FILM MAKING Basic Film Script Writing and Story Telling
Film Making Index 1. Basics to Becoming a Film Maker Start with a good story Let's take a meeting Do you have a good eye Turn up the volume A little light on the subject Three point lighting When it's in the can, it's a wrap Time to toot your horn
2. Film Script Writing Basic script formatting Script presentation Formatting directions Formatting screen presentation Formatting dialogue in a foreign language Formatting character details Formatting electronic dialogue Effective narrative description How to Write a Screenplay: Script Example & Screenwriting Tips
3. Storytelling in Script Writing Building your story Conflict in script writing Parallel story lines Story structure Create a captivating scene Perfect plot structure Subplot The three act structure
Act I: the opening The opening scene Act II: the middle Act III: the end Embracing structural limitations Character development Character research Character background Naming your characters The main Character The villain An overview of dialogue Realistic dialogue Subtext: the meaning behind the words Exposition through dialogue Using adversity to develop characters Making a memorable character Giving your character a unique voice Building up a great character Character consistence and when to break it Character relationships Initial character creation Character psychology Avoiding stereotypes in minor characters Hard hitting violence
4. The Idea Factory Improve your creativity hypnosis session Write a movie a month The think tank #1 The think tank #2: Tap into your writing genius The think tank #3: Ten tips on writing and selling a script The think tank #4: Writing exercises Beating writer's block Making time to write High concept Finding stories to turn into a screenplay Express yourself Show Don't tell Choosing the best scriptwriting contest for you
5 Selling Your Script The rewrite Quick exercises to help with rewriting Copyrighting your script Putting the pieces together to sell your script The query letter Finding and working with an agent Market research Teach yourself hypnotic writing The meeting and pitch The long pitch The logline
6 Sample Scripts Ten things I hate about you
1. Basics to Becoming a Film Maker Source: FREE FILM MAKERS E-BOOK!
Learn How to Become a Film Maker This E-book will give you the necessary information in filmmaking that it would take a couple years in college to get. Not to mention hefty tuition fees. Everything you will need to know to get started is in this publication. I give you the benefit of what I have learned over the years. With this information you should be able to get started with a professional looking film. Who needs the studio to make a film when you can do it yourself. This guide contains information on: • • • • • • • •
How to develop a concept. How to write a professional screenplay. How to purchase and operate the camera. How to light your scenes professionally. Audio for your film. Finding a location. How to make a production schedule. A list of equipment you will need.
How to promote your film.
Available at: http://www.filmscriptwriting.com/index.html http://www.master-resale-rights.com/
Start With a Good Story To begin with, in a nutshell, filmmaking is broken down into three parts. Pre-production, Production, and Post-production. Distribution is the last part, way down on the timeline and doesn’t come into play until everything is in the can. However, if you are ever going to get to distribution you will need to spend a great deal of time in the Pre-production phase. There are times when you don’t have that luxury, especially if you are shooting on the fly, but more often than not a film can take years to make. This can keep it in the Pre-production process much longer. If I was to write about filmmaking, and I am (wink), I guess I would have to start with the script, story, or concept. Screenwriting is usually split into three different styles. They are: narrative (linear), nonlinear, and documentary. Narrative stories follow a timeline taking the story from beginning and moving chronologically to the end. Non-linear is the opposite of chronological. An example of a non-linear is the movie “Momento” or “Pulp Fiction”. These directors chopped up time and used time sequencing to throw the viewer off balance. While non-linear has gained popularity, it seems that the narrative film is the more enduring style. It is much more difficult for folks to figure out what is going on in the non-linear format, that may be one of the reasons it is used. The third format would simply be, documentary. This is a real-time reality presentation letting the facts present themselves with little or no direction or editing. Documentary is different from Narrative in that the director works to keep from manipulating the production as little as possible. Narrative film is all about the director manipulating a scene to illicit certain reactions from the viewer, therein lies the difference between the two. Depending on the story you are telling, you will choose the best format to use. While the narrative and linear may have traditional scripting, you may have to refer to an interview script in the documentary format. This may simply be a list of questions to be asked, usually by an off camera interviewer, allowing the subject/talent to drive the dialog. Many times there is no real dialog to script except for the questions an interviewer will ask. Much of documentary film is done by showing up and filming things as they are happening with some narration to explain to the viewer what they are watching. There was a type of documentary films referred to Cinema Veritέ. This means “cinema truth” in French and of course was made popular by the French in the 1950’s. This was done as an effort to remove artifice from film to allow a more truthful depiction of a story. In Veritέ the camera is to be merely set up and turned on. Additionally there is to be as little editing as possible. The theory being that even the act of editing a film is manipulating the true representation of what is really (truthfully) happening. Hey, these guys would have loved Reality TV, but at the time (1950’s) Veritέ was considered cutting edge. So now you need an idea, a concept, an inspiration. If you want to make film you have to have a story 6
or two in you, so if you don’t already have a story itching to get out, then you need to brainstorm. The word brainstorm means that your brain puts out, literally, a storm of energy with all the ideas pouring out like swollen rain gutters. This will happen somewhere after your first cup of coffee on a Sunday morning or in the shower, maybe even on a street corner. You got into the idea of filmmaking because to some extent you must be a creative person. So, I recommend lots of caffeine and your favorite conditions for daydreaming. Your most comfortable chair, and a good computer are always good, but inspiration can come at inconvenient times when you are away from the comfort of your own computer and desk. Always have something to write with and a piece of paper handy in case of the “writing rapture” or sudden inspiration. Another way to handle this is to have a small tape recorder or a voice recognition software. There are several inexpensive MP3 players that play/store music as well as letting you record. These will have a small microphone already in the device. Use this to get your ideas down. When you are in the grocery store or just crossing the street it is a good idea to be able to get it (your inspired ideas) down before it leaks back out of your ear. I swear from the crosswalk to the car I can forget an idea, that is how scattered my brain is. If however, all you are left to write down your ideas with is a purple crayon and an old piece of paper, well then, just go with it. It is always nice to have a partner in the writing process. Actually, it is good to have a partner through the whole production process. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are the most notable partnership that comes to mind. Having each other to bounce ideas off of can make things happen quicker and it is a hell of a lot more fun. Dialog is not done in a vacuum. Someone has to write it and someone has to say it, then someone has to hear it. This is a symbiotic relationship, each part depending on the other, hence the need for a partnership of some sort to use as a sounding board. The most exciting time for me in the whole screenwriting process is to have taken a class in writing screenplays and to have a panel reading in that class. Everyone in the class has to pick a scene from their screenplay and have a panel of people read it aloud to an audience consisting of the rest of the class. All participants in the class have an opportunity to be the author, the actor and the audience each in their own turn. After the reading, each student’s script is discussed. This has got to be one of the best experiences in writing I have ever had especially for writing comedy. In comedy, you know immediately if you’ve got winning dialog just by whether you get the laugh or not. Not everyone can achieve this so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a laugh. That is what your group can help you figure out afterward, this is where the brainstorming comes in. Comedy is difficult to write. You have to have a good sense of timing. It seems with comedy, you either have a gift for it or you don’t.
The trick here is to do these group readings regularly with a line of progression happening in the film writing process. The idea is to have a whole screenplay at the end of it all. It doesn’t matter if it is two people or a whole group of people, but do meet with your partners, meet regularly and do your writing in between. At the end of a few months you will have something to show for your efforts. It’s all in the rewrite. Rewriting will be the Bain of your existence as a writer but you will eventually find out that it is a process that pays off greatly in the end. Additionally, you will want to save your drafts from each rewrite because you may want to refer to them later, so try to keep each version complete. I suggest making files expressly for your different drafts and you may want to keep these and all your writing in a safe place. Make back-up copies on a Thumb drive or disk and keep that in a safe place in case something happens, like your computer crashing. Once you have it on paper, tell your story to you parents, your wife, your kids, your sister or brother, your best friend and just about anybody that knows you intimately. Observe their reactions. If they are negative don’t worry, move onto telling a friend or someone else that may be more objective. Be careful how you tell your story because you are not in the business of giving away your ideas for free however, do tell it or parts of it and see how people react. You do not tell stories or write screenplays in a vacuum. You must want at some level to please the public, therefore you must have some sort of an arena for you to gage how effective your story is. I wrote a screenplay for class and I felt very passionate about it. I was very excited to hear what would happen after it was read by a panel of students in my class. The reaction to the reading was a split, one half of the class loved it and the other half had a big reaction to it. It made them uncomfortable and they didn’t like it. They all had loud opinions about the script. At first I was very worried but then the teacher finally had his word with the class on their split opinion. He told them that my screenplay was effective. Not necessarily because everyone liked it, but because it had people on both sides of the issue reacting and talking, this caused them to engage in a dialog about the issues that the film brought out. The teacher told the class that it didn’t matter what they said, at least they were all talking. I thought it sounded a bit like “all press it good, even bad press”, but he seemed to think that this was a good indicator of how my script would be received. After I thought about it I saw that he had a point. When the movie “Monster’s Ball” came out I heard what people said around me about it. There were those that just did not like it and there were those that thought the sex in the movie was just gross, yada, yada, yada. I, however, saw the sex as an integral part of the film. While the act of Hallie Barry having sex right after the death of her son was considered an irreverent and inappropriate one, it was also seen by other’s as very honest and very human and life affirming. Most importantly, it had people talking and you can’t ask for better press that that. Hallie Barry needed this vehicle to punch her through to the success she gained in being the first Black Woman to win an Oscar. She would not have made it through with a role that was written limp-wristed. It had to have an edge to it. The old Hollywood formula of screenwriting has changed.
There are some that still prefer a good conflict neatly resolved at the end of the story but there is now an equal share of the market going to those that write about stories that do not have nice neat resolutions to them. These are the movies that are meant to be unsettling and make you ask “now what did they mean by that?” So whatever you story happens to be, just tell it. When you are out observing people at someplace like the mall, notice their movements and expressions. If they are talking, listen shamelessly to what they are saying. If it is interesting you won’t be able to help yourself. Use it in your screenplay. This type of observing can help you to make your sketches for the characters in your script. There can be several triggers to get the script out on the page. Do character development borrowing from you own environment. Your story can spring up from a well-developed character sketch, or perhaps a story can be found in the location. Certainly location can drive many things in the script. Time period can also drive a screenplay. While many a script is written in the present, there are those that are written in the past or even in the future. This can determine many different factors in your story. All of these elements of story development are used when creating your character’s backstory. The back-story consists of the details of life prior to your character in the here and now. The back-story can make your character more three dimensional, more real. The back-story provides the character’s motivations as well. You might think writing a back-story to be a waste of time, but you will find yourself referring to it again and again. While this may not prove to be useful for the present film you are working on, many a sequel has been built off of the back-story to the original film. You will also refer to the back-story because it may give you motivations and keep you consistent with your “facts” so the continuity of the script is not compromised. Scriptwriters for screen and television have very specific formats for their scripts. This is something that you should study before you actually submit a completed script. If you are working off of your own script for production you generally don’t have to worry about the form being perfect, but if you submit it to the studio or their representatives then keep as close to the expected format as you can. I hate the red pen. They even call it “red-lining” a script. If you are fortunate to shop your film and get it picked up by a studio then you may have to deal with the red pen used to hack your original story into more of what the studio thinks it should be. This is the main reason that Independent film has grown like wildfire. The artist can maintain the integrity of his screenplay with no major changes to the script. It is important to remember that there is a distinct difference between writing for film and writing for television. Television, although it has expanded, it still in the box and on the small screen. Television is dialog driven while film is not. It is not necessary to have dialog in a film for a story to be told. So when writing for Film, understand that there is a difference. It has been said that the test of a good film is to watch it with the sound turned off. You should be able to follow the story just by the movement of the film. None of that talking head stuff works in film the way it does in TV. One can easily write for both Film and Television but you have to keep in mind that 9
they are 2 very different mediums. If you are used to watching TV or you have written for TV you will be expecting dialog rich scripting, but with film be careful with your use of dialog. When writing for film, remember not to write too many stage directions as this is the director’s job and they get a little fussy about that. There are many sound elements to write from. Some of these are: the ambient sound in the film environment, the musical soundtrack, the character dialog, or voice over narration. These are all elements that can be written into the script like dialog. They tell the story just as effectively as straight dialog. There is screenwriting software available with the templates already in place for you to plug in your script. Shop and see what is out there, but at the least try to get a book on how this is done. Upon further research I found a site to help out. Lester Crombie from the Queensland School of Film and Television has kindly made available a simple template for download. Put “Lester Crombie ” in Google or the search engine of your choice and he has for download a very simple template for screenwriting and also a download for a manual in PDF file format. There are software packages out there that are costly… about $100 but this one should get you started. Personally I feel you don’t need all the bells and whistles, just a basic template that you can use to plug your screenplay into. One of the things that can drive you crazy is worrying about getting “it” just right. Writing dialog can be challenging in that a natural flow will need to happen. Audiences will be turned off by stiff and phony sounding dialog. While that is the ultimate goal, you may have to rewrite a line several times to achieve this. It is ironic that you have to work so hard to make it sound natural but this is important. However, that can all be changed and reworked later, first just get what comes out of your mind down on paper. If you sit and look at a computer screen for hours and type nothing you will never start. There are a few simple things that all full-length screenplays have in common. They will all have the same length. The Hollywood movie has gone with the same formula for many years and it is still the standard by which most screenwriters all write. A typical screenplay will have 120 pages. It will consist of 3 acts separated into 30 pages for each act. Each page of scripting represents about 1 minute of screen time with the majority of films running between 90 and 120 minutes. As a first film it may be easier for you to write a short film. There are many short films that have really wonderful stories that can’t be told in 90 minutes. This gives the short film a chance to be made. This is a great opportunity for you to make your first film. Short films can be good for the first time filmmaker for a number of reasons. The first reason in favor of producing a short film is that you have a greater chance of having your film being completed. A short film is manageable on a low budget and the financing of your film will
assuredly be the biggest stumbling block. Producing a 60 second Public Service Announcement seemed like it should be easy, but you have no idea how long 60 seconds can be. I do because I had to produce a 60 PSA for a station I once worked for. My advice is to try the short film first, as a matter of fact, do a couple before moving on to a feature length. Also in the beginning you will have to depend on the good graces of your actors and crew. A short film is a good way to have your actors in and out quickly so they don’t get peevish about their time spent. You never know when you might need them for the next film. The most important thing you need to remember to budget is food service. You must feed your people or they will revolt. The one thing you want is to keep your talent and crew happy. When you have, for the most part, finished your script and wish to share it with others it is recommended that you write a treatment. A treatment is a short description of your screenplay outlining what the story is about. Treatments consist of 3 or 4 pages and each page represents one act of your screenplay. They can be a bit longer but no more than an extra page or two. The treatment has to be the best of your screenplay and it must be written in a very clever way. This is what you show around to garner interest in your screenplay. Show the treatment to your mom and dad, your sister and brother, your best friend, and maybe even your instructor at school. While they are offering advice you have a chance to gage their reactions, and decide if these responses are what you want from your viewing audience. Listen to their feedback and make whatever necessary script changes that may come to your attention. Call this group of people that you share with your “Core Group”. This group has to be people your trust. Not necessarily your mom or dad, but people that you are sure of in your trust of them. It is a difficult thing to have to discuss and while it would be nicer to pretend it doesn’t happen, there are those people out there that will steal your work. Read up on how to protect your ideas before you put them out there on Front Street. Look up copyrighting your work on the Internet. You will probably find an example of the “Poor Man’s Copyright” as one of the ways of protecting your work. Maybe one of your classmates suggested you use this method, but I would advise against it. Instead register your screenplay with the Writer’s Guild of America. Next send away for a copy of the application for copyright (Application Form PA) at the following address: Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office Library of Congress Washington, DC 20559 Don’t be foolish and let this one go unchecked. It doesn’t cost much to at least register copyright on your screenplay. As you move forward with your production you may need to revise your copyright to extend to other aspects of the production but at least register it with the Copyright Office and the Writer’s Guild in the beginning. Once you have done this you can move forward with shopping your script if that is what you want to do. One thing that you must remember though is that once you sell your screenplay or enter
negotiations to do so, it might be necessary for you to compromise. If the producer and director decide to, they can cut your film or rewrite it to the point that it may not even resemble what you originally wrote. Avoid the red pen by making your own film any way you can.
Let’s Take a Meeting If you are making your film yourself without the benefit of traditional backing you will probably find yourself writing, producing and acting in your own film. But that is not to say that you won’t need help. You will have to be completely active in all phases of the production. Such are the joys of the independent filmmaker. However, you will need help. You will need other actors, sound people (someone has to hold that boom), camera operators, and so on. If you are in school studying film you have a perfect group of people to draw from to get your film made. It is a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” situation. Students help each other to get their films made. Each of us has a specific talent and we can contribute that to the production at hand. If you are not in school you may have to convince your friends to help you with your film. It shouldn’t be too difficult because it is exciting to be involved with making a film. Of course you can’t get all the help you need from you friends and family. You will have to go with associates that have the same desire to make film that you do. This means you have to find social events that allow you to network with others that have a similar interest in film. Networking is going to be important from start to finish with the production of you film. It would be wise to make a business card with your contact information on it, maybe even make your own website. Make contact lists of people you might be able to gain assistance from in the various fields of expertise. It doesn’t matter if this is you first film or you 21st. You may begin to use the same people as you learn whom you work best with. Some of the disciplines you may need are: electricians, carpenters, camera operators, audio engineers, make-up artists, set designers, locations scouts, script supervisors, costumers, publicists, and finally craft people for your food service. Once you make a list of these contacts remember to keep careful track of them. Make copies of contact lists stored in a number of places. It will make you crazy if your computer crashes and all the info for your crew is on it, so make back up contact lists. You may learn to live without some of these positions on the production of your film, but chances are you will be picking up the slack for that position. You may find yourself directing a film and doing make-up or wardrobe at the same time. Multi-tasking is the name of the game and you get better at it as you go along. Many new filmmakers are actually in film school and they use what and who they have available to them. This means working with people that may be a little flaky in their punctuality. However, each filmmaker has their own film that they want to make and they will give you good work with the expectation that they will get it in return on their film. Again, one thing you might consider is this; if you are not in film school perhaps you should go. In film school you have the equipment and facilities made available to you as long as you are a matriculated student. My school had a $900,000 per year budget for equipment for students to use. We had sound mixing booths and editing suites available to us 24/7.
Once you have people that have agreed to work with you on your film you can set up production meetings in order to plan for the actual production or shoot. The success of your shooting schedule will depend on how effectively you have planned the shoot in your production meetings. Make notes prior to your meeting to make sure all necessary business is covered. Try to make the meeting stay focused on the business at hand instead of visiting and shooting the breeze with everyone attending the meeting. If you have people working for you and they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, it is always necessary to keep them fed and watered. It is the least you can do for another artist so make sure you always have food and beverages available for your crew at meetings and during the production. It is advisable that you keep liquor out of these meetings as it undermines the professionalism of your group and impedes the flow of work. This is not to say that the group may not ever celebrate by having a drink or two together, but it is hard to keep the crew focused if drinking is allowed during shooting. On studio shoots it is absolutely forbidden due to Union rules and insurance requirements for continued coverage. Once you have a crew assembled then post your first production meeting. In your meeting, tell your group what your vision of the film is and open a discussion about how they can help to make that happen. Assign crew positions and make a shooting schedule. Then split your group into 2 separate groups, crew and actors. Schedule readings of the script so everyone gets to run through their lines and so you can give them your direction. The actors must have an opportunity to meet with the director to determine what is expected from them once the camera is rolling. This will help your actors to arrive prepared and ready to work without you having to stop them as much for direction. Next a separate meeting should be made with your crew. You will need to discuss equipment, location, set design, sound, lighting, and any other production issues that may come up. You will need story boards and a shot list sheets to hand out. Have your crew study them with enough time available before the shoot to bring up any obstacles that need to be cleared for the shoot. Schedule enough time on rehersals and fittings to be approved by the director prior to the shoot. Whoever has worked on scouting the location needs to speak to everyone about the logistics of the location you will be shooting the film at. The location will need to be accessible prior to the shoot so that light readings can be taken and electrical requirements can be determined. There are books out there that are written that could be used as guides for picking the right location. Refer to them please as this is an area that is going to be totally foreign to you if you are in any way creative. You have to make sure details are arranged like, parking being arranged, access to unload equipment, restroom access, food craft area setup, signed releases, maintenance of the location, location clean-up etc. ad naseum. In my case I had a group of buildings that were houses from the 40â€™s that were abandoned and in a state of complete disrepair. They were cool and very spooky looking. I didnâ€™t want to go in them I just wanted to shoot on the street in front of them. I procrastinated and they tore them down. Boy was I 14
upset about that.
Do You Have a Good Eye? My first experiences with production school, was with a fully manual camera. What a dinosaur that was, but oh, the pictures I could take. I learned how to used depth of field and how to push and pull focus. These are terms you should make note of and study. Using a manual lens taught me just what I could do with a camera. Now I have a very expensive digital camera but my roots are definitely in film. We have grown accustomed to the digital crispness of the image we get with digital and find film to be hazy and lacking focus. Film can create amazing shadows, especially in black and white but the cost of film and processing is absolutely impossible for a filmmaker just starting out, to get a film completed. If you have the luxury of using film you can play around with it but eventually it will be transferred to digital so you can edit your sound and image I have shot on film and I have shot on tape and I have to report that both have their merits. In the end the project will dictate which you will use. In film school I used a funky little Super 8 camera and shot on black and white reversal film. Basically it was like shooting to a positive instead of a negative. The quality was bad and the lighting was a challenge but I managed to make a really decent abstract film journal. The processing was terribly expensive yet once I got the footage back I was excited beyond belief. I used a funky little viewing box with a hand crank and made lists where I wanted my cuts in the celluloid. I wrote them down and hung them up in the order I was going to edit. The next thing you do is, splice the pieces together with tape. Then you put the splice with the tape on it, in a small machine that that punches neat holes in the splice where the holes are on the side of their film. Editing real film, as in celluloid, is a great experience and I will always value it, but I have since learned how much easier it is to just shoot and edit in digital. Believe me, I was a die hard film user until I got tired of all the money it cost, and shooting digital is so immediate. There are a number of reasonable priced video cameras on the market that you can use when you start shooting. Equipment List The following is a basic list of equipment you will need. This is a bare minimum list but this should get you started. Camera 1 digital camera Extra Battery or Power Source 25 ft. & 50 ft. Power Cords Monitor with headphones Small Dry Marker Board to Use As Scene Marker Sound Headphones (2 or 3) DAT – (Digital Audio Tape) Microphones: 2 Lapel Mics (Lavaliers) 1 Shotgun 1 Omni 1 Battery Operated Reporter’s Mic 1 Directional Mic with Pedestal (for narration) Boom (2) Windshield (for boom and mic) Gaffer’s Tape – 1 or 2 rolls Lighting 3 Lights – 1 large, 2 small 3 Light Stands 25 ft. & 50 ft. Power Cords White Bounce Cords Gauzy Material for Diffuser Binder Clips – Small, Medium, & Large Stands For Diffuser
One thing is certain, in the list of equipment you will need, the camera is the most important. A very durable camera that has been recommended is the Samsung VP X220L camcorder with an external lens. This camera was used on the Jack Ass Movie and you know how physical the shooting got on that film. You should be able to get this camera for $800. I only found one of these for sale from a UK website, but there are many other cameras to be had. The best thing to do is to go shopping and try out cameras. Try them out to see what kind of picture you get. See if the zoom is as strong as you need. Once you find one that you like and can get a decent price on it, check and see what kind of warrantees there are on the camera. If purchased from a camera shop there are protection plans that will replace the camera if damaged and give regular cleanings for your equipment. It is important to keep all your paperwork on file for this, as with all your equipment. In 15 years of using cameras I have seen the technology change vastly. A camera that you buy today will be archaic by next year. The top cameras coming out now are amazing. The Grass Valley Viper Film Stream Camera TM shoots completely without videotape, or compression. Your images are recorded directly to a removable hard drive that goes from the camera to the computer. Talk about cool! This camera was used in the film Zodiac and the clarity of image is amazing. This film is technical genius and you must see it. David Finchner is the director of the film and he worked with the creators of this camera to shoot the first film done entirely with the Viper. This image is so clear you can see how many pores are on the guy’s face. This is the future in cameras and while it is too rich for our pockets now, there are perfectly acceptable cameras you can use in the meantime. Try out any camera before you buy it. Handle it in the store and take test footage. Make the salesman work for his paycheck and ask him a million questions if you have to. When you start shooting you will have to be familiar with the various types of shots. The following is a list of the shots and the abbreviations that are used on shot sheets. EWS – Extreme Wide Shot Shot so wide the subject can’t even be seen. This is also used as an establishing shot which is used in the beginning of every film.. VWS – Very Wide Shot Subject or object can barely be seen but is still placed in the frame. WS – Wide Shot The subject fills full frame, much the same as a long shot. Takes in the whole person from the bottom to the top of the frame. MS - Mid-shot Subject is closer with more detail but frame still has the whole subject. The subject will fill the frame with this shot. MCU – Medium Close-Up Midway shot between Mid-shot and close-up. CU – Close-Up Face of actor fills the frame.
ECU – Extreme Close-Up Shot gets in and shows extreme detail. CA – Cutaway Shot other than the subject, away from the main action. CI – Cut-In This is a view of some part of the subject in detail. Example: CU of hands shaking and wringing in anxiety and worry. Two-Shot An easy shot of two people framed equally in a mid-shot. OSS – Over the Shoulder Shot (or Cross-Shot) Shot taken over the shoulder of someone aimed at the subject. POV – Point of View Shot Show the subjects view or perspective. Example: POV shot of hands on a computer keyboard. There are also terms for camera movement and there are just a few that are used repeatedly. They are as follows: Pan This is a horizontal camera move across the screen. Also used is the term Swish Pan. This is a camera movement that is a pan done so quickly that the picture blurs until it stops and stabilizes. Frequently a swish pan is used to hide the cut in the editing process. In a comedy film the swish pan comes with it’s own sound, which has been used in shows like “Malcolm in the Middle”. Dolly A dolly is a cart on wheels that has mounts for the camera. Track is laid down to the specifications of the shot and the camera is dollied down the track for the shot. A dolly shot refers to movement in and out of the frame moving closer or further away from an object in the frame. Tracking Refers to a dolly movement that crosses the screen. Tilt A camera tilt is simply what it says. It is a panning movement but instead of across the screen it will be an up and down movement. This should account for most of your camera directions. You will see these terms used in screenplays and you will use these terms in writing your own script. When you have access to your camera you should practice all these moves in order to be familiar with them when you are filming. Once you have your camera purchased and you are ready to start shooting, you will need a few other pieces of equipment to get you going. While you will want to “carry” your camera when you shoot, it is advisable to use a tri-pod for most of your work. One thing you will want to do is assign someone to carry a camera and take the production stills. Shooting production photos can be done by anyone in the crew. These shots are a sort of tradition on the set and it is a good idea to get production shots. They do have practical uses though, the photos show the crew at their jobs with the actors and sometimes they are helpful to recall the way a shot was set up.
Most cameras out there at this time have great stabilization already built in, but the fact of the matter is that when zooming in for a close-up and then holding the shot, shake can happen. Not using a tripod allows for a great deal of “shake” with the camera. This will compromise the quality of your shots. You can avoid blurry, jumpy, static shots by using the tri-pod. They are frequently referred to as “sticks”. For your filming purposes you will need to get a tri-pod that has a “fluid head”. This is a head on the top of the tri-pod where you mount the camera, and its purpose is to make panning and trucking shots smooth and in focus. When you purchase your tri-pod you should find sticks that have sturdy legs, not too thin or too long. Bogun tri-pods are the standard in the industry so if I were to recommend a brand, Bogun gets my vote. Before we move on from the discussion of cameras and shooting I need to talk about composition in the frame. You know how “film people” walk around with their hands up liking they are framing things, it’s so annoying when they do that. However, that is how we see things, in the frame. Where are you placing he objects and the people in your frame? Is it a boring or compelling composition? Something that all beginning photographers learn is about the rule of thirds. This is where you place the subject on the third of the frame as opposed to constantly centering the subject in the middle of the frame. You also need to get a sense of what is proper “head room” in a frame. You can create intimacy or tension and alienation in how you compose the shot. Practice looking at art and film to see how the artist places the subject in the frame.
Turn Up the Volume I am not into doing sound. I am a Camera Person and find the whole sound mixing process to be a big mystery. I know enough to get the initial capture but if I were to make my own film I would find someone to perform this function for me. What you need is a sound person otherwise known as an audiophile. This person will hold a boom for hours of dialog and will know the channel on the board during the final mix. Advertise on Craigâ€™s list or in the local Entertainment paper. I would find this person and get a commitment early on in the Pre-production phase but you will need them right until you are through Post-production as well. Needless to say when hiring for any position for a production, make sure you check references. You will want to hire someone that has a proven history of finishing projects. Every camera that you will shoot with will have a mic that comes with the camera and while it might work in a pinch, it simply does not supply adequate sound. You will need a way of recording that is in sync with your image. In order to do this you will need a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) recorder and a good selection of mics. While I have a hard time with the mechanics as a whole, I appreciate good sound when I experience it. You will want good sound on your film so there are some basic things you will need to know. These are the types of microphones available to you. Any or all of these are good for you to have in your sound kit. Omni Directional Microphone Omni Mics record sound from the front, back, and sides of the mic, in other words, 360Âş around the mic. These are good if you want to record your talent delivering lines and get the ambient sounds on the backside of the mic. In the most perfect of situations the background sound and dialog will be recorded on separate tracks. Once you bring them back to the studio for the final mix you will be able to adjust the ambient sound track slightly lower and the dialog track a bit higher. This will make it so the dialog is heard clearly while having the ambient sound is there as well. Directional Microphone This is pretty much self-explanitory. A directional mic records specifically in one direction and that is the direction of the speaker. These are used for reporting or interviewing and can be hand held or clip-on. Shotgun Microphone A Shotgun mic or a gun mic, is a microphone that picks up sound from a distance. While these are great if you are a private detective and want to get private conversations, but they are especially effective on the end of a boom used in production. Lavalier or Lapel Microphones This is a mic that is clipped onto a shirt lapel or collar and is usually an Omni directional mic. This mic is good for interviews and commentary reporting but beyond that they are limiting because the rustle of clothing interferes with a clean recording If you are actually recording dialog you will probably do one of two things. You will do voice over 20
recording in the studio or you will use a live mic. Recording live would require the use of a directional mic on the end of a boom. If it is on location outside you may need to use a shotgun mic on a boom with a windshield (made of furry or foam material) that fits over the mic to block out the interference of wind blowing on the mic. Once again, a school equipment loan program is going to have most of these items so you can use this resource if it is available to you. Otherwise it will be a good idea for you to purchase some or all of the equipment I have mentioned here. I just want to have a word about holding a boom during shooting. It is harder than it sounds. You have to have strong arms and concentration. You will have to roll the boom back an forth at times to pick up cross dialog. Make sure you feed the Boom Operator and keep them happy. It is a valuable job and is very tedious. I know because I have done it. It would be a very bland movie if there were no sound effects or soundtrack in the film. When I lived in Venice, California I had a neighbor that was a horror movie soundtrack composer. That man had the spookiest and weirdest sounds coming out of his house. He did the soundtrack for the Howling…. the original one, not any of the sequels. He had a sound studio in his home that he worked out of and I didn’t hear much of what he did for the most part. Every now and then there would be a scream or a crash and I knew he was doing his thing. Another sound element you may want to consider is Foley work. Foley work is done in the studio to produce sound effects that will enhance the scene. A squeaking door, the squelching sound of wet shoes walking through the mud, tinkling glasses and silverware in a restaurant, and the sound of a fist hitting flesh, these are all sounds that could be produced in a Foley environment. For this type of sound to make an impact in the film it has to be a bit larger than life. These Foley sounds will be recorded on a track that will be laid down with the other tracks. Then you can fade it in or out as you see the need in the scene. It might be a good idea to keep a Foley library of sounds to use, just as you have an image library to use. If you are going to have a soundtrack, and you will want one, I encourage you to use all original scores and lyrics. You don’t want to enter into any copyright battles. This is where networking comes into play. Find a music student that is looking for a project. Once again, I have to say, try Craig’s List. One last item that you will need to aquire for the shoot is some sort of remote 2-way radio. Nextel offers a good product so you can consider them. There may be some other company that offers a similar service for a better price so look around but do get a 2-way radio, actually get as many as you feel you need for your crew.
A Little Light on the Subject Lighting is always a key issue. While it is not hard to learn, you must learn to see lighting issues right away. Lighting for film was always very tricky and in film it is absolutely necessary to use a light meter. With film there is a question of the color of the light as well. With video, the problems with shadow, glare, and color temperature, become much easier to deal with. I do not want to throw you off trying actual film, when film is lit and shot properly it is heaven, but in the beginning it will be more realistic to use a digital video camera. While you may have areas that don’t have enough light, it is also a problem to have areas with too much light. These areas are termed “hot” and some sort of diffusion material is used to take the glare off the subject. These are the major lighting problems you will be dealing with. It will make your life a lot easier if you have a monitor set up on the scene location. You should have a fairly good one that gives you a true representation of what you are taping. While shooting in film you needed a Light Meter and a Color Temperature Meter, in digital recording you can use the monitor to tell you what you need to know. You will see the areas that have lighting problems that need to be fixed. By looking at the monitor you can see problems of light and dark and fix them easily. The other lighting issue that exists is the color of the light in your picture. Different types of lighting will have different colors. Household Tungsten lights have a yellow glow. If you want that yellow color in the picture that is fine, but if not, you can color correct with digital filters during the edit process. Fluorescent lighting can be a real disaster depending on how bright it is and how close it is on the subject. Fluorescent lighting throws off a greenish cast and can be very unflattering to the subject. The whole pea soup complexion thing tends to really make the talent look bad. I hate fluorescent lighting…. just turn them off. Outdoor Sunlit lighting will sometimes be a problem but refer to your monitor. Outside daylight gives off a blue cast. This will be especially evident when shooting into the shade. If there is any grass or foliage in the picture the blue cast will be very strong. Halogen lights are reputed to have a pink glow to them. Halogen lighting is not as prevalent but might come into play during outdoor night shooting as Halogen is used for night outdoor lighting. Lighting will be used as a signifier to what time of day it is. We will know if the sun is setting or if it is raining outside by the lighting. Be aware of the conditions in the actual story that will demand certain types of lighting. A flashlight in the dark or headlights will telegraph things about to happen. You will be able to create tension and suspense with your lighting. You will also be able to transmit a romantic atmosphere or an office or working environment all by how you light the scene.
It should be determined what lighting is needed for a shot(s), and then accomplish that lighting set up for the duration of shooting in order for the lighting quality of the film to be consistent. This means that it is important to make note of the color of the light when you begin the shoot and to keep everything consistent through the shooting of your piece This will keep you from having to fix inconsistencies in post-production, which is sometimes impossible to prevent, but if you are really good that wonâ€™t happen. Have I mentioned how important Pre-production is? You will find as you make a few short films that, it is important to keep things like lighting and the lighting color temperature
marked down in your production notes. It will be a real pain if you are editing and you have lighting color that jumps from edit to edit. It will be a glaring mistake of continuity in your film. If there is an over all problem with the color of the light in your production, then your digital software may have color correction filters and that can be taken care of at the time of post production editing. Previously, when shooting with film, filters had to be used over the lens at the time of shooting and it was much harder to accomplish what we now achieve with digital editing.
Three Point Lighting Three-point lighting is the standard lighting setup and is used in all film and television production. It is always better to have good natural lighting, but if you do not have good natural light available then this is where you start. Three-point lighting consists of the following: Key Light Your key light is the main light shining on your subject. Be careful not to have it too close to the subject as it may create hot areas and glare. Fill Light Your Key light usually creates a harsh light that makes a distinct shadow. The best way to get rid of that shadow is to use your Fill light. Kicker Light The Kicker light is used behind the subject to fill in the shadows there. Using the kicker light can give the subject dimension. When purchasing supplies for your light kit, these are the main lights you will need. You will also need a way to use diffusion material. Look at the lighting outside with your screen door open. Do you see how bright and vivid it is? Then shut the screen and look at how the lighting is naturally diffused and it becomes darker. This is what you are doing when you are using lighting diffusers in a scene. There are a number of ways to achieve this, and in most light kits it is useful to have a gauzy material like, cheesecloth, muslin, or a material that is white and gauzy to shine the light through. You will achieve this by using binder clips and makeshift scrim stands. (Scrim is another word for diffuser.) I have used old 3-legged music stands and binder clips to create a scrim stand for the light to pass through. Shooting in natural lighting is always good but presents difficulties of its own. From 11:00AM to 3:00PM in the afternoon, the sun will create harsh shadows under the eyes and nose of the subject. This can be remedied by using a fill light under the subjects face. This will correct the problem The best natural lighting is the lighting that comes at the end of the day, a couple of hours before sunset. This lighting will be a golden caramel colored glow, that give everything a halo. This light will fall directly on the subjectâ€™s face so this is a perfect angle for the sun to be in for shooting. Sunset lighting is really good for portraying moments of sentimentality or romance. I have to warn you her though, shoot fast because once the sun starts to set there isnâ€™t much time to get your shots finished so you have to have everything ready in anticipation of the sunset lighting. Lighting is one of those situations in filming where you have to come up with creative ideas of how to solve your problems. Taking a trip to the hardware store will sometimes help you to fix your lighting problems. Lighting is something you have to practice. If you arrive the day of the shoot and expect to just have it all down, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. You must work with your lights first and take test shots. 24
**It is crucial that you check the electrical requirements for your lights. Lights take an incredible amount of so make sure you won’t be shorting out the system an the entire block as well. Check with an electrician about this. REMEMBER! These lights are hot. Protect yourself and others. You may have an occasional bulb pop and spray glass everywhere. This seldom happens, but be cautious. You must do everything that you can to be safe. There are going to be cords everywhere on the ground or floor during the shoot. You will have people running everywhere so secure down all your cords firmly and make people aware of where they are located. You can use gaffer’s tape on the electrical cords to keep them in place. Gaffer’s tape is more expensive and doesn’t leave marks on walls on floors. You can use duct tape in a pinch but gaffer’s tape is best. Prior to your first day of shooting you need to gather all of your talent and crew together and do a run through of a few scenes. This is called blocking the scene. Have each actor stand at his or her marks and read their parts and get sound levels on them, also test your lighting and see how it looks on the monitor. You will want to make this a full dress rehearsal if you need to see wardrobe and make-up for a final check. This is the time to determine what works and what doesn’t, not the day of the shoot. Make any adjustments that are needed and make note of where your settings are set at this time. These are to be your settings for the duration of the production. It is very important to do this in order to maintain continuity and believability of your film. Later when you have a few films behind your belt you can mess around with the placement of the lights and the volume control, but when you are still new at this it is best to establish your settings and keep them consistent throughout the rest of the film. In most cases on film production the Scrip Supervisor is the person that is responsible for maintaining the continuity from scene to scene in your film. This position makes sure that the lighting is the same, all the furniture in a room is in the same place, the actors have the same clothing, and make-up, and say the same lines. It is important that you arrange all your shot sheets so that you shoot economically. If you are going to be in the farmhouse one day shooting then you have shoot all scenes that are in your script for the farmhouse. You don’t need to shoot each scene in sequence, that will have you running all over town. Shoot all scenes at location by location. If you are making your film yourself without the benefit of backing then you will have to do your own continuity supervision. Maintaining continuity is important if you want your film to look professional. Once it gets down to the shoot it becomes all about the actors and the director. Both are commited to the telling of the story. Any given film is as much about the actors and director as much as it is the story on paper. There has to almost be a chemistry between the actors and director. A director needs to be all things to the actors, friend, mother/father, counselor, priest, or nurse. You name it, you gotta be it. The one
constant is the actorâ€™s need to be able to trust the director. A director has to be a â€œBig Picture kinda person. Reining in all the elements of a film is like conducting an orchestra, everything needs to blend together to make the film. Solving problems on a daily basis is the norm so problem solving skills are very necessary. It has been said that you can tell how good a film is by watching it with the sound off. If you can follow the film easily by watching without the sound then the director has done his or her job. This clearly illustrates that film is not driven by the dialog itself, it is the action that drives the film.
When It’s In the Can, It’s a Wrap So the production is done and your last pick-up shots are in the can. Now you can begin the edit. So you gather up your footage, your sound and anything else that needs to added in the edit and get ready to hunker down until it is all finally edited. Maybe it’s time for more caffeine and a shower, time for sleep later. Now you get to go through hours of footage to construct your edit. You will now begin the tedious job of going through footage to put together your edited material. Mark your in and out points on your edit sheet with a description of the cut. Your in and out points will be the time codes that the edit points are at. The codes will be marked in hours, minutes, seconds, and 10th’s of seconds. It will look like this 01:15:03:20. Now that you have your edit on paper, it is time to sit down with all of your elements and go to the edit. You may do this all on your own and you may have someone edit it while you direct the edit. Either way, this is the most fun a person can have. The edit means you are near being done. I found editing to be wonderful and I got so into it that I lost all notion of time. I went in for a couple of hours and ended up staying to do the edit for 8 hours. I don’t even think I had anything to eat. I came out of the edit bay feeling like I had been drinking coffee all day, well actually I had, but I was so energized. It is great to see the story that you have been working on for the last year, come together in a few evenings of editing. Once you have put together all your cuts you can lay down you music and soundtracks you will be ready to do your credits. The credits are very important to the little people that worked on your film… probably for beer and pizza. This is there proof that they have worked on the film and it is like their resume for other paying gigs, so make sure you spell everybody’s name right. Once these are done, you have finished and you are ready to promote you film and find someone that will pick up your film in distribution. Now it is time for the Wrap party. If you don’t have the money to put on a big bash for your cast and crew get your Mama to cook and put the drinks on your credit card because these folks deserve a good time.
Time to Toot Your Horn If you haven’t been talking about your film to people, now is the time to start. Now is the time to get a logo designed and make a website to promote your film. There are at least a couple websites that help you to build free websites. It does take a few days of work to make the website but it is actually quite fun. You learn a great deal by making your own site. Once the site is made find someone to host it, Yahoo and Google are good. Start a blog about the film and publish it on your website. Offer promotional items for sale with your logo on them from the website. Cross promote other artists on your website. Use some of your production shots for the site. After you have built your own site make a Myspace page. Then go shopping for friends and gather a fan base in Myspace. Many musicians and other artists have used Myspace to promote themselves and it has been quite an asset to building an audience for artists in music and film. I have a couple of musicians that send me clips of their music regularly. It is interesting to see how the musicians have built their “friend” list and kept everyone abreast of their new music when it happens. Of course there is always the idea of putting clips of your film on YouTube. Get your fans and friends from Myspace to download them. You can even put your YouTube on your Myspace page. It would be good to cross-reference your website and Myspace page, one linking to the other. Make eye-catching flyers to post in community centers and bulletin boards. If you go to college or know anyone that goes to college, post your film flyers on the community bulletin board. Find someplace in school to show your film to students. Every student wants to do something on a Friday night and has no money to got out. Free is better that cheap I always say! Let them see your film for free. Get a couple of other Indy filmmakers and show your films together. Have your own mini Film Festival at your house, or at school, or anywhere you can get a group of people together. Get Mom to do that cooking thing again that she does so well. This endeavor will only be successful if you badger people into coming. Make them promise that they will show. Give out free promotional items with the Film logo on them like hats, t-shirts, and coffee cups. I guess we didn’t talk about naming the film, yet, did we. Think carefully on what is going to be catchy and make a good logo. Wild, controversial titles are things that people want to see on things like tshirts and baseball caps. For instance, you decided to a space version of the Wizard of Oz and we’ll call it …. “Space Monkeys”. Well that’s a catchy name, weird but catchy and it will look great on a tshirt. Whatever you do come up with a name that the public can grab on to. All of these promotional ideas mentioned up until now are free or darned cheap. Perhaps you can use some of the proceeds of selling your hats and t-shirts to fund some of the ways you promote your film. There will be costs so it is a good idea to let the film pay for itself. Finally, you should have a Media or Press Kit made up for the public. A Press kit contains a letter of introduction, info on the film, photos, a disk with a sample trailor, and perhaps a few of those 28
promotional t-shirts and hats you had made up. Once that is done it is time to find a publicist. If someone buys the option for your film you will really have the need for a publicist. One of the most effective ways to market your film is to enter it into a film festival. One of the things your have in your favor is that Independent films have made it big in the last 15-20 years. The Hollywood formula for filmmaking became predictable and boring and with the expansion of television the film viewing audiences became much more sophisticated than they were before. You canâ€™t pull anything over on us. Indy film has become the driving force in the industry and that has been good news for the small Indy filmmaker. Film festivals all over the country show Independent films, and this has become a standard in the industry. Sundance Film Festival was started to showcase otherwise unknown filmmakers. Now there are film festivals in every state and cities, large and small. This doesnâ€™t mean that these festivals are easy to get into. Be prepared for a certain amount of rejection letters. The most important and well known film festivals to get into are the Toronto, Tribeca, and Sundance festivals. However there are hundreds of other smaller film festivals that you can get into. I just Googled film festivals and got 19,900,000 hits in .07 seconds. You have more than enough to pick from. So what Sundance sent you a rejections letter, submit to another festival. The trick will be getting past the rejection letters. One of the biggest reasons rejection letters are given out is that there were too many films submitted. If the film reviewing committee gets 1,000 submissions and can only take 100 films that is a lot of rejections they have to send out. Once you go to the festival website and download the application there will be listed the dates of submission. The best way to avoid rejection is to make sure that your film is submitted the first day into accepting films. Some films that are perfectly good entertainment never get seen because there were just too many submitted and they ran out of time to view them all. Get your film and application in as soon as possible. Film Festivals usually have a entrance fee and when I checked I found them all to be reasonable, between $25 and $50. Still, that can add up as you send out applications. Perhaps some of the money made off of selling promotional items will help pay the fees. After you fill out your first application form and send in your first film, you will get the application process down. Another thing to remember, which is quite obvious, is that your film may not be appropriate for some festivals. You would now enter a steamy thriller with sex scenes, into a Young Adult Film Festival. I am sure the young adults would love it but the adults in charge will reject it with a thud. So submit where it is appropriate. Since I have suggested you start out with a short film as you first attempt at filmmaking, I have to caution you about the length of your film. Find out the maximum length of films or short films. Then your entry is too long if at all possible trim your film. Films are frequently rejected for coming in over the time limit. Make sure you read all the requirements before submitting your film for consideration.
An interesting phenomenon is film festivals borne of films that have been rejected. The Sundance Film Festival is held in Park City, Utah. The same weekend the Slam Dance Film Festival is held and it shows films that were rejected by Sundance. The Slamdance is in its 13th year and it has expanded to a festival in New York. Sundance, although it still owes its success to Indy film, has become quite commercial and takes entries that are considered the best. Slamdance came along at a time when there was a need for an alternative to Sundance. Festival creators tout Slamdance as “by filmmakers, for filmmakers”. Films that were passed on by Sundance and picked up by Slamdance are, Memento, Monster’s Ball, Napoleon Dynamite, The Woodsman, and Maria Full of Grace. The 2008 Slamdance festival is being held from January 17th to January 25 in Park City Utah. For any readers interested in entering Slamdance the early deadline for the 2008 festival is August 27th. The deadline for the teleplay competition is August 20th, 2007. I encourage you to check out their website. There are many other festivals for you to check out. I encourage you to attend festivals in as a film enthusiast first and then later as a competing filmmaker. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Chris Gore wrote a book titled “The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide”. It has information that would be useful in what to do when submitting a film for approval into a festival. The largest film festival in the country is the Seattle International Film Festival. They show over 300 films and short films in a month’s time in May and June. Offered at SIFF are an excellent group of filmmaker forums. A few of the offerings this year were: “Encoding Your Film For Internet Streaming”, “The Producer School Series”(Parts 1 & 2), “Introduction to Motion”, and “Advanced Techniques in Final Cut Pro”. I have attended these forums and they are invaluable to filmmakers. One of the functions at SIFF is “Fly Filmmaking”. Fly Filmmaking is a competition for filmmakers, that takes place 3 to 4 weeks before the festival. The completed films (usually 3) are shown during the festival and at the end of the festival the judges pick the winner. Guerilla Filmmaking has many similarities to Fly Filmmaking except that Guerilla Filmmaking is a bit more aggressive and the budget is leaner (if that is possible). This year (2007) the filmmakers were given 5 days to shoot and 5 days to edit a 10 minute film. These are incredibly difficult conditions to film under and the results are amazing. Fly Filmmaking was started a little over 10 years ago and since then many other venues have “borrowed” its format for their own Film contests. Seattle has the corner on this market though, they are the creators of Fly Filmmaking. They really produce amazing results with a handful of crew, actors and a camera. It seems to me as a new filmmaker this formula might work for you. It will show you how to work with deadlines and how to work on a shoestring budget. No doubt you know all about tight budgets and can excel at this but working on this sort of deadline will force you to be resourceful, and after all Indy film is all about being resourceful. Of course you won’t have help that SIFF gives their Fly Filmmakers but this will teach you many
things. You will be able to see your mistakes and correct them in future film ventures. I see this working for the beginning filmmaker as a learning tool so this may be a perfect way to challenge yourself in order to learn the process before you are working on a film that really matters to you. Film school is a perfect place for you to start any plan to be a filmmaker. You have endless opportunities to work with other artists, and have the availability of the equipment loan programs. This will give you all the “stuff” you need to make your films. It will also put you in a situation where you have others to give you feedback on your work. This is a very necessary part of the process. Everyone wants to attend USC, UCLA, Columbia University, or NYU, but sometimes that is not possible. That does not mean that there aren’t other film schools out there. In the end it is the body of work that you have achieved that commends you to the position of filmmaker. What have you done? What is your experience? If you don’t have any experience you may need to work on other people’s films for a while and gather up some experience to put on your resume. To make the claim that you are a filmmaker says many things. It says that you have a great deal of energy and you are good at enlisting people to work with you on the development of your vision. These people trust that you are going to direct them so that they produce a masterpiece. Okay, maybe not a masterpiece but defiantly something noteworthy. My very last piece of advice is this. Get another job in something that you are good at and that makes decent money. Filmmaking will not make you money overnight. You will need to pay bills and at times you may need to finance your films so get used to working 2 jobs. Also learn to sleep less and love caffeine. It won’t matter once you catch the fever of being the middle of a production. Good luck and happy filmmaking.
2. Film Script Writing Script writing is an art form, and creating art is never easy. Every time you watch a TV show, watch a film or even play a computer game you are taking in the work of a scriptwriter. With today being driven by the various mediums of entertainment scriptwriting has becomes one of the best page and attractive jobs going. Film scripts have been sold for in excess of $1 million. With that sort of money floating around it's no wonder people are becoming more interested in the idea of scriptwriting. However scriptwriting can be a difficult and arduous task. Even the best of scriptwriters often have creative lulls and can go for years without writing a single script. So what chance does a first time scriptwriter have? We will teach you how to write a movie script. You might already have the idea for your script and just need help formatting your script or you could be a well versed scriptwriter who just needs a little help with drumming up a fresh idea. Whatever your need or level of scriptwriting experienceFilm Script Writing will do everything in itâ€™s power to help you improve your scriptwriting abilities. We will go into great detail on how to write a screenplay. We will teach you how to form ideas, how to structure the story of your script, the "industry standard" in script formatting, how to flesh out characters, how to sell your finished script, and many more script writing tips. There may even be a few surprises along the way, such as interviews with guest scriptwriters, free e-books and much more. As they say in Hollywood "stay tuned!". They say everyone has a story to tell, now it's time to get writing!
FREE FILM MAKERS E-BOOK! Learn How to Become a Film Maker This E-book will give you the necessary information in filmmaking that it would take a couple years in college to get. Not to mention hefty tuition fees. Everything you will need to know to get started is in this publication. I give you the benefit of what I have learned over the years. With this information you should be able to get started with a professional looking film. Who needs the studio to make a film when you can do it yourself. This guide contains information on: How to develop a concept. How to write a professional screenplay. How to purchase and operate the camera. How to light your scenes professionally. Audio for your film. Finding a location. How to make a production schedule. A list of equipment you will need. How to promote your film.
Available at: http://www.filmscriptwriting.com/index.html
INFORMATION SOURCE: http://www.filmscriptwriting.com/
Basic Script Formatting There are three bodies of a script: Headings, narrative and dialogue. Each of these has three points to remember. Headings: 1. Master scene headings which include: a) Camera location - EXT. (exterior or outside) or INT. (interior or inside) b) Scene location (LOCAL RACE TRACK) c) Time (DAY or NIGHT) 2. Secondary scene heading 3. â€œSpecial headingsâ€? for things such as montages, dream sequences, flashbacks, flash forwards, etc. Narrative Description: 1. Action 2. Character and settings (visual) 3. Sounds Dialogue: 1. The name of the person speaking appears at the top, in CAPS. 2. The actors direction (AKA parenthetical or wryly). Try to avoid these as much as possible. Both the director and actor will appreciate it. 3. The speech. Putting all this together you should come up with something that looks like this:
Script Presentation If you want to ensure that your script is taking seriously when dishing it out to agents and producers you need to make sure the presentation of your script is up to snuff. A finished script should contain a front cover, a title page, the script itself and a back cover. The front and back covers should be a piece of solid-color index stock of the 110 pound variety, try to keep the color light. Do not write anything on the cover. When an agent or producer receives your script they will be added into a pile of scripts to be read. An assistant will go through these and write the title of the script on the side of the binding. The title page consists of the name of the script, in CAPS and quotation marks, in the middle of the page. Then miss a line, and put “by”, miss another line and include your name. Your contact details in the centre of the page and copyright details in the bottom right corner. The script should be printed on A4 paper, using only one side of each sheet. These are all to be three hole punched and bound together using a fastener such as those produced by Acco. Make sure the fastener is strong and secure, this makes it easier for producers and agents to photocopy the script to pass around which they will do if they are interested in the script. The Script Itself If you are using scriptwriting software such as Final Draft then you can ignore this section since Final Draft will automatically do all this for you. The industry standard font is Courier or Courier New at font size 12. Your left margin should be 1.5 inches while your right margin can be between 0.5 inches to 1.25 inches, which is down to your personal preference. Both the top and bottom margins should be 1 inch. Dialogue should be 2.5 inches (10 spaces) away from the left margin and should not go past 6.0 inches (60 spaces) from the left margin. Actor’s instructions at 3.1 inches (16 spaces) from the left margin and no longer than two inches. The character’s name should be 3.7 inches (22 spaces) from the left margin. Keep the right margin ragged rather than justified. Each page of the script should contain about 55 lines. This is not including the page number and blank line after the page number. Page numbers appear in the top right corner, 0.5 inches from the top edge. No page number is required for the first page of your script.
Beginning and End If you choose you can add the title of your script, in CAPS and underscored, to the top of the first page. Your script will probably begin with: FADE IN: Or BLACK SCREEN: You donâ€™t have to add a point to insert the opening or closing credits in a spec script. But if you have a moment that you think perfect for the opening credits then put: ROLL Or BEGIN CREDITS:
When the credits have finished: END CREDITS: Treat credits as headings. When you have come to the end of your script you can finish it of by either putting THE END or one of the following: FADE OUT FADE TO BLACK Note that these endings appear all the way over to the right margin.
Formatting Directions While you should never add too many directions to a spec script, there are times as a scriptwriter that you do need to add a few flourishes to the action. For example, if youâ€™re writing a fight scene that you want to emphasis the sounds then you can write: A right hook SMASHES into Billâ€™s face. The capitalization draws attention to the sound. Be careful not to overuse this technique though as it can be distracting. Off Screen If there is a scene in your script in which a character is talking, but you do not want him to be onscreen then you would format that like this: BILL (OS) Voice Over A voice over is used when you want a character in your script to narrate or verbalize their thoughts. This is often used to open a film or stitch scenes together. You would also use a voice over for a telephone conversation when just one character is on camera. The voice over format is much the same as the off screen format. BILL (VO) Actor Directions/Wrylys I mentioned in another article on the site that these are to be avoided as much as possible. If you use this technique too much it will anger both directors and actors who will see it as a writer telling them how to do their job. If you write your dialogue well these should not be needed at all often as the surrounding dialogue and action should make it clear how the line should be said. If you do need to use this technique then format it as followed:
Flashbacks and Dream Sequences A lot of scriptwriting books will tell you that flashbacks and dream sequences as shoddy writing, and the sign of a poor script. However if you use these well and sparingly they can add a new dimension to a character and the story. There are a few different ways to write these into a script, but the most common way is to add them to the scene heading. E.G:
And then go back to present times with:
Camera Directions Much like actor directions, camera directions be avoided as much as possible. You are a scriptwriter, not a director. Instead of adding directions like ZOOM IN and CLOSEUP try to subtly work these into your action description.
This almost dictates that there has to be a close up on Jennifer’s eyes without you telling the director how to do his job. Remember the old scriptwriter’s adage, show don’t tell.
Formatting Scene Headings This section of www.filmscriptwriting.com deals with how to format scene headings. Remember from our lesson on basic formatting that headings should always be in CAPS. There are three different types of heading, the first being the master scene heading. Master Scene Heading Usually the master scene heading consists of three parts, although there is occasionally a fourth. 1. Camera Location - This one is simple, is the scene taking indoors or outdoors. You denote indoors with INT. and outdoors with ENT. Sometimes a scene will quickly move between outdoors and indoors. In this case you can denote it as INT./ENT. 2. Scene Location - The scene location is the place in which the action is happening. You don’t have to be overly descriptive. Rather than a long description all you need is SMALL PARK, no more. Be short and specific. 3. Time of day - For the most part you just want to use DAY or NIGHT. You don’t need to use more specific terms like EVENING, DAWN or specific time. If you want to denote that a scene is taking place immediately after the last, with no passage of time, then you can use SAME or CONTINUOUS for the time of day heading. 4. Special notations - If the scene takes place in a flashback, dream, or different time period then you can add a fourth part to the master scene heading. You can also use this forth part to note if the scenes aren’t in chronological order to keep the reader orientated. Scene Changes and Spacing You must start a new master scene heading if any of the three (or four) parts of the master scene heading change between scenes. Always double space both before and after any scene headings. Try to avoid ending a page on a heading. Secondary Scene Headings If you need to move between shots in a scene then you can use a secondary scene heading. These can also be used for locations connected to the original or any special instant that needs highlighting. Much like master scene headings these should also be written in CAPS and kept short and specific. You might start a heading like: INT. JAKE’S HOUSE - NIGHT Then want to move to a specific part of the house or denote that time has passed. Then you could just put: IN THE BEDROOM
or LATER You can also use secondary scene headings to focus the shot on a character without using directorial terms. JAKE pulls a .45 Magnum out of his jacket pocket. It’s also perfectly acceptable to lump this together as one line of direction. Jake pull a .45 Magnum out of his jacket pocket. Special Headings Special headings all follow the same basic format, with a few minor differences. They include the MONTAGE, SERIES OF SHOTS, FLASHBACK and (DAY)DREAMS. If you happen to be a writing a movie about a fat boxer with a training MONTAGE then you could write it like this: MONTAGE - STOCKY TRAINING FOR BIG FIGHT -- -- INT. RICKIE’S TRAINING CAMP - Stocky attempts to execute a sit-up. His trainer helps by holding a cream cake in front of Stocky’s mouth. -- -- INT. STOCKY’S HOUSE - Stocky waddles up a flight of stairs and collapses, exhausted. -- -- INT. FEMALE ONLY GYM - Stocky struggles to lift a weight. He slips, with the weight falling across his gut. END MONTAGE This is also how you would format a SERIES OF SHOTS or QUICK FLASHES. Bear in mind that a MONTAGE is usually accompanied by a song. However you should not suggest a piece of music. If you would like to add a FLASHBACK, (DAY)DREAM or PERIOD CHANGE then you can add them to the end of the master scene headline like so: EXT. VIETNAM JUNGLE - DAY - FLASHBACK/DREAM/1969
Formatting Dialogue In A Foreign Language There will be occasions in a script where you might have a character who speaks in a foreign tongue. For example you may have a French waiter mutter something under his breath, in his own language, under his tongue. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak French yourself or are a regular Gerard Depardieu because writing script dialogue in a foreign language is as easy as pie. Put simply you should not write dialogue in a foreign language. Since the person eventually reading your script will probably not be French and may not speak the language, they still need to be able to understand what is going on.
To add a flavor of the foreign language you could sprinkle in a few French words amongst the dialogue like so:
If you positively have to have a character speak a foreign language in a realistic way then you have a number of options. 1. If it doesn’t matter or not whether the audience understand the language spoken by the character or you feel the audience will understand what is going on then you can write out the dialogue in the relevant foreign language. If you yourself can’t speak that language then you can use the wryly/parenthesis to let the reader know what language should be spoken and then write in English, like the first example above. 2. If a character is going to speak a foreign language through a whole scene or even the full movie then you can note it in the narrative description when the character is introduced. This way you can write in English and leave it for someone else to translate later on in the movie making process. There’s a problem with both these methods though. While these are easy to both read and write they aren’t going to be easy to understand to anyone watching the movie unless they actually speak that foreign language. The answer to this problem is to include subtitles in English. 3. Like the second option you can make note in the narrative description that the character speaks a foreign language which is subtitled in English. It should looks something like this:
You can write a full scene in a foreign language with a similar note and a second note when the subtitles end. 4. You can also use the wryly/parenthesis to note that the dialogue is in a foreign language and subtitles in English.
5. This is the last option for subtitling. Use his option if the sound of the words in the foreign language is important, in this example the sound of the language has an amusing quality.
Whenever possible though you should try to use English as much as possible. Subtitles and foreign languages can distract from the action on screen. You can always give a sense of a foreign language by mixing in a few foreign words with a hint of the relevant accent.
Formatting Character Details The following article is going to focus on formatting everything to do with characters in the narrative of your screenplay. This will help your scriptwriting look more professional, improve the flow of your story and create a stronger visual of each character. First Character Appearance When your character makes their first appearance in your screenplay then take care to write their name in CAPS. This makes the character name standout and draws attention to them allowing you to then follow up with a description (see next sub-headline). So when a character makes their first appearance it should look something like this:
You don’t have to put a character’s name in CAPS if they are not important in the story, for example, “man serving slurpees”. You also shouldn’t put a group of people in CAPS, just individual characters. You should also note that when a name is followed by a possessive, then the s should be typed in lowercase. Like below:
To keep your screenplay easy to read it is best if you name your character as soon as they appear. This makes it easier for anyone who reads your script to follow the characters, which keeps them into the flow of the story. If you wish to have a “mystery character” then you could refer to them as SHADOWY MAN and then reveal their identity in the narrative. Character Descriptions When your character makes their first appearance is the perfect time to write out a description of them. You should focus more on the nature of the character as opposed to physical appearance unless there are a few physical traits which are very important to the character or story. Never pin an actors name on a character. Imagine Brad Pitt reading through your script, absolutely loving it, only the find out that the main character is based on, or written for Tom Cruise. The love will quickly dissipate. Like most narrative you should keep it short but descriptive. For example:
Only write description that can be used on screen. You don’t want to be writing about the character’s backstory as part of their description. Save that for dialogue and action. It can be very helpful to the reader to give some small visual piece of information that helps them visual the character. Rather than comment on the facial/body features of a character try to think of something more like a piece of clothing, an odd tic, a certain way of walking, etc. You don’t have to do 44
this for every character, just the more important ones. Minor Characters Names Iâ€™m sure that you already have names for your important characters, or least know that they should have one. Your important minor characters should also names. However your really minor characters are better served with a descriptive name so the reader knows not to focus on them, while giving the character a small amount of identity. If you name a character DRUNKEN HOBO then it lets the reader know their character and function without having to write a description. If they donâ€™t have any lines of dialogue then this is how you should name them, and even if they have a line or two stick with this method. If you have a group of characters, maybe who have the same occupation, then try to give each of them a unique descriptive name. Rather than STRIPPER 1, STRIPPER 2, STRIPPER 3 give them a functional name, this will help the reader and the actor. Instead you might have, DITZY STRIPPER, INTELLIGENT STRIPPER, ANGRY STRIPPER. Now you know a little something about each character and how they may act and speak. If a character is not seen or heard then you can simply describe them in the narrative as an unseen character.
Formatting Electronic Dialogue There may be times in your script that you wish you write scenes in which characters interact with each other via an electronic medium, such as a television, radio, telephone or computer. In an age where electronic communication is taking over one-to-one interaction this can help add an important touch of realism to your screenplay. You should be careful not to overdo electronic communication in your script though as it can slow the pace of the story down and feel rather action-less. Instead it should be used sparingly when it furthers the story or makes sense that the characters should communicate in an electronic fashion. Television/Radio Both television and radio communication is formatted in the same way. In essence you format the television or radio as if it were a character. If you just want a few lines coming from the television in the background then just use television as the character name and write the dialogue you wish, and the same for radio. If you want a specific character to be on the television/radio then there are two different ways to format it. The first method is to mention the character in the narrative description as being on tv/radio and then use the characterâ€™s name as the character caption or cue. A clearer, and simpler, way is to add a parenthetical: (on tv/radio). E.G:
Telephone With the invention of the Bluetooth headsets itâ€™s becoming easier to make telephone phone conversations more exciting. As two characters are talking they can be moving around with action happening all around them. Telephone conversations are a little more flexible in formatting, as there are four widely accepted methods of formatting them. Method 1 - If you only want one character to be shown and heard then this is the method to use. This is formatted like regular dialogue.
You do not need to tell the actor to add pauses, they will know how to act out a telephone conversation this way. Method 2 - The second method is for when you want both characters to be heard but only one to be heard. This is a variation of a voice-over.
Method 3 - When you want both characters to be seen and heard then you can use an INTERCUT. There are two ways of doing this. The simple way is as follows:
Then you would write the dialogue as normal. When the telephone conversation ends, so does the INTERCUT unless you state otherwise. The other way of using the INTERCUT method is as follows:
When you use the INTERCUT method you are giving the director free reign on when to cut between the two characters. Method 4 - If you have a clear image in your head about how you want the scene to play out, including character actions and cuts then this is the more hands on method. While it takes a little more work you allow yourself more control over the scene.
Computer Characterâ€™s can interact on computer in a few ways. Via email/instant message or web cam. In the case of a web cam then you can treat that like a television. If theyâ€™re using email or instant message then remember that only words spoken out loud should be shown as dialogue. You need to find a way of showing the audience all the information they need to glean from the conversation. There are a number of ways to do this, as follows:
Of course you could also adapt the INTERCUT method if you want to cut between two characters typing to each other. Learning how to format electronic communication is another tool in your belt as a scriptwriter. Used well they can add unique elements of drama and comedy to a screenplay. Try writing out a conversation between two of your characters, practice really does make perfect.
Effective Narrative Description Along with dialogue it is the narrative description which takes up the bulk of your script. The narrative description describes the story within your screenplay which includes, the action, settings and characters, and the sounds. The first thing you need to know about writing the narrative description is that it is always written in the present tense. Even if you’re writing a flashback or other sequence regarding past events you should always write in the present tense. The reason behind this is that you view a movie in present time. In terms of formatting you shouldn’t indent paragraphs of narrative description but you should double-space between paragraphs. It is important to keep your narrative short and sweet. Only provide information that is completely necessary to progress the story, while focusing on significant actions and moments. To keep paragraphs short try to keep them down to a maximum of four lines, although one or two lines is always preferable. If you wish to use a dash during a paragraph then it should be formatted with a space, then two hyphens, and another space before continuing the action. Creating The Visual You should try and capture every beat of action or image within one paragraph. Following this guideline will help you keep your narrative description short while relaying any information you need to give the reader. Each paragraph should help the reader “see” and “hear” what would be happening on-screen. Some visual images may only need the briefest of descriptions. Most locations should be kept relatively simple, it is not your job to describe every item in a room or the exact layout of a building. If a scene is to be set in an untidy character’s bedroom you can describe it simply as “A very unkempt bedroom”. The only time you need to mention specific items is when they will come into play later during the scene. If your character happens to trip up over a pile of dirty clothing then you can mention that during your short description of the room. The earlier description may now be changed to “A very unkempt bedroom. A big pile of unwashed clothes stagnates in the middle of the room.” Dramatize The Drama If you’re writing a scene in your script which you intend to add drama to the story then make sure it’s dramatic! It seems like obvious advice but I’ve ready many scripts for friends where “dramatic” scenes have been extraordinarily dull. To write a dramatic scene you should use short paragraphs (as mentioned above) and put emphasis on the actions, emotions and any specific visuals you feel will enhance the scene. A good guideline to keep a smooth flow is to write one paragraph for every beat of action or visual images. See how Sylvester Stallone heightens the drama before Rocky’s first fight with Apollo Creed. 50
Keep Details And Descriptions Trim It can be easy, when scriptwriting, to add in a lot of detail, far more than is required. I remember the first time I tried my hand at scriptwriting, before I’d done any studying at all. I described my main character’s house is such detail that it took nearly three full pages. That’s probably too much description for a novel, let alone a screenplay. It wasn’t until I’d finished that script that I even read another script. When I did I was amazed at how 51
short and to the point it was…and how it held my interest a lot better than the script I had written. You have to pick and choose which details to write about. If a character is drinking while in a scene, you shouldn’t write every time they take a sip, or touch the glass. Leave that to the actor or actress to decide. If you’re on the fence whether to cut a snippet of detail or not you should probably cut it. Similarly you should also remember to only write what the audience what see or hear on-screen. Avoid writing the character’s thoughts unless the audience can hear them in a voice over or other device. Specify The Action Specifying actions helps add color to your screenplay. Some writers like to leave this until the rewrite, focusing on the actual story during the first draft. It is quite simple to do though, especially with a little practice. What I mean by specifying action is that rather than using words such as “looks”, “enters”, “walks”, etc use a much more specific word. Instead of “looks” try “stares intensely” or “glances”. Soon a paragraph that was:
Which has a lot more spark and gives the reader an idea about Zed’s thoughts and feelings at that moment. He is determined to scale that mountain. To can use this technique to add depth to both action and characters. Specifying action allows you to paint a much better portrait of a character and their motivation. A cocky character wouldn’t shuffle, they’d stride. A character who’s disobeyed his wife’s orders and come home later wouldn’t just enter the house, they’d try and sneak in silently. If you use the techniques I have illustrated above you will soon find your narrative description becoming fast paced and gripping which is exactly what it needs to be. Your characters will also find new levels to work in. Now you know how to do all this, your job as a scriptwriter should have just become a whole lot easier!
How to Write a Screenplay: Script Example & Screenwriting Tips By The Writers Store http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-write-a-screenplay-a-guide-to-scriptwriting/ It's easy to feel intimidated by the thought of writing a screenplay. The rules! The formatting! The binding! Don't let the seemingly endless parade of screenwriting elements scare you away from writing your first script. Since a familiarity with the basics of the craft is half the battle, The Writers Store has created this handy screenplay example and overview on how to write a screenplay to help you get up to speed on screenwriting fundamentals. Combine that with the right screenwriting software, books and supplies, and you'll be ready to type FADE IN before you know it. Sample Screenplay Page : see next page Recommended Screenwriting Software for Writing a Screenplay Final Draft Conour Movie Magic Screenwriter MasterWriter Character Writer
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What is a Screenplay? In the most basic terms, a screenplay is a 90-120 page document written in Courier 12pt font on 8 1/2" x 11" bright white three-hole punched paper. Wondering why Courier font is used? It's a timing issue. One formatted script page in Courier font equals roughly one minute of screen time. That's why the average page count of a screenplay should come in between 90 and 120 pages. Comedies tend to be on the shorter side (90 pages, or 1 Â˝ hours) while Dramas run longer (120 pages, or 2 hours). A screenplay can be an original piece, or based on a true story or previously written piece, like a novel, stage play or newspaper article. At its heart, a screenplay is a blueprint for the film it will one day become. Professionals on the set including the producer, director, set designer and actors all translate the screenwriter's vision using their individual talents. Since the creation of a film is ultimately a collaborative art, the screenwriter must be aware of each person's role and as such, the script should reflect the writer's knowledge. For example, it's crucial to remember that film is primarily a visual medium. As a screenwriter, you must show what's happening in a story, rather than tell. A 2-page inner monologue may work well for a novel, but is the kiss of death in a script. The very nature of screenwriting is based on how to show a story on a screen, and pivotal moments can be conveyed through something as simple as a look on an actor's face. Let's take a look at what a screenplay's structure looks like.
The First Page of a Screenplay While screenplay formatting software such as Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Movie Outline and Montage frees you from having to learn the nitty-gritty of margins and indents, it's good to have a grasp of the general spacing standards. The top, bottom and right margins of a screenplay are 1". The left margin is 1.5". The extra half-inch of white space to the left of a script page allows for binding with brads, yet still imparts a feeling of vertical balance of the text on the page. The entire document should be single-spaced. The very first item on the first page should be the words FADE IN:. Note: the first page is never numbered. Subsequent page numbers appear in the upper right hand corner, 0.5" from the top of the page, flush right to the margin. Screenplay Elements Below is a list of items (with definitions) that make up the screenplay format, along with indenting information. Again, screenplay software will automatically format all these elements, but a screenwriter must have a working knowledge of the definitions to know when to use each one. Scene Heading Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0" A scene heading is a one-line description of the location and time of day of a scene, also known as a "slugline." It should always be in CAPS. Example: EXT. WRITERS STORE - DAY reveals that the action takes place outside The Writers Store during the daytime. Subheader Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0" When a new scene heading is not necessary, but some distinction needs to be made in the action, you can use a subheader. But be sure to use these sparingly, as a script full of subheaders is generally frowned upon. A good example is when there are a series of quick cuts between two locations, you would use the term INTERCUT and the scene locations. Action Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0" The narrative description of the events of a scene, written in the present tense. Also less commonly known as direction, visual exposition, blackstuff, description or scene direction.
Remember - only things that can be seen and heard should be included in the action. Character Indent: Left: 2.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 4.0" When a character is introduced, his name should be capitalized within the action. For example: The door opens and in walks LIAM, a thirty-something hipster with attitude to spare. A character's name is CAPPED and always listed above his lines of dialogue. Minor characters may be listed without names, for example "TAXI DRIVER" or "CUSTOMER." Dialogue Indent: Left: 1.0" Right: 1.5" Width: 3.5" Lines of speech for each character. Dialogue format is used anytime a character is heard speaking, even for off-screen and voice-overs. Parenthetical Indent: Left: 1.5" Right: 2.0" Width: 2.5" A parenthetical is direction for the character, that is either attitude or action-oriented. With roots in the playwriting genre, today, parentheticals are used very rarely, and only if absolutely necessary. Why? Two reasons. First, if you need to use a parenthetical to convey what's going on with your dialogue, then it probably just needs a good re-write. Second, it's the director's job to instruct an actor on how to deliver a line, and everyone knows not to encroach on the director's turf! Extension Placed after the character's name, in parentheses An abbreviated technical note placed after the character's name to indicate how the voice will be heard onscreen, for example, if the character is speaking as a voice-over, it would appear as LIAM (V.O.). Transition Indent: Left: 4.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 2.0" Transitions are film editing instructions, and generally only appear in a shooting script. Transition verbiage includes: CUT TO: DISSOLVE TO: SMASH CUT:
QUICK CUT: FADE TO: As a spec script writer, you should avoid using a transition unless there is no other way to indicate a story element. For example, you might need to use DISSOLVE TO: to indicate that a large amount of time has passed. Shot Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0" A shot tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Like a transition, there's rarely a time when a spec screenwriter should insert shot directions. Once again, that's the director's job. Examples of Shots: ANGLE ON -EXTREME CLOSE UP -PAN TO -LIAM'S POV -Recommended Books for Writing a Screenplay Hollywood Screenwriting Directory Save the Cat! Screenplay The Coffee Break Screenwriter TV Writers Workbook Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds Writing the TV Drama Series Spec Script vs. Shooting Script A "spec script" literally means that you are writing a screenplay on speculation. That is, no one is paying you to write the script. You are penning it in hopes of selling the script to a buyer. Spec scripts should stick stringently to established screenwriting rules. Once a script is purchased, it becomes a shooting script, also called a production script. This is a version of the screenplay created for film production. It will include technical instructions, like film editing notes, shots, cuts and the like. All the scenes are numbered, and revisions are marked with a color-coded system. This is done so that the production assistants and director can then arrange the order in which the scenes will be shot for the most efficient use of stage, cast, and location resources. A spec script should NEVER contain the elements of shooting script. The biggest mistake any new screenwriter can make is to submit a script full of production language, including camera angles and editing transitions. It can be very difficult to resist putting this type of language in your script. After all, it's your story and you see it in a very specific way. However, facts are facts. If you want to direct your script, then try to go the independent filmmaker route. But if you want to sell your script, then stick to the accepted spec screenplay format.
Screenplay Formatting Software Screenwriting software makes producing an Industry-standard script simple and straightforward. Programs like Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter put your words into proper screenplay format as you type, letting you focus on a well-told story rather than the chore of margins and spacing. There’s also a wide spectrum of outlining and development software at the ready to help you get your thoughts together before you begin writing. Popular story development software includes Dramatica Pro, a step-by-step guide to the storytelling process, Contour, a character-based structuring system, and Save the Cat!, a program centered on successful screenwriter Blake Snyder’s own proven methods. And if you want a program that combines story development and formatting? Check out Movie Outline, an all-in-one development package that uses step outlining to build your story, scene-by-scene, and Montage, which includes both outline and submission tracking functions. Script Presentation and Binding Just like the format of a script, there are very specific rules for binding and presenting your script. The first page is the title page, which should also be written in Courier 12pt font. No graphics, no fancy pictures, only the title of your script, with “written by” and your name in the center of the page. In the lower left-hand or right-hand corner, enter your contact information. In the lower left-hand or righthand corner you can put Registered, WGA or a copyright notification, though this is generally not a requirement. Sample Title Page Sample Screenplay Title Page: see last page of chapter Below is a list of items you need to prepare your script to be sent out: Script Covers, either linen or standard card stock Three-Hole Punched Paper Screenplay Brass Fasteners (also called Brads), Acco number 5 size 1 1/4-inch for scripts up to 120 pages; Acco number 6 size 2-inch for larger scripts Script Binding Mallet (optional) Screenplay Brass Washers Script Mailers Follow these directions to properly bind your script: Print your title page and script on bright white three-hole punched paper. Insert the title page and the script into the script cover. The front and back covers remain blank. They are just there to protect your script. And remember: pictures and text on script covers scream amateur. Insert two brass fasteners in the first and third holes. Do NOT put a fastener in the middle hole. Flip the script over, and slide the brass washers over the arms of the fasteners. Spread the arms of the fasteners flat against the script. Use a Script Binding Mallet to ensure a tight, flat fit.
Use the flat, self-seal script mailers to send your scripts out to buyers. Materials for Further Exploration Now that you understand screenplay basics, youâ€™re no doubt ready to continue your exploration of the craft and go beyond learning how to write a movie script. The books listed below are some of The Writers Storeâ€™s favorite guides to screenwriting. The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script Wondering how to write a script? This first-rate screenwriting primer provides a concise presentation of screenwriting basics, along with query letters, useful worksheets, checklists, sample scenes and more to help you break into screenplay writing. From Script to Screen: What goes into the making of Hollywood's greatest motion pictures? Join Linda Seger and Edward Whetmore as they examine recent screenplays on their journey from script to screen. Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style The Hollywood Standard describes in clear, vivid prose and hundreds of examples how to format every element of a screenplay or television script. Save the Cat! This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can Save the Cat. Interested in taking a screenwriting class? Visit our courses section for webinars, live seminars, online courses, one-on-one instruction and ondemand courses. You can download a free webinar on "How to Write a Screenplay" from magazine site, ScriptMag.com. Meet the Author: The Writers Store http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-writ-a-screenplay-a-guide-to-scriptwriting/ Since 1982, The Writers Store has been respected worldwide as the leading authority on screenwriting and filmmaking tools. We're the ones professionals turn to when they need advice on choosing the right tools for their writing needs.
3.Storytelling In Scriptwriting As a scriptwriter it is the story in your script that really gets you noticed. A strong story will hook the agents and producers of the world into reading your script, while the characters will keep them into it. You need a compelling story to allow your characters to develop and keep the reader (and eventually the viewer) emotionally involved. By taking into account the four essential components of storytelling while writing your script you will be able to construct a vivid story that will certainly get you noticed by Hollywood executives. Give Your Character a Goal Everyone has one major goal in life. Right now yours could be to become a professional scriptwriter, and you’re trying to achieve that goal by constantly writing, reading www.filmscriptwriting.com, taking a scriptwriting class, etc. However this type of goal wouldn’t be very interesting to watch someone obtain. Instead give your character a goal which requires him to practically put his life on the line. Make it nigh on impossible for them to achieve their goal and see how they react. There should be a point in the story where it seems the character will never be able to achieve their goal but then they pull out that little bit more and get the job done. Constantly Challenge Your Character Your story should be set at the most crucial point of your character’s life. Maybe he’s just been diagnosed with AIDS or his life is crumbling around him, he’s lost his wife, kids and job. Whatever the challenge your main character should be going through emotional and/or physical hell. Always keep your main character on his toes. Just when things seem to be settling down throw a bigger obstacle at him. Put him in the line of fire. By constantly challenging your character you give them the opportunity to develop and improve their self by the end of the story. Focus On How Your Character Deals With These Challenges Which challenges does your character deal well with? Which ones does he struggle with? How does he learn from these obstacles? Every scene in your script should be written around the journey of your main character. While you might have sub-plots the script should always be focused on your main character’s journey. This is the spine of the story, if you ignore the spine then your script won’t move. Outer and Inner Forces A story moves forward by conflict. Conflict is represented by two forces, inner forces and outer forces. The outer forces are often the “bad guys” but they can also be natural disasters, complicated relationships or something else. These are the physical obstacles holding your main character back. They need to make the reader wish that they could step into the script and help your character fight 62
against them. However itâ€™s the internal forces that really hold back your main character. All those emotional hang-ups and neurosis that cause them to sabotage themselves. These behavioural patterns/internal forces have plagued your main characterâ€™s life and during this story they will hit him hard. So hard it hurts. But it is in beating these internal patterns that your main character derives true glory. Maybe he will learn how to accept himself or how to share his emotions. One he is free from this emotional baggage your main character can finally walk off into the sunset and lead a happy, fulfilling life.
Building Your Story After you’ve drummed up an initial story idea with a strong main character it is time to really build the story of your screenplay. The first thing you need to be sure of is that your story idea and main character are both strong enough to carry a two hour movie. The way to do this is to ask yourself if the story and main character interest you. If you’ve done very little background research then the answer is probably no. An interesting story and main character require a lot of work and research before they become marketable. Try to avoid writing a script about a current big news event unless you have an interesting twist or a unique angle on it. Hollywood producers don’t like making movies about current news affairs. This is because by the time a movie is written, produced and then post-produced the event is already at least a year or two old. Yesterday’s news doesn’t sell at the box office. You’ll want to be sure that your story is a visual one, and action driven. If you want to write about a character where a lot of the story is told through their thoughts then the medium for that is a novel. If you want to write a story that is driven then dialogue then the correct medium is a play. Always remember that film scripts are visual pieces which are action driven. The Story Itself Just like I discussed in my “Create A Captivating Scene” article you want to start your story at the latest possible point. Thrust the audience straight into the action. If your story starts off with a character leaving their home, popping into a friends, then going to the bank only for a couple of criminals to hold the joint up then the audience will quickly grow bored. You can cut a lot of that out and start the movie straight at the bank robbery. The audience will instantly sit up and take notice. You should also aim to set the story in a recognisable location. Even if you’re writing a sci-fi screenplay there are ways of doing this. You could have recognisable buildings “updated” for the future, or load cities up with adverts for the latest popular media. Of course the easiest way to get the audience to identify with the setting of your story is to set it in an iconic city. This is why so many movies are set in New York. It is very important that you have passion for the story you are telling. This is why there’s the old adage of “write what you know”. If your main hobbies are playing hockey and watching comedy movies then it’s a lot easier to write a comedy movie about hockey than a period drama. There will be times when it becomes real work to write the next page of your script, that’s when the passion you have for the subject carries you through. The biggest thing to think about though is the plausibility of your story. You need to iron out any plausibility flaws in your screenplay otherwise the story will be hard to believe, and impossible to “get into”. If anything in your movie seems unbelievable to you then it will probably seem ridiculous to the audience.
How The Characters Relate To The Story A great character is one that the audience can root for and empathize with. You achieve this by having horrible events and huge obstacles thrown at the character. The character’s life should be so tough that the audience feel bad for them and desperately want them to achieve their goal. Because the character has to go through so much there better be a big pot of gold for them at the end of the story. If they go through absolute hell just to find that $5 bill they lost then the character is an idiot. If you feel your character’s goal might be too small then there are two things you can do. You can either give them a bigger goal, or put them in a position where they have to achieve that goal. One thing is sure, at the end of your screenplay your character will have changed. Everything they have been through will have changed them for the better. They’ll have achieved their goal and improved in many ways. They could improve emotionally, financially, mentally, physically and/or spiritually. Consider The Budget If you’re a first time scriptwriter it is a lot harder to get a big budget screenplay produced. After you have finished your first draft try to trim any money eating scenes. The easiest way to do this is cut down on exotic locations. A character probably doesn’t need to jet around the world, they can probably find what they’re looking for in their home town. If you need to use SFX then use them, but try to do so sparingly. A forty million dollar movie is a lot more likely to get picked up than a one hundred dollar movie. Build your story up carefully, it is the foundation of your screenplay.
Conflict In Scriptwriting At the very core of every piece of film or television is conflict. If everyone just got along it would make for a very boring movie. As a scriptwriter you have to inject conflict into your script to keep the action moving along so the audience will remain interested. The most important piece of conflict is always the conflict between the main character's success versus the failure of acheiving their ultimate goal. You need to think of each scene as a mini-story where your main character has a goal, it doesn't have to be their ultimate goal, where obstacles are pushed into their path to stop them acheiving their goal. In most scenes the character will be able to overcome these obstacles and achieve their goal with a few exceptions. Brought down to the basics there are two types of conflict. Inner Conflict Outer Conflict
Inner Conflict Inner conflict are the emotion hang-ups and neurosis that we all have. Whether it's something obvious such as a person refusing to ever swim because their Dad drowned when they were a child, or something more subtle, inner conflict is often the deeper, darker side of a character. Inner conflict often hinders the character from developing as a person and acheiving their goal in less obvious way than a physical force. Outer Conflict Outer conflict are the obstacles which confront your character and attempt to stop them acheiving their goal. These can range from the character's relationships to freakish zombie mutants. As much as I have just harped on about the importance of conflict you shouldn't make every scene in your script a desperate fight to save the world from some impending force of doom. If you do this then the audience's emotions will be drained by the climax and then they simple won't care, they've seen it all already. The truly great scriptwriter will take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, complete with ups, downs, and maybe a few loop-de-loops. If you ever get to a point in your script where, with the end still 40 pages in sight, the conflict and tension seems almost impossible to top you need to ever re-write the scene to lower the stakes or provide a little relief from the conflict maybe with a moment of comedy or romance. Then just when the audience has settled down - BAM! - hit them again with more conflict. Remember that life is an eternal struggle and that is exactly what your main character's life needs to be to create an interesting script.
Parallel Storylines If you would like to write a script that will stand out from the crowd then using parallel storylines is a great way of doing so. When parallel storylines are done right they can be extremely creative and very memorable. It is a technique Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery used to great effect in the hit movie Pulp Fiction. The basic premise behind the parallel storyline principle is to have multiple protagonists and/or antagonists who each go through their own story with some common thread between each of them. While parallel storytelling can afford a scriptwriter to write a number of stories with less detail than the usual single plot and subplot structure there are several things to consider before you use the parallel storytelling method. What exactly is the purpose of using the multiple storyline method? Don’t try to separate a single story into three or four just to use a new technique. Each storyline should be separate but have some common thread or event that bring them together. Once you have created several stories it is a good idea to write out the scenes of each story in bullet points onto 3”x5” cards. This way you can easily find the best places for each story to intersect and the timeline in which each story is told. The last point helps with this. You need to come with a smooth transition between stories which doesn’t distract the audience from the overall story. The smoother the transition the easier it is for the audience to keep in the flow of the film. One way of doing this is to having one protagonist meet the protagonist of the next story and then simply follow them after the meeting. Pay attention to character development. Using parallel storylines will mean that each main character will generally get less screen time than in a typical screenplay. This doesn’t mean you can get lazy when it comes to character development. Each character still needs motivation, room to grow, a backstory, an attitude, etc. For more see Building A Great Character. Just as you need to make sure each character is fully developed you have to take the same care with each individual story. Each story needs a protagonist with a problem to overcome and restore the equilibrium in their world while gaining a new attitude. The overall story should have a theme, a message to the audience. This is yet another way to bind each story together. It can be a lot easier to show the audience what the theme of the movie is when you use parallel storylines as the theme is seen from a number of different perspectives. In Pulp Fiction the theme is redemption. After Jules and Vincent escape a barrage of gunfire Jules believes that God has a divine purpose for him and decides to give up the goon business to help others suffering under tyranny. Butch decides not to throw a fight he had agreed to with Marsellus. Marsellus puts a hit out on Butch and only calls it off after Butch saves him from two sexual deviants. Having not learnt from his experiences Vincent winds up dead after waiting in Butch’s house to kill him. 67
The final point is to assign a number of pages to each story and stick to it. If you are telling three stories then they can each have about forty pages each. While you donâ€™t have to be precise, each story should also get a similar amount of pages. This provides a good balance in the overall script. If you plan to write a script with parallel storylines then it is a good idea to read scripts and watch movies that use this method. Good examples of such movies are Pulp Fiction, Sin City, Magnolia, Crash and The Hours.
Story Structure There's no doubt about it, breaking into Hollywood as a scriptwriter is tough. Thousands of scripts are sent each year, some don't get read, most get rejected and a few make it. If you want your script to become a viable commodity it has to have the following. A main character who is driven towards achieving a goal • • •
An opposition to your main character who will hold your main character back from achieving their goal A fight (literal or metaphorical) between your main character and their opposition An ending which answers the questions "Can the main character achieve his goal?"
If your script can present such a story, along with a well thought out main character who the audience can relate to then you will all ready have the jump on most scriptwriters. Remember that once you have sold your script how it is presented and portrayed is all in the hands of the director and the actors. If you want the story in your script to shine then your structure must be solid. Think of the story structure as the framework and foundation of your scipt, from which you can create a wonderful piece of architecture. It doesn't matter how good the story idea, if your structure is weak then the story will fall flat.
Create A Captivating Scene I will teach you how to create a captivating scene for your script by following ten steps. The more you know about scriptwriting, the easier it is to break a screenplay down. A full screenplay breaks down into three acts. Those acts break down into sequences, sequences into scenes and scenes into moments. A scene consists of camera placement (INTERIOR or EXTERIOR), location and time of day. When anyone one of those three elements change then the scene changes too. A scene is a dramatic unit and should be treated as such, that means that something has to happen in each scene to create some drama. Here are the ten steps to follow to create a captivating scene. 1. Every scene should have a purpose and move the story forward. You should be looking to achieve something with every scene. Whether it be to setup a stumbling block for later on or introducing a new character you should look at every scene you write and think “what’s the purpose?”. Every scene should also move the story forward in terms of both the plot and character. In a good screenplay you will notice that each scene connects and develops to the last scene, while leaving a thread or two for the following scenes to pick up. You should also look to have your main character involved in every scene in some way. By making sure your main character is involved there’s a good chance the scene will move the script forward in someway. Every scene in your screenplay should work the story into the frenzied final showdown. Look at the scene you’re writing and ask yourself: What is the purpose of this scene? Why do I need this scene? Does this scene reveal anything new about a character or the story? What is the payoff?
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2. Don’t tell when you can show. When you write your screenplay remember that movies are a visual medium, so be as visual as possible. Don’t have two characters discuss something they did recently, if it’s backstory that’s important enough to bring up directly then it’s important enough to show. There are times when it is more appropriate to tell. If you’re reaching the climax of an action packed scene then telling the reader makes events seem more sudden and gives them an instant impact. 3. Walk and talk. Avoid having two characters just idly chatting while nothing happens. Wherever you have dialogue the 70
characters should also be thrust into action. Even if they’re just walking towards where the next scene is happening. You only have 90 to 120 minutes to tell your story, during which you need to keep the audience’s attention. Don’t let your story lull by having 5 minutes of expositional dialogue with no action. 4. A scene should have a beginning, middle and end. A good scene should stand alone as a dramatic using while tying into the previous scene and leading to the next. Think of each scene you write as a mini screenplay. Have a character with a goal, setback and some sort of conclusion while leaving a loose end for the next scene to take up. 5. Cut the crap. Don’t have dialogue just for the sake of dialogue and don’t have any unnecessary action scenes. A screenplay is a potentially real life situation condensed into a short period of time with all the dull parts cut out. The best way to achieve this is to start each scene as close to the end as possible. If you have a character leaving work, driving home and walking into his home only to find that his house is being burgled then you’re showing too much. You create a lot more impact by cutting the first two parts and just having the character walking into his house and being confronted by the burglar(s). 6. Pace your scenes. While I studied scriptwriting (a process which is never ending) I was given a piece of advice which stuck with me. “Never blow the world up in the beginning of the scene or you’ll have nowhere to go.” While it’s perfectly acceptable and even advisable to start a scene with a big event to grip the reader/viewer you want to save the biggest and best ‘til last. The pace of a scene should also fluctuate depending on its position in the story. The closer to the story climax the quicker the pace should be. Keep throwing obstacle after obstacle at your main character. 7. Finish the scene dramatically. When you reach the end of the scene you should always aim to leave the main character with some sort of decision or imminent decision. Make the viewer lust after the knowledge of what is going to happen next. Throw them a cliff-hanger, a reversal or a revelation to raise their interest level. This is how you add the twists and turns in a story that make it captivating. 8. Transition smoothly between scenes. Here I’m not talking about adding cuts, dissolves and other editing techniques to your script, that’s the job of the director. Perhaps the best way of creating a smooth transition between scenes is to finish on a certain image and then start the new scene with a similar image. For example, you could end one scene with the image of a clock at one location and begin the next scene with the image of a clock at the next location. This example would also help the audience understand any passage of time that has lapsed.
You don’t have to shoe horn in a transition between every scene but if they come naturally, by all means add them. A good transition allows the story to flow smoothly and can add a certain level of cohesion. 9. Define an emotion or mood. In a screenplay every main character should have some sort of ultimate goal. Each scene should work towards that character achieving their goal in baby steps. That means that every scene should contain some sort of action in which the character attempts to achieve their goal. Sometimes the attempt will fail or not work as planned, leaving your character frustrated and angry. Other times they will succeed and be driven on to push towards their goal even harder. Humans are emotional creatures so treat your characters as such. 10. Have a motivated conflict. No matter how big or small it is conflict which drives a story forward. Even small, less exciting, scenes should contain some level of conflict. Even the best of friends have small disagreements and you’ll find that even when two people have the same goal in mind they both have different ways to go about achieving it. In contrast the conflict between two enemies will be much greater, with both characters willing to do anything to defeat the other. If you follow the ten steps above I am confident that even a beginning scriptwriter can create a truly memorable scene. Try keeping this article open on your monitor as you write a scene and keep referring back to make sure you’re on course.
Perfect Plot Structure It doesn’t matter how good of an idea you have if you can’t find a way to tell the story. As a scriptwriter proper structure will give you the ability to convert your idea into a captivating story. The Initial Idea Your initial idea should be able to be explained in only one or two sentences. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was sold purely on the idea “Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver”, it can be that simple. You need to get your basic concept over with the Hollywood executives, and make it easy enough for them to remember so they can discuss it quickly with anyone they talk to. Eventually the right person will hear the concept and green light the project. Backstory The backstory is the character’s past which allows the audience to understand what the characters and story is all about. Much like character’s thoughts, this information should be delivered through the characters’ action and dialogue. You can also use narration or flashbacks but some people believe this to be lazy scriptwriting. You want to deliver the backstory in snippets all throughout the script rather than in a couple of lumps. Blocks of backstory slow the script down and stick out poorly. Exposition Exposition is the information in the main story thread with the audience need to understand completely. Think of The Truman Show where Jim Carrey’s character tries to take a boat out of the city but can’t because of his fear of water. The fear came from his childhood when his Dad died sailing with him. Try to deliver exposition dramatically, through conflict. Remember the adage, show don’t tell. Pace Read any script and you will see that the action intensifies the further the story goes. This is pace. Think of your story as a roller coaster, which the ups getting higher and downs going lower. A story is just that, an emotional roller coaster. The tougher the obstacles the shorter the scenes should be until the story becomes almost claustrophobically tight. Turning Points The turning points are key points in a script that move the story along greatly. They will grab the story and characters to turn them to a new direction. Every time the action seems to be settling down you need to throw that curveball to add a breeze of fresh air to the story. Obstacles The obstacles are the inner or outer forces that block your character from achieving their ultimate goal. You can liken the obstacles in a story to a snowball rolling down a hill. The snowball grows larger and picks up more speed until it comes crashing down to the bottom of the hill.
Dramatic Irony This is when, as a scriptwriter, you allow the audience to know something important that the character does not. It could be your main character proposing to his girlfriend after youâ€™ve just seen her romping with her lover or selling their most beloved possession to pay for a debt that has already been paid off for them. Climax This is the biggest scene in the film. Good vs. Evil comes to a head and all the loose ends in the story are tied up. Your main character must fight their last battle, whether it be physically or emotionally. Resolution The final scene of the movie. Everything is right in the story world, your main character has a grown as a person and now â€œrides off into the sunsetâ€? to live a rich, fulfilling life.
Subplot While the plot drives the story, it’s the subplot that carries the theme of your script. In The Crow the plot is of a young man coming back from the dead to kill those who killed him and his wife. The subplot was The Crow giving Eric Draven the power and guidance to act out his revenge. The subplot often involves a relationship of some kind, the theme being love, loss or staying strong. This gives the characters in the script a chance to be “human”, to show them as real people with relationships and feelings. Many films contains several subplots but this can either cause or be because of a weak plot. The genre of the script you’re writing will have a big impact on the number of subplots you need. An all-out action movie will only need one or two, the focus being on the main plot. Just like the main plot the subplots will have a beginning, middle and end and will interweave with the plot in some way. Subplots should be looked at as the sizzle added to the steak of the plot. How To Work Your Subplot Correctly 1. Your subplot will be a big part of the story - In the movie Stranger Than Fiction, the developing relationship between Harold Crick and Ana Pascal takes up a significant portion of Act II and Act III. 2. Weave your subplot into the main plot - The subplot has to intersect with the plot at sometime or else it has no purpose. This is extremely poor story structure. One of the best examples of a poor subplot would be in the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore. When Happy’s Grandma is taking into a home she is looked after by a mean, slave driving orderly. By the end of the movie she is by Happy’s side, away from the orderly, and with no action having been taken against him. 3. Some subplots start a film and are done before the plot begins - You’ll watch some movies and note that the plot doesn’t really kick in until Act II. This is often because the scriptwriter has either done a poor job of weaving the subplot and plot together or has fallen in love with the dynamic and forgotten the focus of the film. 4. Set your subplot apart from your plot - Your subplot should have a beginning, middle and end and flow along nicely. The subplot should weave into the plot at crucial moments in the script. If they don’t then they are subplots, they’re know as parallel plots. Parallel plots are TV devices, used because of limited time. Shows like The Simpsons often have both parallel plots and subplots running at the same time. 5. The main story and subplot show two different perspectives - The subplot gives you a chance you show the reader events from a different point of view. In Rocky, Apollo Creed’s trainer was worried that Rocky might prove to be a tougher opponent than originally thought. 6. Never let the subplot steal the main story’s focus - The main story should be the main focus, with subplots adding flavor to the story. It may help you to write out a few bullet points on your plot and each subplot. Stick them on the adjacent wall in order of importance. Your plot would be first, then you need to assign each subplot to 75
“B” story, “C” story, etc.
The Three Act Structure Key Points of Script Structure Here is the story structure timeline that nearly every scriptwriter follows. Itâ€™s a simple formula, Act I is the beginning, Act II is the middle, and Act III is the end. Scripts are generally 100 to 120 pages. Each page, on average, equates to 1 minute of screen time. Of course some action-filled pages may take 5 minutes a piece while some pages loaded with dialogue only 20 seconds but it all evens out. One of the first things that producers check when reading the script is the length. If it is under 100 pages then it appears that the scriptwriter doesnâ€™t have enough material to tell a feature length story. Go the other way, over 120 pages, and the script is automatically thought of as cumbersome. Once you have a solid reputation as a scriptwriter you can get away with going over 120 pages but you should stick to these guidelines if this is your first spec script. The easiest way of keeping to this unwritten rule is to break your story into three acts. In a 120 page script the first act would take up one quarter (30 pages) of the script. Act II takes up half (60 pages) of your script. Act III takes the final quarter (30 pages) of your script.
Act I - The Beginning In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. He did this in the dark, which makes it even more impressive. As a scriptwriter you need to make an equally impressive start to your writing project if you want to create a masterpiece. In Act I you begin with a main character whose life is about to be turned upside down, and who’s going to be pushed harder than ever before. Pushed so hard that his outlook on life will change forever. The Ten Most Important Pages of Your Script The first ten pages you write in your script are without doubt the most important. You need to grab the reader there and then or else they will put your script down and move onto the next script in the pile. Elements of the First Ten Pages In the first ten pages you will want to setup the following: The Main Character Exactly who is your main character? What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? Does he live a jet setting lifestyle or does he life revolve around his desk job? Whatever sense of normality your main character has is about to be torn apart. Location and Mood Where does your character reside and how are the conditions? Does he live on the peaceful beaches of Hawaii or the cold, dingy streets of Philadelphia? Imagine if Rocky had been set in Hawaii, the movie just wouldn’t have worked on the same level. Genre By the end of the first ten pages it should be clear if your movie is an action flick, a romantic comedy, horror or other. The Premise The premise is the basic story. For example you could describe Rocky as the ultimate underdog getting his one shot at glory against the boxing world heavyweight champion. After the first 10 pages there are two more important plot points in Act I: The Inciting Incident So far the first ten pages have told the viewer of the main character’s life. Well now is the time his world is going to be thrown into chaos. A major problem occurs which the main character will have to resolve for their life to return back to normal. Your main character should have the motivation and will to achieve this goal by doing anything imaginable. Plot Point I Nearing the end of Act I, around page 25, another huge event happens - Plot Point I. Thus far the story has been driving along and now is the time a tyre blows and sends the car careering off in another direction. The event will test your main character and challenge them to answer “how far will you go to 78
achieve your goal?â€?
The Opening Scene So you’re sat down to write the opening scene it your script. You know your story but aren’t sure of the best way to start it. You want to setup the rest of your script, capture the mood of the story and hook the reader right away. Here are several types of opening that you can use to start your film. None of these are mutually exclusive, you can choose to mix and match certain elements from each type. The Blatant Opening - Within a few moments you know exactly who the hero is and what the movie will be about. The James Bond series are a great example of this type of opening. In this first ten pages of your script you will introduce the hero, the villain and exactly why they oppose each other. The blatant opening works particular well for action films, a fast, intense opening will hook the reader and keep them flicking through the script. A Regular Day - In this opening you will put over the pace of life in a regular day for your main character. Then an event will happen which breaks the normality of your character’s life, one which they will need to rectify for their life to return to the way it was. True Beginning - The script starts right along with the start of the story for the main character. They might have just been given a million dollars, or landed in a new country. Dramatic Irony - This is the only beginning that won’t contain your main character. Instead you give the audience some information that your main character won’t know and will soon affect his/her life greatly. Dramatic irony allows the audience to be in a superior position and sets up both tension and anticipation. Foreshadowing - This opening takes place before your main story begins and anticipates what is going to happen later in the story. Like the dramatic irony opening the audience is placed in a position to predict what is going to happen. This is often used for doomsday and horror movies. Narrator - The narrator can be the hero, a secondary character or just a stand alone narrator. The narrator tells the story of the events which happened to the main character at a important time in their life. Flash forward - The flash forward has two stories running side by side simultaneously. The B story has a narrator who tells the main story, which has already happened. At certain points in the story there’s a flash forward to the narrator who continues with his tail. The A story is the main story, the B story is of the narrator looking back. Montage - This is a great type of opening if you have a lot of information to get across before the main story begins. Also known as a shotgun, a collection of short clips accelerate through the information until the story proper begins. Then the speed of the story can slow down to a regular pace. In a matter of minutes you can explain years of your main characters life.
Act II - The Middle Act II is the longest act in the script and you should make it seem as long as possible for your main character yet as short as possible for the reader. Your main character will come face to face with a whole variety of obstacles, the obstacles steadily growing bigger and tougher. Every time he takes a step on the path to reach his goal some force (inner or outer) will block his path, forcing the main character to think quicker and grow stronger if he wants to succeed. For this reason it is a good idea to have only one or two main characters in a movie. Anymore and you risk having characters become undeveloped and the audience not really caring about them since they don’t appear to be in any big danger. This act is all about conflict and confrontation, nothing should come easy to your main character. The Midpoint Act II can be the hardest act to write as a scriptwriter. When you begin a writing project you often have a clear mental picture of the beginning and end of the script, but it’s how you get there that proves difficult. Fortunately the midpoint of the script offers a lifeline to the scriptwriter. Here we have another turning point, often the introduction or death of a character which sharpens the focus of the main character on achieving his goal. In Rocky II Rocky has been looking for a white collar job but has been unable to due to his lack of education. Going against Adrian’s wishes Rocky accepts a challenge to a rematch from Apollo Creed. Plot Point II Towards the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III we come to a crisis point, Plot Point II. Right now the main character in your script has had enough. They’re sick and tired of all the obstacles being thrown in their way. Their world is a dark place with only a small beam of light left. Plot Point II should: 1. Force the main character to take action in attempt to solve the problem created by the inciting incident. 2. Make the character (and audience) fully aware of the “ticking clock”. Time is running out for your main character to finish the job. 3. Focus the main character on their ultimate goal. Think of Rocky II when Adrian emerges from her coma to tell Rocky to win the fight. He re-focuses on his training and becomes faster, tougher, and stronger.
Act III - The End The clock has run out, it’s now or never for your main character. By now your main character sees the goal in front of them, but even closer to him are several more obstacles. These will be the biggest obstacles of all but your main character has come too far to turn around and head for home now. Your character has to want to achieve to achieve their goal so badly that nothing will stop them. That does not mean to say that your story has to have a happy ending. Just a glimmer of hope or a torch being passed is equally satisfying, especially if you are expecting to write a sequel to this script. Scriptwriting is all about solving your characters’ problems and resolving their story. However always be careful not to give your story the “yellow ribbon ending”. This is where all the loose threads in the story are tied up neatly, so neatly the ending seems false. The Climax The climax is the biggest scene in the movie, the final battle between right and wrong, good and evil. Your main character will save the day and resolve their problems in dramatic fashion. You have to make sure that it’s the main character who saves the day and not some Johnny Come Lately bailing him out, then your main character has achieved nothing. In Dodgeball the Average Joes team beat the team from Globo-Gym only for White Goodman to reveal that Peter La Fleur had already sold him the gym, so the victory was all for nothing. La Fleur counters with the revelation that he placed all the money White had given him and bet on Average Joes to win. This leaves Peter La Fleur with another money to buy a controlling stake in Globo-Gym and take back ownership of Average Joes gym. I hope this section on the three act structure of film scriptwriting has helped you greatly. Now go forth and get writing!
Embracing Structural Limitations When you look at the three act structure it appears to be quite limiting to your writing. While that is true, those same limitations can be a great help to you, especially if you are new to scriptwriting. These limitations basically hold your hand through the storytelling process and provide great structure even for those who have never written before in their life. The three act structure is like a paint-bynumbers kit for scriptwriters. The difference is that even though you’re following a set structure you still have plenty of room to stamp your own mark on your story. Writing is obviously a highly creative process but those limitations, which some scriptwriters complain about, help reign you in and turn out at least a solid story which viewers can understand. What Limits? If you wish to use limitations to your advantage then you first need to understand exactly what those limits are. The first limit is also the most important, time. A feature length film generally lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. Each page of a script equates to roughly 1 minutes. Therefore you have between 90 and 120 pages to work with. Breaking Up Time Lets say you’re planning to write a 90 minute comedy movie. To keep your story ticking along you want to keep scenes between 1 and 3 minutes long. On average that means your scenes will be 2 minutes long. A simple bit of division shows that means you will have around 45 scenes in your story. In the planning stage of scriptwriting a lot of writers like to write out a brief description of each scene onto 3x5 cards. This really helps with keeping track of your story and character development. Character Limitations Even experienced script readers can have troubled keeping track of multiple main characters. That is why it’s a good idea to never have more that four main characters. Anymore than that and it’s really hard to fit in enough development to make them a worthwhile character. A common way of making this work is to have one protagonist and one antagonist, each with a close friend or sidekick. Your main protagonist should appear in the vast majority of scenes, this limitation helps you from going off on too many side stories and subplots with minor characters. Layout Limitations If you’ve ever read a script before then you’ll know just how much empty “white space” there is. That’s because the best scriptwriters use words sparingly. Remember you’re not writing a novel, there’s no need for huge block of overly descriptive narrative or long winded monologues.
To make use of this, you might wish to follow the “Rule of 3”. The Rule of 3 The “Rule of 3” is a simple limitation that you can put on yourself which will help keep your writing short and snappy. Basically you keep all blocks of dialogue to 3 lines or less, have no more than 3 characters in a scene, and a maximum of 3 subplots. Now you know your limitations and how to use them your scriptwriting will improve immensely. I find there are four stages to learning anything with an element on creativity involved. When you start a new craft you try to do it by the book, it’s the only reference you really have after all. After you’ve gained a little experience you start getting frustrated by the restrictions and try to rewrite the book yourself. This experiment tends to lead to failure and a realisation that the book’s there for a reason, it works. Finally you learn what rules you should stick to stringently and which ones you can push the boundaries of. Simply put: The more you write, the better you get.
Character Development Itâ€™s been said that a truly great character can save an otherwise poor script. In a perfect world every script would tell a great story and be chock full of interesting characters, however this isnâ€™t a perfect world. Some people are great storytellers who provide a fantastical narrative to their script but the characters feel lifeless and more like props to tell the story when, in fact, in should be a cast of scintillating character moving the script along. In this section of the site www.filmscriptwriting.com will offer techniques, guides, and quizzes to help the aspiring scriptwriter develop intriguing characters with more layers then an Eskimo.
Character Research You’ve got a great idea for a script. Your main character is a hotel manager who, with sheer will and determination, wants to become the owner of the biggest chain of hotels in the world. Okay, so that’s not a great idea but you get my point. Every script needs a main character to drive the story along. The main character should be, in general, the deepest and most interesting character. When you finally get to sitting down and starting the scriptwriting process you realise that you don’t know the first thing about running a hotel. Bit of a stumbling block, don’t you think? This is where character research comes in. You need to find what drives these characters, what their concerns are, how they keep going, what their goals are. It is only in getting to grips with your character that they will light up your script rather than dragging it along with them.
General Character Research The one great thing about general character research is that you’ve always got something to fall back on. Remember how your grandma would always say goodbye to her cat before leaving her house? Or how your friend would always sit on certain seat on the bus if it was available? These are all general character traits which can be noticed while people watching. Most writers are people watchers. Every little quirk you see in people you know, or people you don’t, can’t be used to flesh out the characters in your script. I assume that more or less everyone who’s reading this went to a school of some sort. If you’re writing a script with a couple of schoolchildren in then you can draw on your personal experience and memories and create a couple of solid characters with fun tails of pranks and mischief. Everything you experience in life can be taken as general character research for scriptwriting. Every emotion you’ve felt, every relationship, every job provides with a broad background of character knowledge you can draw upon.
Specific Character Research I’ve heard a few times that you should “write what you know” and while there is merit in that, part of the fun for many scriptwriters is immersing themselves in a new environment. Using my opening idea of a hotel manager I’ll highlight what specific character research is. I don’t personally know any hotel managers but that does not need be a stumbling block. Information is easier than ever to access. I’m sure if you were to search the internet they’d be a blog of a hotel manager, a myspace or facebook page or maybe even a forum full of hotel managers…which is a scary thought. You could strike up an online rapport with one of these hotel managers and have a wealth of information at your fingertips.
Go down to you local library (if you want to be a scriptwriter try to avoid ever paying for anything!) and read a book on business management. Depending on how good the library is they may even have one specifically on hotel management. My favorite approach though is the personal one. Treat yourself to a short break and stop in a small hotel. Get talking to the manager and let him know you’re a scriptwriter, you’d be surprised how open people will be with you especially if you offer to take them for a meal or a coffee. When people hear you’re a writing a script and they can help you the lure of their having some portion of their life on the big screen is just too much for most people to resist. I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece on character research. Stay tuned because there’ll be more to come.
Character Background When you are developing a character for your script you need to be aware that they do not live in a vacuum. Their environment and upbringing will shape them greatly. A 40 year old man from 18th century England will be vastly different from a 40 year old man from present day England. If you want to understand a character you need to understand the context of the character. Think of context as the jug and the character as water. As the water is poured into the jug the shape it takes depends on the shape of the jug. Cultural Background There are many cultural influences you have to consider when planning out your character. Ethnic - How would Irish American differ from an Italian American? Think about their speech, how they express themselves, mannerisms, attitudes and life philosophy. Social - Is your character from an well-to-do Washington family or a dirt poor Detroit family? How would this affect them? Religious - Your character will have a religious philosophy. They could be Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic or Atheist? How would this change their attitudes to people of other religions? Or how they deal with moral situations? Education - How long did your character go to school? Did they enjoy it? Were they popular? What did they study? The Time Period Most scriptwriters choose to write in the current period. This is because the audience of the time can relate to cultural references and a lot less research is required. Setting a script in the future is no problem as you can choose to take the world in any direction you wish but the past is a lot more tricky. You need to take into account that the way characters talk will be quite different. The vocabulary, rhythm, obscenities and meanings of words will not be the same as today’s speech pattern. Similarly the clothes, amenities and buildings were vastly different. This all needs to be researched thoroughly if you want the world your script is in to be realistic. Location A script set in New York will undoubtedly have a much different flavor to one set in Rhode Island. It is a lot easier to write about the place you live than somewhere you have never even seen before. This cuts down on the amount of research needed as you know a lot more about the area you’ve lived in for the last 20 years than somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit but never got round to. It is unwise to write about a location that you’ve never been to before but it can be done. It just requires a lot of specific research. The location affects clothing, attitudes, pace of life, accents, etc.
Occupation The occupation of a character and how it affects them is often overlooked in film and can be downright ignored in a TV series. A farmer is going to have a much different pace of life than a stockbroker. A model is going to dress more stylishly than a postal worker. Depending on the occupation the character may have a unique set of skills. A negotiator is going to be very good at working people around to his way of thinking. Also the occupation and cultural background can prove to be closely related. That well-to-do Washington man is a much more likely to be the CEO of a company than the dirt-poor Detroit man. Interview Your Character You might find it helpful to write out an interview with your character to find out their background. Imagine they are someone you’ve just met for the first time and you want to find out more about them. Perhaps the best question you can ever ask a character is “what would you do if…?”
Naming Your Characters Giving your character the “right” name can often be a big piece in the puzzle of making your character feel like a real person. For example, if you have a one man war machine who is killing people left and right don’t call him Bob Smith. No offence to anyone called Bob Smith but it’s not a name with brings to mind an unstoppable force. Whenever you create a character you should have a strong feeling on what he/she is all about. What qualities and characteristics do they possess. I’d like to step outside the media of film and look at the world of video games. The naming of characters is often given a lot more thought in video games (especially RPG’s) than movies or TV. In particular I’d like to look at a series of games called Final Fantasy. Not only are the stories rich and focused but the characters are deep and interesting. Part of this is in the naming of the characters. Final Fantasy VII was lead by Cloud Strife. He was physically strong, yet mentally weak with a brooding nature. He had a whole cast of allies who fought against the main antagonist Sephiroth. Sephiroth was a genetically enhanced soldier who believed himself to be the son of an alien God, and therefore in line to take over the world. The name Sephiroth is based on the teachings of Kabbalah. In Kabbalah there are ten Sephiroth, which are ideas, attributes and concepts one must realise to reach their inner Christ. This of course relates to how Sephiroth wants to become the next God. Of course all these names are all well and good but rather outlandish. While that may be fine for the fantasy/sci-fi genre the names would seem overly odd in a more realistic setting. The idea is good but needs toning down. If you have a female character who is quiet and full of dignity the name Emily Lincoln immediately pops into me head. This is down to personal experience (general character research), every woman called Emily I know has these personality traits. Lincoln of course comes from Abraham Lincoln, the very picture of dignity. One thing to consider in naming a character is their ethnic background. If you have a character that is Irish-American then surnames like Mahon, McMahon, Flaherty and O’Neill spring forward. Also you want to be careful is having too many characters with the same first letter of their first name. You don’t want a cast of characters called Adam, Alice, Anita, Allan and Aretha. Try and mix it up instead. Unless both names seem perfect for the character don’t have any character sharing the same first letter in their name. This sets them all apart and make them seem more individual. Finally the internet is a great tool in naming characters. There are plenty of baby naming sites out there where you can put in character keywords such as “fighter” and “strong” and come out with a list of appropriate names and their meanings. Try http://www.babynamesworld.com/meaning-search.html
The Main Character Your main character is the crown jewel in your story. Every scene in your script should reinforce what the character’s ultimate goal is and the lengths they will go to achieve it. They should be put in peril and constantly tested to bring out their strengths and weaknesses. As your script progresses your main character will steadily turn those weaknesses around. But it will take them a lot of work and effort. The main character needs to be put in such intense situations that he is broken down, only to be built back up in a stronger form. Make sure that: Your Main Character Is Imperfect Your main character should have plenty of vulnerabilities and imperfections, otherwise you have no where to go with them. If you start your script with a main character who is already complete and ideal then they will be able to overcome any problem you throw at them too easily. The Character’s Goal Is Clear If you’ve started the scriptwriting process with a firm idea of the story then this one should come naturally. You already know the basic story arc and where the lead character is going. However if you’re trying to build a story around a character then you need to make sure they have a well defined goal. Your main character will go to any lengths to reach their goal, throwing themselves into more and more dangerous situations as a result. The Main Character Re-Acts and Acts Never have a main character just stand and watch as an event unfolds. They need to re-act and then act. Imagine for a moment that your family has been kidnapped and you have been left a few clues on how to find them. Your immediate re-action would be to feel upset and angry, although possibly relieved that you have a window of opportunity to get them back. You would then act by looking into the clues and trying to find out exactly where your family are and how you can get them back. That is you reacting and then acting on a situation. Your main character needs to have this “think and do” mentality to every situation, even if the “do” often overshadows the “think”. No Character Is More Dynamic Than Your Main Character Your main character needs to be the richest, deepest character in your script. Otherwise why aren’t we following the story of this side character? If you find yourself halfway through a script and a side character is emerging as more interesting than a main character then there are a few different actions you can take. You could simply replace this character with a less interesting creation, and keep the character in mind for another script. Another option is to reduce the role of the side character, giving them less time to shine. Or you could kill off this side character as another obstacle or an inciting incident for the main character. Then again you could always change the story up a little and turn the script into more of a buddy 91
movie. You Realise Less Is More Keep your story focused on no more than two or three characters. There is a reason ensemble (four or more main characters) movies rarely work. In the space of two hours it is hard enough to flesh out and keep one character focused, let alone a handful. It is also very hard to get four or five big Hollywood stars to work together at the same time while receiving equal billing. If you have a story with half a dozen main characters then you might want to consider condensing their characteristics into two or three main characters and one side character. You Build Sympathy In Your Main Character Look at any western movie, especially a John Wayne film. John Wayne’s house would be destroyed, his land ruined, his wife raped, his family killed or any other number of horrific events would happen. You can imagine how awful you’d feel if any of these things happened to you. It gives John Wayne a green light to do anything he wants while seemingly perfectly justified in his actions. Your main character will have something taken away from them in such a way that they will still seem the “good guy” no matter how far they go to improve the situation they are in. Your Main Character Controls Your Writing The main character will occasionally start to lead you in direction you didn’t expect. Don’t worry, that’s good. This means that your character has a life of their own rather than borrowing off yours. If they start going too far, turning the story on its head then you might need to reign them back a bit. Remember that the character is a player in your created world and when they start going in their own direction it’s a good indication that your character is growing into a “real person”, or at least as close as you can get in a script. Your main character will make or break your script. Keep them focused, driven and goal orientated and they’ll stand out as a cut above the rest.
The Villain For every Luke Skywalker there is a Darth Vader, for every Sherlock Holmes a Professor Moriarty. Every protagonist needs an antagonist to play off because without evil, goodness means nothing. Suffice to say that everything your main character stands for, the villain will oppose and vice versa. At this point it is important to note that not every antagonist is a villain. Often there will be several antagonists in a script who don’t have that evil edge required to be classified as a villain. Rather they are simply doing their job which results in them opposing the antagonist. For example your main character might desire a bank loan yet be refused because of a poor credit background. The bank manager is not doing anything evil, simply carrying out his duty as a good bank manager yet he is directly opposing the protagonist. The villain will oppose the protagonist but in a more sinister fashion. While the protagonist may believe in freedom of speech the antagonist may be suppressing that right in people in an active manner. Indeed villains are often the most active characters in a good versus evil story. They’ll lie, cheat, steal, maim, murder, bribe and betray, anything to achieve their goal. There is a tendency in Hollywood movies for the villains to have little to no motivation for their attitude and goals, serving only as a shadow to the good force of the main character. However the truly iconic villain will be every bit as motivated as the good guy. Remember that no-one in life considers themselves the bad guy, everyone has a rational and justified reason for their actions…even if only they understand that rationale. Hitler’s name is often brought up as one of the most evil men in history. His motivation was to obtain the space and resources needed for the Aryan race to spread and rule the world. Thus humanity would be in a superior position, smarter and stronger, in his opinion. Many other people have shared similar beliefs about various races throughout history but it is the way that Hitler set about achieving his goal, killing millions of people in a tyrannical rampage that sets him apart as one of the most evil figures in history. As a scriptwriter you need to explain the why the villains acts in the way they do. The two main reasons characters become villains tend to be through their own victimization at an early age, or a selfserving attitude leaving the villain with little to no empathy. The “victim villain” tends to be a re-actor, with a backstory to explain his evil traits. The “self-serving villain” tends to have a number of unconscious factors which have resulted in their maladjusted world view, just like Adolph Hitler as looked into above. Recognise that no-one is 100% evil. Instead they will have a few positive traits littered amongst a black cloud of negativity. Remember Blofeld from James Bond movies, while he had an obsession with killing James Bond (in highly convoluted manners) and world domination, his Persian cat certainly wouldn’t have seen him as evil. He thought the world of his cat and treated it with love. One thing that bonds all villains is a certain form of narcissism. A set of beliefs where they feel that there world view, their thoughts and their feelings are correct and more important than anyone else’s. As far as they are concerned they are the only human while everyone around them is a mindless robot taking human form, therefore they are “perfectly justified” in sacrificing such pawns to achieve their 93
goal. Everyone’s always wrong…except me!
An Overview Of Dialogue Dialogue is an excellent tool in developing a character. It should be used to gradually grow and evolve your characters and expound on the character arc. A lot of would-be scriptwriters worry about their ability to write dialogue but a great screenplay needs strong characters and a captivating story first and foremost. A great example of this would be the early episodes of Star Wars. Effective dialogue should achieve five things: 1. Move The Story Forward When you write dialogue you want to make sure that it keeps the story flowing. If your script comes skidding to a halt during a conversation between two characters then you need to edit how the information is given out. Break it up, show it through action or whatever else you can think of to keep your story moving along at a good pace. 2. Reveal The Emotional Stakes During every conversation your characters should go through a range of emotions and display them accordingly. Remember that different characters will display the same emotion differently. While one character may go into a destructive rage when they are angry, another might try to mask their anger behind a fake smile. 3. Reveal Your Character’s Background Every character has a different background which affects how they speak. An intelligent character might use a myriad of colourful phrases to describe things while a street punk will use a few monosyllabic words to explain things. 4. Reveal Conflict There are many types of conflict which will effectively show they type of relationship between two characters. A light hearted couple of jibes about a character’s choice of pants shows that both characters are close and friendly. An all out fist fight indicates a poor relationship with a certain amount of backstory to it. In movies dialogue tends to replace the inner thought you’d find in a novel. Any conflict must be verbalized and explored. If there are two characters in a scene and they both want the same thing then the scene feels flat, everything moves along too smoothly. Nothing goes smoothly in real life and your script should be much the same. 5. Create Tension Every character has an agenda, some are out in the open and some are hidden. Clashing agendas result in tension either on the surface or in the subtext. When you’re in a scene remember that each character wants something to happen, often in opposition of the character they are playing off. How does your character react to these situations? Be aware that each different situation will result in your character reacting in a different way. As the script progresses and your characters grow the reaction becomes more focused and explosive. 95
Realistic Dialogue Critics often focus on the realism of dialogue. The truth is though that good dialogue is not at all like a real life conversation. Dialogue is much more sharp and to the point. Movies are action orientated, if you want to write a dialogue loaded piece then a play is the medium for that. You want to think of dialogue as edited speech, like two friends talking with all the extraneous and unnecessary parts taken out. No umm-ing and ahh-ing, and no rambling. Dialogue should be like a good conversation, everyone makes their point quickly and succinctly and then allows others to put in their two cents. Avoid having characters going off on long rants or monologues, instead try and keep any dialogue to a couple of lines. Occasionally a long speech is needed but you need a really good reason and message behind the monologue otherwise the audience will get bored quickly. There are ways you can keep dialogue “realistic” without it being dull and long winded. Allow your characters to interrupt each other from time to time, have them overlap. They can lie and exaggerate to each other. Also you want to avoid having characters referring to the name of the person they are talking to. When you are writing the first draft of your script you shouldn’t worry too much about writing dialogue. Don’t over think it. Just let it flow and come from the heart and it will seem a lot more natural. You can always go over it in the rewrite to tweak and improve it. Some writers put barely any effort into the dialogue in the first draft, leaving basic phrases they can change later. As you write down the dialogue be thinking to yourself, “is there a shorter, snappier way of saying this?”. You’ll eventually get the hang of saying the most in as few words as possible. Once you get inside the head of the character you’re writing for it makes it much easier. This is why some scriptwriters like to write out a character biography and back story for their main characters before they begin writing the dialogue. A character voice consists of eight things: 1. The text/words 2. The subtext/meaning behind the words 3. Grammar 4. Vocabulary 5. Accent and/or cultural influences 6. Slang 7. Professional jargon 8. Style, rhythm and structure A Simple Exercise To Improve Your Understanding Of Dialogue If you’re serious about being a scriptwriter then you should invest in a digital Dictaphone. You might want to ask permission first but use the Dictaphone whenever you can and record conversations with as wide a variety of people as you can. Listen back to it and note the details. You’ll begin to develop a feeling of when people interrupt each other, when the topic gets changed, when there are lulls or uncomfortable moments.
Subtext: The Meaning Behind The Words Most of the time it’s not what you say but how you say it. A few complimentary words, with the right tone of voice, can become a sarcastic insult. Of the eight elements of dialogue the subtext is probably the most important yet can be the hardest to pin down. Subtext is the meaning behind the words, the emotions within the speech. As the prefix suggests the subtext is hidden below the text. Think of an iceberg with the tip being the visible tip, with the deeper meaning underneath, out of view. Just like in real life a character should rarely say what they really mean, instead it should be subtly hidden amongst the text and in the actions of the character. If you watch any “behind the scenes” documentary about a movie and see an actor or actress asking the director about their character motivation they are referring to the subtext within the dialogue. In the Woody Allen film Annie Hall there is a scene where Annie and Alvy are talking to each other on a balcony. While they chat the subtext of the conversation is displayed in subtitles.
This is perhaps the best example of the underlying subtext behind conversation in film. When you have a grasp of subtext it helps immensely in writing dialogue. You will find that your characters will speak with a more human voice, and in a way that is more conducive to effective dialogue. That is to say it will have more snap and less directness. How often do you hear someone directly say “I’m angry”? You’re much likely to hear their exasperation through phrases such as “What the hell?” or “I can’t believe what I’m hearing!”. As you write any dialogue you should remember to consider the character’s attitude, their perspective on the situation, their thoughts and feelings and what they are looking to achieve in the particular scene as well the story in general. Subtext also has another meaning. In every screenplay the main character has some sort of outside goal (the story text) as well as an inner need (the story subtext). For a character whose goal is to be able to purchase a Ferrari Testarossa they probably have an inner need to be seen as important and successful. Therefore the text of story should send the character on a path in which achieves a certain level of importance and success. This way he has triumphed even if he fails to achieve his outside goal. Without achieving his goal he may feel like a loser in the short term but the disappointment will soon lift when he realises his enhanced status. Often this realisation doesn’t even occur within the script but the audience is left with a feeling of how the character’s life will change for the better. Practise makes perfect. (Write as much as you can, as often as you can.)
Exposition Through Dialogue One purpose of dialogue is to communicate the backstory, background information and any facts that are necessary to the story. This is known as exposition. It is all too easy to lump the majority of the exposition in the first few pages of your script but this gets the story off to a slow start from which it may not recover. It also lessens the opportunity for shocking revelations and plot twists towards the end of your screenplay. This means that you need to spread your exposition evenly throughout your screenplay. One of the best ways to do this is to include all the exposition necessary for the audience to understand the story…but no more. Anything that isn’t required to understand the story right away you can save for later on down the line. One of the biggest strengths of the X-Files franchise was it’s ability to give enough information to the viewer to understand the story, while keeping them in the dark about things they didn’t need to know. This allowed the audience to emphasise with Mulder and Scully as the story progressed and more dark secrets were revealed. Saving exposition until crucial moments is a fantastic way to keep the story exciting. It keeps the audience guessing and doesn’t allow the script to become predictable. It can be hard to keep exposition natural. That is, keeping the dialogue sounding like a real conversation. You want to avoid dialogue that just gives the game away while standing out like a sore thumb.
Not too convincing is it? People don’t talk like that and neither should your characters. This is where you can use the scriptwriters tool of conflict to add realism. Have your characters argue over backstory. Every character has their own point of view, his extends to the past as well as the present. It is also possible to add exposition in scenes without using dialogue. You can pass information over visually. Throughout a movie you character could wear a wedding ring and have pictures of himself with a woman and child in his wallet and in his house. Yet you never see this family in person. The audience will surmise that the character has been through a divorce but still think of their ex-wife and 99
child with fondness. Using Flashback For Exposition Flashbacks are often used in poor scripts as a cheap and easy way of introducing exposition. Rather that spoon feeding the information to the audience, flashbacks tend to scoop the exposition out in big dollops, failing to hold the interest of the audience and failing to move the story forward. If you do choose to use a flashback then you have to be careful about the way you use it otherwise it may appear amateurish. When thinking of using a flashback you need to make sure it’ll meet this checklist: • • • • •
It’ll move the story forward. It motivates the character. The audience already cares about what happens in the future. It’s short and to the point. It transitions well.
If the flashback doesn’t contain an event which currently motivates the character in the present then there is no point in showing it. Similarly there’s no point in a flashback if the audience hasn’t been given enough to care about what will happen in the future, the flashback will merely serve as an interruption to this goal. Flashbacks are a lot more effective when they are transitioned well from the present story. Something about the scene should trigger a character’s flashback otherwise there’s no reason a flashback should happen. It could be a sound, visual image, a place, a name, anything that could conceivably make a character think about the past. As a rule exposition is best told through natural dialogue but a flashback, when handled correctly, can also be highly effective.
Using Adversity To Develop Characters There’s a secret in Hollywood. Luckily it’s not very well kept. The secret is that few stories are happy ones, albeit they often have happy endings. Insiders know that if you want to have a captivating story with well developed characters then you need a whole heap of adversity. Imagine a screenplay telling the story of a couple of shopkeepers on an average day, with nothing going wrong. It’d make for a poor movie, wouldn’t it? That’s because any good movie is steeped in conflict and adversity. It is how the characters deal with the conflict and adversity that creates drama, action, comedy, romance and so on as well as the boatload of emotions associated with them. Adversity creates the story that you are trying to tell in your screenplay. There are a number of different types of adversity you could use to create your story: Physical Physical adversity is illness, injury, death and the threat of each driving your character. Physical adversity is particularly prevalent in action and adventure movies. There is no greater adversity than being faced with your own death, or the death of a loved one. Desire All characters have wants and needs that are unfulfilled. Some desires are obvious and in plain sight, others are more hidden and subconscious. It is the unfulfilled desire that often drives the character throughout the screenplay. Miscommunication and deception Favored adversity of the screwball comedy is miscommunication and deception. Typically a character will either misunderstand or be lied to by another character, altering his world view into an incorrect one. Displacement Whenever a character is placed in an unfamiliar location or situation they are facing displacement adversity. The best example of a movie dealing with displacement would be Lost In Translation. Displacement can be big or small. It can be as big sending a character to a future time or as a small as a new friend being injected into a character’s clique. Relationships Relationships are everywhere. Every relationship you have probably has an interesting story to tell whether it be a family member, friend, work colleague or pet. Relationships are forged by characters going through adversity together. When there is adversity within the relationship a character must either change the relationship status, be changed by the relationship, accept the relationship or fight against the relationship.
While conflict drives the story forward the adversity drives the character development. However it is not the adversity that is so important, it’s how the character reacts deals with the adversity. If you create a character who has no worries, no stress and no problems then the reader will have no interest. And no interest means no purchase. Using adversity to develop a character means exploring the character you’ve created. As the scriptwriter and creator you must find the way a character would react to a situation, and what it would take for that reaction to change. If a character makes the same decision, in the same situation, twice and it doesn’t work then your character hasn’t learned. For a character to develop they have to learn and improve themselves. It’s natural for a viewer to imagine themselves dealing with adversity in a different way, but you need to convince them that you’ve captured exactly how that character would deal with that specific adversity. To truly develop a character through adversity you need to: Know your characters inside and out. The more time you’ve spent creating your character and analyzing them the more you will know about them. The more you know about them the easier it becomes to work out their thought process. Once you know the character’s thought process you can work out exactly how they deal with whatever adversity comes there way. Bear in mind that a character will deal with relationship adversity differently than displacement adversity. Choose how your characters will change and how they’ll stay the same. As your story develops so will your character. You’ll want a few elements of their personality to change while others stay the same. You need to decide how your characters change and then come up with a reason why they change. This has an added bonus of allowing scenes in your screenplay to almost write themselves. Mix and change things up. As balanced as a person may be they will always have some contradictions within their personality. Blofeld was an evil villain hell bent on world domination and killing James Bond, yet he showed great love and affection towards his cat. Similarly you may have a character who appears calculating and ruthless becomes a softy at the sight of a baby. These contradictions add a whole new dimension to a character. As a character grows you may find that you need to change events and situations in your screenplay so both the character and plot can develop further. Don’t worry. This is a very good sign, it shows that the main character has taken on a life of its own. Finally I want you to remember that character growth and plot growth should be finely balanced, like the yin and yang of the screenplay. This way the audience will leave the movie having seen a memorable story with an unforgettable cast of characters.
Making A Memorable Character It is important as a scriptwriter to come up with characters that are not only realistic and gripping but also fit the story you are trying to tell. The most important of these two considerations is that the character fit in with the plot. You need to create a character that will deeply care and react to whatever event is happening around them. If your character cares about what happens around them it makes it so much easier to get the audience to care about them. When to begin to create a character, especially a major one, you normally begin with a couple of personality traits and a vague idea of what they look like. The more visual and audio media you listen to the easier it is to have that spark of an idea to make a memorable character. You just need the right voice, line of dialogue, look or goal to get that initial idea. Once you have that initial idea you need to grab it by the throat and shake as much detail as you can out of it. Try to draw out this initial idea now and create an image of this character in your head. • • • • •
Are they male or female? How old are they? What type of clothes do they wear? How do they style their hair? Do they wear glasses?
Now you have a visual image of your character you need to explore the background of the character. • • • • • • •
What was their childhood like? Do they have a family now? What kind of people do they befriend? What is their profession? Do they carry anything around with them? Where is their home? What do they own?
Once you have figured all this out you have a nice skeleton of a character. You have all the information you need of this character to write about them. However if you delve a little deeper you can create a truly memorable character for your screenplay. Think about what it is that makes this character unique from other characters which might share similarities. Come up with a single sentence description of the character which captures their essence and personality. This sentence should capture the character in such a way that the reader will instantly understand them. Columbo is the scruffy, bumbling detective with a sharp mind. While you come up with this sentence you may also want to name your character. By now you should have a good idea who the character is and what they stand for. Try to create a name which represents the character without sounding cliché. Lt. Columbo is a great name for the character. Straight away you know his rank within the police force, while Columbo is a step away from Columbus, a man famed for the discovery of America. You might also note that Columbo never gave a first name, adding to his 103
mystery. You can still delve even deeper into your character. Take the role of interviewer for a lifestyle magazine. Ask your character interesting questions, sometimes the answers might surprise you. Whenever you come across a surprising answer or loose thread question them further on it. Let the character speak for themselves, let the words flow through your fingers. Take everything you know about the character and take the role yourself. Once you get into the head of a character this way it becomes a lot easier to develop them to the point where they become completely real in your mind. This is a great thing. Now you can imagine how they act and react to their everyday activities. Think about them at their job, going shopping, amongst family, amongst friends and partaking in their hobbies. You will soon see the small personality changes that naturally happen depending on the situation the character is in. Youâ€™ve created a great thing here, a character who is an individual. If youâ€™re scriptwriting and come to a part of the plot where the character needs to do something which defies their core then you need to reevaluate the plot or re-create the character. The best way of getting around this issue is to have an event earlier on in the screenplay which explains why the character might react in such a way that goes against what they stand for normally. Whether the character youâ€™ve created is likeable or not you have to learn to respect them. Treat them as the individuals they are. Respect their quirks and contradictions. Remember that the characters feelings and what happens around them meansabsolutely everything to them.
Giving Your Character A Unique Voice An important part of creating a character is allowing them to have a unique voice. This means that anyone reading your screenplay would instantly recognise which character is talking, without even looking at the character tag! Having a unique voice is another piece of the puzzle in putting together a realistic character. A character should have their own vocabularies, accent, speech rhythms, mannerisms and world views. A lot of these things will depend on a character’s background. A character from Quebec might speak broken English, using French phrases as exclamation. Another character might use only the words absolutely necessary to explain what they’re saying.
Or they might ramble around their point.
Of course when you are writing dialogue for a screenplay you want to keep it as concise as possible. If you have a character that rambles it might be best for them to do so in the background or have another character constantly cut into them. This way the action isn’t slowed down to a snail’s pace. Characters all have a personality which should have an impact on how they talk. If you have a character who is shy they should probably rarely talk, and when they do it should be short, soft and non-confrontational. On the other hand your character may be an extreme extrovert, willing to give their life story to anyone who will listen. Age also has a big part to play in a character’s voice. You should aim to have a wide range of ages amongst the cast of characters in your screenplay. This helps you create personalities that stand out more. If you write a script containing nothing but 21 year olds then a lot of the characters are going to blend together. Age also has a big part to play in the character’s world view. Take these two examples.
Guess who’s the 16 year old girl and who’s the 72 year old woman. Pretty easy to tell from their attitudes to a boy band and the language and references they use. The best way to get a handle of writing unique voices for characters is to widen your social spectrum. Talk to as many people as you can in your everyday life. You’ll soon pick up a bunch of stuff you can use to improve the your dialogue writing skills and use to flesh out your characters. Look for vocabulary, accents, slang, points of view, rhythms, openness and enthusiasm. Before you start your scriptwriting it can be very helpful to write down a list of the characters in your screenplay and think of a few unique things about each character’s voice, to differentiate them. Oli: Uses a lot of slang and aggressive language. Wendy: Well educated with a strong vocabulary. Loves the chance to show off. Sylvan: Speaks with a French accent, occasionally expresses himself using French phrases. If you do this then you will soon notice the different flavor in each of your characters’ voices. Anyone who reads the script will too. As a result your script will look a lot more interesting a prospect to producers. Keep yourself in check though, you don’t want every character to have some zany quirk or else it will distract from the story. If you stay subtle and realistic you’ll be on solid ground. Even a simple goodbye can be said in a multitude of ways. Signing off. Aloha. Farewell. Goodbye readers, your loyalty is much appreciated.
Building Up A Great Character A good story needs a great cast of characters to be memorable. When you start your screenplay you need to think about the characters you are going to write about. There are ten things a character needs to be great. These all apply to main characters, villains, supporting characters and even minor characters. The ten keys to building a great character are: • • • • • • • • • •
A Goal And An Opposition Motivation A Backstory A Point Of View And Attitude Revealing Action Growing Room Plausibility Details Research A Strong Supporting Cast
Lets look at each of these in detail. A Goal And An Opposition There is something that your character wants. The character’s goal should be specific and measurable. Seeking inner peace is not a measurable goal. Seeking the Presidency is a goal, you know when it has or has not been accomplished. A good goal should be hard to achieve and worth fighting for. Nobody wants to watch a movie about a woman trying to find her spare set of keys. Whatever goal you choose for your character there also needs to be an opposition, an individual force trying to stop the character achieving the goal. That individual force should make the character sweat and work to achieve the goal, and face an inner fear. For more on this click here Motivation Now your character has a goal you need to ask yourself a question, why does the character want to achieve this goal? What is his motivation? The more personal the motivation the better. This is why there are so many movies where a character has their family kidnapped. There’s nothing more personal and motivating than that. A deeply personal motivation will allow the audience to relate to the character in your screenplay. This is how you create a relationship between the character and he audience. A Backstory The backstory is what happened to the characters before the movie began. Having a detailed backstory helps bring the characters to life rather than being instruments of telling the story. A character’s past should influence how they act and react to things. If their parents were involved in a messy divorce 107
when they were young then they may be very wary of getting married themselves. Backstory is a great example of the “show don’t tell” adage. Rather than have a dozen flashbacks try to bring out the backstory through the way the character acts, what they say and how they say it. A Point Of View And An Attitude Everyone has their own world view, attitude and thoughts and feelings. So should your character. These things are normally closely related to the character’s backstory. The backstory is the reason for the particular point of view and attitude the character has. A woman who has been cheated on by her last few boyfriends is likely, and acceptably, going to have a dim point of view towards men. Use the character’s backstory to create their point of view and attitudes. Revealing Actions Actions speak louder than words. You judge a character on the way they act, not on what they say or think. Imagine a character who dreams of committing murder every night, and is constantly thinking of ways to kill people…yet never does so because he realises it is wrong. Now imagine the opposite, a character who thinks and dreams of “normal things” yet one day, for no reason, goes out and knifes an innocent person to death. Who is the evil character? Your characters (especially your main one) should always be willing to act, even if they don’t act in the way they directly think. Growing Room A “perfect” character is a boring character. They have everything they want and need so there’s no story to tell. Everyone knows someone whose life seems to go great beat for beat, you find yourself envious of them and willing them to fail. Instantly you should see from this that a good character should be imperfect. They have to be willing to try and change themselves for the better. Often they will try too hard and end up realising they were fine as they were, even if still aren’t perfect. Plausibility There’s a major difference between a character in a screenplay and a real life person. A character is single focused solely on attaining their goal while a real life person often have a lot of balls to juggle at once, causing a lack of focus. However you can make your character more plausible in a number of ways. A character should have human emotions. If they stand there stone faced as the world is destroyed then they aren’t human, they’re a robotic character. Let them recoil in terror, or scream in anger. Let them react to situations the way a real human would. Remember though that humans often fight their emotions or try to hide them, but they still seep through. They also need to have human traits and values. Your character could be a mean old grouch amongst those he works with yet have a heart of gold when with his family. This doesn’t mean the character is schizophrenic, just that he hates work and loves spending time with his family. Every character has a dark side and a good side. Even the “bad guy” has a glimmer of hope inside, even if its just the way he 108
treats his plants. Plausibility means shades of grey, not blank and white. Details Details are the little things that make up life. They are the mannerisms, quirks, habits, idiosyncrasies and imperfections that make a character human. Along your way through life you pick up some very unusual traits. If youâ€™ve seen Stranger Than Fiction you might remember that Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) brushed each of his thirty-two teeth seventy-six times. Everyone has something peculiar about them, you need to bring out those small details in your character. Research To create a great character for your screenplay you need to put time and care into them. This means a lot of research. There are two types of research. One is general research, the other is specific research. For more on this click here A Strong Supporting Cast One great character does not make a strong cast. You can have the most interesting character in the ever thought up but if they have no-one else with any depth to play off then theyâ€™re dead in the water. You need to put just as much care into every character you create as your main one. Whenever you start a screenplay you want to create at least four rich characters so you have plenty of room for interplay. This makes writing dialogue so much easier. Your characters should share similarities as well as contrasts that bind them together. Remember that every major character must have their own unique function that moves the story forward. Build that character up, one brick at a time.
Character Consistency And When To Break It A realistic character should be consistent. If you were to put them in the same situation, while they were in the same mood, everyday they should react in more or less the same way. However this does not mean that characters have to be predictable and dull. There are times when a character will realistically act or react in a way that is not usually normal for them, and that is where the intriguing nature of a character comes from. For a break in character consistency to mean anything first you need to set up the core personality of the character, this is their nature under normal circumstances, and gives the audience an expectation about how they will act. The core personality of a character is made up from their world view, attitudes and ethics. You can illustrate their core personality to the audience with the way the character interacts with their surroundings. If you have created a liberal, caring character then write them as characters who speak to others with respect and joins in with local fundraising efforts. Put them in a number of situations and they should still act in a liberal, caring manner. Familiarity may breed contempt but consistency breeds comfort. Allow your audiences to grow comfortable with your characters. Keep them at a certain level of consistency. Unless you’re writing for a bipolar character there should be no wild mood swings, at least until the situation warrants it. Having an idea about a character’s consistencies also helps when trying to flesh out the character. You know your character is a liberal, caring type - what type of job would you expect them to hold? Perhaps they’re a nurse or a social worker. How did they pick up these character traits, was it through their upbringing, a jarring event or something else? Liberal is often associated with creativity, maybe your character plays guitar, enjoys painting or writing poetry. See how a certain set of characteristics also implies other qualities. A serial killer often has some kind of sexual malfunction. A woman who grew up in the country might be a very proficient horse rider. A bodybuilder could have an excellent knowledge of human biology. One of the best ways to create a character is to come up with a few consistencies about their nature and the brainstorm around them. In the space of ten minutes you can go from a blank sheet of paper to having dozens of interesting and yet consistent qualities that character may have. Breaking The Consistency Having a consistent character in your screenplay already puts you ahead of the curve. If you can add a few paradoxes and let the character break certain consistencies at certain times then you have a fascinating, true to life character. It’s my belief that even the nicest, sweetest person could murder if the situation is right. You need to find the right sequence of events to justify this sort of character evolution though. “Insanity is a perfectly natural reaction to an unreasonable situation.” Insanity takes many forms. Sometimes is can be wild and reckless, other times calm and calculating. It 110
can last seconds or a lifetime. Going back to the nice, sweet character for a moment, it can be extraordinarily easy to turn them into a killer. If they were to walk into their home and find their partner shot on the floor, their children tied up with the unaware perpetrator’s back turned and a gun nearby then it would be a perfectly natural reaction to shoot them. Breaking character consistency is a lot to do with putting them in that unreasonable situation. Paradoxes are different. When you first meet someone you quickly draw a picture of them and their background. However when you get to know them better they’ll throw the book out the window and reveal something you’d never imagined about them. I worked with a man in an administrative job who seemed a perfect fit with everything you’d expect of someone in that role. But as I got to know him better I discovered he’d led quite the wild life. He’d been a heavy partier, been married had a child and then divorced, moved to the other end of the country, and operated a music theatre. He turned out to be a fascinating character. Paradoxes don’t have to make sense but it helps if there’s some element of logic to them. Remember that one of the keys to writing is conflict, try and create that conflict within the character. That same liberal, caring character we talked about earlier could be pro death penalty. The reason? They’ve been a victim of crime a number of times throughout their life. By adding paradoxes and breaking the consistency in a consistent character you can create a true to life person the audience can relate to and emphasis with. And that’s always the main goal in creating any character.
Character Relationships Rarely does a character exist in their world alone. Even films with the central premise of lonliness have some form of relationships, such as “I, Legend” where Will Smith has his canine companion by his side. This is because it’s an awful lot easier to write a script containing lots of character interaction, it helps progress the story, develop characters and create conflict. As the years have gone one relationships have become increasingly important in films. It seems like every other movie produced is heavily entrenched in the story of a friendship, sexual relationship or family dynamics. The reason for this is simple, we all know how relationships work, or perhaps more accurately, how they don’t work. The majority of the research is already done. One of the most interesting insights character relationships offer is how character act differently around different characters. A character who appears to be highly successful and confident may turn into a tongue-tied, blithering idiot around the partner of their dreams. Sometimes the chemistry between two characters can strengthen one while weakening the other, sometimes it weakens both character while others both characters will be stronger for the relationship. There are four basic elements that any relationship can have. If you are writing a script based on a relationship story you might want to create the foundation for the relationship first and then fit the individual character qualities around the relationship. Keep the following character relationship elements in mind: 1.
The characters have a common bond that both brings and keeps them together. This is most commonly seen in “cop movies” such as Lethal Weapon. While the characters may not like each other to begin with their occupation bond keeps them together until they grow to be friends. This is an example of character attraction, there has to be some reason the characters are together and stay together, especially if they don’t like each other to begin with. There is conflict between the characters. Perfect relationships don’t exist, at least not as featured in movies. While sweet it means there is no room in the story for progression in the relationship. Just as there is a bond that keeps characters together there should be some sort of conflict which threatens to pull the characters apart. This could be anything from a minor difference of opinion to an extra-marital affair. The conflict in relationships provides the drama, and possibly the comedy, of a screenplay. The characters have contrasting qualities. They can be total opposites which creates conflict yet strengthens the individual characters through challenges since they have a partner with different qualities to fall back on. Going back to “cop movies” how many times have we seen the uptight policeman who does things by the book with a renegade partner who goes by gut instincts? A lot. That’s because the two characters compliment each other well, they become a complete crime fighting machine while being seeped in conflict. The relationship could transform both characters - for better or worse. Towards the end of a movie you’ll find both characters in the relationship tend to morph, and become more like each other. Soon the renegade cop becomes a little more focus and less wild while the uptight cop loosens up and is willing to break a few rules.
Those four elements have to be there in a relationship to make it work and keep it interesting for story 112
purposes. The attraction and conflict has to be balanced otherwise the relationship would become dull and stale or the conflict would push the characters completely apart. One of the best ways to start writing strong relationships is to think of your own relationships. Pick one to start off with, maybe the relationship between you and your closest friend. Look at the four elements above and see what it is that keeps you close and what stops you being even closer. What qualities do you share and what qualities are contrasting? How have you both changed since you’ve become friends? Do this for a few different relationships and you’ll soon see a pattern emerging. That’s when you start to get an “inside eye” for relationships which will help your scriptwriting greatly. Now you know how relationships work try creating a new relationship with two fresh characters. This could be the basis for a million dollar script!
Initial Character Creation In the past I’ve written a number of articles on the finer points of creating a character. This piece will be cover how to start the initial process of character creation. Think of the following loose guidelines as the skeleton of the character, while such issues as background, psychology and relationships flesh out the character and help them become unique and memorable. Kick Start My Heart There are plenty of media and artistic outlets these days which can help greatly when looking for inspiration for a character. This is why you should make it a mission to take in as much of this as you possibly can. Watch movies, read scripts, read books, listen to music, view art and go out and meet new people. All of these things can spark off an idea for a character. You might watch a movie and find a character you like that can be amalgamated with a person you know to make a great character for your script. Once you’ve found the basic premise for your character (the heartbeat) then you might like to write out a character sheet. Character Sheet A character sheet is a rudimentary list of physical and background traits that your character has. At this stage you don’t have to be too in depth, you just want an idea of who the character is. While I advise that you write down physical traits in a character sheet you should avoid describing a character’s appearance in your screenplay unless there is a particularly unusual physical feature. Instead you should use your written physical description so you have a visual image in your head of the character. Below you will find a sample character sheet Close family: Close friends: Occupation: Social status: Finances: Hobbies: Appearance: Age: Place of birth: Current location: Strengths: Weaknesses: Biggest accomplishment/failure: Hopes and fears: Other notes: Name:
If you can fill a character sheet like this you have everything you need to know about a character to make them a viable commodity. You might notice that I’ve put the choice of name last. This is because I like to know about the character before choosing a name that I think fits them. It can be the very last thing I do when creating a character. For more on choosing a character name click here. Finding The Character Concept A character means nothing if they have nothing to do. Now that you know quite a lot about your character you have to find a reasoning behind them. You don’t need to write a lot, just a sentence or two about who the character is and what they’re trying to do. “Pike Herring refused to work at the family fishing tackle shop. He left home at a young age and turned to a life of crime. With the police hot on his heels Pike is determined to avoid the net closing in on him.” As jokey as this particular character concept is you should be able to see the potential for character growth and potential storylines and subplots. Side note: FilmScriptWriting does not endorse bad fish pun based movies. They are cod awful. Character Introduction As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. That is why it is important to spend a good amount of time on introducing your character into your script. In films characters are generally introduced either in their own short scenes or by meeting a pre-existing character. This means that the first scene of your movie should usually introduce your main character and do so in a dynamic way so the person reading your script is instantly hooked. You could also include a friend of the main character which gives you more leeway in introducing future characters. --The most important thing in character creation is to take your time with it and enjoy it. A rushed character is all too easy to spot. Make it your goal over the next couple of weeks to put together one character and see how rich and deep you can make them. This character could be the one starring in a future blockbuster! Have fun.
Character Psychology The psychology of a character is the inner workings of their mind which define them and the way the think and act. Once you understand the psychology of your characters you should know exactly what they’d do in any situation you choose to put them in. Your job as a scriptwriter becomes so much easier because the character begins to write itself. To get to this stage though you need to put a lot of work into finding out what makes the character tick. The Past Dictates The Future Your character had a life before your story began. They had parental figures, they went to school and they interacted with the world around them. Along the way they will have gone through a series of events that shaped their character and attitudes. This is the backstory of the character. If a character felt unloved as a child they may be driven by a desire to prove their worth and also find it hard to trust or love others. Sometimes an event in the past can lead to a serious phobia. In The Truman Show the creators of the show manufactured a phobia of water in Truman by having his father die at sea, this kept Truman in the pre-planned environment. A lot of films have an underlying story of a character having to put their past demons to rest to overcome an external conflict. You do not need to shoehorn in a great deal of information about your character’s past within your screenplay but it may be helpful to write a character biography to reference as you write. The Unconscious (The Dark Side) The vast majority of what drives and motivates us is not in the conscious, but the unconscious. We tend to repress a lot of our past events, experiences, thoughts and feelings that we consider unpleasant. This ball of negativity is carried around by our unconscious which drives us a lot more than our conscious. It is no coincidence that the word conscious and conscience are so similar, they are both connected to one another. They are the moral side to our personality (the light) to the more cruel unconscious (the dark). Applied to a character the unconscious manifests itself through their reactions, mannerisms and dialogue. There is a constant fight within a character between the conscious and unconscious. Upon hearing some bad news a character might react by wrecking an object, that is an impulsive unconscious reaction. The unconscious has a long-term effect too, it may push a character into the same professional as their father in the hope of receiving more affection or to prove to themselves that they are better than their father. Personality There are basically two different kinds of personality when you cut it down to it’s bare bones 116
introverts and extroverts. Introverts prefer to be alone, spending their time focusing on selfimprovement and finding their calling. They look within for the center of their life. Extroverts are the opposite, loving the company of others they are often very relationship driven. The majority of movies focus on extroverts as they move the story along and tend to be more dynamic. However an intriguing play on this concept is to have a character outwardly appear to be either an extrovert or introvert but actually be the other. This can lead to complex characters, such as one who outwardly shuns companionship but internally craves it, possibly due to trust issue. To expand on the introvert/extrovert personality types there are also four types - sensation, thinking, feeling and intuitive. Sensation: Sensation types live through their senses and they live in the now. They are tuned into the colors, smells, shapes, and tastes around them. Occupation wise they tend to be good at any job that is physical or sensory. This could be gardening, cooking, painting, etc. They are driven most of all by visual appeal. Intuitive: The intuitive type is a dreamer, and very creative. They have a strong idea of what the future holds for them. Intuitive characters will act with future consequences in mind. They are well suited for jobs as artists, writers and entrepreneurs. Intuitive types are never found without a plan. Thinking: As the name suggests thinking types like to use logic and deduction to solve problems. They base their thoughts on facts rather than faith or instincts. Thinking types make good businessmen/women, mechanics, detectives, etc. Inquisitiveness is a common trait amongst thinking types. Feeling: Feeling types are emotional, empathetic and get on well with others. They donâ€™t hide their emotions and are very upfront with others. Suited occupations include teachers, social workers, carers, etc. Feeling types often have many strong relationships. Characters tend to have two of the above types which dominate their personality while the other two may still be apparent but take a backseat. Characters gain information through their sensations or intuition and then it is processed by their thoughts or feelings. Strange Behaviour Makes For Interesting Characters The line between sanity and insanity is not as clear cut as most people would like. While society would prefer that it was black and white, with the insane clearly marked by a rubber stamp, that isnâ€™t the case. Like most things there are subtle shades of grey. While a phobia of snakes in an Englishman whoâ€™s never been in contact with them is nonsensical it is also quite common. The key difference between this and a man who believes that God is talking to them is that the second case can be a danger to others. There are six basic types of abnormal behavioural patterns. Each pattern has a partner. There are manics, depressives, paranoids, schizophrenics, psycho/sociopaths and neurotics. To illustrate the relationships please see the diagram below.
Just like the personality types (sensation, intuitive, thinking and feeling) a character won’t fall completely into one abnormal type. Manic-depressives vary between the two, as do paranoidschizophrenics and psycho/socio-neurotics. Manics: Manics have total self-belief, they believe they can achieve absolutely anything they set their mind to. The majority of comic book style villains are manics. Manics are very excitable and sociable, and like to be active. They aren’t happy with sitting back and letting things happen. Depressives: Depressives are the opposite, they feel like their life is worthless and they can’t achieve anything. They withdraw themselves from social situations and appear emotionally flat. Schizophrenics: Schizophrenics are very self aware. They are highly sensitive, easily embarrassed and shy around others. Because of this they try and avoid conflict, instead they retreat to a safe place and brood. In extreme cases schizophrenics can hear voices instructing them on what they should do or develop multiple personalities to defend the character’s ego. Paranoids: Paranoids are very self-centred, thinking that everyone is out to destroy them. Because of this paranoids types tend to be aggressive and defensive. Their beliefs drive them to become leaders and gain power, thus putting themselves in a safer position. They are bull-headed individuals who don’t take well to criticism and hold long-standing grudges for the smallest of reasons. Anxiety neurotics: See Allen, Woody. Anxiety neurotics fear everything and put a great deal of thought and grief into the smallest of things. They spend their lives trying to avoid anxiety yet actually cause the majority of anxiety for themselves. Anxiety neurotics can also harbor obsessive/compulsive characteristics. This leads to ridiculous seeming habits like only getting out of bed at an exact time or brushing their hair an exact amount of strokes. Psycho/Sociopaths: While I have grouped this pair together there is a difference between the two. Sociopaths are antisocial characters, often holding a disdain for humanity. Psychopaths are similar but with a mental unbalance, this leads them to become cold blooded killers. Each have little to no empathy for people or creatures. They make excellent villains. Psychopaths and sociopaths are particularly interesting because they do no transform. They will never become well-rounded, normal characters. ---
Hopefully this article has given you a deeper understanding of character psychology. It is important to realise that the above points should not be the focus of your character, treat them as the underlying features of a character. Thinking of characters in this way is particularly useful when creating character relationships. You can pick and choose traits in a character which will make them contrast from others, creating more complex relationships. The characters themselves will also be richer for taking their psychology into account while creating them.
Avoiding Stereotypes In Minor Characters In an effort to make minor and bit-piece characters stand out it can be all too easy to fall back on stereotypes. While trying to make every character somewhat unique is commendable the use of stereotypes is not. There are a few problems with using stereotypes for minor characters and they are as follows. #1: They’re not unique. You might think you’re fleshing out the world of your screenplay by having a grumpy old man or an Italian pizza boy but you’re doing the exact opposite. Everyone’s seen these stereotypes before so they completely fail in being unique. #2: They can be offensive. Lets say you have a couple of Jewish characters in your script, they are not friends or relatives and appear in separate parts of your screenplay. Imagine they both have the same stereotypical male Jewish traits of being obsessed with saving money and being good businessmen. In this politically correct age you can bet that anyone who reads your script will notice that and probably discard your work as a result. #3: They’re distracting. You can do all the work you like in building up the drama of your story but it’s no good if audiences get distracted by “the funny little Indian man running the 7/11”. #4: They’re restrictive. Stereotypical characters are only of any use as comedy fodder, and even then it’s not good comedy. The above reasons are why it’s so important to understand the different between the stereotype and the character type. A stereotype is a (usually) negative portrayal of a particular race, sex, class, etc. A character type could be a nervous first-time parent or an overly confident intern. The difference being that the character type doesn’t try to suggest that groups of people all have the same characteristics while the stereotype does. Keeping It Real While it’s a bad idea to include stereotypical characters in your screenplay it is fantastic if you can make the world of your screenplay a diverse one without them. Obviously you may not want your characters to be very different if you’re writing a story set in Lancashire in the early 1800’s but otherwise diversity is a great thing. There’s a tendency in TV and film for having a predominantly white world which is totally unrealistic. Actually towns and cities are usually culturally mixed and you can use your minor characters to reflect this if you find that your main characters are all white males. If that is the case then it might also be wise to turn one of these “white males” into something different so the main faces of your cast are more unique, and more memorable. Diversifying the world in which your screenplay takes places can be very easy. Give your main character a friendly neighbour who happens to be Asian, have his social circle be full of different types of people. This is a great way of adding realism and color to your story world. In parting I would like to note that writing a minor character is not much different to writing a major 120
one. You might not have to come up with as much detail but it is important that you donâ€™t make minor characters one dimensional. If you do youâ€™ll have a bland cast of characters that also drag down your main characters in any interactions they have.
Hard Hitting Violence If you’re writing an action movie then there is a good chance that there will be some element of violence in certain scenes. With violence comes injuries. It is important that your characters feel the ramifications of violence in subsequence scenes because this allows the audience to sympathize with them. Pain and injuries show your character to be human and give your story a gritty, realistic edge. Imagine you’re watching a movie and the main character gets in a huge fight with a bunch of goons, taking plenty of blows in the process. In the next scene the hero appears to be fine, their clothes are straight and their hair is perfectly styled. The James Bond character has often suffered (or not as the case may be) in the past from this “violence with no consequences” writing which is why the series took a big hit in popularity. Only now is the James Bond franchise becoming more gritty and realistic while maintaining the flair you expect from the character. If your main character takes a punch to the ribs then they should be holding them in the next scene. Make the violence hurt the characters or else there is no point to it whatsoever other than to “look cool”. You should always go for style over substance. Violence Causing Common Injuries While gun fights and the like can be exciting most people (thankfully) don’t know what it feels like to be shot. That makes the situation hard to relate to and therefore hard to sympathise with. Violence is a great tool to make the bad guys look wicked and cruel while making the good guys look brave and heroic. I feel this is achieved much better with violence that results in “common injuries”. Common injuries are those which the average person has a good chance of having had during their life, or at least know of someone who has had a similar injury. Broken bones are a great example of this. Anyone who has broken a bone, seen someone break a bone or even just known someone who has broken a bone will know that sickening snap and feeling as soon as they see it on the screen. It will make them wince, they will know exactly what the character is going through and be able to relate to them. One movie that made great use of this was the original Die Hard. John McClane was the ordinary man who had to push himself to do extraordinary things. There is one scene in the film that I will always remember. McClane is covered in a computer room, involved in a gunfight with three other men. It is most important to note that John McClane was barefoot. The bolded part is the common injury.
I’m someone who walks around barefoot quite a lot and because of that I have stood of many painful things, glass, sharp stones, nails, etc. I know exactly how that feels and every time I watch this scene I relive my own similar experiences. I can relate to John McClane’s pain, and I’m sure you probably can as well. Letting The Imagination Rule This is a technique not used too often but was perhaps most famously used in Reservoir Dogs, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. In one memorable scene Mr. Blonde dances to “Stuck in the Middle With You” around his hostage, an LAPD cop. With a straight razor Mr. Blonde slashes the cop’s face. Then the camera pans to the left, as Mr. Blonde cuts the cop’s ear off. We hear muffled screams and a fruitless struggle but we don’t see a thing. This moment was shot like this for a reason. Tarantino reasoned that the audience’s imagination would paint a more gruesome visual than he ever could on film. He was dead right. Rather than having the visual given to you, Tarantino forces you to think exactly what it would have been like. In this case it is an extremely effective and memorable method. Most of you reading this have probably received some sort of cut before which helps you imagine what it would be like to feel your ear being hacked off. This makes it an extension of a common injury.
Final Thought I hope you now see how violence is best used in a way that is as easy as possible to relate. You get the audience involved and you make them care about what is and what will happen to your characters. If you can do that in the rest of your screenplay then you have a script that is bound to sell.
4. The Idea Factory A lot of people come to me complaining that they're good scriptwriters but they can never come up with ideas. The fact of the matter is that everybody can come up with ideas if you devote the time and effort to it. Brainstorming seems to be a lost art today, when people should be devoting time to drumming up these ideas you will instead find them reading their emails, playing games and many other forms of procrastination. I know because I do it myself. It can be very mentally challenging to just sit down, with no distractions and think. Without an idea a script cannot come to be. If you were to just sit down and attempt to write a script from whatever was in your head at the time you'd probably get about 10 pages in, lose steam and develop "writers block" If you want to succeed as a scriptwriter than you really need to put in the thinking time when it comes to your initial script idea. It would be no good for me to come up with a specific schedule for you to keep because everyone is creatively different. Personally I feel most creative around midnight, your best time could be when you've just got home from work and feel ready to vent your spleen. What this section of the site is for is to help provide a loose structure and guide for how to create ideas with the potential to be developed into a script. Some ideas will be tried and tested (brainstorming, walking on your idea, etc) while others might be considered a little wilder (my own secret method, hypnosis, etc). There will also be writing concepts and theories within this section.
Improve Your Creativity Hypnosis Session Hypnotherapy is great for relaxing the conscious mind, allowing the more powerful and creative subconscious mind to flow freely. Having the right creative idea could massively enhance the success of your chosen career. Can you really afford to miss out?
Write A Movie In A Month So you’ve got your basic premise for a script, well now it’s time to write that script out! When a lot of people think about scriptwriting they imagine a dusty old writer sat in a lonesome place with a cup of coffee and typewriter for years before they’ve finished their work. That doesn’t have to be the case though. Sylvester Stallone finished his script for Rocky in just three days after being inspired by seeing unknown Chuck Wepner push Muhammed Ali to fifteenth round before finally being bested. Rocky went on to win 3 Oscars and spawn an entire franchise. Not bad for just three days of scriptwriting, eh? Of course not every one can do this but I truly believe that by following this guide nearly anyone can produce a script in a month. The key to this method is to be very loose, you don’t have to get everything down perfect first time, that’s what the second script draft is for! Scriptwriting Day 1 and 2: The First 10 Pages The opening is probably the most important part of any script. If it’s dull then any agent or producer reading your script will toss it in the trash, whether the next 110 pages are pure genius or not. Think of this first 10 pages as a chance to show your skills and ability to create interest and intrigue. I believe this is why Quentin Tarantino edits his movies the way he does. You are immediately thrust into hard hitting, fast paced action which keeps you hooked right to the end. In your first 10 pages you should be answering these questions: What’s the story? Who’s the hero? What does the hero want and what does he/she need? Scriptwriting Day 3 and 4: Finish Act 1 - 20 Pages Now you’ve written the first 10 pages of your script it’s time to work on the next 20. You should have already done a great deal of “set-up” work on your script, letting the viewer know who your hero is and their goals. With these twenty pages you should now be aiming to advance the story and enhance your characters and send your main character on a journey towards the turning point of the script. Scriptwriting Day 5: Read your script so far At this point you don’t want to go back and edit anything yet. You should use this day as a chance to immerse yourself in your script as it stands so far. Try to develop a better understanding of your characters and the world they live in. Scriptwriting Day 6: Page 30-45 Today’s the day. Today something BIG happens. You decide what it is but some big event or action will send your main character on a path towards what they want and need. I like to do this part in 128
one day as I feel it improves the flow of the event and by now you‘re into the swing of scriptwriting. At this point you need to decide what has happened to your character, how it will affect them and what they will do about it. Scriptwriting Day 7: Pages 45-60 Enough is enough, it’s time for a change…sort of. You’re reaching the middle of your script now and this is where your main character should be slowly changing, wanting to change but resisting it at the same time. Obstacles and conflict are starting to become tougher for your protagonist but as they do your character is starting to deal with them more convincingly. This is also where your main character becomes more focused on achieving their goals. Scriptwriting Day 8: Pages 60-75 Nothing can stop your main character now. They’ve stated their goal and by God are they going to achieve it! The obstacles and conflict keep coming, hard and faster and your main character is struggling once more. Your main character might have to enter foreign territory in your script now, go a place they thought they’d never go either literally or metaphorically. The going is getting tough, so tough that by the end of today’s work your character may be broken, beaten and almost ready to give up. Scriptwriting Day 9: Pages 75-90 Your main character needs to regroup. Times are hard, so hard that they’d have destroyed your main character earlier in your script. But now they’ve changed for the better. It may be an unexpected change but now this character is moving fast and hitting hard. Maybe they have found a friend or romantic partner who is helping them out a great deal. Offering words of encouragement or even helping in the action. You might like to include some small twists or turns here because you’re quickly careering towards the solution of your script. Scriptwriting Day 10 and 11: Pages 90-120 (The End!) For some people this can be the easiest part of scriptwriting, for others it’s by far the hardest. Your entire script should have been working up to this final act. It’s time to put it to bed. All those problems, obstacles and conflicts you’ve thrown at your main character need to be resolved. Normally there will be a very warm, heartfelt scene between two or more characters. If you’re writing an action movie this is where the good guy finally overcomes the bad guy and the equilibrium in your world is restored. Congratulations! You’ve finished your script! Scriptwriting Day 12, 13 and 14: Rest and Relax This can be harder than writing the script. Have a long weekend and try and completely forget your script. Don’t look at it, don’t think about it…don’t even think about your script. Reward yourself in some way. Go for a drink with friends, buy yourself some new clothes, play a round of golf, get a haircut, whatever it is give yourself a treat.
Scriptwriting Day 15: Read ‘til Your Eyes Bleed! Read through your written script as many times as you can. Take in all the information you have written down. Try to think back to your original plans for the script, are you on course? What you don’t want to do at this point is negatively judge your scriptwriting abilities. You’re only halfway through the month after all! Scriptwriting Day 16-29: Rewrite, Tweak and Shriek Thirteen is unlucky for some and it’s going to feel that way for you because this can be a long, painful process. Thirteen days of working your script into a sellable commodity can make you want to scream but the personal satisfaction and (hopefully) financial reward will more than make up for it. You might want to follow a similar pattern to when you were writing the script. Do one block (Page 010, 45-60, etc) every two days. Use the first day to do the bulk of the work. Correct any spelling errors, tighten dialogue and remove any scenes which you now deem unnecessary. Then use the second day to clean it up a little. Scriptwriting Day 30: Start Taking The Next Step It’s been quite a journey. You’ve written your script and re-drafted it. No matter what you can consider yourself a scriptwriter now, you’ll always have proof of that in the form of a (roughly) 120 page bundle. Now you’re on the next step of your journey, find two or three friends you trust and give them a copy each. Once they’ve read through your script ask them to critique it. Don’t take it personally, it’s much better to have shortcomings pointed out now than after sending the script to an agent or producer. You might need to do another re-draft before your script is ready to be sold. Maybe even two or three but it is well worth the time because it is only in the struggle that success has any meaning.
The Think Tank #1 Before you even think about scriptwriting, you need an initial idea. Rather than coming up with something incredibly detailed from the get-go (which few scriptwriters can do) I find it is a lot easier to look at the following questions and mould an idea around them. Who is the main character? What is their goal? What is the script about? What is the underlying message or theme of the script? For example your main character could be Brian Goodman, incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. His goal being to prove his innocence by escaping prison and finding the evidence necessary to prove his innocence thus redeeming himself. When you’re coming up with ideas always try to ask the question “what if?…”. What Brian Goodman was framed by someone he considered a friend? What if Goodman was framed as an act of revenge? And so on. By both asking and answering “what if?…” questions you can provide the depth required to allow your story and characters to stand out as real, complex worlds and people rather than being flat and flavorless. Keep it Real Not Commercial Don’t worry about whether your idea is commercially viable. Everyone has at least one script in them that comes from the heart. If you are determined to make sure that script is a commercial success you will end up diluting the idea until it is just another cookie-cutter action movie. As a scriptwriter you have a choice. You can be a second-rate imitation or a first-rate individual. How Your Background Affects Your Ideas Simply put your personal background will make a great deal of difference to the ideas you have and the scripts you write. If you were raised in a dirt poor area your mind will naturally be more focused on violence, trying to climb the social ladder, struggling to make money and so on because those will probably be the actions and influences that surrounded you growing up. Think of it this way. If two people happened to meet in the middle of the road with a dying bird between them (not a daily occurrence hopefully) and one of them was a farmer, the other a housewife they would want to deal with the situation in a different way. The farmer would put the bird out of it’s misery by wringing it’s neck while the housewife may try and nurture the bird back to health or take it to an animal hospital. We all have our own perspective on things and it is important to realise what this is in order to create an idea with a unique spin on it.
The Think Tank #2: Tap Into Your Writing Genius As the world becomes more authority driven it becomes harder to consider yourself a genius. Let me tell you right now though you are a genius! You might think I’m joking but I’m absolutely serious. From a young age we are brought up to be normal and conform to the image the media presents us. However when you think of geniuses you think of the likes of Da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein and Van Gogh. None of these people were conformists. Would a conformist cut off his own ear? Having said that would you describe someone who mutilated themselves a genius? Please recognise that describing anyone as a genius is somewhat incorrect. Rather a person displays “genius” qualities. As intelligent a man as Einstein was when it came to physics yet if you would have asked him to create a sculptural masterpiece he’d have been unable to do so. How Do I Tap Into My Writing Genius Then? For starters you’ve found www.filmscriptwriting.comand are taking in every scrap of information provided to better yourself. That’s exactly what geniuses do, they try to take in as much information as possible and channel it into something creative. So you’ve already taken perhaps the biggest step to tap into your writing genius. To really tap into your writing genius though you need to do a few things. First of all you need to empty your mind of all thoughts. To do this you need to be alone in a quite area. Try going for a walk in a peaceful area or meditating. Clear all the clutter out of your mind. Visualize a black empty space of nothingness in front of you. This is your world. Your world in which you are happy, relaxed and content. You can feel the gentle warmth of relaxation filling your body. When you are ready, slowly and calmly say to yourself: I am a genius. Over and over the words become meaningless and lose sense. Repeat this process between three and five times a day for a week. You will find that your inner confidence levels rise and your mind will allow all the creativity inside you to flow with ease, words will flow straight from your mind to the paper or computer in front of you. As a creative exercise I want you to create a character or situation that is 100 percent real. It does not need to be real or have really happened in this world, but it will be real in your world. Mould your creation from a smudge into an image of crystal clarity. Write down the character or situation you see in your world and read it over. Notice how real it appears. Make small, tiny edits until every word cannot be argued against. This is your vision, the essence of your genius. If you write something that is real to you then it will become real for the reader. Believe in yourself because you are every bit as much a genius as Da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein or Van Gogh. 132
The Think Tank #3 - Ten Tips On Writing And Selling A Script I’m going to take you right to the action today. Here are ten great tips on writing and selling a script. 1. Read more scripts. That’s what the sample script section of the site is for. We’ve also got a link to a site that is chock full of scripts in the use resources section. There are many advantages to reading scripts. First is it allows you to become very knowledgeable when it comes to formatting. When you read an original draft of a screenplay that you’ve already seen then you get to see what was changed from the initial script. You will also get a better idea how to layout and transition between scenes. Read a couple of scripts over the weekend and write down everything you’ve learned. Keep it blue tacked to the wall behind your monitor to remind you until it is ingrained in your brain. 2. Create a writing routine. Until you’ve established a good routine it can be absolute torture to sit down and write. Do whatever it is you need to do to get yourself in the mood to write your script. Go for a jog, make yourself a cup of coffee, listen to a hypnosis session, etc. Once you’ve got your head in the game then you need to work out what is the optimum time for your writing sessions as well as the length. Some people can write 12 hours straight, others like to break sessions into 30 minute chunks. Experiment and find what works best for you. 3. Make something happen. Always keep your screenplay ticking along. If you’re writing a scene, or reading one back, and notice that you’ve got two ‘talking heads’ (characters stood around doing nothing) then get them into action. Even if they’re just walking to the next scene, get the story moving along! 4. Keep dialogue punchy. This means no monologues, or lengthy exchanges. Dialogue should be short and snappy, try to keep any dialogue between one and two lines. A screenplay is action orientated, not dialogue driven. 5. Play to your strengths. When you start the initial planning stage for writing your screenplay then you should play to your strengths, especially if this is your first script. If you’re a naturally funny person that it’d probably be a good idea to write a comedy. If you eat up costume dramas then write one of those.
6. Use your best idea now. In talking to some prospective scriptwriters I’ve come across a common negative. They struggle for ideas…yet they have one which sounds great. When I ask them why they don’t just write that they say that they don’t want to write that idea until they’re a better scriptwriter! It’s a lot easier to write a selling script first time using your best idea than it is your second best idea. Remember that most scripts are bought purely for their concept rather than their content. 7. Redundant words and -ings. There’s certain words in your narrative that you should avoid or delete if they’re already there. ‘And’, ‘then’, ‘we see’, can go as well as ‘look’ or ‘listen’ at the start of dialogue. Also, when you’re writing the narrative, you shouldn’t be using -ing words: Matt walks… Not: Matt is walking… 8. Jab before the knockout punch. Ten earth shaking explosions aren’t as effective as one. A boxer who throws only huge haymakers is predictable and will quickly tire himself out. The same will happen to your screenplay. Jab the story along with smaller events leading to “the big one”. 9. Learn how to write hypnotically. I’m going to go into this one in a lot of depth in a future article. When you write your query letter or any sort of general introduction you should do so in a hypnotic manner, make the reader need to buy whatever you’re trying to sell. Don’t be general. Refer to the reader directly, either by name or “you”. Keep paragraphs small. Ask the reader questions. Offer them something. 10. Give your script to as many people as possible. This applies to two periods when you’ve finished your script. After you’ve finished your first draft give it to as many trust friends and family members as you can. The more opinions you can get the better, it gives you more ideas on how to improve your script. When you’re actually trying to sell your script there’s no rule saying you can’t send it to absolutely everyone in Hollywood. The only thing you should hold back on is sending your script to multiple agents in the same company. You may also like to send your screenplay to six or so people at the time, making it easier for you to keep track of who should be reading your script at that time. Keep on scriptwriting!
The Think Tank #4 - Writing Exercises The only way to get better at anything is to practice. With that in mind I’ve found a few writing exercises which should really get your creative juices flowing. These exercises are designed to help you with character building, story structure and writing action sequences. People You Know This simple exercise will help your understanding in creating realistic characters. Even seemingly dull people can be highly interesting or funny when placed in certain situations. For this exercise write out a list of ten people you know. Try to pick a broad spectrum of people from your family, friends, work place and neighbours…you don’t necessarily have to like the people you pick! For each person on your list write out a single paragraph character description. Come up with one characteristic for each person that makes them unique. Who knows, somewhere within the list of people you know, you might just find a gem of a character to write about! It’s Not Paranoia If They’re Really After You! They’re after you! You don’t know why, but you’re being chased down relentlessly. Write out a chase scene where you are the only being chased. Imagine the panic and fear you’d be feeling as well as the confusion. Really get into the frame of mind of someone being chased, and fearful for their life. To make it even more interesting write out three different scenes, each with a different method of travel. • • •
On foot. In a car. In a helicopter, being chased by a UFO!
This exercise helps you learn how to empathise with characters and feel what they’re going through. This will allow you to write your characters with a lot of emotional depth. If the danger doesn’t feel real to the character then it won’t seem real to the audience. Scene List Practice A scene list is a set of one sentence descriptions of each scenes in a movie. Scene lists are done to keep track of story and character development. If a scene achieves nothing to develop either the story or a character then it’s probably a good idea to either rewrite the scene or lose it all together. Writing a scene list before you start writing your script proper is an excellent way to make sure you don’t get halfway through your screenplay and end up lost with no place to go.
To practice writing a scene list, try this little exercise using the following steps: -
Chose a movie from your home collection. Download a copy of the screenplay, preferably a txt file. You can use either FSW Scripts or SimplyScripts. Get yourself a pen and a pack of note cards. If you can’t find any note cards then you can up some paper into 3”x5” pieces. It’s much easier to buy them though as you’ll need a hundred or so to be on the safe side. Watch the movie closely. Keep pausing the movie after every scene and write a one-sentence description of the last scene on a note card. Once the movie is finished, put your notes to one side. Pull up the screenplay you’ve downloaded. Copy and paste every scene heading into a notepad file or any other similar program. Compare your note cards to your list of scene headings. Did you miss any scenes? Write out a page-long report on what you’ve learnt from this exercise. Things you might notice include how the story is kept going in every scene, the pacing of the movie, use of subplots and how characters are developed.
I hope you enjoy these exercises. Just as you can’t expect to run a marathon with discipline and training the very same can be said for writing a script. Keep on trying!
Beating Writer's Block Writer’s block is a scriptwriter’s worst nightmare. As a scriptwriter there is nothing worse than sitting down with the intention of completing 10 pages of your script only to achieve absolutely nothing. You leave the writing session feeling depressed and angry at yourself. This can snowball next day when you realise you are 10 pages behind schedule. There are many causes of writer’s block. Some people get it because they subconsciously fear finishing their script because they won’t know what to do next, others seemingly lose the ability to transfer the thoughts in their head onto the page. Others believe that writer’s block is caused by the relationship between the conscious and subconscious. Because scriptwriting is a creative process the subconscious mind is constantly solving problems while the conscious (slower and with a worse memory) mind is trying to play catch up. As many causes as there are of writer’s block, there are probably even more cures. Everyone of them is a perfectly viable option for a scriptwriter, different cures work for different people. You just need to try each one, see what works for you and above all stick to scriptwriting. Although if you find yourself turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining maybe it would be a good idea to take a little break! •
Go for a walk Forget your problems and go for a walk. While you’re relaxing your subconscious mind will be feeding your conscious mind the information it needs to catch up.
Mind writing Get a pen and piece of paper and just write whatever comes to mind. You could write about what you had for breakfast that morning or why you need to try a new laundry service. This keeps you in the swing of writing and allows your ideas to flow onto the page without you needing to critique them for content since no-one else will ever read them.
Look for inspiration in other scripts If you can’t write than you can always read. Again this keeps the mind “in the game” of scriptwriting without unduly taxing it.
Hypnosis or meditation I’m a great proponent in hypnosis and meditation. Doing these mental exercises can relieve stress and pressure and allow the creativity of the brain to flow freely again.
Get out of your rut As a scriptwriter you need to be constantly challenging your brain. The minute you develop into a routine the mind starts getting lazy. If you listen to the radio while you write your script, change the station. If you have the inclination go sky diving, anything that’s different and fresh will help spark the creative process. You might even meet an interesting character or two!
Take a break I normally prefer to write my way through writer’s block but sometimes this is the only option. Put your scriptwriting on hold for a few days and get some R n’ R then return to your writing.
Above all, don’t give up! That script won't write itself!
Making Time To Write If you’re a beginning scriptwriter it probably means you’re either working a full-time job, going to school or looking after your family. It always seems you never have enough time to write. So after it’s been a few days since you did any scriptwriting you start to feel guilty and get out of the swing of writing. This can lead to writers block or just giving up writing altogether. Here are a few tips that will help you have more time to continue your scriptwriting. 1. If you do your scriptwriting on your PC, keep it on whenever you’re in the house. If you write freehand keep a pad a pen nearby at all times. Then whenever you get a spare moment, even if it’s only five minutes, you can get your head down and get some work done straight away. 2. Learn to multitask. If you’re a housewife or househusband then work your writing into your everyday chores. While you’re cooking there’s usually a gap where you’re waiting for something to boil or cool down, use that time to write. If you work or study then you can write in your lunch break or (if you’re daring) when you’re meant to be doing your job. 3. Write at night. This one is especially for prospective scriptwriters with families. Some of the most successful people only sleep a handful of hours a night. Cut into your sleeping time by an hour and get some scriptwriting done. This is how a lot of scriptwriters have to work before they are able to turn professional. 4. Write on the go. If you travel to work or school on the bus/train you have a small window of time where you have nothing to do. Instead of listening to music or just staring out the window use the time to think about certain scenes or characters and what you can do with them. 5. Create more free time by suggesting your partner go out more often with their friends. This gives you time to yourself, in house, to get some writing done without feeling guilty for leaving your partner on their own. 6. Write a list of the things you need to do next and keep them on your bedroom door. Every night before you go to bed you must cross off at least one thing before you can go to sleep. 7. The average person spends three years on the toilet! You could write at least three well thoughtout scripts in that time. Next time you go to the toilet take a pen and pad. Also the air freshener. 8. Spend five minutes before you go to sleep going over your plans and script. This will keep the ideas fresh in your mind and allow your subconscious work on them while you sleep. Bit by bit you can always find time to write a script. You just have to be dedicated and focused enough. Think of yourself as the main character and a finished script as the goal. There may be obstacles in your path but if you want to grow and develop you need to beat these blocks, no matter how challenging that may be, and achieve your goal.
High Concept A high concept film script can equal big bucks. In this article I will outline how to put together a million dollar idea that you can take to the bank. While you should never set out to be a scriptwriter purely for the money everyone likes to have financial security. Unfortunately movies chock full of character development but low on action tend to do poorly at the box office. If you want to write that one big smash-hit that will set you up for life then you need to be thinking about writing a high concept screenplay. Typically a high concept script is easy to sum up in a few words and will be easy for even children to understand. Character development is kept to a minimum, instead A-list actors are used to capture the audiences attention. High concept movies also tend to be full of special effects with a lot of attention paid during the post production process. A big idea, captivating title and intriguing logline is what you need to create a high concept movie. Think Big If you can come up with a great concept then you’re already made. Even if the execution is mediocre your chances of selling your script is high. Producers have been known to purchase scripts without even reading them, based purely on the concept outlines in the story summary. So many movies have a good plot and characters that grow but the initial idea is not all that good. This is why you need to put so much time and effort into the initial idea for a high concept script. Remember that a true high concept idea has to: -
Be easily understood Ably summarized in a sentence or two Intrigue the audience Be full of conflict Have a big event Leave room for a sequel Attract an A-list star Be fresh and marketable Have a unique take on an known idea or genre
Think of movies like Jaws, Star Wars and Independence Day and run down the list with them in mind. You will see how each of them tick off more or less every point on the list. As I write this I’ve just taken a look at the page for Independence Day on IMDB. It has a mediocre user rating of 6.3 out of 10, yet is has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide! Proof that a movie doesn’t have to necessarily be good to make a lot of money. One of the best ways to create a high concept movie is to ask “what if…?”. What if aliens invaded Earth? - Independence Day
What if dinosaurs were brought back to life? - Jurassic Park What if there was a family of superheroes in hiding? - The Incredibles Take in all the media you can. Watch movies, read novels, take in the news especially the more incredulous stories. Think of the various concepts within and think how it could have been different if something else had happened, or an event had gone a different way. Title and Logline A great title and logline have three positive affects. They will help inspire you as you write your script, they’ll cause an agent, producer or actor to sit up and take notice of your work, and it’ll make the finished movie easier to market to the public. The title should be short enough to fit on the marquee of the cinema yet give a good idea to the public of the theme and nature of the film. Star Wars is one of the best examples of a simple yet provocative title and logline. Star Wars - A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Right away you get the idea that this movie will be about an battle between good and evil in an outlandish part of space. The title and logline of your scrip should be a one-two punch that encapsulate your movie. Within the title and logline you should try to answer these questions: -
What’s the story? What are the stakes? What does the hero want and need?
High concept movies are often looked down upon by film critics but there’s no reason why you can’t take a great concept and turn it into a flashy yet deep movie. Or you could write Snakes On A Plane II, it’s your call.
Finding Stories To Turn Into A Screenplay If you want to write a script then you’re going to need a story. Indeed a scriptwriter without a story is like a body without a soul. First and foremost a scriptwriter has to actively seek story ideas. You can’t sit back and go about your life expecting a thunderbolt of inspiration. It simply won’t happen. There’s a few traits which people let hold them back from thinking up ideas and developing them into stories. Laziness, fear and perfectionism. As you read those words you will probably recognise at least one or more of them that is part of your character. These can all be defeated though by creating a routine or period of time each day that you devote to creating ideas and/or writing. Just an hour or two a day, say 7pm to 9pm, will result in a lot of productive work being done. Don’t think about thinking, just think! Two of the best sources for story ideas are newspapers and magazines, particularly the human interest articles. I recently read a small piece in a newspaper about a woman who suffered through a terrible depression she hadn’t been allowed into brother’s funeral after he had died from a kidney illness. The twist being that she was the only person they’d found as a suitable kidney donor but she had backed out because she was a single mother and afraid of what would happen to her children if she’d died during the procedure. The above article was only given a couple of columns in the newspaper but it provides a terrific skeleton for a great screenplay. A scriptwriter needs to be able to sift through the turgid pieces to find the nuggets of gold scattered throughout. It’s well documented that David Bowie used to take clippings of headlines or phrases he found interesting in newspapers and turn them into ideas for songs. People go to the movies to see characters they can relate to accomplish things that they can only dream about. Rocky Balboa was the stumblebum with a heart of gold who went on to challenge for (and in the second sequel successfully win) the boxing heavyweight championship. With it came the fame, fortune and glory we all wish for ourselves. Scriptwriters need to find a story core and a main character that the common person can relate to. Think about what drives you, what you fear and how you deal with pressure. It is your goal as a scriptwriter to take the audience on a journey through the character’s emotions and make them feel what the character feels. A good script/movie shares elements with a good rollercoaster. There are ups and downs and simulated emotions (you feel momentary fear on a rollercoaster but you know realistically you are perfectly safe). Two of the key elements for any story are conflict and crisis. In the example I provided in the third paragraph the crisis is the illness and eventual death of the man with the kidney illness. Think about the conflict, big and small, this would create. This man was well within his right to be in a foul mood with just about everyone, being at death’s door, yet at the same time he was probably glad to have the opportunity to say and do the all the important things he wanted to do before he died. At the same time his sister had an extremely tough decision. She had to choose whether or not to have an operation to remove a kidney which would shorten her life expectancy, potentially leave 141
her in discomfort for the rest of her life and at worst kill her or watch as her brother died. In between these two were the woman’s children who faced losing an uncle and/or mother and the man’s wife who was watching and nursing her dying husband. If that isn’t an incredible family conflict I don’t know what is, and it makes for great drama. When you find a story like this it is normally advisable to change a few elements for a couple of reasons. One being that you don’t have to purchase rights for the story and another being that you can change details to heighten drama and suspense and “tighten up” the story. I read the newspaper each day and everyday I find a story or two I think could be worked into a good script. Of course as you research, plot and plan some stories fall apart but others stand out as strong, believable and truly fascinating. Forgetting the outside world you can look closer to home for your scriptwriting inspiration. Think about your family, friends, neighbours or even yourself. There’s a good chance that some sort of tragedy or incredulous event has happened within that circle. While you certainly never wish these things on someone you know there is an advantage of finding a story this way over newspapers or magazines. You will have seen first hand how the crisis effected people and how they dealt with it. As long as you do so in a tactful manner these people will be more than happy to open up their hearts to you if you mention that you’d like to write a screenplay based on the situation. That’s exactly what good scriptwriting is original stories, based on real life situations told from a particular point of view.
Express Yourself If you want to become a successful scriptwriter then you need to be able to express yourself. Here I will outline a couple of methods that will take you just a few minutes a day and make you a much more expressive scriptwriter. It’s perfectly understandable that people are becoming more introverted and unable to express themselves. You are under siege from the mainstream media who exaggerate, embellish and sensationalize the truth to make news stories seem more horrific in their quest for ratings and readers. Coupled with a society wide view to conform to the set standards it can be very hard to express yourself. When you express yourself in any form it can make you feel weak and vulnerable. This is especially true of a scriptwriter when their goal is to create a selling screenplay. Suddenly a part of your world view can be seen by millions of people who will judge you and your work. Any trace of negative thoughts or actions from the main character get erased. This results in a lot of generic, politically correct movies straight from the cookie cutter factory of film production. It is the expression of honesty that makes scriptwriting such an interesting art form and adds an important element of realism in screenplays. You can’t expect anyone to be perfect, that includes your characters and most importantly yourself. You need to learn how to open your heart. All those negative things you think and feel but would never say. There’s a place for all that negative emotion and its in your scriptwriting. This is especially true in the very first draft of your screenplay when the story is raw and coming straight from the heart. You don’t need to worry if you go too dark with a character or situation because you can edit it later. If you express yourself truthfully you will literally feel an emotional weight lifted from your shoulders. You will feel much better about yourself. It’s akin to the spiritual concept of “finding yourself”. Keep A Dark Diary If you already keep a diary that’s great because it keeps you into the flow of writing. Be truthful, do you really write down your darkest thoughts and feelings or do you skirt around them? If you avoid your dark/shadow side in your normal diary then you should purchase a diary with a lock and key. In this “dark diary” only write down your negative emotions. If someone pissed you off at work today then write down what they did, how it made you feel, and what you wished you could do to them if you didn’t have to suffer the consequences. This is one of the most liberating things you can do. After you’ve finished writing in your “dark diary” for the day you will feel lighter, more positive and more creative. Write A Dark Passage I’m sure there’s probably been a time in your life where things have seemed dark and gloomy. It 143
could have been the death of a loved one, a rejection or a period of poor health. Whatever was the catalyst for this dark period of your life you should write it down. Write down: -
What happened Why it happened How it made you feel How you dealt with it How you wish you dealt with it How people around you dealt with you and the situation How other people made you feel
Be as dark and cruel as you felt at the time. Pour your heart out onto to paper and unload all that emotional baggage. This has two effects, it trains you to express yourself and it may unclog the negativity from your creative process. After youâ€™ve done you can either keep the work under lock and key and look back it occasionally to draw inspiration or you can burn it. I say burn over other ways of disposing of your dark passage because it is symbolic of burning away your worries. Whether you write a dark passage or dark diary remember that you can go as far as you want because youâ€™ll be the only one who will see it. You will be amazed at the results.
Show Don't Tell There’s a number of times that I’ve referred to the phrase “show don’t tell” here on Film Scriptwriting. You’ve probably heard it before too. It sounds simple on paper but it can difficult for a beginner scriptwriter to master. However once you know the basics and give it some practice it soon becomes natural. Your writing will improve immensely just by getting to grips with the “show don’t tell” principle. Lets cover the difference between telling and showing. Telling is using base description such as “Jon walks into the room. He is a fat man.”. Showing is using suggestive description which allows the reader of your screenplay to form their own mental image. For example: “Jon waddles into the office. His belly jiggles with every strenuous step.”. Both examples get the fact across the Jon is a fat man, but the showing example gives the character a lot more flavor. It allows the reader to come up with a much more vivid picture of the character and how he moves. This makes the screenplay interact for the reader, getting them to use their imagination. This is a form of hypnotic writing. Dialogue plays an important part in the “show don’t tell” principle. Rather than write an introductory piece for a character you can illustrate a lot of that information in the way they talk. You don’t need to tell the producer reading your script that a character is militaristic in the running of his family if she talks to her family like this:
There are of course exceptions to this rule. Sometimes telling is better than showing. If there’s a fact that’s trivial to your story then it’s perfectly acceptable to tell it without dwelling. If the scene is set outside and you feel it will heighten the mood to have it be raining then that’s something you should tell. If you try to show everything your script will look “padded” with unnecessary description. It is also easier just to tell in the first draft of your script. This allows you to get the story down, without constantly having to stop and think how to show a fact. You should aim just to let your first draft flow as much as possible. You can go always back and re-write your first draft to add the description need to make it show rather than tell. Telling is also the best way to go when you write the outline or synopsis of your story. Since these are meant to be brief guides to your screenplay they don’t require a lot of description, just the bare bones version of events. As you master this principle you’ll notice that showing uses a lot more words than telling. If you write a first draft that’s 120 pages then you can add anywhere between 5 and 20 pages in the rewrite. This is good because it forces you to cut the fat from scenes and get rid of any dialogue or even full scenes you now deem unnecessary to telling the story. The pace of your screenplay with 145
often greatly improve as a result of this. Don’t tell me you’re a scriptwriter, show me.
Choosing the Best Scriptwriting Contest For You Scriptwriting contests (also referred to as screenwriting contests) can be a very useful tool in your development as a scriptwriter. One of the most valuable things they provide is encouragement and motivation. After a while scriptwriting can seem unrewarding but these contests give you something obtainable to strive for. You’re not competing with Hollywood giants like George Lucas, M. Night Shyamalan or Quentin Tarantino to sell your script. Instead you’re up against fellow eager, new scriptwriters looking to make a name for themselves. There are literally hundreds of scriptwriting contests on the internet, all promising the prospective entrant a large sum of money, instant recognition in Hollywood and feedback from top writing professionals. However, as anyone who’s spent any deal of time on the internet knows, not everything on the internet should be taken as gospel. Some of these contests may be out and out cons. Of course the majority will be legitimate but some will be better than others. Entering these contests usually comes at a cost which is why it’s especially important to choose the right scriptwriting contest for you. This is why it’s so important to put in a great deal of research before choosing which contest you wish to enter. Contest Research There are five key components to your research. This sort of research isn’t at all hard thanks to the presence of the internet but it can be time consuming. Take a close look at the contests website. This is undoubtedly the most important thing to look at as you can glean so much information. If the website looks amateurish and is run by a bunch of names that you can find nothing about then it’s probably not legitimate, meaning you should avoid at all costs. A good scriptwriting contest site should have a list of guidelines and a FAQ for you to peruse. It’s important to read these so you know exactly what you’re getting in for. For example it’s no good entering your romance/drama based screenplay to a contest which is looking for comedy scripts. So make sure you read the guidelines and find out if the contest is suitable for you and your script. It’s also very useful to know how long the competition has been running for and how past winners have gone on to do for themselves. The better the pedigree the more worth there is to entering. Feedback. There’s few things more valuable to a fledgling scriptwriter than professional feedback. If a contest offers feedback even if you don’t win then that adds a lot of value to the contest package. Question previous entrants. Find a scriptwriting forum and post a message about the contest you are thinking of entering. Ask if anyone else has previously entered and if they thought it was worthwhile.
Sign up to Movie Bytes. Movie Bytes lists the vast majority of scriptwriting contests and has an excellent feature called “Report Cards”. Writers who have previously entered these contests write up a report and evaluate them. The best part is that this is completely free. You can also write up your own report card to help future scriptwriters. Visit the page here http://moviebytes.com/ReportCard.cfm Script readings. Some contests, particularly those attached to film festivals, offer staged readings of your script. This is a great way for you to evaluate the flow of your own writing and spot any changes you feel need making to your script. If this is offered it’s normally only to the finalists rather than all entrants. Other Factors A contest will promote their sponsors heavily, for obvious reasons. Make sure that the sponsor has relevant film industry credentials as this opens up another door into Hollywood for you. It never hurts to make contacts. Similarly a contest might promote themselves a being connected to a big time writer, director or actor. Check that this name is actually involved in the judging process at some stage in the contest guidelines otherwise it could be a lie or a case of the star not actually being involved, just lending their name. You will also want to check up on the judges of the contest and what credentials they possess. Some contest will not make their list of judges known, possibly to protect them as well as contest entrants from potential corruption. However a good rule of thumb is that the more information given, the better. You most certainly want at least some information about the judges and the judging process before you even think about cutting a cheque. Publicity is a driving force for any scriptwriter entering a screenwriting competition. Scout around the internet and industry magazines for press releases by competitions touting their latest winner. Another great publicity boost is if the competition pays for adverts in major film magazines promoting their contest and the winner. The more you have your name out there the more likely you are to get signed to a deal. You may also be promised contact with certain agents or production companies. Try and find out the exact details of these promises. A five minute phone conversation with an agent has no-where near the value of lunch with a top producer. Some competitions even promise that the winning script will be produced. These type of contests are usually run by small production companies looking for good, low budget movies. Still, you want to check the validity of these claims by looking for past winners and making some form of contact with them for proof positive. I hope this guide has helped you in choosing the right scriptwriting contest for you. Remember that you’re a writer now, so be frugal with your money!
5. Selling Your Script It seems like congratulations may be in order. If you've come to this section of the site then you've probably just finished your script and are wondering, "what next?". Well, first of all, you can now officially consider yourself to be a scriptwriter, you've got the body of work to prove it. We well help you in every way possible to sell your script, and we won't even ask for a 10% agents fee! Everything you need to know about finding an agent, preparing a marketing plan, making a successful pitch and how to sell a script without an agent will be right here. Now you are a scriptwriter with a finished script you'll also be needing to know how to copyright your work. Well don't worry because we have a guide to copyrighting your script coming soon and it's can't miss material.
The Rewrite Once you’ve finished your script you might feel like your work is done, however nothing could be further from the truth. Now you have the joy of rewriting to look forward to! The vast majority of film scripts go through a good half-dozen rewrites before they are accepted by a producer. It can be extremely deflating to show a trusted friend a finished script only for them to send it back to you with various scribbles over the pages with corrections, pointing out plot holes and the like. So much so that you wish you’d never bothered. Take heart though because every script goes through numerous rewrites before they are in a fit state to be sold and produced. When you begin your rewrite there are two things you should be looking to do, zoom in and spread out. Zoom In As the phrase suggests you need to look at every single scene heading, action and piece of dialogue and make sure that they all make sense, tie into each other and are as short yet descriptive as possible. If you have found someone to read through your script ask them to make notes of any passage (preferably written on the script itself) of places where they felt lost or didn’t understand exactly what was going on. While it’s fine to have mystery in a script you never want confusion as confusion leads to rejections. In terms of tying all the scenes together you may find parts or even entire scenes which aren’t necessary in telling the story and can be taken out of the script or rewritten to work into other scenes. You also will want to cut out any waffle or ramblings in your action and dialogue. Scriptwriting is very much a case of “why use two words when one will do?”. Keep it all neat and trim, whoever reads your script will thank you for not having to read through a paragraph of location description. This will improve your chances of your script being read all the way through and, as a result, purchased. Spread Out This relates to backstory and dialogue. Occasionally I come across a script where the writer seems to realise the importance of backstory but not how to ease it into the script. This results in a tedious ten minute bar scene where the main character blasts through his entire life story up to that point. It breaks the flow of the story. It is fine to write this sort of scene in the first draft of your script, it records important character information which you can use in the rewrite in a more effective manner. For example if your main character is a divorced father of two he doesn’t even need to talk about it for you to be able to get that point across clearly to the audience. He could open up his wallet to pay
for a drink after work revealing a picture of two children and then head home to a small, empty apartment. This effectively shows the audience that the character has two children yet no reason to rush home and live alone. The audience will put the facts together and put the situation together without you ever having to tell them. Show donâ€™t tell.
Quick Exercises To Help With Rewriting Once you’ve received feedback on your script from the people you trust enough to give a nonbiased opinion the first thing you should do is…nothing. Read through the corrections, questions and advice you’ve been given and leave it to ferment in your brain for a few days. This time will allow you to come up with a course of action on rewriting your screenplay. In writing the first draft of your script you’ve probably got the basic story down. It is the character arc and the relationship between each character that is left skeletal at best. Here are a couple of exercises which will help you in the process on rewriting your script which will improve it greatly. The Character Arc Grab yourself some 3x5 cards or, failing that, cut some paper down to the required size. You will need one car for each scene. Start with your main character or characters, and write down what happens, and how it affects them. You will notice that several scenes containing your main character have situations which don’t seem to affect them at all. Any scene where this is apparent you will need to go back and add some sort of character reaction or action which shows growth in their personality. The Relationship Arc The second exercise is much the same as the first. However, instead you’ll want to chart the growth of the relationship between the main characters. Tack them up to the wall, or a notice board, and look at the progression. Looking at these cards should give you a good insight into the burgeoning relationship between your main characters. Some scenes will keep the character relationship frozen, for which you’ll need to add a little growth and warmth. Other scenes might have too much relationship building which appears corny and slows down the action, you will need to spread this growth out across other scenes. Now you have these two arcs better planned out you can make a list. Fold a piece of paper in two and title once half “character arc” and the other, “relationship arc”. Now you should have a clear, scene-by-scene, look at how the main character and their relationships grow. Remember that if an incident happens in your story that affects your main character in a negative fashion then it should also affect the majority of their relationships negatively too. By fleshing out the character and relationship arcs you help develop your characters into real people in a real world, rather than cardboard cut-outs who are merely vehicles to tell your story. Once you’ve rewritten your script, taking into account the link between the character arc and relationship arc, then you are ready to send your screenplay back to your trusted readers to find any more improvements you can make. To paraphrase Paul Valery “A script is never finished, only abandoned”, so keep writing and rewriting!
Copyrighting Your Script One of the biggest fears for any scriptwriter is their work falling into the wrong hands and being horribly plagiarised. However, if you copyright your script then this need not be a worry. There are certain things that you cannot copyright: ideas, titles, plots, phrases and basically anything that isn’t written down. You can though copyright your original spec script. As current copyright law currently stands, as soon as you write your script you already own the copyright to it. The problem with this though is that you have no proof of copyright date. To rectify this problem you will need to register your script with the U.S Copyright Office which is in Washington, DC. They have a website which can be found at http://www.copyright.gov/. The process is straightforward and inexpensive. When you have gone through the procedure of copyrighting your work you will need to put notice of this somewhere on your script, preferably the cover page. It should look like this: Copyright 2008 Joe King Or © 2008 Joe King. To make sure your copyright is respected worldwide you want to add the phrase “All Rights Reserved” when registering with the U.S Copyright Office. Despite this all being very simple most scriptwriters do not copyright their script. This is mainly because once the script has been sold the production company will own the copyright to the script anyway. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t copyright your script though. Copyrighting your script gives you the best protection possible and also provides you with the peace of mind to begin circulating your script. Other Ways to Protect Your Script There are a few other ways to protect your script other than copyrighting it. If you give copies to people you trust and get them to read it then they can testify that you have written the script and when they read it. One method that it already quite well known is “Poor Man’s Copyright”. This entails posting your script to yourself via registered mail and keeping it somewhere safe, without opening it. Because the date should be stamped on the envelope this proves when you wrote the script. However there is no guarantee that this method would hold up in a court of law. The final thing to consider is actually one of the few advantages to being a first time scriptwriter. If you manage to successfully sell your script it will be a lot cheaper for the producer to just pay you $100,000 rather than steal your script and pay a recognised writer $300,000 to develop your script.
Putting The Pieces Together To Sell Your Script Once you’ve finished your script off the dollar signs will be flashing ad you’ll be looking to sell it to the highest bidder. But before you send off your script to everyone and their mother, you need to have a plan. Here are the tools you will need to sell your script. The Script - Hopefully you’ve already finished your script if you’re reading this, otherwise you’re just procrastinating. If you have more than once script then that’s great, this will prove not only your writing ability but that you have more that one script in you and can be treated as a long term piece of talent. A Hook - This can be the logline of your movie or the basic concept or premise. You can use this hook in your query letter, on the phone or your pitch. Hollywood is big on “high-concept” movies as they tend to have more chance of being a box-office smash so make your script sound as highconcept as possible, even if it isn’t. Story Summary - A story summary is normally one or two paragraphs long and can be used in your query letter or as part of your pitch. The story summary has an offshoot known as the pitch on paper which consists of your hook, followed by the story summary all on one page. Query Letter - Before you send your script to anyone you should first send a query letter. This letter must convince whoever you send it to that they need to read your script. It consists of your hook, story summary and any relevant qualifications. Synopsis/Treatment - The synopsis is a one or two page story summary which is to be written in present tense, double-spaced, using a conservative 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courier, etc) which you can sent with your query letter (if requested), use as a guideline for your phone pitch or directed to producers, actors and directors. You will want to create a cover letter for your synopsis that contains the concept, title, genre and any relevant qualifications. Similar to the synopsis is the treatment. If you are asked for a treatment they are very similar to the synopsis only longer, normally 3-4 pages unless you are asked for more. Telephone Script - If you get the chance to speak to an agent, producer or other piece of talent you need to know what you’re talking about. Think of yourself as a telephone marketer. Any company who employs telephone marketers will give them a script to guide them through making the sale. By your telephone at all time you want your telephone script as there is nothing worse than going blank on the phone, whoever you are speaking to will simply put the phone down. Your telephone script should consist of a brief introduction about you and your script followed by your pitch. Not only should you be trying to sell your script, but yourself as a piece of talent too. Whoever your are speaking to might already have three romantic comedies in production so they won’t want the Love & Laughter script you have written. However they might be impressed enough with your work to offer you a scriptwriting assignment.
Resources - www.filmscriptwriting.com is a great start, as are our list of useful resources. You might find it useful to join a forum or online network of scriptwriters. Most communities also have writers workshops from which you can gain valuable insight from a personal perspective. Mental Strength - Writing and selling a script can be a gruelling process. You must remain confident in yourself and your script at all times, without being arrogant. Persistence is the name of the game, it took Forrest Gump ten years to go from a finished script to a sold script. Even if you donâ€™t manage to sell your first script you should use the process to make friends in the industry, this way your name may come to mind if they have any writing assignments or work. Never give up.
The Query Letter Your query letter is crucial to your success as a scriptwriter. It doesn’t matter how dynamic your script is if you can’t convince anyone to read it. In the space of one page you want to make the agents of the world salivate at the prospect of reading your script. Keep your letter to the point and intriguing, you want the agent to know quickly that they’re dealing with a great screenplay. You will want to include: Why you’re writing - You’re writing because you’ve just finished your most recent script (never mention if it’s your first) and are now looking for representation. Category/Genre - Is your script a feature length film, or the pilot for a new sitcom? Is it a comedy, love story, war epic, etc? Here you will want to include the logline of your story. You want your logline to be inventive and dynamic enough for the agent to ask you to send a copy of your script. You will tell the basic premise of your script in a single sentence or two which makes your script sound as fresh and interesting as possible. Story Summary - This should be a paragraph or two on about the story of your script. It is a brief account of what happens in your script. Your Background and Achievements - If you’ve written your script based on a personal experience then let the agent know that. Even if your story is related to a hobby of yours, this shows a personal knowledge and passion. If you’ve ever won any scriptwriting or filmmaking competitions you certainly want to add that here. Don’t include a full CV as the majority of the information will be irrelevant and make you look amateurish. You can send your query letter to as many agents as you want. I recommend between 5-10 at a time, this gives you a wide reach without making it difficult to keep track of exactly who you’ve sent your query letter to. You can make the agent’s life easier by including two self-addressed postcards. One postcard with “Please send script” and one with “Don’t send script”. If you receive the postcard which asks you to send the script include it in the package with your script to remind the agent. If you don’t hear anything from a agent in a couple of weeks you can assume that they aren’t interested. Don’t expect a letter of recognition for sending a query letter. If one of you strengths is phone sales then you might prefer to call an agent direct rather than right them a letter. Have a couple of cue cards by you and give them the pitch. You will find out right away if they’re interested or not, and if they are, who to send your script to. If you’re talking to a receptionist offer to send them your script to read. Most of them will be agents in training who will be looking to make their own mark. After an agent has received your query letter you may get a phone call asking for an exclusive period in which to review your script. This period of time is normally only a few days and is worth agreeing to, but make sure they don’t keep trying to extend the period. Your time is money too. 157
Finding And Working With An Agent People often have a negative perspective of agents. After all, who wants to give up 10% of their income to someone who just mails out their scripts and occasionally phones them with bad news? The truth about agents is much different though. Put simply a good agent will save you time and actually make you money. They know the ins and outs of the industry and they know how to get you the best deal possible. Remember that an agent doesn’t take any money from you until they’ve sold a script, so it’s pretty much win/win. Finding an Agent The first thing you want to do is to get a list of approved agencies from the Writers Guild. They have a coded list so you know which agencies are currently accepting scripts. Keep in mind these are agencies rather than individual agencies. To find an individual agent you will need to purchase the latest Hollywood Representation Directory from Amazon. You need to get the name of a specific agent. This might require you phoning an agency and asking them which of their agents are currently accepting new clients. You shouldn’t tell them that you’re a new scriptwriter, just that you’re a scriptwriter with a new script. Once you have pinpointed a particular group of agencies or agents that you would like to represent (and are accepting queries) you then you should send a query letter to around 5 to 10 of them. Make sure though that you’re only contacting one agent per agency. Working With an Agent With the right amount of skill and luck at least one agent will get back to you and request a copy of your script. Then you should mail a copy of your script, complete with a cover letter to the agent. Hopefully your script will have enough impact for the agent to request a meeting. This is a chance to get you know each other personally and ask any questions you might have about them. A reputable agent will take only 10% of your scriptwriting income with no extra charges (travel, reading, sending out scripts, etc.). If you meet an agent who differs from this then you should politely back out of any further dealings with them. The only cost you many have to pay for is photocopying scripts. You want to present yourself to the agent as a passionate writer and a great pitcher. The more scripts you can produce then the more money the agent stands to make which makes you a great acquisition for them. The agent will want to know where you see your career heading. For example, what genres interest you, would you also write for television, can you travel to Hollywood regularly for meetings, etc? Once you have signed a Writers Guild-signatory contract your agent has a 90 period to sell your script before you can terminate the deal. Do remember though that selling a script takes time, so don’t rush to end the contract unless you strongly feel nothing is being done. An agent is primarily concerned with making money though so it would make no sense for them not to be trying their hardest to sell your script.
There are four different deals your agent can strike for you, they are: Outright Sale: If your script has created enough interest and buzz around Hollywood then it may be sold in an auction like style. As you can imagine the bidding can get high, at least six figures and can go as high as seven figures. You will also receive a bonus when then script has actually been produced as well as residual fees for things such as DVDs and TV showings. An Option: This is a lot more common than an outright sale. The buyer will purchase the option to rights of the script for a period of time (6 to 16 months). During this time the production company tries to attract talent and/or money towards the script. An option fee can be anything from $0 to $20,000. You will be paid this fee at the end of the optioning contract, at which time the option may be renewed or pass on the script. If they pass on the script you receive the option fee and retain rights to the script. Development Deal: Your agent will use your spec script to arrange a meeting with a producer. In the meeting you will pitch ideas which can result in a development deal or sale (if you have already scripted the idea). Audition: This deal secures an audition with a producer to develop their idea into a script. This could film or TV. In the case of a TV series you will receive money to write a couple of episodes and will get residuals if the show goes into syndication. If you impress you may be asked to work full time on the staff of the TV show. Once you have an agent you should do all you can to stay in touch with them. Arrange a time to call or meet with them once a month or so and keep to it.
Market Research Before you sit down to write your script it is hard to know what the movie market will be like by the time you have finished it. No-one can predict the future, especially about something as volatile as the film industry. While some types of movie are always in demand (action, romantic comedy, etc) it is very hard to look at a script and know if it will sell or not at the box office. It doesn’t matter how good the script is. What you can do is a little market research and use a little common sense. If you’re writing a script social drama then keep it a low budget affair. These type of movies generally don’t do well at the box office or are produced as a “made for TV movie”. Stars drive Hollywood. With that in mind, if you can create a character than an A-list actor would love to play then you’re in business. To do this requires writing a screenplay that revolves around a unique character who grows through a period of high drama, this is known as a strong character arc. The high drama gives the actor a chance to flex their muscles and show off their full range of acting emotions. While it is true that there are more A-list male actors, females are catching up so don’t let that sway the choice of sex for your main character. What To Do With A Finished Script The first thing you want to do with a finished script is to let it ferment for awhile. Give yourself time to come up with ways of fixing any problems in the screenplay. You may get new ideas on ways to improve the story and the characters. At the same time though you want to be careful of rewriting the life out of the screenplay, the first draft is full of passion and you don’t want to lose that. This break also allows you to become more objective. It is easier to admit mistakes after giving yourself some distance from the project. The break also gives you more time to assess the market. If a movie similar to yours is released and does well then you should send your script out as soon as possible. If it bombs then you should leave it around a year before you send the script out. Use this time to write another screenplay, having more than one will show that you’re productive and are a sound investment for any agent or producer. Where To Get Market Information Variety and the Hollywood Reporter are the two best places to get information on the markets. Variety tends to focus more on movies while the Hollywood Reporter focuses more on television. They both have weekly editions and websites you can visit for all the information on what screenplays have been sold, how much they sold for, who’s attached to them, when it will go into production, etc. You can also find out who each production company receives its funding from. If you discover that a production company is funded by a huge Hollywood star the you’d be wise to look at their track record of films. Do they like to star in specific kinds of movies, do they star in movies that they produce?
There are also any number of workshops, seminars and film festivals you can attend. It always helps to know someone with a foot already on the ladder. Try to drum up some contacts and give them a quick pitch of your script. Before you know it theyâ€™ve told a friend about it who happens to be the brother of an executive at a production company. Having a killer screenplay is great, but you need to know who to pitch it to and when if you want to sell it and make the most money possible.
Teach Yourself Hypnotic Writing By following my guidelines you can teach yourself the powerful art of hypnotic writing. This can be used in your query letter, synopsis and screenplay pitch to great effect. Using hypnotic writing in your script sales pitches can be the difference between no sale and a million dollars in the bank. Hypnotism is the use of focused suggestion. You might occasionally get calls from salesmen hawking products. The secret to the game is that they all have scripts, written with the power of suggestion to convince you that you need their product. In reality you probably don’t but these pitches are damn convincing. Before I knew about the hypnotic methods salesmen use I nearly purchased double glazing from a telephone salesmen…despite the fact I already had double glazing. That is the power of hypnotic writing! The first tools you need to become a hypnotic sales writer are passion and sincerity. Since this is your screenplay that you are selling you should already be full of these. You need to believe with all your heart that the agents and producers need to buy your screenplay for their sake as well as yours. Your screenplay is your product and you should show a lot of enthusiasm for it. Now you have the tools you need a hook. The hook is simple and I’m sure you’ll have heard it before. All you need to do is promise results in a set amount of time. “Give me an hour and I’ll tell you the greatest story ever told!” Look at that again. What an offer! You’re instantly showing the agents and producers of the world how enthusiastic you are of your screenplay, and how little time it will take them to read through. An hour for a box office smash seems like a great deal. Open your letter/pitch with this and you’ll have them instantly hooked, now you need to keep them interested. They’ve took the bait, now reel them in. 7 Points To Hooking And Keeping Your Audience 1. Headline This is where you want to convey the benefit of interest to the audience. “Give me an hour and I’ll tell you the greatest story ever told!” makes for a great headline. Get over with your why they should read your screenplay any way you can. “Have the next Hollywood Blockbuster delivered right to you!” That headline on a query letter would entice an agent or producer to get you to send your script to them. Getting your screenplay read is half the battle in selling it. Wouldn’t you want to read a screenplay that was introduced like this? 2. Opening Paragraph Just like the first ten pages of your screenplay you want to make this captivating. Be creative, anything to keep their curiosity peaked. Give a grandiose speech about how the movie industry is 162
dying and you and your screenplay are here to save it. Whatever you need to do to get the audience to pay attention. 3. The Offer And Its Advantages Now you hit them with what you have to offer. Let them know briefly what your script is about and how enthusiastic about it you are. Keep it short and sweet and then tell them why they should buy your screenplay. Say you’ve done market research which suggests that there’s a lot of movie to be made in this genre after the success of…(name the most recent, similar and successful movie). 4. Appeal To Their Ego “This is the screenplay that could turn everyone involved into icons!” Everyone in Hollywood wants two thing, fame and money. You can offer them both with your screenplay. Always refer to the reader. Use “you”, “your” and their name if you know it. This keeps the sale personal, more like a correspondence between friends than a pitch. 5. Readability You want to make your query letter as simple to read as possible. Keep paragraphs short and words easy to understand. You should also look to make the important parts of your letter stand out. Single them out by using bold or italic text to draw the eye towards them. 6. Should You Ask Questions? Yes you should! Keep the audience involved, keep the pitch interactive. “Wouldn’t you like…?” “Can you imagine if…?” “Do you know what I mean?” These questions force your audience to pay attention because you’re asking a question of them. They need to take in your information to be able to answer them. 7. A Strong Finish You’ve got them where to want them. Leave your audience in a position where they have to act. Tell them to write back or call you to take advantage of this fabulous opportunity. Then sum up your entire pitch with a single sentence. “This is the script you’ve been waiting “Can your afford to miss out on this unique opportunity?”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Scriptwriting is a cutthroat industry, using the power of hypnotic writing will give you the extra edge you need.
The Meeting And Pitch Receiving a request for a meeting from a Hollywood executive is both an exciting and daunting prospect. If you have never had a meeting like this before that it is nerve-wracking, you don’t know what to expect and are naturally fearful of wasting your big chance. Even if you do have experience in such meetings you are bound to have a few butterflies. For you the purpose of the meeting is to impress the executives and put yourself and your script in a favourable position in the mind of the executive. From the point of view of the executive there are two reasons to call a meeting. One is to hear your ideas and possibly sign you to a developmental deal to write your script or to offer you a deal for a script you have already wrote. The second reason is that the executive already has an idea for a screenplay and is auditioning scriptwriters to take up the assignment. Typically these meetings are from thirty minutes to an hour long but more or less depending on a number of factors. You will be sat with the executives and the initial phase of the meeting will be getting to know each other, they will try to put you at ease. Like any social situation you want to be as warm and open as possible without going overboard. Creating a good rapport with an executive could provide you with a lot of work in the future. Be conversational and natural while retaining a sense of professionalism. If you are struggling to think of something to say take a look around the room, there may be an interesting painting or award you can ask about. In terms of dress you should probably opt for a smart/casual look unless you were instructed otherwise when the meeting was set up. A pair of slacks with an open collared shirt is a safe option. You would also be wise to take a pen and notepad to write down anything of importance. They will ask for you to pitch a few ideas if they are looking to sign you to a developmental deal. If they wish to assign you an idea of their own they will ask you questions about what you’re currently working on, and what you’ve written in the past. This is your chance to show your creativity and how easy you are to work with. You should always go to a meeting with a handful of ideas to pitch. There are two types of pitch, the two minute pitch and the long pitch. The Two Minute Pitch The two minute pitch starts off with the hook of the story. You have to sum up the storyline of your idea in around 25 words or less. This is the hook, an example would be: The Godfather: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. After you have drawn in the executives with your hook you will be asked to continue. This is when you can go over the storyline briefly from beginning to end. Focus on two or three characters at
most and the action, conflict and emotions they will go through. Open your pitching session with your very best idea and limit yourself to around 5 pitches, but have a few more ideas in mind in case youâ€™re asked for more. After youâ€™ve completed your pitch you may be offered a developmental deal to write the screenplay of one of your ideas. They may also just ask to see the screenplay when it is finished and then go from there. Once this session is complete the executives might begin talking about their own ideas, this is your chance to pick up the ball and run. If you can come up with a strong creative direction for their idea then you will be given instructions to come back in the future with a full pitch.
The Long Pitch There’s a lot more pressure to deal with during a long pitch as you need to articulate your ideas in detail, and if you’ve been asked to do a long pitch you are probably close to receiving some sort of deal. It’s entirely appropriate to take notes or 3”x5” cards into a pitch although you want to make sure that you don’t just read directly from them. Commit the information to memory and use your notes as and aid if you feel you’ve forgotten something. As with the two minute pitch you should open with your hook and then the storyline. You can introduce the main characters with a little detail about them before you go into the storyline if you wish. If you are giving a long pitch of one of your own ideas you might want to open with the title and genre too. While this is the long pitch you aren’t expected, nor should you, give a scene-by-scene rundown of the story or mention every character in the story. Instead focus on the highpoints and most important characters. Give the executives information on the main characters, their goals, what’s at stake, the emotions, the theme, how the characters grow, any major plot twists and how the story will end. Avoid tying a character to a specific actor. If you say you see the main character being played by Tom Selleck then you’re painting yourself into a corner. The executives may have no wish to produce a film with Tom Selleck as the lead or Selleck may have no interest in playing the part. If you want to create a visual image of a character name several actors - “A Tom Selleck/Burt Reynolds/Harrison Ford style of actor”. This way you leave the door open for many actors to play the part in the mind of the executive. In a similar vein in can also be helpful to compare your idea to a past successful movie to help the executive visualise the project. “It’s like Dodgeball meets Ghostbusters” gives an instant impression with very little thought. During the course of the pitch you may be interrupted with questions and queries, this is why notes and cards are useful so you don’t lose track of where you were. This could also be a situation where you have to think on your feet if the executive suggests a change or two to the story. If you can implement new ideas quickly this will impress them greatly. What Are They Looking For? Outside of your ideas the executives are also testing you on your personality and your creativity. If they are to offer you a contract then that may mean many hours of time spent together. They are especially looking at four qualities, your SAGE. Sensitivity - You need a thick skin to work in Hollywood, if you can’t take constructive criticism they you won’t be able to make it as a scriptwriter. You have to be able to separate your ego from your work. At the same time though you should stick to your guns on any issues you feel strongly 166
about. It’s a fine balancing act. Ambition - The more ambition the better. If the executives see you as someone who wants to write a series of blockbusters then they know you could be worth a lot of money to them if you have the ability. Grace - No-one likes a pessimistic grump. You don’t need to be sugar and spice but treat people with respect and have good manners. Try to be a conversationalist no matter how nervous you might feel, you’ll soon warm into it. Enthusiasm - Any good salesperson knows that the most important attribute to have is a passion for the product they are selling. Well, you’re selling your screenplay/ideas so this is no different. A strong sense of self-belief will impress the executives and help make them believe in you. Good Preparation The best way to cope with the high pressure situation of a long pitch is to prepare yourself well. Treat it like a job interview. Map out a route and have a look around a few days before the meeting so you won’t be flustered on the day. Pick out some nice clothes and get as good a night’s sleep as you can. You should try and find out as much as possible about the company and people you are meeting with as possible. If you have an agent they will be able to do the work for you here. You want to find out what sort of genres they work in, what their budget stretches to, do they have any “go-to” star talent, etc. It’s handy to take some sort of bag or case to the meeting where you can keep your notes and cards. You can also carry anything else you think they might ask for such as examples of work, samples scripts they haven’t seen and so on. A short biography of yourself as a scriptwriter could also be helpful if they ask about your background, keep it as reference rather than handing it to them though. Some executives will ask you if you had any casting in mind for your script. Generally you want to keep this to the main character unless you have a strong image of a specific actor for a smaller role. Arrive early to the meeting, you may be sat at reception for awhile but this will give you a chance to go over your notes and gather your thoughts. The best possible preparation you can do though is to practice your long pitch as many times as possible. Pitch to the mirror, to friend, to relatives, to anyone! Practice makes perfect after all. You’ll soon find after a few runs through that you develop a certain flow If you do well then it’s time to talk deal!
The Logline The logline of your screenplay is a simple sentence or two that acts as a short synopsis of your story and provides the emotional hook that will make any agent or producer wish to read your script. You include the logline of your screenplay within your initial query letter whenever you are soliciting interest in your script from an agent or producer. A well written logline should be carefully thought out. You have two sentences at most to convince people that your script is worth the time and effort to read, which will hopefully lead to a sale. A logline is also a useful time-saving device. If you are talking about your screenplay to anyone (from friend to Hollywood star) and they ask you what it’s about then you can simply quote your logline. There should be something about that logline which really stands out and makes whoever hears it want to read the full story. Your logline also allows you to “big up” your story so it sounds as high concept as possible. Producers love high concept scripts as they are easy to market. That means even if your story isn’t particularly high concept you can use you logline to embellish on it’s most intriguing points. Anatomy of a Logline The anatomy of a logline is relatively straightforward. In every story there is a main character who has a problem and has to achieve a certain goal in order to solve that problem. You need to explain WHO has the problem, WHAT the problem is and HOW they are going to overcome it. All this is to be explained in one or two sentences. The snappier it is the better. Examples of Good Loglines One of the best ways to get good at anything is to see how the masters do it. "One man's struggle to take it easy." - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off "Unchanged men in a changing land. Out of step, out of place and desperately out of time." - The Wild Bunch "To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman." - The Silence of the Lambs “After he's wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, a high-powered surgeon escapes custody and hunts down the real killer, a one-armed man.” - The Fugitive "On every street in every city, there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody." - Taxi Driver You should now notice how the logline tells the reader the very spine of the story while accentuating the most interesting points. Lets dissect the logline from The Silence of the Lambs and see how it answers the WHO, WHAT and HOW. WHO: A woman must (“…she…”) 168
WHAT: get inside the head of a killer (“To enter the mind of a killer…”) HOW: by challenging his warped mind (“…challenge the mind of a madman.”) The logline paints the picture of a disturbing psychological thriller with the added twist of a woman (seen as vulnerable, especially compared to a killer) in the role of investigator. The Silence of the Lambs is a complex story so if that story can be surmised in a sentence there is no reason yours can’t! Loglines as the Starting Line Many beginning scriptwriters don’t even consider a logline for their screenplay until after at least the first draft is written. In my opinion this is a mistake. Writing a logline should be one of the very first things you do. It helps you understand the core of your story right from the get go, preventing getting half way through a script and being unsure what direction to take it in. Write down the WHO, WHAT, HOW and piece together a logline and paste it up on the wall where you write. Even if you change the logline after you’ve finished the script it will help you remain on track. Like anything, writing loglines takes practice. One good little exercise is to look at the movies in your DVD collection and come up with loglines of your own. Well, what are you waiting for?
6. Sample Scripts As a scriptwriter you can never read too many scripts. Think of reading scripts as your study time, with your scriptwriting as your actual work. Here I've tried to pluck a script from every genre of film. If you are currently writing a script on a specific genre it can be most helpful to read through other scripts in that genre to see how the story was structured and how the characters were bought to life. All these scripts are for educational purposes only and not to be resold. Alien by Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett American Outlaws by Roderick Taylor and John - Action, Sci-Fi Rogers - Western An Officer and a Gentleman by Douglas Day Antz by Todd Alcott, Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz Stewart - Drama, Romance - Adventure, Animation, Comedy Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola The Big Lebowski by Ethan & Joel Coen - Action, Drama, War - Comedy, Crime, Mystery Blade by David S. Goyer - Action, Horror, Thriller The Blues Brothers by Dan Aykroyd and John Landis - Comedy, Musical The Bourne Identity by Tony Gilroy -Action, Braveheart by Randall Wallace -Action, Mystery, Thriller Biography, Drama, War The Cable Guy by Judd Apatow & Lou Holtz Jr Clerks by Kevin Smith - Comedy - Comedy The Crow by David Schow - Action, Fantasy, Dawn of the Dead (1978) by George A. Romero Thriller - Horror Dead Poets Society by Tom Schulman -Drama Die Hard by Jeb Stuart - Action, Thriller, Crime The Empire Strikes Back by George Lucas - SciFight Club by Jim Uhls & Chuck Palahnuik Fi - Action, Drama Good Will Hunting by Matt Damon and Ben The Green Mile by Frank Darabont -Crime, Affleck - Drama Drama, Fantasy, Mystery The Graduate by Buck Henry - Comedy, Drama, Highlander by Gregory Widen - Action, Fantasy Romance I Am Legend by Mark Protosevich -Horror, SciIndependence Day by Dean Devlin & Roland Fi, Action Emmerich - Sci-Fi Jaws by Peter Benchly & Howard Sackler Jerry Maguire by Cameron Crowe -Romance, - Adventure, Horror, Thriller Comedy JFK by Jim Marrs & Jim Garrison -Drama Jurassic Park by David Koepp - Action, Thriller Little Miss Sunshine by Michael Arndt -Comedy, The Mask by Michael Fallon & Mark Verheiden Drama - Comedy, Crime, Fantasy Misery by William Goldman - Horror Midnight Run by George Gallo - Action, Adventure, Comedy, Thriller The Nightmare Before Christmas by Caroline North By Northwest by Ernest Thompson - Animation, Horror Lehman- Adventure Office Space by Mike Judge - Comedy, Romance The Patriot by Robert Rodat - War, Drama, History
Pirates of the Caribbean by T. Elliott & T. Rossio Pulp Fiction by Quentin - Action, Adventure, Comedy Avary - Action, Crime Drama
Raiders Of The Lost Ark by Lawrence Kasdan Rocky by Sylvester Stallone - Drama, Sports - Adventure Sister Act by Paul Rudnick - Comedy, Crime, The Silence Of The Lambs by Ted Tally Musical - Horror, Thriller Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan -Thriller, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut by Trey Horror, Mystery, Suspense Parker, Matt Stone, & Pam Brady -Comedy, Animation Thelma & Louise by Callie Khouri -Adventure, The Truman Show by Andrew Niccol -Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller Thriller Walk The Line by Gill Dennis & James Mangold When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron - Biography, Drama, Musical, Romance -Romance, Comedy The X-Files Movie by Chris Carter - Sci-Fi, Young Frankenstien by Gene Wilder & Mel Thriller Brooks - Comedy, Horror
TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU written by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith based on 'Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare Revision November 12, 1997 PADUA HIGH SCHOOL - DAY Welcome to Padua High School,, your typical urban-suburban high school in Portland, Oregon. Smarties, Skids, Preppies, Granolas. Loners, Lovers, the In and the Out Crowd rub sleep out of their eyes and head for the main building. PADUA HIGH PARKING LOT - DAY KAT STRATFORD, eighteen, pretty -- but trying hard not to be -- in a baggy granny dress and glasses, balances a cup of coffee and a backpack as she climbs out of her battered, baby blue '75 Dodge Dart. A stray SKATEBOARD clips her, causing her to stumble and spill her coffee, as well as the contents of her backpack. The young RIDER dashes over to help, trembling when he sees who his board has hit. RIDER Hey -- sorry. Cowering in fear, he attempts to scoop up her scattered belongings. KAT Leave it He persists. KAT (continuing) I said, leave it! She grabs his skateboard and uses it to SHOVE him against a car, skateboard tip to his throat. He whimpers pitifully and she lets him go. A path clears for her as she marches through a pack of fearful students and SLAMS open the door, entering school. INT. GIRLS' ROOM - DAY BIANCA STRATFORD, a beautiful sophomore, stands facing the mirror, applying lipstick. Her less extraordinary, but still cute friend, CHASTITY stands next to her. BIANCA Did you change your hair? CHASTITY No.
BIANCA You might wanna think about it Leave the girls' room and enter the hallway. HALLWAY - DAY- CONTINUOUS Bianca is immediately greeted by an admiring crowd, both boys and girls alike. BOY (adoring) Hey, Bianca. GIRL Awesome shoes. The greetings continue as Chastity remains wordless and unaddressed by her side. Bianca smiles proudly, acknowledging her fans. GUIDANCE COUNSELOR'S OFFICE - DAY CAMERON JAMES, a clean-cut, easy-going senior with an open, farm-boy face, sits facing Miss Perky, an impossibly cheery guidance counselor. MISS PERKY I'm sure you won't find Padua any different than your old school. Same little asswipe mother-fuckers everywhere. Her plastic smile never leaves her face. his chair uncomfortably.
Cameron fidgets in
MISS PERKY (continuing) Any questions? CAMERON I don't think so, ma'am MISS PERKY Then go forth. Scoot I've got deviants to see. Cameron rises to leave and makes eye contact with PATRICK VERONA, a sullen-looking bad ass senior who waits outside Ms Perky's door. His slouch and smirk let us know how cool he is. Miss Perky looks down at her file and up at Patrick MISS PERKY (continuing) Patrick Verona. I see we're making our visits a weekly ritual. She gives him a withering glance. He answers with a charming smile.
PATRICK I missed you. MISS PERKY It says here you exposed yourself to a group of freshmen girls. PATRICK It was a bratwurst. I was eating lunch. MISS PERKY With the teeth of your zipper? She motions for Patrick to enter her office and Cameron shuffles out the door, bumping into MICHAEL ECKMAN, a lanky, brainy senior who will either end up a politician or game show host. MICHAEL You the new guy? CAMERON So they tell me... MICHAEL I'm supposed to give you the
They head out of the office MICHAEL (continuing) So -- which Dakota you from? CAMERON North, actually. How'd you
MICHAEL I was kidding. People actually live there? CAMERON Yeah. A couple. We're outnumbered by the cows, though. MICHAEL How many people were in your old school? CAMERON Thirty-two. MICHAEL Get out! CAMERON How many people go here? MICHAEL Couple thousand. Most of them evil INT. HALLWAY - DAY- CONTINUOUS
Prom posters adorn the wall. Michael steers Cameron through the crowd as he points to various cliques. MICHAEL We've got your basic beautiful people. Unless they talk to you first, don't bother. The beautiful people pass, in full jock/cheerleader splendor. MICHAEL (continuing) Those 're your cowboys. Several Stetson-wearing, big belt buckle. Wrangler guys walk by. CAMERON That I'm used to. MICHAEL Yeah, but these guys have never seen a horse. They just jack off to Clint Eastwood. They pass an espresso cart with a group of teens huddled around it. MICHAEL (continuing) To the right, we have the Coffee Kids. Very edgy. Don't make any sudden movements around them. EXT. SCHOOL COURTYARD - DAY Michael continues the tour MICHAEL And these delusionals are the White Rastae. Several white boys in dreadlocks and Jamaican knit berets lounge on the grass. A cloud of pot smoke hovers above them MICHAEL (continuing) Big Marley fans. Think they're black. Semi-political, but mostly, they watch a lot of Wild Kingdom, if you know what I mean. Michael waves to DEREK, the one with the longest dreads. MICHAEL (continuing) Derek - save some for after lunch, bub? DEREK (very stoned) Michael, my brother, peace
Cameron turns to follow Michael as they walk into the cafeteria. CAMERON So where do you fit in all this? INT.
CAFETERIA - DAY - CONTINUOUS
Loud music and loud students. studious-looking teens.
Michael sits with a group of
MICHAEL Future MBAs- We're all Ivy League, already accepted. Someday I'll be sipping Merlot while those guys -He points to the table of jocks, as they torture various passers-by. MICHAEL (continuing) are fixing my Saab. Yuppie greed is back, my friend. He points proudly to the ALLIGATOR on his shirt. Cameron stops listening as BIANCA walks by, and we go SLO MO. Pure and perfect, she passes Cameron and Michael without a look. Cameron is smitten CAMERON That girl -- I -MICHAEL You burn, you pine, you perish? CAMERON Who is she? MICHAEL Bianca Stratford. Sophomore. Don't even think about it CAMERON Why not? MICHAEL I could start with your haircut, but it doesn't matter. She's not allowed to date until her older sister does. And that's an impossibility. ENGLISH CLASS - DAY A room full of bored seniors doodle and scare off into space MS. BLAISE, the one-step-away-from-medication English Teacher, tries to remember what she's talking about. Well, then.
MRS. BLAISE Oh, yes. I guess that
does it for our analysis of The Old Man and the Sea. Any other comments? (with dread) Kat? Kat, the girl we saw as we entered the school, slowly cakes off her glasses and speaks up. KAT Why didn't we just read the Hardy Boys? MRS. BLAISE I'm sorry? KAT This book is about a guy and his fishing habit. Not exactly a crucial topic. The other students roll their eyes. KAT (continuing) Frankly, I'm baffled as to why we still revere Hemingway. He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who had a lot of cats. JOEY DORSEY, a well-muscled jock with great cheekbones, makes fun of her from his row. JOEY As opposed to a bitter self-righteous hag who has no friends? A few giggles.
Kat ignores him.
A practiced gesture
MRS. BLAISE That's enough, Mr. Dorsey. Really gets fired up now KAT I guess the school board thinks because Hemingway's male and an asshole, he's worthy of our time She looks up at Ms. Blaise, who is now fighting with her pill box. KAT (continuing) What about Colette? Simone de Beauvoir?
Patrick, lounging in his seat in the back row, elbows a crusty-looking crony, identified by the name SCURVY, embroidered on his workshirt. PATRICK Mother Goose? The class titters.
Kat wears an expression of intolerance
INT. GUIDANCE COUNSELOR'S OFFICE - DAY Kat now sits before Miss Perky. MISS PERKY Katarina Stratford. My, my. You've been terrorizing Ms. Blaise again. KAT Expressing my opinion is not a terrorist action. MISS PERKY Well, yes, compared to your other choices of expression this year, today's events are quite mild. By the way, Bobby Rictor's gonad retrieval operation went quite well, in case you're interested. KAT I still maintain that he kicked himself in the balls. I was merely a spectator. MISS PERKY The point is Kat -- people perceive you as somewhat ... Kat smiles at her, daring her to say it. KAT Tempestuous? MISS PERKY No ... I believe "heinous bitch" is the term used most often. She grimaces, as if she's referring to a medical condition. MISS PERKY (continuing) You might want to work on that Kat rises from her chair with a plastic smile matching the counselor's. KAT As always, thank you for your excellent guidance. INT. SOPHOMORE ENGLISH CLASS - DAY Bianca ignores the droning teacher as she writes a note in big flowing handwriting. TEACHER (0.S.) I realize the language of Mr. Shakespeare makes him a bit daunting, but I'm sure you're all doing your best. Bianca folds the note and passes it behind her with a flip of her hair to CHASTITY. Chastity opens the note and reads:
INSERT - "JOEY DORSEY SAID HI TO ME IN THE HALL! OH! MY GOD!" Chastity frowns to herself. TEACHER (0.S.) (continuing) Ms. Stratford, do you care to comment on what you've read so far? Bianca looks up and smiles the smile of Daddy's little girl. BIANCA Not really. The teacher shakes her head, but lets it go. MANDELLA. a waif-like senior girl who sits off to the side trying to slit her wrist with the plastic spiral on her notebook, looks up and raises her hand. TEACHER Mandella -- since you're assisting us, you might as well comment. I'm assuming you read the assignment. MANDELLA Uh, yeah, I read it all TEACHER The whole play^ MANDELIA The whole folio. All the plays. TEACHER (disbelieving) You've read every play by William Shakespeare? MANDELLA Haven't you? She raises a challenging eyebrow. The stunned teacher doesn't answer and goes to call on the next student. EXT. SCHOOL COURTYARD - DAY Mandella and Kat sit down in the quiet corner. They are eating a carton of yogurt with gusto. MANDELLA Your sister is so amazingly without. She has no idea.
She'll never read him.
Kat attacks KAT The fact that you're cutting gym so you can T.A. Sophomore English just to hear his name, is a little without in itself
if you ask me. Kat's attention is caught by Patrick as he walks by with his friends, lighting up a cigarette. Mandella notices her staring. MANDELLA Who's that? KAT Patrick Verona Random skid. MANDELLA That's Pat Verona? The one who was gone for a year? I heard he was doing porn movies. KAT I'm sure he's completely incapable of doing anything that interesting. MANDELLA He always look so KAT Block E? Kat turns back to face Mandella and forces her yogurt into Mandella's hand. KAT (continuing) Mandella, eat. Starving yourself is a very slow way to die. MANDELLA Just a little. She eats.
Kat sees her wrist KAT What's this? MANDELLA An attempted slit.
Kat stares at her, expressionless. KAT I realize that the men of this fine institution are severely lacking, but killing yourself so you can be with William Shakespeare is beyond the scope of normal teenage obsessions. You're venturing far past daytime talk show fodder and entering the world of those who need very expensive therapy. MANDELLA But imagine the things he'd say during sex. Thinks a minute
KAT Okay, say you do it. You kill yourself, you end up in wherever you end up and he's there. Do you really think he's gonna wanna dace a ninety pound compulsive who failed volleyball? Mandella's attention is struck by Bianca ACROSS THE COURTYARD As she and Chastity parade by Joey and his COHORTS the cohorts elbows Joey.
COHORT Virgin alert. Joey looks up and smiles at Bianca. JOEY Lookin' good, ladies. Bianca smiles her coyest of smiles. BACK TO KAT AND MANDELLA Still watching. MANDELLA Tragic. Doesn't respond ANOTHER ANGLE Michael and Cameron observe Joey's leers at Bianca from their bench in another corner. Cowboys eating cue of a can of beans linger on the grass behind them. CAMERON Why do girls like that always like guys like that? MICHAEL Because they're bred to. Their mothers liked guys like that, and their grandmothers before them. Their gene pool is rarely diluted. CAMERON He always have that shit-eating grin? MICHAEL Joey Dorsey? Perma-shit-grin. I wish I could say he's a moron, but he's number twelve in the class. And a model. Mostly regional stuff, but he's rumored to have a big tube sock ad coming out. The BELL rings, and the cowboys stand and spit into their empty bean cans. Cameron and Michael rise as Cameron tries to catch a glimpse of Bianca as she walks back inside.
MICHAEL (continuing) You know French? CAMERON Sure do ... my Mom's from Canada MICHAEL Guess who just signed up for a tutor? CAMERON You mean I'd get a chance to talk to her? MICHAEL You could consecrate with her, my friend. Cameron watches as Bianca flounces back into the building. EXT. SCHOOL PARKING LOT - DAY Kat and Mandella walk toward Kat's car. beside her in his Viper.
Joey pulls up
JOEY (re her dress) The vintage look is over, Kat. Haven't you been reading your Sassy? KAT Yeah, and I noticed the only part of you featured in your big Kmart spread was your elbow. Tough break. JOEY (practically spitting) They're running the rest of me next month. He zooms away as Kat yanks open the door of her Dart. Mandella ties a silk scarf around her head, as if they're in a convertible. KAT The people at this school are so incredibly foul. MANDELLA You could always go with me. William has some friends.
They watch Joey's car as he slows next to Bianca and Chastity as they walk toward the school bus. ON BIANCA AND CHASTITY JOEY Need a ride, ladies? Bianca and Chastity can't get in Joey's car fast enough. pulls away with a smile.
BACK TO KAT AND MANDELLA Mandella lowers her sunglasses to watch. MANDELLA That's a charming new development Kat doesn't answer, but reaches over and puts a tape in the tape deck. The sounds of JOYFUL PUNK ROCK fill the car. As they pull out, Michael crosses in front of them on his moped. Kat has to SLAM the brakes to keep from hitting him KAT (yelling) Remove head from sphincter! pedal!
Michael begins fearfully, pedaling as Kat PEELS out, angry at the delay. Cameron rushes over CAMERON You all right? He slows to a stop MICHAEL Yeah, just a minor encounter with the shrew. That's her?
CAMERON Bianca's sister?
MICHAEL The mewling, rampalian wretch herself. Michael putters off, leaving Cameron dodging Patrick's grimy, grey Jeep -- a vehicle several years and many paint jobs away from its former glory as a REGULATION MAIL TRUCK - as he sideswipes several cars on his way out of the lot. INT.
STRATFORD HOUSE - DAY
SHARON STRATFORD, attractive and focused, sits in front of her computer, typing quickly. A shelf next to her holds several bodice-ripper romance novels, bearing her name. Kat stands behind her, reading over her shoulder as she types. KAT "Undulating with desire, Adrienne removes her crimson cape, revealing her creamy --" WALTER STRATFORD, a blustery, mad scientist-type obstetrician, enters through the front door, wearing a doctor's white jacket and carrying his black bag. WALTER
I hope dinner's ready because I only have ten minutes before Mrs. Johnson squirts out a screamer. He grabs the mail and rifles through it, as he bends down to kiss Sharon on the cheek. SHARON In the microwave. WALTER (to Kat) Make anyone cry today? KAT But it's only four-thirty.
Sadly, no. Bianca walks in.
KAT (continuing) Where've you been? BIANCA (eyeing Walter) Nowhere... Hi, Daddy. She kisses him on the cheek WALTER Hello, precious. Walter kisses Bianca back as Kat heads up the stairs KAT How touching. Walter holds up a letter to Kat What's this?
WALTER It says Sarah Lawrence?
Snatches it away from him. KAT I guess I got in Sharon looks up from her computer. SHARON What's a synonym for throbbing? WALTER Sarah Lawrence is on the other side of the country. KAT I know. WALTER I thought we decided you were going to school here. At U of 0.
KAT You decided. BIANCA Is there even a question that we want her to stay? Kat gives Bianca an evil look then smiles sweetly at KAT Ask Bianca who drove her home SHARON Swollen...turgid. WALTER (to Bianca; upset) Who drove you home? Bianca glares at Kat then turns to Walter BIANCA Now don't get upset. Daddy, but there's this boy... and I think he might ask... WALTER No! You're not dating until your sister starts dating. End of discussion. BIANCA What if she never starts dating? WALTER Then neither will you. sleep at night.
And I'll get to
BIANCA But it's not fair -- she's a mutant, Daddy! KAT This from someone whose diary is devoted to favorite grooming tips? WALTER Enough! He pulls out a small tape recorder from his black bag. WALTER (continuing) Do you know what this is? He hits the "play' button and SHRIEKS OF PAIN emanate from the tape recorder. BIANCA AND WALTER (in unison, by rote) The sound of a fifteen-year-old in labor. WALTER
This is why you're not dating until your sister does. BIANCA But she doesn't want to date. WALTER Exactly my point His BEEPER goes off and he grabs his bag again WALTER (continuing) Jesus! Can a man even grab a sandwich before you women start dilating? SHARON Tumescent! WALTER (to Sharon; as he leaves) You're not helping. INT. TUTORING ROOM - DAY Cameron sits with an empty chair beside him. in a flurry of blonde hair.
BIANCA Can we make this quick? Roxanne Korrine and Andrew Barrett are having an incredibly horrendous public break- up on the quad. Again. CAMERON Well, I thought we'd start with pronunciation, if that's okay with you. BIANCA Not the hacking and gagging and spitting part.
CAMERON (looking down) Okay... then how 'bout we try out some French cuisine. Saturday? Night? Bianca smiles slowly BIANCA You're asking me out. That's so cute. What's your name again? CAMERON (embarrassed) Forget it. Bianca seizes an opportunity. BIANCA No, no, it's my fault -- we didn't have a proper introduction ---
CAMERON Cameron. BIANCA The thing is, Cameron -- I'm at the mercy of a particularly hideous breed of loser. My sister. I can't date until she does. CAMERON Seems like she could get a date easy enough... She fingers a lock of her hair.
He looks on, dazzled.
BIANCA The problem is, she's completely anti-social. CAMERON Why? BIANCA Unsolved mystery. She used to be really popular when she started high school, then it was just like she got sick of it or something. CAMERON That's a shame. She reaches out and touches his arm BIANCA Gosh, if only we could find Kat a boyfriend... CAMERON Let me see what I can do. Cameron smiles, having no idea how stupid he is INT. BIOLOGY CLASS A frog is being torn asunder by several prongs and picks. Michael and Cameron go for the spleen. MICHAEL You're in school for one day and you ask out the most beautiful girl? Do you have no concept of the high school social code? Cameron grins away CAMERON I teach her French, get to know her, dazzle her with charm and she falls in love with me. MICHAEL Unlikely, but even so, she still can't go out with you. So what's the
point? Cameron motions with his head toward Patrick, a few lab tables away. He's wearing biker glasses instead of goggles as he tries to revive his frog. CAMERON What about him? MICHAEL (confused) You wanna go out with him? The others at the lab table raise their eyebrows CAMERON (impatient) No - he could wrangle with the sister. Michael smiles.
Liking the intrigue.
MICHAEL What makes you think he'll do it? CAMERON He seems like he thrives on danger MICHAEL No kidding. He's a criminal. I heard he lit a state trooper on fire. He just got out of Alcatraz... CAMERON They always let felons sit in on Honors Biology? MICHAEL I'm serious, man, he's whacked. He sold his own liver on the black market so he could buy new speakers. CAMERON Forget his reputation. Do you think we've got a plan or not? MICHAEL Did she actually say she'd go out with you? CAMERON That's what I just said Michael processes this. MICHAEL You know, if you do go out with Bianca, you'd be set. You'd outrank everyone. Strictly A-list. With me by your side. CAMERON I thought you hated those people. MICHAEL
Hey -- I've gotta have a few clients when I get to Wall Street. A cowboy flicks the frog's heart into one of the Coffee Kid's latte. Cameron presses on, over the melee. CAMERON So now all we gotta do is talk to him. He points to Patrick, who now makes his frog hump another frog, with full-on sound effects. MICHAEL I'll let you handle that. INT. WOODSHOP - DAY Boys and a few stray girls nail their pieces of wood Michael sits next to PEPE, a Coffee Kid, who holds out his jacket like the men who sell watches in the subway. Inside several bags of coffee hang from hooks. PEPE Some people like the Colombian, but it all depends on your acidity preference. Me? I prefer East African and Indonesian. You start the day with a Sumatra Boengie or maybe and Ethiopian Sidamo in your cup, you're that much farther ahead than someone drinkin' Cosia Rican or Kona -- you know what I mean? Michael nods solemnly. ACROSS THE ROOM Patrick sits at a table with Scurvy, making something that looks like a machete out of a two-by-four. Cameron approaches, full of good-natured farm boy cheer CAMERON Hey, there In response, Patrick brandishes a loud POWER TOOL in his direction. Cameron slinks away. CAMERON (continuing) Later, then. Michael watches, shaking his head. INT. CAFETERIA - DAY Joey and his pals take turns drawing boobs onto a cafeteria tray with a magic marker. Michael walks up and sits between them, casual as can be
MICHAEL Hey. JOEY Are you lost? MICHAEL Nope - just came by to chat JOEY We don't chat. MICHAEL Well, actually, I thought I'd run an idea by you. You know, just to see if you're interested. JOEY We're not. He grabs Michael by the side of the head, and proceeds to draw a penis on his cheek with the magic marker. Michael suffers the indignity and speaks undaunted. MICHAEL (grimacing) Hear me out. You want Bianca don't you? Joey sits back and cackles at his drawing. MICHAEL (continuing) But she can't go out with you because her sister is this insane head case and no one will go out with her. right? JOEY Does this conversation have a purpose? MICHAEL So what you need to do is recruit a guy who'll go out with her. Someone who's up for the job. Michael points to Patrick, who makes a disgusted face at his turkey pot pie before he rises and throws it at the garbage can, rather than in it. JOEY That guy? I heard he ate a live duck once. the beak and the feet.
MICHAEL Exactly Joey turns to look at Michael. JOEY What's in it for you?
MICHAEL Oh, hey, nothin' man on my part.
Purely good will
He rises to leave and turns to the others. MICHAEL (continuing) I have a dick on my face, don't I? INT. BOY'S ROOM - DAY Michael stands at the sink, trying to scrub Joey's artwork off his face as Cameron watches. CAMERON You got him involved? MICHAEL Like we had a choice? Besides -- when you let the enemy think he's orchestrating the battle, you're in a position of power. We let him pretend he's calling the shots, and while he's busy setting up the plan, you have time to woo Bianca. Cameron grins and puts an arm around him CAMERON You're one brilliant guy Michael pulls back, noticing other guys filing in. MICHAEL Hey - I appreciate gratitude as much as the next guy, but it's not gonna do you any good to be known as New Kid Who Embraces Guys In The Bathroom. Cameron pulls back and attempts to posture himself in a manly way for the others, now watching. INT. KENNY'S THAI FOOD DINER - DAY Kat and Mandella pick apart their pad thai. smoking.
KAT So he has this huge raging fit about Sarah Lawrence and insists that I go to his male-dominated, puking frat boy, number one golf team school. I have no say at all. MANDELLA William would never have gone to a state school. KAT William didn't even go to high school
MANDELLA That's never been proven KAT Neither has his heterosexuality. Mandella replies with a look of ice. stub out Mandella's cigarette.
Kat uses the moment to
KAT (continuing) I appreciate your efforts toward a speedy death, but I'm consuming. (pointing at her food) Do you mind? MANDELLA Does it matter? KAT If I was Bianca, it would be, "Any school you want, precious. Don't forget your tiara." They both look up as Patrick enters. counter to place his order.
He walks up to the
Mandella leans toward Kat with the glow of fresh gossip MANDELLA Janice Parker told me he was a roadie for Marilyn Manson. Patrick nods at them as he takes his food outside. KAT Janice Parker is an idiot INT.
MISS PERKY'S OFFICE - DAY
Patrick sits before Miss Perky, eating his Thai food MISS PERKY (looking at chart) I don't understand, Patrick. You haven't done anything asinine this week. Are you not feeling well? PATRICK Touch of the flu. MISS PERKY I'm at a loss, then. What should we talk about? Your year of absence? He smiles his charming smile PATRICK How 'bout your sex life? She tolerates his comment with her withering glance.
MISS PERKY Why don't we discuss your driving need to be a hemorrhoid? PATRICK What's to discuss? MISS PERKY You weren't abused, you aren't stupid, and as far as I can tell, you're only slightly psychotic -- so why is it that you're such a fuck-up? PATRICK Well, you know -- there's the prestige of the job title... and the benefits package is pretty good... The bell RINGS. MISS PERKY Fine. Go do something repugnant and give us something to talk about next week. INT. TUTORING ROOM - DAY Several pairs of tutors and students sit at the various desks. Mandella sits with TREVOR, a White Rasta. She attempts to get him to do geometry, but he stares at her, as if smitten MANDELLA Look, it's really easy. TREVOR You're a freedom fighter. Be proud, sister. Mandella sets down her pencil and closes the book. MANDELLA (rotely) It's Mandella with two L's. I am not related to Nelson Mandela. I am not a political figure. I do not live in South Africa. My parents just spent a few too many acid trips thinking they were revolutionaries. TREVOR But you freed our people MANDELLA Your "people" are white, suburban high school boys who smoke too much hemp. I have not freed you, Trevor. (grabbing his arm dramatically) Only you can free yourself. ACROSS THE ROOM Bianca and Cameron sit side by side, cozy as
can be BIANCA C'esc ma tete. This is my head Right. quiz.
CAMERON You're ready for the
BIANCA I don't want to know how to say that though. I want to know useful things. Like where the good stores are. How much does champagne cost? Stuff like Chat. I have never in my life had to point out my head to someone. CAMERON That's because it's such a nice one. BIANCA Forget French. She shuts her book and puts on a seductive smile BIANCA (continuing) How is our little Find the Wench A Date plan progressing? CAMERON Well, there's someone I think might be -Bianca's eyes light up BIANCA Show me INT. HALLWAY - DAY Cameron and Bianca lean against the wall -inconspicuously. Bianca plays it cool. BIANCA Give me a sign when he walks by. don't point.
The bell RINGS. Kids flood past. Then Patrick saunters by with Scurvy. Cameron nudges Bianca. CAMERON There. BIANCA Where? Out of desperation, Cameron awkwardly lunges across Patrick's path. Patrick shoves him back against the wall without a thought. Cameron lands in a THUD at Bianca's feet. CAMERON
I guess he didn't see me (calling after Patrick) Some other time -Bianca watches Patrick, a wicked gleam in
BIANCA My God, he's repulsive. He's so perfect! INT. GYM CLASS - DAY Several volleyball games are being played. Joey and a member of his hulking entourage, approach Patrick, who still manages to look cool, even in gym clothes. They pull him aside roughly. PATRICK (shrugging them off) What? Joey points JOEY See that girl? Patrick follows his line of vision to Kat as she spikes the ball into some poor cowboy's face. PATRICK Yeah JOEY What do you think? Kat wins the game and high fives the others, who are scared of her. PATRICK Two legs, nice rack... JOEY Yeah, whatever. I want you to go out with her. PATRICK Sure, Sparky. I'll get right on it. JOEY You just said PATRICK You need money to take a girl out JOEY But you'd go out with her if you had the cake? Patrick stares at Joey deadpan. obvious.
His dislike for the guy
PATRICK (sarcastic) Yeah, I'd take her to Europe if I had the plane. Joey smiles. JOEY You got it, Verona. you do the honors.
I pick up the tab,
PATRICK You're gonna pay me to take out some girl? JOEY I can't date her sister until that one gets a boyfriend. And that's the catch. She doesn't want a boyfriend. PATRICK How much? JOEY Twenty bucks each time you take her out. PATRICK I can't take a girl like that out on twenty bucks. JOEY Fine, thirty. Patrick raises an eyebrow, urging him up JOEY (continuing) Take it or leave it. negotiation.
This isn't a
PATRICK Fifty, and you've got your man. Patrick walks away with a smile EXT. FIELD HOCKEY FIELD - DAY Kat and the rest of the team go through a grueling practice session. Kat spares no one as she whips the ball all over the field. Patrick sits on the bleachers nearby, watching. A cigarette dangles from his mouth. His pal, SCURVY is next to him. MR. CHAPIN, the coach, blows the WHISTLE. MR. CHAPIN (proudly) Good run, Stratford. Kat nods in response, and the girls leave the field. Patrick hops down to follow.
PATRICK Hey. Girlie. Kat stops and turns slowly to look at him. PATRICK (continuing) I mean Wo-man. How ya doin'? KAT (smiles brightly) Sweating like a pig, actually. yourself?
PATRICK There's a way to get a guy's attention. KAT My mission in life. She stands there undaunted, hand on hip. KAT (continuing) Obviously, I've struck your fancy. So, you see, it worked. The world makes sense again. Patrick's eyes narrow.
He steps closer.
PATRICK Pick you up Friday, then Oh, right.
PATRICK backs up a little.
He uses his most seductive tone
PATRICK The night I take you to places you've never been before. And back. KAT Like where? The 7-Eleven on Burnside? Do you even know my name, screwboy? PATRICK I know a lot more than that Kat stares at him. Doubtful.
KAT Very doubtful.
She walks away quickly, leaving him standing alone. PATRICK (calling after her) You're no bargain either, sweetheart. Scurvy appears at his side
SCURVY So I guess the Jeep won't be getting a new Blaupunkt. ACROSS THE FIELD Cameron and Michael watch. MICHAEL He took the bait. STRATFORD HOUSE/BATHROOM - NIGHT Kat washes her face at the sink. Bianca appears behind her, and attempts to twist Kat's hair into a chignon. She wacks Bianca away. BIANCA Have you ever considered a new look? I mean, seriously, you could have some potential buried under all this hostility. Kat pushes past her into the hallway. KAT I have the potential to smack the crap out of you if you don't get out of my way. BIANCA Can you at least start wearing a bra? Kat SLAMS her door in response. INT. HALLWAY - DAY Patrick, Scurvy and some other randoms head for the exit SCURVY You up for a burger? Patrick looks in his wallet.
INT. HALLWAY - DAY Kat stands at her locker, gathering her books. appears at her side, smiling.
PATRICK Hey Kat doesn't answer PATRICK (continuing) You hate me don't you? KAT I don't really think you warrant that strong an emotion. PATRICK Then say you'll spend Dollar Night at the track with me.
KAT And why would I do that? PATRICK Come on -- the ponies, the flat beer, you with money in your eyes, me with my hand on your ass... KAT You -- covered in my vomit. PATRICK Seven-thirty? She slams her locker shut and walks away EXT. DOWNTOWN STREET - NIGHT Kat emerges from a music store carrying a bag of CDs in her teeth, and fumbling through her purse with both hands. She finds her keys and pulls them out with a triumphant tug. She looks up and finds Patrick sitting on the hood of her car PATRICK Nice ride. Vintage fenders. Kat takes the bag out of her mouth. KAT Are you following me? PATRICK I was in the laundromat. I saw your car. Thought I'd say hi. KAT Hi She gets in and starts the car. PATRICK You're not a big talker, are you? KAT Depends on the topic. My fenders don't really whip me into a verbal frenzy. She starts to pull out, and is blocked by Joey's Viper, which pulls up perpendicular to her rear and parks. Joey and his groupies emerge and head for the liquor store KAT (continuing) Hey -- do you mind? JOEY Not at all They continue on into the store.
Kat stares at them in
disbelief... Then BACKS UP Her vintage fenders CRASH into the door of Joey's precious Viper. Patrick watches with a delighted grin Joey races out of the liquor store. JOEY (continuing) You fucking bitch! Kat pulls forward and backs into his car again. sweetly.
INT. STRATFORD HOUSE - NIGHT Walter paces as Kat sits calmly on the couch. WALTER My insurance does not cover PMS KAT Then tell them I had a seizure. WALTER Is this about Sarah Lawrence? You punishing me? KAT I thought you were punishing me. WALTER Why can't we agree on this? KAT Because you're making decisions for me. WALTER As a parent, that's my right KAT So what I want doesn't matter? WALTER You're eighteen. You don't know what you want. You won't know until you're forty-five and you don't have it. KAT (emphatic) I want to go to an East Coast school! I want you to trust me to make my own choices. I want -Walter's BEEPER goes off WALTER Christ! I want a night to go by that I'm not staring a contraction in the face.
He walks out, leaving Kat stewing on the couch. INT. HALLWAY - DAY Patrick shuts his graffiti-encrusted locker, revealing Joey's angry visage, glowering next to him. JOEY When I shell out fifty, I expect results. PATRICK I'm on it JOEY Watching the bitch trash my car doesn't count as a date. PATRICK I got her under control. She just acts crazed in public to keep up the image. Joey sees through the bluff JOEY Let me put it to you this way, if you don't get any action, I don't get any action. So get your ass on hers by the end of the week. Joey starts to walk off PATRICK I just upped my price JOEY (turning) What? PATRICK A hundred bucks a date. JOEY Forget it. PATRICK Forget her sister, then. Joey thinks for a frustrated moment, PUNCHES the locker, then peels another fifty out of his wallet with a menacing scowl. JOEY You better hope you're as smooth as you think you are, Verona. Patrick takes the money with a smile. INT. TUTORING ROOM - DAY Cameron runs a sentence past Bianca. CAMERON
La copine et I 'ami?
Bianca glares at him. BIANCA A "copine" is someone you can count on. An "ami" is someone who makes promises he can't keep. Cameron closes the French book CAMERON You got something on your mind? BIANCA I counted on you to help my cause. You and that thug are obviously failing. Aren't we ever going on our date? He melts CAMERON You have my word. As a gentleman BIANCA You're sweet. She touches his hand. He blushes at her praise and watches her toss her hair back CAMERON (appreciative) How do you get your hair to look like that? BIANCA Eber's Deep Conditioner every two days. And I never, ever use a blowdryer without the diffuser attachment. Cameron nods with interest. CAMERON You know, I read an article about that. Bianca looks surprised. BIANCA You did? INT. BOY'S ROOM - DAY Patrick stands at the sink, washing his hands Michael and Cameron cower in the corner, watching him. PATRICK (without turning around) Say it MICHAEL (clearing his throat)
What? PATRICK Whatever the hell it is you're standin' there waitin' to say. Cameron bravely steps forward CAMERON We wanted to talk to you about the plan. Patrick turns toward them. PATRICK What plan? MICHAEL The situation is, my man Cameron here has a major jones for Bianca Stratford. PATRICK What is it with this chick? three tits?
Cameron starts to object, but Michael holds up a hand. MICHAEL I think I speak correctly when I say that Cameron's love is pure. Purer than say -- Joey Dorsey's. PATRICK Dorsey can plow whoever he wants. I'm just in this for the cash. Cameron starts choking at the thought of Joey plowing his beloved Bianca. MICHAEL That's where we can help you. Kat.
PATRICK So Dorsey can get the girl? MICHAEL Patrick, Pat, you're not looking at the big picture. Joey's just a pawn. We set this whole thing up so Cameron can get the girl. Patrick smiles. this game.
He likes the idea of Joey being a pawn in
PATRICK You two are gonna help me tame the wild beast? MICHAEL (grinning) We're your guys.
CAMERON And he means that strictly in a nonprison-movie type of way. PATRICK Yeah -- we'll see. He swings the door open and exits, leaving Michael and Cameron grinning at each other. MICHAEL We're in. INT. CLASSROOM - DAY CU on a party invitation as it gets handed out. "Future Princeton Grad Bogey Lowenstein proudly presents a Saturday night bash at his abode. Casual attire". Michael holds the invitation up to Cameron. CAMERON This is it. A golden opportunity. Patrick can ask Katarina to the party. MICHAEL In that case, we'll need to make it a school-wide blow out. CAMERON Will Bogey get bent? MICHAEL Are you kidding? He'll piss himself with joy. He's the ultimate kiss ass. CAFETERIA - DAY Michael hands a jock the party invite as they pass each other at the trash cans. INT.
GYM CLASS - DAY
The jock calls a fellow jock INT.
MATH CLASS - DAY
Jock whispers to a cheerleader COURTYARD - DAY The cheerleader calls a White Rasta that she's making out with, showing him the invite. TRACK - DAY The White Rasta tells a cowboy as they run laps during track practice. INT. SHOWERS - DAY The cowboy Cells a Coffee Kid, as he shields his java from the spray of the shower.
INT. HALLWAY - DAY Joey stands ac his open locker with Bianca. The locker is an homage to Joey's "modeling" career. Cheesy PRINT ADS of him -- running in a field of daisies, petting a kitten, etc. -- adorn the locker door. JOEY Which do you like better? INSERT - HEADSHOTS of Joey. In one, he's pouting in a white shirt. In the other, he's pouting in a black shirt. BIANCA I think I like the white shirt Joey nods thoughtfully. JOEY It's more BIANCA Expensive? JOEY Exactly (beat) So, you going to Bogey Lowenbrau's thing on Saturday? BIANCA Hopefully. He gives her his best flirtatious smile JOEY Good, 'cause I'm not gonna bother if you won't be there. He taps her on the nose and she giggles INT. TUTORING ROOM Bianca sits across from Cameron, who's transfixed, as always BIANCA Have you heard about Bogey Lowenstein's party? CAMERON Sure have. BIANCA (pouting) I really, really, really wanna go, but I can't. Not unless my sister goes. CAMERON I'm workin' on it. But she doesn't seem to be goin' for him. He fishes.
CAMERON (continuing) She's not a... BIANCA Lesbian? No. I found a picture of Jared Leto in one of her drawers, so I'm pretty sure she's not harboring same-sex tendencies. CAMERON So that's the kind of guy she likes? Pretty ones? BIANCA Who knows? All I've ever heard her say is that she'd dip before dating a guy that smokes. Cameron furiously takes notes CAMERON What else is she partial
All right. to?
INT. DIVE BAR - NIGHT Patrick plays pool with some random deviant cronies. He looks up when he hears a COMMOTION at the door. LOU the bouncer is in the midst of throwing Michael and Cameron out. PATRICK Lou, it's okay. They're with me. Lou looks at Patrick, surprised, then reluctantly lets our two non-deviants pass through. Patrick guides them to a table and sips from a beer. PATRICK (continuing) What've you got for me? CAMERON I've retrieved certain pieces of information on Miss Katarina Stratford I think you'll find helpful. Cameron pulls out a piece of paper. MICHAEL (to Patrick) One question before we start -- should you be drinking alcohol when you don't have a liver? PATRICK What?! MICHAEL Good enough.
Cameron looks up at Patrick. Number one.
CAMERON She hates smokers
MICHAEL It's a lung cancer issue CAMERON Her favorite uncle MICHAEL Dead at forty-one. Patrick sits up PATRICK Are you telling me I'm a (spits the word out) "non-smoker"? MICHAEL Just for now. CAMERON Another thing. Bianca said that Kat likes -- pretty guys. This is met with silence. What?
PATRICK You don't think I'm pretty?
Michael smacks Cameron MICHAEL He's pretty! Okay!
CAMERON I wasn't sure
Cameron goes back to the list. CAMERON (continuing) Okay -- Likes: Thai food, feminist prose, and "angry, stinky girl music of the indie-rock persuasion". PATRICK So what does that give me? I'm supposed to buy her some noodles and a book and sit around listening to chicks who can't play their instruments? MICHAEL Ever been to Club Skunk? PATRICK Yeah. CAMERON
Gigglepuss is playing there tomorrow night. PATRICK Don't make me do it, man MICHAEL Assail your ears for one night. CAMERON It's her favorite band. Patrick groans MICHAEL I also retrieved a list of her most recent CD purchases, courtesy of American Express. He hands it over. PATRICK (smiling) Michael -- did you get this information "illegally"? Michael puts a finger to his lips. MICHAEL I prefer to think of it simply as an alternative to what the law allows. PATRICK I'm likin' you guys better He looks down at the list of CDs. PATRICK (continuing) This is really music? INT. KAT'S ROOM - NIGHT MUSIC BLARES in a room with minimalist decor splashed with indie rock band posters and flyers. Kat and Mandella dance as they dress and apply make-up Bianca enters, interrupting their fun. BIANCA Can you turn down the Screaming Menstrual Bitches? I'm trying to study. Kat doesn't move, so Bianca crosses to the stereo, turning down the volume. BIANCA (continuing) Don't tell me you're actually going out? On a school night, no less. Kat shoots her a glare
BIANCA (continuing; excited) Oh my God, does this mean you're becoming normal? KAT It means that Gigglepuss is playing at Club Skunk and we're going. BIANCA (disappointed) Oh, I thought you might have a date (beat) I don't know why I'm bothering to ask, but are you going to Bogey Lowenstein's party Saturday night? KAT What do you think? BIANCA I think you're a freak. I think you do this to torture me. And I think you suck. She smiles sweetly and shuts the door behind her. Kat doesn't bat an eye. She grabs her purse and opens the door KAT Let's hit it. EXT. CLUB SKUNK - NIGHT A happy black and white neon skunk sprays fine mist on the line of kids below. INT. CLUB FOYER - NIGHT Kat and Mandella walk in, Mandella nervously pulling out her fake ID. The giant, afroed bouncer, BRUCE, looks typically mono-syllabic. MANDELLA (whispering to Kat) You think this'll work? KAT No fear. They approach Bruce.
Kat puts on her happy, shiny face
KAT (continuing) Hello! We'd like two for Gigglepuss! Bruce looks the girls up and down. BRUCE I can count. He looks at their IDs. Mandella gently moves Kat aside, wearing a face that could only be described as "I AM a
Victoria's Secret model." MANDELLA I'll bet you can.. She sticks out her chest and licks her lips. at her deadpan and hands her back the IDs.
BRUCE Go ahead. (to Mandella) And you MANDELLA (all come hither) Yes? BRUCE Take it easy on the guys in there. Mandella winks at him and sashays inside behind, shaking her head.
EXT. CLUB SKUNK - NIGHT Patrick's mail truck clatters to a stop out front. INT. CLUB FOYER - NIGHT Patrick walks up to Bruce, who's frisking a badly mowhawked PIERCED EYEBROW BOY. Bruce pulls a SWITCHBLADE out of the boy's inside pocket. BRUCE Next time, leave the Bic at home, Skippy. SKIPPY It's a bottle opener. Bruce pushes him inside the club, then sees Patrick. BRUCE Verona, my man. They shake. PATRICK Always a pleasure, Brucie. BRUCE Didn't have you pegged for a Gigglepuss fan. Aren't they a little too pre-teen belly-button ring for you? PATRICK Fan of a fan. You see a couple of minors come in? BRUCE Never PATRICK
Padua girls. One tall, decent body. The other one kinda short and undersexed? BRUCE Just sent 'em through. Patrick starts to go in BRUCE (continuing) Hey -- what happened to that chick you brought last time? The one with the snake? Patrick laughs and goes into the club INT. CLUB - NIGHT Onstage, the all-female band GIGGLEPUSS is parlaying their bad girl sass into a ripping punk number. Near the stage is a joyful mass of pogo-ing teens AT THE BAR Patrick bellies up and looks around the club. Gigglepuss finishes a song. LEAD SINGER Hello, out there. We're Gigglepuss and we're from Olympia. A teenage boy in the audience takes the opportunity to scream. BOY (0.S.) Pet my kitty! LEAD SINGER Meow They rev into their next song. NEAR THE STAGE Mandella and Kat glow with sweat. When they hear the opening chords of the song, they look at each other and scream with glee as they begin to dance. They couldn't be having a better time. AT THE BAR Patrick signals to get the bartender's attention and looks across the bouncing surge of the crowd. He spots Kat and Mandella singing along. HIS POV The gleeful Kat -- dancing and looking completely at ease. None of her usual "attitude". Patrick is transfixed. And most definitely attracted. NEAR THE STAGE Kat looks at Mandella.
KAT (shouting) I need agua! She makes her way through the crowd to the bar. AT THE BAR She made it. She signals for the bartender and as she's waiting, looks around. She spots Patrick a few feet away KAT (continuing to herself) Shit She sneaks a glance. away before she can.
He's staring, but this time he looks Despite herself, she's miffed.
The bartender arrives BARTENDER (shouting) What can I get you? KAT Two waters. She looks at Patrick again. He's completely absorbed in the band. She scowls. The bottled water arrives and she marches off, forgetting to pay. She walks up to Patrick. KAT (continuing) You're not fooling anyone. Patrick looks at her, surprised
PATRICK (yelling) Great show, huh? KAT (yelling)
If you're planning on asking me out you might as well get it over with. PATRICK (yelling) Excuse me? KAT (yelling) That's what you want, isn't it? PATRICK (yelling; gesturing toward the band) Do you mind? You're sort of ruining it for me. Kat steams.
And watches him watch the band
KAT (yelling) You're not surrounded by your usual cloud of smoke. The band takes a break, so they can stop yelling now I know.
PATRICK I quit.
He leans back, making no attempt to hit on her. closer.
KAT Oh, really? He motions toward the stage PATRICK You know, these guys are no Bikini Kill or The Raincoats, but they're right up there. KAT You know who The Raincoats are? PATRICK Why, don't you? She's completely taken aback. He uses the moment to his advantage and brushes her hair back as he speaks right into her ear. PATRICK (continuing) I watched you out there seen you look like that
Kat steps away, brushing the hair back that he just touched Her cheeks pinken. His cocky side is back in a flash PATRICK (continuing) Come to that party with me. At that moment, the band starts another SONG KAT (yelling) What? The bartender approaches. BARTENDER (to Kat, yelling) You forgot to pay! PATRICK (yelling) I got it, Rick.
He tosses some bills on the bar Rather than thank him, Kat simply watches him, trying to figure out his motive. PATRICK (continuing; yelling) Nine-thirty then. A few people have gotten between them at the bar and she can't hear a word he's saying. She gives him one last look and heads back into the crowd. Patrick smiles.
She didn't say no this time.
EXT. CLUB SKUNK - NIGHT The crowd files out of the club, Kat and Mandella amongst them. A^ they're walking toward the parking lot, Patrick coasts by in his truck. The gears GRIND. He yells out the window. MANDELLA What'd he say? KAT Who cares? Mandella watches Kat as she stares after Patrick MANDELLA Has he importun'd you with love in honourable fashion? Kat glances sharply at her. MANDELLA (continuing; off her look) Don't be Cruella with me. I'm in favor of romance. You're the one that wants to march on Washington every five minutes. Kat pokes her, then looks back at the club dreamily. KAT Gigglepuss was so beyond. Mandella nods. MANDELLA They were. I only wish William could have been here to witness the rebirth of punk rock with us. Kat links her arm through Mandella's and they head for the car. KAT So true.
INT. HALLWAY - DAY Cameron and Michael are at Michael's locker. CAMERON So, then she says that she almost didn't wear the Kenneth Coles with that dress because she thought she was mixing, you know, genres. And the fact that I noticed -- and I'm quoting here "really meant something." Cameron looks At Michael expectantly MICHAEL You told me that part already. CAMERON Hell, I've just been going over the whole thing in my head and Joey appears over Cameron's shoulder. Hey.
JOEY Dingo Boingo
Cameron and Michael look at each other And turn around slowly JOEY (continuing; to Michael) I hear you're helpin' Verona. Uh,
MICHAEL We're old friend*
JOEY You and Verona? MICHAEL What? We took bathes together when we were kids. It's incredibly obvious that he's lying. turns to Cameron.
Joey eyes him then
JOEY What's your gig in all this? CAMERON I'm just the new guy. Joey turns back to Michael, grabbing the alligator on his shirt and twisting it. JOEY You better not fuck this up. heavily invested.
MICHAEL Hey -- it's all for the higher good right?
Joey lets go of Michael and SHOVES Cameron against a locker for good measure, as he walks awayCAMERON Is it about me? EXT. MISS PERKY'S OFFICE - DAY Kat sits outside waiting for her appointment, bored and annoyed. The door opens and Miss Perky escorts Patrick out MISS PERKY You're completely demented. PATRICK (cheery) See you next week! Kat stands and Patrick sees her. Miss Perky watches in horror MISS PERKY You two know each other? PATRICK/KAT Yeah/No. Miss Perky grabs Kat and shoves her into her office. MISS PERKY (to Patrick) Dear God, stay away from her. If you two ever decided to breed, evil would truly walk the earth. Patrick gives Kat one last look before the door shuts, then smilesEXT. STRATFORD HOUSE - NIGHT The lights are on, illuminating the yard INT.
STRATFORD HOUSE/UPSTAIRS HALLWAY - NIGHT
Bianca and Chastity stand outside Kat's room. MUSIC is blaring and the door is shut. Bianca looks at her watch BIANCA She's obviously not going. INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Across the carpet, two pairs of teenage girl feet sneak past. Bianca and Chastity, teddy bear purses in hand. FROM THE KITCHEN A RUSTLING is heard.
The girls freeze.
Walter emerges from the kitchen with a mile-high sandwich The girls are like statues. Walter jumps.
BIANCA Daddy, I -WALTER And where're you going? BIANCA If you must know, we were attempting to go to a small study group of friends. WALTER Otherwise known as an orgy? BIANCA It's just a party. Daddy, but I knew you'd forbid me to go since "Gloria Steinem" over there isn't going -She points to Kat -- Walkman blaring -- who comes downstairs, wearing a baby tee and battered Levis. Her relaxing-at-home look is about 400 times sexier than her atschool look. She wanders toward the kitchen. Walter directs his attention toward Kat. WALTER Do you know about any party? Katarina? Kat shrugs as she comes back out of the kitchen with an apple BIANCA Daddy, people expect me to be there! WALTER If Kat's not going, you're not going. Bianca turns to Kat, eyes ablaze BIANCA You're ruining my life' Because you won't be normal, I can't be normal. KAT What's normal? BIANCA Bogey Lowenstein's party is normal, but you're too busy listening to Bitches Who Need Prozac to know that. WALTER What's a Bogey Lowenstein? Kat takes off her earphones, ready to do battle BIANCA Can't you forget for just one night that you're completely wretched? KAT At least I'm not a clouted fen- sucked
hedge-pig. Bianca tosses her hair. BIANCA Like I'm supposed to know what that even means. KAT It's Shakespeare. of him?
Maybe you've heard
BIANCA Yeah, he's your freak friend Mandella's boyfriend. I guess since I'm not allowed to go out, I should obsess over a dead guy, too. WALTER Girls Kat stares Bianca down KAT I know about the goddamn party. going.
Bianca and Chastity look at each other, thrilled, and burst into gleeful screams. A startled Walter clutches Bianca in a protective hug. WALTER It's starting.
BIANCA It's just a party. Daddy. Walter looks dazed. WALTER Wear the belly before you go. BIANCA Daddy, no! WALTER Just for a minute He rushes to a cupboard and pulls out a padded fauxpregnancy belly. WALTER (continuing) I want you to realize the weight of your decisions. He hangs the belly on her as she stands mortified. BIANCA You are so completely unbalanced. KAT
Can we go now? Scanned by http://freemoviescripts.com Formatting by http://simplyscripts.home.att.net WALTER (to Bianca) Promise me you won't talk to any boys unless your sister is present. BIANCA Why? WALTER Because she'll scare them away. Kat stomps to the door, grabbing her car keys off the hall table and a sweater from the coat rack. She flings open the door and... There stands Patrick. PATRICK Nine-thirty right? Kat's in shock PATRICK (continuing) I'm early. She holds up her keys KAT I'm driving. He peeks in behind her. PATRICK Who knocked up your sister? INT. BOGEY LOWENSTEIN'S HOUSE - NIGHT BOGEY, a short Future MBA in a tux, greets his guests like a pro, handing out cigars and martinis. BOGEY Nice to see you. Martini bar to the right, shots in the kitchen. The house is filled to capacity with Padua High's finest Kat pushes through the crowd. Patrick saunters in behind her INT. BOGEY'S KITCHEN - NIGHT Joey lines up a row of shots amid much whooping and hollering within the jock crowd. Kat enters, then quickly tries to make an about face. Joey sees her and rushes over to block her, standing in the doorway.
JOEY Lookin' fresh tonight, Pussy-Kat Kat gives him a death look and then stops and points at his forehead. KAT Wait -- was that?-- Did your hairline just recede? He panics, whipping out a handy pocket mirror already walking away.
JOEY Where ya goin? KAT Away. JOEY Your sister here? Kat's face shows utter hatred KAT Leave my sister alone. JOEY (smirking) And why would I do that? A RUCKUS sounds from the next room JOCK A fight! The other jocks rush to watch as two Coffee Kids splash their cupfuls on each other. COFFEE KID #1 That was a New Guinea Peaberry, you Folger's-crystals-slurping-buttwipe. Caffeinated fists fly. Joey slithers away from the door to watch, giving Kat one last smirk, just as Bianca walks into the kitchen. JOEY Just who I was looking for. He puts his arm around Bianca and escorts her out KAT BIANCA Bianca keeps walking, ignoring Kat A GUY pouring shots hands Kat one She downs it and accepts another. GUY Drink up, sister.
Patrick walks up PATRICK What's this? KAT (mocking) "I'm getting trashed, man." Isn't that what you're supposed to do at a party? PATRICK I say, do what you wanna do. KAT Funny, you're the only one She downs another. INT. BOGEY'S LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Cameron and Michael enter. Cameron looks, around for his beloved, while Michael schmoozee with all in attendance and dishes dirt simultaneously. MICHAEL (high-fiving a jock) Moose, my man! (to Cameron) Ranked fifth in the state. Recruiters have already started calling. Cameron nods intently MICHAEL (continuing; grabbing his belt) Yo, Clem. (to Cameron) A Patsy Cline fan, but hates the new Leanne Rimes. (with a Jamaican swagger) Ziggy, peace, bra. (to Cameron) Prefers a water pipe, but has been known to use a bong. Michael spots Bianca and Chastity, watching the skirmish, and points Cameron's body in her direction. MICHAEL (continuing) Follow the love, man ON BIANCA AND CHASTITY Bianca cranes her neck BIANCA Where did he go? He was just here. CHASTITY Who?
BIANCA Joey. Cameron walks over. CAMERON Evening, ladies. Bianca turns and graces him with a pained smile. BIANCA Hi. CAMERON Looks like things worked out tonight, huh? Bianca ignores the question and tries to pawn him off BIANCA You know Chastity? CAMERON I believe we share an art instructor CHASTITY Great BIANCA Would you mind getting me a drink, Cameron? CAMERON Certainly Pabst? Old Milwaukee? RaiJieer? Bianca gives him a tense smile. BIANCA Surprise me. He heads for the kitchen. around the waist.
Joey walks up and grabs her
She giggles as he picks her up and carries her off -- just as Cameron returns, a beer -- complete with a napkin and straw -- in his hand. Chastity glares with a jealous fury after Bianca and Joey, then gives Cameron the once-over and walks away. Michael appears. MICHAEL Extremely unfortunate maneuver. CAMERON The hell is that? What kind of 'guy just picks up a girl and carries her away while you're talking to her? MICHAEL Buttholus extremus. But hey, you're
making progress. CAMERON No, I ' m not. He smacks himself in the head CAMERON (continuing) She used me! She wants to go out with Dorsey. Not me. I'm an idiot! Michael pats him on the shoulder. MICHAEL At least you're self-aware BOGEY'S KITCHEN - NIGHT Kat and a crowd of White Rastas and Cowboys stand in a drunken group hug singing "I Shot the Sheriff". Kat has another shot glass in hand. Patrick is showing a scar to an inebriated, enraptured cheerleader. He looks up at Kat and smiles meets his eyes then looks away. INT. BOGEY'S LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Bianca stands next to Joey, sipping from her beer JOEY So yeah, I've got the Sears catalog thing going -- and the tube sock gig " that's gonna be huge. And then I'm up for an ad for Queen Harry next week. BIANCA Queen Harry? JOEY It's a gay cruise line, but I'll be, like, wearing a uniform and stuff. Bianca tries to appear impressed, but it's getting difficult. BIANCA Neat... JOEY My agent says I've got a good shot at being the Prada guy next year. He looks over her shoulder and waves at someone. takes the opportunity to escape.
BIANCA I'll be right back. INT. BOGEY'S BATHROOM - NIGHT Bianca shuts the door and leans on it with a sigh.
applies lip-gloss in the mirror. BIANCA He practically proposed when he found out we had the same dermatologist. I mean. Dr. Bonchowski is great an all, but he's not exactly relevant party conversation. CHASTITY Is he oily or dry? BIANCA Combination. I don't know -- I thought he'd be different. More of a gentleman... Chastity rolls her eyes CHASTITY Bianca, I don't think the highlights of dating Joey Dorsey are going to include door-opening and coat-holding. BIANCA Sometimes I wonder if the guys we're supposed to want to go out with are the ones we actually want to go out with, you know? CHASTITY All I know is -- I'd give up my private line to go out with a guy like Joey. There's a KNOCK at the door. drunken Kat.
Bianca opens it to find a very
KAT Bianca, I need to talk to you -- I need to tell you -BIANCA (cutting her off) I really don't think I need any social advice from you right now. Bianca grabs Chastity's arm and they exit INT. BOGEY'S KITCHEN - NIGHT - LATER Patrick tries to remove a shot glass from Kat's hand. PATRICK Maybe you should let me have it. Kat is fierce in her refusal to let go KAT I want another one Joey enters, grabbing Patrick by the shoulder, distracting him from his task.
JOEY My man As Patrick turns, Kat breaks free and dives into the sea of dancing people in the dining room. PATRICK (annoyed) It's about time. JOEY A deal's a deal. He peels off some bills JOEY (continuing) How'd you do it? PATRICK Do what? JOEY Get her to act like a human A very drunken Kat jumps up onto the kitchen island and starts dancing by herself. She lets loose, hair flying. She's almost burlesque. Others form a crowd, clapping and cheering her on She swings her head around BANGING it on a copper pot hanging from the rack above the center island. She starts to sway, then goes down as Patrick rushes over to catch her. The others CLAP, thinking this is a wonderful finale. Patrick sets her down on her feet, holding her up PATRICK Okay? KAT I'm fine. I'm She tries to push him away, but staggers when she does grabs her again, bracing her. PATRICK You're not okay. KAT I just need to lie down for awhile PATRICK Uh, uh. You lie down and you'll go to sleep KAT I know, just let me sleep PATRICK What if you have a concussion? My dog
went to sleep with a concussion and woke up a vegetable. Not that I could tell the difference... She tries to sit on the floor KAT Okay, I'll just sleep but stay awake, okay? He pulls her back to her PATRICK C'mon, let's walk INT. BOGEY'S DINING ROOM - NIGHT As Patrick walks Kat through the dining room, Cameron his arm.
CAMERON We need to talk. PATRICK Cameron, I'm a little busy CAMERON It's off. The whole thing. Kat slides down to the floor and Patrick struggles to back on her feet.
PATRICK What 're you talking about? CAMERON She's partial to Joey, not me Patrick doesn't have time for this. PATRICK Cameron -- do you like the girl? CAMERON Sure PATRICK (impatient) Then, go get her Patrick continues walking an oblivious Kat outside. Cameron stands there, unsure how to make use of this advice EXT. BOGEY LOWENSTEIN'S HOUSE - NIGHT Patrick marches Kat around the yard, holding her up KAT This is so patronizing. PATRICK Leave it to you to use big words when you're shitfaced.
KAT Why 're you doing this? PATRICK I told you KAT You don't care if I die PATRICK Sure, I do KAT Why? PATRICK Because then I'd have to start taking out girls who like me. KAT Like you could find one PATRICK See that? Who needs affection when I've got blind hatred? KAT Just let me sit down. He walks her over to the swingset and plops her down in a swing, moving her hands to hang onto the chains. PATRICK How's that? She sits and looks at him for a moment with a smile. Then FALLS over backward. PATRICK (continuing) Jesus. You're like a weeble Patrick rushes to right her, then starts pushing her on the swing to keep her entertained. PATRICK (continuing) Why'd you let him get to you? KAT Who? PATRICK Dorsey. KAT I hate him. PATRICK I know. It'd have to be a pretty big deal to get you to mainline tequila. You don't seem like the type.
KAT (holding up a drunken head) Hey man. . . You don ' t think I can be "cool"? You don't think I can be "laid back" like everyone else? PATRICK (slightly sarcastic) I thought you were above all that KAT You know what they say He stops the swing PATRICK No. What do they say? Kat is asleep, her head resting against the swing's chains. PATRICK (continuing) Shit! He drags her to her feet and starts singing loudly. PATRICK (continuing) Jingle Bells! Jingle Belles! Wake up damn it! He sits her down on the slide and shakes her like a rag doll. PATRICK (continuing) Kat! Wake up! KAT (waking) What? He sighs with relief. PATRICK I thought you were... They share some meaningful eye contact. And then she PUKES on his shoes. INT. BOGEY'S BATHROOM - NIGHT Kat washes her face and grabs a bottle of Scope, taking a big swig. A KNOCK sounds at the door KAT Go away Bianca opens the door and looks at her sister with the
smuggest of all possible grins. BIANCA Dinner taste better on the way out? Gives her a "don't even start" look. BIANCA (continuing) I don't get you. You act like you're too good for any of this, and then you go totally apeshit when you get here. KAT You're welcome. She pushes past her and leaves the bathroom. KAT'S CAR - NIGHT Kat's in the driver's seat. keys out of the ignition.
Patrick leans in and takes the
PATRICK Cute BOGEY LOWENSTEIN'S HOUSE - NIGHT Kids loiter on the lawn. Joey catches up to them.
Bianca and Chastity walk outside
JOEY A bunch of us are going to Jaret's house. Wanna come? Chastity looks at Bianca, who wears a pained expression. She looks at her watch. BIANCA I have to be home in twenty minutes. CHASTITY (eagerly, to Joey) I don't have to be home 'til two. JOEY Then, c'mon. (to Bianca) Maybe next time -They head back into the party, leaving an astonished Bianca Cameron exits the party and stops when he sees Bianca standing alone. CAMERON (slightly accusatory) Have fun tonight? BIANCA Tons
He starts to walk on BIANCA (continuing) Cameron? He stops. She gives him a helpless smile. BIANCA (continuing) Do you think you could give me a ride home? INT. KAT'S CAR - NIGHT Patrick drives as Kat sits in the passenger seat, fiddling with the radio dial. She finds a SONG she's happy with and Patrick quickly changes it. PATRICK I'm driving, so I get to pick the tunes. She changes it back to her song. KAT It's my car. He changes it back. PATRICK And I'm in control of it. KAT But it's Gigglepuss - I know you like them. I saw you there. Patrick doesn't have an answer for this, so he let's her listen to her song. KAT (continuing) When you were gone last year -- where were you? PATRICK Busy KAT Were you in jail? PATRICK Maybe. KAT No, you weren't PATRICK Then why'd you ask? KAT Why'd you lie?
He doesn't answer, but instead, frowns and turns up the music. She bobs her head drunkenly. KAT (continuing) I should do this. PATRICK Do what? KAT This. She points to the radio PATRICK Start a band? KAT (sarcastically) My father wouldn't approve of that that PATRICK You don't strike me as the type that would ask permission. She turns to look at him. KAT Oh, so now you think you know me? PATRICK I'm gettin' there Her voice loses it's venom KAT The only thing people know about me is that I'm "scary". He turns to look at her -- she looks anything but scary right now. He tries to hide his smile. PATRICK Yeah -- well, I'm no picnic myself. They eye each other, sharing a moment of connection, realizing they're both created the same exterior for themselves. Patrick pulls into her driveway and shuts off the motor. looks up at her house. PATRICK (continuing) So what ' s up with your dad? pain in the ass?
KAT He just wants me to be someone I'm not. PATRICK
Who? KAT BIANCA PATRICK No offense, but you're sister is without. I know everyone likes her and all, but ... Kat stares at him with new admiration. KAT You know -- you're not as vile as I thought you were. She leans drunkenly toward him. Their faces grow closer as if they're about to kiss And then Patrick turns away PATRICK So, I'll see you in school Kat stares at him, pissed. Then gets out of the car, SLAMMING the door shut behind her. CAMERON'S CAR - NIGHT Bianca and Cameron ride in silence. He finally breaks it. CAMERON I looked for you back at the party, but you always seemed to be "occupied". BIANCA (faux-innocence ) I was? CAMERON You never wanted to go out with 'me, did you? Bianca bites her lip. BIANCA (reluctant) Well, no... CAMERON Then that's all you had to say. BIANCA But CAMERON You always been this selfish? BIANCA thinks a minute He pulls up in front of the house
CAMERON Just because you're beautiful, doesn't mean you can treat people like they don't matter. She looks at him for a moment -- then grabs his face and gives him a kiss on the lips. He draws back in surprise, then kisses her back. She smiles, then gets out of the car without another word. Cameron grins and drives away CAMERON (continuing) And I'm back in the saddle. INT. ENGLISH CLASS - DAY Kat sits at her desk, burying her face in a book as the others enter. The White Rastas are first. DEREK Kat, my lady, you sway to the rhythm of my heart. He grabs her hand and kisses it as she pulls it away. CLEM, a cowboy, enters, high-fiving Derek with new-found friendliness. CLEM Yippe kai-aye, bra. (to Kat) Dance for me, cowgirl. He sits next to Derek CLEM (continuing) Okay, now tell me again why he didn't shoot the deputy? DEREK Because the deputy meant him no harm, my friend. It was only the sheriff that was the oppressor. Joey saunters in and takes his seat. JOEY Kat, babe, you were on fire. Mrs. Blaise enters and sits at her desk MRS. BLAISE Well now, did everyone have a good weekend? JOEY Maybe we should ask Verona Patrick enters, late, and slinks to his desk. down and around, everywhere but at Patrick.
Kat looks up,
Mrs. Blaise tries to remember what she's supposed to talk about. MRS. BLAISE Okay then. Well. (beat) Oh, yes She clears her throat. MRS. BLAISE (continuing) I'd like you all to write your own version of Shakespeare's Sonnet #141. Groans. MRS. BLAISE (continuing) Any form you'd like. Rhyme, no rhyme, whatever. I'd like to see you elaborate on his theme, however. Let's read it aloud, shall we? Anyone? The class is frozen in apathy. MRS. BLAISE (continuing) Derek? Ms. Blaise hands him the sonnet. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Then grins. DEREK (reading; in his Rasta stoner drawl) In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes/ For they in thee a thousand errors note/ But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise/ Who in despite of view is pleas 'd to dote. In the back of the room Clem raises his hand CLEM Ms. Blaise, can I get the bathroom pass? Damn if Shakespeare don't act as a laxative on my person. INT. KENNY'S THAI FOOD DINER - DAY Kat and Mandella scrape the peanuts out of their sauce. MANDELLA You went to the party? I thought we were officially opposed to suburban social activity. KAT I didn't have a choice. MANDELLA You didn't have a choice?
and what have you done with her? KAT I did Bianca a favor and it backfired. MANDELLA You didn't KAT I got drunk. I puked. It was big fun.
I got rejected.
Patrick enters, walking to the counter to order. He sees Kat and smiles. PATRICK Hey She gathers her things and bolts out the door. looks at Mandella, who shrugs and follows Kat.
INT. BIOLOGY CLASS - DAY Cameron and Michael flank Patrick at his lab table MICHAEL So you got cozy with she who stings? PATRICK No - I've got a sweet-payin' job that I'm about to lose. CAMERON What'd you do to her? PATRICK I don ' t know. (beat) I decided not to nail her when she was too drunk to remember it. Michael and Cameron look at each other in realization, then turn back to Patrick. CAMERON You realize this puts the whole operation in peril. PATRICK No shit.
She won't even look at me CAMERON
Why can't you just tell her you're sorry? Patrick's expression says that this is not a possibility. Michael makes a time out sign with his hands. MICHAEL I'm on it INT. HALLWAY - DAY
Mandella is at her locker. Drawings of William Shakespeare adorn the door. She looks at them with a sigh, then ties her silk scarf tightly around her neck, in an attempt to cut off her air supply. Michael walks up. Hey there.
MICHAEL Tired of breathing?
MANDELLA (shyly, as she loosens the scarf) Hi. MICHAEL Cool pictures. You a fan? Yeah. MICHAEL rocks.
MANDELLA I guess. Very hip. MANDELLA
You think? MICHAEL Oh yeah. She looks at him suspiciously MANDELLA Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart, courage to make ' B love known? Michael thinks for a minute. MICHAEL Macbeth, right? MANDELLA (happily stunned) Right. MICHAEL Kat a fan, too? MANDELLA (puzzled) Yeah... He leans in close to her, conspiratorially MICHAEL So, listen... I have this friend EXT. FIELD HOCKEY FIELD - DAY Cameron sits next to Patrick on the bleachers as they watch Kat's practice. CAMERON
She hates you with the fire of a thousand suns . That's a direct quote PATRICK She just needs time to cool off I'll give it a day. A PUCK flies at them from the field, narrowly missing their heads. PATRICK (continuing) Maybe two. He looks at Cameron. PATRICK (continuing) You makin' any headway? CAMERON She kissed me. PATRICK (eyebrow raised) Where? INT. HALLWAY - DAY Chastity rounds the corner and bends down to get a drink from the water fountain. NEARBY Joey stands talking to two JOCK COHORTS. her.
The guys don't see
JOEY Don't talk to me about the sweetest date. That little halo Bianca is gonna be prone and proven on prom night. Six virgins in a row. The cohorts chortle Chastity keeps drinking from the fountain EXT. PARKING LOT - DAY Joey leans against Patrick's Jeep.
Patrick is inside.
PATRICK I don't know, Dorsey. ..the limo.-the flowers. Another hundred for the tux -JOEY Enough with the Barbie n' Ken shit. I know. He pulls out his wallet and hands Patrick a wad of money JOEY (continuing) Take it
Patrick does, with a smile, as he ROARS out of the parking lot. INT. SCHOOL COURTYARD - DAY Kat and Mandella deface a prom flyer. KAT Can you even imagine? Who the hell would go to this a bastion of commercial excess? MANDELLA Well, I guess we're not, since we don't have dates . KAT Listen to you! You sound like Betty, all pissed off because Archie is taking Veronica. MANDELLA Okay, okay, we won't go. I have a dress anyway
It's not like
KAT You ' re looking at this from the wrong perspective. We're making a statement. MANDELLA (unconvinced) Oh, good. Something new and different for us. EXT. ARCHERY FIELD - DAY Mr. Chapin patrols as boys and girls shoot arrows at targets Joey swaggers up to Bianca, who is taking careful aim. Chastity watches from across the row. JOEY Hey, sweet cheeks. BIANCA (not looking at him) Hi, Joey. JOEY You're concentrating awfully hard considering it's gym class. She lets the arrow go and turns to look at him. JOEY (continuing) Listen, I want to talk to you about the prom. BIANCA You know the deal. I can ' t go if Kat
doesn't go -In the background, a RASTA crumples to the ground. A casualty of Gym. Mr. Chapin scurries over.
JOEY Your sister is going. Bianca looks at him, surprised BIANCA Since when? Joey takes the bow and arrow from Bianca's hand. back and takes aim.
JOEY I'm taking care of it. Chastity looks over from her spot on the field, but keeps lips firmly shut. INT. BOOK STORE - DAY Kat browses through the feminist lit section Patrick appears, through a hole in the books. PATRICK Excuse me, have you seen The Feminine Mystique? I lost my copy. KAT (frowning) What are you doing here? PATRICK I heard there was a poetry reading. KAT You 're so -PATRICK Pleasant? Kat stares at him, deadpan. PATRICK (continuing) Wholesome. KAT Unwelcome. PATRICK Unwelcome? I guess someone still has her panties in a twist. KAT Don't for one minute think that you had any effect whatsoever on my panties. PATRICK So what did I have an effect on ?
KAT Other than my upchuck reflex? Nothing. She pushes past him and heads out the' door Pat looks down at the book he's been holding in his hand: Taming of the Shrew. INT. CAFETERIA - DAY Cameron mouth.
and Michael flank Patrick as he shovels food into PATRICK You were right. She's still pissed. MICHAEL Sweet love, renew thy force! PATRICK Man -- don't say shit like that to People can hear you.
CAMERON (exasperated) You humiliated the woman! Sacrifice yourself on the altar of dignity and even the score. MICHAEL Best case scenario, you're back on the payroll for awhile. PATRICK What's the worst? CAMERON You get the girl. Patrick
thinks for a minute PATRICK If I go down. I'm takin' her with me
INT. ENGLISH CLASS - DAY Kat and the other students sit at their desks, taking a quiz Patrick's seat is conspicuously empty. From outside, we hear the soft, unsure beginnings of a SONG. Kat looks up, then out the window, HORRIFIED. The song grows louder until we realize it's The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You". Being sung by Patrick. PATRICK (0. S.) "This morning, I woke up with this feeling, I didn't know how to deal with, and so I just decided to myself--" The STUDENTS rush to the window. OUTSIDE Patrick stands beneath the window, crooning.
Scurvy is next to him, keeping the beat on the bongos and doing backup vocal s. PATRICK "I'd hide it to myself. And never talk about it. And didn't I go and shout it when you walked into the room --" He makes quite a sarcastic show of it. IN THE CLASSROOM Mrs. Blaise touches her heart, as if the song is for her. Kat slowly walks to the window, peeking below. OUTSIDE Patrick smiles at her as he finishes the verse with a big finale. PATRICK (continuing) " I think I love you I " INSIDE The other students laugh, clap, cheer, etc. Kat sinks down, mortified, but with a slight smile INT. DETENTION HALL - DAY Patrick and several other miscreants sit quietly, mulling over their misfortune. MISCREANT Nice song, Verona. PATRICK Flog me. He makes the appropriate hand gesture Mr. Chapin, the gym teacher, sits at the desk in front, ignoring them while he reads a girly weightlifting magazine KAT (0. S.) Excuse me, Mr. Chapin? Patrick looks up at the sound of her voice and sees Kat standing in the doorway. She gives him a smile and he perks up a little. Kat walks into the room and addresses Mr. Chapin again. He turns fully to face her. KAT Sir, I'd like to state for the record that Mr. Verona ' s current incarceration is unnecessary. I never filed a complaint. MR. CHAPIN
You didn't have to. classroom.
He disrupted a
Kat glances over at Patrick and motions her head toward the window. Patrick shrugs, not knowing what she ' s talking about. She motions again, and looks toward the window with an expression that says, "Make a break for it, moron." Kat brings her attention back to Mr. Chapin while Patrick inches out of his seat toward the window. The other miscreants watch with glee. KAT But, Mr. Chapin, I hardly think a simple serenade warrants a week of detention. There are far more hideous acts than off-key singing being performed by the student body on a regular basis. Patrick is halfway out the window now. And none too happy about it, considering they're on the second floor. He eyes a large TREE a few feet away from MR. CHAPIN. starts to turn away from Kat
MR. CHAPIN You're not gonna change my mind, Kat. Rules stick. Kat starts to panic, as Patrick has yet to make the jump for the tree. KAT Wait, Mr. Chapin. There's something I've always wanted to show you. He turns back toward her again, the very second before he would have spotted Patrick. Kat glances toward the window. the jump.
Patrick's just about to make
MR. CHAPIN What? KAT These. From behind, we see her lift up her shirt and flash her bra at Mr. Chapin, just as Patrick makes the Jump. The miscreants cheer, for both the daring' escape and the flash of skin. Mr. Chapin reddens and tries to be stern. MR. CHAPIN I'm going to let that slide, Katarina.
But if I catch you doing that again, you'll be in here with the rest of these guys. He motions to the remaining detention prisoners, without noticing Patrick's absence. Kat smiles at him. KAT Thank you, Mr. Chapin. Kat bolts out the door. Mr. Chapin goes back to his muscle mag, wiping the sweat from his brow. EXT. SCHOOL CAMPUS LAWN Kat arrives at the tree. looking around breathlessly, seeing no one. KAT He left! I sprung the dickhead and he cruised on me. PATRICK (0. S.) Look up, sunshine She does.
He's still in the tree PATRICK I guess I never told you I'm afraid of heights. KAT (smiling) C'mon. It's not that bad PATRICK Try lookin' at it from this angle
She assesses the branch structure KAT Put your right foot there -Forget it.
PATRICK I'm stayin'.
KAT You want me to climb up and show you how to get down? PATRICK (voice trembling) Maybe. She sighs and dose so. When she gets to his level, she perches on the branch next to him. He grins at her. Then swings himself down with the grace and ease of a monkey, leaving her sitting there, realizing she's been duped.
KAT You shit! She climbs down after him EXT. OUTDOOR ARCADE - DAY Patrick and Kat walk amongst the games KAT The Partridge Family? PATRICK I figured it had to be something ridiculous to win your respect. And piss you off. KAT Good call. PATRICK So how'd you get Chapin to look the other way? KAT I dazzled him with my wit She stops and picks up a toy gun that SHOOTS water at giggling hyenas and wails on it. The barker hands her a stuffed animal as her prize. She hands it to the small KID next to her and they continue walking. PATRICK (sarcastic) A soft side? Who knew? KAT Yeah, well, don't let it get out PATRICK So what's your excuse? KAT Acting the way we do. PATRICK Yes KAT I don't like to do what people expect. Then they expect it all the time and they get disappointed when you change. PATRICK So if you disappoint them from the start, you're covered? KAT Something like that PATRICK Then you screwed up
KAT How? PATRICK You never disappointed me. She blushes under his gaze PATRICK (continuing) You up for it? KAT For. . . ? He motions to the SIGN for a paint-ball game. She grins SERIES OF SHOTS: The two of them creep through the paint-ball course, stealthy and full of the desire to best the other. Patrick nails Kat in the back with a big glob of red paint Kat gets him in the chest with a glob of blue. Patrick returns fire with a big yellow splat to the side of her face. Kat squirts a green shot to his forehead After a few more shots, they're both covered in paint She tries to shoot him again, only to find that her gun is empty. KAT (continuing) Damn it! Patrick grabs her in a victorious tackle. laughing.
It's hard to even recognize them, as their hair and faces are so smeared with paint globs, but they still manage to find each other's eyes. He wipes a smear of blue paint away from her lips, goes to kiss her.
NEARBY The kid with the stuffed animal, points KID Look, Mom His mother hurries him away. What's started as a tackle has turned into a passionate kiss EXT. STRATFORD HOUSE - NIGHT Patrick pulls up in Kat's driveway. Their paint wardrobe has dried by now and they look like refugees from some strange, yet colorful, war. KAT
State trooper? PATRICK Fallacy. KAT The duck? PATRICK Hearsay. KAT I know the porn career's a lie. He shuts off the car and turns to her. PATRICK Do you? He kisses her neck.
KAT Tell me something true. PATRICK I hate peas. KAT No -- something real. else knows.
Something no one
PATRICK (in-between kisses) You're sweet. And sexy. And completely hot for me. KAT What? PATRICK No one else knows KAT You're amazingly self-assured. Has anyone ever told you that? PATRICK Go to the prom with me Kat's smile disappears. KAT Is that a request or a command? PATRICK You know what I mean KAT No. PATRICK No what?
KAT No, I won't go with you PATRICK Why not? KAT Because I don't want to. It's a stupid tradition. Patrick sits quietly, torn. He can't very well tell her he being paid to take her. PATRICK People won't expect you to go... Kat turns to him, getting angry. KAT Why are you doing this? KAT All of it -- what's in it for you? He sits silently, not looking at her, confirming her suspicions. KAT (continuing) Create a little drama? rumor? What?
Start a new
PATRICK So I have to have a motive to be with you? KAT You tell me. PATRICK You need therapy. Has anyone ever told you that? KAT (quietly) Answer the question, Patrick PATRICK (angry) Nothing! There's nothing in it for me. Just the pleasure of your company. He takes out a cigarette. She breaks it in half before she SLAMS the car door and walks into the house. Patrick PEELS out of the driveway. Kat turns at the front door and watches him go EXT. STREET - NIGHT Patrick pulls up to a stop light and waits for .the green He glances over at A DRUNKEN HOMELESS GUY in the median, who
has decided that he doesn't need to wear pants. Patrick pulls out his wallet, takes the wad of money Joey gave him and hands it to the homeless guy. PATRICK cover that up The light turns green and Patrick pulls away INT. STRATFORD HOUSE/BATHROOM - NIGHT Kat stands at the sink, scrubbing paint off of her face Bianca TAPS on the open door. BIANCA Quick question -- are you going to the prom? Kat pushes the door shut with a SLAM INT. STUDY HALL - DAY Cameron and Bianca sit together at their study cubby. fingers a strand of her hair.
BIANCA Then Guillermo says, "If you go any lighter, you're gonna look like an extra on 90210." CAMERON No... Bianca stares at him for a moment. BIANCA do you listen to this crap? CAMERON What crap? BIANCA Me. This endless ...blonde babble. I'm like, boring myself. CAMERON Thank God! If I had to hear one more story about your coiffure... He mock stabs himself with a pencil as she giggles and smacks his hand away. CAMERON (continuing) I figured you'd get to the good stuff eventually. BIANCA What good stuff? CAMERON The "real you".
BIANCA Like my fear of wearing pastels? He looks stricken. BIANCA (continuing) I'm kidding. (beat) You know how sometimes you just become this "persona"? And you don't know how to quit? CAMERON (matter of fact) No BIANCA Okay -- you're gonna need to learn how to lie. INT. HALLWAY - DAY Mandella struggles with the lock on her locker. opens.
Hanging inside is a beautiful DRESS, inspired by the 16th Century. Mandella slowly unpins a NOTE from the dress. INSERT - "0 FAIR ONE. JOIN ME AT THE PROM. WAITING. LOVE, WILLIAM S." Mandella's agog. dress.
I WILL BE
Trevor walks by and sees her holding the
TREVOR You're gonna look splendiferous in that, Mandella. Mandella looks up sharply, shaken from her reverie. TREVOR (continuing) that's cool to say. Mandella grins It is MANDELLA INT. STRATFORD HOUSE/DEN - DAY Sharon is at her computer, Walter at his exercise bike SHARON Would you rather be ravished by a pirate or a British rear admiral? WALTER Pirate -- no question. Bianca enters and walks over to Walter
BIANCA Daddy, I want to discuss the prom with you. It's tomorrow night -The prom?
WALTER Kat has a date? BIANCA
No, but WALTER It's that hot rod Joey, right? That ' s who you want me to bend my rules for? BIANCA He's not a "hot rod". is.
WALTER You're not going unless your sister goes. End of story. BIANCA Fine. I see that I'm a prisoner in my own house. I'm not a daughter. I'm a possession! Bianca storms out. WALTER (calling out) You know what happens at proms? Sharon stops her typing and looks up at Walter SHARON They'll dance, they'll kiss, they'll come home. Let her go. WALTER Kissing? Is that what you think happens? Kissing isn't what keeps me up to my elbows in placenta all day. INT. BIANCA'S ROOM - NIGHT Bianca lies on her bed.
A KNOCK sounds.
BIANCA Come in. Kat enters and sits down on the bed, muting the TV. KAT (kindly) Listen, I know you hate having to sit home because I'm not Susie High School. BIANCA Like you care. KAT I do care. But I'm a firm believer in
doing something for your own reasons, not someone else ' s . BIANCA I wish I had that luxury. I'm the only sophomore that got asked to the prom and I can't go, because you won ' t. Kat clears her throat KAT Joey never told you we went out, did he? BIANCA What? KAT For a month
BIANCA (confused) Why? KAT (self-mocking) He was, like, a total babe BIANCA But you hate Joey Now I do. story.
KAT Back then, was a different BIANCA
As in... Kat takes a deep breath. KAT He said everyone was doing it. did it.
BIANCA You did what? KAT (continuing on) Just once. Afterwards, I told him I didn't want to anymore. I wasn't ready. He got pissed. Then he broke up with me. Bianca stares at her, dumbfounded BIANCA But KAT After that, I swore I'd never do anything just because "everyone else" was doing it. And I haven't since.
Except for Bogey's party, and my stunning gastro-intestinal display -BIANCA (stunned) Why didn't you tell me? KAT I wanted to let you make up your own mind about him. BIANCA No. you didn't! If you really thought I could make my own decisions, you would've let me go out with him instead of helping Daddy hold me hostage. Kat stands up slowly KAT That's not BIANCA I'm not stupid enough to repeat your mistakes. KAT I guess I thought I was protecting you. BIANCA God, you're just like him! Just keep me locked away in the dark, so I can't experience anything for myself KAT Not all experiences are good, Bianca. You can't always trust the people you want to. BIANCA I guess I'll never know, will I? She rises and holds the door open for Kat, then slams it behind her. EXT. STRATFORD HOUSE - DAY A sprinkler cruises the lawn. INT. KAT'S ROOM - DAY Kat lies in bed, staring at the ceiling. picks up the phone.
She rolls over and
BIANCA'S ROOM - DAY Bianca, still in her pajamas, eats a bowl of cereal while watching "I Love Lucy" reruns. A KNOCK sounds BIANCA Come in.
Kat opens the door and peers in with a grin KAT Feel like shopping? Bianca looks up, hopefully. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT Walter and Sharon are in front of the television. has the TV Guide in hand, glasses on. WALTER What do you wanna watch? crap, crap, crap or crap
SHARON Dr. Ruth? Bianca walks into the living room. dress.
She's wearing a prom
BIANCA Hi, Mommy. (looking away) WALTER Walter scurries takes off his glasses and looks from Bianca to Sharon. SHARON Honey, you look beautiful! You like? five.
BIANCA My date should be here in
WALTER I'm missing something. BIANCA I have a date, Daddy. And he ' s not a captain of oppression like some men we know. The DOORBELL RINGS. Bianca runs to open it. CAMERON. He takes in Bianca's outfit.
CAMERON Wow BIANCA Let's go. Walter rises.
Sharon pulls him back down on the couch
SHARON (to Bianca) Have a great time, honey! WALTER But -- who -- what --?
The door SLAMS. As Sharon looks at Walter with a grin, a blur rushes down the stairs and out the door. The blur has Kat ' s voice. KAT Hey, guys. I'm going to the prom. See you in a few. The door SLAMS again.
Walter and Sharon 'are alone
WALTER What just happened? SHARON Your daughters went to the prom. WALTER Did I have anything to say about it? SHARON Absolutely not. WALTER That ' s what I thought The DOORBELL RINGS again. Walter opens it to find Joey on the porch, wearing a tux. JOEY I'm here to pick up Bianca. WALTER late He SLAMS the door shut EXT
HOTEL PARKING LOT - NIGHT
Kat pulls up in her car, emerging resplendent in an ice gown. Patrick sits on the steps, waiting.
In a tux.
KAT How'd you get a tux at the last minute? PATRICK It's Scurvy's. His date got convicted. Where'd you get the dress? KAT It's just something I had.
PATRICK (smiling) Oh huh KAT Look, I'm -- sorry -- that I questioned your motives. I was wrong. Patrick winces slightly, but covers it with a smile
PATRICK No prob. He remains seated.
Kat fidgets nervously.
KAT are you ready? He rises and stares at her, taking in her image appreciatively. She blushes and turns away. KAT (continuing) C'mon. Let's get this over with. INT.
PROM - NIGHT
A hotel ballroom transformed into a fantasy world. Patrick and Kat enter, Kat attempting to deny the romance of it. KAT Quite the ostentatious display A cowboy two-steps by them, dragging some poor girl around PATRICK Look, Clem even wore his good boots Kat steps forward, looking around and spots Cameron and Bianca dancing cheek to cheek. She smiles. ACROSS THE ROOM Mandella enters nervously, in the long Elizabethan gown, hair piled on top of her head. She spots Kat and hurries over. MANDELLA Have you seen him? KAT Who? MANDELLA William - he asked me to meet him here. KAT Oh, honey -- tell me we haven't' progressed to full-on hallucinations. Patrick looks toward the door and taps Kat. points Mandella the same way.
She turns and
Michael - in full Shakespearean dress with a new goatee on his chin - bows in their direction. Mandella's grin couldn't be bigger. Michael swashbuckles over to them, taking Mandella's hand and leading her onto the dance floor. MICHAEL Mi' lady.
(to Patrick) Good sir. Patrick rolls his eyes. INT.
PROM - NIGHT - LATER
Kat and Patrick dance to a slow SONG. Whatever he's whispering into her ear is making her laugh. Cam and Bianca dance nearby, glowing with happiness. She whispers something in his ear and heads for the ladies' room INT. LADIES ROOM - NIGHT Bianca walks in, positively radiant. Chastity emerges from a stall. BIANCA (surprised) What are you doing here? Chastity checks her hair in the mirror,
CHASTITY You think you ' re the only sophomore at the prom? BIANCA I did. Chastity maintains her snooty tone. CHASTITY And just so you know, my date isn't planning on spending most of the night in his backseat. BIANCA What're you talking about? CHASTITY Joey Dorsey is only after one thing - your cherry. He practically made a public announcement. Appalled, Bianca storms out. Chastity
tries to backpedal.
CHASTITY (continuing) I wanted to tell you INT.
PROM - NIGHT
Joey, drunk, disorderly and pissed off, walks in with a few stray jocks - also dateless. He zeroes in on Cameron, now consoling a pissed-off Bianca. Patrick and Kat continue to slow dance, oblivious to the evil about to erupt. PATRICK My grandmother's .
KAT What? PATRICK That's where I was last year. She'd never lived alone -- my grandfather died -- I stayed with her. I wasn't in jail, I don't know Marilyn Manson, and I've never slept with a Spice Girl. I spent a year sitting next to my grandma on the couch watching Wheel of Fortune. End of story. He takes a breath and looks away, not meeting her eyes. Kat stares at him for a moment and laughs a delighted laugh KAT That ' s completely adorable! PATRICK It gets worse -- you still have your freshman yearbook? He's interrupted by Joey's hand on his shoulder. JOEY What's Bianca doing here with that cheese dick? I didn't pay you to let some little punk ass snake me. ACROSS THE ROOM Michael spots the altercation and dances Mandella over to Cameron and Bianca. MICHAEL (to Cameron) Feces hitting fan. C'mon Michael takes Cameron aside, leaving Mandella and Bianca staring after them. ACROSS THE ROOM Michael and Cameron approach Joey as he continues to taunt Patrick who keeps quiet, realizing the weight of this situation. MICHAEL (continuing) Joey, pal, compadre. easy.
Let's take it
Joey turns toward Michael and Cameron. JOEY You two are in big trouble Cameron faces Joey. Admit it.
CAMERON You lost.
Be a man.
Joey PUNCHES Cameron in the face, taking him by surprise Cameron holds his nose as it bleeds onto his tux The various cliques descend angrily and Joey is soon surrounded by seething Cowboys, Coffee Kids and White Rastas. DEREK Very uncool, my brother JOEY I'm not your brother, white boy. The other Rastas GASP, as if stung by the realization that they're white. Joey turns back to Patrick and Kat. JOEY (continuing) Just so you know -- she'll only spread her legs once. Kat looks from Joey to Patrick, not sure what she's hearing. Joey pushes through the crowd but a HAND drags him back. It's Bianca. And she BELTS the hell out of him BIANCA That's for making my date bleed She BELTS him again BIANCA (continuing) That's for my sister. And AGAIN BIANCA (continuing) And that's for me. Cliques now descend on Joey, punching him wildly. COWBOY And that's for the fourth grade, asshole. HOTEL - NIGHT KAT runs down the stairs, Patrick chasing her PATRICK Wait I... KAT You were paid to take me out! By -the one person I truly hate. I knew it was a set-up! PATRICK It wasn't like that.
KAT Really? What was it like? A down payment now, then a bonus for sleeping with me? PATRICK I didn't care about the money. He catches up to her now PATRICK (continuing) I cared about -She turns to face him with a countenance more in sorrow than in anger. KAT You are so not what I thought you were. He grabs her and kisses her to shut her up. After a second, she jerks away and flees down the stairs and out of sight. Bianca stands at the top of the stairs, watching. never looked more guilty.
INT. STRATFORD HOUSE - DAY Kat is sprawled on the couch in sweats, wrapped in a blanket, watching "Sixteen Candles". When Molly Ringwald leans across the birthday cake to get a kiss from her dream date, Kat changes the channel disgustedly, settling for an infomercial The phone sits next to her. in, bearing a cup of tea.
BIANCA Are you sure you don't want to come with us? It'll be fun. Kat takes the tea and gives a weak smile. KAT I ' m sure . Bianca sits down next to her BIANCA You looked beautiful last night, you know. KAT So did you Bianca gives her a squeeze, then jumps up when the DOORBELL rings, opening the door to a waiting Cameron. He peeks his head inside. CAMERON She okay? BIANCA
I hope so. The door shuts behind her as Walter enters. WALTER Was that your sister? Yeah. ones.
KAT She left with some bikers Big Full of sperm. WALTER
Funny. Walter sits down on the arm of the chair and watches the infomercial with Kat. WALTER (continuing) I don't understand the allure of dehydrated food. Is this something I should be hip to? KAT No, Daddy. WALTER (dreading the answer) So tell me about this dance. Was it fun? KAT Parts of it. WALTER Which parts? KAT The part where Bianca beat the hell out of some guy. WALTER Bianca did what? KAT What's the matter? off on her?
Upset that I rubbed
WALTER No -- impressed. Kat looks up in surprise. WALTER (continuing) You know, fathers don't like to admit that their daughters are capable of running their own lives. It means we've become spectators. Bianca still lets me play a few innings. You've had me on the bleachers for years. When you go to Sarah Lawrence, I won't even be able to
watch the game. KAT (hopeful) When I go? WALTER Oh, Christ. Don't tell me you've changed your mind. I already sent 'em a check. Kat reaches over and gives him a hug INT. CAFETERIA - DAY Kat stands grabs a box of cornflakes from the food line. CAMERON (0. S.) Katarina? She turns and looks at him CAMERON I'd like to express my apologies. KAT For what? CAMERON (looking down) I didn't mean for you to get -- When Bianca asked me to find you a boyfriend, I had no idea it would turn out so -ugly. I would never have done anything to compromise your - - He trails off when he realizes she's thrown her food tray against the wall and marched off -- the old "kill, kill" look back in her eyes. INT. HALLWAY - DAY Kat stomps up the hallway, full of menace CLASSROOM - DAY Bianca's English teacher perches on the edge of a desk, open book in hand. TEACHER Who can tell me at what point Lucentio admits his deception? The door of the classroom FLIES open and an angry Kat stalks in, yanking Bianca from her chair and dragging her toward the hallway. KAT (to the teacher) Family emergency. HALLWAY - DAY Bianca tries to pull away as Kat drags her by the hair
between two rows of lockers. BIANCA Let go! KAT You set me up. BIANCA I just wanted -KAT What? To completely damage me? me to therapy forever? What?
BIANCA No! I just wanted Miss Perky walks up Ladies? office?
MISS PERKY Shall we take a trip to my
INT. MISS PERKY'S OFFICE - DAY Miss Perky stares at both sisters as they sit before her, then focuses on Bianca. MISS PERKY So you're the real bitch BIANCA Yes! Okay? Yes -- I'm the real bitch. I wanted her to get a boyfriend so I could. Apparently, this makes me a horrible person. I'm sorry. She turns to Kat. BIANCA (continuing) I swear -- I didn't know about the money. I didn't even know Joey was involved. I would never intentionally hurt you, Kat. MISS PERKY (to Kat) Do you care to respond? KAT Am I supposed to feel better? Like, right now? Or do I have some time to think about it? MISS PERKY Just smack her now. Bianca rises, taking Kat by the arm. BIANCA (to Miss Perky)
We'll be getting back to you. MISS PERKY What, no hug? HALLWAY - DAY And Bianca leave Miss Perky's office BIANCA Is that woman a complete fruit-loop or is it just me? KAT It's just you. ENGLISH CLASS - DAY Mrs. Blaise faces the class MRS. BLAISE All right. I'm assuming everyone found time to compose, their poems. Except for Mr. Dorsey, who's still in ICU. Nerds in the back high-five each other. MRS. BLAISE (continuing) Would anyone care to read theirs aloud? No one moves.
Then Kat slowly stands up. KAT
I'11 go Patrick looks up. MRS. BLAISE Oh, Lord. She downs a couple Prozac MRS. BLAISE (continuing) Please proceed. Kat stands, puts on her glasses, and takes a deep breath before reading from her notebook. KAT I hate the way you talk to me/ and the way you cut your hair/ I hate the way you drive my car/ I hate it when you stare. She pauses, then continues KAT (continuing) I hate your big dumb combat boots/ and the way you read my mind/ I hate you so much it makes me sick/ it even makes me
rhyme. She takes a deep breath, and looks quickly at Patrick, who stares at the floor. KAT (continuing) I hate the way you're always right/ I hate it when you lie/ I hate it when you make me laugh/ even worse when you make me cry/ I hate it that you're not around/ and the fact that you didn't call/ But mostly I hate the way I don ' t hate you/ not even close, not even a little bit, not even any at all. She looks directly at Patrick. He looks back this time. The look they exchange says everything. Then she walks out of the room The rest of the class remains in stunned silence. EXT. PARKING LOT - MOMENTS LATER Kat walks to her car alone. When she opens the door, she's greeted with a Fender Stratocaster guitar, reclining in the front seat. She picks it up slowly, inspecting every detail, then spins around. Patrick stands there, smiling. KAT A Fender Strat. You bought this? PATRICK I thought you could use it. When you start your band. She doesn't answer, but hides a smile, so he walks
PATRICK (continuing) Besides, I had some extra cash. Some asshole paid me to take out a really great girl. KAT Is that right? PATRICK Yeah, but then I fucked up. I fell for her. Blushes and looks down. PATRICK (continuing) You know -- it's not every day you find a girl who'll flash her tits to get you out of detention.
Looks up. surprised and embarrassed that he found out He takes her upturned face as a sign to kiss her and he does She lets him this time. Then breaks it off KAT You can't just buy me a guitar every time you screw up, you know. He grimaces. PATRICK I know He quiets her with another kiss Which she breaks off again. KAT And don't just think you can He kisses her again, not letting her end it this time. STRATFORD HOUSE - SUNSET We hear the sounds of MUSIC and LAUGHTER. STRATFORD HOUSE/BACKYARD - SUNSET Patrick is at the barbecue grill, flipping burgers. watches.
KAT Why is my veggie burger the only burnt object on this grill? PATRICK Because I like to torture you. Oh, Bianca? yearbook?
KAT Can you get me my freshman
PATRICK Don ' t you even dare. . . ON BIANCA AND CAMERON As they argue on the patio. CAMERON They do to! BIANCA They do not! Rises to get the yearbook. CAMERON Can someone please tell her that sunflower seeds come from sunflowers? ON MICHAEL AND MANDELLA Severely making-out in a lawn chair.
She comes up for a
breath. MANDELLA I can't remember a word of Shakespeare right now. Isn't that weird? Michael pulls her back down for another round ON KAT AND PATRICK She tries to keep him from grabbing the yearbook that Bianca now hands her. KAT You're freaked over this, aren't you? Bianca hands her the yearbook BIANCA He's more than freaked.
Flips to a page. KAT I'd like to call your attention to Patrick Verona's stunning bad-ass look of 1995 --INSERT - A horrifically nerdy freshman year picture Glasses, bad hair, headgear -- the works. She holds up the picture for all to view. Patrick cringes and throws a handful of pretzels at her. BIANCA Patrick -- is that- a. KAT Perm? PATRICK Ask my attorney. Kat and Bianca huddle over the picture, giggling -- as we CRANE UP and hear a GIRLY PUNK version of The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You". FADE OUT: END
Published on May 31, 2015
Sources: http://www.filmscriptwriting.com/index.html http://www.master-resale-rights.com/ http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-write-a-screenp...