Dumb it down, please.

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  • kintnerboy
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Eric Boellner View Post
    I don't agree that a screenwriter should write for himself, because unless he's a one-man show, he'll never ONLY be writing for himself.
    Perhaps I could have been clearer. I don't think it's all that radical or crazy to say that you should write the movie you would love to see.

    The compromise of collaboration comes in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc drafts, after the money, after the notes, after a cast and director, etc.

    I'm pretty sure any working writer, from Scott Frank to Tony Gilroy would tell you the first draft of anything they write is always for themselves.

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  • UnequalProductions
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Eric Boellner View Post
    I don't think you read my post. I welcome the collaboration. If Ridley Scott takes my Nottingham or my ALIEN: Engineers and decides he wants nothing to do with the original story even, then yeah I'll probably be a little disappointed at what could have been. But the entire point of the post to which you responded was that I don't agree that it has to be a fight over vision. I don't agree that a screenwriter should write for himself, because unless he's a one-man show, he'll never ONLY be writing for himself. Studio execs, actors, directors, producers, they all have something to offer, they all have something to say. The trick for me, is to write the script that's good enough that when it gets developed to hell, it still comes out as good as The Grey, or Edge of Tomorrow. And if I'm not cut from the project as soon as I turn in my draft, the trick then becomes to navigate development so that the best of all visions come out in the final product. That's a bridge I'll cross if and when I get there.
    Yeah. I guess I was just reading your post and not what you were reacting to. To which you were reacting? Whatever.

    I guess the main point is until you're literally writing for someone else, don't be writing for someone else. Don't dumb it down, play to the market, or try to anticipate a scared executive's notes. Just write the best script you can possibly write, that is clear and concise, and most importantly, something that you would want to watch. Until we finish and are ready for feedback, that's the only thing we can control.

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  • Eric Boellner
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by UnequalProductions View Post
    Besides the "first draft" part, this is essentially what everyone is saying when they send out a script. I can tell you right now, you'll never write a script that will have a producer say "We're filming this exactly as is. Change nothing. Here's all the money."
    I don't think you read my post. I welcome the collaboration. If Ridley Scott takes my Nottingham or my ALIEN: Engineers and decides he wants nothing to do with the original story even, then yeah I'll probably be a little disappointed at what could have been. But the entire point of the post to which you responded was that I don't agree that it has to be a fight over vision. I don't agree that a screenwriter should write for himself, because unless he's a one-man show, he'll never ONLY be writing for himself. Studio execs, actors, directors, producers, they all have something to offer, they all have something to say. The trick for me, is to write the script that's good enough that when it gets developed to hell, it still comes out as good as The Grey, or Edge of Tomorrow. And if I'm not cut from the project as soon as I turn in my draft, the trick then becomes to navigate development so that the best of all visions come out in the final product. That's a bridge I'll cross if and when I get there.

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  • Eric Boellner
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
    I'd much rather have a script that's representative of my own voice and vision, which is, I would presume, the only asset I have in making my script stand out against thousands of others.
    I understand where you're coming from, and I feel the same way, but this is a totally different concept to what I brought up in my original post. There's a huge difference between compromise of vision and attempting to figure out this whole idea of where the line is between being clear and being obvious.

    Vision has nothing to do with it, unless you're one of those standoffish "If they don't GET IT, f--k em!" kind of writers. I want people to get it. I want them to understand the complexities and the intricacies of character and story, on multiple levels, both subtle and clear.

    Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
    But perhaps I just misunderstood where you were coming from. I have absolutely no desire to write OWA's or adaptations, so I write for myself and not the market.
    I'm quite the opposite. I want to put my stamp on Terminator 6, I want to make Die Hard movies good again, I want to write a comic book movie. I want to be the guy they bring in when s--t's not working. I want to be Michael Clayton. This is how I look at screenwriting, whereas I feel like most writers think it's all about fighting the system to get your spec on-screen the way you wrote it.

    That's not to say I don't have my own stories to tell. I've got no lack of original IP, but I'm aware that spec sales aren't the long-game. And really, I don't want them to be.
    Last edited by Eric Boellner; 10-14-2014, 02:01 PM.

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  • UnequalProductions
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Eric Boellner View Post
    That's like sending out a first draft with a note saying "I know this isn't what you want, but I liked it and if you pay me enough I'll change it."
    Besides the "first draft" part, this is essentially what everyone is saying when they send out a script. I can tell you right now, you'll never write a script that will have a producer say "We're filming this exactly as is. Change nothing. Here's all the money."

    Leave a comment:


  • kintnerboy
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Eric Boellner View Post
    This is a great way to put myself at a disadvantage. Why would I not want to anticipate the end result and shoot for that goal? That's like sending out a first draft with a note saying "I know this isn't what you want, but I liked it and if you pay me enough I'll change it." I'm sure that's not what you meant, but regardless I'd prefer to be a step ahead of the curve, so that even if the original script is doggy-styled in development, I still have a writing sample that resembles something like an actual movie. That's a calling card.
    I'd much rather have a script that's representative of my own voice and vision, which is, I would presume, the only asset I have in making my script stand out against thousands of others.

    The part about "if you pay me enough I'll change it" doesn't represent a willingness on my part to alter my vision.

    I'm just resigned to the fact that screenwriting is the only creative endeavor where the artist loses his own copyright, and I realize I can't fight the system.

    But perhaps I just misunderstood where you were coming from. I have absolutely no desire to write OWA's or adaptations, so I write for myself and not the market.

    Perhaps that means I will have to become a writer-director. Or, you know, e-novels.

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  • goldmund
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    I think the greatest pitfall for beginners (me included) is that they think the audience is dumber than they are.

    You have to stand on your toes -- not bend down -- to feed them.

    We tend to imagine that there is some unclear mix of stupidity & stereotype which audiences enjoy and which will guarantee us smashing commercial success.

    Oh boy, that's not the case.

    Anyway, no exec ever told me to dumb down something. Explain it better, yes. Explain it more, yes. But what did one tell me when I protested? "Listen, if it's redundant, we can always cut it from the movie. But if it's not there and it turns out we need it..."
    Last edited by goldmund; 10-14-2014, 01:01 PM.

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  • Eric Boellner
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
    So I guess in relation to the OP's question, the only thing you can do is write for yourself and then if someone pays you to change it, so be it. But never try and write for an imaginary dumb audience.
    This is a great way to put myself at a disadvantage. Why would I not want to anticipate the end result and shoot for that goal? That's like sending out a first draft with a note saying "I know this isn't what you want, but I liked it and if you pay me enough I'll change it." I'm sure that's not what you meant, but regardless I'd prefer to be a step ahead of the curve, so that even if the original script is doggy-styled in development, I still have a writing sample that resembles something like an actual movie. That's a calling card.

    Your second sentence is incongruous with the first, at least in my case. I've been unclear in this thread, I suppose, through my frequent use of "dumb it down," etc. I'm not attempting to write for an audience that's stupid, I'm simply trying to disengage myself from this attempt at being clever, and instead engage the audience on a level that communicates the subtleties of my story clearly. When in Rome, write Latin.

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  • kintnerboy
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    I think I could have better articulated my point by saying this: Discouragement disguised as feedback isn't the same thing as advice.

    I watched the Hollywood Reporter Tv agents roundtable yesterday

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/vid...ndtable-739303

    and the #1 takeaway was- Development notes = Fear. No one will tell you what to do. Only what not to do, and that's not the same thing as helping.

    Then I read Ken Levine's blog post this morning

    http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2014/1...test-rant.html

    and the message is exactly the same- Development notes = Fear.

    On one hand people say you have to collaborate with people, because that's how the business works, but then no one will actually 'help' you, because that would mean being accountable for failures. As long as they just criticize and discourage, they'll never be wrong.

    So I guess in relation to the OP's question, the only thing you can do is write for yourself and then if someone pays you to change it, so be it. But never try and write for an imaginary dumb audience.

    Leave a comment:


  • sc111
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Adeimantus View Post
    Or, you could just tell us all what that way is and save us the time.

    Seriously, though, I like the analogy of plumbing v. writing. Writing is an internal process and the only thing you have to look at is the final product. Which means a bit of reverse-engineering is in order, something that takes time and isn't spoon-fed to you via lectures or guru-how-to books. A well-developed character and a perfectly soldered pipe is the goal and careful examination of the product of an expert's work is priceless.
    Ha! I laughed because, as soon as I posted that, I thought, "Someone is going to point out I'm being cryptic." Touche.

    The thing is -- writing is not plumbing. In plumbing, there is a proper way to configure pipes. But in writing, there's no hard, applicable rule about burying exposition that will apply to every script. Solutions would depend on the script, the characters, the way the story unfolds, the core conceit.

    My only advice would be to look for opportunities your specific script allows. For example, in my future-set script, my protag has an AI computer that's essentially another character like the iconic Hal. In its honor, I named mine, "Halley." And Halley gives me a less obvious way to deliver exposition and back story because no one expects a computer to speak in subtext when it responds to the user's direct query.

    However, I also have a back-burnered script that's set in 1890s. More of a challenge, yes. First, I try to make sure I'm not bogging myself down with exposition that's common knowledge. One thing that 100 years of film puts in our favor is that there's a whole lot of stuff that audiences do know by now, on some level of awareness. (One could argue that a large percentage of people are greatly lacking in their common knowledge, but I don't agree.)

    For lesser-known "facts" driving my thematic goals in this specific script, I look for ways to have minor characters deliver the exposition or back story. I always try to keep exposition out of the mouths of my leads.

    Then there's the issue of readers who skip action lines and read down the middle. Here's a specific example I had to suss out when I had a manager representing the first script I ever sent out. It was an ensemble comedy about married couples being sent to a military style boot-camp program for troubled marriages.

    So, beginning of second act, my couples arrive and see other couples in camouflage uniform being put through physical training on the main field. Then, I have my couples check in with barking sergeants who order them to turn over their luggage, give up their their cells and laptops, then they're handed their uniforms. I cut to the next scene - orientation for my leads - and mention again, in the action line, my leads are all in uniform.

    My now ex-manager sends a note, "Are they in uniforms? You should make it clear they're in uniform." WTF? I mention three times that every couple at this camp is in khaki camo. But I only indicate this in action lines. Now, I could argue the point but then I'm thinking -- if the manager missed it, others may, also. So I add one line of dialogue to my secondary couple's exchange at orientation, hubby says: "You look hot in camo." And I chose this couple because, first, the line would be a groaner if my lead male said it and, second, the quip was more organic to the character and marital issue of the supporting couple. One line. Problem solved.

    The point being -- exposition doesn't have to be more than a couple words if you find the right spot to drop it in.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by sc111; 10-14-2014, 07:05 AM.

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  • Joaneasley
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Anyone here who wants to know ways to hide exposition or anything else would get good answers if they started a thread about it.

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  • Adeimantus
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by sc111 View Post
    However, there's a clever way of adding exposition that defies detection. The best writers do it very well. To develop the knack yourself, you have to read them. Over and over.
    Or, you could just tell us all what that way is and save us the time.

    Seriously, though, I like the analogy of plumbing v. writing. Writing is an internal process and the only thing you have to look at is the final product. Which means a bit of reverse-engineering is in order, something that takes time and isn't spoon-fed to you via lectures or guru-how-to books. A well-developed character and a perfectly soldered pipe is the goal and careful examination of the product of an expert's work is priceless.

    Leave a comment:


  • sc111
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
    That's a good question. I think there should be stickys for at least the first two subjects you mentioned (and there probably were, way back when Chris Lockhart was here, but I think he had all his posts removed, and so we lost a lot of good advice along the way).

    And of course, the Business Questions page of this forum is there to discuss all those things to your heart's content.

    But right now we're on a screenwriting page. I'm not picking on anyone in particular, I was just observing that it's way too easy to get 'advice' about the business, and almost impossible to get insight on actual writing issues that go beyond the pablum you can read on a certain unnamed script review website.
    Re: part I boldfaced. I agree to a point. However, part of the problem is that some people are better at explaining, as you said above, how to bury exposition and write more visually, etc., while others, though they may be great writers themselves, are unable to explain it because they've internalized the techniques they use to such a degree it's second nature.

    I took a concentration of fiction writing courses in college. Some professors could lecture in a way that made complex writing challenges crystal clear. Others, would repeat truisms like "kill your darlings" and "write what you know" (very frustrating). Yet one of the teachers in the latter group, though his lectures were a snoozefest, was totally amazing when he critiqued individual work, one on one.

    Even with that said, unfortunately, the craft of writing resists simple "how to" instruction. You can become a plumber's apprentice and just watch how it's done. But with writing the process is entirely mental.

    For me, the best screenwriting "teacher" has been going through the process of reading excellent scripts, more than once. The first read is for story. By the second or third read, I can begin to see what's "under the hood" in terms of exposition, action lines, character development, etc.

    As for the "dumb it down" issues, in my limited experience with getting industry reads I got the feeling that the major problem is the gatekeepers are banging through so many scripts per day they tend to read down the middle while quickly scanning action lines. This includes managers. I had questions posed to me that clearly indicated action lines were skipped. It puts you in the position to add exposition in dialogue just to cover your butt. However, there's a clever way of adding exposition that defies detection. The best writers do it very well. To develop the knack yourself, you have to read them. Over and over.

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  • Joaneasley
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    This thread proves we can indeed get deep insight on actual writing issues when someone goes to the trouble of raising a craft question that we haven't already discussed to death and can't be answered definitively in one or two posts. I appreciate the diversity and clarity of opinions in this thread, the craft tips given, and especially the insight about the table read where the criticism afterwards belied the laughs and other spot-on emotional reactions in all the right places, because it gave me a belated understanding of the time that happened to my writing partner and me. So thanks!'

    Originally posted by kintnerboy View Post
    But right now we're on a screenwriting page. I'm not picking on anyone in particular, I was just observing that it's way too easy to get 'advice' about the business, and almost impossible to get insight on actual writing issues that go beyond the pablum you can read on a certain unnamed script review website.

    Leave a comment:


  • kintnerboy
    replied
    Re: Dumb it down, please.

    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
    I think it was in Craig Maizin's appearance on "The Moment" but he was talking about Scott Frank, and quoted Scott Frank as saying he needs more help than any other writer he knows. There's something really empowering about somebody like Frank saying that.

    One thing I would love to ask Craig (it doesn't seem like he comes around here much anymore?) is if his writing took a significant leap (beyond what he could have accomplished on his own) in quality once he broke through to the major leagues and starting sharing reads with people like Scott Frank.

    For example, I don't think Good Will Hunting is anywhere near as good a script without Affleck and Damon getting feedback from Rob Reiner and William Goldman.

    I wonder what those two could do for my script.

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