Source: @ozzywood & @JeffHirschberg
#screenwriting #film #screenplay
“Throughout my years of screenwriting I have read and analyzed thousands of scripts from writers of all levels, including screenplays from my students at Buffalo State College, Cornell University, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, and R.I.T.’s School of Film and Animation. Here is what I discovered during this time:
1. Assume everyone has A.D.D.
There has never been a greater truism in Hollywood. While I am guilty of playing dime store psychologist, one does not need a PhD in Clinical Psychology to conclude that audiences (that means us) tend to have short attention spans.
“Attentiveness (or lack thereof) of the audience is directly related to its ability to make a successful emotional connection.”
Now, we can argue there are certain external factors contributing to a population of diminishing attention spans (MTV, video games, text messaging, IM, and the Internet to name a few possible culprits), but it is safe to say that the attentiveness (or lack thereof) of the audience is directly related to its ability to make a successful emotional connection – and that connection must be made quickly, or you will lose your audience even more quickly.
Readers, like moviegoers, need to be entertained very quickly.
2. Spend most of your time on the first ten pages of your script
In Gladiator, we are immediately engaged as we are introduced to our hero – General Maximus – and the respect he commands from the Roman army. Add an action-packed, bloody opening battle to the mix, and we are sold.
In Pulp Fiction, the first ten pages of the script feature a restaurant robbery and the prophetic musings of two unforgettable hit men. The dialogue is fresh, imaginative, and unrelenting in its pace and originality. If you are a reader perusing the screenplay, you undoubtedly want to continue turning the page.
When you are finished with your script, give the first ten pages to a group of friends or family you trust. Then ask each of them one simple question: “Do you want to read more?” If the overwhelming response is in the affirmative, you are on the right road to writing a memorable screenplay.
3. Write roles to attract movie stars
Create a memorable hero or villain and chances are you just might attract a movie star to your script. Why? Because characters like the heroes and villains featured in my book are unique, intelligent, and intriguing people with magnetism to spare. Who wouldn’t want to play Hans Gruber, Norma Rae Webster, Hannibal Lecter, Ellen Ripley, or Gordon Gekko?
You may also want to watch films that feature Academy Award-winning roles.
Movie stars can buy anything from Porsches to Picassos; they have adoring fans throughout the world who will wait for hours to get a glimpse of them; and they are told by sycophantic agents, managers, attorneys, studio executives, PR professionals, writers, producers, and directors that they are nothing less than the great Da Vinci reincarnated.
“Who wouldn’t want to play Hans Gruber, Norma Rae Webster, Hannibal Lecter, Ellen Ripley, or Gordon Gekko?”
But, they cannot buy the respect an Academy Award affords them. So, if you can write a juicy role that will attract the attention of one or more movie stars, you just might find yourself in the midst of a studio bidding war.
4. Write economically
Throughout my years of writing and reading screenplays, one of the most common mistakes I have experienced is “overwriting.” This phenomenon often falls into two categories: 1) verbose stage direction; and…….”