critique Opening scene of "A Bit."

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I definitely like it and yes it's intriguing.

A few points - things that always annoy me, rightly or wrongly.

1. Avoid writing something labeled "establishing scene" - they're dead space. Simply set the location of the first scene and describe it briefly.

2. Be careful of homonyms: you want "altar" not "alter." And don't get carried away with ellipses (...)

3. Don't forget to put a character's NAME in all capitals when they're introduced.
 
Mara,
First, thanks for taking the time. And your positive assessment means a lot.

And I love hearing about the things that stand out, to you, as unprofessional. Like Establishing. I don't know where I picked this up, but, curious, I went through a good sample of the 90 or so scripts I have in an IBooks folder, searching each for the word "establishing." Not one hit. Case closed.

I was thinking: Start with an aerial view of the city, with its "Gothic tangle of peaks and spires" to set a tone; then a street view of the square, moving toward the church, and then inside the church--trying, as quickly as possible, to "establish" where we are. Anyway.

My spelling, never that great to begin with, has deteriorated more since I have had, always at hand, a robot to correct me. But the robot is easily fooled by homonyms. I can see altar/alter sneaking deep into the process. Again, unprofessional, I'm sure distracting, and so, helpful to have it pointed out.

The character name caps. I have seen, in some scripts, the characters name in caps every time it appears. But I just hate the way this looks. The compromise is to put it in caps just the first time. This I can live with, lol, and it seems to be a standard, so next time. . .

And my elipses. They tend to sneak in as an orthographic representation of how I hear the line, the elipses indicating a speaker searching for the right word or phrase, or perhaps, for a moment, reluctant to use it. But I think you're right. Too many begins to feel sophomoric, and I will go back and look, probably removing many, but not, I think, all.

For example, I wrote "He is . . . transformed." To indicate, perhaps, that there may not be an adequate word for what has happened, at this moment, to this man. But "He is transformed," is better, and even that may be unnecessary.

But with: "Are you . . . an angel from heaven?" The line straight through, "Are you an angel from heaven?" doesn't work as well, I think. He needs to think, a moment, to consider what he is suggesting, that what just happened seems supernatural. And it also might help to show that I, as a POV, am suggesting the same thing.

Also, I use elipses a lot, it seems, in dialogue, correctly, to indicate an unfinished thought or sentence. But I think sometimes this is just a lazy way to get to the next line. I will pay more attention.

Anyway, the more professional, to me, that the things begins to seem, the more it begins to seem, to me, to be worth doing. So thanks again. :)
 
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mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
The character name in caps the first time it appears is a "rule," to my understanding. Quentin Tarrantino can break rules. You and I can't :)

Start with an aerial view of the city, with its "Gothic tangle of peaks and spires" to set a tone; then a street view of the square, moving toward the church, and then inside the church--trying, as quickly as possible, to "establish" where we are. Anyway.

I completely understand what you're going for. But that's a decision for the director to make, in conjunction with the DP.

The opening title sequence from Rosemary's Baby (ancient, I know) is one of my favorite examples of that.

 
ok, page 3 - a character is described as seeming "not unpleased"

That's probably not optimal phrasing.

and that's it.

Really I think you're doing just fine, and there's not much fault I can find with this.

To me the most important thing is that you seem to have the feel for writing in a way that can be effectively translated into something cinematic. I read a lot of scripts where I feel like I'm picturing 2 people talking face to face in a beige room. In the case of this and the last excerpt, the settings were rich with possibilities for the visual artists on a production team, while I know people that don't think that matters, it matters. I think you have an inherent understanding of what a film is supposed to be. Much like the music you describe, it should always be layers, working in harmony. There's room for that here.

While I'm entertained by the story, I'm also being entertained by light shafts through ornate stained glass windows, and then this music comes up, and my focus passes on to the composer and sound, but is then stolen by the performance of the actor at the keyboard, his expressions while playing, the other actors reactions, and then the story takes center stage again.

This is how it's always supposed to work. I draw people diagrams sometimes showing overlapping zones of entertainment elements crossfading, and they still don't get it. You got it from day one with zero prompting. Excellent.
 
Thank you, guys.

This is a dramatized version of a contemporary anecdote, which, when I first heard it told, by Professor Greenburg in his teaching company course, Bach and the High Barouqe, I thought: this is a great scene.

Here's a transcript: The Unknown Organist. (and I'm embarrassed to see that I lifted a few clauses from Herr Marpurg, lol)

https://www.wondriumdaily.com/outperform-bach/

Some years later, I imagined this as the opening scene of a script, and, a year or so later, the day before yesterday, I finally sat down and worked it out--five or so hours of the kind of flow that is the real joy of all of this kind of stuff.

Two things got it going. One, the final realization that I didn't have to, right now, get everything right, but rather, to just get things that sounded as if they might be right. The other was imagining a few actual readers. I have no kind of network, and this, as I said before, is motivating. So, again, thank you.

Anyway, I think Aaron Sorkin said somewhere that he didn't think of himself as a visual guy, that is, he hears more than sees. I relate to this, so it is exciting to hear from someone with some visual talent, able to see the potential of what it might look like. Some of this potential is, I think, inherent in the setting--in this scene, the baroque pipe organ, an instrument the size of a building that you sit inside, the most complex machine ever created by human-kind, until the computer in the late 20th century

Anyway, sorry to go on about four crappy pages, lol, but I'm still a little jazzed that they now exist. :)

And that, by the way, Nate, (me aside) is a nice little essay on film. Really good stuff.
 
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I took Aaron Sorkins video writing class "Aaron Sorkin teaches screenwriting". It was really, really intelligent compared to some of the other ones, like James Patterson. Night and day different. He's well organized in his thinking.

Here's why I describe all this as visual,

A: I'm sleep deprived and have gone through a great deal of cough syrip recently while trying to fight off some vauge illness with random symptoms

B: Compare these visual keyword lists between your script and the average script I get

Typical Script:

man
woman
house
street
field
car
yard
kitchen

Your 2 scripts

Orchestras
torches
boats on a canal at night
historic Venice
aerial shots
ancient cathedral
pipe organ that's probably 40' total
period costumes

When someone outlines a location, I immediately visualize where the cameras can actually be, and what they can see from there, so the images my brain makes are way different when someone gives me a larger, more detailed space to work in. It's hard to explain.

This will give you some vague idea what I'm seeing while reading this

 
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