January 17, 2012
THAT’S RIGHT, YOU HEARD ME.
Try this: As an experiment, copy your script into a new document but cut off the first 5 or 10 or 20 pages. Read your new 30 pages. Does it start with your hero in action? Is your script zipping along? Were those first 20 pages mainly backstory? Don’t worry, you can place any missing vital information later. Don’t start explaining who this person is. Set him in action then slowly reveal him.
FIRST TWO PAGES. Man wakes up. Man kisses his wife. Man drives to work. Man goes into an office building. Man goes up elevator. Man on rooftop takes out a rifle. Man starts shooting.
FIRST PAGE: Man opens a rooftop door. Man goes to the ledge. Man takes out a rifle. Man starts shooting.
Which grips you? Which one will keep the reader/producer/agent, who only read the first 20 pages, going?
It always goes back to: SHOW DON’T TELL.
September 2, 2011
A spec screenplay is a reader’s experience. When you use the word, “beat” that experience becomes boring. A “beat” is just a place holder when nothing happens. Gee, that’s exciting to read. Using a gesture or movement can actually add to your scene. It can show character or tension. For instance:
CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (beat) I want to talk about us.
Examples of substituting “beat”.
CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (smiles) I want to talk about us.
CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (looks down) I want to talk about us.
CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (slaps the table) I want to talk about us.
CARRIE: I don’t want to talk about this. (takes a deep breath) I want to talk about us.
Each substitution of “beat” added character or tension to the scene.
Should you never use “beat”? 95% of beats should be an action.
A “beat” shouldn’t be a pause in life; it should have a life in your script.