How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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  • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

    Originally posted by Timmy View Post
    Let's say we wanted to arc a character and we had no clue.

    And we went off and dissected how Michael arcs in The GODFATHER and how Jake arcs in AVATAR and so on.

    And we derived a model for arcing a character.

    It's just a road map. In no way does it inhibit more interesting choices. Nobody is forcing conformity to it.

    In terms of deviating from the model, there's nothing to deviate from. It's just helping you turn the character.
    As long as you don't buy that it's the only map to the destination, I'm good with that. But a lot of people sell their map as the only map, which I find frustrating, particularly as a movie-goer.

    You claim no one is forcing conformity, but the tactics used by the companies to sell their story structure are engineered to convince the consumer their way is *the* way. I just disagree with that. I also disagree that there is nothing to deviate from. Reversals were born this way.

    But I respect your passion about it sir, and enjoy the discussion.

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    • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

      Originally posted by UpandComing View Post
      They don't speak for the whole industry. For each of the ones that chime in on DDP (who represent a rather small sample size), there are many, many more whom I"m sure have found various tools out there (including STC) very helpful.
      Wow. So despite the fact that every working pro you're talking to, and every working pro they've talked to, is saying this you are "sure" (your word) that there is some silent majority out there?

      And the fact that you continue to see the beats in most major Hollywood movies is a sign in itself.
      Not at all. It's a sign that the beats can be stretched and bent to fit a huge number of narratives after-the-fact.

      We saw this earlier in the thread when Yaso had to change the definitions of "antagonist" and "want" on the fly to make them fit a specific example. That sort of thing always comes up in this sort of discussion (although usually not so explicitly). Heck, the only real advice one of the most famous templates (the Hero's Journey) gives for the second act is "tests, enemies, allies" - which could literally be applied to any story, but offers zero guidance for anyone.

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      • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

        Originally posted by Yaso View Post
        I'm not imposing a model on my idea from the outside. These elements are INSIDE of any story idea you can think of. That's a huge difference.
        Look, Yaso, since you're going in circles here (as I'll show in a moment) this is going to be my last post, and I mostly want to rest on one piece of advice:

        You're a relative beginner at this. I know this because of your posting history, which includes asking some basic beginner questions.

        There's nothing wrong with, or embarrassing about, being a beginner. We were all beginners once. And honestly, when I was a beginner I argued some stupid stuff against much more experienced writers, too. And that is embarrassing, and it's counter-productive to your growth as a writer, too.

        You're just arguing in circles, and here's the proof.

        [*]they don't have someone standing in their way?
        We've already dismissed this by showing a populist, successful oscar-winning film that didn't have someONE standing in the hero's way. I could show lots of other examples of these other things, too ... except you've now demonstrated that you will ignore them, making this a complete waste of time.

        Don't die on this hill. Look at films with the express purpose of noticing how they break your model, rather than trying to notice how they fit it.

        Comment


        • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

          Originally posted by figment View Post
          Why does everyone on this board assume you have to know everything by magical osmosis or you aren't a "real" or "talented" writer? Is Kristen Wiig's movie less successful because she needed some general awareness tips about act breaks, and found it in a book?
          That's a straw-man argument, because nobody is actually making that argument - or at least, not EVERYBODY is making that argument.

          In fact, I have written repeatedly, in this thread and elsewhere, that I think reading screenwriting books is valuable.

          The caveat - and it's a big one - is that it's only valuable if you test what you learn in books against the movies you love, and notice the ways in which the movies you love both DO and DO NOT fit the various models.

          Instead, what we've seen in this thread is people who are treating the models like dogma. Look at Yaso's posts. Look at Foxhound's, on the very first page - where he doesn't understand why he's getting a reaction despite the fact that he hits some reasonable benchmarks.

          If the only options are screenwriting-books-as-dogma and no-books-at-all, then I'd probably fall into the latter camp, but that's a false dichotomy.

          Comment


          • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

            Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
            We saw this earlier in the thread when Yaso had to change the definitions of "antagonist" and "want" on the fly to make them fit a specific example. That sort of thing always comes up in this sort of discussion (although usually not so explicitly). Heck, the only real advice one of the most famous templates (the Hero's Journey) gives for the second act is "tests, enemies, allies" - which could literally be applied to any story, but offers zero guidance for anyone.
            So you are holding it against me. I am not changing things on the fly, I'm coming here on my lunch break or after work to talk about story. I'm not writing a doctoral thesis on the forum.

            Appearantly I have to ask these questions again, because you didn't answer them:
            • your characters don’t have weaknesses?
            • they don’t have goals?
            • they don’t do something to reach their goals?
            • they don’t have someone standing in their way?
            • there’s no scene in which they succeed or fail?
            • they have no realizations about what they’ve been doing wrong?
            • and there’s no scene where we see what becomes of them in the end?
            If you are writing stories, these are the questions you need to be able to answer. Granted, a lot more are coming on top when you are writing an entire script, but these are the basics and even big blockbuster movies that should be able to spend a lot of time and money on their scripts crumble down in front of us, because they are lacking in regard to those basics.

            I am going in circles ... on purpose. That's why I'm pushing this issue so hard: Be able to express your story in a few simple words. If you are not able to do that, you might be fooling yourself.
            Last edited by Yaso; 11-17-2015, 12:14 PM.

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            • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

              Originally posted by Timmy View Post

              It's just a road map. In no way does it inhibit more interesting choices. Nobody is forcing conformity to it.

              In terms of deviating from the model, there's nothing to deviate from. It's just helping you turn the character.
              In theory you're right. In practice, however, it's not so simple.

              I've been in development meetings where the execs where telling us the character had to arc while pointing at movies that had no arc as the example we were using. Somebody had drumbeat "characters have to arc" into their heads so hard that they couldn't see that the examples they were using of films we were trying to be like had characters who didn't arc.

              Secondly, as we've seen in this thread, there are writers who do, in fact, read these books and take them as gospel. Whether or not that's the intent of the book's author (I think it is with STC, I don't think it is with Syd Field, at least not in his first book) that's how they get interpreted and used.

              If that wasn't the case, then this would be much less of an argument. Nobody would really care. But, unfortunately, it is.

              Comment


              • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                As usual, Ronaldinho speaks (writes) words of wisdom.

                I wonder how to apply Hero's Journey or Save The Cat to
                2001: A Space Odyssey
                or
                Psycho

                On the other hand, I see no problem to apply them, or some of their elements, if needed, at will.
                Always, to everything--is too much.
                Never, to nothing--is also too much (or too little, depending on how one looks at the glass).

                Comment


                • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                  Yaso, you need to see some European cinema (and, apparently, Japanese too).
                  Not to say that you'd like them.
                  Not to say that I do.

                  But some stories don't have all the elements you mention, no.

                  And apparently By The Sea might be like them.

                  Comment


                  • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                    Ronaldinho there are several logical fallacies in your argument.

                    First of all, you are trying to make this a personal thing about me. It's not about me and it never was.

                    Second of all, you are pointing to experts, trying to use them as proof.

                    Third you are confusing my arguments with those of someone else (I can't remember who it was).

                    Fourth, you are arguing semantics. A lot of people have written about antagonists and there probably are a lot of definitions out there. However, picking apart single words doesn't refute an argument.

                    You're also making it pretty easy for yourself throwing the towel after this posting.
                    Last edited by Yaso; 11-17-2015, 12:36 PM.

                    Comment


                    • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                      Originally posted by figment
                      For the record, here's a pro writer that uses Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet.

                      "... Erik Bork, who won Emmy┬« Awards for his scripts for HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon and Band of Brothers. “To me,” says Bork, “it’s really about dedication and commitment to the craft ... Before he crafts a complete scene-by-scene outline, Bork uses the late Blake Snyder’s famous beat sheet to set the skeleton of his story..."

                      http://www.scriptmag.com/features/wo...ts-of-the-pros
                      Erik Bork isn't a pro writer. Erik Bork is a guy who worked for a brief period as a writer, more than a decade ago.

                      Now he makes his living as a consultant. He's saying formulas work for writing screenplays because he's selling you the formula.

                      Script Consulting – Screenplays
                      Erik’s rates for reading and giving feedback on a typical length feature film screenplay (120 pages or less) are as follows:
                      * For a four-page written analysis and suggestions, covering concept, genre, structure, and execution — looking at the project’s overall potential, what he felt you were trying to achieve, and how best to improve it moving forward: $435.
                      * For a 90-minute Skype or phone conversation, in which all of the above is covered with slightly less detail (and no written backup), but with an opportunity for extended back-and-forth discussion: $435.
                      * For both a four-page analysis & suggestions, and a 60-minute conversation: $545.

                      Erik also offers ongoing margin notes detailing all his most significant reactions that he had to the material as he was reading it, giving you a specific sense of how it was working for a professional reader at each point along the way — at the following rates:
                      * For margin notes only: $435.
                      * For margin notes plus a 60-minute conversation: $545.
                      * For margin notes plus a 4-page written analysis and suggestions: $645.
                      * For margin notes plus a 60-minute conversation and a 4-page analysis/suggestions (my “Complete Package”): $745.
                      You can also hire him as a coach:

                      FEATURE SCRIPTS
                      Story/Concept package: $1,750
                      Outline package: $2,350
                      Script package: $3,850
                      All three packages: $6,950 (a $7,950 value)
                      Or just buy his audiotapes:

                      They’re available now for $11.95 each, or all five for $49. Or you can also get all five free with the purchase of any consultation package of $500 or more.
                      If his system worked, he would be making a living as a writer, not ripping off gullible writers.

                      Quoting snake oil salesmen isn't proof that snake oil cures diseases.

                      Comment


                      • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                        Originally posted by Yaso View Post
                        First of all, you are trying to make this a personal thing about me. It's not about me and it never was.
                        No, I'm not. I'm using you as an example of how this sort of teaching goes wrong.

                        I would say your comments to me like "if you are not able to do that, you might be fooling yourself," and "you can't seem to accept the fact that screenwriting is not magic." THAT is making it personal.

                        But I've specifically tried to keep this discussion about films that we've all seen to prevent it from being personal. Talking about my work, which you haven't read, wouldn't be terribly relevant to the discussion.

                        Second of all, you are pointing to experts, trying to use them as proof.
                        Who are these experts I'm pointing to?

                        The crux of my argument is, and always has been, looking at successful films and doing the work yourself. It feels like you're just making stuff up, now.

                        Third you are confusing my arguments with those of someone else (I can't remember who it was).
                        I don't think I am, although it's certainly possible. I've tried to directly quote who I'm responding to to avoid that sort of murkiness, which can happen in these threads.

                        I am citing you as an example of someone who is reductionist with these concepts in a way which inhibits understanding.

                        Fourth, you are arguing semantics. A lot of people have written about antagonists and there probably are a lot of definitions out there. However, picking apart single words doesn't refute an argument.
                        We're writers. Words are our tools. I think it is reasonable to expect writers, when writing about writing, to write what they mean. Even if you are being fast and loose with your language (repeatedly) we can't actually talk about how a certain concept applies to films without defining that concept.

                        Comment


                        • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                          Originally posted by figment
                          I stand corrected. I didn't realize the Emmy winning writer was now a consultant. My bad....
                          After reading your comment I looked up his award. These were shared awards -- shared with a whole lot of others on that TV show. Guys like Spielberg and Tom Hanks no less

                          http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0096897/awards
                          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                          Comment


                          • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                            Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                            No, I'm not. I'm using you as an example of how this sort of teaching goes wrong.
                            By calling me a beginner you basically said that I'm the opposite of an expert and therefore must be wrong. That's a logical fallacy. It comes from the same place as assuming someone who won an Oscar will always be right.

                            I would say your comments to me like "if you are not able to do that, you might be fooling yourself," and "you can't seem to accept the fact that screenwriting is not magic." THAT is making it personal.
                            With the first statement I didn't mean YOU specifically, I meant everyone. I stand by my second comment: It "seemed" to be the case by everything you wrote. I try to be very precise in what I'm saying or writing, but English is not my mother tongue. If it came across as too confrontational, please forgive me.

                            I am citing you as an example of someone who is reductionist with these concepts in a way which inhibits understanding.
                            Some people say it's "reductionist", other people say it's "too vague to be of any value". It's funny how much perceptions can differ.

                            Comment


                            • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                              Originally posted by figment
                              So how about the others? Are the Bridesmaid writers in the wrong for buying a Syd Field book to see what type of structure they might use?

                              Is August wrong in saying that development people use Syd Field terms? Maybe they don't. I don't know.

                              You said in a previous post that pros talk in terms of acts -- isn't that the same thing (I am asking for real)? You might not say "inciting incident" or "midpoint" like a screenwriting book does, but aren't you asking the same type of questions if you are suggesting a (pro) writer move a big reveal to the middle for pacing purposes? Or move this intense shootout toward the end of act two, because we want the protagonist to feel he has no way out before he figures out a way in act three?
                              No one has ever suggested not spending the time to develop a basic knowledge of dramatic structure. But honestly, how long does that really take? Field's book takes a couple of hours to read, if that. Three acts is basically saying a story has a beginning, middle and end.

                              It just seems like semantics, like somehow it's not considered organic, professional writing if you use words like midpoint or inciting incident. It doesn't mean you aren't doing them, you're just not using the words of books.
                              Again, having a basic vocabulary is one thing. Suggesting that specific beats should take place in a specific order at a specific time is ridiculous. As is quoting all these made up terms from Save The Cat and then saying that they're real things that you can use to write a script that sells. That's what kicked this whole debate off. Pace slow? Is your pinch point on page 37?!

                              It's largely not how professionals - writers, producers or executives - communicate or work. Will you run into some idiot low level executive who read Save The Cat and wants to talk about it? Sure. So?

                              Comment


                              • Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

                                Originally posted by Yaso View Post
                                By calling me a beginner you basically said that I'm the opposite of an expert and therefore must be wrong. .
                                No, I didn't actually say that. Yes, you're a beginner, and in my opinion, yes, you're also wrong. But I never said you were wrong because you were a beginner.


                                With the first statement I didn't mean YOU specifically, I meant everyone. I stand by my second comment: It "seemed" to be the case by everything you wrote. I try to be very precise in what I'm saying or writing, but English is not my mother tongue. If it came across as too confrontational, please forgive me.
                                Apology accepted.

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