“How to Choose a Good Script Consultant”

Doc Holiday's Grave in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Screenwriting, as movies, are subjective. What one person likes, another person does not like. If you’ve ever discussed a movie with someone, you know what I mean.

The same goes with script consultants. What each one sees in a script might be different than what each other one sees in a script. So, you should find out what kind of genres/movies they like the best. If their interests fit the genre of your script, then, they will be more objective when helping you out with your script because they have a deeper knowledge of the genre and what works and what doesn’t work with that particular genre.

Another thing to look for when choosing a good script consultant is where his/her focus is. If they have a background in working on high concept projects, then, their focus will be on high concept projects. They will be looking for “cookie cutter” elements in your screenplay. In other words, high concept movies are movies that are the same as other movies, the only difference being a unique and fresh approach to the same genre.

For example, with high concept action flicks, they will compare your script to successful box office action movies, if your script is an action script. The same applies to romantic comedies, animation, etc. The more elements they see missing in your script, the higher price they’re going to charge you to help “fix” your script so that it fits the mold of a successful action script.

The problem with this is that the more they have you fit your story and characters into a successful box office mold, the more it takes your story and characters away from you, your original intention for your script. And, the more danger it puts your script in with respect to being tight, rhythmic, the appropriate tone and mode, and a smooth flow with respect to story, characterization, dialogue, etc.

So, choosing a good script consultant boils down to why you are writing a script and what you want to achieve with it.  Box office success? Acclaim for its story and characterization? A combination of both? Whatever. The fine point of choosing a good script consultant is for you to know what your goal is with your script.

I hope this has been of help to you.

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
The Zen of Writing
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net

“Cursing in Movies”

I hear “fuck” so much in movies that it’s become cliche to me, just like “holy shit!”. “Holy shit”, I swear is a term invented by Hollywood. Actually, the use of “fuck” and “holy shit” are becoming major turn offs for me when watching movies. Yes, I think there is an unnatural amount of cursing in movie dialogue. I believe it is a way of expression that writers/ directors/producers believe emphasize points in movies. In other words, cursing is common is real life, but in movies, cursing plays into the fantasy, the “un-reality” of how real life is.

The core audience Hollywood focuses on is 16-25 year old males. This age group, perhaps, more than any other group, are into cursing. In order to write, sell, and get their screenplays produced, many screenwriters incorporate cursing into their screenplays in order to attract producers, i. e. one approach to attract the core audience.

If a screenwriter desires to succeed in the film business, then, they must always keep an eye and ear open to what kinds of films make Hollywood money, and what the content is in those movies. Cursing is a standard by which producers utilize to attract audiences, increase box office receipts, and earn some money for making their next film.

So, you have to make the call. The first issue a screenwriter should confront is who is their audience going to be? What kind of audience do you want to attract, to come see your movie? Look at what caused you to come up with this idea. Think about what you were doing at that time in your life, where you were, when the idea come up, and who helped trigger the idea. Honestly answering these questions should give you an idea about your passion for your movie idea. This passion, correctly identified, will then, become the main theme for your screenplay/movie. These answers, then will help you determine your core audience, which, in turn, should help you make the decisions you need to make with respect to cursing in your movie.

Donald L. Vasicek
Writing and Screenwriting
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net

“Anatomy of Page One of Screenplays That Get Produced”

by
Donald L. Vasicek
dvasicek@earthlink.net

When you watch a movie, what do you usually see in the first minute? A bunch of people jumping around? Or perhaps running? Or a headstone in a cemetery? A slinky woman’s naked cadaver silhouetted against a light? What about the one that skims you over a body of water with the skyline of a city ahead? Whatever you see, has meaning, at least in screenplays that get produced.

There are at least eight elements that should be on the first page of your screenplay if you want to hook your reader into your screenplay, enhance your chances of selling it and having it produced. Learned eyes look for these elements on page one of your screenplay. If they aren’t there, you’ve already got a strike against you in the mind of the reader. What are these elements and how can you write them into the first page of your screenplay?

If you first come up with a metaphor that describes the main theme of your screenplay, then the seven other elements will drop into place much easier. A metaphor that describes the main theme of your screenplay must be visual since film is a visual medium. You don’t want to bore your audience by unleashing talking heads to the audience unless you can pull it off like Billy Bob Thornton did in his Academy Award-winning screenplay, “Sling Blade” and some excellent acting by Billy Bob Thornton and J. T. Walsh.

For example, on page one in my screenplay, “The Crown”, which was produced, the main character, a gangly boy of 12 with a red kerchief as a headband cleans his mother’s headstone in a cemetery. The inscription on the headstone shows the years of her birth and death. A butterfly flutters about the headstone and main character. A shadow creeps over the main character. The butterfly flies away. The main character looks around. He sees a pretty woman. She frowns at him and says, “You have to let her go, Justin Freeman.”

The metaphor (element one)shows a butterfly flying (element two)(movement to draw your audience into the movie) away from a headstone. The metaphor shows the theme (element three) of the movie which is “letting go” which is also stated by the woman. The main character (element four) is introduced. The main character shows what his foremost problem in the movie is going to be by cleaning his mother’s headstone (he will not let go of her)(element five). The setting (element six) the main character is in is a cemetery. We have a sense of direction by knowing where “we’re” starting out in this movie. The time frame(element seven)of the movie is shown by the inscription on the headstone. Now, we have an idea about when this movie is taking place. The main character’s name is given (element eight)when the woman speaks to him. We know now who Justin Freeman is.

These eight elements, metaphor, movement, theme, main character, main character’s foremost problem, setting, time frame, and main character’s name defines “The Crown.” All of this takes place on page one of the screenplay. Translated into movie minutes, this means in the first minute of “The Crown”, eight elements are shown that hook us into the movie.

The first and second elements, the metaphor and movement, cause us unconsciously to wonder why the butterfly is present, is, then exits, means. Something to muse over. The third element, the theme, gives us a subconcious idea about what “The Crown” is going to be about because we see this butterfly hovering over a headstone and a boy, and then fly away as though the spirit of the body in the grave left the grave. Letting go is something the boy is going to have to do if he is to grow as a human being. The fourth element shows us who the main character is. What does the red kerchief wrapped around his head as a headband mean? Is it some kind of identity statement? Perhaps a social comment? We want to learn more about him. The fifth element shows the main character’s foremost problem, he’s into cleaning his mother’s headstone. We know it’s got to be something loving about his connection to someone in the grave. And we know that he can’t go on like this, he’s only a boy. The sixth element, the setting, a cemetery, also is metaphorical. A cemetery is a place where human beings bury human beings who have died. It is a final resting place for them, freed from the bonds of life. The seventh element, the dates on the headstone and name, give us some idea of the time frame of this movie and who is buried in the grave. Being made aware of that visually gives us a source of reference to the main character. The eighth element, the boy’s name, helps us put a name with the boy and link him to the person in the grave. The last name, “Freeman”, also gives a hint of the theme, letting go.

So, the next time you watch a movie, look for elements that hook you into the movie. Make notes. Analyze them the next day. You’ll be amazed at how subtle, but yet, how informative the first minute of well-written movies are. Write your screenplays with the same art and craft and you’ll increase your opportunity to sell and get your screenplays produced.