Scriptwriters' Club

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by HoopyFrood, Jul 12, 2011.

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    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    Having tracked down and conversed with another scriptwriter grooving around here, I'm starting to think that there are more around here than one would imagine.

    So this is a call to bring the scriptwriters out of the woodwork.

    Since doing my Masters (technically a Creative one, but focused mainly on screenplays) I've been all about the scripts. It's kind of strange that it's taken me so long to realise this, seeing as I've always been such a fan of films -- and especially horror -- but up until undergraduate dissertation, I didn't know the first thing about writing them.

    I thought this could be a place to share our scriptwriting experiences, available software (I'm a big, big fan of Celtx -- free, and so easy to use), current pieces of work, things we're struggling with, and mainly knowing there are other scriptwriters out there that can help.

    I have a fair amount of know-how about scripts -- as with most courses, it was like the lid on my head was tipped open and the information poured in indiscriminately. Chatting earlier made me realise how much I miss talking about them! However, having only started getting into it all in the last year and a half or so, I'm still trying to piece it all together to write and chisel out a completed script. I also don't have any actual hands-on experience, and with the industry in general. I'm pretty sure there are some people out there *cough* Boneman *cough* who have, though, and I'd be very interested to hear about their experiences! *hint, hint*


    Currently I am still trying to find the perfect idea for my inevitable horror script. I have a ghost-based script that I wrote for my dissertation that I should really go back to. I found Paranormal Activity to be a brilliantly made film -- so subtle, but so scary because of it, no over-the-top crap that Hollywood cranks out -- and would love to create something like that.
     
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    TheDustyZebra

    TheDustyZebra Ninja agent Staff Member

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    Arrgh, it's taken forever for me to remember this thread at the same time that my computer was actually on! Sorry about that.

    I'm one of those people who would like to pick the brains of all the scriptwriters around here, as I've just gotten started on a script that occurred to me. I downloaded the Celtx program, thanks Hoops, but I haven't had time to figure out how to use it yet. It may be hampering me more than helping right now, because every time I sit down to think about the script I open that program and then sit there staring blankly at it and give up. Would it be a huge problem to transfer work from a word program into it after it was written, say just copy-and-paste?

    I like to read scripts on the IMDB script site -- particularly for movies that I have seen, as it's interesting to compare how it was written with how it was filmed. I found it very interesting looking at the script for Absolute Power a while back, because it is almost entirely action and not dialogue for quite a chunk of time. I'm not sure yet how much of that mine will have. It's a twisty kind of crime thing.
     
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    slack

    slack within the depths

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    I wrote a couple 10 page scripts last year when I began writing more seriously. Before that I had a horrible time writing anything longer than a couple hundred words because I was a perfectionist. I liked doing scripts because they helped teach me to write lean and focus more on the story, and I desperately needed that at the time.

    The format is actually pretty easy to master. I learned from a book called The Screenwriter's Bible, by Trottier (I think). It's just having to remember to write in the present and never include anything that cannot be represented on screen.

    I've read bits and pieces of Blade Runner, Alien, and Children of Men. I should see if I can get my hands on Pulp Fiction and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for free; I know those would be good reads.
     
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    J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    I have the Terminator script, and am going over it, replacing it line-by-line, just to see what happens. As an experiment. It isn't working out so well. It's been a year now. Oh well.
     
  5.  
    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    I read scripts a lot -- scripts are, after all, stories in their own right and can be fun reads. It's always a surprise how they differ to what actually appears on the screen. I remember entire scenes being left out of Sixth Sense. There was quite a moving scene with an old German guy and his dead wife, but it was similar to what happens at the end so probably wasn't necessary.

    I know Pulp Fiction is around on the web; I was reading through that once when it was on tv. Simply typing a search into Google usually brings something up, and there are quite a few websites that collect and link to scripts, pretty much always for free. Reading Quentin Taratino's stuff is interesting -- the guy can come up with brilliant stuff, but his grasp of grammar and spelling is somewhat iffy.

    DZ, I don't know how easy it would be to copy and paste -- a script is such a precise thing, that simply copying a wodge of text into Celtx won't put all the CHARACTER, dialogue, INT./EXT. and business in the right places.


    Because I was more into prose writing, the first time I wrote a script, I was a bit too verbose in the business. Scriptwriting certainly does help you lean down your writing and get to the bones of it. It's also helped with writing dialogue -- used to be useless at writing proper dialogue when I first started, but I think I've got to grips with it now. Something interesting that we looked at during the course was a section of real conversation between two people who barely knew each other (plumber and home owner). People constantly leave sentences hanging, make odd fill-in sounds, dance around what they're really trying to say -- and of course, every scriptwriter's power asset, subtext. The dichotomy between what people are actually saying out loud, and the real meaning below the surface. I'll have a think of some good examples and mention them here soon.



    Although Garth Marenghi would disagree: "I know writers who use subtext and they're all cowards. OK? What I was asking in that scene is: what if politicians continue to pay doctors peanuts, could they literally turn into monkeys? And no-one's asked that before."
     
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    ktabic

    ktabic Save punctuation!

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    I've tried the odd script now and again. And have a couple of ideas floating around for more scripts. Really need to spend more time scripting. (Need more time generally, really)
     
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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Good to see this thread. :)

    Am currently trying to script a comedy series for TV.

    However, not entirely sure if I've got the script format right. Hoopy, would you happen to know where I can find comedy scripts online? Just using a basic TV format one at the moment - I think!
     
  8.  
    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    I haven't tried tv scripts myself, but I think the standard tv format is fine for any of the genres. I think they tend to be more technical than film scripts (which are supposed to keep any aspects of technical features to an absolute minimum -- start talking about camera angles and lighting on you're on dodgy, dodgy ground).

    There's a site here with some templates and formats: http://www.robinkelly.btinternet.co.uk/formatcomedy.htm
    In fact, that site looks like a bit of goldmine. Just clicking on templates brings up a whole host links to software and etc for every aspect of scriptwriting, it would seem!

    There's also a group for writers of sitcoms: http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/SitsVac

    And something linked to this, the sitcom trials, which has regular performances of new writers' stuff -- you can check to see if anyone else has already nabbed your idea! www.sitcomtrials.co.uk

    (On such a note, apparently if you have an idea, write it down and copyright:date it (which is summat you have to do on the front page of a script anyway) it protects the idea itself).
     
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    TheDustyZebra

    TheDustyZebra Ninja agent Staff Member

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    J Riff, that sounds like something I would do -- what are you replacing it with, anyway? :)

    Hoopy, I was thinking of copying by bits and pieces and pasting into however it has to go in the Celtx program -- probably difficult, but I keep getting overwhelmed just looking at the program and not writing anything, so at least if I had to do it the hard way I would have *something*.
     
  10.  
    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    Yeah, often it's the just writing the thing that counts, and worry about the details after!
     
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    J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    I just changed the title, and took off on it to see what would happen, but it is very tough. I can't seem to get a program that lets me do all the centered titles and formatting, without going buggy fighting with the program itself.
    It is interesting though, to follow the pacing of something like Terminator, which is straight action, and is familiar to almost everyone. May get back to it yet.
     
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    Culhwch

    Culhwch My God, it's full of stars. Staff Member

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    Hey, Hoops, how did your ScriptFrenzy script go? I kind of (mumbles incoherently) and then (mumbles incoherently) so I never (mumbles incoherently)....

    Good idea for a thread. I tend to bounce back and forth between scripts and novels (never really finishing either, surprise surprise). I did a couple of screenwriting courses at uni, and even made a short film, and I've been interested ever since.

    Up until now I've always just used Word, which is fiddly, so I'll definitely check out Celtx.
     
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    Alex Mason

    Alex Mason Loremaster

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    Movies seem like such a superior storytelling medium to books because you can give so much detail (a picture is worth a thousand words they say), but I've found my efforts at scriptwriting to yield less thoughtful results than just writing plain stories. If only there was a program that could turn a regular story into a script format, with camera angles and such.
     
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    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    Er yeah, my ScriptFrenzy...er...oh, look over there, a distraction!


    OK, OK, enough of the third degree! I got half way through and ran out of steam. I was adapting a book which meant I was thundering along for the first couple of weeks, but then I think I just started to lose interest...Should do my own work next time, I think.

    Celtx is a flipping godsend (and they really need to start paying me for all this advertising). Honestly, if you've been placing everything by hand so far, the moment you type something into Celtx and it automatically goes into the right places, you'll shed a tear of joy.

    I'd be interested to hear about the stuff you were taught in your classes, Cul. Would be cool to see what other people teach in regards to it all.
     
  15.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch My God, it's full of stars. Staff Member

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    You did better than me, I got five pages in, three of which I had previously already written! And it was my own work!

    I was at uni a decade ago, and as I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night... The formatting is about the only thing that really stuck with me. As the thread continues and I manage to dredge anything else from the recesses of my memory I'll be sure to post it, though.
     
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    ktabic

    ktabic Save punctuation!

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    Honestly, I don't think this is true.
    A movie isn't the work of a writer. Its massively collaborative. It's the work of a writer, producer, director, DoP (and lead actors, special effects guys, wardrobe personnel...)

    The look and feel of a movie are probably more controlled by those other people than the writer.

    The writer might write the story, but the producer and director (and studio executives and preview audiences and big-name actors (if there is one)) will all probably request some sort of change to the scripts (for a nightmare version of that, see David Fincher's Alien 3 - the studio was still making changes the script after principal filming had finished)

    I'm reminded of an old Mad strip of the film writing process - the writer comes up with a modern day teenage coming of age emotional rollercoaster script involving sex, pregnancy and life changing events, and after the producer and director have finished with it, its changed into Cinderella.

    I'm now wondering why it was I wanted to write scripts.
     
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    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Cheers, Hoop - many thanks for that. :)
     
  18.  
    Moonbat

    Moonbat Luna tick

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    I have written a couple of screen plays, for horrow comedy films, one I finished and filmed, the other I almost finished but things changed and I never got round to filming it, its a shame really because I really thought it had some hilarious scenes in. I found that once I had written it (no mean feat) I got people (involved in the whole film making project) to read through it and tell what they think. It was hard to hear them wanting to cut out scenes I like, and I wasn't happy that they wanted more romance and so much more formulaic bits (like 1 main character instead of 6 and stuff) but in the end the changes made it better (i think).
    I have had a few ideas for other films that I would love to write into a screenplay, I think I'm better at writing a screenplay than a story, as there isn't so much worry about POV, and grammar and stuff, as mostly it is people talking and we all know that people talk in a veriety of different ways.
    I have read a bunch of screenplays and they do show you how concise they are, very little ever happens that isn't a plot point, which means that whenever something happens in the background of a scene (like two side characters talking as the main character walks past) I know that it is going to have a part to play in the main story somewhere along the line. Anyway, I would love to discuss scripts and I might actually upload some in the crititques section, as if I was to make another film it would help to get lots of opinions about the work.

    I've not used any special program, I just plough into msword and see what happens. There is some restriction over format if/when you want to send it to people to read, but usually its just some formatting and I don't think it is as important as they make out, but saying that if you do ever send anything off it HAS to be in the right format to even be looked at.
     
  19.  
    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Iago with a Blackberry

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    Thanks to an article in the Guardian that may have been the best thing I've read in a long time, I now have a new idea to work on.

    To anyone who asks, I describe it as "Fargo, but with a cow".

    In fact, I may keep that as a tagline.
     
  20.  
    Oskari

    Oskari Registered Lunatic

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    Celtx is great. Easy to use (once you understand the simple formatting required) and very cheap (free). A screenwriting program can really speed up the writing process, so it's of real value to spend a little time getting used to the program (it's really not a steep learning curve). Sure you can set up Word to do something similar, but I can tell you it will be a pain.

    Screenwriting is surprisingly quick, because most of it involves writing dialogue - and we all know how speedy passages of dialogue can be read when encountered in novels.

    Sometimes I can just sit in my favourite chair with a glass of wine and get lost in the screenwriting process, mainly because it tends to move forward so quickly.

    It's a great form of writing!

    PS: Two of my favourite books are plays by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. For me, the plays stand on their own as pure literature. I mean, I've never even seen Salesman performed as a play or film, and I don't feel it's necessary, either.
     

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