Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Joe Gillis's Rules for Young Screenwriters

1. Do not mention specific pieces of popular music in your script.
As in “Plunky Nurdshifter’s cover of ‘Lost My Face’ booms as CLYDE rams the Vette into gear and tears off into the night.”

The motivation to do this is to somehow indicate that even if what’s going on isn’t interesting, the music will somehow get the audience believing it’s interesting by associating it with the music. Medically this is known as WB Disorder. There is no longer any WB , so we can drop this whole charade.

2. Do not introduce a character and then parenthetically evoke a current actor or celebrity with or without a modifier.
As in “CLYDE SLABCHEST (think Brad Pitt, only younger).”

You are being paid more money than your father made in his lifetime, take a shot at describing the bum without pasting somebody’s face on him.

3. Do not end sentences with ellipsis.
As in: “Clyde grabs Sally... The Car smashes into the room... The cheese arrives on a big tray...”

The ellipsis or “The three dots of action” as they are often called in screenwriting classes, are a bastard bit of typography. The intention here is to make the reading of your script a breathless rush of adventure, as if all the reheated action was so exciting the reader’s very eyeballs are pulled forward in a mad rush... When really a page full of ellipsis just looks likes somebody sneezed on it while drinking ink.
One of the original purposes of the ellipsis is to indicate something is missing, so the reader will be under the impression you removed something. Such as the story.

4. Do not refer to a character as “Hot.”
As in “SALLY CORNSTALK, 22 and Hot.” or, when in dialogue, “CLYDE: That Sally Cornstalk is hot.”

The word has become meaningless to all but the monosyllabic.

5. Do not use phrases such as “SUPER SLOW-MOTION” “SUPER FAST ZOOM”
As in “Clyde sneezes and we Super Fast Zoom into the snot particles and see them Microscopically in Super Slow Motion.”

This sort of caffeinated writing has been a problem for a long time, but has been exacerbated by the “CSI” effect. The idea is to distract the audience from the lack of actual content and is the filmic equivalent of befuddling a cat with tin foil at the end of a string.

6. Characters are no longer allowed to send text messages.
Because title cards went out with silent films. We now have sound and characters can talk to each other.

7. Character are no longer allowed to use the internet to advance the plot.
In the words of Raymond Chandler, “This is what is vulgarly known as having God sit in your lap.”

8. Graphic Novels are comic books.
Deal with it.

9. Starting today: Five year moratorium on making development deals with people based on their YouTube postings.
You got a new camera at Best Buys, that doesn’t make you Hitchcock.

10. In 2010 the median age of the population of America will be 39. The single largest demographic group will be men and women between the ages of 50 and 54.
Write accordingly.


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