Thursday, June 6, 2013

Screenplays by Craig Batty

Craig Batty. Screenplays: How to write and Sell Them. Harpenden, Herts, U.K., 2012.

Screenwriting is creating writing, It is written in an active mode in the present tense.

Final Draft has a screenplay outline. A screenplay includes a slugline, or screen heading, indicating where a scene is set. The shows INT. for an interior setting and EXT. for an exterior setting. The screenplay continues with scene actions, or scene direction, character names, character dialogue, with parentheses underneath the character name to indicate how dialogue should be stated if not obvious for the dialogue, and scene transactions for specific effects.

Short films often present one emotion or one events with focus and often are experimental. Feature films explore more emotions and themes while remaining tightly focused, and usually are traditional yet can be experimental. TV series analyze more characters in more depth.

To find ideas, look around. A writer should consider what the write wishes to tell. There are no rules in developing ideas. One often analyzes possibilities and considers divergent ad convergent thinking. Process and process ideas. Tell and retell ideas. Consider unexpected situations. Determine important elements, themes, and capture imagination, style, and tone that will capture an audience.

Screenwriters often write a scene by scene step outline. They may write a treatment of a fully determined story.

“Casting the world” is when the author creates the characters, develops a protagonist, creates the antagonist, and develops the other characters and their relationships to the world and to each other.

“Structuring the world” is when the author creates the plot, emotions, arc, pace, and actions.

“Viewing the world” is creating the dialogue and determining how the words affect attitudes, perspectives, and topics.

“Theming the world” considers genre and how themes affect characters and how they communicates these themes.

Compelling screenplays are often unique or specific, vivid in detail, and authentic in internal logic.

Hone characters until they find their true voices.

The “defining problem” is what makes characters react that creates the story. “Power questions” consider characters and their desires, needs, dreams, rears, strengths, weaknesses, and problems.

“Backstory questions” give more details after characters.

Consider how characters react to each other, how others react to them, what their backstories are, what they wear and would not wear, how they compose themselves in situations, what their homes are like, what vehicles they drive, where they spend their earnings, their speech patterns, how they speak to those of higher social status, how they speak to people younger and less experienced, their vocabularies, culture, politics, religion, and what they don’t talk about.

Consider the cast design. Who is in conflict and who is friends with the protagonist, who likes and dislikes who, how are characters connected, what make them distinctive, ad what binds them?

The psychological work of Carl Jung and Rollo May examines character functions, how all characters reflect the protagonist, and the need of the protagonist to integrate the qualities of others to achieve goals.

Minor characters often illuminate either major characters and mirror the theme. They often create innovation.

Story structure is important and integral

A journey is both physical and emotional.

The three act structure is:
Act 1: Beginning / Setup / Establishment, including the inciting incident; which is about one fourth the screenplay.
Act 2. Middle / Confrontation / Complications; which is about one half the screenplay.
Act 3. End ‘/ Resolution / Re-establishment; which is about one-fourth the screenplay.

The inciting incident usually occurs in the first 10 to 15 pages.

The Tentpoles of a screenplay are Status Quo, Inciting Incident / Catalyst, Turning Point, End of Act 1, Act 2. Midpoint. End of Act 2, Turning Point, Hardest Choice, Climax  / Final Battle, Resolution, and End.

Sequences in screenplays are establish the story, the inciting incident occurs, creating the plot goal, the the protagonist confronts the problem leading to the end of Act 1, the protagonist acts but the problem remains the protagonist tries harder but faces further obstacles as they stakes increase leading to a mid-point that often creates a new direction, the protagonist adjusts to the mid-point with a new plan, the new plan fails which ends Act 2 and shows the low point where all seems lost, the biggest battle involving the hardest choices creates the climax, often with a false resolution or unexpected twist, and the final resolution of action and emotion.

Alternate structure uses multiple protagonists and parallel stories.

Non-linera immersive storytelling may lack a main character lack a main plot, and have no cause and effect. The audiences becomes participant instead of observers.

Screenwriters must write visually. A screenwriter should think visually. Write in visual grammar including visual actions that give meanings to characters.

Consider setting locaitons that are appropriate to and could create some spice to a story.

A valued object is one that reflects the theme, is seen at least three times, charts a character’s physical and/or emotional growth and often creates humor.

A motif is a recurring image.

A screenwriter exploits the elements of the screenplay’s genre.

Theme is a statement of perspective or judgement.

The Central Dramatic Question drives the plot. The Central Thematic Question drives the emotion.

A scene presents actors and emotions, develops plot and characters, and is a unit of exchange where things occur.

A screenwriter should determine what drives a scene The scene must continue the plot. A scene allows the audience to live the story.

Scenes should often start as late and end as early as possible.

A screenwriter should consider narrative economy, flow, character, and justification when writing a sequence.

A screenwriter should consider focused, tight, and meaningful conversation. Often, write as little as possible to give the desired meaning. Avoid redundant words like “ well, so, ummm, but, yes, no, etc. Use expressive words like Really, It’ can’t be, Oh my God, Yes please, S/he said what, and This can’t be happening.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Writing the Science Fiction Film by Robert Grant

Robert Grant. Writing the Science Fiction Film. Saline, MI.: McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., 2013.

Science fiction requires that science be in the story. The science does not have to be real. Fantasy films are different as they do not rely on science.

Some types of science fiction films involve time travel, space travel, post-apocalyptic worlds, alternative histories, alien beings, alien worlds, robots, superpowers, transformation, and mutation

Cyberpunk stories are about future, high tech societies, with evil corporations and corrupt governments in control with a hero or groups of heroes rising to help the “have nots” of society.

Steampunk are circa Victorian era stories with far advanced innovations.

Alien stories include first contact stories, alien invasions, and monsters.

Apocalyptic event stories, or disaster movies, have Earth falling apart. Some are set in a post-apocalyptic future, after global disaster divides people into “haves” and “have nots”. Dystopian future stories are grim Utopian future sotires often appear happy but with grim undertones.

Space Westerns and Space Operas often have good and bad guys similar to Westerns. It is advised to avoid re-telling old tales and avoid relying on Western movie cliches.

The Military Science Fiction stories are like most other combat stories except wiwth aliens, robots, and high tech weapons.

Superhero and Superpower stories have a hero fighting for justice using supernatural powers.

Mundane Science Fiction deals with real science.

When considering story ideas consider “What if...?”. Consider what is taking place, including new future, with shows things with which people may identify, or the far future which allows greater creativity. Consider known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown un-knows

Know your story’s hero and what the hero brings to the story.

The author believes sidekicks are duplicative and not necessary. What is useful in a story is a hero’s buddy, best friend, or assistant. This second character can provide Muscle to the hero’s intelligence, or can provide comic relief. This second character should have a reason for being there, should not distract, have knowledge or a skill the hero lacks, and should have a contrasting personality.

Consider character to character relations to each other and what to which factions they belong, what factions exist, and whether they are friends or foes.

Consider why a villain exists, what made the villain villainous, how the villain related to the hero, what drives the villain, and what does the villain fear.

Characters with human characteristics and should not be stereotyped.  Common hunan heroes are Alpha Males, the Nerdy Guy, the Al Action Girl, the Best FriendGirl, the Sassy Best Friend, and the Nice Normal Guy

Character names should reflect their personalities and roles, be age (era) appropriate, be usual and unusual, not be similar, and if alien, should not be Earth names. Avoid names that end with an “s” as they are difficult to read.

Consider how similar and dissimilar to humans are the alien characters. GIve them a purpose for being in the story. Consider the universal laws of physics and of organic bodies where each structure of their bodies have purposes.

Consider whose point of view is telling the story.

Develop an exciting plot. It should have rising conflict. The ending should be satisfying. The story should be strong, have lots of conflicts, should aoid being delayed with too many characters, and should constantly move foward.

The story should have a central question or establishing theme. Do not use cliches.

Choose a setting for the story. Consider how the setting changes as the story advances.

The author advises having alien worlds with multiple cultures. An alien world should have consistency, be natural, obey the laws of physics, and should be authentic.

A good technological advance should look like magic. Thus write the magic to make the viewer believe the science fiction. Don’t write contradictory facts. Try for the Right Science. Avoid the Lazy Science of unbelievable plots.

Robot stories are actually about what we identify in being human.

Traveling through space affects the human body in numerous ways. Realism will note these changes.

In reality, one sees where a laser beam hits but not the beam itself.

There is no air pressure outside a spacecraft, There also is no sound in space.

Dialogue should be how people speak. Most people speak informally. Where appropriate, street slang can be used.

When creating an alien language, consider how ti should sound. Use the same lexicon throughout.

Exposition can be hidden Exposition can also be disguised and Exposition can be made into Dramatic Turns.

Flashback s a cheat for lazy exposition is bad. Yet flashback can work when telling an important part of the story.

Montage can use flashes through time, either flashbacks or flashforwards.

Avoid using adverbs that end in -ly.

A script can began in numerous ways, including a normal day, the starting point, with a foreshadowing event, with a dramatic irony, with a montage, or least preferable but still sometimes useful, a voiceover.

The first 10 pages of the script should inform of the the genre, create the setting, establish the tone, present the main and key characters, often present the villain, show the status quo benchmarks, present the main character;s flaws, show the themes, and establish the drama.

In re-writing, eliminate unnecessary words, create a style, don’t overdo details, eep the story interesting by having the main character active and moving the story forward. The motivations and stakes must be clear. The character must be interesting and original rather than obvious. The pace should vary.

The viewer should not be baffled with little known jargon, being expected to be experts in what is presented, not able to understand what they need to know, and not being deluged with technical aspects.

A character voice should consider the character’s personalities, attitudes, pre-occupations, intelligence, profession, and lifestyle.

Avoid expositional writing. Use subtext in dialogue.

Voiceover can add to a movie if done carefully.