Take the scene you want to tweak, and add an event that happens just before the opening you have written.
You are now going to write a mini-scene before your problem scene begins. This will help you find the subtext of your scene, and then improve it.
Consider the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally and then we’ll add something to the opening.
A quick summary of the scene: Harry and Sally stop at a diner. As they walk towards the entrance Harry accuses Sally of not ever having had good sex. They enter, and everyone hears her protest, “It just so happens that I have had plenty of good sex."
Once seated, Harry demands to know who this great partner was. When she reveals it was Sheldon Gordon, Harry lashes out and insults him by saying that his name, while perfect for a dentist, is a sex joke: “ride me, big Sheldon.” His tirade is interrupted by the waitress who arrives to take their order. Harry orders the special, and Sally places an order of such intricacy that the waitress and Harry are stunned.
Harry wants to know why Sally and Sheldon broke up. Sally reveals that it was because of her Days of the Week underpants -- Sheldon wanted to know where the set for Sunday was, and when she explained that didn’t make them because of God, he broke up with her.
Now, let’s change the scene by adding a new opening: before Harry and Sally enter the diner, they see a man and a woman engage in a passionate embrace in the parking lot. By literally showing the subtext, the two people being sexual, it pushes the unspoken question -- Will Harry get Sally into bed? You can imagine how loaded the conversation at the table becomes because of what they had both just seen.
To know what kind of event to select, consider the subtext in the scene. What is your scene really about? Just answering this question may give you the information you needed to fix the scene in the first place.
For example, if your scene concerned two criminals discussing the possible outcome of a heist, then having both men witness a criminal being caught before the scene begins would be a good choice. Go with the first thing you think of --you can trust that your intuition will always help you pick the right event.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Take the scene you want to tweak, and add an event that happens just before the opening you have written.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Screenplay by Eric Roth, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, based on his stage play
Screenplay by Peter Morgan, based on his stage play
Screenplay by David Hare, based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink
Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel "Q&A" by Vikas Swarup
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Screenplay by Courtney Hunt
Screenplay by Mike Leigh
Screenplay by Martin McDonagh
Screenplay by Dustin Lance Black
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter & Jim Reardon
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
As screenwriters, one of our most difficult tasks is to structure our ideas so that they will fit into screenplay form. As a writing teacher, one of the biggest problems I often see is that writers with great ideas try to structure their story to conform to screenplay format before they actually have fully created their characters. While this is a good idea in theory, and seems as if it would be more efficient, it often limits a writer's interaction with the material by only providing enough information to fill in the 3-act form, that is, to provide merely an abstract "back story."
This emphasis on the 3-act structure is what frequently blocks the writer from completing his or her screenplay because scripts approached this way are never "whole," that is, the writer never puts the big, ugly mess of their story down on paper for fear it won't fit. The result of working this way is that it tends to keep us from seeing the big picture of our ideas. This is not to say that we shouldn't outline the script and then write it in a methodical manner but I believe that there is a better way to execute this task, and the key is to change the initial interaction the screenwriter has with his or her material.
Many films are adapted from books, and there's a good reason for this beyond the fact that success in one medium suggests success in another – it's because the book was written in a more organic way, with less concern for the final presentation form. As a practical matter, this means that the fiction writer probably knows more about his story than the screenwriter does when he or she embarks on writing a screenplay. The key to writing a better first draft is to allow the writer to know as much as any novelist would, but not necessarily to convey all of that extra information in the script.
In my method, The Horowitz System®, I teach writers to do a series of character exercises, many of which are visual so that they can create a database of knowledge as broad and deep as a fiction writer's but in such a way the information is not just a bunch of facts. Rather, it is a series of images that form a living history as if you'd known your characters in real life for a long time. This trick of reframing our concept of "back story" into "memories" is an amazingly effective way to improve both plot and character.
The Creating Character Memories Exercise:
You are going to "interview" your hero or heroine by asking them a series of questions and allowing them to "answer." The questions you will ask are:
What is your first memory of childhood?
What was your first word?
What was your favorite food as a child?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Did you have a best friend and who was it?
Did you have a pet and what happened?
What was your worst fear?
Set a timer for 15 minutes and answer the questions, writing in the first person as if you were your main character responding to the interviewer's questions. By writing as if you were your hero or heroine, you will be able to perceive what you have created not as abstract story material, but rather as real events that occurred in your character's life, experiences that you now hold in your imagination in common with your character.
You can repeat this exercise for as many characters as makes sense. This will help your character work, but the best part is that it will really improve your plot work. If past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior, you can now chart how your characters will react to the new occurrences they face in the screenplay you are writing.
Please let me know how this exercise worked for you.
Good luck and happy writing,
The following script tip was originally published by MovieOutline.com
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Just a quick reminder that tonight is my second FREE screenwriting telephone seminar (teleseminar). I will be discussing how to apply the Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting to Your Genre. The FREE seminar is only open to the first 100 people and I hope you'll be able to join me.
I have included detailed instructions on how to participate in the seminar below. If you have any other questions, please visit www.marilynhorowitz.com/teleseminar.
Directions How to Enter the Free Teleseminar:
STEP 1 - On JANUARY 13th, at 8:45PM E.S.T. Call 1-218-936-7999
STEP 2 - You will then be prompted to enter in a 6 digit ACCESS CODE. That code is 383302
STEP 3 - The message will then read back the ACCESS CODE you entered, if it is correct press #
STEP 4 - The message will then ask you to say your name at the tone, speak your name and press #
DONE!!! YOU ARE IN THE TELESEMINAR !!!
NOTE: If you plan to use the SEMINAR CHAT ROOM to ask questions, please use the same name for BOTH the Teleseminar AND the Chat Room.
Teleseminar Game Plan:
- The phone lines will be open at 8:40P.M. E.S.T so we can all get in and get settled.
- At 8:45P.M. sharp Marilyn will begin her lesson, at this time ONLY Marilyn will be able to speak.
- If you have any questions while Marilyn is speaking we have set up a WEBINAR CHAT ROOM for you to type out your questions.
- Marilyn will then open up the phone lines for a group converstation, Q & A and to answer CHAT ROOM questions asked during the Teleseminar.
NOTE: The handouts from all of my past seminars are available as FREE downloads here.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
My friend Safiya Songhai's film LadyLike is currently in competition at linktv.org's One Nation Many Voices Online Film Contest. Please take a moment to visit the site and vote for her film. You have to register at the site to vote (I timed myself, it took 45 seconds total) and I know she would appreciate your support. If she wins, the prize money will help her to continue making other powerful and thought-provoking films.
You can watch and vote for her film here.
We’re always trying to write for an audience other than ourselves but remember the first draft is for you. You are your own best fan and you know if you write something good or not. For the second, third and fourth drafts it’s different, you will be writing for others, but for the first draft, YOU know.
Every one of you has written something good. All of you have read at least five books on screenwriting. All of you have surfed the web for script tips and exercises. You already have all the information you need. All I try to do is organize it in a way that’s useful for you.
Let’s take back your power. You all know how to write a screenplay. So why not do it?
Friday, January 9, 2009
Good news from my talented friend Fay Ann Lee:
So excited to announce that Falling for Grace will open at the Clearview Cinema at 62nd & Broadway on April 3rd and at the Laemmele's Music Hall in Beverly Hills on April 17th. I will be doing Q&As and meet & greets in both cities.
Please go to www.FallingForGrace.com for more info.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I'm hosting my second FREE telephone seminar on Tuesday, January 13 at 8:45PM EST. I will be discussing how to use the Four Magic Questions with your genre screenplay.
For more information, to submit your question, or to download the FREE handout, please visit www.marilynhorowitz.com/teleseminar.
Hope to see you there.
I'm sure most of you have seen the compelling (and hilarious) story by Capucine, the four-year-old French girl. Well, there's more. My friend Kate just sent me this terrific (and very truthful) send-up. Watch it here.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I'm not endorsing this, just passing it on. Does look interesting though.
UNUSUALS is the only social network designed with the commercial film professional in mind, including grips, directors, DPs, post production people, producers, actors, stylist, etc. UNUSUALS allows you to share your reels, connect on projects, discover and be discovered via the Monster Search Engine. I've put together this minisite which explains everything:
Oh, and one more thing, UNUSUALS is offering you and your readers a 6 week free membership with access to all of the services on the site if you register before the end of January.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Not strictly film-related but thought I'd pass it on:
Do you know any college students or recent grads looking for an internship in PR? Send them my way! 5W is looking for several interns to start ASAP in the beauty, wellness & children’s divisions (which means working with me!)
If you know anyone please have them send their resumes and availability to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to pass this along to friends, alumni, whoever. Thanks!