Friday, March 31, 2006

Screenwriting Tips

Here is a cool and simple article on writing screenplays.  A good
read for
even non-screenwriters. Enjoy :)

Screenwriting Tips from a Screenplay Contest Judge
by Gordy Hoffman

After cracking hundreds of screenplays sent into the BlueCat Screenplay
Competition, the same problems in the execution of the story and script
continue to
emerge. Here is a general overview of these persistent issues.

Do you realize what you're saying??

In the theatre, they read plays aloud over and over in the process of
development, and one of the reasons they do this is to hear the
dialogue. When
I hear dialogue in my head, it might sound very good, but then when I
hear a
person actually speak it, I often have an impulse to jump in front of a
And over and over and over and over, when I read screenplay entries to
I am immediately dismayed when the characters start speaking. Excellent
everything else, awful dialogue. And I often wonder if the writer has
heard the lines they have written for their characters out loud. Either
read the
whole thing aloud to yourself, or even better, get a group of your
friends to
read it. You do not need professional actors to evaluate dialogue. Just
excited to help. Videotape it. I have videotaped readings, and then sat
and worked out an entire rewrite off the tape, addressing every single
that bothered me. Which leads me to another thing.


It's hard to pass a screenplay on to industry contacts if an unfunny
joke is
sitting in the middle of page two. It’s highly difficult if there’s
twelve by
page five. You might have a payoff in your third act that would break
heart, but if your jokes are poor, the heart of your audience will be
probably resentful, and your work will be recycled. Please try your
humor out. If
your beats aren’t funny to some people, rewrite. Trust a truly
hilarious bit is
coming. Think of the patience you need to muster through this writing
as courage, because it is.
If you find you are not funny, write a script that is not funny. Many,
great scripts are not funny, as we all know.


Do you think the development people in Los Angeles, basically the
people in the film industry, will not be annoyed and continue to read
script when you have misspelled three words in the first five pages?
Perhaps. How
do you feel when you're reading something and you find misspelled
words? How
does your attitude shift towards the author? Exactly. If you don't
think many
scripts have this problem, start a screenwriting competition.


Try to limit your scene description. When a person opens your script,
many INCHES of action slug are they looking at on page one? Is there
anyway you
can convey what you want us to SEE with less words? I always go back
and CUT
CUT CUT to prevent my screenplay from fatiguing my reader with excess
words as
they try to listen for my story. Do we need to know what necklace
someone is
wearing? We all understand making motion pictures is collaborative. I
strive to
let the art department and the costumer and the prop master and so on
JOB by not making their decisions in the screenplay, because I have
passion for it and don’t do it well. They will make their own
choices, and most
likely better ones, so why bother? Always use fewer words to say the

It's not show and tell, it's show not tell.

I constantly find myself being told something by the screenplay the
viewer of
the film will not be aware of. Screenplays are not literature. They are
assembled to describe what motion pictures will play out on the screen.
Telling us a character is a jealous person is passive and dull. Showing
a character
in an act of jealousy is more effective and essentially cinematic. Let
words and actions of your characters carry your story. This is not
easy. You
want the actor or director to understand what you want and what you
mean. Allow
the description of physical actions and the recording of spoken words
the narrative to the filmmakers. The script will read faster and offers
reader a richer opportunity to imagine and discover.

The Joy of Making Things Up.

I really cherish the idea, that as a writer, I can make things up. If I
the guy to say something, all I have to do is type it. But I have to
against creating characters and interactions amongst characters derived
movies I have watched and television I have seen. I often find myself
writing a
scene only to realize I'm not drawing from my imagination or my own
experience or my observations of people, I'm drawing from the millions
of hours of
observing actors play human beings on television and in movie theaters.
because I’m writing a “MOVIE,” it is even more difficult, because
I’m fighting
against a subconscious or unconscious observation that this is "how
people act
in movies." Stop yourself and ask, would this happen on planet Earth?
Do I
know how people from Miami really speak? What would a person actually
say if they
had a gun in their face? Can you possibly imagine what could happen?
This is
your opportunity to be truly imaginative. Answer your own expectations
original work. A mature writer develops a strong capacity to recognize
and reject
the false.


Forced exposition. This is when a brother tells a sister on page two
that he
will be attending a school which dad wouldn't pay for because he bought
a farm
that the whole family will be moving to tomorrow because he found that
city was a really bad place to live in after mom was really scared
because of
that mugging thing that happened after they came back from the sister's
graduation from high school. When characters engage in an unbelievable
about matters in which they would be familiar with, or when they
something completely out of nowhere simply to inform the audience of
key facts
crucial to their understanding of the movie, you have a problem. This
exposition will not be seen as genuine human behavior and will detach
your audience
from the emotional current of your story. Exposition is necessary and
difficult to execute. Be careful how you offer information crucial to
your story at
the start of your screenplay. This is a common problem in early drafts.
Exposition needs to be seamless and graceful.


You know what? Go get a script and copy what you think it looks like
you'll be fine. Trust me. Spec scripts are sitting on desks all over
Hollywood and
their format is not consistent at all. Getting crazy about format sells
screenwriting software. I use two tab settings and copied stuff from a
book and not
one person in the film industry has ever said a thing to me in ten
years. But
if your script looks like a book, or a poem, or a magazine article,
screenplay format is wrong. Just make it look a little like a movie
script, and if
it kicks ass, guess what.

So do you.

Gordy Hoffman

Article URL:Â

About the Author
Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film
for LOVE LIZA, Gordy Hoffman has written and directed three digital
shorts for
Fox Searchlight. He made his feature directorial debut with his script,
OF SNOW, which world premiered at the 2005 Locarno International Film
Festival. He is also the founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition.
Dedicated to
develop and celebrate the undiscovered screenwriter, BlueCat provides
screenplay analysis on every script entered. In addition, Gordy offers
screenwriters personalized feedback on their scripts through his
consultation service,

Copyright © 2006 BlueCat Screenplay Competition
The information on this page may not be reproduced, republished or
on another webpage or website without the permission of the author.Â

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