8 “We’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”

Richard Bell Guillermo del Toro
Find extraordinary things in the most mundane situations 90% story Don’t be too big, too complex Stay inside something you have some knowledge of Don’t start writing before you know what resources you have: ‘The Box’ – stay inside it (equipment, money, time, talent, costumes, locations, transport etc) Basic 3 Act structure Encourage the students to write Get a script first – head off the crap, helps visualisation

Sunset Boulevard
Go through the process before you shoot the film Stages 1. Box 2. Most important person in the story: who are they, what do they want? 3. Work through series of Qs > one line synopsis. Who (a little bit of backplot), Plot/Sub-plot Motivation Outcome/Result 4. Scene by scene break down of what happens – no dialogue 5. Add dialogue – stuff that cannot be explained any other way: last resort e.g. plumber can be shown by tools etc

No voiceover: too easy, too lazy Cannot have a protagonist without a desire Must have conflict Every day something happens, something is resolved Go inside themselves: write about something they know about – pain, loss, trying to hide a secret from somebody etc Don’t tell us a story we’ve already heard (action drama etc) NO cliché: stop it before shooting starts Be delicate when discussing scripts with students – gently (Sunset Boulevard) – push and pull on script/synopsis page stage (eg. Jaws shark was awful so had to be cut down extremely tightly) Common Genre OK – but how can they add to it? Make sure ending cuts to the heart of what it is about – even if you’ve led them down alleys, given red herrings etc ending must bring it right back to the core

Beautiful twist on a common genre – film noir but transposes it to a new (Whole script of Brick is available on the net) Magne Tell it with a cut Use audience imagination Strength of film-making: take hurdles with a simple cut

Down by Law
Down by Law escape (BIG cuts still tell story) Make them watch a foreign language film with subtitles off – see if they get the point: Night Train etc – great way to make them think visually. If they cannot understand their film without dialogue, what’s wrong? Precise, accurate, no repetition, every scene must have a meaning; every shot within it must also have a meaning – NO PADDING Every scene and every shot must move the story along Start as late as possible; end as soon as possible – cut each scene down to minimum

Layer Cake Incredibly violent but uses a lot of imagination, minimum tech or props etc: common locations Locations are vital – tell us a lot about characters etc Don’t set film in a boring location Pans Labyrinth conversations - Benicio del Toro Location externalises the two relationships 1. Don’t use only one soundtrack – sound is essential in terms of storytelling. Can provide imaginative extended stage set (noises off) etc) 2. Sound is the one thing that lets down many productions – the one are that will instantly improve the sound Get the mics as close as possible Make sure the dialogue can be heard (cf. Brick) We spot a mistake in the sound well before we spot a mistake in the frame Record (plenty of) buzz track in location Try to get software/editing facilities that allow them to work on the sound separately from picture Set time for them just to work on the sound: make them focus on it THX 1138 (example that makes great use of sound/sfx) Sound designed and mixed by Walther Murch – read also In the Blink of an Eye Don’t use rotten actors Cast people who are what they are looking for Put the effort into casting Rehearse the actors as much as they can so actors understand who they are in the film, what they are about, etc Hard but worth the effort Director must understand their characters and convey that to them Use (again) what they know eg bullying etc KEY POINT: TELL THE STORY VISUALLY – WITHOUT DIALOGUE Eg. History of Violence End of the film, final scene only has on the script page ‘There is hope’ Summary Not the 10 commandments – film is flexible

Q&A How are music videos different from short films? (Garageband etc) Nothing wrong with making music videos Can encourage them to take lots of short cuts A treatment is essential Prefer them making a music video for a friend or music they have written themselves Very valuable on many levels for teaching film making BUT won thelp them in regards ot script writing per se Gives them freedom, allows them to push boundaries of imagination etc Not a bad idea to make them create a narrative video rather then other options Garageband is great Creative Screenwriting Great podcast from LA – available through iTunes podcasts Get directors up on stage to talk about their script etc BG TICK for Pans Labyrinth Bullet point reduction process reduces rubbish before they get to shooting

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