SimplyScripts.Com Logo

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Bad SF Can Teach Us About Writing Screenplay Description – Repost from CHIPSTREET - posted by wonkavite

What Bad SF Can Teach Us About Writing Screenplay Description

You wanna write screenplays?  Seriously?  Hopefully for a living?  Well, one thing you’ve got to do is perfect your art. Write. Rewrite.  And keep plugging away… nonstop. Keep polishing your craft until it shines!

…and be open to lessons learned from those who’ve been in the trenches, and blazed the same trail that you seek.  STS is happy to be reposting a series of articles from ChipStreet.  Folks, this is a terrific website – we recommend that you check it out in more depth!  (Original article available here: http://chipstreet.com/2011/06/24/what-bad-science-fiction-can-teach-us-about-writing-screenplay-description/)

About Chip: Chip Street is an IMDB credited indie screenwriter, director, and art director. His short films have screened at festivals, and his feature screenplays have been optioned and sold. He is a screenplay analyst, competition finalist, screenplay judge for a major industry competition, screener for an International film festival, founder of Write Club Screenplay Challenge, and a respected blogger on the art and business of screenwriting. He’s been published or cited by The BlueCat Competition Newsletter, Script Magazine, JohnAugust.com, Bleeding Cool, NoFilmSchool, ScriptTips and IndieWire.com.

*******

What bad science fiction can teach us about writing screenplay description

Originally posted on June 24, 2011 by Chip Street

Why too much detail destroys screenplay description – and pisses readers off

I just finished slogging my way through another script as a judge for a screenplay competition.

Yes, slogging. It was painful. It was boring. Frankly, I couldn’t finish it. I gave it a “pass”.

Because the writer gave me too much description.

Exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop

The screenwriter told us just how many steps a character took to cross a room (11), whether the couch was on the right or the left of the doorway (left), how many seconds a dog barked (5), and precisely how much space is between the lights in an alleyway (30 meters). I learned that the kitchen table is rectangular, and how big it is (approximately 33 inches by 60 inches).

I wanted to shoot myself in the head. For the record, this is not how you want to make your reader feel.

Perhaps because this was a sci-fi script, the writer fell victim to the classic hyperspecificity of Golden Age authors like Arthur Clarke (whose penchant for detailing the precise number of rivets in a spaceship might make for good geekery, but doesn’t make for good Literature [opinion] or screenwriting [fact]).

But consider this: even between the covers of a sci-fi bestseller, there’s such a thing as too many words. Too much specific description. Too much time spent on details that are not story critical, and that actually disrupt the rhythm and pacing of the read.

The Larry Niven reference

Once, many years ago, I had brunch with acclaimed sci-fi writer Larry Niven, and he shared a story about the writing of the bestseller Ringworld. He said that he spent days writing about a detailed and lavish banquet. Every exotic food, roasted creature, colorful fruit, bizarre drink, strange and alien utensil. He loved it, and was so proud of it.

Then he turned it over to his sometime writing partner Jerry Pournelle for some honest feedback. Jerry, he said, was a ruthless editor. Jerry reduced the scene down to two words:

 They ate.

Larry laughed. He said Jerry was right. He didn’t need it. He had to kill his baby.

But I see the movie in my head

I know, I know. The writer saw the movie in her head and needed to share it. Every moment was crystal, the dramatic void of silence as the protagonist thoughtfully crossed the room was critical to pacing and mood. I get that.

I get why the lights were 30 meters apart, I do … because that vision of a black alleyway punctuated with pools of yellow light was mysterious.

So say that. In that minimalist syllable-counting haiku that is (or should be) screenwriting. In the way that makes every word count. In a way that’s artful. In a way that doesn’t suck the life out of it, and devolve into a soul-less mechanical blueprint for the set designer.

In a way that doesn’t make the reader (and that’s your audience) roll his eyes and shut your script on page four after you’ve pulled him out of the story because you can’t get to the fucking point.

And no, it won’t be easy. That’s why not just anyone can do this. As I said in Writing Screenplay Description with Personal Style:

… it’s a tricky balance… Style (with a capital “S”) can’t supersede the screenwriting tenet of direct simplicity. It’s an interesting challenge, to introduce enough of your Style to create a personal voice, while avoiding the hyper-specificity of extraneous detail that slows down the real-time pace, and readers hate.

It’s not your job

Here’s what you need to know, young newbie. It’s not your job to design the sets. It’s not your job to costume the talent, or do their hair.

It’s not your job to choose camera angles, or block the action.

It’s not your job to direct.

Yes, sometimes, it is story critical to drop in a hyper-specific detail like “the couch was on the left”. If you’re writing Memento, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Run, Lola, Run, those details may resurface, and make themselves important to the story.

But as a reader, let me say this: If you specify that the couch is on the left, or that he takes 11 steps across the room, or the dog barks for 5 seconds, those details damn well better be story points. ‘Cuz I’m going to be waiting for them to justify themselves in some important way.

And they better.

But I like to write all that description

I got the feeling, reading this painful script, that maybe what the writer really wanted to do was write a sci-fi novel.

Then write a novel. Seriously. Maybe that’s what you excel at … maybe that’s what really stokes your creative embers. Maybe sorting out and displaying all those fabulous details, all that texture, is the language of your art. And good for you, dammit. Go forth and do it. Between the covers of a book.

But remember Larry’s story … remember that even there, less can indeed be more.

BY THE WAY: I am compelled to assure you, dear reader, that I did not actually lift any lines verbatim from the script. I paraphrased, to create a representative example. No inappropriate plagiarism to see here. Move along.

 

 

 

 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ashley – screenplay - posted by Don

Thanks Domenic Migliore for the heads up on his script, Ashley (originally Sprawl). You can watch the film directed by Dean Matthew Ronalds on Amazon Instant Video.*

Ashley – October 11, 2011 final draft script by Domenic Migliore – hosted by: Scribd – in pdf format

A teenage girl, distraught from her vain attempt to connect with her estranged mother, resorts to cutting herself. When she develops an online relationship with an older woman, she learns to accept her sexuality and the endless solitude of sprawling suburbia.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

*I fixed the broken link.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Movie Poet Contest Winners - posted by Don

You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Deathlife – Short Script Webisode for Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Deathlife

A zombie Iraq War veteran and his band of misfits cope with their decaying bodies as they hunt for unaffected survivors of a worldwide plague in a desperate effort to reverse their fate.

It’s often said there are no new ideas under the sun. Or in Hollywood, at least. Nope, just the same old stories, again and again. A never ending go ‘round of recycled monsters. Sad and wrinkled. Past their prime. Not to mention the parade of cliché concepts and characters. In the horror genre, it’s particularly bad. How many times can one see demon possessions, vampires and living dead lurch across the screen – before there’s nothing left to say?

Yet, sometimes a script surprises you. Imbuing fresh blood into an old, rotting idea. The sub-genre in this case is – if you haven’t guessed – Zombies. With his webisode series Deathlife, writer Rob Barkan’s given it a whole new spin.

In the pilot episode, we meet Iraqi war veteran Sol, accompanied by a weary band of survivors. Yes indeedy: the Zombie Apocalypse has arrived. Pretty cliché stuff, right? We’ve seen this before. Or have we? There’s just one tiny detail. Sol and his friends are the Walking Dead. And not in any figurative way. They’re corpses. On the other side. But don’t starting grumbling Dead Like Me. Cause there’s yet another twist in store. These zombies are intelligent. Sane. Acutely aware – trapped inside putrifying, rotted shells. In this zombie world, society has still collapsed. But it’s the zombies that have been forced to flee – the ultimate in social outcasts. They’re just trying to hold themselves together – literally – while seeking a cure to save their “lives.”

As is his daily routine, Sol leads a team of armed zombies into the woods in search of food (venison, not people!). His biologist zombie girlfriend Kate is on the hunt as well. For uninfected human blood. She needs several vials for medical experiments. Needless to say, there are no volunteers.

The group stumble across a mansion. Well lit, with generators. And scores of amenities. That fact’s suspicious enough. But it gets even more dubious when a truck pulls up to the door. With a struggling Warmblood (human) hostage inside.

Sol and his team zero in to investigate. It’s search – and possibly rescue. But will what they discover be too horrific to stand? Even for the Living Dead?

An honestly fresh take on the zombie genre, Deathlife’s a shock of fresh air. You like zombies, and want to make your directorial mark? Then get your FX team assembled – stat. Deathlife’s your ticket to something unique!

About the writer: A writer from the tender age of seven, Rob Barkan has had already seen publication with several of his prose horror and fantasy tales. Like Deathlife and want to find out more? Email him at robbybarkan “AT” yahoo!

Pages: 14

Budget: Not too low. You really want to do this right. It doesn’t have to be AMC level – but decent FX are a must!

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best Adapted and Best Original Screenplays - posted by Don

Best Adapted Screenplay (and best acceptance speech) – Graham Moore

The Imitation Game – undated, unspecified draft script by Graham Moore (based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges) – hosted by: The Weinstein Company – in pdf format

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

Best Original ScreenplayAlejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo
Birdman – undated, unspecified draft script by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo – hosted by: Fox Searchlight – in pdf format

Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called “The Birdman” had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new retelling of a classic Broadway dramatic play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs – a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the opening night …

Information courtesy of imdb.com

If course, read other Nominated Screenplays.

2015 Oscar Nominated Screenplays - posted by Don

Final WB has come through and posted Inherent Vice and American Sniper.

Below are the scripts to the nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay posted by the studios. All scripts posted by the studios for award consideration can be found here.

Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – undated, unspecified draft by Jason Hall (based on the book by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) – hosted by: Warner Bros – in pdf format

The Imitation Game – undated, unspecified draft script by Graham Moore (based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges) – hosted by: The Weinstein Company – in pdf format

Inherent Vice – August 7, 2013 final shooting draft script by Paul Thomas Anderson (based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon – hosted by: Warner Bros – in pdf format

The Theory of Everything – November 2013, shooting script script by Anthony McCarten – hosted by: FocusGuilds – in pdf format

Whiplash – undated, unspecified draft script by Damien Chazelle – hosted by: Sony Classics – in pdf format

Original Screenplay

Birdman – undated, unspecified draft script by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo – hosted by: Fox Searchlight – in pdf format

Boyhood – undated, unspecified draft script by Richard Linklater – hosted by: IFC Films – in pdf format

Foxcatcher – undated, unspecified draft script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Story by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman and Bennett Miller) – hosted by: Sony Classics – in pdf format

The Grand Budapest Hotel – undated, unspecified draft script by Wes Anderson (story by Wes Anderson and Gugo guinness) – hosted by: Fox Searchlight – in pdf format

Nightcrawler – November 27, 2012 unspecified draft script by Dan Gilroy – hosted by: The Wrap – in pdf format

– Don

Friday, February 13, 2015

Blue Pencil – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Blue Pencil

A man receives a phone call informing him he’s booked for termination in five minutes.

Jupiter Ascending. Interstellar. Oblivion. SF films these days are all FX. Given the miracles of CGI these days, it’s easy to forget what’s important. Sure, good visuals can take your breath away. But that doesn’t make a story memorable. You want an SF script to shine? Take characters your audience empathizes with, toss in a seat-of-your-pants emergency. Add a dash of satiric humor. Then mix your ingredients thoroughly…

Take Blue Pencil, for example. Living in the not-so-distant future, Tom Klane’s your average sort of Joe. A journalist by trade, he researches stories on his tablet. Cooks up pasta primevara for his friends (with the help of a talking smart oven.) Everything’s pretty normal. Until his tablet rings….

…the caller’s Jessica, from Blue Pencil. A termination company. Yeah, you read that right. A voluntary euthanasia service.

Jessica’s calling to give Tom his five minute warning. He’s booked for a killin’ at 3pm. But Tom won’t have to wait long. The Terminators will be on site shortly…

There’s just one teeny, tiny problem. Tom didn’t book an appointment. And he definitely doesn’t want to die!

Make that two problems. Because Blue Pencil doesn’t do last-minute cancellations. Tom’s missed his window of opportunity. And possibly his last change at life.

Needless to say, Tom panics. Jessica’s got to do something! Though she hates breaking protocol, a reluctant Jessica hits upon a plan. She talks a hyperventilating Tom through his paces, sneaks him out the back door. But running away’s no option: Tom’s got to evade his assassins, stall for time, and trigger BP’s systems into recall…

Which is far easier said than done. Especially with two killers at your door….

Will Tom escape termination? Or is his Primevara doomed to get ice cold? Bathed in bureaucratic satire, BP is an SF thriller worth the read. But hurry up. The clock’s ticking!!

About the writer: Eugene Brennan is from Kilkenny, Ireland. His stories have been published in Nebula Rift, From the Depths, Flash Fiction Magazine, and 365tomorrows. He’s available at eubrennan “AT” hotmail!

Pages: 10

Budget: Relatively low. One house setting, a tablet and a van (spend a few extra bucks, and get a snazzy Blue Pencil logo!)

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Shout out to Tommy Draper - posted by Don

Shout out to Tommy Draper who was recently interviewed by Neil Oseman about his recent projects (recent as of 2012). One of those recent projects was Pro Kopf where he was the screenwriter.

Tommy has been a member of the discussion board for over ten years and sometimes I lose track of successes. Check out Tommy’s Facebook page and his web site.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Oscar Nominations - posted by Don

The 2015 Oscar Nominations are out. Below are the scripts to the nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. All scripts posted by the studios for award consideration can be found here.

Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper – undated, unspecified draft by Jason Hall (based on the book by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) – hosted by: Warner Bros – in pdf format

The Imitation Game – undated, unspecified draft script by Graham Moore (based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges) – hosted by: The Weinstein Company – in pdf format

Inherent Vice – August 7, 2013 final shooting draft script by Paul Thomas Anderson (based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon – hosted by: Warner Bros – in pdf format

The Theory of Everything – November 2013, shooting script script by Anthony McCarten – hosted by: FocusGuilds – in pdf format

Whiplash – undated, unspecified draft script by Damien Chazelle – hosted by: Sony Classics – in pdf format

Original Screenplay

Birdman – undated, unspecified draft script by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo – hosted by: Fox Searchlight – in pdf format

Boyhood – undated, unspecified draft script by Richard Linklater – hosted by: IFC Films – in pdf format

Foxcatcher – undated, unspecified draft script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman (Story by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman and Bennett Miller) – hosted by: Sony Classics – in pdf format

The Grand Budapest Hotel – undated, unspecified draft script by Wes Anderson (story by Wes Anderson and Gugo guinness) – hosted by: Fox Searchlight – in pdf format

Nightcrawler – November 27, 2012 unspecified draft script by Dan Gilroy – hosted by: The Wrap – in pdf format

*I don’t think this is studio hosted. Found through http://scridx.com/.

– Don

Search with Google

    Google
    Web SimplyScripts

Award Season Screenplays

Featured SimplyScripts Blogs


ScriptSearch

Advertisement

More Navigation

Latest Entries

Categories

Script of the Day
April 28, 2015

Award Season Screenplays

Advertisement

Donate

Advertisement



Writers I dig

Advertisement

Search Amazon

Search Sheet Music

Search All Posters

SimplyScripts Newsletter

    Subscribe to the SimplyScripts Newsletter