Slow-Paced Screenplay

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  • Slow-Paced Screenplay

    Hey, all. I need some advice or opinions.

    I'm in the middle stages of completely re-writing a crime/drama/suspense script, and I just finished a table read with some friends yesterday.

    We only read the first 50 pages since this current draft is unfinished. (The whole thing should be around 110 or 120 pages when I finish working on it.)

    Anyway, I received a lot of feedback (some positive, some negative), and one of my friends commented that he was waiting for a big surprise or action scene of some kind or a faster development of the story.

    He said that, although the story kept moving forward, it felt kinda slow-paced, that it didn't start off with a massive hook. (Think of slow-beginning films like Rear Window or Eyes Wide Shut or Alien or The Conversation.)

    My question is, what are your thoughts on slower-paced films? Like? Dislike? Would you look forward to this kind of film, or do you find them tedious?

    Do you think today's audience and today's producers would accept a well-executed film that takes its time, like Rear Window or Eyes Wide Shut? or am I better off with something more fast-paced like The Fugitive?

    Any opinions are welcome.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  • #2
    Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

    Pace is subjective. If I'm entertained and engaged, I don't care that the story isn't too eventful. If someone complains the story is slow, it's probably a sign that it lost his interest at some point.

    I don't think fast- or slow-paced ever played much of a part in my liking a film or not.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

      I think slow-paced is fine but as long as it's interesting. You can have a script that's slow-paced but still have a killer hook that draws the reader into the pace of events.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

        It's hard to say without reading the script, but a slow pace where the audience is losing interest could be a result of too much unnecessary dialogue and/or action. I'm not saying that's the case here. It could also be one person's opinion. Did anyone else make a similar comment? It might also be the read, like I said, hard to say.

        But, have you taken a hard look at editing down? Could it be possible to truncate or eliminate superfluity in dialogue to get to the point sooner? Ask yourself, if I take this out what happens to the story-- if the answer is nothing, get rid of it. It something falls apart later, then you know you need to keep it.

        Good luck,
        FA4
        "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
        Hollywood producer

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

          Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
          But, have you taken a hard look at editing down? Could it be possible to truncate or eliminate superfluity in dialogue to get to the point sooner? Ask yourself, if I take this out what happens to the story-- if the answer is nothing, get rid of it. It something falls apart later, then you know you need to keep it.
          John August gives them same advice in his "How to Write a Scene" blog post. As a rule of thumb, it sounds okay, but ...

          Could you cut the car conversation about hamburger names in France in Pulp Fiction? Of course, the story would still work. Is the film better if you don't cut it? I think it is, and most people find this scene memorable.

          Like the "in early, out late" maxim, it's kind of simplistic. Good scenes and good stories are more complex than that. It's because of these admonitions-and people's tendency to take them too literally-that a lot fiction feels so generic in the way it's told.

          Like Lowell said in another thread, it's these embellishments that often give the story a distinct voice and style (not his exact words, but more or less).

          So what I'm trying to say is that this kind of advice is good and bad at the same time. I think a writer needs to put aside everything he's been told and look at what he's written with honesty, and decide what works and what doesn't from his own experience reading it-and, of course, feedback from trusted readers.

          A gut may not be as fashionable as a six-pack, but it's the best tool a writer can have.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

            Originally posted by Dr. Vergerus View Post
            John August gives them same advice in his "How to Write a Scene" blog post. As a rule of thumb, it sounds okay, but ...

            Could you cut the car conversation about hamburger names in France in Pulp Fiction? Of course, the story would still work. Is the film better if you don't cut it? I think it is, and most people find this scene memorable.

            Like the "in early, out late" maxim, it's kind of simplistic. Good scenes and good stories are more complex than that. It's because of these admonitions-and people's tendency to take them too literally-that a lot fiction feels so generic in the way it's told.

            Like Lowell said in another thread, it's these embellishments that often give the story a distinct voice and style (not his exact words, but more or less).

            So what I'm trying to say is that this kind of advice is good and bad at the same time. I think a writer needs to put aside everything he's been told and look at what he's written with honesty, and decide what works and what doesn't from his own experience reading it-and, of course, feedback from trusted readers.

            A gut may not be as fashionable as a six-pack, but it's the best tool a writer can have.
            That's a fair comment. And one that needs to be said. One should absolutely consider the value of characterization as much as any other aspect of telling a great story.

            But that scene in Pulp Fiction was neither boring nor slow-paced, it was compelling. Engaging. Just like his opening scene in Inglorious Basterds-- a 13 page dialogue scene would seem suicide for many, but not for Tarantino. It's just riveting.

            And if you take out that opening conversation in Pulp Fiction, something detrimental does happen to the story-- the result is a far less entertaining film-- and that's not nothing, right?

            So, I guess, it would be better to say get rid of what is unnecessary to the story.
            Best,
            FA4
            "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
            Hollywood producer

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

              I do not know the nature of the Crime/Drama/Suspense story the OP mentions, but look for ways to make more visual things going on even if they are not 'action'.

              Are detectives going places and interviewing people? Make some more interesting choices about where...not simply the front doorstep of a generic house. Is the interviewee pre-occupied with a texting conversation instead of the detectives? Can the location be more unique? Can the players be more colorful characters and have more unusual occupations? Is there a Tesla in the driveway instead of a generic SUV? What makes the story different than similar tales....find that and re-iterate that difference.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                Originally posted by bill the scholar View Post
                Hey, all. I need some advice or opinions.

                I'm in the middle stages of completely re-writing a crime/drama/suspense script, and I just finished a table read with some friends yesterday.

                We only read the first 50 pages since this current draft is unfinished. (The whole thing should be around 110 or 120 pages when I finish working on it.)

                Anyway, I received a lot of feedback (some positive, some negative), and one of my friends commented that he was waiting for a big surprise or action scene of some kind or a faster development of the story.

                He said that, although the story kept moving forward, it felt kinda slow-paced, that it didn't start off with a massive hook. (Think of slow-beginning films like Rear Window or Eyes Wide Shut or Alien or The Conversation.)

                My question is, what are your thoughts on slower-paced films? Like? Dislike? Would you look forward to this kind of film, or do you find them tedious?

                Do you think today's audience and today's producers would accept a well-executed film that takes its time, like Rear Window or Eyes Wide Shut? or am I better off with something more fast-paced like The Fugitive?

                Any opinions are welcome.

                Thanks,
                Bill
                If someone tells you that a movie is slow, you have to listen to this for what it is -- it's a symptom. They're not telling you about the pace of the movie. They're telling you that the story didn't engage them.

                The issue doesn't have anything to do with putting in action scenes or explosions or anything else. Audiences are like drivers. They can tell you that they didn't enjoy the ride, but that doesn't mean that they're necessarily qualified to tell you what's wrong with the car or how to fix it.

                Someone didn't enjoy the "ride" of the first part of your script. They weren't engaged.

                Movies without a lot of action up front can be just as engaging, can involve an audience just as much as movies that start with explosions and big action sequences.

                There's a process of give and take with an audience's expectations, and it's always important to understand where the audience is in relation to the story.

                If they're either way ahead of you and waiting for the story to catch up, or else haven't been given enough information to be able to form expectations of where things are going, or if the stakes haven't been properly laid out so as to involve the audience early -- so that they care about what's going on -- in any of those circumstances, you're going to be in danger of losing audience interest.

                This often happens somewhere in the second act -- this loss of forward momentum, the sense on the part of the audience that everything has just sort of ground to a halt. Where are things going? What's happening?

                You said that you read up to Page Fifty, which is close to mid-way through the script. That should be, structurally, close to a critical point -- that point of no return moment.

                Let me put it this way -- if your movie was Zulu, you'd be coming up on the first big battle in around five pages.

                And if you look at most movies, in a strange sort of way, you'll find that "big battle" moment right around that point in the story. That critical turning point -- which the whole momentum of the first act and the first part of the second act should be leading us -- that trajectory turning moment that leads us into the rest of the second act and onward.

                Again, not knowing anything about your story, there may be structural issues -- not issues of pacing.

                I think we've all had the experience of watching eighty minute movies that seem to drag on forever and watching three-hour movies that seem to pass in no time at all.

                If the audience is involved from the beginning, and their expectation is properly managed, then they will never have the sense that the story is dragging.

                NMS

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                  Originally posted by bill the scholar View Post
                  Do you think today's audience and today's producers would accept a well-executed film that takes its time, like Rear Window or Eyes Wide Shut? or am I better off with something more fast-paced like The Fugitive?
                  NMS's comments are gold, as usual, so I won't duplicate them.

                  I want to point out something else.

                  What experience is the movie selling?

                  Because I don't think most of the movies you cited are slow-paced. I think they are delivering the experience the audience wants already.

                  If I'm going to see Alien, why am I buying that ticket? I want to be scared, creeped out, I want to experience spaceship as a dark and scary place. I want to be tense, nervous. I want mystery. I want to be scared.

                  I have that IN SPADES in the first 50 minutes of Alien. No, I don't have any big fights with the Alien, but that's not what the movie is selling. The movie is selling me the scary experience of being on that ship.

                  Eyes Wide Shut is similar. What is the movie selling? Sex, mystery, fidelity. What do we get early on? The two hot models flirting with Cruise at the party. The guy who tries to pick up Kidman, resulting in them having a discussion about fidelity. We get Kidman's big monolog - "women like sex, too!" We see some boobs. We're being titillated, with a veneer of sophistication - that's what you want when you go to see Eyes Wide Shut, and it delivers, right from the get go. Yes it gets cranked up later, but it's there right away.

                  Rear Window, what is that selling us? The mystery - what can you learn about your neighbors. That feeling of watching, not knowing. Again, we get that very early.

                  For lack of a better term, I call this thing, what the movie is selling, the "emotional experience" of the film. This is what a good trailer shows you. (Go watch the trailer for Gravity. You know EXACTLY what that story is going to be about. "You're going to be alone, in space, with all sorts of terrible deaths just inches away at all times - you know what being lost in space is going to FEEL like.") Then the movie delivers an ever-more-intense series of permutations on that feeling, raising the intensity, sure, but it's all the same flavor.

                  Often, when I read a script that feels slow, the problem is that the writer hasn't identified what that thing is, and/or he's not consistently delivering it. Sure, in a "Pacific Rim" that experience is about watching giant robots fight giant monsters, and so they give you lots and lots of giant robots fighting giant monsters scenes, and push urgently to the next one. That's why I bought my ticket.

                  But "Lost in Translation" is doing the same thing. It's selling me on the experience of feeling alone and isolated, and gradually feeling that isolation crack with the potential of a new relationship. And it gets in to that right away. From the very first scenes (Scarlett Johansen in her hotel room with her husband, Bill Murray checking into the hotel) it is giving us that experience. It's diving right in and every scene relates to that fundamental experience that the movie promised me.

                  So I'd encourage you to really identify what the emotional experience of your script is - what is the feeling that people buy a ticket going to get - and really make sure you're delivering it with every scene. Often a movie drags because you're not giving me that thing which is the reason I'm going to see the movie.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                    Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                    Did anyone else make a similar comment?
                    Out of the five other people I was reading with: one person liked the script a lot, another person didn't like it (the person who made the slow-paced comment), and the three others were somewhere in the middle.

                    A total of two people commented that it felt similar to some older crime films they've seen. Their almost exact words were that it felt like The Godfather, in terms of tone and pacing (and they didn't mean that in a good way, lol)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                      Hey, all. I appreciate the replies.

                      Now that I've had some more time to think about the experience, I feel like I have a somewhat better understaning of what I need to do.

                      My new plan is to go back to the script with a new perspective of what needs to be trimmed. And then I'm going to try to find some different ways to make the reader more emotionally engaged.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                        To add to what NMS and Ronaldinho said:

                        Pacing is the heartbeat of your screenplay. You want a regular heartbeat.

                        Pacing is the frequency of exciting scenes in whatever your genre is, what I call the "genre juice". You want a regular "heartbeat" of those scenes in your screenplay. Joel Silver is famous for wanting a "whammo" within every ten pages of a script... one of those genre juice scenes. A regular and natural heartbeat.

                        I did an article for Script Mag (now in the ACt 2 Blue Book) where I compared three *rom coms* and looked at the "whammos" in each... and all three followed that natural heartbeat of a scene within every ten minutes where the couple was brought together only to be pulled apart. So this isn't just action and thriller scripts, it's every genre. Every genre needs to have that regular heartbeat. It's what keeps your story alive.

                        These heartbeats are scenes the emotionally involve the audience. If you are doing a rom com, the audience *wants* the couple to hook up, so when you bring them together the audience thinks their wish for these two to realize they are the perfect match looks as if it will be fulfilled... and when they are pulled apart, the audience fears that maybe they will never realize they are perfect for each other. Oh no!

                        These are also the big character decision scenes usually.

                        The rom coms I used were WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, and MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING.

                        My suggestion is to watch three films similar to your story and time out what happens when to get an idea of how similar stories are paced. This may also show you different ways to deal with the issues of your script.

                        Bill
                        Last edited by wcmartell; 06-30-2014, 10:42 PM.
                        Free Script Tips:
                        http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                        • #13
                          Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                          Thx for the advice, Bill.

                          Yeah, I'm definitely searching for that heartbeat right now.

                          My concern for the current version of my script is that the current heartbeats are maybe a little too subtle for the audience right now, so I'm gonna try to make them just a tad more explicit and tense.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                            Heartbeats are not subtle (do you want a faint heartbeat?).

                            Since you mentioned REAR WINDOW...

                            What that film does is use the romance conflict as it's heartbeat for a while. Because the story is about a traveling man who is having romantic problems with a woman who is confined to the city, who looks across his courtyard to see his reflection... a traveling man who is having romantic problems with a woman who is confined (because she's an invalid) and *kills her*; we have these two linked couples and linked story threads. The globe trotting Life Magazine photographer who has a rocky relationship with the Manhattan fashionista, and the traveling salesman who murders his invalid wife.

                            The first heartbeat (about 10 minutes in) has his nurse tell him spying on neighbors will get him 3 years in prison, then he tells her the real trouble is that Lisa wants to marry him and he *does not* want to marry her. This turns into an argument/debate... which is our heartbeat conflict.

                            Fifteen minutes in, Lisa wakes him with a kiss...

                            Around 20 minutes in we get the next big romantic blow up. Lisa wants him to quit globe trotting and open a studio in the city, he blows up and says: "Let's stop talking nonsense!" This is a big juicy argument. A relationship crumbling before our eyes.

                            And around 30 minutes in we get a double whammy where both story threads intersect. Lisa storms out, the relationship pretty much over, she says she's not going to see him for a long time... well, until tomorrow night. After she leaves, Jeffries looks out the window at the dark windows across the courtyard and hears a woman scream and a crash... which is the murder taking place.

                            So, maybe the answer for your script is the have the first couple of heartbeats come from the B story conflict and then kick into the suspense scenes or whatever.

                            Bill
                            Free Script Tips:
                            http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                            • #15
                              Re: Slow-Paced Screenplay

                              Thanks again for the advice, Bill.

                              I actually never noticed the idea of the protag's life being refelected by his neighbor.

                              I'll have to give all of this some thought as I edit my work some more.

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