Take it from Gordy Hoffman, founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition and Sundance veteran, when he tells you that you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re not familiar with the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, spend a minute checking out their website. On 20QuestionsFilm we’re all about constructive feedback plus we love contests: BlueCat is the best of both worls.
After reading through hundreds and hundreds of original screenplays every year, Gordy knows what he’s talking about, when he says that you’re most likely doing it wrong. The bullet points are below. The full article from Gordy Hoffman can be found here.
1. Do you realize what you’re saying?
Many writers go over their dialogue thousands of times – in their head. But once the dialogue is spoken out loud – by actors, by yourself, by whomever – everything falls apart. Take the time to actually listen to what you’re saying.
2. Are you as funny as you think?
Sure, we all have our moments, but as a writer, as you really as funny as you think? Keep the jokes in check and wait for that one truly hilarious moment instead. It will come. And if you find that you’re not actually funny? Don’t write a funny movie.
3. Did you spell check?
The people in charge of developing movies are some of the smartest in the industry. They will surely be annoyed with misspellings and grammatical errors. Double check, spell check, then check again.
4. Are your scene descriptions concise?
If not, chances are you’re overdoing it. We get it. Keep the descriptions to a minimum and let the rest of the team do their job – art department, costumer, prop master, director, even the actors are there for a reason.
5. Are you showing, not telling?
Because you should be. Don’t tell us that a character is “jealous” or “angry”. Show us. Let the actions and words of your characters paint the picture. It’s way more powerful and the script will read easier.
6. How are you making things up?
Chances are you’ve spent thousands of hours watching actors play characters, so be careful when you’re making things up, that they’re rooted in reality and not in televised reality. Draw from your imagination and your life experiences, not from your idea of how people act in movies.
7. Are you forcing exposition?
If your characters find themselves engaging in an unbelievable conversation about things they would already be aware of, you’re most likely forcing exposition. Don’t proclaim things out of nowhere, just to inform your audience. Make sure the exposition is seamless and graceful. If you don’t notice it at all, all the better.
8. Are you hung up on formatting?
Don’t worry about it. Get your hands on a spec script or look up the “For Your Consideration” scripts that are released online every year. Copy what those guys are doing. Don’t get hung up on what goes where and how the front page should look. Just do it. And make sure your script doesn’t read like a book, an article or a poem. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. Copy what’s been done before. It’s easy.