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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Discussion of...     General Chat  ›  Interesting Article on Rules Moderators: bert
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eldave1
Posted: January 19th, 2018, 8:29pm Report to Moderator
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Nice article - short and sweet.

https://nofilmschool.com/2017/05/why-screenwriting-rules-are-myth

I don't agree with all of it - but do agree with much of it.  I believe that some rules are important.
It is an issue I struggle with when commenting on scripts. i.e., when to point something out that really relates to a rule I find valuable but is otherwise not absolute.

Anyway - thought it was a quick interesting read.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Bogey
Posted: January 20th, 2018, 12:58pm Report to Moderator
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It is an interesting article, and I agree with much of it in principle, though not as broadly as the author.

Re the "rule" against unfilmables, I agree that it shouldn't be carved in stone, but I have my own way of dealing it. I never put an unfilmable in the first 30 pages or so, my theory being that I have to hook the reader into the story first and gain their confidence before I deviate from the "rules", and even then, I do so sparingly.

I don't think I've ever seen a rule-breaking passage that didn't have an equally effective rule-conforming counterpart. IMO it's really just about taking the time to come up with it.
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eldave1
Posted: January 20th, 2018, 3:21pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Bogey
It is an interesting article, and I agree with much of it in principle, though not as broadly as the author.

Re the "rule" against unfilmables, I agree that it shouldn't be carved in stone, but I have my own way of dealing it. I never put an unfilmable in the first 30 pages or so, my theory being that I have to hook the reader into the story first and gain their confidence before I deviate from the "rules", and even then, I do so sparingly.

I don't think I've ever seen a rule-breaking passage that didn't have an equally effective rule-conforming counterpart. IMO it's really just about taking the time to come up with it.

Well said


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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colkurtz8
Posted: February 6th, 2018, 4:50pm Report to Moderator
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I concede that screenwriting is a little more regimented and less freeform than other art disciplines and an adherence to some semblance of rules is innate to its makeup, however...

I completely agree with this article, particularly the part about academics perpetuating them in order to sound like an authority or just to have something to write about. That's the main reason why I steer clear of books/articles in general as they are so constraining. I read them for awhile but quickly became disillusioned. Not because I know it all, far from but the films they tell you to write are not the ones I tend to watch. Itís a matter of taste. I always got the impression they only considered a specific type of film i.e. big studio, mainstream fair yet they spoke as if these rules are universal and apply to all. That your script must do this, have that but can never do this other thing or it won't work. Nonsense and unhelpful.

What he said about flashbacks I would also say about the stigma around voiceover. Lots of great films have used one, both or neither, it all depends on the film. A point rarely voiced by these gurus.

The rules debate has been going on since screenwriting itself began I suspect. My approach has always been whatever works for you, obey the rules which make sense and discard the rest. Not using "we" in the prose seems logical to me since we are not present so I don't use it. Restricting action lines to no more than four is something I see value in too so I apply it. I feel the opposite about the requisite use of FADE IN: at the beginning of your script or that we only use capitalization with character introductions or sounds. This is just my perspective, others won't agree, thatís ok. Overall, itís not going to hinder the reading experience if youíre able to write.

I would say the same about unfilmables. I don't use them for the reasons stated but I don't mind others using them if they can write, as evinced in the two examples given. Some might deem it extraneous but when itís written that eloquently, itís a pleasure to read and enriches the work.

In terms of plot and structure, when what should happen and how, that your protagonist must be a hero (who goes on a journey) or that there must be clearly defined resolution at the end, again, this should be dependent on the type of story you want to tell, not a mandatory checklist to be ticked off. That feels so counterintuitive to the spirit of creating art.

Ok, Iím done.


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AnthonyCawood
Posted: February 6th, 2018, 6:46pm Report to Moderator
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Agree with the article and the examples are decent, and anyone who listens to Scriptnotes know what those two professional writers think of 'the rules'.

I've also noticed that the directors and producers who've bought and made my scripts have NEVER pulled me up for breaking any rule or not adhering to some screenwriting standard or other. The only people I've ever had quote 'the rules' at me are other writers and coverage services.

I'm not suggesting you write your script in plain text with no punctuation But worry about the story and telling it well, not whether you've CAPPED a sound, or used too many wrylies or have an orphan or two.

Just imho of course... who am I to tell anyone what to do


Anthony Cawood - Award winning screenwriter
Available Short screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/short-scripts
Available Feature screenplays - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/feature-film-scripts/
Screenwriting articles - http://www.anthonycawood.co.uk/articles
IMDB Link - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6495672/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
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eldave1
Posted: February 7th, 2018, 11:51am Report to Moderator
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Concur with Howard and Anthony here - and I would add avoid sacrificing clarity or tone for the sake of a rule.

My own takes on some of the more prevalent ones:

ORPHANS. Never change a perfectly good sentence because it ends in an orphan. Use the existence of an orphan to see if you wrote the sentence in the best/most efficient way possible.

FLASHBACKS - use them whenever you think the enhance the telling of the story.

VOICE OVERS - see flashbacks.

UNFILMABLES AND ASIDES - Proceed with caution. If they assist the reader in understanding the essence of a character, the tone of a setting, etc. they can be a great tool. If they are used for exposition purposes - it's lazy story telling.

ACTION BLOCKS LONGER THAN 4 LINES. Proceed with caution. As a reader I may get lost/bored. Break up action in blocks that fits how one's eye sees the action.


WE SEE/WE HEAR - I never personally use them because I think it takes a reader me out of the story. It reminds me that I am reading a script, not a story, and it dampens my immersion in the story.

CAMERA DIRECTIONS - see WE SEE/WE HEAR

THE ING WORDS - I avoid them as I think a story reads better without them - generally. There are places where they make perfect sense (e.g., ongoing action).

BOLD OR UNDERLINED SCENE HEADINGS - Either are okay with me - not a fan of both. It's distracting.

CLEVER TITLE PAGE FONTS - I like them.

What I don't like:

When someone posts or reference a professional script that makes it big and it is riddled with tons of violations of the so called rules. The reason I hate it is that we don't know the background (is it a spec or shooting script, was it bought before a word ever hit the paper, etc.) I have read professional scripts that I thought were crap.

When people jump down reviewers throats for pointing out a "rule violation." A reviewer has little clue as to what knowledge the writer has of general guidelines. As an example, I can't tell you how many times here I have seen misplaced SUPERS. Didn't screw up the read for me but I point it out as I have no idea if the writer is doing it intentionally or not. On my own scripts peeps have pointed out "rule violations" and it although there were times I disagreed with the advice they gave - it was always helpful in terms of taking another look at it.

Anyway........







My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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colkurtz8
Posted: February 7th, 2018, 12:22pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from eldave1
BOLD OR UNDERLINED SCENE HEADINGS - Either are okay with me - not a fan of both. It's distracting.


- Yeah, I was late to the bold slugline party but adopted them for the same reason I adopted other techniques, they make sense to me. I don't like underlined in any form, be it in sluglines, prose or dialogue but its very common. I read the 3 Billboards... script that was posted on here which was full of them. Fair enough, a taste thing.


Quoted from eldave1
When someone posts or reference a professional script that makes it big and it is riddled with tons of violations of the so called rules. The reason I hate it is that we don't know the background (is it a spec or shooting script, was it bought before a word ever hit the paper, etc.) I have read professional scripts that I thought were crap.


- Great point although I do admit to being guilty of this occasionally, usually with Black list scripts. But yeah, sometimes you don't know the circumstance in which the script came into being.


Quoted from eldave1
When people jump down reviewers throats for pointing out a "rule violation." A reviewer has little clue as to what knowledge the writer has of general guidelines. As an example, I can't tell you how many times here I have seen misplaced SUPERS. Didn't screw up the read for me but I point it out as I have no idea if the writer is doing it intentionally or not. On my own scripts peeps have pointed out "rule violations" and it although there were times I disagreed with the advice they gave - it was always helpful in terms of taking another look at it.


- Advice on form should always come secondary to comments on content I reckon. If a script is unreadable because it bears no relation to how a script should look, thus affecting the read, just direct them to a format website and move on. Repeated remarks on rule violations with little to no consideration of the story isn't much help.


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Dustin
Posted: February 7th, 2018, 1:29pm Report to Moderator
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Helping people to write a better screenplay is far more useful than giving them bullshitty advice on what one considers to be proper storytelling. You needing to see more of one character may be toxic to a producer. So, if the writer follows your advice and enhances a particular character's role in the story, this may actually put off a producer that would ordinarily have bought it.

We're supposed to be writers. Storytellers. We make up stories. Who gives an eff what anyone else thinks? Whose stories are these?

What I find funny is when writers claim to have been really helped by a review of their story... helped so much they never sell it.

Writing a professional screenplay will get you more reads. More reads may find somebody (producer/director/actor) that your work connects with. Keywords... your work.
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: February 9th, 2018, 8:37am Report to Moderator
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There's a sliding scale.

The reason these "rules" exist is because pre-pros/amateurs frequently write in ways that are not filmmable at all.
It's not the case that people are using expressive, but visual language like in the Schindler's List example, but that what they are writing is flat out incorrect.

For instance I used to frequently get scripts that went something like this:

INT. COFFEE SHOP - DAY

BIG JOE walks in wearing jeans and a T-Shirt. He's a Cop who works for Internal affairs, with a harrowed look on his face because his brother died two years ago in a drug bust.

He walks over to Samantha, who is sitting by a window, gazing out in the world.

JOE
Hey.

SAMANTHA
Hi Joe.

There's a strong sexual tension between them, because they've had an an off-relationship for years.




That's a fictional, but true to type version of the type of thing around 90% of people used to send me when I was more active on sites like Inktip etc.

None of the information the writer wants to get across is in the scene. It's all in the action lines. It looks like a script, but it isn't...and that's why  those rules come around...because you've got to tell someone where to start.

Pros understand how cinematic language works, so they can use language how they like, as long as it tells the story visually. The problem for most is that they don't understand how it works on a basic level.

In an example like the above, you have to start re-writing the entire script in your head...does the writer want a Flashback at the start so we actually see his brother die? Does the writer actually want us to know he's Internal Affairs so we need a scene showing him working? Etc etc...if you film it as is, you don't know a thing about who they are, what they do or anything else.
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colkurtz8
Posted: February 9th, 2018, 4:15pm Report to Moderator
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But how else can we explain the harrowed look?

Yeah, moderation along with how effectively they're being used are good rules to follow.

I appreciate you exaggerated in your example to illustrate a point but if someone has put in the time and effort to write a script and produces something like that, they've got bigger problems than taking liberties with unfilmmables...such as basic, common sense.

Point taken all the same though.


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Equinox
Posted: February 14th, 2018, 9:15am Report to Moderator
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When I was at the Las Cruces International Film Fest with our short last year, I had the chance to meet Mark Medoff and read some of his latest script he had just sold. Action paragraphs spanned multiple pages, and basically every "rule" out there was broken multiple times. I guess if he had posted his script here, quite a few people would probably have told him to give up writing.

Personally, I think you have to find your own style and keep it consistent. Use deviations from that style cautiously, for example to stress something, and you should be fine.

In the end, if you don't shoot it yourself that is, you will have to find someone who likes your script, and basically all the people I've been in contact with so far, have never heard anything about screenwriting rules at all. They are filmmakers looking for a good story they can attach to and which they can envision as a film. If you find that person, you can write however you like.


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eldave1
Posted: February 14th, 2018, 10:24am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Equinox
When I was at the Las Cruces International Film Fest with our short last year, I had the chance to meet Mark Medoff and read some of his latest script he had just sold. Action paragraphs spanned multiple pages, and basically every "rule" out there was broken multiple times. I guess if he had posted his script here, quite a few people would probably have told him to give up writing.

Personally, I think you have to find your own style and keep it consistent. Use deviations from that style cautiously, for example to stress something, and you should be fine.

In the end, if you don't shoot it yourself that is, you will have to find someone who likes your script, and basically all the people I've been in contact with so far, have never heard anything about screenwriting rules at all. They are filmmakers looking for a good story they can attach to and which they can envision as a film. If you find that person, you can write however you like.


Yeah - I guess. If you had a site dedicated to how can successful professionals sell even more scripts then wouldn't talk a lot about guidelines and rules. IMO amateurs continue to be a different story in terms of the amount of liberties you can take. Other "rules" - such as the ing word one as example - just make the writing better


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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