Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Spoiler: Every Movie You Have & Will See

Books are books. They use formulas just like music, cooking, math, choreography, chemistry... What sets each of these apart is when the formula is no longer visible and one is transported, unaware of the underlying skeleton on which taste, touch, sight, sound, thought, and smell hangs.

Screenplays are no different. We have all been victims of movies that leave us feeling like our time would have been better spent knitting a sweater, digging a hole, or scraping paint than subjecting ourselves to such meaningless and shallow entertainment. A few come to mind for me, including Robert Redford's latest. It wasn't his acting, however, it was the screenplay. Screenplays include dialogue, visuals, audio, scenes, locations, characters, plotlines, and camera shots.They are limited to roughly 90-125 pages (one page per minute of film, roughly) and can be masterfully transporting or miserably disappointing. I am learning about screenplay writing and have included a rough skeleton of what I have learned below:

Screenplay formula: 
Act 1- introduce characters, start with some "fire," 6 mains, 5 supporting characters that are purposeful, extras, background characters. Introduce the problem - 25 pages

Act 2- build up characters, define strengths, problems, action of trying to solve problems, conflict every 3 pages, 50 pages 

Act 3- resolution of problem(s) - 25 pages, more "fire," the characters are different having journeyed through the story.

Characters- protag hopes to achieve something and antag, blocking or stopping the protag from achieving his/her goal; what methods does antag use to stop protag? co-stars 3-4, one supporting protag, one supporting antag. Supporting characters bring in new ideas, help them get in or out of trouble, guide them rightly or wrongly, pull main characters in different directions. 
Two remaining supporting or featured characters should add humor, drama, be interesting, serve a purpose, helpful or trouble for main character. 4-5 featured characters, each a few lines; extras must have purpose, may have a line or two. Background characters fill in to make it seem real (no lines).

Develop clever story turns that nobody sees, new challenge, defeat, how they react to it, what they do about it, 1-2 major turns, these are conflicts, they create a sense of urgency, like time is running out, many little turns, obstacles, or conflicts are fine. 

Dialogue - 10 word sentences, 3 sentences at a time max. 

Plot - is the action of the story; subplot is theme of the story or what is the story about or the main point, what do you want the world to know, learn or enjoy. Plot moves the subplot along. How do characters feel about subplots, for or against? How do they behave because of it? 

May have a recurring sound or image that reminds us of the theme that takes place before a story turn or a major conflict and is called a theme pattern (i.e. Jaws music). 

Tell the visuals concisely to help guide the production, shooting timelines, costuming, etc. Don't direct in a screenplay, describe. 

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