Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Simple yet Stylish

As I hinted at previously, I'm rewriting THE SKULL - my movie that is a genre blender of Italian 60's crime fumetti, Mexican lucha libre and 50's noir. I sent it out to some friends and had them critique it for me. The notes have been interesting as several of them have come back and said they were surprised by this plot twist or that plot twist (which to be honest, I thought I wrote in rather clumsily) . They were surprised there was something more than what was expected.


I make no illusions about what I'm writing - this is a weird-ass fight movie - but I'm glad I was able to surprise, and hope that as I polish the script even further I can pull it off with style.

My style.

One of my stable of critics said I always write to pull people down the page, and yes, it's true. I want people to turn to the next page to find out what happens. I cut sentences in half...

...and pick up the action on the next line.

I use one. Word. Sentences.

CRAAASH! [I use sound effects]

[I also leave a lot of white space on the page]

All the little "tricks" to keep up the momentum of a script, and immerse the reader in the world I'm creating. That's my 'style' - I write a "fast read" - a lot of action that sucks you in.

My two kryptonites are character and dialogue. I can sketch in a good visual of a character, but they aren't that well-rounded. I don't know enough about them, and neither does the reader.
My dialogue - especially on first pass - is too "on the nose" and without distinctive voice.

So now, as I'm going through and rewriting this screenplay, I'm working on the weak areas, hoping to add to my signature style. Creating character moments and dialogue that move the story forward.

And what's interesting is the more I deal with one aspect, the more it influences the other. If I change a character's dialogue, I immediately begin to see him in a different way. If I change the character description, even if it's simply adding a single adjective - it changes how I hear him.
Sometimes he "says" the wrong thing, and I know I've screwed up. Other times he says something, and I'm rewriting what he said previously to remain consistent with the style of the picture and the character.

Such is the joy of screenwriting.

It's important to discuss your style because so many screenplays and movies that are out there aren't stylish at all. It's one of the supposed millstones of working in the low budget world - "There's no time for style!" But style helps cover a multitude of sins for a low budget movie. If you can tell a movie in a stylish, unique manner audiences will go with the flow even if there are a few bumps in the road.

EL MARIACHI is a great example of this - a simple movie told with style that outshines its ultra low budget roots. Camera angles and edits and music and point-of-view that all went toward creating a movie that has momentum and character even with some of the jump cuts and other awkwardness...

But it all started with the story and a style.

So if you're going to write a movie, write it with style. Your style. Your point-of-view. It doesn't matter if the story has been told before because your conception and execution of it will make it unique... and hopefully stylish. It's a lot like making love - it's all very familiar and you know the moves, but the ones you remember the most are the ones who did it with style and gave you a big payoff at the end. ;D

So what's your style?


Neal Romanek said...

You didn't really say "joy of screenwriting", did you?

I tend to overwrite, with heaps of imagery and description, as if I were writing epic verse. Every single script I end up having to hack and hack and hack until I can get it down to the juiciest single image, the most descriptive simple "noun + verb" sentence. This is something that screenwriting has in common with poetry - which works very well for me - that condensed and laser-precise language which must take the place of 1000 words of regular prose.

Danny Stack said...

I like a lean style. Fewer words. Let it flow and allow the reader to fill in the blanks between the white space and the visual nuggets that you offer. It's hard work but worth it, I think.

Of course, I'm heavily influenced by my years of reading but I'm convinced it makes for a better script. It takes talented writing indeed to overwrite a script but still make it engaging...

Aric Blue said...

I try to keep it pretty sleek and streamlined. If anything, my scene descriptions are pretty lacking but I think if you're going to skimp on anything, that's a good place as any.

(though I try not to "skimp" on anything if I can help it)