Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Assessment Piece from the Screenplay Module

I now have my pre-liminary result (before external verification) and I must admit... I'm not that pleased.

Of course I'm happy with the outcome, but I'm just not pleased with my current ability. Ultimately it's swings and roundabouts - having read the feedback, I should be able to rectify the faults (but not for the screenplay module itself - SIGH). I guess I want to be better than I currently am, and am reminded of A-Level results day. One of the girls didn't just decry her results (I can't remember for which course) but she complained and tried to get them changed.

Yes, she was a very good student, and yes, she was one of those that worked hard... but, her complaints weren't just about what she thought she'd earned. She was upset that other "lesser" students had got better marks... something had to have been awry.

I'm interested in what the other students have got, but only to work out where I place. Sure I'd be upset if others got better results, but I'd be missing the point - I'm not that good and I need to open my eyes and review where I stand.

Of course, it would have been nice to get a better result... seeing as this will all end up in my portfolio at the end of the course, for review by publishers (SIGH). Anyhoo:

Pre-liminary Grade: 65%
(Middle ground between 2:1 and 1st boundaries. A slow push skyward, I was just hoping that this would have been an easy module to ace).

Production of a marketable working script
Dark Machine is an interesting TV pilot with a lot of potential. Richard took on board many comments by myself in response to various drafts as well as from the class as a whole when presenting this story on our Writer’s Room Day. He has a strong concept and premise and some good characters.

The problem is in meeting the demands of the TV format, which eats up plot at an alarming rate. His opening Teaser is excellent, he totally had me at the top of page 2, but then wandered aimlessly for ten pages only to present me with the same plot point again.

It wasn’t until page 31 that I felt things really started to happen with the revelation of Petersen’s secret weapon. This should have been the end of Act 1.

The main problem throughout the script is dialogue as exposition. Characters spend way too much time filling in backstory for the benefit of the audience. And when they’re not telling each other about backstory, he’s giving it to us in flashback. He’s much more effective when he delivers visually (the reveals of Claire’s OCD, for instance).

Instead of splitting the story over two episodes, he needs to radically cut this script down and tell the complete story.

This script tries to set up way too many characters and situations. Those backstories can be explored in other episodes.

Production of work that is laid out as appropriate to form and industry standards
It is well laid out and totally professional. There is a tendency to use too many parentheticals, though, which is a symptom of Richard’s desire to control every aspect of the script, including how each line is said.

Understanding of how work might be situated in relation to contemporary film-making or TV , and an awareness of how the work would need to be pitched for production
Richard knows instinctively the kind of show he is trying to create. The only thing that lets him down is sticking to scenes and characters that aren’t pulling their weight.

This could be improved if he sold more of the sizzle instead of the steak. Pitching is about conveying the emotion behind a story, not the logic.

Commentary shows an awareness of strengths and weaknesses of work, and its dramatic structure
The commentary reveals an heroic attempt to apply every one of the paradigms we went through in the class (and then some) to the script. This was way beyond the call of duty, but it’s interesting to see how the different ones have helped. I think overall it might have been a case of way too much left brain activity to the detriment of the story.

My response to the assessment
I hate that it's right! Erm, no... focus: This goes right back to my novel writing, in that I need to stop worrying about what I want the reader to know and give them story, story, story. I'm too busy getting stuck in back stories and not spending enough time in giving the characters things to deal with, problems to work at, situations to rail against.

Which means I'm primarily dealing with a problem of the narrative's structure. I need to focus my attention on fewer, more detailed, characters and develop less strands but through a greater pace.

... on the synopsis front... let's not go there for a bit.


esruel said...

Funny, but Noel the Ultimate Proofreader has told me a couple of times that the whys and the wherefores ofen have to take second place to the fact that things just happen. Minimum backstory, maximum effect. Only explain when you absolutely have to, but consider every option of how to explain before doing so. Probably why my prologue may have to be broken up and fed in later - if at all. But I like it too much to leave out...
I'm working on an answer to your query on Second Fist. Solvey may probably outdo us both, but at least you will have more options - the possibilities, as I call them.

R1X said...