As the semester continues here at Valdosta State, I am reminded of a few things. First, I am still not ready for tomorrow’s class, but I will be. Second, whatever I have to say keep this in mind – the majority of these students will not work for Steven Speilberg when they graduate; so, make the class beneficial for more levels than just screenwriting format and technique. And final, someone has already come up with all the answers – that’s why you have so many screenwriting books on your shelf.
And that’s true. I do have a lot of screenwriting books on my shelf. I’ve read a few, skimmed them all. Within those pages are all the answers, and some of them in the order in which you need them. But as I scoured my screenwriting books for just the right answer, I came across a 3 x 5 notecard in a copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay that I wrote during my first ever screenwriting class. A class which I only took to try to get back with my girlfriend, and thanks to the magic of registration – I got in and she didn’t. But that’s another story…
Upon this notecard is some wisdom which I will share with you now. Where it came from, I do not exactly know. Was it from a magazine? – very possible. I had subscriptions to CREATIVE SCREENWRITING and SUCCESS at the time. Was it from a website? – less likely, I’m old enough to have finished college before I had e-mail. Was it a pearl of wisdom from my instructor Danny Boyd? – Maybe, but if it was, I wouldn’t put it past him to have found them from somewhere else as well. He’s crafty like that.
So, here it is. According to my 25 year old notecard, Ten Steps to a Snappy Script (Use them wisely)
1) Know your job. You’re the writer – Not the director. Cut the camera angles.
2) Keep it in length 90 to 120 pages
3) Good scripts go from highlight to highlight, if it drags cut it or make it more exciting
4) Use interesting character names, Mr. Mulwray
5) Movies are made for characters
6) Give every character a distinctive voice
7) Beginning – Middle – End. Use Conflict. There must be a dramatic progression
8) Integrate Exposition — Spread it out.
9) Only write the kind of movie you want to see. Don’t write for the “market.”
10) Imagine the Poster* (that’s definitely a Danny Boyd item)
11) Rewrite It Again
12) Surprise Us
As I walk into my MDIA 3400 Broadcast Scriptwriting course, if nothing else, I have 12 things I can talk about.