Scripting

Hi all,

So as you’re all probably aware by now the latest Prop, Costume and Phrase have been selected.

Which are

Prop: A hat

Costume: A Policeman’s outfit.

Phrase: Well this wouldn’t be the first time…

SO we’re now busy cooking up ideas on what the hell this film is going to be about. So far we’ve had a couple of ideas, one of which seems to be growing.

I’d like to talk about the script writing process. Now this isn’t a how to guide. There’s plenty of books out there on how to write the next Oscar winning screenplay.

I really just wanted to give you a rough idea of how I work.  Obviously none of these scripts are going to be works of art so I’m not saying that this is the way you should work.  It just seems like the natural way to me and having read a quite a few books on the subject I’m actually surprised at how similar my way of working is.

So the way I usually come up with a film idea is based on one simple scenario. It can be anything.

For example one idea I had years ago was based off of my thoughts on how awkward it is when you’re on a coach or other form of public transport. There’s only one seat free so you take it.

But then as the journey continues more people get off till it gets to the point where there’s quite a few  seats free but you’re still squashed up next to the person next to you and you’ve now been sitting there for a while. So what do you do? Do you move to one of the free seats which means you both have more room. Or do you stay put because you think “If I move this other person’s going to think that there’s something wrong with them”

Now this was probably a case of me thinking way too much into this situation but what it did do was give me a great idea for a scene that I thought would be quite amusing.

So then my next process was to build the film around this one scene.  Now I thought this was a crazy way of working…maybe it is. But what I’ve discovered is actually a lot of big names use this exact technique.

It was only the other day when I was watching an interview with J J Abrams where he said that the scene in 8 mm where you see the factory sign at the beginning and the number of days without incident being reset to 0, was actually how the whole film was formed. He’d had that scene in his head for years. Had no idea what the actual film was going to be about but formed one around it.

So that’s how I usually start, with just one scene that I think could be really intriguing or shock the audience.

The next thing I do is try to find my beginning, middle and end.  I’m always trying to think of legitimate reasons why a scene should be in the film. Every scene in your film needs to have a purpose there and it has to feel real.  I hate films where they take the easy route out to explain how someone died or don’t explain it at all and hope no one notices the plot hole. Or even worse they make a character do something that they just wouldn’t do.

Ok at this point I should point out that The Lollipop Lady Killer has those exact problems in it. One of which is the fact that she never drops her Lollipop stick or takes off her high vis jacket. But this was actually intentional as we wanted it to be a fun take on the the slasher style movies.

But unless it is a comedy you really want to avoid those things. Actually in most comedies you want to avoid them too.

So once I have the basic structure in there I start to go through and see if there are again any scenes that can be taken out or any scenes that can be really “plussed” which I think is a Pixar term. What this means is can I add to this to make it even better? Also are the characters behaving how I think they would in that situation.

One of my biggest issues with films is the characters.  I hear so many people say that the most important part in a film is the story.

I honestly don’t think this is true.  For me the characters are the most important part of the film.  I can happily watch a film with great characters and hardly any story or even a bad story.  How many people can sit in front of the TV for hours watching Big Brother?  Why do they do this? Because they’re watching real people interact. I can sit on  park bench for hours and watch people interact.

If you don’t have great characters in your story then no one is going to care how good the story is. The reason great horrors are scary is because you care about the characters. You want them to live.  You could have the best most original story with the most horrific scary looking monster.  But if the characters are like cardboard cutouts and everything they say sounds like it’s being read off the back of a cereal packet. Then you’re really not going to care if they get their head severed or if they just manage to crawl out of the cellar in the nick of time.  Actually I’d say that when the characters are that  bad I’m usually rooting for their head to be severed!

So make sure you’re characters feel real. Make sure they say and do what you’d do in those situations. Or do what you’d know that character would do in that situation. After all everyone is different.

Once I know who the characters are going to be and what their personalities are like, I’ll start adding in the dialogue to stitch it all together.

I’ll  already have the basic dialogue but I won’t necessarily of known who was going to say what. So this is where I can start shifting things around and adding more or  taking our parts, trying to use the image to tell the story. Remember your telling a story with pictures,  try to keep the dialogue to a minimum.

One of the most irritating things I hear, especially on TV Drama is repeated dialogue or “say what you see”

For example, two policeman run down an alley. We see that the gate at the end has been smashed open and the lock is broken.  Policeman 1

” Damn, looks like he got away by smashing the lock an breaking through this gate”

Really Einstein? Thanks for that I didn’t realise from the really obvious smashed lock and gate. What a waste of dialogue.

Why not instead just have the character look at the gate and then kick it in frustration. We learn so much about the character then just from his temperament.Use the dialogue on something else. Something we can’t see or something we really need to know that can’t just be shown.

Interesting side note.  Body language says so much more about a persons feelings then what they say.  This is where subtext is excellent.  For example someone when asked if their ok says  “I’m fine” when they’ve got their arms crossed.  It’s obvious they’re not fine but if we went with just what they said then in theory they are.

And just to demonstrate the power of body language. How many times have you walked into the room where another close relative is and without even seeing their face you can tell they’re not in a good mood.  They’re probably not even doing anything obvious to suggest they’re angry, like throwing dishes across the room.  It’s lightly to be something really subtle, like their stance, or the speed in which they pick up a dish cloth. But you know that person so well that you can read them without seeing their face.

That’s the power of body language. It’s also a great way to know when someone is lying.

And so back on topic that’s really my main concerns when writing a script. I do always try to be original in some way but obviously what ever you write you can guarantee a film will of done it someway before.

I also like my twists at the end.  But one thing I usually always try to do is have some sort of loop to the whole thing. So that it comes full circle.  You end kind of where you began.

Obviously this is just an overview and there is a hell of lot more you would have to do if you were writing a professional script. But I feel as long as you keep these point in mind you’re be in a good position in producing a story that can draw the audience in.

Till next time!

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