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Unit 3: Scripts and Screenplays

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john meehan

on 13 December 2013

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Transcript of Unit 3: Scripts and Screenplays

Unit 3: Scripts and Screenplays
Screenplay format is incredibly "lean" and spare. Typically, 1 page should equal 1 minute of film.
The more white space, the better.
RULE #1
Week 1:
The Basics

Week 2:
Dialogue

Week 3:
Character

Week 4:
Action

A screenplay only includes those items that can be SEEN or HEARD by the audience.
That means no inner thoughts.
RULE #2
Every scene should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. And every scene should help to advance the plot.
Even comedies have a linear narrative.
RULE #3
Good dialogue:
Reveals character.

Advances the plot.

Provides important information.
RULE #4
ON THE NOSE DIALOGUE
Is both TOO LITERAL and LAUGHABLE.
Example:
"I am very hungry. I would like to eat a burrito from the nearest Chipotle."
(nobody actually talks like this)
GOOD DIALOGUE IS SMART AND SNAPPY
Week 5:
Story

REWRITE THIS SCENE
ELIMINATE "ON THE NOSE" DIALOGUE
You may reword/reorder/change ANYTHING you'd like to, but try to keep the spirit of the scene intact.
Your revised script should be about 1-1.5 pages in length.
Every scene should have:
A character that WANTS something.

An OBSTACLE in attaining it.

A BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END.
Making the journey as difficult as possible creates DRAMA.
Assignment:
Write an original scene featuring only two characters where one character wants something and the other one is preventing them from obtaining it.

The "something" can be tangible, emotional, or philosophical.

Your scene should be 2-3 pages.
BEGINNING

MIDDLE

END
Result in success/failure
Establish what's at stake
Raise the stakes/conflict
Good dialogue should:
Advance the plot

Reveal character

Provide key info
When writing dialogue:
Eliminate chit-chat

Don't repeat info

Avoid ON-THE-NOSE
EVERY (MAJOR) CHARACTER
SHOULD HAVE A UNIQUE
VOICE
A character's voice reflects his/her:
AGE
GENDER
RACE
EDUCATION
SOCIAL STATUS
VALUE SYSTEM

imagine your grandma saying "Yolo"
guys and girls talk differently
consider the use of slang
proper speech vs. casual speech
consider people's peer groups
a person's job changes their speech
"Hello. My name is..."
"I find you attractive."
"This situation bothers me."
"My friends are the best."
PIRATE
DOCTOR
TEACHER
PRIEST
ATHLETE
CUSTOMER
FAITH, HOMETOWN, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, ETC.
WIZARD
COP
POLITICIAN
NERD
CHEERLEADER
CHILD
By the end of tomorrow's class...
You must write a dialogue between two characters with distinct voices.
Your scene should be 3 pages with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Use minimal description. Characters should be named "AAA" and "BBB."
Ideally, you should be able to tell which character is speaking even if you've blocked out his/her name.
Unique voices make characters come alive
Create a world in which FIVE unique characters now exist.
Each character should have a paragraph-sized biography. Invent their likes, dislikes, physical features, level of education, wants, needs, interests, etc. This will help you get a sense for each character.
All of your characters should fit into the same universe.
"Dead Eye" Jesse Hyde
A 30-something outlaw whose dusty black Stetson can't hide his boyish good looks. Hyde is self-centered, cocky, and fiercely independent. He's quick on his feet, and has a rap sheet twice as long as his arm. Hyde might have a good heart, but it's buried deep beneath his big ego.
U.S. Marshal Sam Lytum
Lytum is a no-nonsense lawman in his late 40s who was born in his boots. His only love is his job, and he's darn good at it. He's grizzled and experienced, and he's got no time for nonsense. Lytum's the type of guy who'll only sleep when he's dead.
Ruby Valentine
Ruby's a former Wild West showgirl and a born heartbreaker in her late 20s. She's always looking for trouble, and she's got a knack for finding it. In spite of her big city dreams, Ruby is stuck in a one-horse town and always looking to catch the next train out. She's a street-smart dreamer who's guarded and wise beyond her years.
Charles T. Vanderbergh
Vanderbergh, 40s, is a wealthy scoundrel who lives for the almighty dollar. He buries his enemies and he doesn't make friends -- he buys them. Part developer and part conman, he'll stop at nothing to see a profit. Vanderbergh is ruthless, arrogant, and perpetually in a foul mood.
Miss Annie Calhoun
Miss Annie's a brassy brothel owner in her 40s. Notorious to her patrons and adored by all her "girls," Annie is nobody's fool. She's fiercely loyal, unapologetically bold, and more than capable of drinking you under the table. Word to the wise: Miss Annie's not one to be messed with.
Good characters should feel "real" and three-dimensional. By giving each character his/her own unique personality, you lay the groundwork for endless combinations of interpersonal drama and conflict.
GREAT DRAMA COMES FROM
INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT
Manifest Destiny, my boy! If you ain’t movin’, you ain’t living. You stop for so much as a second and you’re dead where you stand.
Ah shoot. It’ll take more than one little bank robbery to earn me a California Collar.
Not so fast, outlaw. There ain’t no way I’m putting my neck on the line without getting a little something in return. A girl’s got standards, after all.
Stick to the plan! There’s a fine line between brave and crazy, and the last thing we need is for somebody to run off and do somethin’ foolish.
Aw relax, darlin'. Ain't nothing a shot of whisky and a little shuteye can’t fix. We'll show those boys who's boss yet.
Good dialogue REVEALS CHARACTER
Some characters are named to evoke other characters.
Others are named to evoke a certain idea.
DARTH VADER
Dark
Father
Chilly McFreeze
Ice Dagger
Stone Cold
What's in a name?
When Steve Austin (born Steve Williams) was developing his wrestling persona, he wanted to evoke the idea of a cold-blooded serial killer.
These were actual names he considered:
BE CAREFUL:
CHARACTER NAMES THAT ARE TOO
"ON THE NOSE"
WILL CHANGE THE TONE OF A SCRIPT
CHARACTER NAMES SHOULD BE UNIQUE, APPROPRIATE and MEMORABLE
Name variations matter!
Tiffany
Tiff
Tyff
Tiffani
William
Bill
Billy
Will.I.Am
A character's name can tell us a lot about who that person is.
A doctor who solves mysteries
The U.S. Census
is an excellent tool for finding out age-appropriate names.
Tonight's Homework
Create and name five supporting characters that would fit into the same universe with your five major characters.

Give one sentence to explain your rationale behind each character's name.
Character naming conventions imply importance and familiarity.
Samuels
Green
Jacobsen
Mitch
Rondo
D-Ray
Matthews
Hunt
Kyle
Agnes
Myrtle
Tina Brown
Fat Cop
Logan
Ski-Mask
Roth
Bassist
Drummer
Too generic vs. Too unique
Stacker Pentecost
Boris Badenov
Cypher Rage
Memphis Raines
Flipper Purify
Renesmee Cullen
Jane Jones
Stephen Stevens
Mike Rodgers
Sue Smith
Dan Matthews
Leah Johnson
Every character should have:
1) Outer Want

2) Inner Need
And these things are almost always in conflict with one another.
Jay Gatsby
O.W. = The love of Daisy Buchanan
I.N. = To learn you can't repeat the past.
Indiana Jones
O.W. = Obtain priceless historical artifacts
I.N. = To learn the value of human life.
Scout Finch
O.W. = To be a kid (on her own terms)
I.N. = To grow up (the hard way).
An overweight NFL linebacker
Let's play the name game...
Develop an original name (first/last and/or nickname) for each of these characters:
A high school cheerleading captain
A gritty, no-nonsense police officer
A character of your choice
What a girl (or boy) wants...
Look at the bios you created last night. Can you identify each character's:
Outer Want
Inner Need
The deeper lesson or change they require
The "thing" or object they seek.
93% of all human communication is nonverbal.
Studies suggest that
In a screenplay...
ACTION lines are any words used to describe the way a scene looks or the way a character behaves.
In the spirit of Shakespeare, action lines...
Should be kept to four lines or fewer
Should give a sense, not all specifics
Should EMPHASIZE visual cues
Today's Assignment:
Write a short scene
(1 page) that uses maximum ACTION lines and minimal dialogue.
(This is more flexible in stage plays)
Yet action lines are a relatively late innovation of written drama
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Famously kept his stage directions and scene settings to a minimum.
"Allarum"
"Dies"
"Stabs"
"Exit" / "Exeunt"
38
plays
Action + Dialogue = 90%+ of a written script
IN MEDIA RES
(Latin for "in the middle of the action.")
The best dramatic scenes often begin
ARRIVE AS LATE AS POSSIBLE
LEAVE AS EARLY AS POSSIBE
(but the scene still needs a beginning, middle, and end)
THREE-PAGE CHALLENGE:
Write a scene in which one or two characters express love for the other.

(Could be any kind of love.)

They will never say the words " I love you." They will never refer to their own feelings for each other, but it is vital that the reader understand these feelings exist.
SUBTEXT
Or, if you prefer, do the same exercise, but this time change " love" to "hate."
CATALYST
BREAK INTO TWO
MIDPOINT
BREAK INTO THREE
FINALE
The INCITING INCIDENT that sparks the hero's journey.
The hero begins their journey and enters A NEW WORLD.
A FALSE VICTORY and/or a FALSE DEFEAT that raises the stakes for the hero.
That moment just after all seems lost where the hero FINDS THEIR INNER STRENGTH.
The CLIMAX, and the ultimate SHOWDOWN between good and evil.
THE LION KING
THE WIZARD OF OZ
ALADDIN
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
1. Opening Image
2. Theme Stated
3. Set-up
4. Catalyst
5. Debate
6. Break into Two
7. B Story
8. Fun and Games
The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (from "Save the Cat" - page 70)
9. Midpoint
10. Bad Guys Close In
11. All is Lost
12. Dark Night of the Soul
13. Break into Three
14. Finale
15. Final Image
THEME STATED
SET-UP
DEBATE
B-STORY
FUN & GAMES
BAD GUYS CLOSE IN
ALL IS LOST
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
FINAL IMAGE
Sets the tone. Gives an clue about a main character or main idea.
The "message" of the movie. Often spoken indirectly.
Plot exposition. Should be done subtly to establish the stakes.
Hero(es) weigh their options before starting their journey.
The subplot. Often a new group of characters.
The kind of stuff you see on the one sheet or trailer.
The tide starts to turn against the hero.
The lowest of the low. Often a death of a mentor / loved one.
The hero's soul-searching before breaking into III.
The "new world." Often a mirror of the opening image.
OPENING IMAGE
40 notecards
outline challenge
Due Next Thursday
Full transcript