November 11, 2011
IT’S ALL ABOUT STORY.
My thoughts on Paranormal 3 –
I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about Paranormal 3 as I had not seen the first two. Here’s what I think: Paranormal 3 is equivalent to paying money and entering a Fun House where ‘ghosts’ can pop out and scare you. That’s all. That’s fun and entertaining but in Paranormal 3 there is no story. Yes, I experienced sympathy for the little girl who is taunted by the ghosts, but I always feel sorry for little girls when something bad happens to them. The story didn’t convince me to. I watched the family move about the house doing their chores. But I didn’t empathize with them. I’m not bashing Paranormal 3, audiences love these movies. It’s an enjoyable scare. They are what they are. For some, that’s enough. However when I sit in the dark, I want to be invested in a good story, feel for the characters, not wait for the next scary face to fill the screen. Unlike the person next to me who jumped out of his seat sending popcorn flying. Oh, free popcorn. I guess there are some benefits.
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.
July 26, 2011
Your title page is your introduction to the reader. What to make a good impression? Format it correctly.
Do put on the title page
- written by
- Your contact information.
THE BEST SCREENPLAY EVER
Stephen W. Buehler
(In the lower left or right hand corner, email address, street address and phone number)
- 4804 Laurel Canyon Blvd. #506
- Valley Village,CA91607
If you wrote the screenplay with someone else you use the “&” sign. – You’re a writing team.
Stephen W. Buehler & Albert Einstein
The “and” is used when the first writer has now gone and they’re hired a second writer.
Albert Einstein and Stephen W. Buehler
Don’t put on the title page:
- WGA registered – If you want the receiver of your script to view you as a professional, they assume that you have already registered your script – that’s what professionals do. Amateurs put WGA#.
- The © symbol. Same as above. It’s not necessary.
- “All Rights Reserved”. Same as above. It’s not necessary.
- Any image, design or cute figure. Keep it clean and simple.
If you place those items on the title page, you’re saying, “If you steal my idea, I’m going to sue you.” Wow. That’s not a good way to start a relationship. They know the score and they hope you do too.
You want them to read all the pages of your script. Don’t make them stop at the TITLE PAGE.
July 15, 2011
There are plenty of screenwriting books out there. Everyone one has their favorites. Certain books seem to speak to you just at the right time. However, over the years the following four books are the ones I’ve gone back to again and again.
1. Syd Field’s – SCREENPLAY is still the holy book when it comes to structure. It’s been around forever but it’s still relevant today. It should be the first book any new writer reads.
2. Linder Seager’s – HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT is excellent with character development and the rewriting process.
3. Blake Synder’s – SAVE THE CAT, (The last screenwriting book you’ll ever need), isn’t quite that but written in a causal conversational manner, it reinvents the Beat Sheet. Plus it renames 10 different genres according to what they need to accomplish and how your script should fall into one of them. It’s a new way of thinking about screenwriting.
4. Lastly, William M. Aker’s – YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS! – is a great checklist after you’re done a draft and before you send it out, besides being just a fun read.
What are your favorites?
June 29, 2011
Use a ‘ticking clock’ to build suspense. A ticking clock is a way to give the story tension and drama. It makes the reader want to turn the page to see what happens next. Give your main character a task to accomplish before a certain time or there will be dire consequences.
Hitchcock gave the example: A man and a woman walk into a room, sit at a table, talk for a bit and then BOOM! the room blows up. That’s straight forward action. To build suspense: A man walks into the room, places a bomb under the table and leaves. Now when that man and woman walk in, sit down and start a conversation, we wait on the edge of seats to see what happens. Tick, tick, tick.
EXAMPLES: See if you don’t find each second version more compelling.
STRAIGHT FORWARD ACTION: A man has to find a job.
MORE SUSPENSFUL: A man has to find a job before his wife gives birth in one week.
STRAIGHT FORWARD ACTION: A woman’s child is kidnapped.
MORE SUSPENSFUL: A woman must comply with kidnap demands or her child will be killed in five hours.
STRAIGHT FORWARD ACTION: A bachelor wants to get married.
MORE SUSPENSFUL: A bachelor will lose his entire fortune if he is not married by tomorrow.
May 6, 2010
Pick a compelling title. It’s the first thing that people learn about your script. Does your title hint of what the story may be about? Does it make you smile or feel good or evoke an emotion? Some good titles: 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, WEDDING CRASHERS, MEET THE PARENTS, BACK TO THE FUTURE, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, 3 MEN AND A BABY, RUNAWAY BRIDE, KNOCKED-UP, DUMB & DUMBER. All those titles either gave you a hint of what genre the film is and what it may be about. Some bad titles: AS GOOD AS IT GETS, SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE, THE ISLAND, GIGLI, JERRY MCGUIRE, SIDEWAYS, HANCOCK, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, TRAFFIC, UP, SIGNS, RATATOUILLE. When you read these titles you have no idea what kind of film or script you’re looking at. If you picked up two scripts and had to read one, which one would you pick to read, GLADIATOR or THE MAN?
Do you have any examples of good or bad titles?
May 4, 2010
Save your most powerful words for the end of the sentence. Build suspense for the reader. Frantically John searches the room. He finds a bomb under the table. COULD BE WRITTEN WITH MORE SUSPENSE: Frantically John searches the room. Under the table his finds a bomb. We don’t know what John’s frantic search turns up until the very last word. Plus that fact that is was a bomb is surrounded by a lot of other words and can get lost in the paragraph. Readers tend to skim. Save that important word for the punch, like you would for a joke. Your script will be read by a Reader. Make it suspenseful, fun, exciting for the Reader – it is a reading experience.