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Change Is Good For Screenwriters

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 2:38 pm on December 6, 2011

Whether it’s a daily routine of meals, a weekly routine of phone calls, or going to your typical vacation destination, we are all creatures of habit, some more than others.  We create comfort zones in our everyday lives, sometimes for fear of change and other times simply because we no what we like and we want an easy life.

This is also true for screenwriting.  We may start out not knowing what kind of writers we are and what stories we want to tell and then discover our own voice, style and preferences along the way.  Or we may know right from the get-go that we love thrillers and only want to right for this genre.  Whichever camp you fall into habit can prove to be a good thing and a bad thing.  Just because you like one kind of genre, doesn’t mean you won’t be good at writing another.  Similarly, just because you THINK you’re good at writing one type of story, doesn’t mean you won’t be better at writing a different kind.

Script writing should be viewed as another form of exercise – so long as we overlook the fact that we’re normally slouched in a chair in front of the computer during most of the process. Sometimes it’s good to stretch your creative muscles, try new things and experiment.  But stay off the drugs!  Seriously though, writers become lazy, writing what they know and not pushing themselves to be innovative except within the constraints of their chosen genre.  Instead, you should constantly challenge yourself and throw yourself in at the deep end once in a while.

If you enjoy writing horrors, why not have a stab (pardon the pun) at writing a comedy?  Who knows, it may produce a great script.  Or, you may find out that you do have a good sensibility for humorous scenes but not enough for creating a full script in the genre.  If that is the case, at least you know your boundaries and you may even be able to apply some of the lessons learned to your regular script and write a comedy horror.

Try to imagine your story as a visual landscape and keep it interesting.  If you’re always writing similar stories and characters, expand your palette.  Add more color.  Mix up your ingredients and make full use of your cinematic canvas.  The process will at the very least teach you things about your approach to screenwriting and the experience will always help you no matter what kind of story you tell.  Sometimes the lessons we learn through life are never immediately apparent but ultimately influence us in one way or another – screenwriting is no different.

Whose Point of View Is It?

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 2:35 pm on November 26, 2011

Unless you are writing an ensemble movie like Robert Altman’s Short Cuts you will typically focus your story on a central character’s journey and the obstacles thrown in his or her way.  The mistake many first-time screenwriters make is getting side-tracked by supporting characters and their own evolving character arcs.

Now, I need to preface this advice with a caveat since I have previously discussed how helpful it can be to create fully-developed secondary characters and their own lives outside of the central storyline and Protagonist.  And by creating their “own lives” I don’t necessarily mean we need to see those lives but it’s important for the writer to know about them and to have explored them in order for your secondary characters’ dialogue and actions to ring true when they interact with the central character.  I still stand by this but advise you to tread carefully so you do not inadvertently turn the spotlight onto your supporting character so much so that they outshine the hero/heroine of the piece.

You must remember whose point of view the movie story is being told from.  Who are we as readers or an audience meant to identify with. If you have been following your main character for twenty straight scenes in a row and then cut to a secondary character – say, his best friend – then you need to be sure this diversion is justified within the context of the overarching story otherwise it will detract from your central plot and be redundant.  If in this example the best friend makes a phone call about the hero or discovers something about the main plot that puts him and the hero in danger then that’s fine, but if the scene simply shows the best friend going on a date with someone that has absolutely no connection with the hero or plot and never will then lose it.

The same issue can arise when a writer focuses too much attention on the villain of the story.  Yes, the Antagonist plays an important role and should never be considered as secondary since they balance the good with the bad, provide conflict, obstacles, fear, tension and keep everything ticking along toward a climax, but you can also go over the top with their scene stealing and story-hogging so as to pull focus from the hero or heroine.  If we as an audience are supposed to empathize with the plight of the hero then we must go on the journey with them and walk in their shoes.  That is crucial.  Anything that deviates us from that journey or dilutes the connection with the hero is a negative factor and must be cut or reworked.

High Concept Movies

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 2:01 pm on October 17, 2011

For some screenwriters, penning an original high concept movie is the holy grail.  And that can be a good thing or a bad thing.  These days, the majority of Hollywood high concept movies seem to focus on the concept and leave out those little things like character development and basic storytelling.  I think the root cause of this boils down to the eternal struggle of many screenwriters which is whether to write for love or write for money.

If we’re fortunate enough to have a well-paid “day job” and this fulfills us then we probably aren’t worrying about paying the bills and so have the freedom to write movies that we want to see or simply embark on stories that we are interested in exploring, without the terms “marketable” or “box office success” influencing us.

But for the vast majority of writers, we do have to pay the bills and so there inevitably comes a time when somebody, perhaps a friend or agent says to us.. why not write something that is going to sell? And they have a point.  Sometimes you have to remember that screenwriting is a business as well as an art form and that people, including you, need to make money.  The problem is, if we set out to write a script purely to sell it, our heart and soul – two key prerequisites for any successful writing endeavor – may not be invested in the project one hundred percent and as such it may ultimately lack passion.

But you can still be interested in writing a commercial film and develop great characters and an original, engaging story without feeling like you have betrayed your artistic integrity.  Perhaps you really want to tell one story that is close to your heart and have shopped the idea around for a while but nobody seems interested.  It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or it won’t sell, but maybe you need to make your mark with another project first and then use the success of this to garner interest in your personal project.  It’s also about timing among a multitude of other factors.

The problem is, some writers never think about writing what they know and don’t want to tell personal stories, they just want to make money and become famous.  And most of these writers think that writing a high concept blockbuster is the solution.  Well, good luck to you.  Go for it!  It may work.  But I personally think you should strike a balance in your writing between commerciality and originality.  And when I say originality I don’t mean an original high concept movie I mean an original voice.

So the next time you think about the concept of your next screenplay, think about where you are in your writing career and what may help you get onto the next rung of the ladder. If a high concept movie is the answer then great, write one but approach the genre with respect and don’t just see it as a potential pay check.  The idea is to apply all of the tools of the trade to your high concept project so it includes in-depth character development, clever plot choices and original dialogue.

How’s that for a high concept

Nuvotech teams with the Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society

Filed under: Press Releases by admin @ 10:53 am on September 21, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society has teamed with UK technology company Nuvotech, publisher of popular screenwriting software Movie Outline 3, to award winners of Power of the Pitch 3 copies of their story outlining and movie script formatting software Script It!

Power of the Pitch 3 will be held from 6pm-9pm on October 19th 2011, at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Nuvotech is a software and Web 2.0 services company based in London, England. It was founded in 1999 by produced screenwriter Dan Bronzite to publish innovative software and services for the creative industry. Its most recognized brands are Movie Outline a cross-platform screenplay development application and Hollywood Script Express a script  copying and delivery service in Los Angeles. Script It! is based on the same innovative writing methodology of “step-outlining” that has proved so popular with users of Movie Outline. This “sequence” approach allows you to plan the structure of your screen story and professionally format your screenplay step by step.

The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society was started in 2009 by screenwriter, Keith Chamberlain for the purpose of providing aspiring screenwriters in the Philadelphia area, the opportunity to meet, network, and critique works in progress with other aspiring screenwriters. The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society has amassed a membership of over 150 screenwriters in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware area and its group of participating individuals meet monthly to discuss ideas and exchange professional advice. Power of the Pitch is a biannual event designed to educate screenwriters how to pitch their respective television, film or web projects to directors and producers. The first two Power of the Pitches drew an estimated attendance of 75 people from all over the Tri-State area.

If you would like to attend this event or  join the DSS mailing list please visit The Dysfunctional Screenwriters Society.

To receive more information about Nuvotech products and services please visit Nuvotech.

Vary your Movie Script Locations

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:07 pm on May 30, 2011

In your everyday life, do you sit in one spot and talk to everybody you meet in that same place?  Okay, maybe you do but unless that’s the point of the story you’re writing it’s basically not gonna be the most interesting thing to watch.

When an audience invests their time in a movie they do so to escape and be entertained and part of the way an audience is entertained is by the way you structure your story and develop your characters. Locations are key to character development fro screenwriters because they tell us a lot about a character without words.  They educate us visually about how they live, their habits, where they work, what kind of people they work with and what they experience in their world.

So with that in mind, make sure you use the locations in your screenplay to develop your characters but also use your locations as a means of story progression and pace.

Pace?  What do you mean, “pace”?  I hear you ask.

Well, it’s simple really.  You ever watched a movie where there’s a big tense scene with two people arguing loudly for about five minutes?  And then one of the characters goes outside just to get away from the conflict?  Well, that’s a change of location.  And depending on your choice of location, it may change the pace of your movie and your audience’s engagement.

If the character slams the door and goes into his/her room, well, it’s a pretty static choice of location but it may be the best choice for your character and the story.  If however the character kicks the front door open and bursts outside into the rain then maybe sits alone in the woods while he/she gets drenched.. that’s something different.  Your character could also jump in his/her car and screech off down the road.

Each decision you make about location has an impact on the way the audience will react and the emotions they will feel.  In fact, using the “driving away in the car” as an example, sometimes this actually has a direct impact on an audience, especially if the argument we talked about happened at night and then we cut to the next morning as your character drives off somewhere to get away from it all.  This sometimes causes individuals in an audience to shuffle in their seats, since they subconsciously feel the story is progressing and it’s time to get themselves ready for the next chapter.

So if you find yourself writing your scenes based in the same place then take my word for it, the audience WILL get bored, especially if it’s just “talking heads” — two characters chatting with no action.  Why not try transferring that conversation to a swimming pool while your characters are doing laps?  Or in a moving bus or even on an escalator in a shopping mall.  Use the location as a device in your screenwriting and if you do it cleverly, nobody will ever know what you are up to!

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