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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Life Is Just A Series Of Facebook Events, But Your Screenplay Can't be.

"Remember the time you drove all night
Just to meet me in the morning
And I thought it was strange you said everything changed
You felt as if you'd just woke up"
-Bright Eyes.


Life is basically just a bunch of appointments and Facebook events. You leave the house at 7am, you go to work. You have a 39 minute lunch break, you go to the doctors, then you go and meet your friend for a quick drink which ends sooner than it should because you need to be home to watch that thing on TV, then you go to bed because you have to be up at 7am.

When we write in this manner - it really kills our screenplays. Often when you're writing, you dream ahead in obvious, logical ways. For example, your characters are sitting in their apartment, and you need to get to the office scene. So after the INT. HOME scene, you have the EXT. HOME scene, followed by the INT./EXT. CAR scene, followed by the INT. OFFICE scene. It's logical. It's how life is. It's also very boring.

If you find yourself writing in this logical way, it's time to close the laptop and dream a bit further. Unless your story is about the mundanity of life, then it's important, I feel, to go in a different direction.

Don't write about the time you met a friend to go see a movie, don't write about two guys walking into a meeting, don't write about two stoners sitting playing Xbox. That might be a part of your life - but it's not the part of your life that is interesting.

Write about the time you showed a girl a part of her neighborhood she's never seen before. Write about the time you turned up at your friend's house at 4am to deliver a birthday cake, write about the time your girlfriend accidentally dropped a kitchen knife on your foot (okay, maybe that wasn't an accident), write about the time you stayed up all night singing songs with strangers, write about the time you stole something, ran from something, changed something.

Now, what is it which makes a scene interesting? If you see a man coming through a doorway, it means nothing. If you see him coming through a window - that is at once interesting.
-Billy Wilder.

If you have a scene where two friends are meeting by a parked car, you may be tempted to write this scene.

EXT. CAR
Katharine sees Will, standing by the car.

KATHARINE
Hey.

WILL
Hey.

KATHARINE
You ready to go?

WILL
Sure. If the car is working.

But by taking an extra nine seconds to think about the scene-- you can do it in a more original, and interesting way.

EXT. CAR
Katharine arrives. Will is nowhere to be scene.

WILL (O.S.)
I'm here.

Katharine looks around.

KATHARINE
Will?

WILL
I'm under the car.

KATHARINE
Why?

WILL
Trying to fix it.

KATHARINE
You don't know anything about cars.

WILL
I just snapped something.

Katharine looks around, panicked.

KATHARINE
Hold on, Will, this isn't even your car!

Or something else:

EXT. STREET - DAY
Katharine storms into view and throws her hands up in the air.

KATHARINE
Where is the car?

WILL
I thought we were going by bicycle?

KATHARINE
No.

WILL
Oh.

KATHARINE
You don't even have a bicycle.

WILL
I thought you would bring them.

Life is mostly boring. We meet our friends for coffee, we talk about our struggles, and then get home safely in time to watch our favorite TV shows. This is life. BAD writers write about this; lots of hispter people sitting around coffee houses talking. You know you're having a bad day when these are the scenes you are writing.

Instead, have the characters sitting on trees, making fires in the forest, making fires on 5th Avenue, have them dancing in offices, have them doing paperwork during dance class; do something different. It can still be realistic. Realism in film isn't about having characters who are home for dinner at 6pm. It's about having characters eat their dinner at 8am in the morning and having the audience believe that they would.

Care to share?

5 comments:

  1. This was entertaining to read and certainly true. :-)

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  2. This is some incredible insight, and definitely something I need to take note of. I do sometimes notice myself writing these mundane scenes.

    Your last sentence is brilliant - really makes me look at realism in a different, more complete way.

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  3. What a Gem of a post Kid :)

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  4. great words of wisdom; however, some of my favorite films/movies are of dullness (Coffee and Cigarettes, for instance)...

    however, I'm sure the script was written much different from just "brother and sister sit at table"

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  5. P.S. You're awesome too! :)

    ReplyDelete