Some do, I guess. Most do not.
There’s a line from Ace Ventura in one of his films that goes something like, “If I’m not back in 5 minutes…just wait longer!”
Wait longer. Nobody on this planet wants to hear that. Are you kidding me? If I have to wait 4.5 seconds for my phone to connect to the internet or Google Maps to latch on to my position I begin shaking like that Looper Kid and objects around me begin to levitate and friends duck for cover as the telekenetic storm swells to frenzious levels!
PERKY TEENAGER: “I’m sorry sir, we’re out of coffee and gonna have to cook up a fresh batch. It’ll be just 7 minutes.”
7 minutes. Oh, I may smile and nod politely, but my inner monologue goes something like…
ME: “Rrrrrrrrrrrraaaaawr…HULK SMASH!!!!!!!! 7 minutes are you INSAAAAAAANE!!!!!”
…and then it involves bolts of lightening ejecting from my finger tips, igniting sparks from every light bulb and outlet within a 20 foot radius.
Come to think of it, I could probably stand to switch to decaf.
How about has God ever put a vision in your heart? A Dream for something? An idea for a Feature Film. And your first thought is, “Wow, what a great idea! I could write the script this morning, shoot it this afternoon, have it in theaters by afternoon tea time and be done raking in billions of box office dollars in time for dinner!”
What is the turnaround on your dream? A day? A week? 6 months? A year? 10 years? 40 years? 70? 150? 300 years?
Oh, you think I’m kidding about 300 years. You know God promised Abraham he’d be a great nation whose descendants numbered with the stars and that definitely did not happen in a week. In fact it was 3 generations before Israel was even a thing.
Here’s a scary little fact you need to know about God: God is not afraid to dream multi-generationally. For example, King David envisions a Temple, draws up the plans, gathers all the materials, but his Son Solomon actually builds that Temple.
There are things that God has been lining up for years and even generations to position you for your thing. Whatever that is. And in some cases, it’s to position you to carry and protect the torch and then pass it on to the next person who will be in position for the thing. Humbling, isn’t it?
Here’s what he says about that in Habakkuk 2:2-3…
2 Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.”
Did you catch that? “Though it linger, wait for it.”
It’s 2013, my friends. And some of you are tired of waiting. In fact, you may feel like you’ve missed the boat all together and your dream has expired and its time to move on. I know, I’ve thought the same thing. But you know what, God says?
“Though it linger, wait for it.”
I’m talking to you, young filmmaker that wasn’t able to raise the funds you needed through Kickstarter.
I’m talking to you, script writer who placed in all kinds of script contests, but hasn’t sold one yet.
I’m talking to you, actor, who has gone to hundreds of auditions and only gotten the tiniest little bit parts.
I’m talking to you, producer who had a production deal go south and lost years of work down the toilet.
I’m talking to you, stay at home mom who longs to be filmmaking but is elbows deep in laundry and dirty diapers.
I’m talking to you, comic book artist who works all day and then draws all night, waiting for that big break.
“Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Who cares if it didn’t happen in 2012? Who cares if it doesn’t happen in 2013? It is coming.
Do you realize that in another time and another place, the work that you’ve done on your project that hasn’t gone anywhere might have launched a multi-million dollar film franchise? The idea you’ve been working on in another time might have been the next Facebook. It’s true. Now is not the right season. But you’re doing the right things! Don’t stop. It will not prove false.
Wait for it. And while you’re waiting, try not to Hulk Smash anything! There’s a reason it’s called “Inner Monologue”.
That’s what Mark Twain wrote, anyway. Presumably sober.
No, he’s not advocating we get our best ideas from inebriation and substance abuse. (Although one has to wonder about Charlie Kaufman and the eternal sunshine of his not so spotless mind – brilliant film by the way)
The idea of “Write Drunk, Edit Sober” is the same concept as the Right Brain Left Brain thinking. You’ve got the Left Brains that are all organized and mathematical and logic oriented and scheduled and systematic and stuff. A.k.a. the Sober side.
Then you’ve got the Right Brainsesss that are creative and free thinking and loose and unrestricted by rules and kinda hippy-like. A.k.a. the Drunk side. Each of us uses both sides of our brains, but we tend to favor one side or another.
Writing drunk means not limiting your story or characters in any way. Being as hopelessly creative as possible. Taking the lid off the box and showing us a story that we have never seen before in our lives. And by knowing your characters and listening to them, allowing them to take you wherever the story leads.
Sometimes this clashes with our Christianity, because we also have our own set of morality and rules that we have to live by. Biblical rules. Stay with me now. This next concept is pretty huge. But writing drunk also involves not imposing our own religious values on ALL of our characters and scripts. Not in the writing phase.
In the writing phase, just write. Explore. If the character curses, let him curse. If another character sleeps around, let them sleep around. Create characters who are true to themselves. Ghetto Gangsters that yell out: “Shucks Golly, I’m going to malign you!” is not true to any gangster in any ghetto on planet earth. So write true to the characters.
And if this doesn’t sound very Godly to you then just pick up the Old Testament sometime, open it randomly to any book, any chapter and start reading. As long as you didn’t land in the legal mirey depths of Leviticus or the genealogical dude begat dude labyrinth of Numbers…you probably land on some very colorful people leading some very colorful lives.
Okay, now after you’ve got a couple drafts of your script you need to sober up. You need to switch to your other brainsesss and take a new look at your characters. Start with language. The goal is not censorship…the goal is evolution. Evolve your words. And to do that, maybe take a page out of the Shakespeare handbook:
Away, you cut-purse rascal! you filthy bung, away! By this wine, I’ll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps, an you play the saucy cuttle with me. Away, you bottle-ale rascal! you basket-hilt stale juggler, you!
2 Henry IV (2.4.120-22)
No one denies that this character is angry and saying some rude things to another character. It’s pretty clear without using the 5-cent swear words. The english language is an amazing tool. Think of all the films under the Hayes Code from the 40s through the 60s. The golden age of Hollywood.
We knew when Bogart was mad. We knew when Scarlett almost got raped. We experienced laughter, fear, love, hate…every single emotion we feel when we watch today’s movies only without the curse words. Without the love scenes. Without the gore.
Trust me, I’m not saying every one of our films has to be rated-G. I don’t agree with that. ”Crash” is a very powerful film in part because of its edginess and raw dialogue. I wouldn’t change a word. ”American History X” was one of the most powerful redemption stories on film. Some very tough scenes to watch. Wouldn’t change a thing.
So, again, I’m not saying cut everything out, but take another look and find new ways for your characters to express themselves, new ways to show a love scene. I mean, “Titanic” had one of the steamiest scenes ever with just a hand pressed up on a fogged car window.
“Jaws” had the scariest monster ever BECAUSE you didn’t see it for so long. And only glimpses when he did show up. Course that was because the huge clunky mechanical beast looked like “a floating terd” according to Spielberg if they showed too much of it, but he set the bar for many many creature features afterward. Less is more.
Know your audience. And your first audience is the filmmaker or studio you want to make your darling beloved script. If that is a faith-based audience, there’s going to be a zero tolerance attitude for cussing, nudity and to a lesser extent, violence. That’s changing, but for now if you’re going for that market, you need to evolve your script right out of an “R” rating.
But, in your first draft, let your characters talk however they want to. If you stop to fret over the F-bomb you just put on paper, you may lose the heat of the scene you’re writing. Besides this draft is for you and you alone. Stay in the writing moment and get your thoughts down on paper. Then, go back and edit once you’ve sobered up. So to speak.
Let’s write a movie!
The Top Ten Things Producers Wish Writers Would Do
Before Submitting a Screenplay
by Kenneth Altman
I get a lot of screenplays across my desk. Sometimes from filmmakers who I am secretly hoping will let me command the funds to get their movie made, other times from writers who value a critical eye on their work, and sometimes from producers or directors who want my expertise in preparing a shooting schedule and production budget. In any case, someone has poured a significant piece of their soul into the pages in front of me in the hopes that their literary work will become movie.
The first time I read a screenplay I try to approach it as if I were entering a theater to watch the movie. No I can’t read in the dark and I don’t eat popcorn, but I do set aside a couple hours to get through the script in one sitting and I leave my editing tools in another room. I want to experience what the theater audience will experience should this film successfully be made. Sadly, it’s rare that I don’t find myself making notes or getting out my editing tools before I get through the first 10 pages. Part of that is my critical nature but, more often than not, a mere ten pages in I’ve encountered something that has taken me out of the experience – - usually a number of things.
1. Get Coverage.
If you can afford to have a seasoned writer or script reader go over your screenplay, do it. If funds are tight (and they usually are for independents) get a former teacher or professor, another filmmaker you trust, someone who can put fresh eyes on the story and knows what a screenplay should look like. Oh, and who’s not afraid to be brutally honest with you.
2. Run Spell-check.
In today’s computer literate society it’s absolutely amazing to me that I still get scripts with so many misspelled words. I’m not talking about “there” versus “their” versus “they’re,” and those types of things that spell-check will often miss, I’m talking about “the Kign and Quean” and the “cowboy on his hors.”
3. Know Screenplay Format.
There are many conventions in the style and they all exist for a reason. Margins, fonts, line spacing, capitalization when introducing a new element, and the like all affect the page count which directly affects the schedule and, in turn, the budget. A pet peeve of mine is writers who put the title, copyright info and written by on page one. It belongs on the cover page. Page one begins with FADE IN.
4. Character Description.
The reader doesn’t know your characters until you introduce them. What the movie audience will see in a moment the screenplay reader needs to read. The other side of this coin is you should never write character descriptions or motivations that can’t be seen by the movie audience. They won’t have the script.
5a. INT versus EXT.
I can’t count the number of times I see a slug like INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY only to find the characters finishing their dialogue on the patio. In creative writing the “juices” need to flow, I get that. And people carry on conversations as they move in real life. But shooting a movie often involves using one location for an interior shot and another location for the exterior of the “same” place. If the movement from inside to outside is important to your story, slug it. INT./EXT. LIVING ROOM/ PATIO – DAY.
5b. Cars are Outside.
Moving from a conversation inside a vehicle to seeing the vehicle run a red light and then back to the conversation really should involve scene changes. But a whole bunch of slug lines can be distracting too. Again, use something like INT/EXT DAVE’S CAR, MAIN STREET – NIGHT.
6. DAY versus NIGHT.
This is really a continuity note. As you write you might move scenes around to heighten the drama. Double check your slug lines. I’ve seen a lot of sequential scenes that jump from day to night and back again.
7. DAY/NIGHT versus CONTINUOUS.
It’s convenient to use CONTINUOUS for slug lines in a series of sequential scenes but use it sparingly. We often shoot scenes out of order so it’ll be changed to DAY or NIGHT on the breakdown, the shooting script and shooting schedule anyway. Plus, it keeps the reader current. On screen the audience can see if it’s day or night, the reader only has what you’ve written. I once had a writer who used CONTINUOUS on every slug line for almost 10 pages. In the end I lost track of what time of day it was and so did he! An EVENING scene followed an all night chase.
Everyone loves the look of a scene shot during “golden hour.” Writers need to realize that their page and a half scene on the beach at sunset will probably take 3 – 5 hours to shoot (assuming the indie rate of 4.5 pages per day). Nowhere on Earth does evening light last 3 hours so the director or producer will probably change the scene to DAY or NIGHT unless the sunset is critical to the story and/or they’ve got the budget to create “golden hour” with a talented DP, lighting crew and extensive lighting package. If you use the EVENING or MORNING slug sparingly it conveys that the look is important to your scene.
9. It’s a Visual Medium.
I alluded to this earlier, the screenplay is a unique form of literature. Everything you want the theater audience to know has to be conveyed visually but some of the things that will be obvious in the visual form (descriptions of characters, props, sets, etc.) have to be written out for the reader. Sure, you can have your exposition in dialogue but too much of that and your character becomes a tool. Finding the balance between exposition through dialog and exposition through visuals is part of the art form. A good director will have a handle on this but, do you really want someone else rewriting large portions of your screenplay?
10. Don’t Direct.
You may want to direct your film but don’t do it in the screenplay. References to cameras, lenses, angles, framing and the like take the reader out of the story. Besides, that’s the director’s job in the collaborative effort of filmmaking.
Finally, before submitting your screenplay to any producer, production company or studio make sure they accept submissions. For legal reasons most won’t read your screenplay unless you’ve made prior arrangements. Similarly, protect yourself. Register your screenplay with the WGA, have it copyrighted, or otherwise establish your creative work and its date of creation.
Kenneth Altman is a producer and production manager who has spent 18 years in the film and video production industry. Graduating with a Master of Arts degree from Regent University in 2002, where he majored in Producing for Cinema & Television, Kenneth has been a key part of a variety of productions in the United States and around the world.
In 2010 Kenneth served as Production Manager on the multi-million dollar independent feature Alone Yet Not Alone and partnered with Donald Leow to produce the low-budget feature film For The Glory.
In the Fall of 2008 Kenneth joined Cristóbal Krusen at Messenger Films and Douglas Maddox of Moonlit Pictures in producing The Bill Collector, a low budget feature film shot entirely in Hampton Roads, VA.
Kenneth is currently attached as a producer to four independent feature films in various stages of development.
Feel free to check out his IMDb page HERE.
Kieth Merrill is a fulltime, Academy-award winning director as well as Meridian Magazine’s Movie editor. In this article he discusses first-hand religion being edited right out of the movies. Specifically, in his IMAX film Ozarks, Legacy and Legend.
Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.
(EXCERPT) I learned first-hand about this glaring absence when Ozarks, Legacyand Legend, an Imax-format film I created for the theater in Branson, Missouri went to the world-wide market and the distributor cut fourteen minutes. The edit was a blatant attempt to extricate all references to God and religion. The film is the story of five generations in the Ozark mountains. True to history, the characters are God-fearing Christians for whom faith and religion are a fundamental part of life. The cuts confirmed in a painful and personal way the notion that positive impressions of God and religion are being excluded by people we never meet for reasons we can only assume. The scenes condemned to “death by edit” in Legacy andLegend included a little girl reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 on Christmas Eve, a minister’s reference to Jesus Christ in performing an old-fashioned marriage in a grove of trees, and a prayer of a husband at the bedside of his sick wife. Other narrative references to God were likewise marked for deletion.
My outrage, expressed in no uncertain terms, salvaged some of the scenes critical to the story, but left me stunned that intelligent people could be so put off by references to faith and religion in the context of a story. Their argument: “We don’t want to offend our audience.” Ironically, people like these who won’t allow God’s name to be mentioned in a film with reverence feel free to create characters who liberally take the Lord’s name in vain.
While religion was edited out of my film, in the creation of most movies no one even considers putting it in. In fact, movie-goers longing for an affirmation of faith, or a glimpse of God at 24 frames per second are half a century too late.