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Justin Oakley

Scripts with little dialogue

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Hello again.

 

First, let me start by saying I have never written a script before.

 

So I have an idea for a short, but Im having a little trouble sorting out the format as it has little to no dialogue.

 

How on earth does one accomplish this?

 

I just installed the Slugline software (pretty neat, by the way) and started writing. But as I jam away at the keys, I feel like Im writing a damn novel trying to articulate the action.

 

I know brevity is key with screenplays. But I also want the ideas and actions to be as clear and concise as possible.

 

Is it okay to write like this? Or is there some sort of script-specific technique for action, or short-hand I should be using?

 

Oh, and this is some pretty violent subject matter so I want to script the scene in vivid detail.

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If the set is small and you're the only one using it, it won't matter what you do. You could write it on a napkin.

If you intend on showing it to other people to see if they'll produce it then use your brain to figure out what's crucial and what isn't.

 

And never have a block of text bigger than 3 lines, no one wants to read that.

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But is there a right way?

 

Not that I intend to, but in the off chance that I DID want to share it, what is a correct format?

 

You said not to exceed three lines of text. But that is the exact problem I have. There is very little dialogue.

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Think of a well known film with little dialogue, or passages with little dialogue, which you can access online. Study that. How do they do it. Consider the context. Meaning, who the script is developed by and intended for. If a script was a collaboration between a writer and director, it will be written to serve that purpose. If you are just writing for yourself, it may be different, but with little dialogue, may share some characteristics..

 

Have a look at the start of the Hampton Fancher/Peoples/Scott Bladerunner script, available online.

 

Then ask some more particular questions.

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You said not to exceed three lines of text. But that is the exact problem I have. There is very little dialogue.

The phrase is "line breaking". At least in code. Small chunks are easier to read than walls.

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If the script is just for your personal use when shooting, it doesn't matter too much how you format it, but the general rule is that one page of script should each one minute of screen time. At some point, a non-verbal sequence often ends up being almost a shot list where each sentence describes one action which is probably one shot, though not always, and there's often a paragraph break at each sentence or two so that it works out to be a minute of action per page (and it's easier to read that way).

 

Supposedly the Walter Hill script for "Alien" is a good example of effective description of action.

 

Hollywood used to use a different format for a "shooting" script which was almost a shot list -- Hitchcock's scripts, for example. Check out the shooting script of "Psycho" for example.

https://www.wgfoundation.org/screenplay-101-psycho/

 

Or "North by Northwest":

http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2011/01/

 

However you don't see scripts today written in this format.

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Thanks a lot!

 

I guess this is kind of what I was looking forexamples.

 

so, from what I gather, it is technically okay to be thorough.

 

And as far as the line spacing thing, I pretty much already did that (breaking it into smaller chunks that are a little easier to digest).

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And yes, this is for my personal use. However, there are local filmmaking groups that I hang out in (mostly via social media) where people share ideas and collaborate.

 

If I did feel like sharing at some point I wouldnt people reading my stuff like wtf is this?!? Shut up already.

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As everyone else has said, formatting doesnt matter much (other than to guestimate time required to shoot). Really whats important is laying out each action, reaction, or tactic change by a character that moves the story forward (not tiny redundant character actions unless its vital to that end), and keeping things in the present tense. Its a great exercise that will require you to think in images instead of heads talking. Otherwise I think Celtix is still cheap and aids in formatting.

 

BTW my automated reminder note for students: if you do use dialogue, always remember that dialogue is action in films. its used as a tactic to achieve a goal, vs dumping exposition. If you find a character talking to just explain something, throw out that dialogue and re-write the thing they're explaining as a visual action simply and visually (or change a behavior of a character to be hiding said info, or trying to squeeze said info out of someone etc).

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I'm a big fan of silent film/visual comedy. I also have been working away at scripting a few ideas. I had the same questions as the OP when I found the script for The Artist in PDF format was available. It's a very informative read.

 

 

https://deadline.com/2012/02/read-the-oscar-nominated-and-bafta-winning-screenplay-of-the-artist-231555/

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