplays are mostly about structure. Whether or not you agreewith three act structure, that's how audience are trained to recognize movies.If you wait until page 60 to find out what the major conflict of your story is, you've probably lost most of your viewers/readers.
    Well, here I would have to disagree with you. Screenplays are mostly about the story, you just trim it to fit into screenplay structure. There's a certain shorthand to writing scripts, but if you don't have a compelling story and interesting characters, it won't draw the reader in, no matter how well structured.

    I think anyone who is serious about screenwriting needs some level of training, whether a class or a book or research on the internet, but only to get you started on the right path. There are tons of books out there about screenwriting because they sell. People want the hints and cheats to success, even though there aren't any. Once you have the basics of screenwriting down, the more you read is just time you're taking away from writing.
    What you have to be careful about is worrying so much about structure and the "rules" that it kills your voice and straight jackets your story into some bland formula some guru tells you is the "ultimate" script format. You've got to be careful of the kind of books you read. Some, like Bill Martell's Action Screenwriting book, give you good tips, not specific "rules," that others try to bind you with -- and most of these other "experts" have never, and will never, sell anything.

    When I started playing around with writing scripts, I wrote hundreds of shorts and snippets and posted them on a newsgroup. Some people liked my writing style and gave me good advice. Then I started getting advice from the "follow the rules" crowd. I tried to follow this advice for a year or so -- and my stuff started getting more and more bland, stilted and mechanical. I had to go through the process of unlearning the "rules" but I don't think I ever got back to the level where I started.

    That's partly why I post here (and at other sites) -- to try to keep talented newbies from getting a lot of bad "follow these rules" advice. People who can write stories, can write stories -- in any format. Sure screenplays are more restrictive (show don't tell) but once you get the knack for the "shorthand," it's still just another form of story telling. The really mechanical part comes in the shooting script and that's not the spec writer's concern. You don't want to worry so much about the format that you leave out everything that makes the story compelling and interesting.

    And, BTW, I'm pretty sure you understand all of this -- I'm just "ranting" in general -- kind of like the homeless junkie on the corner, shouting at anyone who passes by.
    Last edited by Centos; 03-10-2012, 02:57 AM.

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  • Ire
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    One thing missing here is that screenwriting is unlike any other type ofwriting. Anyone with an understanding of grammar can write a short story or novel. Some people do without even knowing that. But you have to know more to write a script.

    First of all, you have to learn format. Slug lines. Action. Dialogue. Youcan't do that by watching movies. Even reading screenplays won't necessarilyteach you everything you need to know. Hollywood readers will be able to tellright off the bat if you are unfamiliar with the format, and even if you havethe greatest story in the world, varying from it too far will get you stuckwith a pass.

    Second, screenplays are mostly about structure. Whether or not you agreewith three act structure, that's how audience are trained to recognize movies.If you wait until page 60 to find out what the major conflict of your story is, you've probably lost most of your viewers/readers.

    Third, character. The protagonist in a film doesn't have all the options ofa protagonist in other forms of writing. Catcher in the Rye is an amazing book,but how many movies can center around a character with no motivation or drive?I'm sure people will jump on me and give dozens of responses to this, butcompare that to the thousands of movies out there. ChadStrohl's example fromhis daughter's grade school is right. You have to have motivation and obstacles.

    I used to teach improv comedy. It also has tons of rules (no questions, don't go for the joke, etc.), but if you go watch the greatest improvisers, they break those rules all the time. The rules are like training wheels. You can only break them once you've leared why they exist.

    I think anyone who is serious about screenwriting needs some level of training, whether a class or a book or research on the internet, but only to get you started on the right path. There are tons of books out there about screenwriting because they sell. People want the hints and cheats to success, even though there aren't any. Once you have the basics of screenwriting down, the more you read is just time you're taking away from writing.
    Couldn't agree more. The Don't Read was accompanied by a caveat.

    I wouldn't talk anyone out of taking classes or reading books.

    This thread is intended for folks who have done the due diligence to learn screenwriting by reading books and or taking classes and who have written a script or two. Maybe I should have put that in the caveat.

    There is an overabundance of information about screenwriting , from how to write and what to write, and in the end I think it serves to dilute the creative process and suppress creative instincts. Just because I've written a script according to John Smith's How To Write A Kick Ass Screenplay doesn't mean I know how to tell a compelling story.

    I do I believe more writers need to listen to their guts, their natural storytelling instincts either in the story development process or during the actual writing of the script. I think it could help them develop something fresh, something different.

    The one thing I do have on my side is there were at least 50 years of movies created prior to Syd Field's first book. Some great ones, in those years. Sure it came from talented writers. Maybe it's just that, it comes down to talent. It's the naturally gifted and talented writers who know the rules and have the confidence to know when to bend them or break them.
    Last edited by Ire; 03-10-2012, 08:55 AM. Reason: had to edit my "rant grammar"

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  • Ire
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    I should have just titled this thread a rant.

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  • Jeff_Shurtleff
    replied
    Re: Warning... Do Not Read

    Originally posted by Biohazard View Post
    In my experience, the people who said "f_ck all the so-called 'rules', I'm writing MY WAY!" really suck balls. But when they begin to understand what the purpose of the so-called 'rules' are and how stories told and why they work in one way and not another, it's only then that they write something that doesn't completely suck balls.

    Weird.
    I agree with this.

    I think people who don't see the film in their head are just people who are trying to justify why they don't outline or plan ahead...

    They can't do it.

    So they say "f_ck all the rules"

    Jeff Shurtleff

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