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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Comedy Scripts  ›  Happiness Moderators: bert
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Don
Posted: April 18th, 2014, 8:56am Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Happiness by Adam Goodman - Comedy, Drama - 6 Belarusian students find themselves 'distributed' to Pinsk for their obligatory two year work stint. what does life have to offer? welcome to Belarus!! 172 pages - pdf, format


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Toby_E
Posted: April 18th, 2014, 9:08am Report to Moderator
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Oh, dear Lord.

Sorry to be harsh, but that is the only response I can muster right now.

If the writer turns up, I will elaborate on the particularities which have caused this reaction...


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AdamGoodman
Posted: April 21st, 2014, 8:51pm Report to Moderator
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Oh. Dear Loerd sounds ominous. so, what does this mean and why is it harsh?
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LC
Posted: April 21st, 2014, 11:39pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from AdamGoodman
Oh. Dear Loerd sounds ominous. so, what does this mean and why is it harsh?


Hi Adam, I had a quick look, and what your fellow scribes are reacting to mostly is the somewhat unconventional formatting of your script.

Until you're a PRO this is the way to do it.

Spec scripts need to be formatted according to industry standard, in Courier 12 pt. - nothing else. For example don't mix fonts (your character headers appear to be in a different font) don't add pictures/colours/photographs etc., and :

Your slugs need to be correctly spaced for example:

INT. UNIVERSITY - COFFEE SHOP - DAY

Note the period, not colon.

Slugs such as this:

EXT: MINSK. A BUSY BRIGHT MORNING. are not correct unfortunately. If you are showing 'busy' in any description line (which is where it might belong it would be by describing a lot of people at work, or during peak hour for example and def. not in a scene header.

Your scenes do not need to be numbered, (numbering usually only occurs on shooting scripts) and correctly formatted line breaks need to be inserted underneath them - also note the TIME OF DAY needs to be inserted.

There is no need for all of the CUT TO's. The beginning of a scene header/slug delineates this automatically and all these CUT TO's are just adding bulk to an already overly bulky screenplay.

Spec screenplays are usually around the 90 - 120 minute page count and at 172 pages... well need I say more?

Your wrylies are also not correctly formatted.There also appears to be some odd touches like full stops after some character names and the use of [   ] instead of normal parentheticals in some instances.

Unless you are a producer/director and making this yourself I would advise you read up on correct formatting of screenplays and/or look at how regulars on this board format their scripts. Even if you are filming this yourself it would benefit you greatly to streamline this screenplay for ease of shooting and to hone up on how it's done.

A few other things I noticed with a quick scan:

Descriptors such as:

-IN THE FOREGROUND is not correct screenplay formatting.

At the top of your script you have a really long title card followed by the insertion of a photograph, and then more photographs follow throughout - just not the way it's done unfortunately. And, later another title card. I would suggest without looking closer at the finer details that perhaps SUPERS or SUPERIMPOSE would be more fitting for that second one.

NINA (CONTINUES IN VO)

should just be:

NINA (V.O.)

I've not touched on dialogue or your description /action lines yet as I'm a bit pressed for time but I did notice with scanning that you don't use an 'active voice' a lot of the time i.e.,

We see ALEX coming down the street and turning into a coffee
shop.


Avoid using 'we see' - and then be simple and present tense with your descriptions. Simply put:

'Alex walks down the street. He turns into a coffee shop' OR: 'Alex enters a coffee shop'.

Notice I use the word 'conventional'. If you're appealing to the spec market with your screenplay you will need to learn about formatting. As your screenplay stands at the moment it would have a greater chance of getting picked up if its written according to the generally acceptable industry standards as I stated above.

Others may chime in with their observations. This is just a start from me to get you headed in the right direction.

For a myriad of screenwriting tips look here:

http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-screenwrite/
http://www.simplyscripts.com/WR_format.html

and a quick internet search on 'how to' format screenplays will also help you, for example another good site and one of the prestigious comp. sites:

http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/resources.html

Also read and comment on screenplays here on SS and you will get feedback on yours in return, plus a whole lot of valuable help and info.

This is meant to be helpful, not harsh. Good luck going forward.









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LC  -  April 22nd, 2014, 3:14am
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AdamGoodman
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wow, I appreciate the formatting comments.  I have read a lot of screenplays and in my onion,  there is no such thing as an absolute format. I mean, there  is a  generally basic accepted form in how you present the speaker, dialogue and stage directions and titles. But I have seen texts with numbers and without. It was a pain in the ass to put the numbers in but it was a part of how I did this one. I don't think it detracts from the ability to understand the text o the content. and really, I simply liked adding the photos. some of them were bullshit, but some of them really added to the effect, especially the opening one. and in talking with another commentator, I pointed out that a lot of modern texts have been taken from graffic novels so the idea of working with a preproduction storyboard is non unrealistic. And besides man, we are not on paper any more!! there are no more pink and blue copies! so my question is: does it hurt the content or readability of the text? I say no.  do any of the formatting 'abnormalities' deter the reader from understand the author's intent?  I say no. and as for length, well, let's just say that the thing has a lot of cuts and many of the scenes the take a lot of pages to explain, like the opening sequence or the first paycheck party would take 40 minutes to see, probably more like 12-15. so this is my opinion.
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AdamGoodman
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 1:55am Report to Moderator
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would not take 40 minutes to see
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Dustin
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 3:01am Report to Moderator
Of The Ancients


Action speaks louder...

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The opening image tells of a black man and a white woman in bed together, yet the image you chose is of two white people.

Code

The music startles both of them awake and their eyes open and
they see each other. The manís face smiles peacefully and
happily at the girl. She looks at him with an unreadable poker
face. He sees this and, after a thought, his expression changes
to an expectant, hoping, questioning look. She continues to
simply look at him, receiving his information, understanding
his desires, but not reacting in any way. After a second, he
realizes he is beat, and with a sigh of resignation, the face
falls into despair. When she sees this, she quickly turns and
gets out of bed; his eyes watching her body walk away.



OK. Let's break down the above.

Code

The music startles both of them awake and their eyes open and
they see each other.



Too many 'ands' in this sentence. You mention they are awake which already suggests they open their eyes, but you then feel the need to mention it again in the very same sentence... and, they see each other? Is that the best you can come up with there?

Code

The manís face smiles peacefully and
happily at the girl.



Here is where I'm starting to think that English may be a second language. The Man's face smiles... the Man's face? Smiles happily? How does one smile miserably? How does one smile peacefully? Let alone peacefully and happily all at once. All in one smile. that would take some seriously good facial acting to correctly convey that message to the viewer.

Code

She looks at him with an unreadable poker
face.



An unreadable poker face? As opposed to a readable poker face? You need to understand that the term 'poker face' is already defined as unreadable.

Code

He sees this and, after a thought, his expression changes
to an expectant, hoping, questioning look.



So he sees her unreadable poker face, has a little think about it, then his expression changes from thinking to an expectant, hopeful and questioning look. How is it possible to be expectant, hopeful and questioning all at the same time? Why would he be expectant in reaction to her unreadable poker face? Why would he be hopeful? Questioning, I understand. But all three at once? Impossible for anyone to pull off. Maybe Nicholas Cage could do it...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8GVWhviw8s

Code

She continues to
simply look at him, receiving his information, understanding
his desires, but not reacting in any way.



If she isn't reacting in any way then how are we supposed to know she is understanding his desires? Well, I suppose it would be pretty obvious from the morning wood, given they've just woken up. What's he just lying there for? Maybe he should throw one off and spray the results in her face... that'd get her attention. I wonder if she'd still have an unreadable poker face then?

Code

After a second, he
realizes he is beat, and with a sigh of resignation, the face
falls into despair.



Has all this been like a euphemism for the morning blow job? So, they've been at it all night, collapsed in a heap, asleep... woke up in the morning, he's got wood and he's hinting for her to get down on it... but she won't, because she knows he hasn't showered from the previous night's rumping. He knows that once he showers though it just won't be the same, because of the time frame thing... after a shower a blow job on its own won't be enough, it'll have to be full blown sex and maybe he just doesn't have time for that this morning, work commitments, perhaps. Whereas if she just does it there and then, a couple of minutes and it's over.

Code

When she sees this, she quickly turns and
gets out of bed; his eyes watching her body walk away.



Bitch!


Your writing needs to evolve. Write punchier action lines. Do a lot of reading.


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AdamGoodman
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 3:15am Report to Moderator
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Oh no!  I love that paragraph.  Everybody loves that paragraph.  You just have to have been that the understand what it's like.  The heart of a Russian woman is  a difficult field to play on.  The guy knows he is beat.  No matter how much gentleman-ness he might put into it, he is not going to pass go and he is not going to collect $200.
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Dustin
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 3:29am Report to Moderator
Of The Ancients


Action speaks louder...

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Start trying to understand the paragraphs in a screenplay as action blocks. Action blocks should be approximately 4 lines or less.

Convey what you are trying to say in a punchier way.

Don't play around too much with looks and smiles... use sparingly. Read lots of screenplays to understand how they are written.


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LC
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 3:32am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from AdamGoodman
wow, I appreciate the formatting comments.  I have read a lot of screenplays and in my onion,  there is no such thing as an absolute format. I mean, there  is a  generally basic accepted form in how you present the speaker, dialogue and stage directions and titles. But I have seen texts with numbers and without. It was a pain in the ass to put the numbers in but it was a part of how I did this one. I don't think it detracts from the ability to understand the text o the content. and really, I simply liked adding the photos. some of them were bullshit, but some of them really added to the effect, especially the opening one. and in talking with another commentator, I pointed out that a lot of modern texts have been taken from graffic novels so the idea of working with a preproduction storyboard is non unrealistic. And besides man, we are not on paper any more!! there are no more pink and blue copies! so my question is: does it hurt the content or readability of the text? I say no.  do any of the formatting 'abnormalities' deter the reader from understand the author's intent? I say no. and as for length, well, let's just say that the thing has a lot of cuts and many of the scenes the take a lot of pages to explain, like the opening sequence or the first paycheck party would take 40 minutes to see, probably more like 12-15. so this is my opinion.


You're absolutely entitled to your opinion.

The crux of my point was and still is:

If you're appealing to the spec market with your screenplay you will need (or rather should), learn about basic formatting.

See, you ain't a pro yet.

I too, have read lots of pro scripts with doodles and drawings and coloured fonts etc. but the writers of them are professionals so they can do what they like. Why? Cause the product they're generating reads pro and they've worked in the industry and have been and continue to be, paid (mostly).

Imh, yours does not... yet. And does it detract from the read? Imo, yes it does.

So, I go by my original advice that for now you should have an uncluttered easy to read conventionally formatted script.

You asked why people initially balked at your script. I was just honest and trying to help you along. No offence taken btw, you can write your script however you choose.

I wish you the best with it.  



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AdamGoodman
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Ah, now I understand.  If you publish your scripts in this place, you should know that it is for people to criticize your ability to be a professional screenwriter and not the quality of the screenplay.  OK, cool.  And I appreciate your comments about the work being written for a marketplace.  

But I also think that there is a place where the writer should be able to have a choice in how they express themselves.  We do in fact write for a reader and not for ourselves, this is understood.  But a storyteller should have the right to tell the story that they want to tell.  And my point is, though the text might be a little long  by current standards, I think my script has the same number of pages as Thomas Agee's the African Queen.  And I know it's 50 years later and I know that the "film business" has changed as have people's abilities to read patiently.  But let's just say  that I wanted more nuance in the writing.  Let's just say that I wanted to be a little bit more detailed than the briefest possible visual outline.  Have you seen blade runner?  Why don't we all just write like that and only use a series of single word sentences to show the things we see?  I say that allowing  for a little literature in our literature is not a bad thing.  And I also say that I do not believe that there is a strict division between pros literature and screenwriting and I don't see why the film script can't be a little more descriptive.  I don't think it is such a bad thing and I don't think it destroys the idea of what a film script is.
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Dustin
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 4:47am Report to Moderator
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Action speaks louder...

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Quality of the screenplay and professionalism are one and the same thing... but you already have it down. Your messed up sentences are deliberate... with lines like this:

Code

The music startles both of them awake and their eyes open and
they see each other.



I'm sure Producers are going to bite your hands off for the scripts. Writing screenplays is about getting them made into film... not simply literature. If you want to write literature then write novels, even then, I would avoid lines like the above or the only person reading your books will be you.


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AdamGoodman
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Boy, you guys just don't sleep over there.  What I am saying is that I am not absolutely sure that your comments on  whatever quality my formatting may or may not  have is not really as important to me as what your criticisms might be about story I have to tell.  And my point is that I don't really understand how you can tell me who I am or remark on the quality of my English because of 1 page of dialogue when nobody seems to have gotten past the first 10 pages.  And I don't understand this.

They advised me that I should read other people's unproduced scripts and give commentary as that would help me get attention to mine.  OK.  So I dove into it and I read 50 pages of 'Compassion'.  I don't know your reading speeds but it didn't take me all day to do this and I was listening to a baseball game at the same time.  My reading covered 50% of the presented material and I wrote a comment on the first half of the text.  And, I will tell you that there were a lot of remarks in this text which were a little strange to me and some descriptions that the guy used that were not exactly the way I would have described something, but I read the story and commented on the story.  I hope this is understandable because all I was interested in is whether or not you liked my stories.  And it is not like I'm such a self satisfied guy but one, I am not looking for a job as a screenwriter and two, I think I wrote some pretty interesting stories.  Stories!  Can you understand me?  I'm saying that it is and should be about the stories.  Do you guys really want to tell me I'm wrong?

But please, please do chime in.
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Dustin
Posted: April 22nd, 2014, 6:41am Report to Moderator
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Action speaks louder...

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You don't need my opinion on your story... as you've already said it is just fine and everybody loves it. All that's left now is to send it out to producers and wait for the cash to roll in. Well done you.


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AdamGoodman
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I am just saying- I thought the purpose of this exercise was to showcase your work for free. Usually, there are a lot of things to talk about when reading a film script. things like character motivation or development. Moral issues regarding their actions and desires. emotions, situation studies. even strategy regarding what  the characters' moves might be. But here, everyone wants to start talking the moment they open the package. Nobody is reading stories, they are just sitting around calling people losers over minute.  and I even saw this in a text I read here (yea, I actually read the script). The Author interpreted how a person drove a car. Not whether they were dangerous or erratic or something, just their 'attitude' towards their self image while driving. I guess I am just not from LA. I definitely have been away for a long time.
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