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Archive for August, 2011

William Akers – Only one line space after FADE IN: ? Aug 27

Screenwriting: Modern CraftWhat the eff?

So I was happily writing an article about common mistakes people make on the first page of their script, when I recalled a suggestion by William M. Akers, that I’d previously written about.

In his great book, “Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 ways to make it great,” he advises the following (on page 203):

… take a gander at the fact that FADE IN: has one space underneath it. If you’re like me and you have two spaces above every slugline (or “Scene Heading” in Final Draft) then you’ll need to adjust the very first slugline so FADE IN: only has one space below it.

Good advice right? Ever since reading his book, it’s bothered me whenever I’ve seen the double line spacing after FADE IN:

But here’s the problem… I can’t find any real world examples of this rule having been implemented! NOT A SINGLE ONE. At least not from professional or production scripts, or spec scripts that later sold.

Instead what I found after going through my script library was:

  • When scripts have two line spaces above the scene headings, there are two line spaces after FADE IN:
  • When scripts have one line space above scene headings, there is one line space after FADE IN:

Sorta logical really. Hmm…

What do the screenplay formatting guides say?

Here’s what I checked:

The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley

Curiously, neither formatting guide offers any insight into the line spacing that should come after a TRANSITION. And definitely nothing prescriptive of a single line space after FADE IN: (At least nothing I could find.)

To top it off

You’d think if there were an industry standard for such a thing, the screenwriting program, Final Draft, would automatically correct the error for all of the transitions. But alas it does not.

What do you do?

I want to hear from you. Do you follow William Akers’ rule (i.e. one line space after FADE IN: even though you have two line spaces above your scene headings)? Can you cite a non-amateur script example of Akers’ rule being followed?

Mr. Akers — if you happen by this site, I’d love it if you could send me an email to discuss, or post a comment below, to explain the discrepancy.

Does anyone else obsess over these kinds of details like I do?… On a Friday night… [cough]

Make your characters L.I.E. Aug 15
Bad Santa

More likable?

“(s)he’s not likeable”

Have you ever received a note back on your script telling you that your main character isn’t likable enough? It’s very common.

But what does that really mean? The protagonist isn’t friendly?

Maybe. But it could also mean that the character isn’t multi-dimensional or engaging.

That’s why when you hear “likability” you should think in terms of…

making your characters L.I.E. (Likable, Interesting, Entertaining)

Likable

This is the obvious one. Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! book is so named because many movies have a scene early on where the protagonist does something akin to saving a cat — to show that (s)he’s a good person. The idea here being that you’ll be more likely to get behind such a decent character.

It doesn’t always have to be a heroic or kind-hearted act that makes you root for a character though. Really, likability is about empathy. So depending on the character you’re trying to develop, often times there will be a scene early on where your protagonist is beaten down, taken advantage of, or otherwise disadvantaged in some way.

Or if your protagonist is a jerk, we see what makes them tick. That way even if we can’t relate to their situation, we can certainly understand why they are the way they are and we’ll start to root for them.

Interesting

Is there something intriguing or mysterious about this character? A flaw that can be shown? Something peculiar about the way the character acts or speaks. Blake Snyder used to call this “giving your character a limp and an eye patch.”

It really works though. We like to watch characters that have something interesting going on. Something that shows we’re watching a fully fleshed out individual, with many layers, and not just a mere archetype.

Entertaining

Ideally you want your audience to be smiling when they watch your character. Smiling doesn’t mean that it’s funny necessarily — it just means the character is entertaining in some way.

Is (s)he super smart? Super clueless? Does (s)he intimidate people? Does (s)he flaunt the rules? Figure out what makes your protagonist entertaining, then play that up!

“Likability” just means that the audience likes to watch your character, not that (s)he’s a saint. So don’t forget to make your characters L.I.E.!


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Category: Characters  | 4 Comments
Skins – Naomi and Emily (Naomily) [video] Aug 13

Some Saturday Fun

Skins | Naomi and Emily (Naomily)There’s a really engaging TV series in the UK, on Channel 4 (E4), called Skins (not to be confused with the short-lived MTV version). Part raunchy drama, part teen comedy, the BAFTA-winning show is packed with gripping characters and storylines.

It’s made all the more impressive by the fact that the entire main cast is replaced every two years! (And you thought Glee was harsh!) On top of that, each episode focuses on a different character that you can’t help but love by the end of the hour.

On seasons/series 3 and 4 there were two stand-out characters — Emily and Naomi (known as Naomily by their legions of fans); fearlessly played by Lily Loveless and Kathryn Prescott.

Their two-season journey was exciting, poignant, surprising, touching, agonizing and uplifting. Everything you’d want in a story arc. So much so, that I decided to use my screenwriting sensibilities to create [say this next part in your head with an ominous echo] the ultimate Naomily Youtube video!

It’s called “Naked.” (Settle down, no one’s actually naked. It’s a play on the many definitions of the word, like exposed, raw, vulnerable… Plus the main song used is “Naked” by Tracy Bonham.)

Why spend the time to make such a video?

A few reasons:

1. I love the show.

‘Nuff said.

2. The challenge.

How do you distill two seasons into a video that’s under ten minutes in length, present it in a way that’s fresh, and hone the story so that it can stand on its own?

It involved doing what all good screenwriters do — strip everything out until you’re left with only the story you want to tell. Similar to writing a script, there were so many wonderful scenes that I wanted to include but didn’t support the main narrative, so they had to go. It was a really good exercise in killing your darlings.

3. To create something visual.

We toil away for years in our darkened rooms, writing stories that we hope will sell or, dare we dream, actually dance across the silver screen one day. Sometimes it just feels nice to be able to create something that people can see right now and say, “Wow.” (Of course an original short film would be better, but…)

The resulting video utilizes non-linear storytelling, and synchronizes key actions and scene cuts to the music, to enhance the emotional punch. In doing so, hopefully it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Let me know what you think!

Warning: Lesbians!

This video doesn’t contain any nudity or significant swearing, and would probably be acceptable by late-night network television standards (tame by cable television standards). However, it does contain several scenes of girls kissing, etc. So if you’re homophobic, or lesbi-antsy, you might want to stay away from this vid… But if you do, you’ll be missing out on something rather beautiful.

Can’t see the video above? Want to download it?
Naomily.avi (Optimized for Windows | 1280 x 720 | 174 MB)
Naomily-iPad.mp4 (Optimized for iPad/Mac | 1024 x 768 | 125 MB)

FYI – The first three seasons of Skins can be streamed through Netflix or Amazon. The fourth season DVDs can be rented or purchased through the same.

Is Netflix the best resource for screenwriters? Aug 08

The DialogueNetflix. What is it good for?

Absolutely… something!

Netflix has received some (probably warranted) bad press recently, due to their significant price hike. But if you can afford to shell out the cash for at least one more month, you’ll be able to take advantage of one of the best resources for screenwriters anywhere.

I’m not talking about their movie selection (though that’s good too). I’m talking about one specific set of DVDs known as The Dialogue.

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters

Hosted by Mike De Luca (Producer of dozens of diverse movies including: Boogie Nights, American History X, Austin Powers, The Social Network), the series consists of in depth interviews with some of Hollywood’s elite screenwriters.

Here are just a few of the 27 screenwriters interviewed:

- Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes)
– Scott Rosenberg (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Con Air)
– David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins)
– Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale)
– Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air, X-Men First Class)
– Peter and Bob Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary)
– Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens)

The DVDs are only few years old, and will give you the best bang for your Netflix buck.

Not only are the interviews insightful as to the process of screenwriting, they will certainly open your eyes to the business of screenwriting as well.

I can’t recommend these DVDs enough. Each 80 minute interview is jam-packed with incredible tidbits of knowledge you can only learn straight from the pros. These are MUST SEE DVDs guys.

Note: The full set of DVDs are also for sale on Amazon.com.

Update: Apparently Amazon isn’t selling these interviews in DVD form, but they are streaming and making them available for download (for a small fee). Here’s a link to one of my favorite interviews, Nicholas Kazan (Matilda, Fallen).


Professional script critique, logline and page notes for $59.
(Yup, the rumors are true. It’s the best frikken deal on the web.)
The Three Ps Aug 06

The Three PsThe Glee Project

Is anyone else out there watching The Glee Project? For those who don’t know about it, The Glee Project is a pretty cool little talent show on the Oxygen network that gives the winner a seven episode character arc on the upcoming season of Glee.

Now that’s what I call a prize!

The Three Ps

Anyway, there was a recent episode where Max Adler (who plays the closeted bully, Dave Karofsky) was giving some advice to the contestants, and mentioned the three Ps, as the secret to success.

Passion

Persistence

Patience

How excellent is that?! I’d never heard that one before. A great reminder for actors, singers, screenwriters and anyone else pursuing a dream.

Do you have all three?


Professional script critique, logline and page notes for $59.
(Yup, the rumors are true. It’s the best frikken deal on the web.)
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