Hi-tech vs. State of the Art

There is no point to this picture

Which is better?

Do they mean the same thing?

Can I arbitrarily choose one over the other?

Does it actually matter?

These

Well … yes, it does. The knock on effect of one over the other is an entire page of script and several hours more work.

By the way, this post is really fucking whiny. If you’re having a good day, don’t bother reading this – it’s all a bit pointless.

hidden

 

There’s that odd point in a script’s life where everyone loves it. It’s done. We’ve spent months heading down numerous blind alleys and years tweaking it as new people come and go from the project and opportunities rise and fall.

Yes, if it goes into production then there’ll be continuous fire-fighting as we try to match the budget or cope with the usual strops, disasters, incompetence, death and just general misfortune … but for now, the script is as good as it’s going to get.

Except for that one lone voice, somewhere in the production tangle, who decides the script is too long. It needs to be under so many pages. Needs to be.

Personally, I’ve never met the people who say this because it always come to me through a third party – the pronouncement comes down from on high and suddenly the script needs to be trimmed.

words

My first drafts are always under 110 pages (well, nearly always … except when they’re not) because I control exactly what I’m putting in there. Second drafts are usually shorter because I hate everything I put in the first draft. Third draft onwards stuff keeps getting added – we need this scene and we want this actor who wants to do this and we’ve got this location which we MUST use and someone’s lent us a Ferrari so we need that in there somewhere. Oh and we need a sex scene. Preferably in the Ferrari … but with a towel down.

And so on.

The script gets longer for a bit, then it gets shorter for a bit and finally it balances out somewhere in the mid hundred-and-teens.

Then the “under x number of pages” bomb gets dropped. As it always does, even when the script is already lean and everyone agrees that everything in the script is absolutely essential to the story.

Obviously half of the absolutely essential stuff won’t get filmed because the actors on the day will have a ‘better’ idea, but at the moment it all seems essential.

There’s just too much essential stuff, can I fix it?

I hate this point in the script, it’s a fucking moronic request because I’m not going to make it shorter by cutting anything expensive or time-consuming … I’m going to make it shorter by cheating.

This script will magically lose five to ten pages without actually losing anything worthwhile. It won’t be cheaper to make or quicker to film, it will be exactly the same film … just have less pages.

That’s why it’s fucking moronic.

I don’t blame anyone, I’m not calling anyone a fucking moron … I’m just pointing out the accepted wisdom on what page count actually means in terms of screentime/budget really just means a day or two of pointless fiddling for me.

This always felt impossible when I first started – how can you trim five to ten pages from a script without changing it?

are

Well, now I can. I’m sure everyone has their own tricks, but basically I just try to kill all the widows and orphans.

Get rid of them. Every single fucking one. No block of dialogue nor piece of action can have even one word slipping onto the next line. I hate doing this with dialogue, so I’ll do it with action first – if that’s not enough, then I go back through with a dialogue pass.

Frequently I can get away with just tweaking the right-hand margin by one character. Weirdly, if I do this to the whole script, say move the global dialogue margin one space to the right … then it’s immediately noticeable. It all just looks wrong and people can tell I’ve cheated.

One of the first things I do when I get a Final Draft script from someone else is put the margins back to where they should be so I can see how long the script actually is. But one space here and there, now and then … it’s less noticeable. Practically undetectable in fact. Two spaces stand out a mile, one space … yeah, fine.

If I’ve used an ellipsis to end dialogue or action then I’m not so bothered – that can run three or four spaces out and it’s not really a problem. To me. Other opinions are available.

just

If that’s not enough (and it’s surprising how much space I can reclaim) then I might have to delete a word or two or comb through the thesaurus for a similar word which is one or two characters shorter.

I try to get the first line (of whatever, dialogue, action … sometimes even scene headings) of page 2 onto page 1. There’s always a way, somehow. Then I do the same for the first line of page 3 (onto page 2, not page 1 – that would be fucking weird) and so on. Every page HAS to have the first line on the preceding page.

Except when it’s impossible. Then I don’t bother.

for

Sadly, among the first casualties are the bits which make reading the script easier. Passages like:

He shoots …

 

Misses.

 

She shoots …

 

Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit.

 

Triumphant, he snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim …

 

… sneers …

 

… and …

 

… the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into strawberry jam.

Become:

He shoots … Misses.

 

She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit!

 

Triumphant, he snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim … sneers … and … the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into strawberry jam.

Or maybe:

He shoots … Misses. She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder. He snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim … sneers … and … the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into a gooey mess.

Or in extreme cases.

They shoot, miss and scramble to reload. She drops her powder. He snaps his pistol closed, aims … and is flattened by a charging rhino.

Now the last sentence is probably better being shorter. The spacing of the first bits just makes it all a bit worse. And that’s my problem with this process – I’m not making it cheaper or more tightly written, I’m just making it a little bit worse for no real reason.

Michelle

Because of the way Final Draft (and probably other programs) clumps action or dialogue together, a small change on page 1 can make a HUGE change at the end of the script. In my last script, saving one line on page 1 dragged an action block up from page 2 which knocked on all the way through the script until it moved ALL of page 106 onto page 105. All of it. An entire page of action and dialogue moved to the requisite 105 pages by changing four words:

State of the Art into Hi-Tech.

Saving those nine characters cuts off an entire page of script. Not just one line which had spilled onto page 106, but an entire pageful of text.

And everyone’s happy.

Lipton

Everyone except me.

and

Because I like the phrase STATE OF THE ART more than I like the phrase HI-TECH. Same all the way through – I originally chose all those words and pacing for a reason. The script is now shorter, but it reads worse as a result.

Does it matter?

maybe

Maybe. Maybe the short, truncated rhythm will put readers off. Maybe it won’t. In the end, if the film gets made, no one will ever know … but, damn it, the script is my art form. It’s what I produce. The film is my work filtered through the minds of a small army of creatives. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But the script … that’s mine and I’m forced to make it (slightly) worse to please people who think the page count is somehow important. Which it isn’t.

Not really.

Piers

But the myth persists and as long as people believe it, I’ll continue to spend hours staring at every page in the vague hope I can delete a preposition or remove a punctuation mark without removing all meaning.

Writing – occasionally it’s hard work.

Beckley

 

Advertisements
Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | 2 Comments

Post navigation

2 thoughts on “Hi-tech vs. State of the Art

  1. Very funny. Writing – occasionally it’s hard work. JJJJ

  2. Pingback: 2014 | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: