Monday, May 26, 2014

A Script

Ana reads a script. 

I have not read many film scripts, but yesterday I read one that my daughter has been asked to produce. The story is a twist on the coming-of-age genre. A reclusive, about-to-turn-thirty woman is obsessed with staying young, with never dying. She doesn't know her free-spirited, sun-worshiping mother, with whom she lives, has stage 4 cancer.

Script-reading takes some getting used to. The dialogue is centered on the pages in a column. Lots of white space--I suppose for actors to write notes in.

The actors' movements (narrative) are in wider paragraphs and are explicit.  Eg.:
"Alpha walks through her messy hallway back to her bedroom and opens her closet. All her outfits are white or cream-colored and hung up neatly on a rack. Alpha changes out of her BATHROBE and into a white cropped T-SHIRT, HIGH-WAISTED PANTS, a tan 1970's silk TRENCH COAT and orthopedic-looking SANDALS."

It takes imagination to read a script, with its bare-bones descriptions of setting, tone, internal emotions. The abbreviations imply you are in a secret society. I've figured out that VO means 'voice over,' as in when the main character acts as a narrator. INT, EXT, DAY. NIGHT: setting cues are capitalized.

So different than writing a novel, where we labor over descriptions. Making sure the reader can follow the action and transitions.

Of course, the story is told (as all stories are) in the editing room. My daughter and her friend will edit. I will watch with interest.


  1. Sounds interesting!
    Yes, I did not realize all that went into a production until I could not get a handle on how to tell one story, so I wrote it as a play.(I have since decided on a POV, so when I take the time,it will again be a story.) I am glad that I went through the motions and learned about settings, direction, etc.
    If anyone is interesting in writing or learning about scripts,
    (writers/novelists might need the info for one of their stories),I suggest two things.The book :Writing Movies for Fun and Profit(with the "Fun" slashes out):How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You can,Too, by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon and to look Celtx, were you can download a free version.It shows everything you need for writing ANYTHING, but is especially helpful with pages and templates for stage or film scripts.If someone has a particularly involved story of research notes, Celtx can help there, too.(No,I'm not on their payroll!)

  2. Great information, Tonette! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Having produced musical stage shows in the past, I was fairly familiar with these kinds of scripts, and I've read other stage scripts too. The only TV scripts I have read were several 'The West Wing' scripts. My main impression is that script writers have an easy time compared to novel writers! They can put descriptions (of location, clothes etc) in note form, and jump in time and place without having to show what happens in between. The dialogue is shown - but often without any emotion. To transfer a script to the stage and screen involves many different people - set and costume designers, continuity and camera crew, and of course the director and the actors, who interpret the dialogue, movements, and emtions in their own ways, and then the editor who decides what stays in and what is cut..
    A novelist, however, has to be ALL the people who eventually put a stage show or film together. We have to show all the different aspects of the story to our readers, so that they can 'see' it in their mind's eye just as an audience can see a film or play. We also have to do what the actors do, and show all the emotions of the story, but in words.
    To me, script writing requires totally different skills than novel writing.

  4. I would feel bogged down by the script formatting until I'd worked with it for a while. I agree, Paula. Novelists have to do it all, but not doing it all could be challenging, too.

    1. Not doing it all would be frustrating for me! Makes me wonder how novelists feel when their stories are converted to screenplays.

  5. I wonder, too. DIY would be the best bet to like the finished product unless you are really fortunate.

  6. I think it would be an interesting thing to compare, but I must say, I enjoy reading novels more than plays.