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Unconventional screenplay

Anyone ever tried this? We've shelved our FL film for a few months as the producer is having some personal problems, so in the meantime I'm putting together a team of 7 (including the cast) to create a short film. The film itself has no dialogue at all, and an incredibly simple plot. The whole story will be told through different camera perspectives of the characters (not as dull as it sounds), and use of continuous/non-continuous transitions. I was playing around with ideas, when I simply though "well... there aren't any screen-writing police to tell me off, so why not keep it simple?"

I've settled on a novel solution (for myself, at least). The screenplay is written as a short descriptive work, a whole page and a half (for a 30 minute film), including all the actions and camera angles required, akin to an extremely short novella, simply describing the story from start to finish.

Has anyone else used an unconventional approach to screen-writing before? What were your experiences?
 
My two cents: a 30 minute film without any dialogue at all has to have some absolutely awesome visuals and music to keep me interested. Personally I don't think it should fit on 1.5 page. Maybe it can, but I'd be worried if it did. 30 minutes is a long time. If there's no audio, people don't want to be looking at long shots.

Long shots are kind of a hype these days but personally I'd recommend faster than regular cutting to compensate for the lack of dialogue. You really got to keep your people engaged, so maybe think your movie through in terms of engagement levels, where people may drift off/lose interest.

It can certainly be interesting, but I think you'd need an exceptionally strong hook, and put it earlier than regular, so you don't lose too many people the first couple minutes. Then again, it's good to see people deviate from the formulaic approach to filmmaking.

Best of luck :)
 
Sure. I've done something weird. I was put into a refugee camp and there obviously wasn't any computers there. To learn the local language I started playing with a storyboard (= plenty of images and only a little to actually write). I got the whole feature written this way. Later I even put it up on a site and got contacted by a producer who wanted to pay me for using the opening for his short. The guy sent me a contract where I was asked to sign over EXCLUSIVE rights to the WHOLE script. I thought that didn't sound right and pulled out. But at least someone liked it.
 
My two cents: a 30 minute film without any dialogue at all has to have some absolutely awesome visuals and music to keep me interested. Personally I don't think it should fit on 1.5 page. Maybe it can, but I'd be worried if it did. 30 minutes is a long time. If there's no audio, people don't want to be looking at long shots.

Long shots are kind of a hype these days but personally I'd recommend faster than regular cutting to compensate for the lack of dialogue. You really got to keep your people engaged, so maybe think your movie through in terms of engagement levels, where people may drift off/lose interest.

It can certainly be interesting, but I think you'd need an exceptionally strong hook, and put it earlier than regular, so you don't lose too many people the first couple minutes. Then again, it's good to see people deviate from the formulaic approach to filmmaking.

Best of luck :)

You're going to be pretty disheartened when I tell you that we have no music planned either ;)
I appreciate your comments, and scepticism. I should add a little more to the background.
What is 'lacking' in dialogue we are making up for with pacing of the scenes and a purely visual narrative. The only sound that will be conveyed (at least as currently planned) will be that of the action and environment itself. Coincidental sound as I like to call it. Needless to say, it was quite a challenge to sell people on the concept at first, until they saw the screenplay itself. But reading through the idea seems to have them thinking there might be something in it (or they're just being nice, although I doubt it :lol:)
My motivation behind the project has been to challenge the viewers interpretation of events based on the perspective we see them from. Originally I wanted to produce a short work which evolved the audiences' point of view, as if they were a witness within the story only relying on what they could see, and having to shift their judgement as they viewed the events from a different character's point of view. When I redrafted it seemed to me that the dialogue just became a burden to what I was trying to express. Like an extreme evolution of Alfred Hitchcock's focus on the visual component of story-telling, with dialogue itself often being secondary:

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

In any event, the dialogue itself seemed to be superfluous to the structure of the film, and the more I reviewed it, the less I could see any reason to keep it in. Eventually I decided to move completely towards a 'silent' film, although retaining the normal sounds that would be encountered. That way, the audience becomes part of something more realistic: the thoughts and motives of the characters are not spoken, as in real life, but become apparent as events unfold.

I have to admit, like yourself, I was pretty dismissive when I reached my final draft and (not including camera notes) it totalled a single page. That said, the screenplay itself is merely descriptive and allows for flexibility and ad-libbed behaviours.
I believe however, that the pacing, transitions and action will speak for themselves in the final product.

I hope so anyway...
 
Sure. I've done something weird. I was put into a refugee camp and there obviously wasn't any computers there. To learn the local language I started playing with a storyboard (= plenty of images and only a little to actually write). I got the whole feature written this way. Later I even put it up on a site and got contacted by a producer who wanted to pay me for using the opening for his short. The guy sent me a contract where I was asked to sign over EXCLUSIVE rights to the WHOLE script. I thought that didn't sound right and pulled out. But at least someone liked it.

Hard to say if this is a good ending or a bad one :lol:

That's a very interesting back story. Out of interest, what benefits did you find it gave you in learning the local language? Were there any social positives which came from your approach, with those in the camp?
 
Since you're writing and directing, you can use whatever approach you like obviously. Since I often start with a treatment (story without dialogue) which I transform into a script, it works pretty much the same way. The advantage of the script format is that it's a lingua franca when working with other professionals who are accustomed to working with scripts. It's easier as an AD who must do scheduling, track props, etc. My preference for production is the script format when you're not doing everything yourself.

For my writing style, one treatment page is about 11-12 script pages. If you have 1.5 pages, it's probably closer to 18 pages which would work out more like 18-20 screen minutes. Probably take about 18-30 shoot hours or 2-3 days to shoot. If nothing to complicated is required, probably shoot over two weekends. Your mileage may vary.

It sounds like an experimental shoot, so go for it. I think you will find that adding some sound fx and music will enhance it. It's amazing the effect that sound and color correction has but why not try. The total absence of sound is often jarring on the audience which may work for your story. Be mindful that some of your audience 'watch with their ears'. Good luck!
 
I've done this. I had about 2 pages for a 10 minute film, and that was using really terse language with no complete sentences. A 1.5pg treatment for a 30 minute silent film is plausible, but a 1.5pg screenplay (even formatted like a treatment) sounds like a stretch to me and I would think you could stand to add more detail. Of course, if you're storyboarding it yourself you can take a lot more shortcuts in the writing and put more details in the storyboards.

Have you seen All is Lost? It's a no-dialogue feature film with only one actor, it might give you ideas.

The only sound that will be conveyed (at least as currently planned) will be that of the action and environment itself. Coincidental sound as I like to call
So... diegetic sound?
 
My two cents: a 30 minute film without any dialogue at all has to have some absolutely awesome visuals and music to keep me interested. Personally I don't think it should fit on 1.5 page. Maybe it can, but I'd be worried if it did. 30 minutes is a long time. If there's no audio, people don't want to be looking at long shots.

Long shots are kind of a hype these days but personally I'd recommend faster than regular cutting to compensate for the lack of dialogue. You really got to keep your people engaged, so maybe think your movie through in terms of engagement levels, where people may drift off/lose interest.

It can certainly be interesting, but I think you'd need an exceptionally strong hook, and put it earlier than regular, so you don't lose too many people the first couple minutes. Then again, it's good to see people deviate from the formulaic approach to filmmaking.

Best of luck :)

I tend to disagree. This is obviously something that's looking at an unconventional approach to cinema.

Ultimately, some works of art are more difficult than others, but that doesn't mean that they're inferior.

Recently, I watched an experimental film titled "To See With One's Own Eyes". The film had no sound, no story. Instead, it consisted of half an hour of graphic autopsy footage.
It was the most direct confrontation with death I have ever experienced, and I'll not forget it anytime soon.

Sure, it might not click with everyone, which is fine, but that's no reason not to make it.
 
You're going to be pretty disheartened when I tell you that we have no music planned either ;)
I appreciate your comments, and scepticism. I should add a little more to the background.
What is 'lacking' in dialogue we are making up for with pacing of the scenes and a purely visual narrative. The only sound that will be conveyed (at least as currently planned) will be that of the action and environment itself. Coincidental sound as I like to call it. Needless to say, it was quite a challenge to sell people on the concept at first, until they saw the screenplay itself. But reading through the idea seems to have them thinking there might be something in it (or they're just being nice, although I doubt it :lol:)
My motivation behind the project has been to challenge the viewers interpretation of events based on the perspective we see them from. Originally I wanted to produce a short work which evolved the audiences' point of view, as if they were a witness within the story only relying on what they could see, and having to shift their judgement as they viewed the events from a different character's point of view. When I redrafted it seemed to me that the dialogue just became a burden to what I was trying to express. Like an extreme evolution of Alfred Hitchcock's focus on the visual component of story-telling, with dialogue itself often being secondary:

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

In any event, the dialogue itself seemed to be superfluous to the structure of the film, and the more I reviewed it, the less I could see any reason to keep it in. Eventually I decided to move completely towards a 'silent' film, although retaining the normal sounds that would be encountered. That way, the audience becomes part of something more realistic: the thoughts and motives of the characters are not spoken, as in real life, but become apparent as events unfold.

I have to admit, like yourself, I was pretty dismissive when I reached my final draft and (not including camera notes) it totalled a single page. That said, the screenplay itself is merely descriptive and allows for flexibility and ad-libbed behaviours.
I believe however, that the pacing, transitions and action will speak for themselves in the final product.

I hope so anyway...


Sounds fascinating. I hope to get to see it some day :)
 
what benefits did you find it gave you in learning the local language? Were there any social positives which came from your approach, with those in the camp?

I wanted to make friends with the locals as I was the only EU-citizen in the camp. So learning the language was the key. The camp had its own prison rules. Groups where Russians tried to establish themselves as mafia bosses, other nationalities with these small terrorist wannabees. The reactions, as I instantly learned the language was that they tried to get me to confess that I've been in the country for years. Soon they were convinced that I was hyper intelligent and secretly a millionaire. Comments I heard was "I've been here for three years and can't read yet, because the letters are different".
 
Since you're writing and directing, you can use whatever approach you like obviously. Since I often start with a treatment (story without dialogue) which I transform into a script, it works pretty much the same way. The advantage of the script format is that it's a lingua franca when working with other professionals who are accustomed to working with scripts. It's easier as an AD who must do scheduling, track props, etc. My preference for production is the script format when you're not doing everything yourself.

For my writing style, one treatment page is about 11-12 script pages. If you have 1.5 pages, it's probably closer to 18 pages which would work out more like 18-20 screen minutes. Probably take about 18-30 shoot hours or 2-3 days to shoot. If nothing to complicated is required, probably shoot over two weekends. Your mileage may vary.

It sounds like an experimental shoot, so go for it. I think you will find that adding some sound fx and music will enhance it. It's amazing the effect that sound and color correction has but why not try. The total absence of sound is often jarring on the audience which may work for your story. Be mindful that some of your audience 'watch with their ears'. Good luck!

Self-directing is of course a bonus in this case. I was mostly worried about the other crew and the cast, but I've managed to make it a very simple to understand. I'm not wholly opposed to adding some music, but for the time being I want to see where I can take this idea.
 
Have you seen All is Lost? It's a no-dialogue feature film with only one actor, it might give you ideas.


So... diegetic sound?

Basically, yes, although I'm not sure if this is the strictest sense of the term. I want to capture sound which comes from the environment by chance and not only that which can be visually related. My idea is more that coincidental sound is part of the scenery itself. And thanks for the suggestion, I shall look up All is Lost. :)
 
I tend to disagree. This is obviously something that's looking at an unconventional approach to cinema.

Ultimately, some works of art are more difficult than others, but that doesn't mean that they're inferior.

Recently, I watched an experimental film titled "To See With One's Own Eyes". The film had no sound, no story. Instead, it consisted of half an hour of graphic autopsy footage.
It was the most direct confrontation with death I have ever experienced, and I'll not forget it anytime soon.

Sure, it might not click with everyone, which is fine, but that's no reason not to make it.

You raise a good point about difficulty. The screenplay itself is very straight-forward, but the execution may not be so. Next weekend we shall be making a photographic storyboard at the locations, to try and work out the best way to selectively capture the scenes, as thee is more in the detail of the filming and camera angles than the action itself. In fact if it were not for the planned style of filming and editing, it would probably only be 5 minutes long and a rather boring story. I shall watch the film you mentioned as well, to see if I can use anything from it. I love experimental stuff.
 
I wanted to make friends with the locals as I was the only EU-citizen in the camp. So learning the language was the key. The camp had its own prison rules. Groups where Russians tried to establish themselves as mafia bosses, other nationalities with these small terrorist wannabees. The reactions, as I instantly learned the language was that they tried to get me to confess that I've been in the country for years. Soon they were convinced that I was hyper intelligent and secretly a millionaire. Comments I heard was "I've been here for three years and can't read yet, because the letters are different".

That's a very interesting story in itself! :)
 
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