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NOTE: Unk answered all of the unanswered questions, posted below! Scroll past the Storify embedded transcript for more gems!
Don't miss the rest of Unk's answers below!
Todd S. Jenkins
#scriptchat What one plot device are you totally sick of seeing? Something that has been done to death.
--I know I answered this at the beginning of the chat but 140 characters just doesn't get the job done sometimes. To clarify what I meant by NOTHING, I simply mean that I am always hopeful that a plot device I've seen before gets used in a different way that I've NOT seen i.e., that the device is used in a way that makes me think, "WOW, wish I'd thought of that."
So how important is premise before starting a script? #scriptchat
--Again, I think premise is very important EVEN if it changes and evolves because it at least gives you a starting point.
@UnkScreenwriter Explain "derivation" #scriptchat
--I see a lot of screenplays with no real clear FOCUS. Many of the scenes seem to be written simply because they come off as COOL and? In and of themselves? Many are very cool but many of them also have nothing to do with the story being told. The scene was simply derived from some other movie. Similar. Sometimes even much better than the original but doesn't help the story move forward.
Sarah A Newman
@UnkScreenwriter Q: How do you go about generating concepts and then evaluate/choose which to pursue? #scriptchat
--As I said in the chat... I am always asking myself, "What if?" I do with damn never everything I see and hear these days. Always spinning what I've seen or heard in a completely different direction to see how it FEELS. I might read something in the news. I might overhear someone say something and spin that. I might see someone do something and spin that. I do it with movies, books, articles, headlines... You name it, I ask "What if?" As for CHOOSING, I always try to choose a concept that makes me smile. A concept that makes me feel like I can really push further than I've seen it pushed before. A concept that gets me excited.
@UnkScreenwriter Ugh, that drives me crazy. Do you think that this big media change-up might change that? #scriptchat
--I would love to think that it would. I hope that it does but at the same time? I think even more derivation will happen.
@jeannevb @UnkScreenwriter Recommend writing the ending first? #scriptchat
--Me personally? I would never write the ending first because I know SHIT is going to change as I explore the story and characters during that first draft. I do however, think you should know your basic ending. Not necessarily the details but yes... Basically how your story ends. That way you can write TOWARD that ending and even if changes and evolution take place, you're moving forward.
Todd S. Jenkins
Really? Nothing that makes you roll your eyes every time you run into it? #scriptchat
--The only thing that makes me roll my eyes REALLY is not pushing the genre past where it's been left off from other films. I mean hey... A murder is a perfectly fine plot device as long as you push whatever genre you're writing. If I see a well-oiled plot device, I just want to see it used WELL. I am always HOPING that happens. But even when it doesn't, I don't roll my eyes. Always rooting for the writer to STAND ME UPSIDE DOWN.
Sarah A Newman
@UnkScreenwriter Q:What type of prep work do you tend to do before pages, if any? Any outlining or char. dev. methods you favor? #scriptchat
--I hate WAITING to write. I like to get right to it so really, all I need is a character and a concept to get me writing. No prep. I used to outline but since I never stuck to them, I don't do them anymore. I used to try and develop characters but they changed all the time. So now? Character and concept or concept and character. Once I have them both? I'm good to go. As for characters... I give every character a SIMPLE THEME and then all their behavior and dialogue is created from within the CONTEXT of that theme.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter, what are your top 3 and bottom 3 screenplays from the @theblcklst, and why? TY. #scriptchat
--Think I answered this but again... I don't have time to read stuff on the Blacklist website.
@UnkScreenwriter Reading which script have you learnt the most from? And what in particular did you learn? #scriptchat
--The Searchers and Hardcore. Learned a lot about character. Tension. Suspense. It would take much more room than I have here to detail that out.
@UnkScreenwriter Any pitching tips for writers without representation who don't live in LA? #scriptchat
--Didn't get to answer this one as well as I wanted to on ScriptChat... I think the best tip I could hand off would be to KNOW YOUR STORY. Know everything about it especially when it comes to STRUCTURE because often, you're going to get asked about structural elements and you really do need to be spontaneous with your answers. And of course, the screenplay really does need to match the pitch. That's always a huge problem that I've seen... Material doesn't support the PITCH. Get your pitch down to 3 to 5 minutes and be able to answer ANY QUESTION that might pop up.
@UnkScreenwriter q: What do you do when you have 2 projects that are tugging and pulling for your attention? #scriptchat
--I usually work on the one I really want to work on the most ESPECIALLY when the muse hits me or when I've SOLVED a problem. But at the same time, I do the same with the other project(s) when the muse hits me with THEM. I'm always trying to resolve story and structural elements... Refine and evolve them. So when SOMETHING hits me, I'm on it.
@UnkScreenwriter Hello! And are you a fan of character maps/detailed backstories, etc.? Or discovering as you write? #scriptchat
--Discovering as I write for sure. I've been doing this long enough to know that (FOR ME) the characters never turn out to be much like how I'd originally develop them. I did that because hey... That's what the books tell you do so sure... I started that way too. But it wasn't long until I stopped outlining and doing character development. I let my characters go fucking crazy during that first draft and they never cease to surprise me what what they do NEXT. To me? That's organic and I love organic... There's always a deep truthfulness when both story and character are organic.
Sarah A Newman
@UnkScreenwriter Q: When you're reading a script, what hooks you? What strikes you as signs of a good script/read? #scriptchat
--No overwriting. I notice overwriting RIGHT AWAY and 9 times out of 10, it takes me out of the story. Dialogue that is completely different from character to character. Behavior exclusive to different characters. LESS instead of MORE.
Hey @UnkScreenwriter. What's your favorite movie poster? #scriptchat
--Think I answered that but definitely, JAWS hands down. The poster says it all.
I loved the use of Voiceovers in "Wolf on Wall Street" and "Adaptation", but is it discouraged for a spec script from a newbee?#scriptchat
--I'm a STRONG BELIEVER in going with YOUR GUT all the way through your screenplay. Overwrite. On-the-nose-dialogue. Write all the way into a scene to where you KNOW you'll cut straight to that spot in your final draft... EVERYTHING you can think of to get that first draft out of you is GOOD. If you're seeing or hearing VOICEOVER(s), use them... Absolutely use them. You can always change it later. Never labor on stuff like this when it comes to the first draft. Whatever works? USE IT.
what do you find wrong with scripts today than twenty years ago? #scriptchat
--What I find wrong is simple lack of story. The old scripts I read 20 years ago to learn from caused me to see the movie in my head. That doesn't happen nearly as often with screenplays I read today. When it does? It's AMAZING.
@UnkScreenwriter Generally speaking, do you think TV pilots/series are more appealing to reps than features these days? #scriptchat
--I think it's definitely good to have one or two under your belt along with a few specs. These days? I think a writer needs to be able to adapt to any opportunity in any market. I certainly think there's much more opportunity in television RIGHT NOW than in features so I would definitely have a couple of pilots in my quiver.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter - OK. How about your all time top 3 favorite screenplays? #scriptchat
--BODY HEAT, JAWS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Other scripts I love? 3:10 TO YUMA, A FEW GOOD MEN, THE APARTMENT, DONNIE BRASCO, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, WITNESS, AT CLOSE RANGE, BLADE RUNNER, THE THING, BRAVEHEART, TOMBSTONE, DUEL, THUNDERHEART, DELIVERANCE, DIRTY HARRY, FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, THE FUGITIVE, GOODFELLAS, THE HITCHER, JOYRIDE, MALTESE FALCON, MR. BROOKS, NEAR DARK, PAYBACK, REAR WINDOW, MANHUNTER, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, TRUE GRIT (original), THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THIEF, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, TRAINING DAY, and UNFORGIVEN in no particular order.
@unkscreenwriter Can you expound on giving each character their own theme? #scriptchat
--Sure. I try to keep it SIMPLE and come up with ONE word to describe what a particular character is all about. In my last spec, there was a soccer mom who's children were killed. Her word is REVENGE. Simple. Now I know that every behavior and piece of dialogue is driven by her theme of revenge. By developing a character this way, I get right to writing. I don't need backstory. I don't need bios. I just make sure behavior, dialogue, and DECISION MAKING is based on REVENGE. I do that with every character because it GETS ME WRITING instead of researching and wondering. I want to write so I do what I need to do to get writing as fast as I can while I am in love with the concept and characters. This way, the characters evolve naturally for ME and ORGANICALLY. They surprise me and I love being surprised... That's one of the reasons I WRITE. It's as much of a journey for me as it is for my characters.
UnkScreenwriter Do you see that difference in their dialogue, the description, their actions? #scriptchat
--Always. Sticks out like a SORE THUMB as the expression goes. LOL.
Sarah A Newman
@UnkScreenwriter Q: Would you share a bit about what your writing habit/routine is like? Do you stack projects? #scriptchat
--I told myself a long time ago that someday, I would write a novel or two. This was before I ever finished my first screenplay. Something told me that a first draft with EVERYTHING in it AND the kitchen sink would make a great outline for an eventual book. Thinking that way, has always made me just gut that first draft out. Everything goes. As I said before... Overwriting. Going on tangents with small, insignificant characters, on-the-nose-dialogue. Long speeches. Detailing every movement of a character. Thoughts. Voiceovers. Flashbacks. All the SHIT everyone tells you not to do? I DO IT to get that first draft out of my soul. I try to write every day but can't always do that. My routine is to go to a coffee shop to write because for some reason, sitting down at a table in a coffee shop is like turning on my switch to work. I usually read at LEAST one script a week. Could be features... Could be television. Sometimes I will read 3 or 4 scripts a week. Could be one that someone wants me to work on, could be a favor for someone, could be one I've found online. I do stack projects because I don't always get the muse on just one project. If I have at least 2 or 3? Something's always happening in my head with at least ONE of them.
@LisaKothari @UnkScreenwriter One person's "they pushed it" is another's 'I cant follow it' IME #scriptchat
--But I think you can definitely GET A FEEL for what's right and enough and BE IN THE BALLPARK which is where you need to be.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter Do you think "The Cabin in the Woods" pushed the genre? Was it too much? #scriptchat
--I do think it pushed the genre. Did it go to far? Not for me but I know it did for some. I'M ALL ABOUT GOING TOO FAR.
@UnkScreenwriter How do you feel about 'WE SEE'? I've read it in horrible scripts and Oscar winning scripts. #scriptchat
--@andrecole I would BURN every WE SEE I SEE. I know it's done all the time especially with professional writers but here's the thing... Can whatever you're writing be written without using WE SEE? I think YES. I am of the opinion we can use our writing to direct the eye to what we need it to see without actually having to say, "We see." To me, it's like overwriting... Hardly ever needed. Once in awhile? Maybe. I'd never say NEVER but I've NEVER used it. LOL.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter - how much do you outline before you start writing the first page? Do you know the ending? #scriptchat
--I don't outline. Used to but since I never stuck to the outline, I don't do them anymore. I think things through, then WRITE it. I guess you could call that outlining in my head but what I've learned is to simply TRUST MYSELF that in all that first draft mess? The story is in there somewhere. Like a messy room you're trying to find something in. Just go in there and keep cleaning until you find it. And even if, that first draft didn't contain the real story I'd hoped for, I know changes and evolution will keep taking place UNTIL IT DOES.
#Scriptchat . I'm from india and i'm crazy about a script i wrote, what do you think is the right move for me..
--Hard to say. Find out if what you've written is REALLY GOOD. Either hand it off to some writers whose opinions you trust, get at least 3 different pieces of coverage written, OR hire a consultant. Just make sure it's GOOD before you take it to market. Whatever way you can come up with to absolutely KNOW THAT? Do it before taking it to market.
#scriptchat @UnkScreenwriter What theme trait would you give the T-Rex in Jurassic Park? I'm leaning CARNIVORE, but want to say ASSHOLE. :)
--I think they gave it the perfect theme for the film. I know you gave me the smiley face thing so maybe you're not really asking the question but it's no different than the Bear in THE EDGE or the ANACONDA in ANACONDA, right? Unless a wild animal has gone fucking bonkers or has been genetically or scientifically altered in some way (DEEP BLUE SEA), their theme would be easy... JUST BE NATURAL. Have them do what they do naturally. I decided to answer your question anyway since I too am a battle hardened sea-warrior, crushing the tides with guns-a-blazing!
Jeanne V Bowerman
@UnkScreenwriter but did you start out by outlining as a new writer? @AGSfilmmaker #scriptchat
--Absolutely. It just didn't end up working for me personally but I am sure what I do in my head is certainly outlining -- just a different way to outline. I would never tell someone else not to outline. If that's what YOU need to DO to gut that first draft out of your soul, GO FOR IT. There is NO ONE WAY. There is NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL.
Alejandro G S
#UnkScreenwriter how do you develop characters? Prep a lot or get to know them as you write? Any tips developing characters? #scriptchat
--I do not prep a lot. I used to do a basic bio but a lot of that stuff never even makes it into the story so I really just give them a theme of their own. Every behavior, piece of dialogue, and decision is created within the context of that theme. That way, all my characters pretty much stay on track. As for developing them outside the context of the theme I give them... I always give them quirky little character traits that offset them from all the other characters. A piece or pieces of backstory for every character will always pop up as I'm pushing them through the story and when that happens? Magic. It comes seemingly from nowhere because it just POPS into your head but I trust myself enough to know it's coming from what I already know about the story I'm writing and their interaction with both the story and other characters.
#scriptchat Here's my thing, in all seriousness, doesn't anyone just WRITE? Forget the rules, throw shit in the air, then revise later?
--I think that's pretty much WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG. Just sayin'.
2 of my good friends have first cousins who are Hollywood directors. Is it appropriate to approach them with a spec script? #scriptchat
--If the spec ROCKS? Sure, why not? If it doesn't? Eeesch. You never want to close what could always be an open door in this business. Unless of course a Producer lies and never pays you. Then you get out your air chisel.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter any screenplays you read, thought were great but the movie turned out to be so-so or even bad? #scriptchat
--Hmmmm. LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. ABOVE THE LAW. JADE. There's more I know but I'd have to think about it.
Sarah A Newman
@UnkScreenwriter Q Would you be able to share ex. of some char themes that populate 1 script of yours? Curious of the interplay. #scriptchat
--Sure. The last spec I wrote, the female co-protagonist's theme was REVENGE ALL THE WAY. Everything she did, she thought, or said had something to do with REVENGE yet nothing she did was predictable. In a script I tweaked a while back, all I really had to do was change one character. I made his theme ALOOF and then went through the entire script and again, made sure all his behavior, dialogue, and decision making reflected that theme. I should also add that even with a Protagonist who CHANGES from character arc, I stick them with a theme and as they begin to change from that theme? Very dramatic and emotional.
Alejandro G S
@UnkScreenwriter how do you know your screenplay is ready? #scriptchat
--I know when MY screenplay is ready when I know FIRST that the story and structure is SOLID. After that, I make passes for the usual stuff... Typos, overwriting, Master scene headings, secondary scene headings, dialogue, subtext, and my favorite, bottom of the page motivation to keep reading. Once all those passes are made and I'm satisfied? The screenplay is ready.