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Simple Screenplay/Screenwriting Tip

By Peter John Ross
Sep 20, 2005, 15:54

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This is geared towards first timers, but it’s an important step. I’m not one to dole out advice on writing or story, but a basic tip on “SCREENWRITING” and the basic format I feel I can say something constructive on.

Making a movie, whether it be a :30 second commercial, or 4 hour Lord of the Rings epic, but it’s metaphorically like building a house.
Using that metaphor, your script represents the base of everything a movie needs to be created on. Probably the most basic aspect to the format is the SLUGLINE (saying INT. for Interior, or EXT. for Exterior), and the ACTION lines, which as the paragraphical descriptions.

Recently I had read a screenplay by a first time writer/director. The first thing I read was a corrected SLUGLINE, but the ACTION lines said, “This is JACK, a guy in his early 20’s. He’s the kind of guy that graduated maybe a year before and hates his job. He’s tired and wants to go visit his girlfriend, still in college.” Now I read this and got it. I know the kind of guy he’s talking about. BUT…. How do you shoot that?

As I explained to my friend, if a cinematographer read that, they would have no idea what they are shooting or where to begin. You don’t have to write camera angels, but you do have to write, and subsequently only write what the camera will SEE. For the example, I said you could show a diploma with last spring’s date on it, or show graduation pictures hanging on the wall. Again, trying to explain the difference between writing for a script as opposed to a novel.

This cements the “blueprint” metaphor. You’re writing out what the shoot will be. Similarly, a lot of actors don’t like having the emotions written out for them in parenthesis. They want to discover them by reading and possibly interpreting them. This is sometimes called “acting.” And helping the actors find the character and working with said actors on how this fits into the scheme of the bigger story being told is called “directing”.

Peter John Ross & Sonnyboo Productions – Founded in 1999, Sonnyboo short films have played on 3 continents and at over 50 film festivals world wide. Projects directed by Peter John Ross appear on Tech TV, National Lampoon Networks, Movieola the short film channel, The “U” Network, and Vegas Indies TV. Sonnyboo films have been noted in such publications as RES Magazine, Ain’t It Cool News, Camcorder & Computer Video magazine, Film & Video Magazine, LA Weekly, Film Threat, the Village Voice, & Internet Video Magazine.


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