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Archive for November, 2011

Which type of person are you? Nov 23

Two Types of People

There are two types of people in this world – those who are bothered by small mistakes, and those who are not.

And what’s interesting is that both types have a hard time believing that the other type really exists.

“How can you not see that mistake?”

“No one else cares about that stuff!”

Ever been on either side of that argument?

funny pictures of cats with captions

For example, yesterday a friend of mine asked me to look at a YouTube video she’d just created to promote her new landscaping business.

Among other things, I suggested that she correct a typo on one of her slides. It read:

“Regular site visits ensures a smooth installation process.”

Did you spot the mistake? It should have read:

“Regular site visits ensure a smooth installation process.”

And what was her verbatim response when I told her about the typo?

“I can live with it.”

You can live with it, but can you succeed with it?

Remember, what’s no big deal to you, may be a big deal to someone else. And that someone else may be the person deciding whether or not to give you their business, or push your script further up the ladder.

Baboon Sniper - No Big Deal

Baboon snipers roaming the neighborhood? No big deal.

All things being equal, it’s better to have a polished script than an unpolished one. Both types of people respond well to a lack of mistakes, so it’s a much safer play.

Sure, it’s difficult to eradicate every single typo from your script. But it’s usually the cumulative effect of the mistakes that’s the problem. If you push past someone’s tolerance for errors, you’re done. And many people have a very low tolerance.

Even billion dollar companies make mistakes

Here’s an image another friend of mine, on the other side of the equation, sent me yesterday. Can you spot the mistake?

Take a... peak?

And what did my friend say in his email?

“I thought you might feel my pain.”

Pain!

It goes without saying, if you can avoid giving your reader pain that’s probably the way to go. It’s okay if you don’t quite get why these kinds of mistakes are irksome — you just need to know that they are, to many of the decision-makers reading your script.

They’re already looking for a reason to pass on your screenplay. Don’t give them an easy one! Make sure your script is as polished as possible.

Which side of the fence do you fall on?


Category: Writing  | 6 Comments
5 Things to Consider When Incorporating Feedback Nov 18

I have a few friends who have a hard time knowing what to do with the feedback they receive on their scripts. So for all you similar screenwriters out there, this post’s for you.

(Note: This post has little to do with the development phase where you’re incorporating notes from executives. It deals with the rewriting phase of your script where the only people who have seen it are friends, family, peers, script consultants, etc.)

5 Things to Consider When Incorporating Feedback

Script Feedback1. Does it resonate with you?

If the note you receive on your script doesn’t make sense to you, you should never incorporate it. There has to be some recognition of its inherent validity for it to be considered. Never follow a note blindly, no matter who’s giving it to you.

2. Is everyone saying the same thing?

While it’s important to stay true to your artistic vision, ultimately you want a script that appeals to your audience. If you consistently get the same note back from your respected readers, you need to seriously consider incorporating it.

3. Does it hint at an underlying or alternate problem?

Suppose you’re absolutely sure that some story beat needs to stay in your script, yet your readers keep flagging it. It’s entirely possible that the setup to the beat, or some other aspect of the scene or script needs tweaking. Part of your job is to read between the lines of what people are saying.

4. Are you resistant to a suggestion because of the work involved in correcting it?

Sometimes we’ll bristle at a suggestion, and immediately think, “No frikken way!” Usually that happens when the suggestion involves a major change.

When you receive such a note, take a deep breath, let the feedback wash over you for a couple of days, then try to evaluate it as dispassionately and honestly as you can. If you decide the feedback is valid, it might take you a few extra weeks, even months, to rewrite your script, but that’s a much better alternative than hoping no one else will see the problem… because I promise you they will. You’ve come this far, you might as well give your script the best chance of selling.

5. Who’s giving you the note?

If you’ve just written a raunchy teenage comedy and your grandma thinks some of the lines are too offensive… you should probably take that with a grain of salt.

But that’s an easy call. Often you’ll have peers who are accomplished in one particular genre, but may not have expertise in your genre. Or maybe you’ve given them harsh criticism on their last script and they’ve been itching for some payback.

On the other side of things, if someone who’s been around the block for a number of years tells you something that no one else has told you, it’s possible they’re bang on with their feedback and they’ve seen something that more casual readers have missed.

Either way, make sure you run the feedback through all five of these litmus tests before you start incorporating it. And remember, no one knows your story better than you do.

How do you process feedback?


Do you write active scene descriptions? Nov 16

Make your objects move!

There’s a reason that scene description is also known as “action lines.” It’s important that your descriptions contain the feeling of movement, even when none actually exists.

Here’s an example of a weak way to describe objects at a location (i.e. bad writing):

INT. CABIN – DAY

Stacks of dusty boxes are everywhere.  There’s a deer head on the wall.

Blech. How can we make that better? Let’s make the objects come alive with a couple of simple changes.

INT. CABIN – DAY

Stacks of dusty boxes pack the room.  A deer head stares from the wall.

Not fantastic writing, but you get the idea. Giving your objects an action (even though they’re not moving) brings your scene description to life.

There was no character in this scene. But if there was, one of the active ways to introduce objects in a scene is to have your character(s) interact with them.

For example:

INT. CABIN- DAY

Steve pushes through stacks of dusty boxes. A deer head stares at him from the wall.

And don’t forget to use the active forms of your verbs whenever possible.

Active Scene Description


Category: Scenes, Writing  | 2 Comments
New Script Proofreading Service Nov 14

New Script Proofreading ServiceProfessional Script Proofreading

In addition to providing insightful script notes, I’ve recently been proofreading screenplays for clients who have asked for it. I figure there might be others who could use a low cost proofreading service, so I’ve decided to make it an official option.

You can now have an eagle-eyed professional proofread your script for only $89.99. Every line. Every word. Every punctuation mark.

As I’m sure you already know, typos and other mistakes can give the wrong impression to a reader. It’s a quick hop from believing a writer is sloppy, to believing the writing must also be sloppy, to giving your script a pass.

There are three things you can count on:

  1. Spell check won’t catch all of your errors.
  2. We all make mistakes that we become blind to after a while.
  3. There are still errors in your script!

So let me catch those mistakes before someone that really matters does.

Special Incentive

Think your script is perfect? The first person who sends me a script that contains no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors will receive a full refund.

What have you got to lose? Try my new script proofreading service today.

What’s The Best Part Of An Action Movie? Nov 14

Face/OffFace/Off

I hadn’t seen John Woo’s 1997 action masterpiece — FACE/OFF — for over a decade. So when it came on T.V. the other night, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit (and try to remember) what I had loved so much about the movie in the first place.

Here’s what I quickly discovered… The best part of that action movie had absolutely nothing to do with the action.

In fact, when I first started watching it again, I thought it was horrible! Over-the-top action sequences. Cartoon-like villains. Ridiculous set-ups… It made me start to question everything I held dear in the action movie pantheon of my mind. What other cherished movies would crumble under the weight of mature, modern day scrutiny? Maybe those Ewoks really did ruin Return of the Jedi?

But then it happened… The movie got past its crazy set-up (an FBI Agent switches faces with a deranged killer in order to stop a bomb plot), and settled in to one of the most entertaining action movies of the last couple decades.

And it did it, not because of amazing action sequences (although there were many to follow). It did it because of the slower moments — the absolutely delicious scenes where each character had to impersonate the other character, and fool everyone around them, in order to achieve their agenda. We got to see Nicholas Cage doing an excellent uptight John Travolta, and John Travolta doing an exceptionally crazy Nicholas Cage.

On top of that there was a ton of dramatic tension — where we know more than the characters do. The killer and sex fiend comes in contact with an unknowing wife and daughter who thinks he’s their husband and father respectively — and pow! This movie becomes supercharged.

Better Than The Action?

Quite often in great action movies, the best or most enjoyable parts aren’t the “actiony” parts at all.

Let’s look at the quintessential action movie: DIE HARD. Quick, what’s your favorite scene?!

Is it the scene where John McClane meets Hans Gruber, who’s pretending to be a frightened employee, and gives him his gun? Is it John McClane cracking jokes in the air duct? How about that coked-out Ellis guy who liked to say words like, “booby” and “capiche”?

Hans... Booby! I'm your white knight.

Seriously, this guy was awesome.

There was a ton of brilliant, innovative action in that movie, but odds are you remember some of the quieter moments as much as the more animated ones.

It’s something to definitely keep in mind when you’re crafting your action story. Never neglect the scenes between the explosions, as they’ll probably be your most memorable ones, and what resonate most with your audience.

What’s your favorite action movie? Does it have equal parts brilliant action and brilliant drama?

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Category: Action Movies  | 3 Comments