Monday, December 10, 2012

on writing - joss whedon

Whedon's 10 screenwriting tips - authors have given similar 
advice, so I'm posting it here, where we can all learn from it.

1. Finish it
Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You 

may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have 
written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about 
three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, 
and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you 
know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You 
have to have a little closure.

2. Structure
Structure means knowing where you’re going ; making sure you 

don’t meander about.  I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. 
Where are the jokes ? The thrills ? The romance ? Who knows 
what, and when ? You need these things to happen at the right 
times, and that’s what you build your structure around : the way 
you want your audience to feel. Charts, graphs, colored pens, 
anything that means you don’t go in blind is useful.

By Manuele Fior


3. Have something to say
This really should be number one. The number of movies that are 
not about what they purport to be about is staggering.

4. Everybody has a reason to live
Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including 

the thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own 
voice, their own identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in 
such a way that they’re just setting up the next person’s lines, then 
you don’t get dialogue : you get soundbites. Not everybody has to 
be funny ; not everybody has to be cute ; not everybody has to be 
delightful, and not everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know 
who everybody is and why they’re there, why they’re feeling what 
they’re feeling and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then 
you’re in trouble.

5. Cut what you love
Here’s one trick that I learned early on. If something isn’t working, 

if you have a story that you’ve built and it’s blocked and you can’t 
figure it out, take your favourite scene, or your very best idea or 
set-piece, and cut it. It’s brutal, but sometimes inevitable. That 
thing may find its way back in, but cutting it is usually an 
enormously freeing exercise.

6. Listen
When I’ve been hired as a script doctor, it’s usually because 

someone else can’t get it through to the next level. It’s true that 
writers are replaced when executives don’t know what else to do, 
and that’s terrible, but the fact of the matter is that for most of the 
screenplays I’ve worked on, I’ve been needed, whether or not I’ve 
been allowed to do anything good. Often someone’s just got locked, 
they’ve ossified, they’re so stuck in their heads that they can’t see 
the people around them. It’s very important to know when to stick 
to your guns, but it’s also very important to listen to absolutely 
everybody. The stupidest person in the room might have the best idea.

7. Track the audience mood
You have one goal : to connect with your audience. Therefore, you 

must track what your audience is feeling at all times. One of the 
biggest problems I face when watching other people’s movies is I’ll 
say, ‘This part confuses me’, or whatever, and they’ll say, ‘What 
I’m intending to say is this’, and they’ll go on about their intentions. 
None of this has anything to do with my experience as an audience 
member. Think in terms of what audiences think. They go to the 
theatre, and they either notice that their butts are numb, or they don’t. 
If you’re doing your job right, they don’t.

8. Write like a movie
Write the movie as much as you can. If something is lush and 

extensive, you can describe it glowingly ; if something isn’t that 
important, just get past it tersely. Let the read feel like the movie ; it 
does a lot of the work for you, for the director, and for the executives 
who go, ‘What will this be like when we put it on its feet ?’

9. Don't listen
Having given the advice about listening, I have to give the opposite 

advice, because ultimately the best work comes when somebody’s 
fucked the system, done the unexpected and let their own personal 
voice into the machine that is moviemaking. Choose your battles.

10. Don't sell out
The first penny I ever earned, I saved. Then I made sure that I never had 

to take a job just because I needed to. I still needed jobs of course, but I 
was able to take ones that I loved.   (Via

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