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Archive for January, 2011

$39 Script Notes – 1 Day Sale Jan 14

I’ve just finished the first draft of a new script. Now it’s time to put it away and not think about it for a few days. That will allow me to get some distance from it, so when I start the rewrite I’ll be able to look at it with more critical eyes.

To keep away the temptation of returning to it too soon, I’ve decided to have a crazy sale and immerse myself in scripts for a while.

So here’s the deal. It’s a one-time only event.

I’ll read your feature film script and provide you with professional notes for $39.

Seriously, $39!

If you haven’t quite finished your script yet, I’ll even let you purchase this bargain rate now, and submit your script when you’re done.

But you have to act before tomorrow night (Saturday, January 15th at midnight).

Don’t let your script go out with a key problem that I could have easily identified for you for 39 bucks.

Click here for more information.

Any questions? Let me know!

Category: Feedback  | 6 Comments
Quick Screenwriting Tip: “Dismay” Character Jan 13

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

If your script is fantastical in nature, look for opportunities for a supporting character to react with dismay — especially if your main characters have become accustomed to the world.

Used at the right time, this may:

  • make a moment feel more authentic or relatable
  • provide an opportunity for a laugh
  • remind us of the stakes
  • help suspend the audience’s disbelief

New: Script Notes for only $59!

New Year, New Service Jan 11

Change is GoodWhen I trade scripts with a my pro screenwriting buddies, we tend to give each other very high level notes. Just the key elements that worked and didn’t work, with specific suggestions for improvement.

Sometimes, that’s all you need right? No logline, no deep discussions — just quick, insightful, essential feedback.

Why it didn’t occur to me to offer this service to my clients sooner is beyond me. But now I have! And for the Optimus Prime rate of $59.00.

The option is called Script Notes Express.

You can take a look at all my services here. I think they’re the best in the business (though I’m probably a tad biased).

A big THANK YOU to everyone for making 2010 a terrific year! Let’s do some damage in 2011!

Category: Feedback  | One Comment
To Pre-lap or not to Pre-lap Jan 10

PRE-LAPWhat the heck is Pre-lap?

I had a good discussion with some of my screenwriting friends last week about using “PRE-LAP” in a script. Since many hadn’t heard the term before, I thought I’d cover it on my blog for those who may be unfamiliar with it.

John August has an excellent post on the subject, on which he succinctly defines pre-lapping as follows:

Pre-lapping is when dialogue begins before we’ve cut to the scene in which it’s spoken.

Here’s an example of how it might be used in a script:


Simon kisses his mistress goodnight. Looks her up and down as she sashays to her car.




Guilt written all over his face, Simon gapes at his wife.


You are totally cheating! You can’t look at all the questions first.

She hurls a plastic Trivial Pursuit pie piece at Simon’s head, revealing a board game being played with ANOTHER COUPLE. They all laugh.


I never get away with anything.

Is it safe?

Notice how the impact of the scene(s) is dependent on the pre-lap setup? In my opinion that’s the only safe time to use it. Safe, meaning that readers should understand why you used it.

Pre-lap gets a bad rap (some readers hate it) because many writers use it simply as a  stylistic choice that would be better left up to the editor of the movie.

For example, it may not be wise to use PRE-LAP for a line of dialogue spoken over a quick establishing shot, even though you see it all the time in movies and television. The editor makes that call.

In the above example, I could have used: WIFE (PRE-LAP) instead of WIFE’S VOICE (PRE-LAP). But using the latter approach is more immediately clear that we’re not seeing the character speak the line.

Here’s another example of how PRE-LAP might be used effectively:


THUNK!  A woman’s dead body crumples into a truck’s cargo bed.

Simon yanks a tarp over her. Climbs astride the body, holding a baseball bat. Strikes the limp figure, again and again...


The brutality of man...


A spectacled FEMALE HOST speaks to a packed house.


... Never before have we been given such a startling glimpse into the mind of a remorseless serial killer. It gives me great pleasure to welcome bestselling author Simon Janus to the stage.

Amidst thunderous applause, Simon strides to the podium, all smiles.

The main point I wanted to get across with the above example is how there was a juxtaposition of the action of the first scene with the dialogue of the second scene. It provides an ironic impact to the sequence.

Bottom line: If you’re going to use PRE-LAP, it has to provide an extra punch to the scene(s) that isn’t merely stylistic.

Some final thoughts

PRE-LAP is sometimes written PRELAP (without the hyphen).

Some people, like Christopher Riley in his book, The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style, advocate only using V.O. (Voice Over) and not using PRE-LAP at all. And this Wikipedia page uses O.S. (Off Screen) in conjunction with PRELAP.

In my opinion, using PRE-LAP, when appropriate, easily avoids the confusion associated with O.S. (So she’s there in the scene?), or V.O. (So she’s narrating?), and is intuitive enough that new readers unfamiliar with the term will get it.

As writers we’re taught to use the perfect word for the given situation. In these instances, I say PRE-LAP is it.

What do you think about PRE-LAP? Do you use it? Would you use it?

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Category: Formatting, Style  | 9 Comments
Quick Screenwriting Tip: Trust Your Instincts Jan 07

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

If you think there might be something wrong with your scene, then there almost certainly is.

Don’t be lazy. Trust your instincts. Figure out what’s not working and fix it. Never say to yourself, “It’s just one scene.”

That one scene might make the difference between a Pass and a Consider.

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

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