Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.



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  • Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

    Hi, all. In my latest screenplay, I've been writing with MPAA ratings in mind, curtailing violence and nudity with an eye on a PG-13. I know that PG-13 films are allowed one, and one only, F-bomb, which I'm keeping in my pocket for the showdown, but other than this hard and fast rule the waters are pretty murky.

    How much cursing will I be able to get away with? There's still a considerable amount, though I wouldn't call it over the top.

    The other big question is smoking pot. I have 13-year-olds getting high, and I've read that this can go either way in regards to a film being either PG-13 or R. This is an important scene, and I'd rather not scrap that part of it.

    The real question is, do you guys consciously write with ratings in mind? If my movie is going to be rated R anyway, I'd rather just go full bore with cursing, nudity and violence, making it worth having an 'R'.

    It seems incredible to me that films with gratuitous violence like World War Z and Pacific Rim get a PG-13, yet if you say '****' a few times or show a titty, it's guaranteed 'R'.

  • #2
    Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

    Don't worry about the minutia. Don't worry about profanity. If someone is interested in buying it, they'll let you know what they need changed. Censorship comes waaaay later in the process.

    With that said, if you're writing an animated family film, avoid a graphic threesome or a series of decapitations. In other words, just worry about tone.
    Ring-a-ding-ding, baby.


    • #3
      Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

      As far as I can tell, when it comes to cursing, PG-13 limits the f-word and s-word, but the b-word and a-word you don't have to worry about as much (after all, they're used with regularity on TV shows). As for the pot-smoking, I'm sure just one scene would be fine.

      That said, I wouldn't worry so much about censorship at this stage. Write what you feel serves the story best. I'm rewriting an R-rated thriller right now, but I'm not including the sex, violence, drug use, and profanity just for the sake of being provocative or trying to fulfill the R rating. I'm including it because it's how I feel the characters in this world would naturally act.

      As for your thoughts on censorship in American media, I agree completely. This nation continues to be puritanical with regards to images of nudity vs. images of violence. We have an ongoing epidemic of gun violence and yet movies that show mass shootings can get a PG-13 while those show a breast or two are branded with an R. I'm pretty sure nudity (at the very least in a non-sexual context) doesn't lead to the destruction or corruption of teens' minds. The MPAA's standards remain embarrassingly outdated.

      Okay, enough of my rant
      "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.-- Peter De Vries


      • #4
        Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

        I agree with the consensus don't worry.

        Honestly, it's crossed my mind with the script I'm working on. But I drop the f-bombs away as long as it feels right. Maybe it is too much for my animated unicorn character Rainbow, but for me it works given its backstory.
        #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo


        • #5
          Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

          Write your best story. Write it the best way it should be written.
          If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base.
          Dave Barry


          • #6
            Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

            I find profanity boring. How many f-words can you take? Any idiot can use a barrel full of f-words. That was the reason I stopped watching "Deadwood" (besides the plot) where they had up to 8fpm (8 f-words per minute).

            There are other and better means to create a character than to use ubiquitous and boring f-word language. It's been done so much I want to puke. Not because anything is shocking, but because it's so boring and overdone.

            Find your own style and don't bother. Writing with the ratings in mind is carrying a big pair of scissors right in your head. And once you start self-censorship in one thing, you'll find many good reasons to censor yourself on other topics as well.

            Short answer: avoid the profanity, but not because of the pg13, but because of the boredom it instill. If, on the other hand, you are a truly profane person who likes this style, then do it. It'll be real.
            "Ecco il grande Zampano!"


            • #7
              Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

              It's usually not a good idea to try to reverse-engineer your target audience. Write the story you want to write and let the ratings take care of themselves. If your instincts as a writer are any good you don't need to sweat this, you know where you're going and don't need to ask anyone where the signposts are. Common sense should tell you what's appropriate.
              "Friends make the worst enemies." Frank Underwood


              • #8
                Re: Writing for Ratings. Saving my '****' for effect.

                Use common sense.

                If you are writing a Disney type films for kids, chances are it won't be filled with nudity and language.

                If you are writing a horror film, you probably will have gore and violence.

                If you are writing an action movie (aimed at mostly adults), you are going to have violence and action.

                That's about as much as you have to think about it. Don't worry that the studio will want a PG 13 rating on the action film instead of an R, because that will happen in editing. And they may *want* the R rated footage for the DVD/Blu release.

                The problems all come from when a writer doesn't use common sense: and I've read Disney type scripts for kids that suddenly had massive graphic violence or all kinds of porno type sex... and you just wonder what the writer was thinking. Sometime just the *concept* is weird: like that Ed Harris "cute family film" about the little kids who hire a whore for their single dad. WTF? What parent is going to take their kids to see that story? What *adult* wants to see that story? There's a strong ick! factor in that story idea.

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