Friday, February 3, 2017

Writing Screenplays

A popular post from July 2009

By Julie Wright

My daughter wants to be an actress. She's beautiful and talented and would likely succeed in such an endeavor. She goes to movies and critiques the acting. I go to movies and critique the dialogue and plot twists. Then we go home and argue about why we did or did not like a movie based on our version of critique.

"He's the worst actor ever!" She'll rant. "Did you hear how clumsily he delivered that line?"

"It's not his fault. The line was stupid. No actor could've delivered it right because it didn't belong in the scene in the first place." This is my response.

She made the mistake of arguing that I was wrong. That a great actor could deliver a terrible line and still make it great. And she might be right a little but she's also wrong. It is true that a great line delivered poorly is a bad reflection of the actor. And it is true that a poor line delivered well makes the poor line a wee bit better. But the big truth is that all movies, plays, TV shows start with the writing. The writing has to come first.

I watched a movie the other day which I am sure robbed me of much needed IQ points. When the credits rolled, I looked over to my husband and said, "That is an hour and forty eight minutes of our lives we will never get back."

The writing MUST come first. A screen writer cannot depend on a hunky famous actor to cover up their poor writing for a couple of reasons:

1.The hunky famous actor will likely never sign up to act in a poorly written screenplay (not if their agent has anything to say about it).
2.Stupid is stupid no matter who says it.

I've worked on movie sets and sets for TV series. I've read a lot of scripts in the down time during filming when my particular job wasn't required. I've seen a lot of poorly written scripts and a lot of excellent ones. I've even written a few scripts (some grossly poor, and some better than average).

Consider your favorite TV series, or movie, heck even consider your favorite commercial. Who gave it to you? A writer.

A good writer.

There are many writers who would love to break into the Hollywood scene. People imagine more money exists there for the person with literary dreams. Shakespeare figured out the same thing with his plays. The truth is that more money does exist in Hollywood for writers. Someone who sells two one-hour scripts can (on average) make forty thousand dollars a year--a little less than the average annual wage of a teacher. But still, it beats the average of the poet's annual wages.

So how do you make your voice stand out above all the others clamoring to be on the writing team for Lost? Oddly enough it's the same for standing out for publishers of novels. You must demonstrate your talent, and abounding professionalism.

Professionalism means you need to know how the industry works, how to format a script, and how not act like a jerk.

Some great resources for would be script writers can be found in the Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J Michael Straczynski. Screen writing is a better page-for-page paid gig than novel writing if you are someone who NEEDS to tell stories. But it's a long haul--like novel writing. If it's something you want to do--you gotta read the above mentioned book. I'll drop in during the next few weeks with some advice of my own.

While you're writing your screenplay, please keep in mind that I don't want my IQ to drop any more than it has. Write something brilliant so my actress daughter can tell me how great actors are. Don't worry; I know where the credit really goes.


L.T. Elliot said...

I said that same thing about a movie I saw recently too. I wonder if we saw the same one. ;)

Kimberly said...

I'm an equal opportunity mocker. I'm forbidden to talk during the movie but I do often grimace or sometimes even let out snorts of derision. It makes me feel superior, don't'cha know.

You're so spot on with this post though.

Danette said...

I know this doesn't have to do with screenplays, but I just read your "eyes like mine" and I do have to say, BRILLIANT. I loved the humor, all of it. Great job.

Julie Wright said...

Danette, you made my day, and I really needed someone to make my day. Thanks for reading and for giving me feedback. You are fabulous!