Thursday, May 31, 2007

Screenplay Queries

Having completed the 45 pages of the screenplay and having spent the last couple of days analysing it based upon the paradigms discussed in class - Field, Hauge, Vogler, Campbell, Dramatica, and television - I came up against a set of worrying questions. I thought it best to simply e-mail my tutor and then present them here as advisorys notes that might be useful to others.

Firstly, for my particular assessment I've got to bring it back by 5 pages to 40. Otherwise I get marked down - argh!

  1. My teaser is just under 2 minutes long. Other shows have 5 to 7 minute teasers, so should mine cover a longer period or does it not matter?

    This doesn’t matter. Many shows have very short teasers, and I think the Life On Mars teaser I showed you was 2.5 minutes.
  2. On page 1 of my analysis document I look at the episode from a 5 Act structure pov and Syd Field's 3 Act Structure. Is it important to stick the Midpoint and the Pinch Points (if we look at the 3 Act Structure in particular) at exactly the Midpoint etc?

    Don’t worry about Pinches (although you might point out that your ‘act outs’ occur where Field’s ‘pinches’ might. You might also talk about your own Mid Point and how it differs from Field’s definition (not crucial that it occurs exactly in the middle).
  3. The same goes for the change of Acts - in 3 Act Structures, should Acts 1 and 3 be exactly a quarter of the length? At the moment both come in at 13 minutes.

    No. You have a certain amount of freedom with this. Don’t worry.
  4. Scene lengths - I've looked and looked, and found only a few examples of scenes that are longer than 3 pages. Most are 1 page or less, but because of the nature of my screenplay I have roughly 7 scenes that are over 3 pages in length. Should I worry about this?

    Not unduly. It may indicate that some of your scenes are a bit wordy, but while I’m against excessive wordiness in screenwriting I’m not against lengthy scenes, particularly in TV scripts.
  5. Further to that, when I break up my scenes with my protagonist's future visions they continue the same scene but just do something different with a jump cut in the middle - this essentially lengthens the scenes further. Should I worry about this?

    I would regard the jump cuts as a separate scene anyway. If you set the scene up once and indicate its location with a proper slugline and then afterwards refer back to it within another scene as a ‘Flash Cut’ or jump cut then that’s fine. As long as at one point you’ve properly indicated its location, time of day, etc so that it can be scheduled by a production manager for a shoot and isn’t hidden somewhere in a line that no one is going to notice till they discover too late that they need a whole day of extra filming that they haven’t budgeted for.
  6. I've used transitions for a specific purpose: a) End of Acts have Cut to Black or Fade to Black b) Moving to a flashback has just Cut To c) Moving in and out of a vision/deja vu uses Jump Cut To. Is using this methodology allowed?

    It’s allowed but I personally find it a bit excessive. And it lengthens your script! For Act Breaks you can indicate End of Act 1, etc. I never like Cut To because all film is edited with cuts. I know you’re trying to indicate the speed of those cuts but that will be apparent just by having a long scene interrupted by a sudden short scene. (But if you don’t want to do a new slugline every time you do a Flash Cut then I think it’s fine to start a new para within the scene and begin it with ‘FLASH CUT TO: that scene we saw earlier’, etc.
  7. Going back to scene length, much of the dialogue is really talking heads stuff. I've tried to give them things to do, places to move between, but that's been difficult. Should I worry too much about this?

    I used to worry excessively about that and write every facial tic and bodily movement of the actors (and I still find it difficult not to do this in my own scripts), but more and more I find that just giving the dialogue, with very few directions, is better for the reader. Let them imagine it themselves. Obviously, if there’s a bit of action that’s very important to what’s happening, then fine, include it. It’s okay to write ‘They walk across the car park’ and then just have the dialogue until ‘They stop at the car ‘. Again, this will cut down the length of your script!

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