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in Filmmaking
on May 11, 2012

My blog post last week on 15 Things to Do After You Finish Your Script dances around the issue of quality, but my approach was fundamentally affirmational. Over at Script Shadow, Carson Reeves is blunter with his 10 Possible Reasons Your Script is Boring. All ten points are pretty dead-on, meaning that I’ve encountered each one more times than I want to remember. Reeves does a good job of identifying the reasons why a script read could produce just a “meh” reaction, but the short diagnosis is, it all comes down to quality. A script shouldn’t be just good these days — it should be great. You’ve written one or two or ten scripts; the person reading it has read hundreds or thousands. What makes yours stand out?

Below are two items from Reeves’ list of script problems. Go to the link to read the rest.

Not understanding the phrase “stuff needs to happen” – Stuff needs to HAPPEN in your screenplay. The problem is that young writers don’t know what the word “happen” means. They think it means your character going to bars and talking with their friends or going to work for yet another boring workday. Yeah, technically something is “happening” in those scenes, but nothing INTERESTING is happening. In order to make something of interest happen, have the scene push your story forward. So instead of plopping two characters down in a location to discuss their lives, have them trying to figure out something that has an impact on the story. Maybe one of them is thinking of moving to a new city. Maybe one of them is thinking of asking their dream girl out. Now there’s an actual purpose to the conversation so we’ll be invested in how it ends. “Happening” basically means writing a scene where you’re pushing the story forward. If you’re not doing that, your scene’s probably boring.

You’re not putting enough effort into your choices – Recently I read this script I felt could easily be a movie. It was very marketable and the kind of thing a studio would want to add to their slate. But it was incredibly boring. And it was boring because every choice the writer made was the most obvious choice in the world. The main character was a cliche obvious choice. The scenes were all scenes I’d seen a million times before. The funny sidekick character had nothing new to him. It was like the writer never thought past the first thing that popped into his head. It’s your job as a writer to always ask the question: “Can I come up with something better, more interesting, more original, or cooler than this?” Chances are you can. But most writers don’t take the time because it’s too much work. Well I got news for you. Screenwriting ain’t all fun. It’s work. I would go so far as to say if writing a script is pure fun for you, you’re not working hard enough. Challenge your choices. Come up with better ones. Don’t be the guy who sends out a script where everything is obvious, general, and cliché.

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