October 23, 2011

Action writing & Dirty Harry on scriptchat

Lights, camera, ACTION! Yes, today I give you the meaty bits from the Scriptchat on action writing. Not a lot of fodder, but quality kicks tuchus over quantity here.

Read on, my swaggering, square-jawed, quick-drawing writerinos!

ACTION WRITING (and Dirty Harry) Sunday 2nd October

* The best action films often have an anti-hero.
* Dirty Harry is a solid example of a well-conceived action film. Gets straight into the action, shows instead of tells, the lines of the hero blur, the antagonist is well-hidden, and there’s no dialogue until the bottom of page 4 in the script.
* In writing an action script, keep action lines short, punch, evocative. Onomatopoeia works: BANG!
* Tough balance between choreographing and keeping script moving fast.
* Action films are very goal-oriented.
* The action movies have a protagonist who is both sides of the coin (good/bad).
* Don’t just rely on car chases and explosions; involve strong characters with goals and weaknesses  (watch Quantum of Solace to see how not to do it).
* Try to have action sequences that illustrate character and further plot, if you can.
* Sometimes the hero is trying to be good but in the end must be bad to defeat the villain.
* Some action movies are: an everyman stuck in a confined environment against insurmountable odds.
* Die Hard II is a great example of contained action. It shows that action can be done on a budget if necessary.
* Star Wars worked because Lucas applied Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.
* Currently, the action genre is ripe for a rebirth.
* Try to write a story where the action is character-generated, not so much CGI and special effects. 

In a few short days I'll share the marrow from the TV Writer Chat from the same day - What makes a good pilot? Oh it's a good one, and you'll learn some gems that could make or break your pilot.

Until next time, watch an action movie, or read an action script, or both. And if you figure out how to choreograph without choking up the page and stilting flow, let me know!

Screenwriters Anonymous - where talking to imaginary people will get you locked up in a writers guild.

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