Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Throw him in the bin

I've been trying to decide whether to write this post. After a long think (of about 5 minutes) I decided to go ahead. It may lead to somewhere bad, but we'll see. Hopefully no-one mentioned will be recognisable.

So let's say I was talking to someone you would expect to be well-versed in the screenwriting know-how. We'll call him Professor X (not to do with X-Men, just a name for name's sake).

So in a certain situation, Professor X is talking to some young folk about screenwriting. He gives a prime example of a treatment. I'm assuming we all know what a treatment is. But what does it look like? What should it contain? It's subjective right? It depends on the writer. The treatment is there to aid the writer in their process. Some writers need a 10-page treatment, some need a 3-page and some need nothing at all. So why then should one have to produce one? In the real world of screenwriting, the script is what matters.

What do you think about flashbacks? Professor X may like them. Professor X may think they are a valuable tool for screenwriting; which they are! But what Professor X may or may not know is that if a novice screenwriter hands in a script that has a little flashback or dream sequence at the beginning, Mr Producer will throw it in the bin. This is because the tool gets done so badly so often. So it's assumed that everyone does it badly.

Next we have the biggest taboo in my book - camera directions. If you put camera direction in your scripts (and are not told to, allowed to or going to direct said feature) STOP!

Think of it this way -

You're a director. Your whole job is about deciding where to put cameras and how to organise the film. You read a script that is littered with things like PAN ACROSS TO REVEAL and MOVE DOWN TO SEE or even ESTABLISHING SHOT. You're telling the director what to do. It's not your job! There are plenty of ways of hinting at what you want the director to do without insulting them and their art. Stick to your own job.

This sort of shit is in the basics of screenwriting. Pick up any book and you'll get told this. So why does someone not seem to know when they are in charge. One would expect them to yes?


Jonny Quest said...

I had the same shit for three years with one of my lecturers, I have no qualms in naming and shaming him - Russell Cherrington. His idea of script lecturers was bragging about his hand signed (by Tarantino) copy of Reservoir Dogs, rather than informing how to write the fucking content.

Nick Pemberton on the other hand was a huge inspiration in my script writing lessons as was Jim Eldridge. See I am not all for shouting down people just the ones that deserve it.

Neil said...

Oh I'll name away when my degree is done, don't worry. I'd rather sell one script that have a signed script. What use is that? Sounds like an arse.

One tutor I had (for novel writing as opposed to script) was Linda Lee Welch. An American who is awesome at storytelling. A great tutor and gave pure honest, constructive feedback.