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Montage Sequence – Friend or Foe?

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:17 pm on June 29, 2011

Instead of writing a bunch of short scenes with little or no dialogue as separate steps in your story, why not group them together in a sequence and count it as one scene?  This way you can still give the audience the information they need but you compress the method in which you reveal it – adding pace to your story.

Okay, you say, we’ve seen this a zillion times in movies.. and it’s called a “montage”.  A sequence of shots, typically put to music to show the condensed passage of time.  It’s a screenwriting device that sometimes helps a script and sometimes, as with all over-used devices, hinders it.  Just like anything you do when creating a screenplay you have to make sure that every story, character or stylistic element is justified.  That means, asking yourself the question “Does it make sense to have this here?”.

The typical use of a montage sequence can be seen in movies like The Karate Kid or Flashdance – whereby the central character has to learn how to do karate or how to do a complicated dance routine.  If the scenes were played in real time the audience would be sitting in the movie theater for weeks and would probably be a little bored.  Similary, if you just jump to the scene where the Karate Kid does the “crane”, the climax wouldn’t have any impact and we’d be asking ourselves how in hell did this scrawny little kid suddenly know how to do such an amazing karate kick!  It just wouldn’t be believable.

So it is clear that in this example that a montage sequence is necessary.  But the problem is, we’ve seen them done so many times it forms a part of our instinctive cinematic language.  This can be a good thing, because we know what’s going on and don’t have to be educated – we just accept it.  But conversely, it doesn’t really break any boundaries for the cinematic art form and can often be the choice of a lazy writer.

If you decide that a montage sequence is absolutely the only way you can convey your character’s emotional or physical development in a short passage of time then go ahead, use it, but try to be innovative.  Maybe don’t use music.  Or perhaps use split-screen so the events unfold in condensed time in parallel to real-time events. Maybe you could even disguise the sequence through other techniques such as CGI, voice-over, flicking through pages of a book.. who knows, that’s up to you.

The point is, whatever screenwriting device you use from your creative writing toolbox, don’t be lazy.  Always force yourself to find a creative solution to your storytelling and never settle for something because it’s the easy option.

The Power of the Flashback

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:14 pm on June 19, 2011

Flashback can be a clever device or it can be an annoying one.  If you use it sparingly and don’t rely on it too heavily to tell your story then it can really help with the revelation of subplot, the recollection of key past events tied into your current plot, and the resurgence of repressed memories – sprinkling a little style at the same time.

When learning how to write a script, think of flashback as just another weapon in the screenwriter’s armoury. Sometimes it may help you, other times it may just get in the way or over-convolute the story, but if you use it correctly this device can be a fantastic visual aid.  Don’t use flashback because you are lazy.  If you can find another way of telling your backstory then be innovative and pursue a more creative route that doesn’t rely on exposition.

Only use flashback if there is no other way to convey past events or if you feel that introducing flashback (or indeed flash forward) will enhance the piece in a stylistic manner.  Sometimes writers even use flashback to intentionally confuse an audience or lead them down a particular path so as to turn the tables on them later on.

A great example of this was in The Usual Suspects where Kevin Spacey’s character retold past events to the cop Chazz Palminteri.  We bought the story he was feeding us hook, line and sinker. And why not?  We had no reason not to believe that what he was saying was the truth, and the director also presented the backstory as the truth with no hint to subterfuge.  Then, right at the crucial moment in the third act, the writer and director pulled the floor out from under us and revealed that Kevin Spacey had been lying and that he was in fact the villain of the piece Keyser Söze.

Flashback, like any screenwriting device, such as voice-over, can be used or abused.  Good writers use it in a way that enhances the narrative and character development of a movie without relying on it to solve plot problems.  Great script writers find innovative ways to play with this cool device so that it feels fresh yet at the same time familiar. The trick is, striking the perfect balance.

Remember the Golden “Rule of Three” for Writing

Filed under: Dan Bronzite's Script Tips by Dan @ 1:11 pm on June 9, 2011

I know some of you writers out there – yes, you know who you are — don’t like rules and formulas and are ruthlessly resistant to following any kind or paradigm in your script writing efforts but the simple truth is that patterns and methods exist in life and art and often it is the artist’s task to present them in such a way so that they enhance the drama but do not stand out like a sore thumb.

Even Gene Kelly used technique.. He didn’t just wake up one morning and do a back flip but he was such a master at his craft that he made every dazzling move look seamless and effortless through years of practice and applying technique to creativity.

The job is the same for the writer.  To create a story that has technique and intention yet uses tried-and-tested screenwriting devices where necessary and the writer’s skill to present the events that unfold in an organic way so that we, as an audience, hook into the plot and the characters that inhabit the depicted fiction world before us.

So with that in mind, you, as a screenwriter, must learn that the “rule of three” doesn’t just apply to telling jokes.  That’s right, you don’t have to be a comedian (but it sometimes helps) to use this technique in your own scripts to make your narrative and character development have more impact.

In order for an audience to remember an important piece of information or to fully understand and identify with your screenplay’s clever third-act twist, you first have to set it up, then you remind them (usually in a subtle way) and then you make that jaw-dropping pay-off!  And it doesn’t just apply to your overall act structure but also to scenes and the dialogue within them.  Just as a witty one-liner may have a beginning, middle and end, so does a monologue, a heated dialogue exchange, a fight and a car chase.  The rules appear everywhere to varying degrees.

A crude example would be your hero entering a trendy club and noticing an ornate bowl of nuts on the bar.  He takes one as he asks the bartender some questions.  Then during the middle of the scene a seductive woman approaches him and they exchange some dialogue.  He’s not interested but as she departs she mentions how the nuts he’s eating contain germs since people don’t wash their hands.  As we approach the end of the scene, the hero comes face to face with the person that has been following him all day and they have a fist fight while everybody around them watches on.  The hero ultimately wins by reaching behind him, grabbing the bowl of nuts and slamming it across the guy’s head.. maybe even ending the scene with a witty retort about how the woman was right and that the nuts are bad for your health.

Setup. Reminder. Pay-off.

Now, would the scene work as well with only the first and last visual of the nuts?  Or perhaps just the last? No. One – Two – Three. Simple yet extremely effective.

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!

Getting into a routine can help with screenwriting

Filed under: Screenwriting by admin @ 9:15 am on May 25, 2011

You might be desperate to get your screenwriting ideas noted down and formed into a completed work. After all, if you are successful, you may reap considerable rewards both financially and in terms of your levels of personal fulfilment.

But as with most things in life, the process is not straightforward. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to complete screenplays, usually including many drafts of your work before you’re happy with it. Of course, there are ways of making the task easier. For example, you can invest in reputable screenplay writing software. This software makes structuring your ideas much more straightforward and means you will not veer away from the accepted industry format.

However, there is more to screenwriting than this. One way in which you can increase the chances that your creation will be completed is by ensuring you get into a routine. It is no good simply waiting until you feel inspired and energized before you sit down in front of your computer.

Instead, you must be disciplined and organized and have a routine in place that you rarely deviate from. It is only by operating in a structured fashion like this that most people find they are able to push ahead with the project.

It takes a certain kind of single-mindedness to be a success in the screenwriting field and you must not consistently let procrastination get in the way of your work – although let’s face it – we all do it sometimes!

So, once you have your screenplay writing software installed and clear ideas in your mind about your creative direction, you might well benefit from developing and sticking to a firm schedule.

Formatting is crucial in screenplay writing

Filed under: Screenwriting by admin @ 9:10 am on May 11, 2011

When you sit down to create a screenplay, there are many issues you have to bear in mind. Indeed, the process can be daunting. But as long as you are organized and know what you are aiming for, you stand a good chance of producing something you are proud of.

One of the most important issues when you are screenwriting is the way in which you present your creations. If you get this wrong, the sad truth is professionals in the industry are unlikely to even look at your offering. After all, they are busy people and they have to look through many scripts, so the chances are they will not waste time trying to decipher your screenplay if it isn’t set out as per the industry standard.

This is why using screenplay writing software can be so important. It helps you stick to the format required by those in the industry, including producers, readers, agents, actors and development executives.

By presenting your piece in the expected way, you help these specialists to envisage how the screenplay would come across if it was performed in front of the cameras.

Indeed, many experts agree that when it comes to screenwriting, the first ten pages are the most important. It is during these early stages that you have to succeed in grabbing the attention and approval of those analyzing the script. As well as getting your content right, this also means ensuring you are correct when it comes to your margin sizes, page numbers and arrangement of text, among other things.

Without using screenplay writing software, this can be exceptionally difficult to master.

Budding Writers Can Realize Their Dreams with the Right Tools

Filed under: Script Writing Software by admin @ 9:46 am on March 27, 2011

Everyone has dreams, but few ever get to realize them. When it comes to screenwriting, not everyone can put a script together that will be picked up by Hollywood, but it’s still a lot of fun trying. And besides, just seeing your script come to life when performed by a local theater company is still pretty incredible. Either way, aspiring writers will never get to know just how good they are or how far their work can take them if they don’t give screenwriting their best shot.

Putting a script together can seem a complex and daunting task, especially if a writer doesn’t have the right tools for the job. Organizing all those creative thoughts and managing the writing process requires specialist script writing software, otherwise budding writers can soon end up going around in circles and find themselves in a complete mess of scenarios and ideas. This creativity needs to be tempered by some order and structure – structure that can come from having script writing software that has been developed by successful writers, with other aspiring creative professionals in mind, at your disposal.

As well as helping to give the creative process some sort of organizational road map, the software helps with the presentation of the final document. Other people need to understand the ideas contained with the script and be able to envision how they would play out on screen.

Agents and theater companies receive a plethora of scripts every single day. Coherent presentation is the first step towards getting their attention and securing that first big break. While every new writer needs a slice of luck, they can also help themselves by investing in software to help them work like a professional.

Getting a Movie Script Noticed isn’t Impossible

Filed under: How to Write a Script by admin @ 3:38 pm on March 17, 2011

So many people find themselves stuck in unsuitable jobs. They sit behind desks in grey, soulless office blocks, churning out countless dull reports, when what they’d really like to be doing is writing their own material. They may have dreams of one day hitting the big time, scripting major movies in Hollywood, but rather than developing their ideas through screenwriting, they’re stuck in the accounts department of some small time firm.

Making it big in screenwriting takes real talent and a lot of hard work, not to mention a little slice of luck, but if you never try, you’ll never know what might have been.

Drafting something as ambitious and complex as a movie script is daunting; even more so without the necessary tools at your disposal. It’s different kind of challenge to writing a novel or short story, for example. A script requires imagination and visualization of scenes and scenarios, as well as extensive dialogue, and it takes a great deal of discipline and organization to get all of this down on paper.

Anyone serious about getting noticed by agents needs to present their work in a professional fashion. Agents receive thousands of scripts day after day, so it’s wise to make life easier for them and get noticed with a professional, organized document.

Screenwriting software helps the budding writer to achieve this. A good screenwriting software package not only helps the writer organize and present their work effectively, but also assists the creative process by providing function and facility to structure ideas throughout the creative process.

Screenwriting Myths Debunked

Filed under: Screenplay Writing Software by admin @ 3:15 pm on February 28, 2011

A lot of talented writers make the mistake of giving up on a career in screenwriting before they even get started. Much of this lack of belief stems from the numerous myths surrounding the world of screenwriting, which discourage people from chasing their dreams.

The majority of these myths are completely baseless or outdated, as the world of screenplay writing could well be more open than you think:

-    You don’t have to be famous or already working in the movie industry to get a screenplay noticed. Production companies and television networks are constantly on the lookout for new talent with fresh ideas and perspectives. Plenty of successful movies were conceived and developed by new writers without any prior industry affiliation.

-    It doesn’t matter if you struggle to come up with completely new and unique ideas. The truth is that a one of a kind concept is extremely rare and seldom necessary. Many exciting and successful screenplays have been based on works of literature, TV shows and even other movies. As long as your screenplay is well-written and has a coherent storyline it has every chance of getting industry recognition.

-    Don’t worry if you’ve never written a script before. Everyone has to start somewhere, and as with any new activity, the best way to improve your technique is through assisted practice. Even if you don’t know exactly how a screenplay should be set out, there are many useful tools that can help you. Screenwriting software can guide you on those first steps towards writing a structured story that meets industry requirements.

Script It! Hits the Mac App Store

Filed under: Press Releases by admin @ 4:41 pm on February 18, 2011

18 February, 2011 (London, UK) — UK technology company Nuvotech announced today that its new cross-platform creative writing package Script It! for Mac and PC is now available on the Mac App Store. This coincides with the full boxed retail release of the software, allowing customers to have flexible purchasing options via multiple channels.

“We are delighted to launch Script It! on the Mac App Store since this gives Mac OS X users instant access to the software and instils consumer confidence in our company and products by its association with the Apple brand”, commented Evelyne Kennedy, Product Manager for Nuvotech.

Key Features

  • Fully integrated step-outlining and scene organization
  • Industry standard script formatting with auto-pagination and auto-complete
  • Script writing glossary with over 250 filmmaking terms and definitions
  • Character name generator categorized by origin, gender and meaning
  • Includes scene by scene story and analysis of Ghost, Spider-Man and Scream
  • Scratch Pad to manage script snippets, research, character notes and plot ideas.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for quick editing and auto-convert/auto-capitalization as you type
  • Export outline, script and notes to plain text, rich text, html and PDF files
  • Auto-backup, auto-save and unlimited undo/redo
  • 100% cross-platform – easily exchange files between Mac and PC

“Script It! helps you organize your thoughts and build your story and screenplay beat by beat, making the process of writing a script less daunting and more intuitive, especially for first-timers learning the craft.”
– Professor Richard Walter
Chairman of the UCLA Screenwriting Program.

Pricing

Script It! will initially be available on the Mac App Store at a discounted price of $49.99 for a limited time before it returns to its full MSRP of $79.95.

About Nuvotech

Nuvotech Limited is a software and Web 2.0 services company based in London, England. It was founded in 1999 by produced screenwriter and director 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, copyright and delivery service in Los Angeles.

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