A while back, I wrote about how much I loved the first 10 pages of my new feature length screenplay. That’s a pretty normal statement for a screenwriter to make but I also discussed taking those first 10 pages even further. Sometimes, there are so many things left to discover as you rewrite and revise your pages.
So I went back and rewrote the opening 3 scenes and they were even better but I was immediately left with a new challenge.
I haven’t written that many action movies in my life and starting my new action heavy script was intimidating. It was a relief to write those first intense moments and be happy with my movie’s opening. Most of the time, an action movie begins with a big ‘attention grabbing’ set piece before moving on to the all import first act.
Essentially, a screenwriter is tasked with keeping the momentum going without action. How do you establish your main characters and the overall style of the story in a unique way without losing your audience? This was a challenge I failed immediately. I followed up my action packed opening 10 pages with a scene involving two characters sitting at a table talking about the plot… Boring… The second I finished the scene I knew it was going to get tossed. There had to be a better way to keep things interesting.
I’m a massive fan of big action movies and even I would have fallen a sleep during that scene. It simply wasn’t good enough. Basically, in a few pages I have to establish my main characters mission and set him off on his journey. It’s challenging in any film script but achieving that goal in an action movie that takes place in an alternate world is tough. I’m definitely in uncharted waters on this screenplay.
But that’s what I loved the most about this story. I knew before I started that there would be some pretty huge hurdles to leap in order for the story to work. Having two characters sitting at a table talking ‘can’ work but the dialogue has to be incredible. (See Chapter 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds for an amazing example of this.) My scene had no suspense. It was packed with exposition and nothing else. In the end, I was left with two choices:
1. Leave the scene as is but really put some thought into the dialogue and characters.
2. Completely rethink how the scene is staged… And then complete #1 regardless.
I’m not sure where I’ll take the scene yet but I know it will be better than it is now. At this point, I’ve written about half of the script and I’m thrilled with it but more than that, I’m thrilled that these issues are jumping out at me. If you read your screenplay and something is boring to you it’s DEFINITELY boring to the audience. I’m sure every screenwriter would agree that eliminating boring scenes is key.
Back to work.