How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

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  • How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

    I've seen various styles of Action and Descriptions in different scripts such as Die Hard, Bourne Supremacy etc, but I'm wondering what is the most effective way to write them in a Spec Script.

  • #2
    Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

    Originally posted by MassRogue View Post
    I've seen various styles of Action and Descriptions in different scripts such as Die Hard, Bourne Supremacy etc, but I'm wondering what is the most effective way to write them in a Spec Script.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006KTHKSA/secretsofactions

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    • #3
      Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

      Originally posted by MassRogue View Post
      I've seen various styles of Action and Descriptions in different scripts such as Die Hard, Bourne Supremacy etc, but I'm wondering what is the most effective way to write them in a Spec Script.
      Bear in mind that Die Hard isn't a recent script. I'm not sure it's a great reference for what the expectations are today.

      Read a bunch of recent scripts by professionals. Understand what they all have in common. Do something that is broadly consistent with what they all have in common that feels right to you.

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      • #4
        Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

        From the Amazon website:
        "When you buy this book now for $30.00 and sell it back later for a $0.18 Amazon.com Gift Card, it could cost you as little as $29.82."

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        • #5
          Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

          Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
          Bear in mind that Die Hard isn't a recent script. I'm not sure it's a great reference for what the expectations are today.

          Read a bunch of recent scripts by professionals. Understand what they all have in common. Do something that is broadly consistent with what they all have in common that feels right to you.
          Where can I find recent professional or even general Spec Scripts that incorporate the kind of Action and Descriptions I'm looking for?

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          • #6
            Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

            Hi MassRogue,

            This board has a policy about respecting copyright[1] so it would be inappropriate to post links to screenplays available on the internet, but here are two produced screenplays that are legally available that may interest you:

            LOOPER, available on Rian Johnson's site: http://www.rcjohnso.com/Looper/Looper.pdf

            HANNA, available from Focus Features: http://www.focusawards2011.com/works...screenplay.pdf

            Scripts are made available for awards consideration. See: http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/20...d-legal-2.html

            Also, you can add
            HTML Code:
            filetype:pdf
            to your google searches.

            This last tip is meant well and I hope the moderators don't think otherwise.

            Best.

            [1] And in addition professional screenwriters have made clear that trading and publicly commenting on unproduced screenplays hurts their prospects.
            Last edited by -jam-; 08-15-2013, 11:52 PM. Reason: removed stray smiley

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            • #7
              Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

              Originally posted by MassRogue View Post
              Where can I find recent professional or even general Spec Scripts that incorporate the kind of Action and Descriptions I'm looking for?
              IMSDB.com and Drew's script-o-rama are decent places to start.

              Try to read actual screenplays, NOT the bound continuity scripts (edited to match the film) that are published or distributed during award season.

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              • #8
                Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                Along those lines, are writers awarded the "best original screenplay" for his/her script, or for the edited shooting script?

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                • #9
                  Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                  What are the Best Scripts to read to learn effective Action and Descriptions.
                  (Action and Descriptions that are expected or desired in Spec Scripts today)

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                  • #10
                    Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                    Originally posted by MassRogue View Post
                    What are the Best Scripts to read to learn effective Action and Descriptions.
                    (Action and Descriptions that are expected or desired in Spec Scripts today)
                    Um...

                    Anyway, between Looper and Hanna, I would focus more on studying the writing in Hanna since the folks who wrote it didn't direct it. Not that Rian isn't a solid writer, but he also directed the material.

                    Hanna had more desks to pass through before it got to the director.

                    But those are two really good examples of available current scripts to read.

                    A few thoughts...

                    Action-thrillers involve atmosphere, more variables, revelations, and twisting audiences expectations so that the ending the audiences thought they saw coming, is not that ending, but better, the latter of which I think Rian did nicely in Looper. (Although I have some issues with some of the internal logic with Looper.)

                    EVERY action scene in a thriller should advance the story toward that unforeseen ending, and do that perceptibly, but imperceptibly.

                    And Die Hard was more action than it was thriller. Still great, but while it had thriller elements i.e., Hans' actual plans, it was about a barefoot cop against the bad guys, an action movie.

                    The best thrillers are like great magic acts, building toward that final reveal.

                    Also, behind their misdirection, the best, lasting thrillers have a theme, a point to all of the magic.

                    Watch the lengths of your action paragraphs. Focus on the details.

                    Have your action in scenes go from Point A to C to B to B to A to C and then D, or from D to A to B to D to C, or some variation that isn't A-B-C-D.

                    That last one was just a reminder to myself.

                    Also if you notice in the Scripts forum there is the caveat that requesting scripts, spec scripts is not allowed on DD. So keep that in mind.
                    Last edited by Ire; 08-16-2013, 07:48 PM.
                    #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                    • #11
                      Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                      Read THE MATRIX. Read RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Read ALIENS. Read DIE HARD. Read THE LAST BOY SCOUT as opposed to LETHAL WEAPON, imo. Or read both. Or read anything by Shane Black. Read TERMINATOR 2. And 1, if you really want. Read TAKEN. Read WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

                      Really, read the script of any action film you love.

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                      • #12
                        Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                        Originally posted by ATB View Post
                        Read THE MATRIX. Read RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Read ALIENS. Read DIE HARD. Read THE LAST BOY SCOUT as opposed to LETHAL WEAPON, imo. Or read both. Or read anything by Shane Black. Read TERMINATOR 2. And 1, if you really want. Read TAKEN. Read WHITE HOUSE DOWN.

                        Really, read the script of any action film you love.
                        Agreed, but of those films, I'd say the Matrix, the Last Boy Scout and Taken are closer to the action-thriller genre. If the action-thriller is what RogueMass is looking to write versus action with pseudo-thriller elements e.g. White House Down, and Terminator 2. Hate to split hairs, but once in awhile my panties get in a bunch.
                        #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                        • #13
                          Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                          Originally posted by Ire View Post
                          Have your action in scenes go from Point A to C to B to B to A to C and then D, or from D to A to B to D to C, or some variation that isn't A-B-C-D.
                          Could you please go into more detail with what you meant by this?

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                          • #14
                            Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                            The most recent scripts, the better. I think there are a couple of the latest Fast and Furious scripts floating out there, a mere Google search away from you. I would pick those, because there are chock full with descriptions, by necessity, which means they have to get creative with it, which is what you want to do.

                            Although it has been a long time since I've read them (I had them handed to me physically, that's how long ago!) I would recommend two, or rather, three scripts that are not only great with descriptions but most importantly are a BREEZE TO READ, which is what you want in this case.

                            a) Hard Times by Walter Hill. It's a little too haiku-ish, and leeway is given by the fact that Hill was a director as well, but it is oh so very good that you should at least internalize this. It is smart, lean writing without the Shane Black smart-assiness that is too personal to imitate.

                            b) Gale Force by David Chappe. He and Mitch Markowitz were the only two guys I met who knew how to teach you to write scripts. Gale Force was a spec that sold for a shitload of money way back when but it still holds up and is very smart with descriptions, and it is an action adventure.

                            c) French Connection II by Robert Dillon. I realize that I'm giving you prehistoric scripts (a and c are 70s scripts and b is from the 80s) but just like movie classics, great scripts do not age that much. This one is not to so much for you to take away how it is written, but how it is not over-written. It is way too spare for you to lift any style or specific writing flourishes, but it is very important to read it once, to realize how little you really need to write a script. Oh, and I forgot to say, this one is only 90 pages!

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                            • #15
                              Re: How to Write Action/Descriptions for an Action-Thriller?

                              Originally posted by MassRogue View Post
                              Could you please go into more detail with what you meant by this?
                              Yes.

                              You can outline for example your protagonist John finds out "an agency" is after him and has to
                              A. get his computer from his apartment then
                              B. Save his roommate's life by making him aware there's trouble. Then
                              C. John has encounter with the bad guys. The bad guys kill his roommate. But
                              D. John escapes with his computer.

                              Standard A B C D.

                              But when writing that sequence:

                              If you went from...

                              C. John has an immediate encounter with the bad guys outside his apartment to
                              A. John survives and gets into his apartment and gets his computer just when
                              B. His roommate comes back (a complication) and
                              C. More bad guys show up out of the woodworks.
                              A. John loses his computer during the bad guys encounter. (another complication)
                              B. (a flip) John finds out his roommate is with the agency as his roommate pulls a gun on him, or a carving knife or what have you, and that leads to
                              C. Bad guy encounters, including his roommate, escalate.
                              During the encounters:
                              A. John finds his computer.
                              B. He kills his roommate.
                              D. John escapes with his computer.

                              Complications should always arise in getting from point A to D. Most of that should be outlined if you outlined properly, but in the end however you get from A to D it's still thinking of ways to make those A-D sequences as fresh and compelling as possible.

                              The second sequence would probably be more compelling because it doesn't follow the A-B-C-D expectations.
                              Last edited by Ire; 08-17-2013, 05:13 PM. Reason: Still cleaning this up. Wrote it on the fly.
                              #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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