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02/15/2006 - WALK SLOW

Did you do last week's exercise? Did you manage to cram a story into 8 pages? Did you find yourself going over the 8-page limit? I'm pretty certain you didn't go under. I'll assume you either went over or wanted to go over but didn't because the assignment was to not do more than 8 pages.

If you went over 8 pages, be it one page or ten, it's OK. I was kind of hoping you would go over because if you did it's OK simply because the real purpose of the exercise was for me to tell you this week that you never want to stifle your creativity.

Even though the exercise was to write an 8-page screenplay, I didn't necessarily mean that they were the first 8 pages you churned out. Fact is, in order to get 8 solid, compelling pages of script you might've had to write 15 or 20 pages. Maybe more.

It's like what happens when you're shooting a film-long or short. To get 8 minutes on the screen you might have to shoot 80 minutes, then edit it down. You would keep editing and cutting and nipping and clipping until you got those 8 terrific minutes of film.

Writing an 8-page film is pretty much the same way. You don't have to write 80 pages to wind up with 8, but you might need to write 15 or 20 to make sure your story has the right beats.

You've probably heard this before: writing is re-writing. This is never more true than with short material. You have to keep rewriting in order to make the 8 pages. The 4-line speech needs to be cut to 3 lines. Then, maybe to 2 lines. The long sentence needs to be shortened to five words or no words at all, just a stage direction indicating a look or gesture from a character.

Five quick cuts can say more than five lines to establish mood or place.

Filmmaking, especially short filmmaking, is all about "less is more." You have less time to say and show more. That's why making a good short under 10 minutes is so difficult. And that's why writing a good short film, even as an exercise, is so difficult.

With this in mind, I'd like you to write another 8-page screenplay, only this time don't stifle yourself. Write 15 or 20 pages, just to get the story out, just to learn more about the characters.

Then start cutting it down to until you get 8 great pages.

What about the first 8-page you wrote? Put it aside for now. We'll come back to it.

As for a suggestion for the new assignment, try this situation: it's the middle of the night. A man/woman is trying to quit smoking. He/she wakes up in dire need of a cigarette. This is a major nicotine fit. He/she MUST have a cigarette or find a way to quell the desire.

Write an 8-page script showing how he/she handles this. But let your first draft be 15-20 pages.


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