Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sam Mendes’

” A solid principle is to employ expository dialogue as the reaction to the events that take place before the lens (remember: show and then tell). Invent action or incidents as the provocation for dialogue, because exposition in film is much more interesting after the dramatic event as a comment (or perhaps an explanation) on it.”
Alexander Macindrick


“The senior writers at the film studios in London where I worked for many years used to delight in collecting examples of bad dialogue in screenplays. One of their favorites was ‘Look, Highland cattle!’ This was a quote from a particularly amateurish travelogue in which a character pointed off-screen, said this line, and the film cut to guess what? Those three words became shorthand for a piece of wholly unnecessary and redundant exposition used when the story was being told perfectly well solely through visual means. A good director will go out of his way, often in the editing process when he has both words and images in front of him, to gradually eliminate all lines that are absolutely not necessary.”
Alexander Mackindrick
On Film-making
Page 7

Here’s the opening scene (Spanish translation version) from the Breaking Bad pilot written by the show’s creator Vince Gilligan, and it’s a great example of visual and compleing storytelling with limited dialogue. You may not know what’s going on but it makes you want to know what happend and what will happen next. Much better than, “Look, Highland cattle!”—or even “Look, a meth lab!”

P.S. An interesting editing concept I picked up from Sam Mendes on the DVD commentary of American Beauty is looking at cutting the first line or two of the opening of the scene and doing the same at the end of the scene. American Beautywas Mendes’ first film and he discovered in editing that often times those lines weren’t needed. It’s an interesting exercise to read your script again from page one asking yourself— “If the opening and closing lines were edited out, would it make any difference?”

I’ve found that in reading many unpublished screenplays it’s not just cutting the opening or closing line or two in a scene that works, but often a line or two of dialogue within regular ongoing conversation in scene after scene.

Related post:

Is 110 the New 120?
The Four Functions of Dialogue (Tip #45)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Since in the past few days I’ve written about two Hollywood screenplays that not only featured mathematical geniuses (A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting) but both happened to win Oscars for their screenwriters.

So I thought it appropriate to crunch some numbers and look at the going script length of screenplays in the marketplace today.

This week I’m on the third rewrite of a script I’ve co-written. Some scenes were recently cut, some scenes were added. The script at the end of the second rewrite was at 110 pages, but like a diet gone bad on the third pass it actually started ballooning up to 118-119. Which would be okay if this was 1983. So radical steps were taken and the script got down to 109, then 105. Is it really necessary to obsess about page numbers like a John Nash nightmare? If you’re Aaron Sorkin, no, just keep writing. But if you’re not  Mr. Sorkin you may what to reconsider sending out that 120 page screenplay.

“Is 110 the new 120? – Up In The Air may clock in at 124 pages but that’s because Jason Reitman only has to impress himself. I have been seeing so many 100-110 page spec scripts lately. It’s so rare that one of the chunkier ones sneaks through that you begin to wonder if 120 is becoming the screenplay equivalent of standard definition. Of course, thrillers and comedies are naturally shorter. If you’re writing a drama, you can eek into 110+ territory. But I’d still look to keep it under 110. Readers are just used to it. And after being yelled at and ridiculed for 9 hours, these poor souls have to go home and read 3 professional scripts before they reach yours – the unknown writer – the one script they’ve been dreading and the one they know if they don’t like by page 20, they’re getting some shuteye. So don’t give them a reason to tune out before they’ve tuned in.”
SCRIPTSHADOW July 13. 2009

An interesting editing concept I picked up from Sam Mendes on the DVD commentary of American Beauty is looking at cutting the first line or two of the opening of the scene and doing the same at the end of the scene. American Beauty was Mendes’ first film and he discovered in editing that often times those lines weren’t needed. It’s an interesting exercise to read your script again from page one asking yourself— “If the opening and closing lines were edited out, would it make any difference?”

Obviously that simple concept didn’t hurt American Beauty as Mendes won the Oscar for Best Directing, screenwriter Alan Ball walked away with an Oscar for his script, and the movie won the Oscar for Best Picture.

P.S. If you’re planning on making your own film and are on a limited budget then the best reason to aim for a 9o pages is 90 pages is a legitimate length for a feature and the less pages you have to shoot, the less the film cost to make.

Screenwriting by Numbers (Tip #4)

Meet Your First Audience

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: