??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

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  • Bono
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Apparently, not a ****ing thing.

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  • 8bit Llama
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    I would say that all the little weird sub-rules don't matter if your script is entertaining. I spent a lot of time agonizing over whether my writing would hold up under scrutiny as 'professional', then realized there isn't a single writer working today that doesn't have an internet message board devoted to how crappy they are somewhere. That helped me just feel confident for myself.
    Be entertaining, and write for yourself. That's my final answer.

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  • bjamin
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    What I've learned from reading scripts? How much I hate reading

    What's fun is to read through an early draft, then watch the film (script in lap,) noting the differences. Let the Right One In (Let Me In) is a fun one to do it with. 50/50 (I'm With Cancer) is another. Our Idiot Brother. Young Adult.
    Last edited by bjamin; 11-07-2013, 05:02 PM. Reason: boredom

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  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    I worked at a big studio in LA and I would read screenplays all the time. Easily one a day, every day. So I've read a ton.
    What I've learned:

    -Even professional writers, suck at writing. These were people with agents/managers who've been writing for a while, and I would stop and think "how could they waste so much time with this boring, terribly written junk?" So that was inspirational that everyone is struggling and it's only your talent that limits you.

    -If it's boring on the page, it'll be boring on the screen. Don't Be Boring! - I remember being so bored during some readings I would yawn so much my eyes would fill with tears. Wost, sign, ever.

    -Comedy is king. - Everyone seems to favor these, as much or more than horrors. Probably because you don't need a lot of money to make a comedy.

    -You know those boring parts in books/scripts/movies that you don't wanna read/watch? Don't write those parts! and if you have to, make it dramatic.

    Out of about 100 screenplays I read in my first 3 months there, I can recall 3 that were only OK, and one that was decent, but still nothing great. It made me feel better about my writing because, yes there is a lot of competition out there, but if you're not writing ****, and you're great at what you do, the competition is nothing to worry about. I don't think Tarantino or Kaufman worry about competing with anyone anymore - because they're masters now.
    Last edited by Filmmagician; 11-15-2013, 08:19 AM.

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  • Troy
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Originally posted by robertcc View Post
    Not gleaning one single thing after reading 30 produced scripts?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF2ayWcJfxo
    Snicker. Snicker. Give yourself a slow hand clap. This contributes nothing and is a waste of time.

    Many of the other posters have pointed to things which I agree on, and I too have also taken away from reading scripts, but didn't realize it until it was pointed out.

    This especially:


    Originally posted by zenplato View Post
    What I have I learned?

    That "we see" a lot of these rules don't exist.

    Only a good story does.

    One should study other's works in order to learn how to craft their story, imo.

    Identify the author's voice and in turn, try to cultivate your own.

    Is there a magical number?

    Each person is different.
    I guess it's just hard to measure the knowledge. However, I hope it shows in my future scripts I write.

    I hope others continue with more constructive insight. I find this topic interesting.

    Leave a comment:


  • Wise
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Less is more (as far as action and descriptions go)

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  • nmstevens
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Originally posted by Troy View Post
    I've read around 30 scripts in the last couple months. Some from my favorite movies, some many people say you need to read and some from the best screenplay nominees the last few years. While many/most were enjoyable to read, I haven't taken away much to improve my own writing. For all the time spent reading these scripts, I feel it might have been better to have just spent the time writing instead.

    What am I missing? My guess is that I should be trying to "analyze" the scripts, rather than just "reading" them. But is that really more helpful than buying a screenwriting book and seeing someone else's take and processing that instead?

    What have you learned from reading lots of scripts and how has it changed/improved your writing?

    What I learned from reading professional scripts (and since I worked as a story editor I read hundreds of scripts, some from professionals and many from amateurs) is how writers who had mastered the craft dealt with any number of problems that any writer faces in working out a story.

    How you introduce a character -- or multiple characters in a way that allows us to distinguish them.

    How you orchestrate characters. You read a professional writer analytically and you begin to understand the thinking behind why particular characters are present in a story and why the characters are who they are (as opposed to being some other completely different sort of person, or more than one person, or nobody at all).

    You see how decisions as to when things start and end -- when the script starts, when scenes and sequences start and end.

    The whole issue of handling exposition and setting things up and paying them off and properly developing the theme and establishing the tone and maintaining it across the story.

    And most importantly, it's reading a scene where you know what the story purpose of a scene is, which may be quite simple and straightforward, and there's an obvious way that the scene might play out to convey that story purpose -- and it's something that we've seen twenty times before, especially if we've read a lot of amateur scripts, but instead of doing it that way, or the second way the scene might be written, or the third, the writer writes it in a way that you'd never in a million years imagine -- but that nevertheless is believable and memorable.

    These are the things that professional writers know how to do.

    NMS

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  • FoxHound
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    I remember studying Plato's Theaetetus in school. It argued that to truly understand anything you need to examine its boundaries. The highs and lows.

    I think you'll learn the most studying the very best AND the very worst of scripts. In fact, I would argue that studying terrible (pro) scripts is more vital.

    Oddly enough, I never learned more about characters and storytelling than I did from watching The Last Airbender. The whole movie was a checklist for what not to do in a script.

    a) Complicated text crawls with no images over black [ Check ]
    b) Confuse your audience on page 1 [ Check ]
    c) Have your main characters endlessly narrate [ Check ]
    d) ......

    Here's a funnier take: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSOzeeoVQOY

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  • robertcc
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Not gleaning one single thing after reading 30 produced scripts?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF2ayWcJfxo

    Leave a comment:


  • IGetsBuckets
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
    I think it's hard to put a finger on, but it's really about the process of osmosis.
    Completely agree with this.

    Everything I learned about screenwriting came from reading scripts and watching movies. I don't think there's a better way to go about it.

    (But then again, even this is subjective and depends person-by-person).

    Leave a comment:


  • Joaneasley
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    Many good answers already. You could also learn where to start and end a scene and how clean a script reads without all the extra stuff a beginner might be tempted to write -- formal hellos and chit-chat instead of getting to the point, descriptions of things that don't matter, background information a beginner would dump all at once that would be more effective later, or not at all, or with more finesse. You'd learn how different writers create unanswered questions, tension, laughs, drama, and keep you hooked. You'd see how they're always anticipating your thoughts, know what you're wondering about, what you already know and don't need to be told again. You learn how to take command of the story.
    Last edited by Joaneasley; 10-04-2013, 01:11 PM.

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  • Ronaldinho
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    I think it's hard to put a finger on, but it's really about the process of osmosis.

    A lot of the stuff we learn doesn't fit into neat boxes. That's part of why you need to read scripts: the stuff that fits into neat little boxes can be summarized in a book or by a teacher. The other stuff, not so much.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gssstudios
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    I don't actually notice that I've "learned" anything new with reading scripts; all I know is that I write better material after say, reading William Goldman. My voice becomes focused, inspired. Technically speaking, I've learned a great deal already. Sure, there are other techniques I can aspire to seek out. The point, however, is that my scripts look and read like scripts. I read because it's immersion, pure and simple. If I'm reading scripts, my mind thinks scripts.

    It's like re-reading the one screenwriting book you have, or Aristotle's Poetics, to give credence to what has already been inserted into your head.

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  • sc111
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    This is a fantastic list. I added a few under it.

    Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
    Here's what I've learned from reading scripts:

    - that there's no one way of writing. The Zaillian Dragon Tattoo script is as lean as its heroine; Alan Ball's American Beauty is like a novel; the Coen brothers' True Grit is like a folk song. All work. All are beautiful. Perhaps most importantly, all read like films.

    - that whatever you think of auteur theory, 90% of imagery is there in the script. So you have to write visually - not describing every book on the shelf, but learning to conjure a world.

    - that professional scripts move lightning fast. This still blows my mind. You read a script of your own, or from a good amateur friend, and you pause after about 11 pages; you read a pro script and you read it cover-to-cover in half an hour.

    - that in a professional script you always know where you are. You don't have to flick back a few pages to remind yourself who someone is. You don't suddenly think, wait - why are they here? What are they doing again? It's a clarity often missing from amateur scripts (and my own).

    - that sometimes a great script doesn't lead to a great film. Read all the Alien III scripts - there are a dozen or so - then scratch your head as to why they were still having to write pages whilst shooting.

    - finally, that writing a good script is really f**king hard and there's still a massive difference between them and mine.


    Personally I'm not sure about 'analysing' a script in terms of breaking it down and figuring out how it works. I guess it's a fun thing to sometimes notice how a particular writer did a particular thing. If you're writing a thriller then maybe reading thrillers will help. For me the best thing about reading professional scripts is that it just helps on a gut-level, makes me realise this is what I want to do and makes me itchy to get back to whatever I'm writing.
    ... character development is essential; we must write characters that an A-list actor is actually inspired to play. No out-of-central-casting stereotypes. To do this we have to know our characters intimately not as if they're just acquaintances we know little about.

    ... to write at a pro level you have to think out of the box. No seen-it-before or me-too scenes, characters, dialogue. Be daring. Surprise yourself, first.

    ... pro-level scripts make the reader feel something: anxiety, fear, sadness, excitement, anticipation, tenderness, empathy, etc. And to do this in a genuine way I have to dig around my own feelings to satisfy the writing commandment: write what you know.

    ... a great script fulfills the reader's/audience's desire for catharsis and balance. Which is something real life doesn't always provide for them.

    ... a great script makes the reader forget they're reading words on the page; there are no speed bumps that toss me out of the read. This requires precise writing to keep the reader in the "dream" of the script.

    ... a great script never bvllshits the reader for the sake of executing plot; never manipulates characters into doing things they wouldn't do just to hit a plot point.

    ... a deftly-infused theme separates memorable scripts from an "okay" script I forget a week later. This applies to all genres, not just drama.

    Analyzing why this or that works well is helpful. However, thinking that reverse-engineering a great script reveals all of its secrets is highly misleading (which is why I think the how-to books are highly misleading).

    There's always a ghost in the machinery of a great script that is unique to and specific to the psyche of the person who wrote it. Even he or she can't always "see" it at first glance because there's a type of alchemy going on in the writing process. The only way to bring this alchemy to our own writing is to be as honest and genuine as we can. Never skim the surface for pure effect or pure entertainment.

    Leave a comment:


  • zenplato
    replied
    Re: ??? What have you learned from reading lots of scripts?

    What I have I learned?

    That "we see" a lot of these rules don't exist.

    Only a good story does.

    One should study other's works in order to learn how to craft their story, imo.

    Identify the author's voice and in turn, try to cultivate your own.

    Is there a magical number?

    Each person is different.

    Leave a comment:

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