Sunday, April 22, 2007

Doubling Up

I'm going through on the second pass... of the first 13 pages... of my screenplay for the screenplay module of NAW, and I'm beginning to see the wonder of doubling up my dialogue and action (not action-action but what is actually happening-action, like visual exposition or plot).

I'm seeing now that a script needs to run quickly with its dialogue and plot. Scenes are usually about a minute or so in length, rarely running any longer than 5 minutes (in extreme circumstances), without breaking to other scenes, external movement to other areas (for example, a car chase, or movement from location to location). In my own screenplay we focus solely upon the protagonist. We follow him waking, in distress, waking from distress (still with me?), being dressed and working on a project, arguing and conciliating with his wife, him and wife driving to work... and having spent all that time with just the two of them, I then spend a further 5 minutes in the car with them, dealing with little more than character exposition that doesn't serve much other purpose.

How to get round this? Doubling-up.

The actress on my NAW course pointed out that screenplays eat up plots and subplots, exposition, and storylines like nothing else. You can fill a screenplay with plot after plot after plot and still it will be hungry with more slants, angles and questions. If that's the case then I need to reduce the travel in the car from five minutes down to, I guess, roughly two - three at a stretch.

The first step is to give them actions that occur whilst the dialogue happens. For example, they are discussing everything from karma to christening to him pre-empting what she has to say... then, after they're in a near-miss, I have a text message come through for him that she picks up and is from a mysterious J. The wife doesn't admit that she's read the message (Can't work the phone, she claims), and she drops the phone in her bag to follow it up later, without his knowledge.

That text must come earlier - during the conversation on karma and his pre-empting - doubled-up. The christening conversation could wait till later. Or maybe, it isn't right for this episode. I will consider pulling it to build up speed for the next scene.

The benefit Heroes has is that it covers several main characters, and intercuts between scenes involving each of their disparate stories, able to come back to where it left off a previous scene. So, realistically their scenes are longer, they're just able to cut to maintain audience interest (cutting at the anticipatory moment of course)... but I don't have that luxury with only one main character who I am stuck to because of the rules I have set for my world. At least for this episode.

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