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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Information Exchange  |  Pros & Novices  |  Question about First Screenplay « previous next »
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Author Topic: Question about First Screenplay  (Read 9943 times)
ulthar
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« on: June 16, 2007, 06:37:26 PM »

When it comes to making movies, I certainly know more about the photographic and visual effects side of thing than the pre-production stuff.  I've doodled some storyboards for a CGI short I'd like to put together, but have never ventured into script or screenplay writing.

Until now.

I recently read a novel that was a fairly formulaic military action/thriller, but as I read it, I thought "wow, with some tweaking, this might make a pretty good film" in the ilk of a kind of cross between THE THING and DAS BOOT.  That is, capture the paranioa and claustrophobia of these two films in a sort of subtle psychological thriller.

In my "vision," for the story, we follow the character and mostly never know more than he does.  The driving conflict is is he right or is he over the edge, imagining the key plot point?  Kinda a man against man/man against himself (going insane) type of deal not wholly unlike THE MACHINIST.

I've found some sites with formatting and guideline recommendations, but I have a question.  I've read that the screenplay should contain ONLY physical descriptions of the characters, not emotional or backstory stuff.  To set the stage for who some of the main characters are, I wanted to write a paragraph or so - is this inappropriate?  Is this the type of thing left completely to director and/or actors?  Would there be a separate pre-production document for production design notes and characterization written by the screenplay writer?

Basically, the question is: how much of the writer's vision should appear in the screenplay and how much should be left to the director's vision?  Let's assume I'll never direct this, and I understand that a given director can always rework or rewrite to fit HIS vision.

I'm showing my ignorance of film-making with these questions (Dean, Scotty, others, please don't laugh).  I'm writing this at this point purely for my own 'hobby' and to see if I can capture in writing my idea for how the characterization and story unfold.  I like some of the dialog in the source novel, and I think the basic story has a lot of potential.
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Snivelly
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2007, 06:58:58 PM »

I don't know if this would be of any help to you in organizing and getting the story rolling, but a friend of mine has talked me into collaborating on a horror script, and he sent me a link to this software download:

http://www.celtx.com/

It's meant to help you not only write, but also flesh out the characters and plot and so forth.  It's got an example in each section I believe, and it's free, which is always something I look for in software.   Wink  Hope it's of use to you.
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ulthar
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2007, 07:05:32 PM »

Thanks!! Karma for you (always for free software references, and it has a Linux version...).   Smile

I've downloaded it and will play with it in the next day or so.
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nshumate
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2007, 08:05:10 AM »


In my "vision," for the story, we follow the character and mostly never know more than he does.  The driving conflict is is he right or is he over the edge, imagining the key plot point?  Kinda a man against man/man against himself (going insane) type of deal not wholly unlike THE MACHINIST.

I've found some sites with formatting and guideline recommendations, but I have a question.  I've read that the screenplay should contain ONLY physical descriptions of the characters, not emotional or backstory stuff.  To set the stage for who some of the main characters are, I wanted to write a paragraph or so - is this inappropriate?  Is this the type of thing left completely to director and/or actors?  Would there be a separate pre-production document for production design notes and characterization written by the screenplay writer?



The problem is that a screenplay, being the blueprint for a movie, can only describe for us what we can actually see or hear in a movie.  So a paragraph about a character's backstory is a wasted paragraph, because it gives the reader information that the audience would never get.

If backstory is important, then you have to find a way to relay it within the confines of visual storytelling.  Have the screenplay reveal it in the same manner than an eventual audience member would learn it:  Through action, through behavior, or as a last-ditch resort, through words spoken between characters.

The best education is always through example.  Go to someplace like Script-o-Rama and look for movies you've seen in which backstory was revealed to the audience.  Then see how the writer did it.
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Nathan Shumate
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Andrew
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2007, 09:02:52 AM »

The way I've always looked at it is that the writer will create the overall story, plus develop the characterizations.  The director tries to carry through with those and take the story from print to the screen.  Not everything that works on paper can work when you actually have actors and sets.  The director's job is to make decisions how to adapt the written story when needed, preserving the intent, but finding a way that it can work via a visual medium.

Does that make sense?
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nshumate
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2007, 09:23:20 AM »

The way I've always looked at it is that the writer will create the overall story, plus develop the characterizations.  The director tries to carry through with those and take the story from print to the screen.  Not everything that works on paper can work when you actually have actors and sets.  The director's job is to make decisions how to adapt the written story when needed, preserving the intent, but finding a way that it can work via a visual medium.

Does that make sense?

More than that, a screenwriter needs to think visually and give the information that will show up on screen.  In simplest possible terms:  The writer decides what will be presented to the audience; the director decides HOW to present it.  (This ignores the whole idea of the "possessory director," who takes his "Film by" credit over-seriously and treats the writer as his employee.)
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Nathan Shumate
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ulthar
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2007, 12:40:14 PM »

Thanks, guys.  This is all very helpful.


More than that, a screenwriter needs to think visually and give the information that will show up on screen.


Now that's the hard part.  :)  I'm used to writing where that is the final medium (short stories, essays, poems, one book); learning to write what will be ultimately be a visual presentation is trickier.  At least to me.

I got that software and played around with it a little bit.  Very cool.  There's a 'tab' in which one can write all kinds of different details about the characters - phsyical descriptions as well as the 'deeper' stuff I needed.  It does not go into the screenplay, but it gives me a place to enter it.

Thanks again, all.  This should prove to be an interesting learning project.
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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
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Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

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Pilgermann
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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2007, 03:34:42 AM »

I'm going to have to play around with that Celtx program.  Looks very cool!
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ulthar
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« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2007, 04:16:43 PM »

I'm going to have to play around with that Celtx program.  Looks very cool!

It *IS* a cool program.  I've been playing with for a couple of weeks now.

Thanks again, Snivelly!!
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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
Snivelly
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2007, 05:27:04 PM »

I'm going to have to play around with that Celtx program.  Looks very cool!

It *IS* a cool program.  I've been playing with for a couple of weeks now.

Thanks again, Snivelly!!

You're welcome, both of you, and I hope it helps.  Does the Linux version have the examples for each section?  That helped me out quite a bit.
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ulthar
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2007, 05:43:53 PM »


You're welcome, both of you, and I hope it helps.  Does the Linux version have the examples for each section?  That helped me out quite a bit.


It comes with the Wizard of Oz scene.  Is that what you mean?
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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
Snivelly
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....a heady mix of ignorance and enthusiasm.


« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2007, 06:02:11 PM »

Mine has the scene, plus it also has an example from TWOZ in each section, for example where the characters thumbnails are and such. 
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CoreyHeldpen
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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2007, 12:09:46 AM »

I don't know if this would be of any help to you in organizing and getting the story rolling, but a friend of mine has talked me into collaborating on a horror script, and he sent me a link to this software download:

http://www.celtx.com/

It's meant to help you not only write, but also flesh out the characters and plot and so forth.  It's got an example in each section I believe, and it's free, which is always something I look for in software.   Wink  Hope it's of use to you.


Nice find on that program! I'm writing a horror/comedy with that called Furball. Anyone want to guess what its about?
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2007, 07:05:51 PM »

It is completely appropriate to include a page which describes in depth what your character(s) are all about.  Obviously if your main character is completely deaf and blind in one eye it is going to affect how he relates
to circumstances in the script.   But once you have described your character,  you only inticate how the character is "feeling" in a given
situation.
     
                              MARY
                   "What is it that you want?"
         
                              JOHN (trying to hide a smile)
                   "I just want to be friends"


We have produced four feature films, "DETOUR TO HELL"; "STONED DEAD";
"BAD SPIRITS", and "DYING FOR DOLLARS"..all from our own scripts.
                           
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Jim H
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« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2007, 05:09:56 PM »

While it is nice to have a little extra information, just remember what a screenplay is for.  It's there to tell the director what to show, and for the actors how to act.  If some extra background info will help them, it doesn't hurt to have it - just remember the audience doesn't get that benefit, so don't rely on it.  Even if your director doesn't want the background info for some reason, he can always just ignore it.
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