Stephen writes in:
I just wanted to drop you an e-mail and let you know that I really dug your Guru Beat Sheet video from January 8th. I stumbled across it just now after doing a little bit more internet research into Beat Sheet theory and found it refreshing to find someone, let alone someone as experienced as yourself, decrying people's need to be a slave to it.
I, like most people who message you I'm sure, have been working on my first feature script and, having sent it out for notes and thoughts to a few knowledgeable friends, was a bit taken aback by one friends insistence to not only read Save The Cat (which I did) but by his diehard, unshakable fervor in regards to the Beat Sheet.
Having since gone back into my War Room to readdress some structural elements, I began to try and see how well it matched up with the Beat Sheet and, long story short, found that some elements hit it perfectly, others were maybe a page or two off and, yes, some were way off.
I was wondering if being a page or two off truly mattered at all as long as thematically, and structurally, the story still flowed; and, integrally, if a script has a lot of dialogue, how does that translate to the Beat Sheet, if at all? I feel as though the Save The Cat theory, although sound, is heavily slanted towards more mainstream movies and may not apply so rigidly to more indie scripts/movies, which is how I would approach mine. This has been a point of debate between me and my friend, and I was wondering as to what your thoughts were in regards to it.
This is why so many professional writers hate Save the Cat, because it advances the notion that certain things HAVE to happen on precise page numbers. Do not be a slave to this. I think it's good to know the range of pages where these sorts of plot turns often happen, but the script's natural pacing should always, always be the first concern.
Basically, you're 100% right in what you say in the last paragraph. Don't treat Save the Cat like it's a "paint by numbers" guide. That's not the way drama works. If Save the Cat says that your inciting incident needs to happen on p. 15 and in your script it happens on p. 14, that doesn't mean you need to go back and add another page of story. If your inciting incident is happening on p. 25, though, that might be a sign the story takes too long to get going.
If you must use Save the Cat, then treat everything it explains in there as a loose guideline, not a bible.
I am currently working on a couple of script and have a few questions. One I have a character who's sex is misleading I want people to believe she is a boy and then later reveal that she is a girl. Should this be written earlyer in the script so that the director is awear and not confused or reveal it at the end of the scritp when the audience will know. Also how would you do something like this when giving detail to how the character looks in a script?
I'm of the opinion that those kinds of reveals should be reveals to the reader at the same time they are exposed to the audience. In other words, don't put in the description "she's a woman pretending to be a boy" unless that's a disguise that's going to be extremely obvious to us when we watch it on film.
Question two what is ur thought on having a time laps as a prologue? For example I have two sequences that take place at the same place but at different years, back to back in the script how is this done and or is it a bad idea? I plan on using a visual that ages as a transition!
That seems totally reasonable so long as you make the transition clear to the reader. Showing the same characters at different ages sounds like a simple enough way to pull that off.
Question 3 I have a sequence where a group of kid vandlize the protagonist's house, but don't want to reveal the house until the end of the movie. So I only want to show the kids vandlizing almost like a reverse pov, how should I handle this. Let's say the reveal of the house doesn't happen until a few sequences later! Thank you if you got this far reading my dumb questions and responce would be much appricated.
I would just note in the action that "Though we see them throwing toilet paper and eggs at the house, we never see the impact or even the house itself." Or something of that nature.
Incidentally, when you guys write it, it really helps if you break your questions into paragraphs. I got that email as one long chunk of text. I also left in the typos just this once because there were a lot of them and I wanted to see if it annoyed the readers as much as it did me.
Tonio writes in with a question I'm going to kick to the hive mind:
I studied and graduated with a degree in scriptwriting, and still pursue it as a career, even though it's not the most lucrative career choice, especially where I am. I live in Cape Town, South Africa and while we certainly have extensive creative talent over here, our film industry is in the early stages of development, or rather, it's stagnant in what our audiences will go see, since majority of our screened films are from the USA. As a country we are just too diverse for local films to really have box office success, unless like Leon Schuster, you focus on slapstick comedy, poking fun at all the different races and subcultures within our country (this has been my experience).
My question then is, since it's near impossible for South Africans to get a work visa in the States, especially working in an industry that does not guarantee that you will become a contributing member of society, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who are working and living abroad, should they be interested in pursuing or furthering their careers in Hollywood?
I don't know that I really HAVE any advice for that scenario. I've never really been in the position you've been in. The only thing I can really think to say is to consider the example of Declan O'Dwyer, who became the Black List's first (and as far as I know, only) international success story. This article has all the details, but basically, he posted the script from Ireland, it caught the attention of a manager, and that manager got Thunder Road to buy it.
So The Black List can work for that. Is it likely to work? I think your odds are longer the further you're out of the country. Anyone else have any good suggestions?