November 23, 2011

The First 15 Pages - tips from Scriptchat

If you get someone to read your script, you're lucky. Even if it's just your landlady's nephew with the weird nose spasm, you're lucky. 120 pages is a big investment of a person's time and gives-a-crapness.

But the most important step after getting them reading, is keeping them reading. If they get to page 8 and your characters are confusing, your time periods are changing, and the lead character isn't interesting, then you're not interesting and your script won't be read.

So what's the secret? Make your first 15 pages killer. Leave your reader dripping from the mouth and turning the pages feverishly.

Here's a few pointers on how you make those first 15 dazzle.

THE FIRST 15 PAGES 16th October 2011

* Too many writers now days don’t play with structure any more. Figure out fresh, new styles.
* Don’t follow a cookie-cutter structure style. Don’t let those screenwriting books make you uniform. They’re there to help you craft your art, not make you a clone.
* Don’t be strict with structure – let story unfold in an organic and interesting way.
* What is the unique identity of the script? Why does it need to be made?
* Every page must pull the reader onto the next. Cliffhang the shit out your work.
* Don’t try to establish everything, just get the reader interested. Films are moments, not information.
* Make audience worry about the decision the main character has to make.
* Want to break into the industry? Go make a movie. No-one’s looking to “discover” anyone anymore. Discover yourself and show yourself to the world, but maybe not in the way a 3-year-old boy does.
* Try a 4 act structure – breaking act II into two parts.
* Some writers do 10 x 10 page beats.
* Don’t clutter your dialogue with exposition.
* Let yourself suck. Then go back and fix all the parts that suck. Writers block is no excuse not to write. There are still things you can be doing.
* A lot of the best beginnings of films have little dialogue: Jaws, E.T., Halloween, Wall-E.
* Tone is huge; it needs to match the piece. If you’re writing a comedy, it can’t read dry and academic. If you can’t get at least one laugh from page one, you’ve done something very wrong.
* Character, dialogue, action, what’s happening beneath the surface, a hook – make people desperate for what happens next.
* Book recommendation: William Martell’s ‘The Secrets of Action Screenwriting’.

Also, don't fall into the trap of editing the start of your script 14,000 times more than the rest. Move on.

Next time on the show we talk to a woman whose husband turned out to be a woman who was really a duck, we see if we can play 7 Minutes in Heaven with Herman Cain in an inappropriate work setting, and fill you in on the big, fat, juicy tips from the Scriptchat on screenplay structure. Don't miss it, it'll be a doozy. 

What is a doozy anyway?

Screenwriters Anonymous - what happens in Final Draft, stays in Final Draft.

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