Author Topic: Common screenwriting mistakes  (Read 1024 times)

Daniel Botha

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Common screenwriting mistakes
« on: May 29, 2013, 04:51:52 PM »
Just stumbled across an interesting article on some common mistakes professional readers may stumble across in your screenplay. Some of these things I knew were wrong, but there are others that I've never considered a problem. Might be worth checking it out: http://www.tomlazarus.com/written-by-tom-lazarus-script-consultant/common-screenwriting-mistakes-that-ruin-your-screenplay.html

Alex

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2013, 05:14:23 PM »
Thanks Dan,

An interesting read and there where a few that caught my attention like....

ALL PRODUCTS ARE CAPITALIZED.  Coke, Corvette, The Wall Street Journal.

I have capitalized items before though only the relevant ones that I want to highlight. If I was going to capitalize all product then there may be more CAPS than lowercase !!!!

How far do you go with this? Sure Producers want the character to be eating a BIGMAC so they can get funds from macca's though is it up to us to highlight these or should the character be eating an "uncapped hamburger".

A guy is in a bar, does he pick up an pint of beer and drinks, or does he drink a HEINIKEN ???? The type of beer has no relevance to the story just like a COKE would not.

I hope you understand where I am coming from ?

Regards Alex
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frxntier

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2013, 12:39:33 PM »
This guy has some fairly solid writing credits behind him, but there are a few things I don't like.

Firstly, the blog post is written and formatted really badly. He has said that "in each of the examples cited below, the professional reader records these as mistakes" and then writes "ALL PRODUCTS ARE CAPITALIZED". I can only assume that he thinks this is a mistake (this is really just to answer Alex's concern, above). I hope he's not suggesting that all products should be capitalized.

In any case, my main concern with his post is with two items: "WE SEE, WE HEAR, WE FOLLOW, WE ANYTHING" and "CLOSE UP, WIDE SHOT, MATCH CUT". I really think this is simply a stylistic concern. I don't believe that using terms like this pulls the reader out of the screenplay (and, used well, these kinds of directions can actually draw a reader in).

Take, for example, some short sections from one of my favourite movies "American Beauty":

---

EXT. ROBIN HOOD TRAIL - EARLY MORNING

We're FLYING above suburban America, DESCENDING SLOWLY toward a tree-lined street.

LESTER (V.O.)
My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This... is my life. I'm forty-two years old. In less than a year, I'll be dead.

---

INT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MASTER BATH - MOMENTS LATER

Lester thrusts his face directly into a steaming hot shower.

ANGLE from outside the shower: Lester's naked body is silhouetted through the fogged-up glass door. It becomes apparent he is masturbating.


---

EXT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER

CLOSE on a single, dewy AMERICAN BEAUTY ROSE. A gloved hand with CLIPPERS appears and SNIPS the flower off.

CAROLYN BURNHAM tends her rose bushes in front of the Burnham house. A very well-put together woman of forty, she wears color-coordinated gardening togs and has lots of useful and expensive tools.


---

Now, to me, these particular points in the script ADD to what I'm imagining as I read it. It actually helps to tell the story. Yes, the director could film these any way he wanted to, but they match the narration. When Carolyn Burnham clips off the rose, it's important this is a close up and we only see a gloved hand.

It could be written:

A gloved hand with clippers SNIPS a single, dewy AMERICAN BEAUTY ROSE from its stem.

However, this does not introduce the flower first. It does not suggest we are to be focussing on the flower, and that the gloved hand enters later.

There is a place for suggesting what we are looking at, and exactly how we are to be looking at it, especially if the sequence contains no dialogue. The director still has the final say, but the writer is doing the work of suggesting how he thinks it should look. After all, he is the writer. It is up to him to convey the story through words.

Although by the tone of Lazarus' post ('the lowly writer'), a writer isn't all that important. I'd like to see him make a movie without a writer.

Mo

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2013, 12:27:08 AM »
I highly doubt any effort went into that article, I get the feeling he's just trying to get hits on his site. I mean look at the tags - Kim Kardashian sex tape? And he puts it there like four times! ;D

Mr. Blonde

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2013, 02:32:51 AM »
That's what I used to do to get views on my videos on my old YouTube account. I'd put anything that I figured would get people to show up to it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

frxntier

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2013, 11:52:49 AM »
Well, that's just dishonest. No wonder "Stigmata" was such a sh!t movie...

Nybabz

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2013, 06:35:35 AM »
fab! will pass it on. bb

Alex

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 12:21:16 PM »
I highly doubt any effort went into that article, I get the feeling he's just trying to get hits on his site. I mean look at the tags - Kim Kardashian sex tape? And he puts it there like four times! ;D

Hey Mo,

That's what the INDUSTRY is all about !!!! Getting "Clicks" the more traffic the greater your chances.
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Pia

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2013, 09:54:14 AM »
My first MP comment this month on my script was a big complaint about the font on the cover page!!!! Really??? How many spec scripts have these people read. It's quite acceptable these days. Bold underlined slugs too. In fact they're even preferred by most as they make it easier to locate scenes.  :)

Alex

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2013, 12:34:12 PM »
My first MP comment this month on my script was a big complaint about the font on the cover page!!!! Really??? How many spec scripts have these people read. It's quite acceptable these days. Bold underlined slugs too. In fact they're even preferred by most as they make it easier to locate scenes.  :)

Hey Pia, That would probably be my comment !!! Sorry if I upset you.

Not sure if anyone else mentioned the same though it did stand out like "Dogs balls in the moonlight". Hee Hee

Don't take it to heart as it is an opinion, and I'm sure you have had worse thing said over the years as we all have.

I did like your story and scored you a "very good" if that's any cancelation.

Alex
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Pia

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2013, 12:41:56 PM »
Yes, it was you. I'm not upset at all.  Just trying to get you to see that no one cares about the cover page font.  ;)

Alex

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2013, 02:51:48 PM »
Yes, it was you. I'm not upset at all.  Just trying to get you to see that no one cares about the cover page font.  ;)

TKS Pia, I'll write that off as a lesson. "Cover Page 101".

Happy for you to give me a spanking on my behind if you like !!!! Please... Please.... Just Kidding.

Alex
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Manowar

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2013, 01:24:10 AM »

Take, for example, some short sections from one of my favourite movies "American Beauty":

---

EXT. ROBIN HOOD TRAIL - EARLY MORNING

We're FLYING above suburban America, DESCENDING SLOWLY toward a tree-lined street.

LESTER (V.O.)
My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This... is my life. I'm forty-two years old. In less than a year, I'll be dead.

---

INT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MASTER BATH - MOMENTS LATER

Lester thrusts his face directly into a steaming hot shower.

ANGLE from outside the shower: Lester's naked body is silhouetted through the fogged-up glass door. It becomes apparent he is masturbating.


---

EXT. BURNHAM HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER

CLOSE on a single, dewy AMERICAN BEAUTY ROSE. A gloved hand with CLIPPERS appears and SNIPS the flower off.

CAROLYN BURNHAM tends her rose bushes in front of the Burnham house. A very well-put together woman of forty, she wears color-coordinated gardening togs and has lots of useful and expensive tools.


---


Hey, there! Thought I'd chime in. Don't take offense, but I personally loathe the "We See" and "We Hear" bits, though I occasionally used them years earlier. Yes, they pull me out of the story, and I realize that's just personal taste, totally subjective. But it does smack slightly of lazy writing, as if the writer couldn't come up with a creative way of saying the same thing without reverting to "We See" though, again, I understand a lot of readers are accustomed to the Hollywood shorthand--and that's probably the crux in my writing, since I'm not a fan of reading cues like "Montage" or "We See" and therefore not a fan of using them in my own SPs.

Maybe a more seasoned pro (Babz??) could break in here with their own comments, but from what I gather from reading dozens of SPs, oftentimes those who use "We See" and the like are already writing for hire, or are directors, and it is acceptable. But is it acceptable to those of us breaking in, and is it maybe expected? That's would I would like to know.

Darren Seeley

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Re: Common screenwriting mistakes
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2013, 09:39:07 AM »
To me, We see/hear is redundant.  I myself never have used it. I'm not big on those that do. My rule of thumb is, just show me and I'll see it. If there's a noise to be heard. write snap, crackle and pop and I'll hear it.

About the products/company thing.


While I agree it's better to be generic, some characters may have a preference, like Mr. Pibb over Dr. Pepper (see 'Slither')  In most cases though, it's a case of Red Apples (Pulp Fiction) or a fictitious company like  Advanced Idea Mechanics (Iron Man 3). It's the name of a product or business. But the problem with that is that I'll always get someone who reads something of mine and look up that fictitious company or product. Those few will get "confused" because they never heard of that brand before. I kid you not. But in any case, the point made in that blog was to cap the first letter in Proper Names, not just characters, but places and specific brands/companies.