a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Making a Flat Scene Interesting

This should be screenwriting 101 stuff, but I'm still amazed by how many scripts that I read -- scripts from people with agents -- that contain scenes that just sort of blandly exist.

Talky scenes, in which the characters aren't doing anything during the scene.

Characters should always be doing something. Movies are visual. Even if the characters aren't doing anything, it should be interesting.

A primer for this is "When Harry Met Sally", which is a very talky movie. But in every single scene, there's something interesting going on, even if it is as simple as Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby hitting balls in a batting cage while having a conversation.

Obviously, there's a lot more leeway for this is comedies, and you don't want to do anything too distracting. But do something.

An example is the music video below (hey, I'll take any chance to play another - actually, THE other -- Mountain Goats video).

It's a low-budget video, that pretty much just consists of the band playing the song. But check out how a little early context -- and one perfect piece of bloody make-up -- gives it all a spin that makes it interesting.

Crank it up. And then go write 5 pages.


At 4:39 PM, Blogger S. A. Petrich said...

This is my first comment here, so I'd start by saying: Great blog, Scott, you're awesome and good luck with your supernatural-psycho-thriller (it is a supenatural-psycho-thriller, isn't it?). I've skimmed through the archives. Most helpful. More helpful than that Syd Field hack anyway...

So, yeah. I've always had problems with those "Flat Scenes". Sometimes you just have to sit your characters down and make them have a conversation to advance the plot or their character arcs, and it's very difficult keeping those talky bits interesting. Especially when you're writing something like an adaptationof "Dune", which is 80% dialogue anyway :-).

So... yeah, like, cheers.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger wcmartell said...

The first thing I'd do is make sure there's conflict. No conflict - no scene.

Then I'd try to find any possible way to convert the conversation into actions. They speak louder than words, you know.

Last resort is what I call the "Sit & Speak Rule" - no characters shall ever sit while they speak. Get them involved in some physical activity so that you aren't *only* using the sound part of the movie.

- Bill


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