Show Me Your Goods.

Vintage Typewriter(Don’t Tell Me How Sexy They Are)
You know I’m not talking about what’s below the belt, don’t you? If you’ve seen my Twitter handle @nakedhollywood it’s possible that’s where your mind wandered—and you probably don’t get the metaphor. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand that I’m referring to what you’ve put down on paper, and why you need to let your words speak for themselves—not you.

On a weekly basis, I get unsolicited movie scripts. They’re sent to me for a number of reasons: to consider working on them as a producer, for general feedback, or for coverage by a production company. (Coverage is a filmmaking term for analysis and revisions in the development process, before pre-production begins.)

When I talk with writers about their completed scripts, I often get, “It needs some explaining, and so let me tell you a little bit about the story…”

Stop right there.

Don’t Say it, Write it
You shouldn’t have to tell me anything—not the premise of the movie, not why the characters are well-developed, not the main plot, and certainly not why it’s a great story.

RELATED: The Single Sentence That will SELL Your Script

All your marketing material should do that for you, and once again, it should be in writing. A logline, one sentence, will give anyone enough information to know exactly what they’re getting into when they read the script, or watch the movie. If you need more words, a short summary will suffice. If you have to tell me anything about the script, and I know you’re itching to do that, go back to your computer and write it down.

Save all that energy for writing, and save your passion for talking about it for a pitch.

Visual Storytelling
Movies are a visual storytelling experience. You don’t explain to your audience what the story is about, even if you use the device of voice overs, you show them. You reveal, through your writing, the action cinematically.

That means you need to think cinematically, even when it comes to dialogue. The quick way, and the wrong way, to reveal the exposition is to have your characters explain what’s happening. This is static, and not only will bore your audience to death, but won’t move the film along in any way. It’s a lifeless story and it won’t translate to the screen.

Slip into Immersion
What you’re looking to do is write in a way that immerses your audiences quickly. Let’s say you need to enlighten what the antagonist has done wrong. It’s a critical part of the movie that shows him to be a bad guy. If you’re watching two people talk about what he’s done—at the office, he goes through women’s purses and desk drawers and steals everyone blind—you’ve just passed up a thousand different ways to make the story more interesting.

Instead, you show the antagonist, perhaps with a twist, simply looking for something he needs for work, like a stapler. He opens a co-worker’s desk drawer. Maybe you don’t even show him stealing anything at first. You continue to inform your audience, little by little, that in actuality, he is a thief. When everyone is at lunch, eventually he takes the petty cash in the manager’s drawer. There’s no dialogue, and you’re now assuming, rightly so, that your audience is smart and will come to the conclusion that this is a bad dude, someone not to be trusted.

It takes a little patience and thoughtful plotting. Even when you’re writing a character-driven drama, remind yourself that plot comes from character. I want to watch what the character does to define his or her personality, rather than have someone tell me.

Jennifer B. White is an award-winning director, writer and Hollywood copywriter and tagline writer. All her opinions and photos are her own.  

Leave a Reply