Friday, February 22, 2008

Questions...

I'm sure you all have questions...

And I'm looking for questions...

Questions about the *writing* of screenplays. (Craft oriented - not business oriented.)

I'm preparing some new articles for Script Magazine and preparing to fill in some new script tips - and I need to know what YOU want to know.

Ask them in the comments section. Or suggest articles or Script Tip subjects.

- Bill

45 comments:

Zane said...

Do B-movies tend to be more producer-driven? (i.e., producer says "here's the idea, write what I tell you") Or, are a lot of B-movies made from spec scripts?

Or is there a lot of both?

Anonymous said...

Is there a demand for screenwriters in other markets such as New York and Vancouver? What kind of hassles are involved with selling screenplays to foreign productions?

Jacks said...

SCRIPT SECRETS: NEW YORK - 2008

Is there more information available?

Such as, *when* in 2008, and *where* in New York?

Richard McNally said...

Bill,

I'm so accustomed to receiving from you that I'm kind of stunned and speechless to be asked to give something back ... let me think for a minute ... hmmmn ... drawing a blank here ... okay, what is the advantage, if any, of working on multiple scripts simultaneously? ... how does one avoid having one's creative spirit drowned and killed by doing research? ... how long should one allow a first draft to age before starting the rewrite ? Is it better to start a new script immediately and finish it before turning to the rewrite of the first? (which I think I would find it impossible to do) ... How many rewrites should one do before shopping a script? ... What's the best way to deal with the vacuum of ideas that follows upon completing a screenplay? How does one get out from under the spell that one will never write again? How does one get out from under the spell of the deep emotions associated with a completed screenplay? (Unknown Screenwriter quoted Capote as saying that finishing a work of art "is like taking a young child out into the backyard and killing it.") ... Is it truly necessary to live in L.A. or New York to be able to option or sell a screenplay? ...

Hope these are of some use.

Anonymous said...

DENNY MARTIN FLINN wrote:
How *not* To Write A Screenplay!

Can you give us some reasons *WHY NOT* To Write A Screenplay?

I'll start:

1. How to write a Feature Film Script is *elusive*. Unless (of course) you are a glutton for continuous mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical pain…

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.


And please don’t just blow me off. I ask in all sincerity. I think writers should be warned. That it’s not simply about,
it not being easy…

I seriously think that you have to have a certain *something* to remain standing after just researching your characters for a screenplay that you intend to write.

Seriously?

wcmartell said...

I'm looking for craft oriented questions, so I just ammended the blog to say that...

But I'm still going to answer these questions - and some of those answers may end up in Script Tips...

1) Most B movies are producer driven. Though I've sold a fair number of specs that got made, and almost everything else was from my pitch (based on their needs), most of these films start out with some producer's lame idea. There are a couple of companies I've met with that want to hire me to script their ideas - and the ideas are usually dopey and don't makes sense. I usually end up scratching my head and politely saying no.

2) I honestly don't know about NY and Vancouver - I can oly go by the movies that come out of those places and make a guess. The *business* is in LA, so NY ends up being primarily indie stuff - and most ofthose seem to be written-directed-produced by the same person (Spike Lee, I guess not Woody any more, Kevin Smith). Vancouver makes Canadian movies, so if you're Canadian, you may have a chance, there. Most foreign countries need to buy scripts written by people from their country - because funding comes from arts funds or lottery funds that are set up to promote local film talent. The *other* kind of foreign companies make mainstream commercial films - and it's the same as anything else. They probably favor writers from their own country, though.

3) I am a complete screw up - over the holidays I was going to work out the LA & NY classes, and just didn't get around to it. I've got to get off my butt and get those things set up!

Next set in another post.

- Bill

Samuel said...

Any, er tricks, to build up suspense? Is there a rule of thumb to balance the frequency of the comic relief of the approach of an ominous shadow that turns out to be a kitty with the slightly less frequent surprise slice that reduces the band of kids by one nasty jock in that uniquely gruesome method and, oh by the way, is there anyplace in a screenplay for run on sentences as I seem to have a problem with that too.

Anonymous said...

I read "ALTITUDE". I was busy with other things (as I read)...until I got to page 63...and then it was on.

The other things were put aside, until FADE OUT...FADE IN

"ALTITUDE". An excellent read!

However, I am left with some questions.

wcmartell said...

Crap - I have no idea what happens in that script - it was ages ago. I did a post 9-11 rewrite, and added a new opening (getting rid of an opening scene I used in a couple of tips). Now I'll have to re-read it.

And - where are the questions?

- Bill

PS: Everyone who reads this has permission to read and hate my scripts, and even point out my awful writing if they want. I am a mere mortal.

wcmartell said...

Hey - I linked the old version! Without the new opening scene.

Forgot in the post 9-11 rewrite that I had Bolt quote the Koran to the terrorist's face.

- Bill

wcmartell said...

Have I ever said it was easy?

2. It's almost impossible to sell a script. There are around half a million scripts in circulation ever year, and a couple hundred films made.

3. Oh, and once you sell or option a script - almost impossible to get it made.

4. And once they make it, they screw it up so bad it doesn't resemble what you wrote.

5. And critics will blaim *you* for all of the bad parts, even though all of that stuff was their stupid rewrite.

6. And, as I've said before, if you were to just focus on a day job and work really hard - you'll probably make about as much (if not more) than you will writing scripts. With less hassle and more peace of mind.

7. David E. Kelley is the exception that proves really hot actors/actresses do not sleep with screenwriters.

8. The minute you sell a script and they completely ruin it, someone comes out of the woodwork saying they would have bought it and made it as written.

9. But if you sell a script for less money to someone who says they won't change a word - when they are done they will point out that *one* word they didn't change.

That should have been a blog entry!

- Bill

Anonymous said...

I liked ALTITUDE. I liked it very much.

QUESTIONS:
1. Why wasn’t Bolt stronger? Such potential…IMO.
2. Why did he (Bolt) talk so much? It was SO obvious that Tabbat was the one.
3. The threat to the White House…brilliance left to be sucked out of the hole in the 727. Why?

Who am I? (I’ll answer that)

I’m just someone who loves to tell stories. Always. Always the storyteller.

I think that ALTITUDE has DIEHARD potential…with some rewrites from a master.


-imho

Anonymous said...

Questions:
How to get the most 'juice' out of the scenes as you're fond of say?

How to avoid making a script too episodic?
Keeping it a page turner?

How to increase the tension and how to adjust the pacing properly?

How to deal with a script where the antagonist isn't another person? (inner conflict, conflict with society, etc) (Not just a straight action film)

How detailed should an outline be? Does everything need to be defined in detail? How much flexibility should you allow yourself and the characters in the actual writing?

How to make a character fully dimensional?
How to avoid the characters sounding the same?

Any guidelines on subplots and weaving them in?

Leif said...

How do you add a romantic storyline, or comedic sidekick, into a script you've written that doesn't already have one? I'd imagine this is something that may occur at the behest of a producer or director?

wcmartell said...

http://www.scriptsecrets.net/screenplays/altitude-revised.pdf

1) Bolt stronger - physically or character? The revised opening may help that - the idea was to have him be completely screwed over when the story starts. And, part of the deal was that this script was written as a low budget thing, wrapped around a 727 I had access to. So, imagine the acting range of Michael Dudikoff...

2) He's trying to organize the passangers - got to tell them what you want them to do.

3) Don't understand that question - but the story isn't about nuking the White House - it has to twist and evolve.

***

And some good craft questions! Cool.

Just to throw out one answer: you need a *phsyical conflict* in a movie - something we can see. I have a tip on this somewhere - if you have man vs. society, you need to "put a face" on society - create a person why symbolizes the problem.

In BOUND FOR GLORY, there are two big problems Guthrie has to deal with: Poverty and "The Man". So we have various people who put a face on the poverty thing - from the Minister who won't even give him a piece of bread, to the farm work crew guys who hire a handful of people and let the others starve.. and the anti-union goons who beat them up for asking for a living wage. "The Man" is society's rules - I don't know, maybe conformity. And there are two faces for that - when he's hitch hiking, a car driver makes rules for him as a passenger, and he walks. But the main version of The Man is the station manager at the radio station where he sings who wants complete approval over what he sings, wants him to submot a list a week in advenace, and doesn't want him to sing anything that might piss off the advertizers - this guy is chewing out Guthrie in almost every scene (conflict we can see). You have to find the way to turn everything into conflict we can see - physical conflict. Usually you find a character who symbolizes the larger problem.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

**1) Bolt stronger - physically or character? The revised opening may help that - the idea was to have him be completely screwed over when the story starts. And, part of the deal was that this script was written as a low budget thing, wrapped around a 727 I had access to. So, imagine the acting range of Michael Dudikoff...**


I need to see him in CRASH DIVE or BLACK THUNDER. Based on the little that I have seen of Dudikoff, I think he could pull it off (BOLT).


**2) He's trying to organize the passangers - got to tell them what you want them to do.**


Absolutely!

But I'm talking about page 52 (ie, Maybe there is.)


**3) Don't understand that question - but the story isn't about nuking the White House - it has to twist and evolve.**


I guess I just love the political/thriller.

I was seeing ALTITUDE 2.

FADE IN
Lisa at the White House receiving a Medal of Honor.

Anonymous said...

**If your protagonist suddenly develops a wife and child on page 30, the audience is going to wonder where the heck they came from. It’s like you just created them, instead of like they were there all along. You want to give the audience as much information about your protagonist as you can right away, so that you can jump into the story.**



Yes, but in keeping it real...don't we sometimes get blind-sided in our real lives.

Let's say you get an email that says "GOODBYE." Just out of the blue.

Is there a way to make that suddenly happen to your character? And then show how he reacts to it?

I bet it could be quite funny. Not to your protag...

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

"You want to give the audience as much information about your protagonist as you can right away, so that you can jump into the story."

Shouldn't you spool out the information as needed to keep some things a mystery and avoid a full information dump at the start? In the example you probably want to provide a hint of the information (wife and daughter) before their major arrival but it seems like learning more about the main character over the course of the movie is more interesting. Your story should probably dictate what to reveal and when to provide the desired effect.

J.J. said...

SCRAWL or TITLE CARDS:

-How/When should you use them?
-Do you put them in all CAPS?
-Is it even called "Scrawl" or is it "SUPER"???

So, if you have a script in the Old West would you write:

SCRAWL: New Mexico Territory, 1861

or

TITLE: New Mexico Territory, 1861

or just-

NEW MEXICO TERRITORY, 1861

Looked around online but can't find any real answers...

Thanks!

triple_A said...

Why don't you advertise your BLUEBOOK SERIES more?

Why don't you (at the very least) post some excerpts on your site?

Don't get me wrong...the SCRIPT TIPS are great!!!!!!

however

I lobby for EXCERPTS FROM THE BLUEBOOKS!!!!!!

question:
Not?

-Miss Action & Adventure

Martin B said...

I'm on my second script which is petering out because the protagonist doesn't have enough "oomph." The secondary characters are more interesting and forceful. I presume it's because the protags are based on myself and I'm rather a passive type. Any ideas on how to avoid this happening in the first place, or should I just continue with a tame protag and try and boost his voltage in the rewrites?

Martin B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
triple_a said...

Do we need an antagonist? Yes!


What if I have…3 antagonists?


***************

MY POOR HERO?

By

Miss Action & Adventure

****************


Just a little jokey joke. But I am serious about
The multiple antag.


**
What if:
There is a Social Group that starts problems for a male
Character. Then there is a Racial group that joins the Social
Group in creating more problems for this male character.

My Hero, gets fed up with this and takes action…to get these
Groups of people off of this male characters back (the male character
Has no legs. He loses them on about page 6 or 7.)

In her(o) quest to fight this group off, she begins an investigation to get information, that will clear this male character of the wrong he is
being accused of.

Her search leads her to the state penitentiary. Her search becomes a flashlight on the dark deals made by...a Warden-turned-Governor-turned-wannabe a Presidential Candidate.

This Candidate’s Political team wants to keep her from obtaining this information.

QUESTION:
3 antagonists?

Anonymous said...

*Martin B said...
I'm on my second script which is petering out because the protagonist doesn't have enough "oomph." The secondary characters are more interesting and forceful. I presume it's because the protags are based on myself and I'm rather a passive type. Any ideas on how to avoid this happening in the first place, or should I just continue with a tame protag and try and boost his voltage in the rewrites?*

BLUEBOOK says:
"The dominant conflict will usually be whatever is most difficult for your protagonist...Contrast is the key to choosing which conflict will dominate Act Two."

QUESTION:
In the case of the passive character mentioned in Martin's comment above...would PHYSICAL conflict help?

Anonymous said...

**That means you need to find one scene that gives us as much information as possible... in an emotional situation. Screenwriting is *condensed* writing, so we are looking for a scene that does many different things at once and gives us the most information in the fewest number of pages. If your protagonist suddenly develops a wife and child on page 30, the audience is going to wonder where the heck they came from. It’s like you just created them, instead of like they were there all along. You want to give the audience as much information about your protagonist as you can right away, so that you can jump into the story.

Make sure your characters, even the minor ones, have more than one side to them, and that there's a deeper motivation at their core. A cliche character is one that is all surface - all good or bad. We want characters in our screenplays that are real people. Believable. That makes our stories more believable.**


I lucked upon (I pray it’s luck) a “core deep motivation” from my protagonist. It just surfaced “out of the blue”. One of those moments when she just blurts out that…”she’s to blame for ALL THIS.”

And EVERYONE is shocked, because she wasn’t even born when ALL THIS happened.

But because her Mother was pregnant when ALL THIS happened, deep inside of her, she feels that the little *fetus* could have kicked up a storm and helped her Dad fight so that her Mother wouldn’t have been killed and her Dad wouldn’t have lost his legs.

Silly right? But real people have silly thoughts, correct? But do REEL thoughts just pop-up out of the blue like that? Seriously?

oasis said...

What did you think of Hoosiers?

Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper...?

Anonymous said...

Do you have a character database?
I've been reading Egri's Art of Dramatic Writing, and he basically says that a writer will never write a good story if s/he doesn't start from the character. That is, character first, then theme, then plot. The reason for that order is that characters are defined by one characteristic that becomes the one thing around which the story turns, i.e., the theme, which in turn suggests the plot, mood, etc.
That sounds pretty good to me, but my question is that as well as keeping a database of plots, situations, and concepts, should we also be keeping one on characters. So many times I see characters analyzed to abstraction, or composed from lists of traits. Wouldn't it be easier to develop the character first, then find the perfect situation for that character?

steverino

Anonymous said...

QUESTIONS...Or suggest articles or Script Tip subjects.

****

The Rom Com-mon denominator

"When two people fall in love while attempting to accomplish common or conflicting tasks, you have a memorable story. Story first. Romance second. Simple."
TED ELLIOT



In my story, my hero and love interest know each other before the story begins. The CONFLICTING TASK brings them...close, closer, then they break up, make up, and get engaged.

Would you consider preparing an article on THE ROM COM-MON DENOMINATOR?

Also, are back issues of Script Magazine, readily available?

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot about the importance of having multidimensional (i.e., non-stereotypical) characters. But realistically, how does a writer make a character multidimensional and non-stereotypical? I need more than a list of character traits! And how can a writer tell if they've truly created this type of character?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

****I've read a lot about the importance of having multidimensional (i.e., non-stereotypical) characters. But realistically, how does a writer make a character multidimensional and non-stereotypical? I need more than a list of character traits! And how can a writer tell if they've truly created this type of character?****anon 6:19 a.m.


EXCELLENT QUESTION!!!!
Now when do we get some ANSWERS?

Richard McNally said...

Bill,

LOL re producer who says he won't change one word of the script, then changes everything and points out the one word s/he didn't change.

wcmartell said...

Hmm, I see some character articles in my future...

- Bill

MacDaffy said...

First of all, Bill, thanks for the site and for all the help, encouragement, and advice you give to fellow screenwriters. I think that your generosity will be at least as considerable a legacy as your films.

I'm writing an action-thriller with a character who's like Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock's North-By-Northwest: The bad guy is after him with a vengeance because of what the hero thought was an innocuous act: In this case, taking in a battered woman.

The hero is--of necessity--reactive until he can get his feet under him and start striking back. Is it character that sustains us through that initial shakedown phase (prime example being John McClane in Die Hard)? Any tips on pacing a script like that?

Thanks again.

ObiDonWan said...

I love stories about congames, from THE STING on up. But I've never participated in one and don't know how to do one myself. Yet, a thought occurred. It's difficult as hell to sell a script. But maybe a really good couple of conmen could make a setup that would almost force a producer to buy a script.

Any thoughts on that?

Richard McNally said...

Highly informative ScriptSecret today: LOL re creating a script from a board game or a dating guide, and your "tears" over a Newsweek story about a family vacation trip. As Macdaffy says, you will be leaving a fine legacy. (Though it's premature to talk in these terms.)

Anonymous said...

"As Macdaffy says, you will be leaving a fine legacy. (Though it's premature to talk in these terms.)"


I like to study hands...

1. Straight fingers represent a person who is honest, direct, and clear-headed.

2. It is also important to note the way fingers are spaced apart.
3. An independent mind is signified when your little finger stands apart from the ring finger, with a great deal of space between them.
3. An art related life is shown when the ring finger sticks close to the middle finger.
4. If you middle finger and the index finger stick close together, it shows that you will gain authority and rank through your own goals and dreams.
5. If they stand apart, then your position will come from other means. (just googling :)


Almost forgot...

Should we take this "assignment" ...seriously?
If so, is there a deadline?

ObiDonWan said...

Also this about fingers... when the middle (longest) finger stands alone, it signifies an independent and passionate nature. Some screenwriters use this symbolic gesture often, but carefully.

wcmartell said...

So, if you still have suggestions for articles or questions - keep posting them here. What I'm going to do is break it up into bite sized pieces and give some quick answers... then do more in a later script tip or article.

I figure some of you are asking these things because you're stuck on your script - and I don't want to leave you hanging for the months it takes before an article I write pops up in Script.

And Universal Pictures just announced they are making CANDYLAND and MONOPOLY as movies. No joke.

And... I really did cry at that Newsweek story.

- Bill

Anonymous said...

"MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
I wanted to believe they were in love, but never really bought it. In the back of my mind I was worried that it was just infatuation."


I love romantic comedies. I loved MBFGW. I loved the story. Lots of humor. Lots of romance. But like you I didn’t believe they were in love. In the back of my mind I thought…I’ll give it maybe six months. Tops!

QUESTION:
My protagonist falls in love with a computer geek. They’re teens. He subscribes to DISCOVER. She subscribes to ESSENCE.

(to say the least)

They get involved in an investigation…spearheaded by the geek. He even manages to hack into some politicians (stuff? I have to do more research) which spins them into another world.

But they fall in love. Could you believe that a “drop dead gorgeous-hottie” (who is nauseatingly shy) would fall for this goofball of a geek.

Seriously, he looks like GOOFY. But he is the most wonderful, and the sweetest guy you ever want to meet.

Could the adventure, and danger that they face together during their investigation be enough to make you believe? How long does the investigation have to take? Did I say they were both about eighteen? And he also, enlists to go into the Army.

Lot of questions in there. But if my reader doesn’t believe they’re in love…it’s over. Correct?

Anonymous said...

Can a hottie love a geek? Can you show it in the script?
The most recent Mr. Bean movie, which has Bean going on a vacation to southern France, has him in the car with a newly met hottie French girl, an actress.
First, in a previous scene, he rushed in to save her from what he thought was an attack. It wasn't, but she was touched by his effort.
Later, in the car, he is completely geeky, but we can see that she's intrigued because she keeps giving him lingering glances while she drives.

Ah, those lingering glances melted my icy reserve!
-ObiDonWan

Richard McNally said...

Bill,

I liked the term "man-slut" in today's Script Secret and I'm going to pay you the compliment of stealing it. Slang terms rule. I came to tears over a newspaper article once, about a woman who had Alzheimer's whom nobody in the family wanted to visit because they thought it was a waste of time because she didn't seem to recognize anyone, but this one relation kept visiting anyway and during one visit the old woman wrote a word with the crayons she was playing around with--the name of the relation paying the visit.

Anonymous said...

"If a cop is crying at a crime scene, that's just wrong."


WHY? why?

Why can't I stop laughing at that statement?

That really tickles me.


And Bill...I totally understand the emotions when reading the NEWSWEEK story.

What was the story (if you don't mind)? I'd like to read it.

Richard McNally said...

I found the comment about the crying cop LOL too.

COP 1: Are you crying?

CRYING COP (wiping his eyes): It's nothing.

CRYING COP bursts into a spasm of tears.

COP 1: Jesus Christ, what's wrong with you?

CRYING COP (between sobs): It's nothing.

Another spasm of weeping.

. . . . . . .

Bill, you've got a typo in the last
line of today's Script Secret, "an" for "can."

ObiDonWan said...

'crying cop at murder scene'
Rather than make fun of it, maybe there's a reason for a supposedly tough cop to be crying, and that's a plot point that would be fun and intriguing.

Anonymous said...

'crying cop at murder scene'
"Rather than make fun of it, maybe there's a reason for a supposedly tough cop to be crying, and that's a plot point that would be fun and intriguing."


We're not making fun of it...party pooper...

(although, the breakdown of the dialogue is hilarious Richard.)

...Bill is just very funny. So blame him.

QUESTION
What if, the crying cop's teenage daughter was there, dead at the scene.

What if, she was there because she was running an errand that "crying cop's" wife had ask him to do for her...FOR MONTHS?!?!?!?

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