Friday, August 19, 2011

Jim's Screenwriting Tip o' the Month

WHO is your movie about? Use the first ten pages of your screenplay to SHOW us. It's called "establishing your protagonist in his/her known world."

After the "hook," which is a visual scene that sets the tone for movie (pages 1-3,) spend the next 7 pages leading up to the catalyst, AKA the inciting incident, showing your protagonist in their day to day life.

Many writers make the mistake of launching the story right away. While some movies have done this effectively, more often than not this approach means you have to find other, clunkier ways, to inform us as to who the protagonist is -- such as flashbacks, voice-over and (ugh) expository dialogue like this:

     Say, Bill, remember when you foiled that cheese 
     factory robbery last year? Because you're a police 
     officer? And you fell in that vat of Velveeta? But
     that's okay because I know you like spray cheese
     and also zydeco music and you collect belly button
     lint, right?

So don't be afraid to use those pages to depict character. Make your lead(s) as dimensional and fascinating as you can. Show us their world, their friends, family. Go home with them and show us (don't TELL us) how they live. And THEN launch into the story and screw everything up for them. Go fer it!

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