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04/23/2001
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THE VOICE SPEAKS AGAIN or WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SCRIPT AFTER IT'S SUBMITTED. Part Five

Paul Buscemi's Column for Monday, April 23, 2001.

Before I begin with part five of this series and part two of my interview with "Fight Club" producer, Ross Bell, I want to say, thanks. I want to thank everyone who has e-mailed me in the past two weeks with answers to my question: How are your goals for 2001 progressing? I was quite impressed with your response. Many of you had further questions for me, too. I will try to address them in the coming weeks.

Last week Bell shared his wisdom on such topics as:

1- The first ten pages of your script.
2- The characters in your script.
3- The concept of a script.

This week we explore further the mindset of the producer. How do they analyze your script? What expectations might they have and what are the ?rules.' For our purposes here, let's use the term ?rules' loosely. Remember one person's requirements or ?rules' might differ strongly from another. Indeed, if you read all five parts of this series back-to-back, you will find the producer, the director and the development executive sometimes having contradictory expectations from your screenplay. The trick, might well be, to give everybody a little of what they want without compromising your characters and story.

Of course having a distinctive, interesting way of writing will go a long way too. "As I said before, sometimes it's a voice," Bell states. "You might not buy the screenplay, but (you realize) I've got to watch this writer because this is going to be somebody," he adds. Bell continues, "Jim Uhls who adapted ?Fight Club' for me, had a really distinct voice in (another) screenplay of his, that I read before I hired him for ?Fight Club.' "

As you shape your VOICE, remember this: you are writing a script - not a short story or novel. People cozy up to a book, take it slow, and enjoy. Those who will read our screenplays have a stack of scripts to read and have little time to cozy up to any of them. You're best suited with a VOICE that is concise and to the point while still remaining engaging. For Bell, the problem can be as simple as "too many words" in your script. "Usually an inexperienced writer's dialog says the same thing over again, is repetitious or just doesn't cut to the chase enough," he elaborates. Bell also recommends writers avoid "obvious or on the nose" dialog as well. That is, statements that reiterate obvious actions of the characters or actions previously stated in the description.

You know people read our scripts for free. We have to respect that. Our job is to entertain, to engage our readers. "I spend my weekend time reading, so it can get very frustrating if the writer really doesn't know the fundamentals of dramatic story telling," states Bell. You also want your script to look professional and read effortlessly. Script writing programs are great for formatting, but they won't fix typos or limit your page count. Get your script proofed and keep it under 130 pages. (If you can keep it down to 100, you'll really make someone's day.) As Bell puts it, avoid "anything that indicates this might not be an experienced writer."

So what engages the producer?

For Bell, something like this is a good start: "A first page that, (instantly transports you) into this complete other world of the screenplay." Bell goes on to explain a script that "opened with a scene of a child being chased through the woods and (the scene) was actually reflected in a rain drop falling off a gutter. Immediately that was fresh and exciting." The lesson here: Take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Bell sums it up this way, "you know all the readers who are reading these screenplays - we've read it all. So you really need to be distinct to stand out in that crowd."

c.2001pdb

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