10 Script Writing Tips

Earlier this year, the RevPub team volunteered to read scripts for a local film festival’s screenwriting competition. As we approach our second year as readers, I wanted to share some things I learned about screenwriting while reading the good, the bad, and the ugly.

1. Keep it simple. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t overcrowd your story with too many characters, locations, or plots. Think about some of the best movies and what makes them the best. Most good movies focus on one or two main characters and a handful of minor characters, and their story.

2. Don’t describe the characters in great detail. This is what the crew is for. The casting director will pick who plays what, the costume designer will dress them, the actors will bring the characters to life. Only mention physical appearance if it’s essential to the story.

3. Select a central location and work around that area. Scripts that bounce from place to place drive me nuts. It’s hard to remember where the characters are and why they are there. Pick a central location, and use the area around it, but try to stay central. For example, if it’s set in a school, keep it at the school – not the school and all the kids’ homes.

4. Start with a bang. Scripts that set the scene for paragraphs on end will bore the reader. Begin the script with action or something interesting that immediately grabs the reader. Set design will create a scene, so you don’t have to ramble about what it looks like. If it’s a forest, for example, just say a forest. We know what a forest looks like.

5. No stupid dialogue. I cannot tell you how many times I groaned reading dialogue. Dialogue should move the story along, not slow it down. The things said should be important for character and plot development, and each character should have their own voice. Keep it conversational, but make sure what they say is important to the plot.

6. Remember everything matters. I once had a professor say everything in a movie had a purpose. As I’ve watched movies since then, I realized he was right. Every prop has a purpose. Every character needs a reason to be there. Every word should serve a purpose and not just fill space.

7. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. One of the worst lines I read was “[Katie] flings her dainty wrists haughtily.” Enough said.

8. Balance dialogue and narrative. The best writers used both and not equally. It depends on the story, and both are important. Make sure you aren’t rambling on or slowing down the story with either.

9. Have people read it. Give it to your friends and family before finalizing it. Have them read the first 20 or 30 pages, and get their feedback. If you’re on the right track at 20 pages, the rest should be fine. Also, have a proofreader read it to ensure correct spelling and grammar – these errors can distract the reader and show the writer doesn’t care enough to fix the little things, so they probably won’t accept feedback well.

10. Have fun! Have fun writing, and let your story come to life.

AVGN the Movie: The Film Event of Our Generation

No. That was not hyperbole.

James Rolfe, aka, the Angry Video Game Nerd, encompasses two of the biggest influences of my generation of 20-30 somethings: video games and the internet. (with hip-hop culture rounding out the triumvirate of my generation’s biggest cultural influences).  And for the last eight years, he and his friend and writing partner Kevin Finn have been working on a full-length feature film for Rolfe’s online persona and, yes, I truly believe it to be the movie event of my generation.

Don’t believe me? Here is a short list of the reasons why!

  • Video Games & Gaming Culture: Video games have, since the beginning, had many myths and legends associated with them. The movie discusses all the little secrets that used to appear in Atari games (initials and easter eggs), but even later games like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Tomb Raider, and Killer Instinct all had their own lore associated with them . These little mysteries entered into gaming culture so much that secrets in games are commonplace and expected now. Myths about how games are created and their back stories are just as compelling; from how Pac-Man got his name (anyone believe Scott Pilgrim’s explanation?) how Rock-Man became Mega-Man, we just eat these legends up. The AVGN movie explores a real game legend with a fantastical explanation. It’s the kind of stuff the internet would run with in this day and age! And on that topic…
  • Internet & YouTube Culture: The only cultural aspect that has impacted my generation more than video gaming would be the internet. People make their entire careers as internet personalities (James Rolfe being one of the best and most successful) and legions of fans follow them, often doing just what they are begged not to do. The Angry Video Game Nerd even points out in “Nintendo Classics Re-Revisited” that people bought and played Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after he expressly told them not to. The whole premise of the film is that negative press from the right personality can bring positive results. Both from a slightly sleazy game publisher and from an altruistic scientist. It’s an interesting parallel and sums up how the internet community can have profound impact on course of popular culture.
  • The Movies of Our Youth: For those in my generation, the happy-go-lucky 20-30 somethings out there, we grew up with cheesy horror movies, giant monster movies, goofy cartoons, and practical effects (guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, blue screen effects, etc.) James Rolfe is a filmmaker first and he makes movies the way he likes them. With…guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, and blue screen effects… I think even if he’d managed to raise 10 million dollars we’d still see a model van explode in a spark-filled firecracker explosion and not a real van flip and burn before bursting into a gasoline bomb. Death Mwauthzyx would always be a home-made suit…never a CGI model. It’s just like the movies and afternoon cartoons we all grew up with; summed up in one brilliant two hour spectacle.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the plot or characters. I won’t spoil it and it’s actually got too much going on to sum up in a few sentences. But suffice it to say I think James Rolfe captured the entire culture of 25-35 year olds in a compelling and incredibly hilarious movie, made with love and affection for that culture AND love and affection for his fans. Furthermore it still feels like an AVGN episode. Yes it’s bigger, more characters, expanded world…but it is still his world and has his tone.

James Rolfe has declared a sequel isn’t likely. While I’d love to see another expanded look at the AVGN’s life I can see why and I’m looking forward to seeing what other, new creative ideas he has. Until then I know I’ll enjoy revisiting all things AVGN for a while to come. It truly takes me back to the past and exemplifies what’s great (and delightfully bad) about the cultural impacts of my generation in the best way possible.

Cinemassacre website

Buy the movie!

You’re Next and the Family Reunion

Most of us have been there. You’re about to meet your significant other’s family for the first time – the parent(s), sibling(s), and maybe even their significant others. It can be pretty stressful because you want them to like you and feel like you fit in. After all, once you meet that special someone, you become part of their family.

What if you met the worst family ever? In 2011, a gem of a horror movie came out entitled You’re Next. The premise is pretty simple: An estranged family reunites to only serve as a hunt for three paid killers. I won’t go into the little twists and turns, but fair warning, this post contains spoilers!

I love this movie for two reasons: the family dynamics and the main character, Erin (Sharni Vinson), who reminds me of what Katniss Everdeen would act like at 28 years old in the same situation.

The movie’s trailer misleads the audience to think this is a home-invasion movie, and I once heard it was supposed to resemble The Strangers. Not even close. If you like traditional slasher movies, you’ll enjoy this gorefest. It’s not scary in the least. You’re Next is a slasher movie with multiple killers, one with good reason, and she’s creative.

Here’s the family breakdown:

2 parents + 3 sons + 1 daughter + 3 significant others

  • Parents have a distant, practically loveless relationship.
  • The siblings hate each other.
  • The daughter is the princess, the sons are jealous of each other and tolerate her.
  • Everyone argues about stupid stuff and judge one another, even though they all have problems and baggage.
  • The siblings never say a single nice thing to one another.
  • What’s better, this family is normal by today’s standards. They represent most families in present-day America (aka not perfect).
Photo by soundofmusic.hubpages.com

Photo by soundofmusic.hubpages.com

And I wanted them all to die. Aside from Erin, the entire cast deserved to die due to either stupidity or sheer a-holeness. They are horrible people in the ways they treat each other, especially the two brothers who plan the “let’s kill our parents and siblings to inherit all the money” idea.

Thankfully, Erin survives by taking the “bad guys” out. She’s smart and sweet, but doesn’t mess around. She takes control of the situation, and truly wants everyone to survive – until she finds out the truth. Then she doesn’t care; she only wants to survive, and she effs them up. She uses what’s available and gets out alive. She is the classic final girl.

you're next

Photo from parade.condenast.com

Before attending a family reunion, here are the takeaways:

  • Ask your significant other if they’ve been raised in a survival camp.
  • Don’t invite them if a) they have and b) your family hates one another.
  • If you hate your family that much, just stay away. It’s better for everyone.
  • If you must gather, then don’t stay in a big house with lots of windows and doors. That’s what hotels are for!