Tuesday, March 22, 2005


As long as I'm bleeding on the screen and keyboard, I may as well share what's going on with every aspect. Recently I bought coverage for my script, Bluebottle Summer. "Coverage" is something that studios/producers/aquistions people create when they're reading a script. They create a brief kind of report card on the script and this gets handed off to upper level suits that review it so they don't have to interrupt their four martini lunches to actually read the whole script itself. It's a Reader's Digest version of the script that grades it on certain points - plot, story, dialogue, etc. - and in a studio the report all ends with one of three words: Consider. Pass. Aquire.

The tricky thing about this is that if you get a pass on a script - almost never will you as the writer, actually SEE the coverage report. Funny like a kidney stone huh? You get a pass but you have no idea what they didn't like about the script. It's a funny little game I like to call... HELL.

The upside is there are many agents/producers/script readers out there that you can hire to provide coverage for your script, and instead of actually squirreling it away like a dirty acorn for winter, they actually SHOW YOU the coverage. The beauty of it is that even though you're paying them, they have no reason to lie. There's no incentive for them to lie. If it sucks, they'll tell you it sucks. If the dialogue sounds like the actors will be reading Bazooka Joe comics, they'll let you know.

Recently I bought coverage for my script. And in case anyone's interested, I got it back today. Here's the report card on Bluebottle Summer.

As a Californian, I view the Bible Belt as probably the most backwards part of the country. The Bible Belt is an area including a number of southern and Midwestern states in the US in which fervent Protestantism –or fanatical Protestantism as I say- is an all-encompassing part of the culture. The vice-like grip of the Bible Belt is typically The South. That should be no surprise. I think that you would really serve yourself well by exploiting the Bible Belt itself throughout your piece. There is a certain mentality throughout this particular region of the country that is unparallel. Many of your Bible Belt Christians actually know a lot less than atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history –yet still call themselves Christians. Go figure. The locale of your screenplay itself is a plus. Scandals in small towns tend to peak the interest of many because no one expects murders of such to happen in places like a small town. The supernatural effect that you put into it is also a plus. Do your history on the Bible Belt and the mentality of the people who have been born there, grown up there, and manifested in the customs and culture that is passed down from generation to generation. This will afford you more plot twists throughout your screenplay.

There are a lot stories within this story itself. There is the son who is growing up without his mother who was killed. This aspect of his character can touch many who are in his position. Play this out. There is the son who is growing up solely at the hands of his father who happens to be a “drunken bastard” –which could be a means of dealing with the death of Caleb’s mother. This is the reason that they moved back to Bluebottle –so his father could be close to her. Surely many can identify with your character in this respect as well. There is death in a great fashion here. Death affects us all. Play this all out. We all have a favorite uncle. This uncle just so happens to be Caleb’s “best friend.” Caleb respects this man. Why does he? There is a lot more to your story. You can tell us more. Use the stories within the main story to your advantage. Remember that it is these particular situations that have shaped the thoughts and perceptions for your main character Caleb. You will dig deep into yourself -if you implement all of this- and find out that you actually had more to offer in this story.

I do not know what you write in –FD or MMW. Print out all of your scenes and really go through and make sure that all are properly placed. What I mean is that makes sure that everything is in place. The beginning of your screenplay starts off okay. See how it might sound by starting it off with your main character Caleb and his main trials in life -which are the constant bullying and the nights that he has to deal with his father Ray in his drunken stupor. I felt a great deal of emotional/mental abuse which is good. Exploit this. There should much more emotional conflict between the two. I like the part especially when Ray was trying to get Caleb to drink out the glass. Danny and Preston deserved what they got. You did a very good job with your scene explanation of the bloodshed.

When you go back through your screenplay for revisions, refrain from giving the characters unnatural dialogue in which they tell each other things they already know about each other.

You only need to include the facts that the audience need to know at any given time - and no more! Remember to dramatize these facts when you include them in your screenplay.

The exposition is the facts of your story. It's all the facts about the characterization, the history, the society, the physical setting and so on.

I think of exposition as the clues to the characters and to what is going on in a film. For example, if your opening scene is a man digging potatoes in a field, you simply write: A man, Thomas Larkin, age 60, 6 foot 6 inches tall, is digging potatoes in a field. Then think of any other important details. Perhaps the field is by a river. Perhaps there's an army approaching the field. Imagine you're telling the story to a child at bedtime and you're trying to keep their interest.

These are the key elements of structure:

• key event or an inciting incident
• struggle against all the forces of life
• crisis
• climax
• resolution

Having a clear idea of possible beginnings, middles and ends, is always a big help for me when I am reading scripts. But if the story is strong enough within you, you'll be pressurized a certain way and the story will tell itself. Beginnings and middles and ends are a very good way of trying to work it out in advance. Don't do anything on a whim or because you want to feel really fancy - it just doesn't work that way. Lies are soon found out. You can't fool an audience.

You need a key event that throws things out of balance at the beginning of the story, then a struggle against all the forces of life, passing points of no return in terms of the central character's effort, until there comes a moment called the crisis. The crisis is when there is only one possible further choice of action for the character to achieve their desire. When the character takes that action, we know that to be the climax. You will now need a brief resolution at the end to bring things back to normal for the audience. That's the rhythm of any story.

You did a good job blending in all of the individuality of all of the major characters. It is important that writers create a fine balance of having people that are realistic enough for the audience to identify with, yet are different enough from each other to allow for interesting and dramatic encounters.

You have to have an interest in people; you have to have interest in humanity to be a writer. When you have a complex character, suddenly your ability to create your character takes a huge leap forward.

To help you write realistic sounding dialogue, listen carefully to the people around you. Write dialogue last and remember that the real drama of a film is underneath what is being said and done. Go through this. Any line of dialogue that you think is really wonderful you need to cut it out immediately. If you don't cut down your dialogue somebody else will and they'll be less merciful than you.

Remember that dialogue is the last step in the process of writing a screenplay. Write your screenplay from the inside out, not the outside in.

Get this together. Let me see it again -and I’ll rep it. Once you cut out a lot of unnecessary dialogue, it should open it up for you to input a lot of the other elements I had mentioned earlier such as the exploitation of the Bible Belt. Secrecy is a big part of the Bible Belt and their customs and culture. Isn’t that what you story is all about –hidden secrets and the past and how one should let sleeping dogs lie? Don’t bother something if it is not bothering you. Up your dialogue and you will get this sold. Put yourself into the story. How would you react? You’re from Pennsylvania. When most people think Pennsylvania, they think of the north east.

Additional Comments
Get this together- let me see it again and I’ll rep it. I like the story itself.

I have to admit there's a lot here for me to think about. I read recently that the number one piece of advice for those writing for screen is to learn to love re-writes.
Ahh well... time to review this while my subconscious is working out how to unfuck the plot problems in my other script.

shovel some dirt on me and throw me in the hole...


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