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Hello, I'm currently in the process of writing my feature and I know with spec scripts, you are supposed to leave camera directions up to the director, but in my mind, I want my script to open a certain way... so could someone please tell me if I am writing this correctly? I would greatly appreciate it. Here's how it starts off...
ON A HAND that holds up an ADDICTION PAMPHLET: "God is stronger than any addiction." The hand tosses the pamphlet to the concrete and
WESLEY (mid 30’s), face covered with sores and scabs, steps on it with his filthy converse.
See, in the very first opening shot, I wanted it to focus on the hand that holds the pamphlet, we see what it says, and then the hand tosses it, and in the second shot it reveals the character Wesley who is the one who was holding it. Is this written correctly? Thanks in advance! Much appreciation.
I'm still learning A LOT on writing techniques and rules, etc. SO MUCH to learn!!
I'd say it's even a very good characterization of you from the start. Two lines only and we already have lots of information about Wesley. So, good intro.
Then, one "important" point I got here: There's no problem you start without a slugline, ergo no reference about place and time. You can do it but IMO you definitely should construct a transition or clear notification as early as possible that clears up where we exactly are and at what time. This can be quite tricky, so in this regard, you've chosen a complicated way to start your screenplay.
A quick example as a pattern:
A MALE HAND holds up an addiction pamphlet: "God is stronger than any addiction." The hand tosses it to the concrete and
WESLEY (mid 30’s), face covered with sores and scabs, steps on it with his filthy sneakers.
Only few daylight, falling through the skylights of the BARE CORRIDOR, guides Wesley the path along as he marches ahead, leaving the pamphlet behind.
EXT. BLAH WHATEVER – DAY
My example here is in no way a good one. It simply should demonstrate that you definitely, immediately, after your opening, should serve some identification about where we actually are. And then, you completely should return to formatting normality with sluglines/ proper scene headings.
@ -- minor points-- Above in my example, I added a "male" to "the hand";;; don't know but I believe the hand should have a certain description if it belongs to such kind of starting close up shot. Possibly I'd even write more here, sth. like: A GRIMY MALE HAND…
But I don't know what the hand looks like exactly – only you do, so see it as a placeholder.
I'd also replace the second "the pamphlet" with "it". You shouldn't repeat words like that if a pronoun can do the job as well. << Also see the word addiction used twice (could be addiction and drug).
Lastly, I wasn't sure what you mean with converse – is it the shoe brand? If so, capitalize the first letter because it's a proper name. I myself actually wouldn't go into this brand-area here at all. It's unnecessary, so I just replaced it with a simple "sneakers".
Hope some of it is of use and helps and you got fun with your future screenwriting.
I'm not going to make another thread just for this question, but I would like to ask this...
I read somewhere that you should avoid words the end with "ing" and "ly" because they aren't considered written in present tense. Anyway, wouldn't this still read okay, if I wrote...
He stands outside, smoking a cigarette.
He stands outside as he smokes a cigarette.
The first sentence is actually a little shorter, and IMO, is still written in present tense, but I don't know. What is everyone else's thoughts? There are so many screenwriting rules to learn, it's almost frustrating!
I would gently offer that it is awkward, but that at a certain level screenwriters have become used to seeing it this way so have become immune to its being awkward. This thread is a perfect example of how that happens.
A writer, any type of writer, should be taught the tenets of good writing. But in screenwriting, we don't want to take the time, so it has become convenient to just issue arbitrary and simple rules, such as "no 'ing' words".
Like lemmings, we follow along until we actually get used to weird phrasings.
Such as the man stands, smokes a cigarette.
The man lights a cigarette. But he stands there smoking it.
If we say he smokes a cigarette, the impression would be we see him smoking it from beginning to end. As in I smoked a cigarette before breakfast.
But what the writer wants here is just a quick shot of a man smoking a cigarette...in the state of smoking.
I'm not being a jerk, even if it sounds that way. I only began writing screen about 7 years ago, and I knew no more than Tyler, I had the same questions. People said "no ing words", and I followed orders. At first. But I knew these things often didn't sound right. So I've spent a lot of time researching it, including for prose. I am not an expert, never will be...but I know for sure that these rules, or rules of thumb, are leading to a lot of awkward writing when they are followed too strictly.
And IMO, it becomes an amateur "tell" at some point. A lot of VERY, VERY good amateurs do it. Even people trained in elite film schools.
But awkward is awkward, and you don't usually see that in pro writing. Those writers move on from the rules.
I'm not starting a fight with Dave, whom I fully respect. Maybe my comment helps, maybe not, people can decide on their own.
We are actually close on the ing words - not sure you read my entire post. I said basically to use for ongoing activity:
e.g., Dave kicks the ball against the wall - to me implies one kick
Dave is kicking the ball against the wall - to me implies an ongoing actitvity.
Number one rule is that if it is clear - you are probably okay
So if in our mind the writer wants us to envision the dude standing there enjoying a cigarette than - a man leans against a car smoking a cigarette - is perfectly okay in my book. If it is just a moment, I think a man leans against a a car, smokes a cigarette - is better. But as I stated - in all cases the utmost criteria is clarity - regardless of the use on ing words.
We generally agree I think. The only real difference is you think a man stands, smokes a cigarette - is awkward while I think it is perfectly fine.
P.S - I am an amateur as well, so really have no idea what a pro would say