Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fade Out. What now?

So I've just finished a spec. I mean literally, just finished. Or to be more precise, I've just finished the first draft.

Any excuse for a celebration so I'm going to........oh wait, I'm on the waggon at the mo. Dammit. I'll blog instead.

I tend to revise as I write, so I don't expect huge changes to the draft when I revisit it. Which I'll do in a day or two. Because I like a bit of distance before I dive into rewriting. Or polishing. Because assuming I haven't screwed up the concept [not always safe to assume] that polishing can make all the difference.

Here's one thing it is safe to assume, execs will look for reasons to NOT do a spec rather than find ways to make it work. That isn't a complaint. That is the nature of the business when faced with shelves full of spec scripts.

So my polish will be a 'reader' polish. Specifically geared to make it shine off the page as an interesting and exciting READ.

Heresy! I hear some say. Show don't tell. You can't film adjectives. And the rest of those ''rules''

Bollocks.

The name of the game in a spec is getting the idea, story and characters across to the reader in the clearest, fastest, and most interesting way possible.

I've read a few scripts recently that were technically perfect. Format was spot on. Very professional looking in every regard.

And the dullest read imaginable. You could feel the writers looking at their 'How To Write A Blockbuster ' self help tome on every page.
There is economical writing and there is stark to the point of anal. Stark to the point of anal is not what you want in a spec script. Help the reader out. Don't sacrifice clarity on the alter of format. Most of which seems to be propogated by people who don't actually make a living as professional writers.

If it is capable of being acted you can write it.

''Josh smiles, but in his heart of hearts knows it's bullshit.

Josh
Yeah. Sounds good.''

or


Josh
[falsely]
Yeah. Sounds good.

Ignore the literary merits of my dashed-off example. If I were a reader or an actor or a director I know which one I'd prefer to see. Obviously, assuming the spade work has been done previously then you can do the [falsely] example. But , what if it is at the start of the script? Why risk the meaning of the scene in a paranthetical that may or may not be the best use of the 3 words you can fit in? Why not tell what you are going for in clear concise terms? Again, if it can be filmed or acted, you can write it.

A lot of the best moments you seen on screen are implied in the script. Not written as such. But definitely implied.
The first example allows the actor and director to get exactly what they are supposed to be doing at this point. With a confident actor and director, magic might happen.

But most importantly of all for a spec. The reader gets exactly what is going on.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

About time you lazy cunt.

Regards,

Your agent

English Dave said...

It's funny cos it's true lol

Anonymous said...

Think you're totally right. When you read a script first off you're not looking at formatting or how well the writer had adhered to the 'show don't tell rule'. You just want a cracking read.

Slightly off topic; Do you find it more or less difficult to write a spec script than one you've been commissioned to write?

English Dave said...

Anon as far as I'm concerned the only rule in screenwriting is 'Don't be boring'

That applies to commisioned and non commisioned.

Commissioned can mean a whole set of skills different from a writer's normal mentality.

Anonymous said...

Commissioned can mean a whole set of skills different from a writer's normal mentality.

Commissioned I can do. it's the spec script that proves more difficult. I was just wondering how your approach differed between the two.

English Dave said...

Commissioned is about giving them what they want.

Spec is about giving them what you are. And taking the rejection. lol

Shrill, Loudmouth, Nagging B* said...

Just wanted to share my post regarding the strike.

http://www.smarterthanthem.com/2007/11/reluctantly-supporting-wga.html