January 2017 Roundtable Audio File Link

Adapting Story for Film

21 January 2017 Roundtable

  • Michael – hard to get scripts actually into movies. Producers may option a script, then leadership may change and the option may not get made into a movie
  • Friday night at 175 W Canyon Crest Road, suite 305, Alpine. Story workshop. Robert can have that sent out. (Suzy can send it out.)

Robert’s presentation

  • Film has a variety of perspectives. Robert is surprised how many people, even in the industry, don’t know how to read a script. They don’t understand what all is in it. A script is not a novel, but rather a blueprint to construct a film.
  • Don’t read the script—“Watch” it
  • We’ll discuss things unique to film script writing
  • Films have three creations: writing, filming, editing.
  • A lot of the scenes are not actually written out. A lot of people try to put in way too much. Directors will read it and toss things.
  • Can’t make a script “director proof”
  • Mindset: Have to convey things visually
    • The visual reinforces
    • Mindset: express as much visually and not verbally
  • Toolset: He keeps a file of imagery for scenes. Art reference. Great visual tool for painters—directors, too.
    • Example categories of images: courage, family, historical, evoke emotion, people (for characters).
    • A lot are from news media articles
    • Dictation: use iPhone to dictate ideas
  • Skill set:
    • He doesn’t put a limit on length in his first draft
    • Scripts are formatted so that each page is approximately one minute in length. Film X number of pages a day—5 pages a day is pretty good. Or in terms of camera setups. 30 setups a day is pretty good—about 12 hours.
  • Q: What kinds of things are distracting/off-putting to directors when writing a script?
    • A:
    • Statements that are descriptive of where the camera is. (Low angle, wide shot.) Most directors will ignore it—they’ll place it where they want to.
      • Transitions, also. (Cut, dissolve, wipe)
    • Generally: don’t put description in there that directors will make a decision about.
    • Script writing software often gives you the option to add transitions—don’t do it! J
    • Far too descriptive of location or props or set decoration. Only put things that are meaningful to dialogue or character. Director will do the rest.
    • Ex: Husband and wife arguing. One takes something off a shelf and hides it; the other one takes it back and puts it up.
    • Plant: something seen in a scene that becomes important later on. These are okay.
    • Pointer: triggers in mind of audience that it will be important later. Not always noticed by the characters. Also okay.
  • You can download scripts for free on the Internet that have been out in theaters—good learning.
  • Watch the film along with the script. Huge eye-opener, good exercise.
  • Script writing software: FinalDraft is the industry standard software.
  • Exercise: Find two films you haven’t heard about (from American Film Institute 100), don’t know anything about. Watch it with the volume off. Write a paragraph or two about what you think it happening—key characters, antagonist, what’s going on, where they are. Visual aspect is huge!
    • With the other film, do the opposite. Turn on the sound, cover/hide the screen, and listen. Write up a description of what the film is about based on what you hear.
  • Q: Documentary?
    • A:
    • Differences between documentary and dramatic film? People might say that in a documentary, there’s a narrator, there’s no control over what’s happening in documentary.
    • Only one difference: when filming a documentary, you’re not going to stop the camera and reposition people to do it again.
    • Similarities: protagonist (person or group). Antagonist. Dramatic mountain to climb, tension, something at stake. Challenge, struggle, resolution.
    • In documentary, you seek out the protagonists, the challenges and struggles. Why? Because that’s how we live our lives.
    • You see it in the scriptures: challenge, struggle, resolution. Because that’s how we live our lives.
    • Source material for drama is real life because they’re vicarious experiences.. People relate to it. Life is also source material for documentaries, too.
  • People need point of reference to visualize.
  • Write a script that engages all five senses. Visual, auditorial
    • Smell? Touch? By implication. Through the experience of characters on the screen.
  • (Cinematographer = director of photography)
  • Films are not actually about conflict
    • (S = R) / E   (or was it S = R / E?)
    • S = Satisfaction
    • R = Results
    • E = Expectation
    • Rather than conflict, think about expectations encountering reality. That creates emotion.
    • Comedy: expectation is setup, then the comic line is what’s not expected.
  • Mindset, toolset, skill set is a good methodical way to approach film