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#1 Neb

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 07:28 PM

This rant isn't about completed films, so I decided to start a new thread.

I just got back from another audition for a sincere group of young (mostly) filmmakers who are putting together a short in order to get some attention to do a "long"...sound familiar? So would somebody answer this question for me, "What is the DEAL with these wannabe screenwriters?!! How hard is it to pick up any given Syd Field paperback and get a few clues about how to write?!" I mean, what is with the mind-numbingly wordy dialogue that just drones on endlessly like a vocal warm-up only less intelligible? Are they hoping to get sampled in the next "50 Monologues for Male/Female Actors" book? blink.gif

Not only that, but how about using the spell check feature in Word/Movie Magic/Mickey's Screenwriting Pixie or whatever software you're using? Grammar check, too. Punctuation does matter, folks.

I had an audition a couple of years ago where they didn't just send me the sides but the whole shooting match. It was about 130 pages (and all endless dialogue, of course) long and yet by the last page it felt like the end of the first third...minus the first plot point. O...my...word. There was no way that thing could have been made without a re-write of epic porportions (eg. throw it on the fire, minus the title page, and start over).

It's a crazy world. One of these days I'm going to audition for something I can really get excited about, but by then I'm going to be the right age to play "the elderly aunt" or something.

Neb

#2 Tommy

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 07:59 AM

Neb,

Just found this site....sorry to see you didn't get any replies to your post.

I feel your pain! Part of the 'problem' is that with the advent of word processors and then screenwriting software EVERYONE became a 'writer'. Now with the affordability of digital video cameras, the same appears to be true for 'filmmakers'.

Unfortunately these technological developments result in a LOT of lousy writing and filmmaking attempts. They also make possible that some untapped talent will get the chance to develop into a decent writer and/or filmmaker.

In the meantime...it's tough having to pick through the sludge.

Hope you are doing well.

Tommy


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QUOTE(Neb @ Aug 27 2005, 07:28 PM)
This rant isn't about completed films, so I decided to start a new thread.

I just got back from another audition for a sincere group of young (mostly) filmmakers who are putting together a short in order to get some attention to do a "long"...sound familiar? So would somebody answer this question for me, "What is the DEAL with these wannabe screenwriters?!! How hard is it to pick up any given Syd Field paperback and get a few clues about how to write?!" I mean, what is with the mind-numbingly wordy dialogue that just drones on endlessly like a vocal warm-up only less intelligible? Are they hoping to get sampled in the next "50 Monologues for Male/Female Actors" book?  :blink:

Not only that, but how about using the spell check feature in Word/Movie Magic/Mickey's Screenwriting Pixie or whatever software you're using? Grammar check, too. Punctuation does matter, folks.

I had an audition a couple of years ago where they didn't just send me the sides but the whole shooting match. It was about 130 pages (and all endless dialogue, of course) long and yet by the last page it felt like the end of the first third...minus the first plot point. O...my...word. There was no way that thing could have been made without a re-write of epic porportions (eg. throw it on the fire, minus the title page, and start over).

It's a crazy world. One of these days I'm going to audition for something I can really get excited about, but by then I'm going to be the right age to play "the elderly aunt" or something.

Neb

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#3 Neb

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 11:30 AM

I hear you about the "everybody is a writer" thing (and filmmaker). Still, everybody has access to Syd Field and spell check, too. It's really scary how lazy or deluded or whatever these people are.

I had a friend many years ago who decided he was going to write a novel. He gave me the first chapter. It was awful. I know 6th graders who could do better. I asked him what kinds of books he read, because what we read affects how we write. His answer? "Oh, I only read about one book a year."

??????!!!!

I really think these people have never read a (good) screenplay or a Syd Field or William Goldman book. If they have, they haven't retained much, because the stuff I'm seeing is just terrible (as in about 80% of the dialogue could easily be cut).

Gotta run,

Neb

#4 Tommy

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 08:13 PM

Sometimes, the Syd Field books and the like are part of the problem. They tend to make the same people (the same ones who think formatting software will solve their story problems) think there is a 'formula'. Plug into the formula and hello screenplay.

My main gripe with the low, low budget things is... the writer/director (often the same person) doesn't really have a coherent STORY to tell. Therefore, even if they start shooting, they usually get lost along the way. And the film never gets finished (in most cases this is a good thing). But in the meantime, they've wasted a lot of resources and probably the time of a lot of actors and wanna be actors who are just trying to gain some real world film experience.

I must see 50 casting calls a month for "shooting on DV" "no pay...but a copy of the film will be provided" ... Yeah. Thanks but no thanks.

I guess it was my turn to rant. smile.gif

Tommy

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QUOTE(Neb @ Oct 8 2005, 11:30 AM)
I hear you about the "everybody is a writer" thing (and filmmaker). Still, everybody has access to Syd Field and spell check, too. It's really scary how lazy or deluded or whatever these people are.

I had a friend many years ago who decided he was going to write a novel. He gave me the first chapter. It was awful. I know 6th graders who could do better. I asked him what kinds of books he read, because what we read affects how we write. His answer? "Oh, I only read about one book a year."

??????!!!!

I really think these people have never read a (good) screenplay or a Syd Field or William Goldman book. If they have, they haven't retained much, because the stuff I'm seeing is just terrible (as in about 80% of the dialogue could easily be cut).

Gotta run,

Neb

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#5 Anders

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 08:25 PM

QUOTE(Tommy @ Oct 8 2005, 07:13 PM)
My main gripe with the low, low budget things is... the writer/director (often the same person) doesn't really have a coherent STORY to tell.

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Oh, I totally agree. Even as an aspiring "writer/director." Among my friends, they put out a lot of interesting short films, but few of them have any solid story behind them. They're a lot of good ideas, but no guiding force. Not that I think that all filmmaking has to be "story", but it seems a lot easier to come up with some hip/weird scene than it is to come up with a film that will engage the audience for a sustained period.

#6 finnegan

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 11:35 PM

QUOTE(Tommy @ Oct 8 2005, 09:13 PM)
Sometimes, the Syd Field books and the like are part of the problem. They tend to make the same people (the same ones who think formatting software will solve their story problems) think there is a 'formula'. Plug into the formula and hello screenplay.

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I agree. There a even a few software programs that guarantee to make a writer out of anyone who follows the step-by-step process built into the program. What?

Also, I think Syd Field oversimplifies things. He has that "anyone can write a good screenplay if you just do these few things" attitude. Robert McKee does a much better job of shooting straight with would-be screenwriters: he basically states in Story that hardly anyone can (or does) write a good screenplay--and even if you do, trying to get it made into a movie is infinitely harder.

#7 Tommy

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:42 AM

I know a lot of people who've taken the McKee seminars. And they are often enthusiastic about the experience.

The 'funny' thing about ALL the screenwriting gurus is (at least to me):

Name one GREAT, or even highly regarded script one of them has written... maybe there is one, but I don't recall it off hand.

That's not to say one can't teach better than one can execute ... lots of examples of that. It's just that if I were paying a lot of money to someone who was going to tell me 'how to do it' I'd feel a lot better about it if they could point me to their completed work. Again, that's not to say that Field, McKee, etc. don't have valuable insights to offer.

I think, like most creative endeavors, if the talent is there, it's trying and failing and trying again that will finally get the best results. Without the talent to tell an engaging story (at least for traditional narrative filmmaking), it doesn't matter which page your enciting incident happens on or where your second and third acts starts...it's not going to 'work'.

I guess I'd better shut up. I'm starting to sound like I know what I'm talking about...and, not being a writer, I don't.

Tommy

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QUOTE(finnegan @ Oct 8 2005, 11:35 PM)
QUOTE(Tommy @ Oct 8 2005, 09:13 PM)
Sometimes, the Syd Field books and the like are part of the problem. They tend to make the same people (the same ones who think formatting software will solve their story problems) think there is a 'formula'. Plug into the formula and hello screenplay.

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I agree. There a even a few software programs that guarantee to make a writer out of anyone who follows the step-by-step process built into the program. What?

Also, I think Syd Field oversimplifies things. He has that "anyone can write a good screenplay if you just do these few things" attitude. Robert McKee does a much better job of shooting straight with would-be screenwriters: he basically states in Story that hardly anyone can (or does) write a good screenplay--and even if you do, trying to get it made into a movie is infinitely harder.

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#8 SZPT

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 01:00 PM

Tommy I like your style and what you've got to say.

I live in the Dallas area and teach at a private Christian school. Back in July I got to work on Night of the White Pants as a Locations intern. I'm hoping to capitalize on the connections I made and find more work this coming summer, both up here and down south. If this happens I hope to run into you, and I look forward to it. Even though I want to work behind the camera, acting in High School got me to this point, and I love to hear about the craft from any perspective.

#9 Tommy

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 05:27 PM

Thanks for the nice comment.

I lived in Dallas from '73 - '79. Was at DTC for 3 years then freelanced doing mostly commercials and industrials prior to moving out to L.A. What a great time in my life that was!! I was able to 'cut my teeth' as a professional actor in Dallas and still have wonderful friends there.

In fact I've been in Dallas a couple of times in the past week. Still trying to recover from the travel as I was just in Dallas and Shreveport, LA auditioning for some film and TV work.

I hope I run into you as well. For one thing that will probably mean we are both on a film set somewhere.


Take care and keep in touch. I've just started a blog (who hasn't?) that I hope to use to deal with my perspective on the acting biz.

www.stillacting.blogspot.com



QUOTE(SZPT @ Oct 9 2005, 01:00 PM)
Tommy I like your style and what you've got to say.

I live in the Dallas area and teach at a private Christian school.  Back in July I got to work on Night of the White Pants as a Locations intern.  I'm hoping to capitalize on the connections I made and find more work this coming summer, both up here and down south.  If this happens I hope to run into you, and I look forward to it.  Even though I want to work behind the camera, acting in High School got me to this point, and I love to hear about the craft from any perspective.

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#10 DanBuck

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 05:46 PM

Tommy btw, found us through my blog!! Which makes him my bitch I think. Just kidding, glad you're here Tommy!

Re: Writing.

I've learned one very important thing thru my script's development. In a word: I'm sub-par. All by myself that is. I have some good ideas and some good ways of putting them into words, but even the best and most eleaborate thing I've ever written needs serious rewriting.

I'm on my fourth or fifth draft and I'll probably have at least two more before this this play is produced. And that's as it should be.

Most films are about the "project" and not about the "Story". People think when you've got the kernel of an idea, some actors willing to help, some money and a free day, you've got a movie to make!

It's not new to say it, but writing is REwriting. And nobody's doing it.

#11 Tommy

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:30 PM

Tommy btw, found us through my blog!! Which makes him my bitch I think. Just kidding, glad you're here Tommy!



Dan,

I'm an actor...I'm always somebody's bitch. Might as well be yours. smile.gif

Most films are about the "project" and not about the "Story". People think when you've got the kernel of an idea, some actors willing to help, some money and a free day, you've got a movie to make!

Very true. It's important to make the distinction between writing a script and making a film. A film project can be about anything and everything but story. The writing and/or writer may be irrelevant.

As for the writer, part of the distinction between script - film - project probably depends on whether you're a writer for hire or whether you're writing a spec script.

If you've been hired by Tom Cruise's company to adapt a book/play/anecdote into a film script for him to star in...that's definitely about the project.

If you're writing a spec script from your own idea (as opposed to an idea you've stolen smile.gif ), then you may have any number of actors in mind (or none) for your protagonist and/or antagonist as you write. I'd say that in a spec, particularly for an unknown writer, story is more important than 'project', at least until after the script is finished.

What will attract other 'elements' that take the script from spec script to potential 'project' is very much related to story and character. Starting first with the script reader for the company, agency, or ??? to which the script has been submitted. They tend to be other writers and writers tend to be attracted to story and character. If they write 'coverage' to your script that says you have no sense of story and write cliched, cardboard characters, you're not likely to get very far with that prodco/agent/whatever. (Does not apply to Christian films...kidding...sort of)

The degree to which story and/or character attracts viable elements to a 'project' varies at least to some extent, by position (job title): The director may be attracted to the story/theme/concept/genre/character/paycheck (not in order of preference).

The actor who can get the film made is probably more attracted, at least initially, to Character. This is particularly true for 'name' actors in independent films. ALMOST anytime a viable star appears in a film whose budget does not allow for them to make their normal $$$$$$$, it's because they were attracted to the CHARACTER, the role. Sometimes, to the director who has already pulled the rabbit out of the hat at least once. (This does not include name actors on the downside of their careers who have many reasons for working which have nothing to do with script/character, etc.)

Having said that, many actors who can get at least help get a film made (very few can actually GET a film made) are just as attracted to a PROJECT by the other ELEMENTS already attached : the director, another actor, even location.


It's not new to say it, but writing is REwriting. And nobody's doing it.


Again, true....writing/rewriting. What's often difficult if not impossible to determine, at least in film, is where the writer got left behind and the project (committee: 2nd/3rd/4th writer ->director -> producer -> producer's girlfriend -> star -> star's wife -> star's girlfriend, star's boyfriend (different day), etc. ect.) took over.

So sometimes a good script goes bad in production. And sometimes a bad script just gets worse. Once in a while a good script gets made into a good film. Oh Happy Day! And the chances of a bad script becomming a good film...well, It's not new to say it, but "If it ain't on the page, it aint on the stage".

And..to try to circle back to the start...one way to get to be a writer for hire is to write a few terrific spec scripts that many people agree show that the writer has a sense of story and character. Of course it helps if one of YOUR scripts actually gets made into a film.

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#12 finnegan

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 11:42 PM

QUOTE(Tommy @ Oct 9 2005, 09:42 AM)
The 'funny' thing about ALL the screenwriting gurus is (at least to me):

Name one GREAT, or even highly regarded script one of them has written... maybe there is one, but I don't recall it off hand.

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Yeah, I don't know of any. But maybe they shouldn't--for the same reason film critics shouldn't (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls).

Besides, McKee was played by Brian freakin' Cox! How many seminar speakers can claim that honor?

#13 Jason Bortz

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 04:02 PM

Funny, I just had this conversation in L.A. with a friend of mine who works at Sony (Pictures). He was a reader for a while and finally couldn't take that anymore--he started hating screenplays because of the sheer volume of crapola out there, in every sense, from content to grammar to spelling to format to to to to...

He said at one point 'I'm not convinced that Syd Field isn't part of an insider's group to actually keep bad writers separated from good ones, to make it easy to spot and weed out the hacks.

One vet [reader] I worked with would toss a script if it was exactly 120 pages long--because I'd say about half of them are. Another 1/3 are 90 pages--if you can turn to page 30 and page 60 and find the predictable transitions between acts, you toss it.' He laughed, shaking his head. 'Everyone goes out and gets a copy [of Field's books] in his library if he's just starting out and he usually thinks if he's got it down, he's got a shot. Nevermind that he can't spell, or worse, uses a thesaurus like he uses air.'

Reminded me of when I was 11 or so, when I wrote my first play--I got tired of using the word 'said', so I cracked open a thesaurus and found a word I hadn't heard of. My instructor called me over and asked me if I knew what the word meant, because it didn't really fit there. I said it did, I made sure of it. I re-read it:

"We need to go, I ejaculated!"






You keep using that word...I do not think it means...what you think it means... --Inigo Montoya




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Edited by Jason Bortz, 10 October 2005 - 04:13 PM.


#14 Tommy

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 08:36 PM

That's odd. I've said the same thing. Just different punctuation.

Tommy



QUOTE(Jason Bortz @ Oct 10 2005, 04:02 PM)


"We need to go, I ejaculated!"






You keep using that word...I do not think it means...what you think it means... --Inigo Montoya



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#15 Neb

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 06:19 PM

I'll play the part of Dr. Frankenstein today, and resurrect this ole' thread.

Re. the last post: I had a similar experience in 7th grade. My teacher circled the word "imprecation" in a short story of mine, declaring "That's not a word!" Well, it was a word when Edgar Rice Burroughs used it in a John Carter story. Maybe it was discontinued by 1977...who knows? unsure.gif

On another note, I had an acting job this last weekend for a Japanese TV show. Usually these Japanese (or Chinese) shows have somebody with a rudimentary grasp of English do the script translation for us English-speaking types. I just expect them to be pretty literal translations from the original language, and therefore a bit stilted and non-sequitor at times. This time, however, the translator, who was also the liason between the talent and the all-Japanese crew and director, did a fabulous job. It was actually smooth and logical! I complimented him hugely on his efforts.

Now, why can't non-translated scripts be this good?

Neb