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Scriptwriting resources

ReznikReznik Registered User regular
edited February 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Okay, so, I find myself in a very interesting situation. Spoilered is the backstory.
Basically I'm doing an internship (doing basic visual effects) for a guy who's trying to I guess start up the movie industry in my (rather small) town. He's the kind of guy who can get the contacts and the money and the people together to make stuff happen, but he's not so much a writer or a director.

In any case, he got in touch with a martial arts guy who knows other martial arts guys and wants to make a martial arts movie. Awesome! I love martial arts movies! So of course, he's very excited about having me and the other interns work on it and we are also super stoked. In the course of talking about ideas for the movie, I inquire as to who is working on the script (his last movie, the one we're doing the effects for now, was mostly improv), and I mention that I enjoy writing dialogue and would like to help. He is very excited, and pretty much asks if I would like to do the whole thing.

Well!

I'm not really a writer. I write sometimes in my spare time and enjoy it, but uh... I've never really thrown anything up for critique or shown it to people unless it's a school assignment. See I was hoping maybe he had someone who was going to be the lead writer and I would just... collaborate. A whole script is a helluva big responsibility, though! Anyway, I kinda want to see if I'm up to the challenge but... A whole script! Jesus.

So! Looks like I might be writing a script for a martial arts movie! Please direct me to any and all resources that you think would be helpful. I don't even really know where to begin. I'm fairly sure that if I don't write this script, this movie will probably be mostly improv. Again. Doesn't exactly produce the most stellar results... :\

Do... Re.... Mi... Ti... La...
Do... Re... Mi... So... Fa.... Do... Re.... Do...
Forget it...
Reznik on

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    OverlordOverlord Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I'd recommend this book (reading it for my Narrative II class. Lots of stuff on proper formatting and story structure)

    http://www.amazon.com/Screenplay-Writing-Robin-U-Russin/dp/1879505703/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265246148&sr=8-10

    I'd also recommend using Celtx. It's a free program for writing screenplays that helps you format them as you go along.

    http://celtx.com/

    Also I'd recommend lots of rewrites. Each time cutting things that aren't essential/slow things down. Have people read them over, and read dialog outloud so you can see how it flows.

    Edit:

    Oh, and a properly formatted page usually equals about a minute of screentime. So if its feature length your script may end up 100-120 pages long.

    Overlord on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    The best understanding of story structure that I have learned after years of studying it...
    Balance
    Unbalance
    Quest
    Climax
    New Balance

    The defining moments that are instances in time are the unbalance, and climax. These are moments, everything else is a span of time that gives detail. Most action movies are Quest heavy.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
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    28682868 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    This is how a make a living.

    You'll want to read Syd Field. Whether you like it or not, his three act structure guidelines are what script readers expect.

    There are other good books read em.

    The best advice is to read the screenplays for your favorite movies. Or movies you'd like to emulate, see how they did. I recommend and William Goldman (particularly Butch and Sundance) and reading Robert Towne's Chinatown.

    Um, what else. Your sub plot is as important as your main plot, it's what makes the second act work. For sub plot and second act help read Aristotle's The Poetics. Shit. Take a class on the Poetics.

    Then write about 10 drafts of the script.

    Remember a spec is not a shooting script, I'm sure you will all work that out down the line.

    I teach a screenwriting class every other fall. I'll look through my resources and see if there are any other things I left out.

    Good luck.

    2868 on
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    ImprovoloneImprovolone Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    2868 wrote: »
    This is how a make a living.

    You'll want to read Syd Field. Whether you like it or not, his three act structure guidelines are what script readers expect.

    There are other good books read em.

    The best advice is to read the screenplays for your favorite movies. Or movies you'd like to emulate, see how they did. I recommend and William Goldman (particularly Butch and Sundance) and reading Robert Towne's Chinatown.

    Um, what else. Your sub plot is as important as your main plot, it's what makes the second act work. For sub plot and second act help read Aristotle's The Poetics. Shit. Take a class on the Poetics.

    Then write about 10 drafts of the script.

    Remember a spec is not a shooting script, I'm sure you will all work that out down the line.

    I teach a screenwriting class every other fall. I'll look through my resources and see if there are any other things I left out.

    Good luck.

    Improvolone on
    Voice actor for hire. My time is free if your project is!
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    ReznikReznik Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Thanks a ton, guys.

    I don't know what to expect out of this, but it should be fun anyways.

    My boss met with the martial arts guy today, so tomorrow I'll probably see what (and who) we're working with, and what ideas they've got.

    I heard the words "brutal" and "gritty" getting thrown around a lot...

    Reznik on
    Do... Re.... Mi... Ti... La...
    Do... Re... Mi... So... Fa.... Do... Re.... Do...
    Forget it...
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    TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Your first one million (approximately) things that you write will be bad, so get that stuff out of the way unless you feel like giving him a bad screenplay. Obviously you're time-limited so you can't do the ideal thing which is to get all 1 million bad scripts written, but you can at least do a few before jumping into the deep end of putting things on paper that real live people are going to have to say.

    TychoCelchuuu on
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    SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    This book was pretty helpful for my screenwriting class.

    http://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265296732&sr=1-1

    Too bad Amazon doesn't sell motivation...

    Sentry on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
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    noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Robert McKee's story helped me out quite a bit.

    There's also a pretty good free scriptwriting program. I won't do the job for you mind you, but if you're really serious, it helps you get organized.

    noir_blood on
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    JinnJinn Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Rule of 3/Freytag's Pyramid-- look these up if you are not familiar

    Stephen King's On Writing

    Anthony Friedmann's Writing for Visual Media

    Jinn on
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    ReznikReznik Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Figured I'd give an update. Things are progressing, finally.

    So I'm almost through On Writing (excellent so far!) and I've got a 2 hour Syd Field video to go through later. Thanks a ton for the suggestions!

    I got some of my boss's notes after his meeting with the martial arts guy. He's going to have another meeting with him on Thursday, so I have some time to look at the notes and make suggestions.

    The biggest problem we have right now is that we have fighters, not actors. The notes call for 4 main characters whose lives sort of intertwine (my boss used Crash as an example) and they end up at this tournament. Four main characters means there's that much more dialogue (and they can't all be the stoic, silent fighter). So I'm not really sure how to go about writing around the limitations of the actors. Like I don't want to go 'oh well these guys can't act, so I don't need to put any effort into the script!'. I want it to be as good as I can make it while still having something that works for these guys.

    My boss seems like he would be content with just 'excuses' for these characters to fight, but I want to make sure all the action has a point to it and some weight behind it so people don't get bored because they don't care (basically I don't want to pull a Star Wars Prequel Trilogy).

    Wow! That's a bit rambling. Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions you might have. I'll probably be taking this thing to the Writer's Block soon, once I've actually got something more substantial.

    Reznik on
    Do... Re.... Mi... Ti... La...
    Do... Re... Mi... So... Fa.... Do... Re.... Do...
    Forget it...
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    Wow, Celtx is pretty badass. I like it.

    Delzhand on
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    OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited February 2010
    I'd suggest reading William Goldman's 'Which Lie Did I Tell?' I have no idea how useful it is profesionally, but it's got a lot of really excellent general writing advice.

    Orikaeshigitae on
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    28682868 Registered User regular
    edited February 2010
    I'd suggest reading William Goldman's 'Which Lie Did I Tell?' I have no idea how useful it is profesionally, but it's got a lot of really excellent general writing advice.

    Goldman is a god in the industry. Everyone who's won a gold statue since he started writing is a student of Goldman. And he is a student of his contemporaries.

    As for your dialog troubles, take a page from William Monahan. He, more than most working screenwriters, gets away with direction, even when writing for guys like Scorcese, who would promptly ignore most suggestions.

    For instance, a scene from the departed, note Dignan's second line:
    COLIN, in civvies (a very good suit), stands at suave
    attention before CAPTAIN QUEENAN, a mild and scholarly man
    who might as well be a Jesuit history-teacher.
    QUEENAN
    Congratulations on passing the
    detective exam, and welcome to the
    Special Investigation Unit.
    DIGNAM
    (tonelessly)
    Whoop-di fuckin' do.
    QUEENAN
    We won't be working directly
    together, you'll be working for
    Captain Ellerby, but I like to see
    everybody.
    (contemplating him)
    You're a worker, you rise fast.
    DIGNAM
    Like a twelve year old's dick.
    (Alt: Like a turd in the pool.)
    COLIN
    Thank you, Sergeant.

    Notice how he directs the actors in the parentheticals? Now that's Monahan's thing. I wouldn't recommend this if you were trying to sell a spec. But it sounds like you guys are seat of pantsing it, and he is really the best screenwriter to emulate based on what I can see of your situation.

    The only way to nail dialog is to write it. And write a lot of it. Read a lot of it too.

    2868 on
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