I think I’d make a good hyphen

The under-appreciated Preston Sturges

I heard back from the person looking for help with their script. They’ve made two shorts and now want to expand into something a bit longer.

They sent 6 pages for me to work on the wide margin material with the instruction to leave the dialogue alone.

Suffice to say, there was a lot I could take out with no impact whatsoever and the editor in me couldn’t help but work on some of the dialogue.

What was surprising was the large amount of Screenwriting 101 mistakes: Telling the reader how somebody feels. Capitalizing a character’s name almost every time they appear in a scene. Repetitive and on-the-nose dialogue.

I have no idea how much formal training this person has had, or even if they went to film school, but this is the second director I’ve dealt with who is woefully misinformed about how to write a script. Shouldn’t that be necessary anyway?

For example, there was way too much information in the set-up for each scene.  I don’t need to know in extensive detail how exquisitely beautiful this summer day in the countryside is. One sentence will suffice.

Years ago, I attended a few seminars by Richard Walter of UCLA’s Screenwriting Department.  Among his many gems of wisdom was “Write as if ink cost $1000 an ounce.”  Every writer should post that above their workspace and consult it daily.  The more white on the page, the better.

The more I look at scripts written by directors (and there are some good ones out there), I can’t help but wonder “Could I do that?” Granted, I don’t know the first thing about setting up a shot, or what the proper lighting should be in a particular setting, but sometimes when I’m watching a ‘major motion picture’ and I get bored with how the story’s developing, I start paying attention to what the camera’s doing. Did they film this scene from this angle, and then from a different one, and then put them together in editing?  How did they manage that shot?

Once I’m able to get things going with the writing, I wonder if anybody will ask “So would you want to eventually direct?” Right now, no.

But down the road? Maybe.