In 2011, writer/director Julia Leigh offered us a look at visual storytelling at its best in her Australian film Sleeping Beauty. Through careful, photographic composition and thoughtful connection of images, a story unfolds that is cinematic, beautiful, and haunting. All with minimal use of dialogue.
In this project, Leigh frequently trades exposition for visual interpretation which can be a difficult choice given (as evidenced by the body of critical and casual reviews) that the majority of viewers are more comfortable with a film that explicitly explains its every moment. Such a technique can be valuable not only in filmmaking but in all forms of storytelling; we may choose to paint our images and allow our audience the pleasure of interpretation rather than verbalizing our characters’ attitudes, and choices.
For a study in less-dialogue-is-more, have a look at the following: Read on …
Today I finished a fish-out-of-water comedy spec (with an A-list attachment) and sat back. I was full and happy. Hmmm. Now that’s an unusual feeling after reading a script. I scratched my head. How did the writer pull that off? I’ve covered a lot of good scripts but this one was particularly…vulnerable (in the best way).
The story is about a man who loses his job and must fend for his family in an unorthodox manner. He encounters truly funny, universally awkward situations. I rooted for him. I laughed. I shed tears.
The key to this script’s success? The main character is open and vulnerable because something close to him, or something he values, is always in jeopardy. It MATTERS to him. This is such a gift! It keeps the story pushing forward to the climax because he’s got to figure out problems, and one problem begets five related ones. We’re never bored.
I know what you’re thinking: This is SO obvious. Then why do I see plots with such IMPERSONAL problems like:
Saving the world. If you’re not Superman, I just don’t believe it. Even Batman limits himself to Gotham.
Living vicariously. Example: I read a story that focused on the B-character’s love life instead of the main character.
Trying to win over X but for not any reason that matters (stakes).
WHAT I’VE LEARNED: Show me why this character cares and I will follow him anywhere.
Snark the Reader is a reader in LA who has dug gems out of the slush pile, leaped tall buildings to show characters how to raise the stakes, and saved many a script from drowning.
If you haven’t heard, ScriptFrenzy month is nigh: April 1-30, 2010.
Whether you’re playing along or not, here’s a bit of sage advice for all writers from Greg Marcks–as posted on the ScriptFrenzy site.
I don’t have ten tips, or five tips, or even three tips. I can only give you one tip: Please, for the love of all that is holy, know your story before you start writing.
This is so much more difficult than it sounds. I always thought writing was exploratory, an attempt to exorcise a subconscious theme I was wrestling with. While this approach can work for short stories or short film scripts, it becomes unwieldy and time-consuming when tackling feature screenplays or novels.
BEFORE you type FADE IN:, plan the beginning, the middle, and the end.
This marks the first of what we hope will be many articles written for you, our readers, by you, our readers. As “How to Be a Script Reader and Give Great Coverage” continues to be one of our most popular posts (according to Google, anyway), we’ve invited a script reader living deep in the studio trenches to give us a peek into the inner workings of The Gatekeeper.
Many aspiring screenwriters probably look upon script readers as the enemy: that bitter, soulless person whose only job is to say “no” and crush the dreams of young writers. But that’s not entirely true. A good reader can be your best friend and your most valuable advocate – if you’re a good writer.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t read scripts solely to find problems with them; we’re desperate to discover something entertaining and enjoyable. Unfortunately, we are often are deluged with submissions from writers who have yet to learn the fundamentals of screenwriting. If you saw a script through my eyes, you’d understand. That is why I now present a “live feed” of my impressions of a recent script submission, Twitter-style at 140 characters or fewer at a time. Read on …