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04/02/2001
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"BE BRIEF KID, THEY'RE BUSY, YOU KNOW" or WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SCREENPLAY AFTER IT'S SUBMITTED - Part Three

Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday April 2, 2001. Buscemiarts@hotmail.com

If you've been with us these past few weeks, you know the story of that little script making it's way from conveyor belt to conveyor belt as it slowly climbs the levels of The Script Factory, struggling to reach the top and the flashing Green Light that resides there. If your script survives the development department and makes it past the producer's weekend read stack, it might, just might be shopped to potential directors. When directors are presented with possible material, what will they want from your script? What will stir their interest and what will cause them to set it down - sometimes permanently?

To understand the director's perspective, this week we are fortunate enough to have John Ottman enlightening us. Ottman has taken the notion of ?multi-talented' to new heights. As a Composer, he has scored over a dozen films including, The Cable Guy, Apt Pupil, Lake Placid and The Usual Suspects. Ottman is also an accomplished Editor having cut many of the films he scored like The Usual Suspects (which he won the BAFTA for), Apt Pupil and Public Access. He is well known as the first person ever to edit and score the same movie. Last year He made his directorial debut with a movie he also edited and scored: Urban Legends: Final Cut.

As you might imagine, Ottman reads a lot of scripts in the search for a directing project. A task that can often become tedious. For him, the script needs to "flow." It needs to have pace. It needs to move. For Ottman scripts get bogged down by "too much minutia." "I get stopped with too much detail in the script," he explains. When the descriptions in a screenplay are too detailed, too elaborate, too LONG, Ottman finds, "it's just not as enjoyable to read and it inhibits my minds eye more than if it's flowing faster." When a script is selective with it's descriptive passages, "that frees my mind up to think of what I'm reading in visual terms," he concludes.

You have to remember the director's point of view here. The director is going to be working with your script day after day, week after week and month after month. That job is going to be a far more enjoyable one, if he is bringing your script to life, instead of just ?dictating' it to the screen for you. "As a director, part of the excitement is to take a story and make all the visual decisions on your own," explains Ottman. "The writer does have to describe specific elements that are important to the story, but some scripts go on and on with detail and (as a reader) I just want to get to the crux of the story," he adds

The bottom line as always is to tell a compelling story with enduring characters. However, again and again, producers, development executives and directors greatly appreciate brevity. You want to be specific? Well then be succinct. "I normally find that scripts which avoid unnecessary details and are easy to read, are ones which I get more excited about," concludes Ottman. "As I'm reading the script for the first time, I'm just trying to understand the story," he adds. "My own imagination is free to start thinking of my own details as opposed to trying to remember the details of the writer while understanding the story they have written."

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