Murray Hamilton portrayed Mayor Vaughn in two films of the Jaws franchise. And when Quint (Robert Shaw) shows up to a town hall meeting, to offer his unique fishing abilities to the desperate townsfolk of Amity, Vaughn replies with a tepid, "We'll take it under advisement."
As mentioned in a previous post, I've been reading/studying The Hollywood Standard.
And, as mentioned before, there are some formatting and content rules mentioned in the book, with which I don't wholeheartedly agree. Certainly, there are absolute must-follow tricks, but some -- well, I believe they can be fudged, just a little bit, to suit my personal preferences.
But as I work on a rewrite of one of my scripts (being co-penned with my friend Motown Maurice), I have discovered what might end up being a never-before-used, but now will be in constant rotation, trick from The Hollywood Standard.
In the parenthetical piece of the screenplay document, I've always reserved that space for when a character is addressing a specific other character, and that needs to be clear.
For instance: BOB (to Shirley). Bob is addressing a line to Shirley, rather than Doris, who is also in the scene.
And if a character is yelling, or pauses or if a line MUST be read with a particular inflection.
For instance: BOB (sarcastically). Meaning, Bob's line of dialogue could be delivered "regularly", but in this case, it's gotta be sarcastic. Many times, such bits of information are unnecessary, as the tone may be present in the context of the scene. But if it's not...
But based on one of the lessons learned in "The Hollywood Standard", I now know how to use the parenthetical for another purpose, and it is something which will cut back on total line/page count. (I'm always a big fan of cutting back on page count!)
Per the book, you CAN put the tiniest bit of action/description in the parenthetical.
So instead of writing a separate action/description line of "Bob turns to Shirley, before speaking", you can put something like this:
I don't know for certain.
(turns to Shirley)
But I think I love you.
If it's the speaking character's movement (not someone or something else), this is acceptable. And while yes, the parenthetical takes up another line, it's not THREE lines (the action/description and two spaces -- above and below).
Every day, I try to better myself in the craft, and little things like this, which I was either against (because of prior knowledge or coaching), or was completely unaware of -- keep me learning and only serve to improve my work.
So while I am not taking EVERYTHING from The Hollywood Standard as the end-all, be-all law of the land, there are certainly some lessons offered up in the book, which will be "taken under advisement" and perhaps adopted for all future scripts.
There's an episode of American Dad, where Roger the alien sells off his dive bar (the one he operates out of the Smith home's attic). And he eventually becomes part of the business franchise, as its pitch-man, repeating the catch-phrase "Dive on in!", in a heavy Australian accent.
I was reminded of this when I was working on one of my latest feature specs.
I had the initial inspiration - an idea, some characters, but not really any deep understanding of what the story or the plot might be.
But that didn't stop me. Certainly, each writer has their own way of working, and over the years, it's become clear to me that I won't generally wait for a fully-realized concept before getting in there and digging for some goodies. It could be an image, a line of dialogue or a skeletal character idea, and I'll take it and run with it.
Such is the case on my script "Trip". I'm already 39 pages into a first draft, and I don't quite know where it's headed. But I'm sure having fun figuring that out. Writing scenes, I'm beginning to understand the characters, their histories and trajectories. And eventually, these discoveries will lead me in the direction necessary, to formulate a plot and an all-encompassing story. Structure.
I've said this in pitch meetings and to friends. "I let the characters tell me where they're gonna go and what they're gonna do."
And yes, that sounds very "writerly" and a somewhat douchy thing to say, but I've found it to be accurate. Once you "get" your characters, things will naturally begin to materialize in your story.
So to go back to this entry's title and inspiration (thanks American Dad), I've always found it more fun to simply "dive on in" with any tiny nugget of an idea or exciting image which your imagination throws at you. I mean, if it doesn't pan out into a fully realized story or script, you were still writing, right? Chalk it up to "writing exercises". And perhaps these scratchings can be used in later projects.
And if you are more a planner, I salute you. Goodness knows my way of writing (train of thought process) makes for additional structural work down the road, since it was never mapped out properly in the beginning. But that's how I get my writing ya-yas and indeed, it's my process.
[Side note: I've done treatments for several projects, so I know that a process of "planning" is still in my wheelhouse, but those were "for hire" gigs. When working for myself, letting the fates decide is always preferable.]
I also will point out that some of my most brilliant (in my mind, of course) discoveries were found by just getting into a scene and doing it - with no idea of where it was going.
I implore you to try this type of writing if you don't already. I find it freeing to "dive on in" and see where the day, the characters and your unstructured, uninhibited imagination might take you.
Someone said something about it being a new year AND a new decade? And that this new year is 2020? Perhaps you've heard whispers of such things. Well, anyway, to celebrate those nice, round numbers, we're offering 20% off EVERYTHING SITEWIDE! Working on a feature screenplay, a short screenplay or want some help with some good ol' fashioned brainstorming to get your gears moving? Take advantage now, as the sale will only last until January 15th, 2020! (There are those numbers again, hmmm...)
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